Monthly Archives: June 2013

“There were three restrooms at the old Rumsey Schoolhouse…”

capay school

My friend Greg was helping me fix my stove when he noticed a historical print of the Capay Valley on my wall.

“I’m also interested in Capay Valley history,” he said as he looked closer at the print. Captain D.C. Rumsey’s farm was illustrated in a lithograph. My town, Rumsey, was named after him (his title was honorary, dating from a stint in the county militia). “You know his farm was right across the road from where you live now, in the old walnut orchard.”

“Hmm”

“Do you know about the Rumsey Schoolhouse?” he asked. I knew it was still standing in our little town. It has been converted into a home near the crossroads.

“Well, maybe you don’t know how it got moved to its present location: it used to be down at the S-curve (local landmark that I call the drunkard’s curve) and was shared by Guinda and Rumsey. But the parents got into a fight about evolution and tempers rose. One night the parents at Rumsey went down there and up-and-moved the entire schoolhouse to Rumsey, rather than share the school with the backwards people in Guinda. The next morning it was just … gone!”

I’d heard about the midnight raid on the school before but had never known the cause. To this day, people in the lower end of the valley accuse Rumsey-ites of being too liberal.

Greg went on to say that he had explored the school just after it closed (in our lifetime). “There were three different bathrooms behind the school. Three!  One for whites, one for blacks, and one for Indians.”

I guess the folk in Rumsey weren’t as enlightened as I like to think. Our valley is home to Wintun/Patwin Native Americans and I knew there had once been a settlement called “Nigger Heaven” in the hills overlooking Capay Valley. (This was the name given by the black residents. They called Guinda “Irish Hell.”) I did not know black students attended Rumsey schools.

NOTE: the photo in this post is not the Rumsey Schoolhouse. I couldn’t find an online photo of it. The photo shows another schoolhouse in our valley, still standing.