More than 50 years later, the Lassen High School cornerstone is back where it should be.
Through collective efforts, and a little searching, the cornerstone of the original Lassen County High School building, built in 1905 and demolished in 1968, is back on display in the Lassen High School main office.
“It just belongs here,” said Donna Morelini, the Lassen High School Alumni Association president, who graduated from Lassen High School in 1962 and came back to teach and coach in 1967.
Often, cornerstones were the reference point for a building’s construction, and included the date the building was erected — as this one features the year 1905.
The cornerstone has had quite a journey since it served as the reference stone for the construction of old high school.
According to Morelini, her husband found the cornerstone when moving rubble from the demolished school in 1968, the stone was moved to her house, then the transportation shop and was last seen in the basement of the old district office in the 1990s. She was determined, however, to get the stone back in its place, and reached out to Superintendent/ Principal Morgan Nugent.
Nugent said the stone was found in a warehouse and agreed the stone needed to go back to campus.
“We’re just glad to be able to return it back to where it belongs,” Nugent said.
Lassen High School Alumni Association Board of Directors Historian Jim Chapman recognized Morelini and Nugent for their efforts to place the stone.
“We have such a rich history in this town,” said Nugent, adding the district was working with the alumni association to place more of the school’s artifacts on display.
Nugent also noted the district and the association are working on a “Hall of Fame,” featuring LHS graduates, coaches, teachers and community members.
Overall, for now, both the district and the Lassen High School Alumni Association are glad the stone is back. It was placed into its nook Dec. 23, and will be a feature point of the district for years to come.
History of the school
According to the Lassen Union High School District website, discussions regarding the formation of a high school in Lassen County were held in 1872; but it would take 30 years before the idea came to fruition.
“It was not until the spring of 1901 when E.W. Hayden, editor of the Lassen Advocate, raised the issue for the need of a high school. Hayden proposed a district high school, rather than a county one. Hayden felt that all the school districts in the county would not support a high school,” read the website. “In the fall of 1902, Hayden again revived the issue for a high school. This time he succeeded in generating more interest. In September, John B. Spalding and Franklin M. Ward circulated petitions to have the matter placed on the ballot for the November election. On Oct. 2, 1902, those petitions were placed before the Lassen County Board of Supervisors, and they approved the ballot measure. Proponents were worried that the voters might confuse the issue as a bond measure. Yet, funding for a high school still had to be addressed. It was proposed that the property tax rate be increased by one cent per $100 assessed value. This tax would generate $3,700 a year —more than sufficient to operate a high school.”
Although there was some concern the measure may not pass, the county voted to approve the creation of the school by a large majority, 637 votes in favor, to the 295 opposed.
The first session of the Lassen County High School began Sept. 14, 1903, with about 40 students and two instructors. Classes were held at the Susanville Grammar School, the site of the current Credence High School.
Then, the need came for a building for the high school.
The Lassen County Board of Supervisors agreed to a special levy property tax, but there was some debate as to where to build. After reviewing three properties, it was agreed to purchase the Blake property on Main Street for $2,000, the site where the school still stands to this day.
W.H. Weeks, an architect from Watsonville, California, drew the plans, and submitted three proposals to the board of trustees. On July 13, 1905, the Granite Rock Company was awarded the contract to build the school at a cost of $25,670.
On Sept. 23, 1905, the cornerstone, reading Lassen County High School 1905 was placed. The new high school would not be ready for occupancy until October 1906. However, 1906 also brought the first graduates from Lassen County High School, seven students enrolled in a three year commercial study.
The class of 1907, which featured Medford Roop Arnold, was the first four-year class to graduate. In 1968, the original school was torn down, and construction began on the new campus.