Although Oakley was established in the late 1860s, families generally left during the winter months so that their children could attend school. It was not until 1877 that plans were made to build a school – a one-room building on land belonging to Warren “Tuck” Frazier. The first trustees were Elijah Hortin and Joseph Phillips.
The location was a compromise to placate the inhabitants of New Field (who thought the school should be near them), and those of Oakley proper, who wanted it in the town. Of course, it pleased neither. George Johnson related that when the schoolhouse was being plastered with mud, his father (Alfred Johnson) and Dan Hopkins got in an argument. It was settled when Johnson picked up a bucket of mud and threw it all over Hopkins.
The building was heated by a small stove, and each student was required to bring logs for the winter. There about twenty pupils, that first winter, of whom Albert White, aged 16, was the oldest. Students came from as far away as Rockport and Wanship to attend.
The teachers boarded with the families of their students, a week at a time, to help pay for schooling. The first teacher was Thomas D. Moore. Other teachers included Mary Shippen, Vesta Bridges and Martha Hoyt. Not all the teachers were popular, though. Edna Vernon Judd recalled a John Cleary, who had a hook on one arm. Thinking that she had caused a disturbance in class, he struck her across the elbow, almost breaking her arm. Unfortunately for Mr Cleary, Edna’s father, James Vernon, was a school trustee and took the teacher to task.
This first school burned down in 1884. In 1885 W.H. Stevens built a dance hall, which he leased or sold to the school district, and for almost twenty years school was held there. The two classes were separated by a curtain, paid for by the Lincoln Society. It was heated by a pot-bellied stove. Every week or so, the pipe would blow off, granting the students a vacation until one of the three trustees could fix it.
In 1898 Albert D. Richards and Leonard Frazier Sr bought six new desks for the school at a cost of $3.90 each, and Albert Richards made erasers for the blackboard out of blocks of wood with sheepskin tacked on.
The school moved to Oakley chapel in 1903, and in 1904 a new school building opened. 85,000 bricks, fired by Nathan Snapp, were used to build it.
It served until the Valley schools were consolidated in 1939. Oakley Town bought the old school house and grounds, which were demolished to make way for a town park – the first official rodeo grounds.
Sometime before 1890 the school district bought a bell, which rang promptly at 8:30am from each building that housed the school. Upon discontinuation of the school district, the bell was given to the Daughters of the Pioneers and later presented to May Sorenson. It now hangs in Oakley Town Hall belfry.