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The Early Schools of Santa Cruz and London Nelson’s Legacy


The Early Schools of Santa Cruz and London Nelson's Legacy | Mobile Ranger

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What a great story, Julia!

London Nelson was born a slave and came to the California Gold Rush with his master from Tennessee. He purchased his freedom by working in the mines and settled in Santa Cruz. He bought a small plot of land on present day Water Street behind the post-office and grew vegetables.

The story is told that in the 1860s, Nelson used to enjoy watching the school children walk past his cabin on their way to school on Mission Hill. He could also see the top of the school where sessions at some point stopped due to lack of money.

At that time, Nelson was only in his early fifties but he became very sick. He made a will, giving “his fortune” to the public school system to benefit the children of Santa Cruz. After he died his friend Elihu Anthony handled the estate, but did not settle Nelson’s affairs until 1875. By that time, the school had been rebuilt and reopened with public and private funds. Anthony used the $300 from the sale of Nelson’s estate to purchase a small lot on Mission Hill near the school, giving access to an administration building.

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