of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada
Schools and Education,
Settlers had resided within
the county of Bruce some three years before the largest community therein
felt the necessity of establishing a school. When this time came it was
after the School Act, 13 and 14 Vic, chap. 9, introducing much that proved
to be an advance on previous methods, had come into force, which it did on
July 24th, 1850. The initial step taken in the cause of education within
the county of Bruce was the appointment of a local superintendent by the
Council of the united counties of Huron, Perth and Bruce. School District
No. 3 in the united counties comprised the six northerly townships in the
county of Huron and all of the county of Bruce. Mr. John Nairn was the
gentleman who received the appointment of superintendent for this
district, the date of which was December 30th, 1850. At that time there
was not a single school in the whole of the county of Bruce, but during
the year 1851 a commencement was made by the establishing of one at
Kincardine, located in the vicinity of the present railway station, the
first teacher being Mrs. Jane Nairn. The following are the particulars
concerning it as given in the "Statistical School Report of 1851," of the
Department of Education, and are the only reliable ones available:
Pupils on roll, 66; boys,
31; girls, 35. Number of teachers, [The amounts are here given in dollars
and cents, for the convenience of the reader, instead of in Halifax
currency, as they appear in the report.]; certificate, second class;
salary paid teacher,1 $145.80 (without board) per annum; length of time
school was kept open during the year, six months. The school-house was a
rented frame building, containing one room. Amount of legislative grant,
$72.90; amount of other receipts, $12.00; total receipts, $84.90. Prom
such a small beginning has arisen the extended and efficient system of
public schools within the county.
At this period of school
history in Canada West a certain amount of latitude was permitted in
regard to what textbooks might be used in teaching, as uniformity was not
provided for; those most commonly in use were the Irish National Readers
and Arithmetic, Lennie's Grammar, Morse's Geography, and a spelling-book
published in Canada.
The following year witnessed an increase within the county of educational
privileges and also in the number of pupils. The Superintendent of Schools
reports for the year 1852 three school-houses, all log buildings. Two of
these were built during the year. [Footnote 1] These three schools were
located, respectively, at Kincardine, Southampton and Walkerton. [
Mr. Gunn, in his report for 1853, says: "Only
three schoolhouses in the county at first sight seems disproportionate to
the population, now over 10,000. It must be remembered, however, that the
county may be said to be entirely destitute of roads, for, with the
exception of the Durham and Elora roads, of sectional roads we have not a
1852, a redistribution was made by the United Counties Council of the
districts to be supervised by the local superintendents of education, and
all of the counties of Huron and Bruce were then formed into one district.
Mr. William Rath received the appointment of superintendent thereof. He
was a painstaking officer, but he found the work so heavy, on account of
the extent of territory in his district, that he resigned the position at
the end of the year. It was in this year that the first levy of a
municipal equivalent to the legislative grant to public schools was made
in the county of Bruce. The amount so raised was $214.67.
On Mr. Bath's resignation Mr. William Gunn was
appointed local superintendent of education for the whole of the county of
Bruce, and performed the duties of his office over this large area during
1853 and the following year. In 1855 the county was divided for
educational purposes into three districts, and two other gentlemen were
appointed along with Mr. Gunn as local superintendents of education, at a
salary of $5.00 per school. The details of this division of the county are
Western District comprised the townships of Huron, Kincardine, Bruce and
Kinloss. The local superintendent was Mr. Wm. Gunn.
The Northern District comprised the townships
of Saugeen, Arran and Elderslie. The local superintendent was Rev. James
Hutchison, who was a missionary of the Methodist Church to the Indians on
the Saugeen Reserve.
The Eastern District comprised the townships of Brant, Carrick, Culross
and Greenock. The local superintendent was Mr. John Eckford.
Mr. Gunn retained his office until the end of
1858, excepting during the early part of 1857, when Mr. Matthew McKendrick
held the office.
Mr. Hutchison held office only during the year 1855. He was succeeded by
the Rev. James H. McNaughton, who held the office during the years 1856,
1857 and 1858.
John Eckford held office for sixteen and a half years, that is, until the
office of local superintendent of education was abolished by statute in
1871, and the office of inspector of public schools instituted instead.
Mr. Eckford was a most efficient officer, and the reports of the School
Committee of each succeeding County Council refer in most complimentary
terms to his work as superintendent of schools.
The cost of erecting school buildings was one
that many settlers felt was almost beyond their powers, but the desire to
have their children educated constrained them to take action, so we find
that they contributed willingly of their time and also of their means, as
far as they were able, in the erection and completion of school-houses;
while in most instances the sites for rural schools were freely and
generously given by some settler.
It would not be satisfactory to pass over the
early days of educational matters in the county with little more than a
bare recital of statistics. It is, therefore, with pleasure that the
writer is able here to insert an unfinished fragment of a paper written by
the late Mr. Wm. Gunn on this subject. It is to be regretted that it ends
so abruptly. It is as follows:
"Educational Matters in the Early Settlement
of the County of Bruce.
"The first local Superintendent of Schools in
Bruce was the late Mr. Wm. Rath, of the County of Huron, local
Superintendent of that County. [Mr. Gunn is in error here in thinking that
Mr. Rath was the first Superintendent of Schools. He was the
second.Author.] Finding it impossible to attend to the duties of the
office extending over such a wide range of country, he resigned the
Superintendency for Bruce in December, 1852, and in January, 1853, without
his knowledge or consent, Mr. Gunn, now of Walker-ton, was appointed local
Superintendent for the County of Bruce. There were at that time only three
schools in the whole County, one at Kincardine, one at Southampton, and
one in Walkerton. These had to be visited twice a year, and the only mode
of locomotion was on foot, the road often for long distances being
indicated simply by the surveyor's blaze, very few miles of roads having
been opened in the County. The traveller in those days, in addition to a
few necessary articles of toilet, found it very convenient to carry a
moderate supply of crackers and cheese in his wallet slung over his
shoulders, of which he could partake at noon by the side of some clear
creek or spring. The settlers, however, were hospitable in the highest
degree, and readily shared their humble meal with the traveller when he
happened to come along at meal-time. The quality of the potatoes was
always good, the salt excellent, and there was always bread and tea to be
had, but fresh meat was a rarity for several years.
"In 1853 and 1854 considerable progress was
made. Settlers were coming in freely and the population of the County
rapidly increasing, the erection of school-houses was not neglected. The
people, as a rule, did wonderfully considering their circumstances, and
large were the demands made upon their muscles and purses in moving into
this then wilderness country and making a beginning in clearing the forest
and erecting places to dwell in.
"The school sections in the whole County were
laid out about 1853 by the local Superintendents, the Municipal Clerk, Mr.
C. B. Barker, and the Councils of the Townships, as these came into
existence, [Excepting Kincardine, there were no township councils until
1854. , Author.] and so well was this done that very few changes were
found necessary afterwards.
"For several years the whole County had only
one Reeve or representative in the United Counties Council of Huron and
Bruce. This was the Reeve of Kincardine Township, but as the population
and settlement increased, Beeves multiplied, and our voice became stronger
at the Council Board. To the credit of the Beeves of the County of Huron
it must be said that they were always most fair and considerate in all
municipal action toward the pioneer settlers of Bruce.
"In 1854, as schools began to multiply outside
of the triangle formed by Kincardine, Walkerton and Southampton (and as
the absence of roads in many places enhanced the difficulty and fatigue of
travelling on foot), Mr. Gunn got the County Council to divide the County
into three districts, East, North and West. The late Mr. Eckford, of
Dunkeld, was appointed local Superintendent of the Eastern District,
composed of Brant, Carrick, Culross and Greenock; Rev. J. H. McNaughton of
the Northern District, composed of Arran, Elderslie and Saugeen, Mr. Gunn
retaining in the Western District Bruce, Huron, Kincardine and Kinloss.
These gentlemen's duties commenced in 1855.
"In 1856 considerable progress had been made
in the erection of school-houses ready for opening in 1857. The
Legislative grant had increased to $1,325.00, being an increase over 1855
of $1,053.00. The apportionment of Townships is not given in the Chief
Superintendent's Report. The Rate Bill in the County amounted to $603.50.
The total expenditure for schools, $8,872.40. The total number of children
attending school in 1856 was 1819, being an increase over 1855 of 985. The
number of teachers in 1856 was 19, of whom 12 were males and 7 were
females. The highest salary was $500 (paid by Kincardine) and the lowest
$200. Of the 18 school-houses open in 1856, 5 were of stone, 2 of brick
and 11 were of logs. Of those schools, 8 were opened and closed with
prayer, in 10 of them the Bible and New Testament were used. Ten or twelve
new school-houses were finished in 185'6, ready for use in 1857.
"From this time on the progress made in all
matters educational was very great and very satisfactory, culminating in
the ample school accommodation and the thorough equipment for educational
purposes of the present day, with a numerous staff of thoroughly trained
teachers of the highest attainments. The old dark, dismal log school-house
has everywhere given place to comfortable, commodious buildings, well
lighted, well ventilated and well furnished.
"Perhaps no new settlement in Canada was ever
more highly favored than the County of Bruce in the class of men composing
the pioneers of the County. The early School Trustees and municipal
Councillors of the County were men of generous minds and liberal ideas,
many of them being men of excellent educational standing. [This remark of
Mr. Gunn's no doubt was correct in the great majority of cases, but some
Boards of Trustees did not come up to this standard, for in his report for
1856 he says: "He had sometimes to transact business with a School Board
in Gaelic, as none of the Board were able to speak English."Author.] They
laid the foundations broad and deep, as circumstances would permit, of the
educational system which now reflects so much credit on the County of
Bruce, the youngest county in Ontario.
"In his report to the Chief Superintendent for
1852 Mr. Rath says: 'Speaking generally of the County of Bruce, I must do
so in the highest praise of the efforts of the people in favor of the
establishment of schools. Their exertions in this respect will bear
favorable comparison with older counties, and this, too, in the very
infancy of their settlement, and while many of them have had privations
and hardships of no ordinary character to endure and difficulties of no
ordinary character to encounter.'
"At a later date, in 1856, Mr. Eckford in his
report says: 'Much has been done; in nearly every section progress has
been made. When I consider, however, that the settlers have in general
exhausted their funds in the purchase and improvement of lands, and in
supporting their families before they obtained an adequate return from the
soil, and also that the municipal and school taxes are heavy, that the
home market is nearly closed, with no outlet for surplus produce, I feel
that it would be injudicious to urge them to further exertion. In the face
of all this, however, the increase would have been doubled but for the
want of suitable teachers.'
"Rev. J. H. McNaughton reports six schools in
Arran, all opened for the first time in 1856, and Elderslie one school.
"In his report for 1856 Mr. Gunn says: 'The
want of a better supply of efficient teachers is very greatly felt
throughout this county. We find it impossible to meet the demand and to a
great extent the standard of qualifications, although meeting the present
requirements of the law, which is lamentably low. Steady young men who
intend following the profession of teaching, having matrimony in
contemplation, or married men with small families, would find in these new
settlements very favorable inducements to remove hither. I would
particularly mention the facilities which exist for acquiring a little
property, and the satisfaction of possessing a permanent home at a
trifling outlay, without in any way interfering with their professional
vocations. Such persons may with safety be recommended at least to visit
early years of the settlement of the County, in consequence of the tender
age of the majority of the children of the pioneers, female teachers were
in great demand, their services being generally preferred, and their
success in teaching most satisfactory; but it was very generally found
that just as soon as an efficient female teacher with her three or four
years' experience was becoming of great usefulness in her profession, some
keen-eyed young pioneer, on matrimony intent, came along, and without
consulting the school authorities, carried her off to adorn his shanty in
the bush, leaving her place to be filled by some young and inexperienced
member of the sex.'"
It is much to be regretted that Mr. Gunn's paper ends at this point. If he
wrote more, the subsequent pages of his manuscript have been losta loss
from an historical point of view not easily to be computed, as no one was
better qualified than he to write on this subject.
It will be in place here to give a list of the
local superintendents of education and inspectors of public schools in the
county of Bruce down to the present day.
In the foregoing, the names of the local
superintendents to the end of 1858 have been given for all the districts,
and it has also been stated that Mr. Eckford remained in charge of the
Eastern District until June, 1871. To this district there were added the
townships of Elderslie and Saugeen for the years 1864 and 1871 inclusive,
excepting that for the year 1868 only, Saugeen was united with Arran in a
separate district, as is related later on.
The Western District was under the charge of
the Rev. Walter Inglis as local superintendent for the years 1859, 1860
and 1861. and of the Rev. Wm. Fraser, who held the office for the years
1862 to 1867, inclusive. For part of 1868 the Rev. A. McKay was local
superintendent, and on his resigning during the year, Dr. De Witt H.
Martyn was appointed, and filled the office until the end of 1869, being
succeeded in 1870 by the Rev. John Ferguson. In January, 1871, the
township of Bruce was set apart as a separate district, over which the
Rev. J. Anderson acted as local superintendent, while Dr. D. A. McCrimmon
filled the same office over the remaining part of the Western District. On
the establishment of a grammar school at Kincardine, in the year 1860, Mr.
Alexander Shaw was appointed local superintendent for the village. How
long after 1860 he retained the office is not very clear from any
The Northern District was under the local superintendency of the Rev. K.
McLennan in 1859 and 1860, of F. H. L. Staunton in 1861, and of Dr. W. S.
Scott in 1862. In 1863 this district was split up, and for that year only
a separate school district was formed of the townships of Saugeen and
Elderslie, the Rev. Mr. Waters being local superintendent, but for the
next eight years these two townships were united to Mr. Eckford's
district. For the year 1863 the townships of Arran, Amabel and Albemarle
were formed into a school district, the local superintendent being Dr. E.
Hawksworth, who held the office for both 1863 and 1864. In 1865 Mr.
William Bull was appointed local superintendent for the townships of
Amabel and Albemarle, which position he held until the abolishing of the
office in June, 1871. During the last six months of Mr. Bull's duties,
Eastnor was included in his district. In 1865 the township of Arran was
set apart as a separate district, and Dr. E. Hawksworth placed over it as
local superintendent. He died during the year and was succeeded by Dr. W.
S. Francis, who held the office until the end of 1867. In 1868, Arran and
Saugeen were formed into a separate district, over which the Rev. A.
Tolmie presided as local superintendent. Arran in 1869 again became a
separate district, and Dr. W. S. Francis was once more the local
superintendent. He was succeeded in 1870 by the Rev. B. S. Cooper, who
remained in office until June, 1871.
On the 15th of February, 1871, the Legislature
passed an Act [34 Vic. Chap. 33.] which abolished the office of local
superintendent of education and provided instead inspectors of public
schools. The County Council, at the following June session, divided the
county into two districts, Eastern and Western, and appointed Richard V.
Langdon as inspector over the Eastern District and Benjamin Freer over the
Western District, at salaries of $5.00 per school and $2.00 additional for
expenses. The number of schools in the county at this time was slightly
over 130 in all. Mr. Langdon held office for two years and a half, when
(December 11th, 1873) Mr. W. S. Clendening was appointed. He was succeeded
by Mr. John McCool, April 1st, 1906. Mr. Freer held office until the
January session of the County Council in 1877. He was succeeded by Mr.
Alexander Campbell, who held office until April, 1902, when Mr. W. I.
Chisholm was appointed as inspector of public schools for West Bruce.
At the June session, 1861, of the United
Counties Council it was decided that a Board of Public Instruction for
examination of teachers, etc., be established in Bruce. This decision was
carried out, and the Rev. R. C. Moffatt was the first appointed secretary.
The first detailed school statistics of common
schools in the county of Bruce that the author has met with are those for
the year 1855. They are here given, and to indicate the process of
development, those for 1863 are given in part also:
The following extracts from the reports of the
local superintendents of education will serve to give an idea of
educational matters subsequent to the date referred to in Mr. Gunn's paper
and prior to the appointment of inspectors. In 1857 Superintendent
McNaughton reports that "The township of Elderslie has done admirably in
the way of school building during the past year. Although the newest of
the three townships under my charge, it is now the first with regard to
school-houses. This may be attributed in a great measure to the wisdom of
the Township Council in offering a certain sum of money to each section on
condition that the school-house would be erected within the year. The
result is that there is not now a single section without a school-house."
Rev. Mr. Fraser, local superintendent of the
Western District, writes, May, 1867: "In a number of our schools pleasing
progress is being made in book-keeping, mensuration, algebra and geometry,
so that the advanced state of the schools will soon force all the
third-class teachers to retire."
Mr. J. Eckford says, in June, 1867: "It
affords me much pleasure to be able to state that the schools under my
supervision are, with few exceptions, in a prosperous condition. This is
to a great extent to be attributed to the teachers, who, both in
scholarship and in the art of instruction, are generally very superior to
their predecessors of some years ago. The school attendance over my entire
district is becoming very large, partly from the increase of population,
and also because the children are coming out better and attending more
regularly. One section has a senior and a junior school, and in another
the master has the services of an assistant."
Rev. J. Ferguson reports, December, 1870, as
follows: "Considering the newness and remoteness of a good many school
sections, the ill-judged selection of trustees in many cases, the
employment of poorly qualified, because cheap, teachers, and the inability
of some sections to build and equip good schools and otherwise to hold out
inducements to both teachers and scholars, there are yet many encouraging
features connected with schools in this new county. Some of the
school-houses are first-class and a considerable number of the teachers
are an honor to their profession."
"The Common and Grammar School Act of 1871"
marked the beginning of important changes in both of those classes of
schools. All common schools became free public schools, and every child
from seven to thirteen years of age, inclusive, was declared to have the
legal right of attending some public school. The assessment and collection
of public school rates was by these acts transferred from the trustees to
the municipalities. County inspectors with larger powers and duties were
substituted for local superintendents. In place of "County Boards of
Public Instruction," "County Boards of Examiners " were established for
the examination and licensing of teachers, and county grammar schools
became high schools. It might appear as if these changes were of name
only; this would be an incorrect view, for with the changed name the
scope, regulations and duties of each were also changed and enlarged. In
1877, by further legislation, the Education Department was empowered to
arrange with trustees for "constituting one or more of the public schools
to be the county model school for the preliminary training of public
school teachers." The above legislative changes in educational matters
remain practically in force to the present day.
The standing of education in our public
schools under the present system of inspectorate may be best referred to
by extracts from some of the annual reports of the inspectors, as follows:
R. V. Langdon, inspector of public schools for
East Bruce, in January, 1872, reports that under the School Act, two
examinations of candidates for teachers' certificates had been held and
out of ninety-six applicants, only thirty-two obtained certificates. "It
is thought," he goes on to say, "by some that the failure of so many
candidates is owing to the introduction of new subjects, but this is not
the case, as the majority of failures were in the subjects of spelling,
reading, writing, arithmetic and English grammar."
W. S. Clendening, inspector of public schools
for East Bruce, in June, 1877, reports the total expenditure in his
district in 1874 to have been $46,400, and in 1876, $56,400. That the
number of school-houses in 1874 were 73, and in 1876 there were 82. Of
this latter number, 19 were brick, 11 were stone, 42 were frame, and 10
were log buildings. Also that in 1874 there were 7,624 pupils on the
school registers, and in 1876 there were 8,432. This latter number of
pupils were taught by 90 teachers; of these 18 held second-class
certificates, 68 third-class certificates, and 4 held permits.
A. Campbell, inspector of public schools for
West Bruce, in December, 1877, reports 88 schools in his district (not
including the town of Kincardine), and says: "Progress has been made
during the year, although the schools taken as a whole are far from being
as efficient as I should like to see them," and further on says, "Reading
and spelling, which may be considered among the most important subjects of
the programme of studies, were taught in a wretched manner in a large
majority of the schools; indeed, I may say that they were almost entirely
neglected. For instance, I may mention the fact that out of forty-eight
candidates for admission to the Kincardine high school who came up from
different parts of the county at the July examinations, only five passed,
and nearly all the rejected candidates failed in spelling."
In 1885 Inspector W. S. Clendening says, after
speaking of the number who had passed the entrance examination, and the
high standing of some of the schools in his Inspectorate: "This record is
- strong evidence that the schools of East Bruce are quite abreast of the
times and doing a work of which they need not feel ashamed." In the same
year Inspector A. Campbell, in West Bruce, expresses his satisfaction at
the progress that was made during the year.
The opportunity to obtain a good elementary
education has from the first been the privilege of pupils attending the
public schools of Bruce. This statement applies more especially to the
last quarter of a century, as a result of the higher standard of teaching
then demanded. The educational possibilities of the early days were much
enlarged when advanced classes were established in many schools in
response to a much-felt need, existing in districts lacking high school
privileges. The Legislature gave an impetus to this movement when, in
1891, a grant (to be supplemented by the County Council) was made to such
public schools as conduct a " leaving examination." A change in the
regulations regarding such was made in 1896, by authorizing the
establishment of "continuation classes," the Legislative grantand the
county equivalent theretobeing $100, $50, $25, or $15, according to
grade. The number of such classes in the various grades in the county in
1905 was 3, 1, 4 and 6, respectively. That good work is done in these
continuation classes is evidenced by the fact that a Chesley schoolboy [R.
C. Halliday, son of Robert Halliday. The value of the scholarship was $50
in cash and free tuition in Toronto University for four years, amounting
to $195 in all.] captured a scholarship at the 1903 departmental
examinations, standing fourth among the pupils of the whole province then
examined. This is the first time in the history of departmental
examinations that a scholarship has fallen to any public school scholar.
All honor to the boy from Bruce.
This chapter has woven into it much of mere
facts which, although interesting, may to some form somewhat dry reading,
so laying aside for the time being school law, inspectors, schools and
classes, we shall, for the purpose of brightening up the chapter, let some
of the scholars who have studied in our schools step to the front and
speak for themselves. That this might be vividly done, a teacher who
possesses a deep appreciation of humor, and who has taught many years in
the county, was asked by the author to furnish some reminiscenses of the
school-room, who, consenting, has supplied the following, for which the
reader will no doubt be as grateful as the author.
"Humor in the School-room.
"The following may be given as a few of the
amusing answers actually given by school boys and girls of Bruce, some of
them culled from examination papers, others given orally:
"'From what animal do we get beef?' asked the
teacher of a primary class. 'The butcher,' was the ready answer of one of
the little ones.
"'Into how many parts is the day divided?' 'Three, breakfast, dinner and
giving a lesson on the proper use of the words 'bring' and 'fetch,' asked
this question: 'If the cows were in a field and I wanted the dog to go
after them, what would I be likely to say to the dog?' 'Sic 'em!' said the
"Here are some
of the answers given to the question: 'How do you know that the earth is
round?' 'The earth is round, because if it wasn't you'd fall off when you
came to the end.' Another still more original was, 'The earth rolls round
the sun; a square thing can't roll, therefore the earth must be round.'
"Another answer as to the shape of the earth:
'The earth is round like an orange, flat at both ends. When it was first
made it was round like a ball, but it has been spinning so fast for such a
long time that it has wore flat at the two ends.'
"'What is the capital of a country?' 'Where
the jail is.' 'What is a republic?' 'A place where they all elect
are some rather astonishing historical facts:
"'John did not want to sign the Charta, but
the barns said he had to, all the same.'
"'Mary Queen of Scots married the Dolphin of
France before she was beheaded.'
"'Charles I. met his doom without a flinch.'
"'Who appoints the Governor of Canada?' 'The
Pope,' said one. 'Mr. Cargill,' said another.
"'It was very difficult for William Lyon
MacKenzie to escape to the United States, because 1,000 lbs. was put on
British searched American ships for deserters. The Americans looked so
like themselves that they could not tell which to arrest.'
"'What is a mummy?'' asked the teacher. 'A
cured man,' replied a boy. 'Cured of what?' queried the teacher. 'Not that
kind of cured, cured so he'd keep,' was the answer. Another answer: 'A
foe was sullenly firing.' 'Why sullenly?' 'Because they'd just been
licked,' said a boy, who doubtless could easily imagine their feelings.
"The question, 'Give in your own words this
quotation from "The Brook," "I linger by my shingly bars," elicited the
following from one of the girls, 'I stay about the old frame hotel.'
"'What is the difference between "discover"
and "invent"?' 'Discover is to find something that was there all the time.
Invent is to find something that never was there before.'
"'What is the masculine gender of witch?'
'Bachelor.' 'What is the feminine gender of bachelor?' 'Widow.' 'The
masculine of duchess?' 'Dutchman.' 'The feminine of monk?' 'Monkey.' 'For
what do these letters stand: "B.A."?' 'Before Adam,' 'Begin Again,' '
Bachelor of Adversity.' '"D.D." stands for "Dry Dock."'
"In a school in Kinloss was a little boy who
would persist in saying 'have went.' The teacher kept him in one night and
said, 'Now, while I am out of the room you may write "have gone" fifty
times.' When the teacher came back he looked at the boy's paper, and there
was, 'Have gone fifty times.' On the other side was written, 'I have went
In 1877 two
model schools were established, one at Walkerton and the other at
Kincardine. In his report of that year, Mr. Campbell speaks hopefully of
them, and says that there were, in that the opening year, thirteen pupils
in attendance at Walkerton and fourteen pupils at Kincardine. Speaking
again in 1885, he says: "A great deal of the improvements that have taken
place in our schools during the last few years can be traced to the
efficiency of our model schools and to the beneficial effects of
attendance at teachers' associations." The county can point with pride to
these two model schools. The training imparted therein to the future
teachers throughout the county has been of the very best, and reflects
credit upon the various principals who have been at the head of them since
their establishment. There is no doubt that to them is largely due the
success which has of late years marked the imparting of instruction in our
public schools. [Prior to 1877 the Board of Examiners issued third-class
certificates, and the Inspector permits to teach, for which it was not
required to possess professional training.]
The initial step in the way of higher
education for the youth of the county of Bruce was the establishment in
1860 of a county grammar school, which was located at Kincardine., This
was after several years of agitation, the first petition to the County
Council to establish such a school being made in June, 1857. The first
Board of Trustees had as its members Rev. K. McLennan, of Paisley; William
Gunn, of Inverhuron; and Rev. Walter Inglis, Rev. Isaac Middleton, Alex.
Shaw and Matthew McKendrick, of Kincardine. Its first meeting was on 18th
March, 1860. The duties of this Board differed somewhat from High School
Boards of the present day. An inspection of the minutes show that
committees were appointed to select books, to examine the pupils and grade
the classes, and to investigate cases of misconduct. The pupils' fee was
fixed at $2.00 quarterly. The first principal, Mr. Albert Andrews, filled
the position in a most satisfactory manner for six or seven years. In
1890, S. W. Perry, B.A., was appointed principal of this school, and has
retained the position since, filling the duties of the position most
successfully. For twelve years Kincardine rejoiced in possessing the only
grammar school in the county. Considering this circumstance, the County
Council felt justified in the years 1870 and 1871 in granting $150 and
$100 respectively, as scholarship prizes, an attraction for bright,
earnest scholars not now offered at any school in the county. That an idea
may be had as to the manner in which these amounts were allocated, the
names of the successful competitors for these scholarships at the
December, 1871, examination are here given: John Collwell, value $15;
Archena McDougall, $10.00; Robert Boal, $8.00; Alexander Baird, $7.00;
Sarah Harvey, $5.00. The names of those who carried off the prizes in the
June or other examinations the writer has not been able to obtain.
The Act passed by the Provincial Legislature
in February, 1871, "to improve the common and grammar schools," gave the
County Council extended powers as to the formation of high school
districts. Various local municipalities within the county being desirous
of taking advantage of privileges now attainable, petitioned the County
Council at the January session, 1872, requesting to be established as high
school districts. The Council complied with these petitions and passed at
that session "A by-law to establish five high school districts in the
county of Bruce." The places therein named were Kincardine, Walkerton,
Paisley, Port Elgin and Southampton. These municipalities were thereby
authorized to establish a high school, but it was a privilege that three
of the five named municipalities did not avail themselves of, owing, no
doubt, to the increase of taxation involved. Kincardine already possessed
a high school; of the other four places the ratepayers of Walkerton alone
were willing to bear an increase of taxation for the advantages and
privilege of possessing a high school in their town. The following
comprised the first Board of Walkerton High School Trustees: Messrs. J. J.
Kingsmill, John McLay, Alexander Sproat, J. G. Cooper, Paul Ross and
Alexander Shaw. The first teacher to preside over this school was Arnoldus
Miller, B.A. This school, by special permission granted by the
Superintendent of Education, was allowed to open without any assistant
teacher. It was not long, however, before assistants were secured, one
after another, as necessity arose, until the staff of the Walkerton High
School became sufficient to entitle it to rank as a collegiate institute,
a position that it will, in the near future, no doubt, attain to. Joseph
Morgan, M.A., has been principal of this school since 1881.
The high schools at Kincardine and Walkerton
remained for many years the only ones in the county, other municipalities
being apparently apathetic in the matter of higher education. The first
evidence of a move in that direction was when Paisley sent a deputation,
in 1886, to wait on the County Council, with the request that that village
and neighborhood be set apart as a high school district; [The good people
of Paisley then, and again in 1891, as well as the County Council, seem to
have forgotten the by-law mentioned in a foregoing paragraph. That mads
Paisley the centre of a high school district, which by-law is unrepealed.]
but the deputation failed to convince the Council that it was advisable to
make any increase in the number of high schools in the county. The
following year a similar deputation from Port Elgin was more successful,
and despite a strong opposition, a by-law was passed June 10th, 1887,
establishing Port Elgin as a high school district. This school was opened
in the fall term of 1889 with 75 names on the roll, Mr. J. T. Lillie,
B.A., being the head master. The attendance rose to 153 in 1891, which
figure has not been exceeded since. Mr. Lillie continued to the end of
1904 in the head mastership. The high percentage of the successful pupils
of this school who wrote at the departmental examinations speaks well as
to his qualifications for the post he held for so many years. Mr. J. C.
Clark is the present head master of this school.
The agitation for additional high schools in
districts not already provided once more came before the County Council in
June, 1891, Paisley and Wiarton being the municipalities applying. Again
Paisley failed to obtain the consent of the Council, Wiarton carrying off
the coveted privilege, and by by-law passed June 6th, 1891, was
established as a high school district, and in the beginning of the
following year the school was opened under the head mastership of T. H.
Farrell, who was succeeded by Henry De La Mater. For some time the school
accommodation was not all that the Department of Education required, but
any deficiencies in this respect are now at an end, as the new school
building, opened in 1896, is fully abreast of all requirements. The next
place to obtain a high school was Chesley. This high school was opened in
1904, R. D. McMurchy being the head master, he being succeeded by Henry
The cause of
education within the county of Bruce has had an excellent auxiliary in the
free and public libraries scattered throughout its municipalities, in the
number of which Bruce is the leading county in Ontario, having twenty-five
in all. [On December 31st, 1903.] Besides these, there are thirteen rural
school libraries, all situated in the West Bruce inspectorate. The
localities where the public libraries are situated, with the number of
volumes on their shelves, are to be found in a [footnote]; the figures
given are from the report of the Minister of Education for the year 1903.
It is impossible to estimate the educational and intellectual uplift
derived by the public having access to 55,000 books of select, pure, good
literature. That the opportunities offered have been made use of the large
number of members of the several libraries testify. Another pleasing
feature about the public libraries in Bruce is that a number of them are
situated in purely rural or semi-rural localities. The first library
established in the county, as far as the writer is aware, was one at
Inverhuron in 1856, which commenced with a total of 39 volumes. Prom such
a modest beginning has developed the present numerous and well-equipped
library system of the county. The writer was honored by being made the
first librarian of the public library established at Kincardine (this was
in the spring of 1861), he being expected to perform the duties without
any recompense beyond the fact of knowing that he was helping on a good
work. The number of volumes placed in his charge were under two hundred.
This library has grown to be the largest in the county, and numbers now
over 4,500 volumes. Hugh Black, who was its painstaking librarian for many
years, has lately passed away.
[Footnote: List of Public and Free Libraries
in the county, December 31st, 1903. Those that are free are marked with an
In bringing this chapter to a close it might
be well to summarize and show what half a century has wrought for the
cause of education in the county of Bruce. The first school in the county
was opened in the summer of 1851 with sixty-six pupils; fifty years later
this solitary centre of learning had developed and multiplied, as is set
forth in the figures given in the report of the Minister of Education for
the year 1901, which are summarized as follows:
The county of Bruce has no cause to think the
money it has spent so freely in the cause of education has been wasted.
Her young people have been fitted to enter the battle of life possessing
the advantages arising from a sound education. From her schools have
graduated many who now fill most prominent positions throughout our wide
Dominion, bringing honor to those who have in an enlightened manner
encouraged and maintained a high standard of education in their mother
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