A brief history of a tiny western town
by Rock Betu
No one knows for sure just
how Nadaburg got its name. The stories told say a lone rider was looking
for a town between Phoenix and Wickenburg, Arizona, when he came across
an old Indian, or a Mexican, or some say, a German railroad worker. When
he asked if there was a town nearby, he was told, "Nada, nada burg". Nada
is Spanish for "no, nothing". Burg, of course, refers to a town. There
was nothing there.
By the early 1900's the Santa Fe Railroad ran west out of Phoenix and there was a mail drop called Nadaburg. Then on December 29, 1916, the U.S. Department of the Interior opened up the stretch of land between Phoenix and Wickenburg to homesteading. Early in 1920, a young man, William Hovey Griffin followed the dirt road, now called Grand Avenue/hwy 60, out of Phoenix and filed a homestead claim on the section of land known as Nadaburg.
The first thing Griffin did with his land was to sink a well. The second thing he did was build a small batten board schoolhouse. Four of Griffin's older sons camped out next to the schoolhouse. They were soon joined by eight other pupils from nearby homesteads.
Griffin, who loved gardening and planted most of the big trees that remain today, also did surveying for the U.S. Geological Survey Dept. and around 1920, plotted out the Nadaburg town site upon which he donated a block of land to the Maricopa County School District. In 1921, the School District built the first one-room schoolhouse, which stands to this day.
|The little red schoolhouse remained in continuous use through 1975, after which it began to fall into disrepair. In 1997, the plight of the schoolhouse came to the attention of a representative of Toyota Testing Grounds, just southwest of Wittmann. Toyota donated $2000 towards restoring the old schoolhouse.Unfortunately, the old brick chimney had to be taken out, as it was causing structural sagging. It was replaced with artificial bricks.The little building remains in use today.|
During those early years,
the schoolhouse served as the community center. Behind it, a tin garage
housed one of the few generators in town. Electricity would not arrive
until 1944. Sometimes the little garage also served as temporary housing
for a needy family.
Christmas was a community affair. Times were tough and few people could even afford a Christmas tree, but there were those who made sure the school had one. This became the community tree around which everyone would gather. Here, plays were performed, poems were read and carols were sung. On Christmas Eve, Santa, played by Griffin, would pass out the gifts.
The little schoolhouse also served as a place for Sunday worship and hosted funerals. People would gather for pot-luck picnics and community sings. There was usually a piano, often a guitar or two and sometimes even a fiddle.
Memorial day was quite the festive event when residents threw a large community picnic under the trees. The women cooked and watched over the children while the men worked on the road to the cemetery and cleaned up grave sites.
William Hovey Griffin was a family man who believed in community spirit and in education. He served as a near-permanent member of the school board and was in charge of overseeing the operation and maintenance of the school - all without pay. His efforts and love in building the small community went hand-in-hand with his love of gardening. This too, he brought to the school. Special occasions were always adorned with fresh cut flowers from Griffin's garden. He also planted many trees and an extensive cactus garden on the school grounds and around town.
Griffin's belief in education left little room for excuses to not attend school. He was usually first on the scene after heavy rainfall when the un-bridged washes and dirt streets ran high with water. He carried the smallest children on his back through the water and helped the older ones across. He also believed in discipline.
The first teacher at Nadaburg School was Mrs. Augusta Crozier, who lived on a nearby homestead. Midway through Mrs. Crozier's tenure, the school board provided her with the ultimate cure for misbehaving. Discipline was never a problem after 1923. The cure was roughly the shape of a ping-pong paddle, 20 inches long and made of thick cowhide. During the 1930's, someone slit it down the middle, but it remained in use through 1945.
By 1939 there were so few children attending Nadaburg School that the School District threatened closure. W.H.Griffin refused to let that happen. He placed ads in several newspapers, advertising that he would give either 5 acres of land or 2 town lots to any family with two or more school-age children if they would move to Nadaburg. Several families responded. Nadaburg School continued to grow.
|Nadaburg got its first cafeteria in 1969. The school bought it from nearby Luke Air Force Base but had no way of moving it. So 25 men from Luke's 4510 Civil Engineers Squadron volunteered to set it all up. As a thank-you, Wittmann residents provided the men with a home-cooked turkey dinner.|
The Nadaburg Saga