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History of Custer County Schools


Early education was tended to in a church in the Colfax colony and a log cabin four miles southwest of Silver Cliff. As the county grew, so did the demand for education and in the fall of 1879 the first school districts were formed. It was decided that schools should be no more than five miles apart so that each child had a school within walking distance. This resulted in twenty-four one room schools and two classrooms in private homes. The teachers recruited for these positions were required to be single and signed contracts stating that they would resign if they married. They were paid little, but often received room and board from the locals as an incentive. Morning started an hour before students arrived with the building of a wood fire and the raising of an American flag. All ages learned together, with older ones helping the youngsters. At the end of the day, the teacher would clean the school house, bring in firewood for the next day and check the chimney to make sure it was not clogged with soot.


As mines closed and the depression reached the valley, the population dwindled. World War II created a shortage of teachers as they left to work in aviation and munitions factories. Emergency teaching certificates were issued to ranch wives and young mothers, but the era of the one room schoolhouse was coming to an end.


Westcliff School
304 4th St.
Built in 1891 of local fieldstone, this rural schoolhouse functioned as a school until 1953.  The building has an unusual flat topped gable roof.  The building is now in use as a community center and museum.


Willows School
Willow Ln. between Muddy Ln. and Schoolfield Ln.
This simple 1889 wood frame rural schoolhouse closed due to a school consolidation in 1948, but it continues to function as a community center. 


Custer County 


Custer County School District is nestled between the Wet Mountains and Sangre de Cristo Mountains of south central Colorado. It includes the neighboring towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, with a countywide population of 4,237.


For scenic beauty, it is unsurpassed. On the west side lie the Sangres with over 25 peaks of 13,000 feet or higher. On the east side are the Wet Mountains – rugged and rolling foothills covered in evergreen trees. In between lies the Wet Mountain Valley, home of a 140-year-old ranching and mining legacy. The valley enjoys 320 days of sunshine each year, with an average summer high of 82 and an average winter high of 40. Custer County’s greatest asset is its people, a multifaceted community known for its friendly, caring atmosphere. A mix of fourth-generation ranchers, longtime locals and new residents, Custer County is filled with citizens with a strong sense of community who understand the importance of volunteerism.


Recreation in Custer County includes hiking, fishing, backpacking, hunting and horseback riding, to name a few. Our residents and visitors enjoy the arts including several music festivals, visual arts events and a theater that hosts regional and national talents.


Local services in Custer County have grown to meet expanding needs. These include a community library, an exceptional volunteer fire department, EMS Services, Sheriff’s Posse, an assisted living center and medical clinic. These services, more than 10 churches, and several restaurants and motels, make Custer County a great place to live.

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