SS #16, the finest one-room school in Ontario
A number of years ago I was browsing in a Toronto library and came upon a book titled Department of Education Report 1926. In it I found a comment that the Glen Huron school (officially S.S. # 16 Nottawasaga) was the finest one-room school in Ontario: sturdily built, a pleasing design and equipped with the best of modern facilities.
This school, opened in 1920 was indeed all of those things. As you drive by it, now a private residence, you will see for yourself. The school had a basement, was heated with a furnace and had running water and flush toilets.
The matter of running water puzzled me. Hydro electricity wasn’t available until 1939. How was it that there was enough pressure for the water to do its job? The answer was discovered. On a high hill behind the school, owned by Donald Brown, a pipe was run down the hill from a spring in a trench, of course, and the water pressure was constant.
In most one room schools a wood stove at the back of the school room provided heat. Often a lunch for the students was set to heat on the stove. At S. S. #16 there was no wood stove at the back of the classroom. In the 1940s teacher Josie Hamilton brought a small coal oil stove to heat the soup provided by the different families in turn.
Last month you read an account of the early schools for the Eighth Line and Glen Huron pupils at the corner of Sideroad 12/13. What follows is a continuation of the school history written in 1967:
“In 1919 a move was made to change the school site and after some deliberation and arbitration the present site was agreed on. The late John McLeod, who held the Crown Deed, granted the site for the sum of $25. At an estimated cost of $14,500 a fine, modern school was completed on November 1st, 1920. Mr. John Wilson of Collingwood was the architect in charge, while Mr. Joseph Akitt of Creemore was the contractor.
“With Angus Campbell as chairman the new school was formally opened and dedicated by Colonel J. A. Currie, M.P. and John Waugh, Chief Inspector of Public Schools. It was he who proclaimed it to be the best one-roomed school in Ontario.
“For 47 years the building was maintained in excellent repair. Teaching standards were high and from this one-room school have emerged boys and girls who have become successful in the business and professional world. In pride and gratitude we remember Fred Hamilton and Jack Allen who gave their lives in World War II.
“There were many social activities to which the boys and girls looked forward: the Christmas concerts held in the Orange Hall and in later years in the school, the parties, the annual school picnic in June, inter-school ball games and the school fair activities.
“The old order did change for S.S. #16 Nottawasaga. In September 1966, the northern portion of the section was transported the Duntroon Central School, leaving an enrollment of 14 pupils. By January 1967, the Nottawasaga School Area, of which we were a part, formally closed the school and provided accommodation in the Creemore schools.”
After the school closed some men in the community got together and decided the school house would make an ideal community centre. Together they purchased the building and property and called it the Glen Huron County Club. Many successful dances were held there on Saturday nights. It was available for other community and family events such as we see today at Avening and Dunedin halls. One winter I attended photography classes in the basement. Unfortunately it didn’t pay and rising debts left no choice but to sell. I have no dates or other information about the Glen Huron Country Club and would be happy if someone could share that.
My thanks go out to Betty McLeod of Creemore who was a teacher at the school in the 1950s. I was very excited and thrilled when she showed me the original blueprints of the school, the Trustees’ minute book and a treasury of school photographs. Elsa (Ferguson) Wilson of Collingwood provided the information about the water. She started school at S.S. #16 in 1938 and remembers everything. Thanks also, go to Fred Hamilton who gave me information about the Glen Huron Country Club. Fred attended elementary school there and, as most of you know, is a long term citizen of the village of Glen Huron.
Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to the Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.
Photo: SS # 16, September 1953. Back row: Shirley Curran, Jane Ferguson, Winston Ferguson, ? Hilton, Marilyn Joyce, Jacqueline Ashworth, teacher Betty Fraser. Middle row: Fred Hamilton, Frank Curran, Joan Ferguson, Patsy Giffen, Russel Ferguson, Islay McLeod, Bobby Giffen. Front row: Billy Arnold, Judy Arnold, Frances Giffen, Audrey Schields, Lavonne Lane, Bobby Ferguson.