by Thompson & West, 1879, with illustrations

Chapter XXXV - State Reform School

Marysville has only once realized its cherished ambition for the possession of one of the public institutions of the State.  Although one of the most prominent and populous of the early cities it has been utterly neglected in the allotment of State patronage, and to appease the indignation of the citizens, it was decided to locate the State Reform School in the vicinity.  Since the disorganization of that institution Marysville has fallen back into the old position, forgotten and neglected.  In the formation of the first constitution it is said that an effort was made to engraft a provision for the establishment of a system of manual labor schools, receiving support from the State.  This was not accomplished, but as families began to flock in, and children became more than mere curiosities, the necessity was felt for the existence of some institution in which to place the wayward and criminal youths, not in direct contact with those older and more hardened.

The effort was renewed, but this time the appeal was made to the Legislature.  Governor Weller, in his annual message of January, 1859, gave the subject his recommendation.  Again, in the following year, he strongly urged an appropriation for the speedy erection of suitable buildings for a State Reform School.  On the fourteenth of April, 1859, an Act entitled "An Act for the establishment of a State Reform School," became a law, and under its provisions, Governor Weller appointed Hon. Wm. T. Barbour, M.F. Butler, and N.A.H. Ball as Commissioners to select a proper site, and to obtain by gift, or location upon lands belonging to the State, a tract suitable for the school.

Many places contended for the honor of the location, but Marysville, which had heretofore been so sadly neglected, had the preference.  The Common Council, at a meeting held November 7, 1859, appointed a committee - Aldermen Mann, Covillaud and Fowler - who in conjunction with the Citizens' Committee - Messrs. Peter Decker and Francis L. Aude - were to attend to the interests of Marysville in this matter.   In December, 1859, the State Commissioners reported that they had selected a site for the school, the spot chosen being one hundred acres of land on Feather river, about five miles north of Marysville, and owned by Charles Covillaud.  This land had been surveyed and purchased by the city of Marysville, and conveyed to the State by a deed executed December 6, 1859.  The next Legislature passed an Act, approved April 18, 1860, "for the erection of a building for a State Reform School, and for the regulation of the same."  Hon. Wm. H. Parks framed, introduced and secured the passage of both of these bills.  At the same session, Messrs. John Lowery, Nelson Wescoatt, and H.S. Foushee were elected a Board of Trustees, and $30,000 were appropriated for the erection of buildings. 

John A. Steele, the architect of the structure, was the lowest bidder, and completed as much of the work as could be done with the meager appropriation.  The dimensions of the building were 218 feet in length, and an average width of fifty-two feet.  There were three stories and a basement, and the building was partly enclosed by a high brick wall.  The Legislature of 1861 made a further appropriation of $25,000, which served to make the interior arrangements more complete and finished.  During the erection of the building Mr. Foushee died, and John C. Pelton was appointed to fill the vacancy.  He resigned shortly  afterwards, and was succeeded by John C. Fall.  The dedicatory exercises were held December 2, 1861, and consisted of addresses by John Lowery, President of the Board of Trustees, and Hon. Jesse O. Goodwin.  The Superintendents were: - J.C. Pelton, who served for twenty months;  Geo. C. Gorham, for two years;  J.C. Sargent, for fifteen months;  and H.S. Hoblitzell.  The latter had been a teacher in the school, and was elected Superintendent in February, 1865.  He served for a little over three years, and until the breaking up of the institution in May, 1868.  The Trustees during the last years of the existence of the school were Messrs. Wm. Hawley, Wm. H. Parks and Charles M. Gorham.  The only inmates were boys;  one girl was sent from Sacramento, but there being no suitable accommodations a place was found for her with a family in Marysville.   The school started with few pupils, but the number gradually increased.  On the first of December, 1863, there were twenty-two inmates, and in November, 1865, the number was forty-seven.  The largest roll at any one time was fifty-four.  There were two classes of inmates - those confined for criminal offences, and those placed there by parents or guardians for reformation.

The employes <sic> were a Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent (a practical farmer), matron, cook, and laundress.  During a portion of the time, a teacher was employed.  Boys were detailed by the Superintendent to assist in the duties and labor of the farm, kitchen, laundry, etc.   Religious services were conducted by the pastors of Marysville and visiting clergymen.  The inmates were mostly from the northern counties.  Although the maximum limit in age was sixteen, sometimes, through perjury or error, youths were committed whose years exceeded the designated number.  Many were placed in the school under "alternative sentences," that is, if found too troublesome or insubordinate, they were sent to the State Prison to serve out the remainder of their term.  The benefits of the institution were not deemed commensurate with the outlay, and great obstacles were met in obtaining appropriations from the Legislature.  It is claimed that the breaking up of the school was effected through the influence of the managers of the San Francisco Industrial School.  One argument used was that the location was unhealthy, but this was false, as proven by the limited physician's fees and absence of deaths among the inmates during the entire existence.  Dr. Eli Teegarden, who had received the contract, removed forty-seven boys during May, 1868, to the Industrial School in San Francisco.  Superintendent Hoblitzell secured for five or six of the better behaved youths, homes among the farmers in the neighborhood.  The land and buildings were, by and act of the Legislature, donated to the city of Marysville, and subsequently sold for six thousand dollars to James Strain, the owner of the adjoining land.  The improvements were torn down, and from the sale of the bricks and material, more than the cost of the entire property was realized.  After the removal of the boys, the premises were abandoned, and thieves entered, carrying off many valuable articles.  After much delay, the furniture, library and other property were conveyed to Marysville, and sold at auction, realizing the nominal sum of two hundred dollars.  Superintendent Hoblitzell, during his term in office, issued some valuable detailed reports of the condition and progress of the school, and during his superintendency, was greatly aided by the voluntary assistance of his wife, in giving moral and religious training to the youths consigned to his keeping.


Copyright ©2003, 2004, 2005  Kathy Sedler   ALL RIGHTS RESERVED  These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in any format for profit or presentation by any other organization or persons.  Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the written consent of the contributor. The contributor has given permission to the Yuba Roots website to store the file permanently for free access, but retain the rights to their work.