About Emma C. Smith

History of Emma C. Smith School

[Researched and written by Heather O’Brien with the help of the Livermore Historical Guild and one of Emma’s descendents Mr. Steve Harrison]

April 23, 1965 it was suggested that the school district name an elementary school Emma C. Smith School. Emma C. Smith was the first regular school teacher in Livermore. Here is some of her story…….

Emma’s father Henry Clay Smith was friends William Mendenhall. They were pioneers together and traveled to California in 1845. They arrived at Sutter’s Fort on Christmas Day 1845. He met a married Mary Harlan Van Gorden, a widow who came to California with the Harlan Party. The Harlan Party followed the same route as the Donner Party and was the last group to make it across the Sierra –Nevada that year.

Before coming to Livermore Mr. Smith fought in the Mexican War with Fremont’s Battalion. When gold was found in mines near Coloma the Smith family tried their luck. They returned to Mission San Jose and opened a store. It was here that Emma was born in 1850. In 1852 Mr. Smith was elected to the California Legislature where he introduced the bill to create Alameda County. The Smith family moved a lot but settled in Livermore 1867.

In 1878 Emma joined the staff of Livermore Grammar School. She taught for 41 years and retired in 1919. She remained an important part of the community. She helped plan many of the annual Livermore picnics. She was member of the Livermore Presbyterian She was interested in the world around. She traveled to Europe when she was 75 and at 80 visited Alaska and the Yukon. According to her niece Bessie Drury her greatest thrill was her first crossing of the Bay Bridge February 19th 1937. She lived to be 89 years old. She passed away March 26, 1939.

Over the years she touched many lives. On June 27, 1937 former student Susie Kelly read this poem, which she had written for Miss Smith at the Livermore picnic.

Poem written for Miss Smith by Susie Kelly Good Morning, Miss Smith

Turn backward Miss Smith for a few moments today,
And listen to a message that we have to say,
A message that carries us back many years,
Mingled with memories held by all so dear.

How oft do we wish as the days go by,
To be back once more if we could but try,
In our dear little school room in days of yore,
With you as our teacher in Livermore.

Around us today are familiar faces,
And I wish you could arrange us back in our places,
With your own wise system row by row,
Just as you did years ago.

That first day at school will we ever forget,
When we all tried so hard to be teacher’s pet?
You were our idol, our pedestal, our joy,
And all kinds of methods you did employ,
As you tried so hard, your patience to keep.

On your desk you’d have hidden a toy dog or sheep,
Then all our tears would turn into smiles,
Which have carried so on for thousands of miles.
You gave us life’s start and upward we went,
Upon life’s ladder, on duty bent.

The dear little song, “Up, Up In the sky,”
Made tears stay back in the corner of our eye,
Though many a time we’d want to cry.

We all look back on that face beaming bright,
And your feather stitched aprons in black and in white,
On your neck, a dainty round pin you would wear,
Which attracted our attention with many a stare.

On Friday your desk had an assortment of prizes,
And I wonder if all this crowd realizes,
What those pictures really meant when we spelled down our class.
When each took our pick, each little lad or lass,

I still posses three, and to me they treasures.
Am I proud of them now? I am, beyond measure.
Wither her own handwriting, the date and her name,
No wonder, with pride those keepsakes we claim.

I’ll mention her pupils by their family name,
And if some I omit, I hope you won’t blame:
Hansens and Nissens and Johnsons galore,
Andersons, Petersons and Kamps by the score,
Callaghans, Connollys and Kellys in flocks,
Beazells, Bernals, McKowns and Knox,
Cardozas, Fitzgeralds, and Gallagher, too
Gardemeyers, Bradshaws, Wentes, and Beu,
Winegars, Wagoners, Concannons in numbers,
Aylwards, Fennons, Iversens, Mcumbers,
Dutchers, Thornes, and Macks and Lassens,
Spencers, Hargraves, Levys and Classens,
Teeters and Henrys and Holms by the score,
Reedys, Altamiranos, Bistorious and Mohr
Foscalinas, Larippas, Hunters and Granas,
Sachaus, Forgos, Mahoneys and Hannas,
Sorensens, Mendenhalls, Martin and Price,
Oh! What a bunch and awfully nice,
And Fraghers, McGlincheys, McKeaneys, Moys,
Hundreds and hundreds of dear girls and boys.

The school room’s torn down, but fond memories remain,
How many have passed from its walls,
Who now have been spurred to noble calls
Tho’ your hair has turned silver,
We love just the same,
And many, many years to come,
You’ll still be in the game.