The Beginning 1897-1906
Placer High School’s origins can be traced back to 1882 when three young men from the East Coast arrived in Auburn with a dream of creating a college for Northern California. The trio met with influential members of the community in the Placer County Courthouse and began a campaign to solicit donations to the building fund of the Sierra Normal College and Business
Institute. When the contributions reached $6,000, the three young teachers, M.L. Fries, A.W. Sutphen, and M.W. Ward contributed $1500 each and began to search for a building site.
General Jo Hamilton, a former Attorney General for the State of California during the 1870s had retired to Auburn by this time and built a home on an estate at the corner of what is now High Street and College Way. He donated a five-acre parcel of his land to the newly-formed school. By 1883 Sierra Normal College was advertised in the Placer Argus newspaper as “the only independent normal college on the Pacific Coast.” Normal in this instance meant preliminary, professional education of teachers. It also advertised that “students can enter at any time, select what studies they choose, and advance as rapidly as their attainments will permit.”
The first year 1897 marks the beginning of Placer High School. In that year a Professor DeBell and the City of Auburn leased the Sierra Normal College building and property and ran the school under the name of Auburn High School. In September of that year the school began operations with 17 students present, all of whom paid tuition. Auburn High School graduated its
first class in June of 1900 at the opera house, the result of a three-year study. There were 10 students, six boys and four girls—five of them attended the University of California. At the time half of the students came from towns other than Auburn. The class of ’00 consisted of Mabel Coddington, Cyrus Dickson, Marie Fulton, Myrtle Meacham, Homer Norton, Edward Peterson, Fred Peterson, Emily Roberson, eddy R. Safford, and Ernest Wood.
In the first four years student population grew and more pupils were coming from outside of Auburn. This growth required more teachers and money and in 1901 the electors of Placer County voted for a high school and the name was changes to Placer County High School. Two years later in 1903 the county purchased the building and grounds from Dr. Ward, the president and sole owner of the former Sierra Normal College.