Used by permission from Sharlot Hall Museum
In 1929, Minna and Charles H. Orme founded the Orme School on their Quarter Circle V Bar Ranch, twenty miles east of Mayer. What began as a country school for the Orme children and those of ranch employees, eventually became a private boarding school with a theatre, athletic fields and modern classrooms. Minna Orme remained involved in the school from 1929 to her death in 1970.
Minna Vrang grew up in Ross, California and attended Stanford University where she studied botany. In 1917, she married her college sweetheart and fellow Stanford graduate, Charles Orme. The couple moved to the Charles’ family ranch, the Orme Land and Cattle Company, 10 miles west of Phoenix. In 1929, Charles Orme suffered a severe case of sun stroke and the family decided to move to a cooler climate. The new location was the Quarter Circle V Bar Ranch, made up of nearly thirty thousand acres with excellent grazing for cattle and the scenic Ash Creek. The ranch was in a remote area of primitive roads and few neighbors. Minna and Charlie Orme applied to the Yavapai County School Superintendent to establish a rural school on the ranch. The superintendent approved of the plan and agreed to give them $10 per student per month toward the salary of a resident teacher.
Early in the fall of 1929, Minna and Charlie Orme drove to the neighboring Dugas Ranch where a schoolhouse had been at the turn of the century. They found old desks which had been nailed to railroad ties and brought them back to Orme Ranch. They created a classroom in the old ranch house which became the Orme Ranch School.
In the beginning, the school served only the children living on the ranch, but before long friends and neighbors applied to the Ormes for their children to be included. Often eastern families, whose children suffered from asthma and needed the high dry climate of Arizona for relief, sought placement. Many overcame their health problems quickly, but there were many occasions when Minna sat up all night with a child suffering from an asthma attack.
During the Great Depression, operation of the Orme School brought in needed funds so the ranch could survive the 1930s economic downfall. By 1945, the school had become a private boarding school exclusively.
Minna Orme did not teach in the classroom but acted as housemother for all of the students and assigned everyone work around the ranch. She also grasped any opportunity to teach the students about the world around them, using her training in the natural sciences. She was an amateur astronomer and taught children the constellations at night. Minna also loved the literary arts and poetry readings.
In 1948, high school became part of the Orme School curriculum, and the school became more formalized. Young Charlie Orme returned from his studies at Stanford University and took the position of headmaster. Minna Orme continued to work for the school as recruiter and by relentlessly pursuing a quality education for the students.
Following her death in 1970, the school continued operating as a boarding and college preparatory school. What began as a simple country school eventually became a very successful college preparatory school attended by students from all over the country.