I think most writers of historical fiction find themselves researching a variety of interesting topics from time to time. Recently, I needed to find a setting for a possible new story, and the setting was contingent on whether there was a school for the deaf in the Old West. Having done some cursory research on deaf education for a different story, I knew there were schools back East, but the West was a different story. That’s when I discovered the California School for the Deaf.
The school came about because of a group of twenty-three ladies who met together on March 17, 1860, to form the Society for the Instruction and Maintenance of the Deaf and Dumb, and of the Blind. Mrs. Pomeroy B. Clark is credited with leading the movement, and the Society set in motion the creation of the California School for the Deaf.
|The Tehama Street School--second|
house from the left
Mrs. Clark, mentioned above, was named principal of the school in 1860. The first teacher was a deaf man, Mr. H. B. Crandall, who had graduated from the New York Institution. On the day they opened, they had three students—a boy and two girls. Within six months, their student body had swelled to sixteen students, leaving their current quarters cramped. The Board of Managers did extensive fundraising and received generous support by private donors. Through these fundraising efforts, they were able to secure land on which a permanent school building was built, allowing for larger student numbers. In 1862, the number of enrolled students was twenty, and it grew to thirty the year after. However, there were somewhere around 150-180 deaf children of school age in the early 1860s, and space for only thirty or so in the California School for the Deaf.
|The original Berkeley location|
|The view looking down on the back side of the Berkeley|
It’s your turn. What cause are you passionate about? Have you thought of ways you can make a difference in this area, just as the twenty-three women did for deaf children in California?
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next decade, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two others. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and five fur children.