Old schools were built to last

 In Opinion

When settlers in this area had chopped down a few trees and built a shelter their thoughts turned to building a church and a school. At first they were frame structures but as time went on they took the time and money to build structures that would last.

Think now of Creemore’s school on Caroline Street. It was built in 1917 for a cost of $17,000. Although it is not in use today it is still a strong sturdy building as solid as the Rock of Gibralter. I haven’t been in it now for a few years, nor have I walked around it, but I am sure the foundation sits there without any cracks.

In the surrounding countryside the one-room schools, which closed in the 1960s, stand as firmly as Creemore’s school. The most of them were built in the early days of the 1900s and have solid brick walls. An exception, however, is the Mount Zion school on the Fifth Line South (above). It was frame and on closing was moved to a local farm.

One of the one-room brick schools, Glen Huron on the Eighth Line, received a lot of attention. It was built to the latest standards in 1926. In that year’s provincial Department of Education report it was declared the finest one-room school in Ontario.

The Madills school at the corner of the Tenth Line and Sideroad 6/7 west of Dunedin was built in 1876 and is the oldest school around. There it sits with its flaking painted board walls and stone foundation still clinging to the side of the hill. It has survived almost 150 years.

What follows is a short history of Madills school. It was originally written by Jean Hopper and appeared in Has the Bell Rung Yet? by Helen Hargrave (Blackburn):

“In the early days SS #15 (Madills) Nottawasaga included the Maple Valley and Blind Line sections. In winter the attendance was often close to 100, some of the pupils nearly as old as the teacher. Some drove to school and stabled their horses in the barn of the teacher. Mr. Robert Morrow began teaching in 1876 and taught there until his retirement in 1919.

“The neighbouring families with the names of Stewart, Metheral, Taylor, Creighton, Harper, Bryce and Simmons made their own entertainment in home and community. Mr. Morrow took an active part in all things pertaining to the community. He started the school library and took an active part in Madills Church for years.

“When the larger area was formed in the 60s the pupils of Madills were bussed to Creemore after spending a short time at Maple Valley. It was the end of an era for another little red school.”

Helen Blackburn is a retired teacher, avid gardener and a long-time contributor to the Creemore Echo. She writes about local history.

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