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The following is an edited transcript of Mr. W. W. Pegg's paper read before the Norfolk Teachers' Institute on 7 Oct 1910, as published on 
page 5 of the 27 Oct 1910 issue of the Waterford Star newspaper.


Nearly 14 years have passed since I prepared and read a paper before your association on this subject. Since then, 
by correspondence with some and interviews with others (many of them old teachers), I have obtained additional information concerning "Pioneer Schools and Teachers."

Time, like an ever rolling stream, is bearing away these honored men and women of the past. Unless these facts are recorded now, soon all sources of information will have passed away.

In a compilation of this kind it will be necessary to be somewhat brief.  Considering even a single school and its teachers for nearly 100 years would require more time and space than I have at my disposal.

-- Doan's Hollow --

In my former paper, I mentioned the school conducted by John Tolmie and William Flint in Doan's hollow, between Simcoe and Port Dover. Another teacher there was Johnson Smith, who afterward kept a drug store in Simcoe.

Some of the pupils at this school were Dr. N. D. Walker, 
Dr. Robert Walker, Dr. Israel Marr, Dr. Walker Marr, 
Dr. Bacohus Culver, Walker Powell, M.P, and John DeCou, 
a pioneer teacher who moved to Iowa and became a judge of the District Court. It is from him that I glean much of this information.

He tells me that in 1830 there were four school houses in Woodhouse Township: one at Simcoe near the site of the Bank of Hamilton, one at Port Ryerse; one at Port Dover and the one at Doan's.

-- Mrs. Stearns --

In the summer of 1826 a school was taught in a dwelling house in Marr's hollow by an American lady, Mrs. Stearns, in which some of the doctors already named were taught the alphabet. Her pupils were all small. The text books were Webster and Mayor's Spelling Book and the Bible.

The seats were slabs with wooden pins inserted for legs, and were placed outside when the school was not in session, in order that the teacher might also use the room as a dwelling.

Her bed was left standing in one corner and when one of the little ones became drowsy (as was often the case) it was placed in the bed to sleep. 

So the bed might not be soiled she had a standing rule "Each child before entering the room must wash his feet" (for they all were barefoot) in the brook which ran past, a rod from the door.

-- Potts --

Previously to the erection of a school house in the Potts' settlement on the bank of the River Lynn (mentioned in my former paper), a school was conducted for some time in a building which had been used as a cooper-shop on the farm of Rynard Potts about a mile southeast of Simcoe, which was temporarily seated and fixed up as a school house.

The teacher was Mr. Burnap, who taught eight months and during the winter there were in attendance many young men and women from 18 to 24 years of age.

-- Webster's --

Noah Webster's "Blue" Spelling book was first placed in the child's hand. That old familiar book! How it looms up in memory! With its split wooden or pasteboard covers, and dog-eared leaves. On it second page was an illustrated frontispiece -- a picture of a temple of learning, on the cupalo of which was inscribed the word "Fame" and over the entrance door the word "Knowledge."

In the foreground were two persons, the larger being a teacher, having in his left hand the arm of a youth, while his right arm was extended with the hand pointing toward the temple as though directly the boy's attention toward the method of acquiring fame.

Between them and the temple were several huge rocks and boulders which I supposed represented difficulties to be overcome before the youth could acquire enough knowledge to enter the temple of fame.

Underneath this picture was the following couplet:
"Honor and fame from no condition arise
Act well your part; there all the honor lies."

After this came the letters, Roman and Italic, large and small. These were arranged in several columns. Opposite each letter in a final column was the letter's name.

After we had learned our letter we came to our a, b, ab., e.b. eb., i. b. ib., and so on. Then came three letter words and occasionally a few short phrases. Then came long rows of words and lastly a number of Aesop's fables. "The Dog and his Shadow", "The Boy that Stole the Apples:, etc. etc.

-- John DeCou --

Many of the scholars had no textbook in reading other than this. Isn't it a wonder they learned to read as well as they did. Mr. DeCou narrates an incident that occurred here. On afternoon he (John DeCou) while standing in the spelling class, put a cent in his mouth and it dropped in his throat and stuck there. While he was struggling trying to dislodge it, Mr. Burnet "went for him" whith a whip to make him keep still, not knowing what was wrong. On finding out, he gave the boy a hard clap on the back and out on the floor flew the cent. "There," said the teacher, "you are not worth a cent now."

-- Slates and Scribblers --

A Mr. Chrysler taught two terms of four months each after Mr. Burnet left, using the same text books.

The curriculum consisted of reading, writing and arithmetic or ciphering. Eugene Wood in "back Home" says "I like the word ciphering because it makes me think of slates -- slates that were almost always falling on the floor with a rousing clatter so that almost always one corner cracked. Some mitigation of the noise was gained by binding the frame with strips of red flannel, thus adding warmth and brightness to the color scheme.

Just as some fertile brain conceived the notion of applying a knob of rubber to each corner, slates went out of use and scribblers came in. 

Maybe the teacher's nerves were too highly strung to endure the squeaking of gritty pencils; but I think the real reason for slates banishment is that they invited too strongly the game of noughts and crosses, or "tic-tac-toe, three in a row." 

But if slates favored this game, they also favored ciphering and nothing but good could come out of that! Paper is now so cheap that one need not rub out mistakes, but paper and pencil can never surely ground one in "The science of numbers and the art of computing them."

What is written returns to plague the memory, but if you made a mistake on the slate, you could spit on it and rub it out with your sleeve, and leave no trace of your error either on the writing surface or the tables of memory. 

Girls used to keep a little sponge and some water in a discarded bottle with a glass stopper to wash their slates with.

Arithmetic -- The text book was Nathan Daboll's School Masters' Assistant. To begin with it was requisite to commit to memory the printed rules in each of the four fundamental rules before trying to do the "sums."

-- Spelling School --

During Mr. Chrysler's second term teaching at Potts' School, the attendance of scholars became so large it was found the building was too much crowded. Accordingly, the settlers proceeded to erect a new school house in a grove on the banks of the River Lynn, north of Edmond's Mill, and secured the services of William Flint as teacher.

While there Flint organized a spelling school held on one or more evenings each week, which was well attended by people both old and young.

After a time, the members thereof became so vain of their accomplishment that a challenge was given to the Doan's School, now taught by Johnson Smith.

The evening set for the match arrived and the whole countryside came to the school house. The small building was crowded to overflowing. Many of the parents came to witness the contest, bringing baskets filled with doughnuts and rose-checked apples for a lunch.

Some came on foot. In fact, the greater number reached their destination in that primitive manner. Others arrived in "big wagons" or on "mud-sleds" drawn by oxen.

The proceedings opened by selecting three persons to act as judges or umpires, to see that everything was fairly conducted. Next captains were chosen from each school who were conversant with the ability of each member as a "speller."

Then each school lined up on opposite sides of the room and the teachers proceeded to give out words, beginning with simple words in common use, for the purpose of warming them up (like the preliminary canters in a horse race). 

Next, words pronounced alike but spelled differently. After that, words containing silent letters. Then long words with many syllables as incommunicability, anti-trinitarian, disproportionableness and honorificatudinibility winding up with twisters like phthisic, mulleinstalk, diphtheria and gneiss.

Interest grew as one after another mis-spelled a word and with a look of chagrin took a seat. At last there were just the two team captains left: Big Alec Starks for Potts' School, and the nervous black-haired girl of Elijah Doan, Mary (who afterward married William Flint) for Doan's School. 

And what do you think Mary missed on? Feoffment! A simple little word like feoffment! She hadn't got further than "pheph" when she knew she was wrong, but the teacher said "Next" and Alec spelled it correctly.

Tears filled her eyes and some wanted to give her the victory because she was a girl. But Alec said "She missed, didn't she? I spelled it right, didn't I? She took her chances same as the rest of us. Tain't me you got to consider, its Potts' School."

While that subject was under discussion, suddenly near the fireplace all began coughing so loud as to drown all other sounds. "Silence!" shouted the teachers. "Order! Order!" called the umpires. But the more they called, the louder grew the din, and so they also were choking and coughing as loudly as any of the others.

The meeting broke up in confusion, after it was ascertained some miscreant had thrown a package of snuff on the coals, which produced such as effluvin that all were driven out of doors in order to breathe.

Each school charged the other with the dastardly deed. Young men engaged in a battle of fists in defence of their respective schools, but some older and wiser heads interposed and peace was restored.

Many times after that the schools met in similar contests with victory perching sometimes on one banner and sometimes on the other.

-- Cal's Composition --

About this time Mr. Flint persuaded some of the older scholars to take up the study of grammar, using Murray's and Kirkham's as text books.

He also taught it practically in "writing compositions." When a scholar made a grammatical error he would detain the offender and compel him to write the error correctly 100 times on his slate, in order to impress it on his mind.

On one occasion "Cal" Sheeler, an overgrown youth, wrote "I have went to school" so he made the boy remain and told him to write "I have gone to school" 200 times on his slate.

The teacher went to a neighbor's house for a short time and on his return found the school empty, but the slate lying on his desk filled with the corrected phrase repeatedly written, while at bottom were recorded the words "I have went home."

-- Teachers --

The next teacher here was John Calkins, who afterward taught at Old's School in Townsend. He was followed by Issac Sterling, and in succession by Isaac Potts, Phebe Ann Walker, Esther Douglas, Esther Ann Austin.

Some of the teachers in Charlotteville were Eli Chadwick at Vittoria; Catharine Kitchen, Jerry Hawley, Hiram Moore.

Mr. Robert N. Shearer taught at Port Ryerse, Round Plains, Boston and Bealton with marked success. He had the faculty of securing the respect and esteem of both parents and children and is kindly remembered by those who are living. He is still living at the age of 84, spending his declining years part of the time on the old farm in Charlotteville with his son, and partly with his daughter, Mrs. J. M. Foster, B.A., [at] 76 Albany Ave., Toronto.

-- Fosters --

Speaking of Foster recalls to mind the Fosters as teachers.

Daniel Foster was a successful teacher at Vittoria, Boston and Waterford. He afterward entered the mercantile world with Mr. Barton Becker of Waterford, married his daughter, and settled in that village. He died about a year or so ago, having been for a score of years before his decease the honored Supreme Treasurer of the Order of Canadian Home Circles.

Horace Foster, his brother, also was a successful teacher for many years; while his son, H. W. Foster, taught at Mount Zion in Windham, and after with equal success at Villa Nova.

The latter's sister, Miss Ida Foster, was assistant at Hartford for some time and afterward for many years at Delhi, where he name and fame are household words. I think she has recently taken charge of the Scotland School.

Mr. J. M. Foster B.A., taught a long time in Waterford, until elected Supreme Secretary of the Home Circles.

-- Other teachers --

Jonas Chamberlain taught in Woodhouse and Townsend for many years.

Samuel DeCou of Simcoe had three daughters, Mary Ann, Rebecca and Elizabeth, who were all graduates from the first Normal School established by Dr. Ryerson and proved successful teachers. They taught at No. 2 Woodhouse, Windham Centre, Bealton and other places. Miss Rebecca was a long time near Caledonia. Leaving there, she was for many years a teacher in the Central School in Hamilton, where she now resides, enjoying a well-earned rest.

Other teachers in Woodhouse were Mr. Primus Smith who taught at Wiggins, also at Teeterville and afterward became a dentist. Mr. William Smith, his brother, taught at No. 3 Woodhouse, and afterward graduated in medicine and became a physician for the Michigan Central Railway with headquarters at St. Thomas. Both of these gentlemen are now deceased.

John Hatch Alway also taught well at Wiggins and other places and was an author of considerable ability, but death suddenly cut short a career of probably greater usefulness.

Austin J. Pegg taught with ability at Round Plains, Burford, No. 2 Woodhouse, and Vittoria. He afterward entered the medical profession, graduated from McGill College, practised for a time at Cayuga, then moved to Ossian, Iowa, and died in 1894.

Mr. T. E. Cline was another able teacher who taught at Olds, Nixon, and other places. He was also the author of several poems of literary merit. But he met his death from that [foul] disease consumption.

-- Some of the teachers in Townsend --

Henry H. Barber, afterward Reeve of the Township for many years. He was a very useful man and was superintendent of the Boston Sabbath School for half a century.

Another was Joseph K. McMichael who still survives, living in his fine farm home in Townsend near Waterford.

Richard Vivian taught at Wilsonville, Hartford and other schools with satisfaction.

James Tate taught at Olds, Wiggins, Tyrrell and Townsend Centre and his labors were duly appreciated.

John Darling Smith taught at Parney's School, Waterford, and Townsend Centre. Other's were G. B. McIntosh, Robert Matheson, William Walker, Christopher Walker, Horace Dean, Jerry House, W. C. McCall, W. A. Carter, both experienced and able teachers.

Miss Alice Cull taught for a time at No. 4 Woodhouse. 

Miss May Nickerson (now Mrs. White) taught successfully at Lynnville; Mr. A. Patten at Round Plains, also Mr. E. Malcolm and A. Sovereen. 

James Ross, now Township Clerk of Townsend, taught many years at Oakland, Boston and Bealton. 

One of the early teachers was Dr. James W. Osborne of Bealton, whose interesting letter I append to this paper

Miss Flora Pegg taught at Cherry Valley and McKerlie's with eminent success. Miss Susan Austin taught at Bloomsburg where she still resides with a pupil of one.

Miss Nancy Nelles (now the widow of Dr. David Duncombe) taught in the school near Boston 60 years ago. Mr. Jessop and Dr. W. A. McIntosh were also very efficient teachers at Boston.

Mr. W. Smith has been in the work at Port Dover a longer time than myself, also L. A. Fierheller is well known in Windham. 

Others in Townsend were G. W. Chapman, William Weston, J. H. Simpson, William Lemon and the late Daniel Woolley.

John Cowan taught at Round Plains, Waterford and a long time in the Simcoe School. He was a faithful and efficient teacher. After leaving the profession he entered banking circles until his death in Tillsonburg.

-- Early teachers in Windham --

A Mr. Dodge taught at the Centre. At Teeterville, Robt. McGill, Mr. Mackie and his son "Dos" Mackie; Wellington Earle, who afterward entered the ministry, as did Joseph B. Goodspeed, who taught at Waterford.

Elias Boughner, the present efficient Clerk of the County and for years Reeve of Windham, also was a teacher of renown at Round Plains, Teeterville and other places.

Miss Jane Wilcox (now Mrs. A. Tufford) taught at Bookton, also Miss Mary Moore.

Other lady teachers of the middle of last century and even earlier were Margaret Flagen, who taught near Boston; Ruth Wood, Sarah Wood, Eliza Betts, Marilla Mather, Helen Tate, Cecilia Dodge, Mary Simpkins and Sarah Messecar.

Miss Lizana Lewis taught efficiently at Tyrrell, Olds', Jerusalem, and other places. She married George Gillesby and is at present living in Evanston, Ill.

Miss Elizabeth Austin taught for some time at the "Mud" School House north of Round Plains. Jenny Scovell also taught the same school.

Miss Rhoda E. Messecar was for some time teacher at Cherry Valley and assisted at Villa Nova, Hartford, and St. Williams until she took up the profession of a trained nurse.

Miss Sarah Perney began her career as teacher at Clear Creek in Houghton Township, and afterward taught a long time at the Stone School house north of Waterford, which she left much to the regret of her patrons to accept her present position which she has retained for a lengthy period as one of the staff in the public school at Waterford.

As you will notice, the greater number of those I have mentioned carried on their work in the Eastern part of the county. My acquaintance with the work in the Western townships is somewhat limited, although I knew a few which I may mention.

-- Western Norfolk Teachers --

"Dave" Parsons was for many years Principal of the Delhi School until he left for the Northwest.

Robert Hellyer and Melvin Halliday taught at Lynedoch, until the former became a grain merchant at Port Dover and the latter a successful farmer near Scotland.

Mr. T. Sinclair was for many years at Forestville. Simeon Hicks and his sister, Miss Hicks, both were teachers who achieved success in their profession. Martin Buck, J. H. Buck, George L. Wittet were efficient teachers.

Isaac Hall was for a long time the teacher at the "Block" in Windham, and No. 4 Townsend. For a time before entering medicine Dr. Frank Emerick had charge of "Ades" No.3 Woodhouse.

Jas. H. Potts, B.D., now editor of the Michigan Christian Advocate in Detroit, was my successor in the same school (which I had taught for seven years). He did not continue secular teaching, but soon entered the ministry and quickly attained a prominent place, which he retained until loss of hearing forced him to retire to his present position.

-- Simcoe Teachers --

At the risk of becoming tedious, I will briefly rehearse the teachers in Simcoe.

John Kennedy, D. M. Haskin, Thomas Bain, 
William Pennington, Cortlandt Olds, Wm. Roche, 
James Smith, Thomas Moore, Annie Murphy, Mary Walker, Mrs. and Miss Thompson, Misses Anna and Eliza Hayes, Mrs. O'Carr and A. J. Donly, were all teachers in the public school prior to the union of the public and High schools in 1858.

Some private schools were established during that time: 
-- The Ladies' Academy by three sisters, the Misses Webb, first on Kent Street, opposite the Courthouse.
-- After that, a "Boarding School for Young Ladies" conducted by Misses Walker and Douglas.
--"Grandma" Perry held a Private School for young children in the southeast part of the town.
-- Miss Annie Murphy held an elementary school in the Vestry at the old "Mud Church." This was continued by Miss O'Carr after Miss Murphy's marriage.
-- Miss Jennie Matheson also for some years held a Primary School on or near Talbot street, which was well patronized.
-- Later Monsieur Emile Pernet carried on a private school on Talbot street in which the teaching of French was made a specialty.

Although over 50 years have elapsed since the Union of the public and high schools was affected effected in Simcoe, the records of easily available, so I shall not attempt to give a further history of them at this present time.

-- Donly and Courtlandt --

Two names that will ever be prominent in the history of education in Simcoe and Norfolk: A. J. Donly and H. N. Courtlandt. 

The former for several years was the efficient principal of the public school. After leaving that position, as a member of the press he carried on his work as an educator of the people. More recently when he became the faithful and efficient Registrar, he devoted much of his spare time and energy to the advancement of religious and moral instruction of the young by means of the Sabbath School, of which institution he had the honor of being elected president of the Ontario Provincial S. S. Association.

Mr. Courtlandt for some time conducted a private academy in Windham and was afterward an able teacher at Otterville and also at the Simcoe Union School, where he had a remarkable faculty of getting his pupils interested in their studies and thus make rapid and thorough progress. He also devoted himself to journalism and his productions were always instructive and interesting.

Both gentleman were well known to many of you, but they have passed to the great beyond and are "resting from their labors and their works do follow them."

-- Conclusion --

Now my task is done. I have endeavored to faithfully perform it and tried "nothing to extenuate nor set down aught in malice." 

No doubt there are many omission and some inaccuracies (for memory is often treacherous), but I hope you will pardon all such. 

At some future time in life, if spared, I may take up and give a more full description of the Old Simcoe Grammar School.


Copyright 2016 John Cardiff