Creemore’s first one-room school

 In Opinion

You may find it difficult to imagine the days when there were only enough students in Creemore to fill a one-room school. But those days did exist.

Sometime before 1854, the first school was organized. The settlers felt it was their duty to provide their boys and girls with at least a primary education. The men gathered, and with the help of a team of oxen and sharp axes they built a school in one day. With in a short time a fireplace was built to keep the children warm in winter. The location of the school from the description recorded appears to have been at the corner of the Fifth Line and Sideroad 6/7, south of the village.

In 1854 the first school district was formally organized and a new school was built. At the first meeting it was decided that the school would open May 1 and remain open for six months of the year.

A rather faded photograph of the school shows a square clapboard building with a cottage roof which is why it is often referred to as the Cottage School. A narrow door is in the middle of one side and a square window on another side. From the roof protrudes a chimney which would indicate that the room was heated with a stove rather than a fireplace. The school was held up by posts at the corners.

We can’t see the inside of the school but a description of a school that may have been found anywhere in the province at that time may help up imagine it:

A pot bellied stove stands at the back with a long string of pipes stretching across the ceiling before disappearing through the chimney. The furniture is rough and scanty with benches five feet long and ten inches wide. There are no backs on the benches. Under the windows at one side a long slanting board has been fastened to the wall to serve as a writing desk for the senior students. The teacher has a stool and a high desk. There are no blackboards, no maps or pictures or globes. Older pupils have slates and slate pencils and, if lucky, copy books and quill pens.

Each pupil has what books the parents have given him. The children proceed at their own pace. There was no introduction, no teaching, only memorizing. If a pupil couldn’t do that he was punished.

At the first Creemore school each pupil was required to pay one shilling a month. This prevailed until 1865 when the Free School system was adopted. Each family that sent a pupil to school would provide firewood for heating the school.

The school board minutes stated that 77 pupils ages eight to 16 were enrolled that year. This seems a lot for one teacher but one must realize that attendance was seldom more than 50 per cent.

In 1884, a four-room school was built on what became the east playground for the school on Caroline Street.

If you have more interest in the local one-room schools you could refer to the copy of Has the Bell Rung Yet? by Helen Hargrave (Blackburn) on the Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society website at But better still, plan to attend the Purple Hills presentation of life in the one room schools on Oct. 21 at the Station on the Green.

Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society is bringing back its Tea and History series with Learning and Teaching in a One-Room Schoolhouse, with special guests and a driving tour of six local schoolhouses in the Purple Hills surrounding Creemore. This is a free event. Come to share and hear stories and memories from the past. Tea and History will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Station on the Green, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

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