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Shaffer Elementary School opened in 1956 as the third campus of the Atwater Elementary School District. It received its name from the road adjacent to it. The road got its name from the Shaffer family.

Richard Shaffer came out West with his father in 1850 at the age of five. His father had made the trip with Scout Kit Carson. When Richard was in his teens, he helped drive some horses north from Southern California. He ended up at the Neill Brothers’ ranch that stretched along the Merced River for about 9 miles upstream from the present Cressey Bridge. Later after many years of work, the brothers give Richard several hundred acres of land on the river bottom and along the plains above the river.

In 1872 Richard Shaffer married Katherine MacDougal. She had come to California from Missouri in a covered wagon in 1855. They had seven daughters and three sons. Richard was a County Supervisor for the Third District from 1890 to 1898. Richard sold the Merced River Ranch to a large land company shortly before his death in 1918.

Charles Shaffer was the third child and the first son of Richard and Kathleen. He was born on the Shaffer Ranch about 1880. He started his education at a school that was about a mile north and east of the present Washington School. He graduated at the age of thirteen after he had passed his teacher’s final examination. There were no high schools in the area at that time. The family moved to Berkeley so that the children could attend high school and college.

Charles graduated from Chestnut Wood’s Business College in Santa Cruz. While he was attending high school and college, Charles became foreman on his father’s ranch on the river. In 1898 Charles joined the Army for the Spanish-American War. He spent a year and one-half at Fort Point at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Presidio in San Francisco. He received $13.00 per month while in the Army.

Charles married Hortense Elliott in 1899. She was the oldest daughter of the W. E. Elliotts who were early settlers on the land that later became part of the Buhach Colony. They made their home on Charles’ fathers ranch. They moved to Humboldt County from 1902 to 1904. Charles opened several businesses while there.

When he returned to Merced County in 1904, Charles and his father bought three sections of land between Shaffer Road and the old Marshall Atwater ranch (later know as the Henderson ranch). He paid $12.50 per acre. Charles’s two eldest sons attended Mitchell School in Atwater. They drove a horse (Lorraine) and a cart to school. It was a long trip to and from school, especially in the winter. Charles helped to establish a new school in the Arundel Colony. The boys then attended Arundel School.

Charles sold the ranch for a nice profit in 1912. The family moved to Atwater where he built a large home made of redwood on an acre lot on Drakeley Street across from the Bloss home gardens. This home is still standing and is owned by Carol Grey and her husband. Carol’s family (the Wassums) bought the home from Charles in 1918.

Charles saw the need for a bank in his home town and was instrumental in establishing a branch of the Merced Security Savings Bank on the north-east corner of Broadway and Third. He was the manager for several years. He transferred to the Bank of Italy (later Bank of America) in Merced in 1917 and worked there two years.. The Atwater bank later became a Bank of Italy as well.

Charles and his brother Hal then decided to get into the real estate business. They bought large tracts of grain land and subdivided them into smaller parcels for irrigated farms. Some of the colonies that they created were Arundel, Lingard and Moran.

Both Charles and his wife were active in civic affairs in Atwater. Hortense died in 1955. Charles died in 1957. One of their sons, Stanley was an optometrist in Merced for a number of years.

Written by Roger Wood, June 4, 2008 from material in “Brief History of Atwater”, 1958