Voice: McCabe District pioneering era remember

June 18, 2002

In 1910 the Board of Supervisors of Imperial County issued a notice of the sale of school bonds to build the modern two-room McCabe School that would replace the Adair School built in 1908 by the Adair brothers, Chuck and Arthur, that was a one-room school for first- through eighth-grade classes. Both schools were about three miles southwest of El Centro, California.

McCabe School was named in honor of Matthew McCabe. He and his wife Ollie had five children: James (Jim), Gabriel (Gabe), Margaret (Mitch), Dorothy (Cot), and Clarence John (C.J). All attended McCabe School except C.J., the youngest son, who was the future father of Robert McCabe, who lives in Modesto and soon is retiring from his barber shop business, and who gave me this personal McCabe family information by phone.

Robert McCabe told me his grandfather Matthew McCabe was born in Ireland in 1878 and died in Modesto in 1963, and his wife, Ollie, died at the age of 103. Also, Matthew McCabe was the first farmer to introduce the planting of peaches in the Valley.


Alex A. Jack, a member of the well-known pioneer farming family of Brawley, told me by phone that in 1991 he pulled out all his peach trees because of severe peach tree blossoming conditions. Rain, wind and frost destroyed the blossoms so the trees could not bear fruit, although the trees were healthy and could live 15 to 20 years, so he had to diversify his farming operations.

Farmers are the entrepreneurs who began building fertile grounds to a total of half-million arable acres from desert sands full of coyotes, foxes, scorpions and beautiful doves that make cooing musical sounds and make for good healthy cooking for they love to eat corn seeds and other seeds.

Around the McCabe District in 1928 … my father work leveling land with fresnos/scoops with a deep shovel-like farm tools for taking up and moving sand dirt from high mounds/hills, many built by the winds on farms, to low places in the fields so the irrigation waters would flow through the lands. You had to know how to handle the reins of the nervous mules, for if one of the may rattlesnakes of those times would cross their path it would frighten them and would stampede. If the muleteer held the reins around his waist instead of around one shoulder — so the reins could slip off — he could be dragged and could break his back or be killed

Irrigation was started by the California Development Co. in 1901 under the dynamic leadership of its president, A.H. Heber, in whose honor the town of Heber was named. This subject company planned the first towns in the Imperial Valley in 1900 and in 1901. The Imperial Irrigation District took over this project in 1911 and has improved irrigation operations by upgrading the water delivery systems.

In 1928 I started to go to McCabe School. In two weeks I learned to converse in English with children of other cultures who enjoyed the playgrounds. Our teacher was a young woman with blue eyes with patience of a day-time mother. She started classes with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by prayers.

It was a time of innocence when there was great respect for parents, teachers and propriety. Often I go to McCabe and bless the school with prayers of my heart that are in my memory. I see myself playing with the children. This makes me understand that grammar school is the foundation of education, for here we learn to make friends with people of other cultures and folklore who enrich our lives forevermore.


El Centro

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