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
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 --
"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
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.
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
A Mr. Chrysler taught
two terms of four months each after Mr. Burnet left, using the same text
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
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."
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
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
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
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.
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
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
-- 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
-- Other teachers
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Norfolk Teachers --
Parsons was for many years Principal of the Delhi School until he left for
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.
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.
held a Private School for young children in the southeast part of the
-- 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
-- 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
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.