ACIL to hold open board meeting

Diane Sieker photo

The Anza Civic Improvement League will hold an open board meeting Saturday, Dec. 7, at 9 a.m., in hopes of encouraging more community involvement and organization membership. Nominations for the board will also be heard.

The nonprofit corporation owns and maintains Minor Park in Anza, where the historical Little Red Schoolhouse, built in 1914, is located.

Current board members include president Charles Cadwell, vice president Phil Canaday, treasurer Debbi Vesey, secretary Allyna Valentine McLeod and Bud Elmore, Tabitha Dawes and Andrew Carey as directors.

“We are in need of members to help us run and maintain our park,” Cadwell said. “Membership is $15 a person per year, $25 for a couple or $50 for a business. These dues go directly to maintaining our park and funding events. Membership can be done online at or in person at Lorraine’s Pet Supply.”

The mission of the ACIL is to restore, manage and enhance the Little Red Schoolhouse and Minor Park in partnership with the public, for the enjoyment of present and future generations, according to the league’s website.

ACIL is also exploring changing their current 501(c)(4) status to a 501(c)(3), to enable them to take advantage of grants and funds to help maintain the park and school house, according to Cadwell.

“The reason to change our status would be to receive grants that could be tax deductible for the donors,” he said.

The Hamilton School District was formed Feb. 5, 1913, and George B. Evans helped contractors J. W. Shaney and Will Collins build the Little Red School House. William Daniels and other homesteaders from the Mitchell Road area helped. Starting May 22, 1914, the men from Baptista – as Anza was known – drove to Hemet to haul lumber for the new school. Others who helped put the building up were Gus Wishnand, John Arbuckle, A.B. Baker, Joe Dashner, G.P. Weatherill, Bill Cort and Antonio and John Contreras.

The school was erected on land donated by George Turner and was to be returned to his family when no longer used as a school. The building was built during the spring of 1914 and was completed in September 1914.

Nellie Miller, the first teacher at the new Hamilton School, didn’t stay long. She resigned in November 1914. John H. Stoner drove his wagon and some equipment to the town of Baptista. He arrived Dec. 1, 1914, put his animals in Mr. Shaney’s barn at Mitchell and Bautista roads and walked through the fresh snow to start teaching at 9 a.m. He taught at the school until June 1918. Many teachers came and went in the years following.

When Cahuilla Road became state Highway 371 in 1964, the traffic was deemed to be too heavy and the school site was condemned by the state as dangerous.

Since the school district could not find any members of the Turner family, the original school and land were auctioned off in 1964. The highest bidder was James Minor, who then gave the land and the building to the Anza Civic Improvement League. The president of the league was one of the school’s graduates, Henry R. Lichtwald. The vice president was Fred “Rudy” Whestine; William H. Gleck was the treasurer and Leona Hyde, the first secretary.

Many public elections, church and Sunday school classes, holiday group gatherings, potlucks and celebrations were held there for everyone in the Valley; and still are. Later the school became a library and the bookshelves on the west side replaced the blackboard and the high louvered windows. The school was used as a church for a few years, a meeting place for the Anza Valley Chamber of Commerce and as a private school, San Jose Academy.

The outhouses that were down by the trees on each side of a hay barn and hitching posts where students and parents tied up their horses are all long gone. The Anza Electric Cooperative installed the original picnic tables and cement platform on the west side of the school.

Today, the park and school building are the centerpiece of the town and a hub of activity. From the Anza Summer Nights concert series to car shows and horseshoe contests, the park is one of the most central places in Anza.

Both the park and the schoolhouse are available to rent for meetings and events. Members may credit 100% of their current membership dues toward rental fees during the same time period.

Participation and financial support of Anza’s community park helps make it available for all to enjoy, Cadwell said, and every member strengthens the league’s commitment to maintain the historic Little Red Schoolhouse as well as Minor Park in top form. Membership dues and donations assist the actions of other league members who volunteer their time to maintain and improve the facilities.

Minor Park and the Little Red School House are located at Highway 371 at Contreras Road in Anza.

To learn more about upcoming ACIL events, visit them at or at

The address is P.O. Box 391000, Anza, CA 92539 and phone is (951) 330-4411. Email is

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.