Ahira Holmes, the first Principal of the first Normal School established
in California, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1823, and received
his primary educational training in the public schools of that historical
and puritanical town. He entered the State Normal School in Bridgewater,
Massachusetts, in 1843, persuing the studies of the course in that institution
until the latter part of 1847, but teaching in the public schools of his
native town during the winter months before graduating. After leaving
the Normal School, he was appointed to the position of Principal and Deputy
Superintendent of the Boston Farm School, a free manual labor institution
for boys, located in the suburbs of the city. This position he resigned
in a little more than a year thereafter, having been elected Principal
of the Milton Center Public Grammar School in the vicinity of Boston, where
he continued to teach until the following year, when he was elected to
the Principalship of the Brockton, Massachuetts [sic.] High School.
In the early part of 1852, Mr. Holmes came to California, and in the following June received from the Board of Education of San Francisco an appointment as Principal of the Union Street Public School, then designated as the Clarke’s Point Public School, just established, the fourth school organized by the City Board, no system of public schools having been provided for by the State Legislature until the previous year. He continued to discharge the duties of Principal of this school during the four subsequent years.
In 1856 Mr. Holmes was elected Principal of Powell Street Grammar School, afterwards known as the Washington Grammar School, and at the same time received the appointment of Principal of the Free Evening School, the first of the kind opened, under the auspices of the Board of Education, in the city. He continued to perform the duties of Principal of the former school but one term, but was afterwards re-appointed to serve as Principal of the Union Street Grammar School, which place he filled during two additional years.
In 1861 Mr. Holmes removed to Los Angeles, where he was elected Principal of the only Grammar School then opened in that city. Here he continued one year, when, in June, 1862, he received from the Board of Trustees of the State Normal School an appointment as Principal of that institution. The school was opened in San Francisco in the following July, in accordance with an Act of the State Legislature, approved May second of the same year, and its sessions were continuously held in that city until 1871, when the school was removed to San José.
At the first daily session of the school only six students presented themselves, but during the first part of the semi-annual session there were thirty in attendance, and about this average was maintained during the term. During the three years Mr. Holmes served as Principal of the school there were two hundred and thirty students enrolled and in attendance, of which number forty-four graduated. Many of these graduates have since successfully filled prominent positions in the schools of San Francisco, and other parts of the State.
Mr. Holmes was ably assisted during the last two years of his time of service by Mr. H.P. Carlton and Miss E.W. Houghton, and in the Experimental Department by Misses H.M. Clark and Kate Sullivan.
After resigning his position in the State Normal School, Mr. Holmes was elected Principal of the Mission Grammar School, in San Francisco, and labored in that capacity during two years; then resigning, to engage in another vocation in the city.
He is now living in retirement on a fruit farm in the suburbs of San José.