In 1966, the Centerville School District was annexed to Chico Unified School District. The new management soon decided to close the one-room school and bus students to Chico. The school property was offered for sale in 1968.
News of the impending sale inspired local residents to form an organization "Centerville Recreation and Historical Association" for the purpose of obtaining the historic building for a community hall. Fundraisers were held to purchase the school. In less than a year the property was completely paid for and the school was back in possesion of the community.
The building has served many purposes over the years. Political rallies, dances, Sunday School classes, all sorts of socials, elections, community and youth group meetings of many types have been held within its walls.
Lois Colman, granddaughter of D.B.Colman, canyon pioneer, served as CRHA's president during its first fifteen years. In 1976, Lois realized her dream with the opening of Centerville Colman Memorial Community Museum. The museum was financed with the profits of her book "Tailings of Butte Creek Canyon", a history book of the area.
Mildred Forester, noted local historian, who has extensive knowledge and love of Butte Creek history, spent many long hours researching "Tailings of Butte Creek Canyon" for Lois. Over the years, Mildred has served as display coordinator at Colman Museum, supplied her hand-made historical costumes for numerous events in the canyon and presented many interesting history programs at CRHA monthly pot-luck meetings.
At 95 years of age, Harvey Johnson was Colman Museum's oldest docent. He and his wife Anita, retired to Butte Creek Canyon in 1960, purchasing a ranch in the vicinity of the old town of Diamondville. Harvey served as the first president of the Honey Run Covered Bridge Association.
When Lois Colman formed the CRHA, Harvey became her right hand man in expediting the purchase of the old Centerville School, and then served as board member and officer. He also served as construction superintendent for Colman Museum.
Anita Johnson served as CRHA treasurer and historian for many years and she oversaw the annual CRHA plant sale at the 49'er Faire.
CRHA salutes Lois Colman, Mildred Forester, and Anita and Harvey Johnson for their enduring community spirit.
written by Joe Krulder, Centerville School Bell Editor
Neighbor says to me over a conversation, "What exactly is CRHA?" I utter the acronym "Centerville Recreation and Historical Association," whilst the look I gave indicated a measure of surprise. I was certain even road-kill knew what CRHA meant.
But the same neighbor, in the same moment, continues with an expression of cluelessness. "I know the acronym," says neighbor, "but exactly what does CRHA do?"
Later that night, my wife reads to my five year old. It was a Don Woods children's book, something about a mouse on a journey and one of the wiser mice says to the main character, "Stupid is forever, ignorance can be fixed." I was shocked. That quote explained the difference between politicians and the rest of us.
But, back to CRHA; between the neighbor and the wisdom of Don Woods, I thought it fix to fix in our minds just what CRHA is all about.
CRHA was incorporated in October of 1968. It was in that year the Centerville School House (built in 1894) went up for sale. It had been acquired by the Chico Unified School District in 1964, and they promptly closed it down. Later, to raise funds, the CUSD put the Centerville School and its 2.65 acres up for sale.
Some local citizens pooled together their energies to see if they could purchase the schoolhouse and have it open as some sort of community meeting place. There were many souls involved in this endeaver; Lois Colman, Mildred Forester, Harvey and Anita Johnson, just to name a few. The CRHA was formed and the school purchased.
Promptly, the CRHA jotted down what it was they wished to accomplish, here is that list:
- Preserve the one room Centerville School House from demolition
- Provide the community with a general meeting place
- Provide recreation facilities to the district
- Provide a museum to house important artifacts and relics of the history of this canyon, emphasis on mining and Native Americans
- Collect and publish histories of the Butte Creek Canyon area
And that's primarily what the CRHA is all about. What needs adding and exclamations to the CRHA story is that it is an all volunteer organization. No one, not even the caretaker or curator is paid. those associated with CRHA perform the tremendous works they do out of love for the history and treasures found in living in such a grand canyon.
CRHA is a non-profit corporation 503(c)(3). Last year it spent $13,800 in major building and grounds repairs including replacing the roof to the old Centerville School House. Despite its volunteers, teams of docents, Eagle Scouts, the CCC, and more - CRHA ran a deficit: utilities and propane taking a large chunk of the funds.
CRHA is also part of the Paradise Recreation Parks District. PRPD allocates some funds to CRHA, but those funds account to less than 1/5th of the CRHA budget.
In 1976, CRHA opened the Colman Museum, funding for the museum came via many sources, one of which was the proceeds from a book authored by canyon residents entitled, "Tailings of Butte Creek Canyon."
Together, the Colman Museum and the Centerville School House create a community center and an educational resource of fine caliber for such a rural region. Monthly potlucks, quilting and crafts clubs, the 49'er Faire, general meetings, weddings and receptions, concerts, school field trips, and more take place on CRHA grounds.
Well, that's the gist of CRHA