The Life of Edward Hyatt
Adapted from the book The Hyatt Legacy
by Phyllis H. Gardiner
Edward Hyatt was born in Ohio on March 8, 1858 to Thomas and Mary Hyatt.
Edward’s father was a soldier in the Civil War. Edward’s dad only visited once per year during the war. Edward Hyatt was 6 years old when his father died in battle at Winchester.
Mary Hyatt, Edward’s mom, did not want anyone to talk about the war or about Thomas, Edward’s dad. It made her very sad.
James was Edward’s uncle and encouraged Edward to go to school. He told Edward and his brother, Harry, about Johnny Appleseed and about different kinds of rocks. He told them about libraries. He also told them about how President Jefferson first had the idea for free public libraries and how Edward’s father had been named after him. Thomas Jefferson Hyatt.
President Thomas Jefferson thought schools should be free for boys and girls and Edward’s father did, too. Edward’s father was a teacher before going off to war. After learning about his father, Edward was always reading a book.
Edward finally went to school at age 14. He learned to write his name at 14. Prior to that Edward had never attended school. He and his younger brother Harry roamed the woods of Augusta, Ohio. His freedom ended when he learned his father was named after a President.
At 16 years old Edward attended Ohio State University. Uncle James brought Professor Mendenhall from Ohio State University to see Edward. Edward and Harry showed the Professor their collection of rocks, arrowheads and bones. Professor Mendenhall told them they could sell their collection and have enough money to go to college. Edward did just that. Edward sold his collection for $40.00 and went to college.
Three hundred students attended Ohio State University. Only 30 were women. Margaret Gill (Maggie) started in 1877 when Edward was a junior. Harry started that same year, too. Edward met Maggie when her chemistry instructor was absent and Edward had to teach her class. When he saw Maggie, it was love at first sight.
Edward and Maggie eloped and were married in Steubenville, Ohio on the 26th of January, 1880. They moved West to Washington Territory.
Edward had been hired by the U.S. Geological Survey to do field work. They traveled a lot until Maggie got pregnant. Then Edward traveled alone.
The baby was named Inez. Maggie helped Edward classify his specimens and also began teaching the neighborhood children to read and write.
Then Edward began to get sick – fever, weakness, then abscesses on his back. It was tuberculosis.
Edward had been sick with tuberculosis for many long months. The doctor told Maggie she had best prepare herself to be a widow. Maggie fired the doctor and said Edward would get well with no doctor at all.
Maggie had left Edward in Washington territory to take care of her mother’s affairs in Ohio. Maggie said she would return with enough money to enable them to move south where the weather was warmer and better for Edward. Maggie had left with the baby, Inez.
Edward wasn’t able to wait for Maggie to come back before moving. He went south to Riverside with nothing – just the change in his pockets. He was thin with gray eyes. His body had been very badly affected by the tuberculosis.
Edward Hyatt met Mr. Casteel on a hotel porch in San Bernardino. Orange trees and lemon trees covered the area. Eucalyptus trees, figs, peaches, plums and apricots were also plentiful. Edward was looking for a place to settle. Mr. Casteel urged him to see La Sierra Rancho.
Edward stayed with Mr. Casteel for more than a year.
In September, 1883, Edward was 25 years old. After two months at La Sierra Rancho the trustees of the school district could not find a teacher and said they would not open the school. Mr. Casteel said Edward would be a great teacher. Edward accepted the job at $55.00 per month.
Edward was now better, tan and had gained weight. Edward was a natural teacher. He had spent time teaching the kids the names of rocks, plants and birds.
Edward had to pass the County’s teacher’s exam, which he did.
The second baby was born in January 1884. Her name was Shirley. Maggie was gone 2-1/2 years. In the meantime she and Edward wrote to each other constantly. Edward told her about the Casteels, his students and his transformation from a geologist into an educator.
Edward said “studying the past is mighty interesting, but it can’t hold a candle to studying the future – and our only contract with the future is our children.
Edward had a gift for helping children learn to enjoy school.
In 1884 Edward Hyatt became Principal of San Jacinto School. The community had just approved a $12,000 bond to build a brick schoolhouse to be ready for the fall of 1885.
After being gone 2-1/2 years Maggie returned by train to San Gorgonio
Station just 12 miles from San Jacinto – 2 hours by stagecoach.
The San Jacinto Valley had grown tremendously. New families were moving in, houses were being built. The San Jacinto School had grown from 16 students to nearly 100 in less than 2 years. It was made of San Jacinto brick and was 3 stories high. Edward was now earning $85.00 a month as the Principal. Miss Sally was one of the teachers. Edward showed Maggie around the San Jacinto area. Mr. Hewitt was an important citizen. He owned a hotel, liquor store and stable.
Edward told Maggie all about the expedition of DeAnza in 1799. They were Spaniards who named the place San Jacinto for St. Hyacinth. When Mexico broke away from Spain the land was given out in return for political favors. Rancho San Jacinto was given to the sons and daughters of Don Jose Estudillo. Simon Estudillo was a botanist who bought plants from all over the world to try out the climate in San Jacinto. His grandson, Miguel Estudillo, was one of Edward Hyatt’s star students.
Edward took Maggie to meet Mrs. Sheriff at the Federal School on the Soboba Indian Reservation.
Edward said “A teacher is the greatest creative artist there is! … A teacher’s raw material lives and breathes, reproduces its kind, passes on what it learns – generation after generation – to the end of all time!”
Maggie asked Edward to write a letter to her family about the wildflowers. Edward’s letter was so well written that it was printed in the weekly newspapers. Then letters came from all over the county asking Edward to tell them more about the flora of California. During the spring of 1886 Edward wrote various articles that were published and republished in big city papers as far away as San Francisco and New York.
One time when talking about planting, Edward said, “But, farming or teaching, there’s a lot to be learned. They’re a lot alike. Planting good, viable seeds in fertile soil is the same operation, essentially, as planting knowledge and ideas in the receptive minds of children. There’s a time that’s just right for the planting and a method that’s right for the cultivating. The farmer fights insects, weeds, frost and hail—he has a thousand hazards—and the teacher fights superstition, idleness, disinterested parents, and all the rest of it. But either of ‘em can learn the technique of fighting and can make a good crop. Whether it’s plants or whether it’s children. They both have the gift, the infinite capacity for growing.”
Edward spoke for the first time at a Teachers’ Institution in San Diego. The speech was so good it was printed in the paper and the supervisors of San Diego County elected Edward to the County Board of Education – an honor for Edward who was only 29 years old. He served in that position for 6 years. Maggie was his substitute at the San Jacinto School.
They had their third child – a girl. Edward had delivered the child himself because the doctor did not arrive on time. The baby’s name was Margharita.
Edward wrote a School Manual to help teachers with their instruction. The School Manual came to be used throughout the State. Edward became President of the Board and was asked to speak at graduations and at many meetings.
Edward and Maggie came to know all the students, their families and their needs. They took in Clara Long who was 15 years old and wanted to learn to be a teacher but her parents moved to Oregon. They also took on little Stella McAllister whose mom worked out of the house.
Unfortunately lack of funds had prohibited the building of a high school in San Jacinto. Mr. Hyatt was concerned that his students would not go to college. Then in 1888 the Legislature enacted a plan that enabled school teachers who passed a test to also qualify to teach high school subjects. Edward took the test and passed with the highest score in the State. After that Edward Hyatt also taught high school classes.
Maggie’s family moved from Ohio and moved in next door to them in San Jacinto. Another child was born – a boy. His name was Edward, Jr.
During the next 2 years the San Jacinto school transformed from a small town school into the most modern school in the State. They had a high school, military cadets, physical training taught to all grades, a school newspaper named The Mountain Echo, a school library, debate society and a winning football team. The school was the cultural, moral and social center of the town – its very heart.
The school added tennis and gymnastics. The school also had a huge collection of scientific specimens. The children of San Jacinto were avid collectors. Every morning before school opened, Edward would host a “reception” where kids would bring him items they had found. Newspapers all over the State wrote about the school and coined the phrase the “San Jacinto Plan”. The school was famous.
Maggie resigned from the school in 1890 with another baby on the way. That year things began to change. Two years of drought caused people to turn bitter and unfriendly. The dam which began being built in 1890 would not bring water to San Jacinto. Instead water was brought to Hemet and Hemet became a boom town.
In 1891 the first San Jacinto High School class was graduating – Carrie Bales, Nellie Loveland and Charley Stoddard. Edward wanted Charley to go to Stanford University which had opened its doors that same year. Edward and Charley went to meet Dr. David Starr Jordan, the President of Stanford. Dr. Jordan had heard about Edward and read his work. He offered Edward a position as a professor at Stanford. Edward declined, stating he needed to return to San Jacinto to educate the children. Instead, he told him of Charley Stoddard. Dr. Jordan agreed to accept Charley at Stanford free of charge.
Meanwhile, back in San Jacinto, a man by the name of Dr. Myron Hopkins was working to have the first high school built in Hemet. This angered the people of San Jacinto. Hemet had gotten San Jacinto’s water and now it was going to get the high school. This created a lot of angry feelings.
Edward continued to teach. Two more students were sent to Stanford. In addition, Miguel Estudillo would attend a Catholic college in Santa Clara. The students of San Jacinto were doing well.
A new baby was also born – Raymond.
Unfortunately 1893 was a bad year for San Jacinto schools. Dr. Hopkins had been appointed Superintendent of Schools. He tried to get all the San Jacinto High School students to go to the Hemet school. The parents and students refused. That spring bad news came from Stanford. Charley Stoddard was stricken with pneumonia. Stanford’s finest doctor had operated but failed to help Charley. Charley was sent home to San Jacinto to die. Edward was saddened. He convinced Charley to have another surgery in San Jacinto and it worked. After 3 months, Charley was feeling better, but he had lost much of his hearing.
Dr. Hopkins refused to pay Edward’s salary until he stopped teaching high school. He ordered a Committee of Investigators to investigate both high schools. After their investigation the committee decided to send 15 of Edward’s students to the Hemet school and send 7 Hemet students to Edward’s school. Edward’s students refused to leave.
That year the Riverside high school football team was undefeated. The San Jacinto team was also undefeated. The date for the “big game” was set for December 26th at Riverside. Even though the players from Riverside had more experience and were bigger, the San Jacinto team won 16 to 10. This was a great victory.
That December a new baby boy, Victor, was born. This was baby #6 (Inez, Shirley, Margharita, Raymond, Edward, Jr., and Victor). Maggie found help from an Indian girl about 20 years old named Carmelita. Carmelita would go on to live with and care for the Hyatt’s children and grandchildren even when Maggie was gone.
That spring good news was had for the school and for Edward. Edward’s ant collection was recognized in the LA Times. Two species were name for Edward and one for Charley – Camponotus Hyatti, Pheidole Hyatti and Aphaenogaster Stoddardi.
The San Jacinto football team had another huge win over a team from San Diego. Then 15 students graduated from the high school. The next day Edward was fired.
Dr. Hopkins had managed to get one of his friends appointed to the School Board and he finally had the power to fire Edward.
Edward decided to run again Dr. Hopkins for County Superintendent of Instruction. Edward printed his own paper, The Searchlight, on July 15th. He campaigned through the paper.
That August Edward began to gain more support for his campaign. However, it was also that August that Raymond, just 3 years old, got sick and died.
The family moved to Fallbrook. Maggie would teach in the school and await the results of the election in November. Edward campaigned day and night, meeting with people and writing for The Searchlight. On November 26th Edward was elected County Superintendent of Schools. The family moved again in June. They moved to the wonderful city of Riverside.
Edward decided that as County Superintendent of Schools he would make teachers like teaching and also make schools beautiful. He decided he would go and visit all the schools and talk with teachers and teach lessons and show them how to gain the students’ interest. In the meantime Maggie would take care of the office.
In July another daughter was born. Her name was Antonia.
Edward won reelection in 1898. Edward’s articles on school beautification were quite popular. He brought insects, bird skins and other treasures to share with the children. The teachers he met were inspired to do the same.
Edward’s students from the San Jacinto School were now grown men and women. Stella and Clara were teachers. Miguel Estudillo was an influential lawyer in Riverside, who would later become a state legislator. Harry Cree was a rising young newspaperman with the Riverside Press.
Edward’s paper, The Searchlight, had been sold and merged with the Enterprise. Charley Stoddard was a mechanical engineer in San Francisco.
In 1899 another baby girl was born. This time the baby was named Persis. In 1902 yet another baby girl was born. The baby girl would be called “Baby” for 6 years for lack of agreement upon a name until at 6 years old the baby named herself Phyllis. Edward was reelected again in 1902. He was a popular lecturer across the state. He talked about a variety of topics: geology, history and common problems for teachers.
Inez, Shirley, Rita (Margherita) and Stella all went to Stanford.
The Hyatts were welcoming people. They always had guests and visitors, often feeding 16 people for dinner.
In 1906 Edward was encouraged to run for State Superintendent of Schools and won by the largest margin in history – 78,000 votes. He wanted a high school and free textbooks for all. He wanted better pay for all teachers and beautiful school buildings and playgrounds.
He was successful and won reelection in 1910. The financial structure of California schools was changed at that time. Money from taxes was set aside for schools and average daily attendance became the basis for funding.
In 1915 Maggie’s mom passed away at 78 years old. Inez, the oldest Hyatt child, was stricken with tuberculosis and went to San Jacinto to be healed. By 1916 everything was going well again. Inez was better. Both Victor and Toni were at Stanford. Edward, Jr. was engaged to be married.
In the spring of 1917 Edward had a stroke. His left side was paralyzed and he struggled to walk again.
The flags flew at half mast over California’s 6,000 schoolhouses on December 7, 1919 when Edward Hyatt died.