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ictou County Reminiscences--- Education

written by Stanley Graham, Scotsburn, Nova Scotia

© COPYRIGHT 1997 by Stanley Graham


Perhaps equally important with the religious life of the early settlers was the education of their children and their young people.

Many people are inclined to think of our early fore fathers, as very ignorant and uneducated. Certainly they did not have the opportunity for education in Scotland where life was one of hardship and in many cases one of persecution. Perhaps, now they were more concerned for better things for their children. Life here held more freedom and they could plan for the future.

History tells us that each group of immigrants made an effort to include a teacher.

Teachers were among the early settlers in this district, and were educated far beyond the rural school education standard. Indeed a look at the old text books prove beyond a doubt a high standard of education.

In addition to the common school texts books were, Greek, Latin, Geometry, Trigonometry, Roman History and many others.

We can find no records for the first teacher in this district but have been told that John MacCallum, father of Campbell MacCallum (Senior) was here as early as 1774 at the age of 19 years, and that he taught pupils by going from home to home, before a school building was erected. 1t was said he was highly educated.

Andrew Graham born 1796,a son of Charles and Marian (Hyslop) Graham was an early teacher, He arrived here in 1832. His history will be dealt with in the review of his former home property the Graham property.

As we have already stated Andrew taught school in his own home the last years, and other pupils on his roll besides Margaret Murray (Mrs. Rod McKay) were: Mrs. John R. McKenzie, Anderson Rogers later Revs Anderson Rogers, Watson MacKean, Robina Smith, Maria Campbell, Isabella Rogers, to name a few.

We still have a small chest full of books taken from Scotland and England that belonged to the "Domonie” as he was often referred to in later years. Among his books are: Geometry, Algebra, Trigonometry, Latin, English Dictionary, Laws of Matter and Motion, Rornan History, Elements of Scientific Agriculture, printed 1813, and Calculation and Accounting;. Surely these prove a high standard of scholastic learning.

William Carson was another of the early teachers, He was a son of John Carson ( Senior ) Wearer and his wife Janet ( Hyslop ) as his brother John (Jr) was born 1825 in Nova Scotia, it is of course recorded on his gravestone at Scotsburn, that William Carson died 1884, age 62. And he would be born in Rockfield then Auchencairn, an older brother to John Jr.

In the Last will and Testament of the late Andrew (Domonie) Graham both brothers are named as executors. “1 do constitute make and ordain, William Carson, teacher and his brother John Carson Jr. and my sister Janet to be my executors of this my said will and testament.” signed Andrew Graham.

We do not know where he taught school or how long he lived he lived with his parents More details are given in Carson pages of this history.

We wonder when the first school building was built in this district and who really started the first school around Rockfield and Rogers Hill Centre . Was it McCallum, Carson or Graham .

As we mentioned before, The Mechanic Farmer or Eastern Chronicle in an early edition carried the following item: “Andrew Graham is teaching at Rogers Hill Centre School in 1852" This is the only date we can find on this question.

The district of Rogers Hill was named for John Rogers, the first settler in this place, arriving in 1767 with his wife and four children on the ship Hope or Betsy. At first Rogers Hill included all the districts of Rogers Hill Centre, Rogers Hill Cross Roads, Scotsburn, even as far as Plainfreld, which makes it confusing when reading into the earlier history of these places.

It is thought that school buildings were erected as early as 1820, But in what location?

Mr. James Davidson is said to be the first teacher in Pictou County and taught school or pupils in Lyons Brook between 1772 -1776. Others interested in education were Rev. Thomas MacCulloch who arrived in Pictou in 1803, and Rev. Duncan Ross, minister at West River in 1801.

“Previous to 1864, when the present school law was enacted by the Nova Scotia Legislature, There was no definitely bounded districts in existence, and neither was there any assessment of property for the maintenance of schools. Before that time parents who had children to educate Clubbed together in order to start a school. Then their hired a teacher for a certain length of time, and engaged to pay him a certain amount for each scholar that, attended school. They also engaged to furnish the teacher with board and lodgings at their homes, for one or two weeks in proportion to the number of children they were able to send to school.

Under this primitive system of education, bachelors and parents without children of school age rendered no assistance to the education of the young.” Quote from Rev. John Murray history on Scotsburn Congregation.

MacPhee, writes in his history, Pictonians at Home and Abroad, "1n 1850 He (Sire William Dawson) became the first superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia, and did the pioneer work which resulted in the founding of the Provincial Normal College in Truro in 1854. (Teachers College) and the passing of the Free School Act of 1864" No doubt this was the act that Rev. John Murray wrote about.

In 1883 Robert MacLellan, L.L.D. second son of the late John MacLellan of Durham, was appointed Government Inspector for the county of Pictou, and South Colchester.

In 1891, DR. A.H. MacKay born 1848 in Plainfield, was appointed by the government of Nova Scotia as Superintendent of Education, and held that position for 33 years. He held degrees of L.L.D. and F.R.S. The first school Inspector that acted in my school darns was E.L. Armstrong who was appointed to that position in 1900. and continued in that capacity until J. Crearar MacDonald was appointed in 1923.

D.C. Fraser was appointed Inspector of Schools in 1939, following the death of J. Crearer MacDonald.

The early years in education were simple and practical, and did not require much more than a slate and pencil, and a small bottle of water and cloth to clean the slate, and a few small books.

We have a collection of later books used as reading books, but cannot be sure of the dates each were used. The first books we are aware of are: "The Royal Readers", used before the turn of the century, at least 1800, and possible much earlier.

Then the Province of Nova Scotia had Readers printed known as the Atlantic Readers, some were printed in 1905 by Morang Coax Ltd. Toronto.

Then in 1914, Readers were again changed thus, "Entered, according to the Act of Parliament of Canada in the year 1914, In the office of the Minister of Agriculture, By the Council of Public Instruction". These were called Nova Scotia Readers. And ran from Primer to Book four. These were well bound hard cover books and sold for: Primer, .06 Cents First book, .08 Cents. second book. 11 Cents. Third book, 16 Cents. Fourth book, .18 Cents These were used for several years until the Atlantic Readers were brought back around 1927, Since that time the younger generation know of the many changes in teaching methods that have taken place.

After the 1861 period there is again not much history available. It would seem that Andrew Graham retired about this time, as he has accounts about this time, at least in February of 1861. Then in October of 1861 there are accounts with the Rogers Hill School, with the trustees named . Possibly about this time and in future days the school was held from the Rogers Hill School.

We have heard the older folk tell of the time some one states a fire in the cupboard of the school building, and nearly burned the building. It was always considered to be of incendiary origin but never proved This happened some time in the 1890's.

A search through old records surest that the building was being repaired. A letter from George Wm. MacLennan dated October, 1893 from the Sandswich Islands, where he went for work, comments: "We were pleased to hear of the old school being thoroughly repaired" .

Then about this time in 1893, there are extensive purchases of building material , spruce lumber, doors, windows, glass, paint, nails, etc., also 22 crates of desks seats, which would imply an almost complete inside rebuilding job.

There is also a receipt from Thomas Rogers, for three dollars received October 24, 1894 for the sale of eight feet of land, for a hedge around two sides of the playground.

The school house had a fire again in May of 1924. This time total destruction occured.

One bright day in May on a Saturday afternoon, a fire started around the flue and made considerable progress before being noticed by the MacCulloch family across the way. Sadie a young girl was dispatched to carry the alarm to the nearest phone at David Holmes, but before a crowd of men gathered, it was too late to save the building. Many of the seats were removed, and in a short time were set up in the old house across the road from the Graham. house in Rockfield, vacant at that time. In the same house that Andrew Graham taught school many years before.

The section immediately began work on a new building which was completed in time for the Christmas Concert that same year.

School was conducted here until it was closed in 1966, to join school consolidation.

In the early years the school year was divided into half years or terms. The summer term and the winter term, in which more of the older boys and girls were able to attend. When they were not needed so much at home to help at the farm work. I have no date on the time that the September to June term began, But it was some time after 1880.

After 1861, there is again a period of doubt, This time respective the teachers who taught school there. One was Catherine (Cassie) MacKenzie, a sister of Rev. James MacKenzie. She later married John T. Sutherland of Gairloch. She taught half year terms and boarded for a time at Rogers, then at my Grandfather Hector MacLeod's.

In 1883, Katherine (Kate) Murray, an aunt of Mrs. Ina MacLeod, taught school at Rogers Hill School. She later married Graham Creighton, Inspector of Schools for Halifax for many years.

In a letter written to my father in 1950 she writes:. "This winter reminds me of the winter of 1883, while I was teacher at Rogers Hill. There were stretches of road waist deep and no horse or sled of any kind got through. It was hard walking, and a cold building when we got through. I was thinking of this today. There is now no Thomas Rogers to ran into to get warmed and dried.”

An old school register at hand show that Jessie MacLean of near Meadowville, taught school here in 1887.She boarded with her sister Mrs. Andrew Graham, (Nee. Sarah Jane MacLean) She had sixty pupils enrolled, John Carson was Secretary to Trustees, and the other trustees were, Maxwell MacLeod and Robert Mackay.

In 1890, David MacKay of Millsville taught and was followed by Mary Jane Fitzpatrick of Fitzpatricks Mountain, in 1891.

In 1893 Minnie Thompson of Durham was teacher, and was succeeded by William 0. Creighton, of Central West River, in 1894.

Fortunately for records sake my father, Albert Graham was appointed secretary to trustees in January 1895 and continued until his resignation in 1932. He carefully listed all the teachers in that period.

There is quite a comparison with schooldays now and in the early school years, Education meant sacrifice, and hardship for both parents and pupils. .Money wasn't fast and easy as today. Most things were by exchange of labour or barter. Teachers salary were low, And $165.00 was the average paid for a teaching term in eight hundreds. In the early days teachers were given free board in order to support a teacher. Even as late as 1936, and later $350.00 was an average salary for rural schools.

Travel for both teachers and pupils was hard, roads were poor for travel. No snow plows to keep the roads open. No school bus, but long hard journeys through the heavier snow. For many times it took days to shovel and break a road through for horse and sled.

We were often told the story or experience of one young boy walking along the Rockfield road one bitter cold morning on his way to school. Some bigger boys coming along behind him, saw him leaving the road and going into a culvert under the road for shelter. As they reached the place they pulled him out and kept him moving on to school otherwise he might have perished.

The school rooms were never warm in very cold weather, there was no insulation, no furnace, no floor covering, a big coal stove stood in the centre of the room, many times in cold weather, the pupils were permitted to sit by turns on benches around the stove get warmed, or maybe get clothes dried after arriving at School.

There was no indoor plumbing, The water was carried by turns by the pupils from a neighbor's well.

The black board was filled each day with arithmetic, and as pupils copied this work to their slates, and worked out the necessary answers, it wasn't a silent time as with the scribblers and pens of today. No calculators or easy ways for answers, It was all mental learning, and no short cuts for addition, subtraction, or other hand work.

What a contrast with the cost of education a hundred years ago or even fifty years ago. Yet many scholars left the little red school house for higher education, which again meant sacrifice. In order to attend Pictou Academy or other high schools meant boarding in town. There were no automobiles to drive them to classes every day. Sometimes several girls grouped together and rented a house room, and their parents provided food, which helped ease the burden. Pupils perhaps studied harder when they were aware of the sacrifice made in paying for board and books.

In spite of all these disadvantages, Rockfield made its contribution to society in sending out ministers of the gospel, school teachers, carpenters, building contractors, and tradesman as we shall mention as we write on each family.

We are going to include some expenses in the upkeep of the schools. Note the prices, and costs.

Rogers Hill Centre School.

Painting outside of school.

In account, Alonza McKenzie.

Painting Expenses
Painting outside school $ 10.00
3 lb. Dry yellow ochre .12
4 lb golden ochre . 40
2 lb putty. . 08
6 panes glass. .30
1 ¾ lb. Putty . 07
Total =$10.97

More ExpensesYear 1900
2 joints pipe .40 J.G. Proadfoot
1 pipe knee . 25
6 tons coal, at 4.00 per ton24.00
1 grate, radiant .48 (Crocketts)

Rogers Hill Centre School.

Financial report 1900/1901

To balance from last year$ 6.91
Collected from rate payers$145.81
County grant$59.10
Profit and loss$ 1.00

PaidA.D. Rae Bal. on hauling coal$5.46
PaidBal, L.L. Young Teacher salary$110.00
PaidChas. S. MacLennan, material for fence$7.12
PaidHopper of Coal$27.84
PaidAcct. Teacher for 1901$45.00
PaidInterest on 40.00 at 6%$2.40
Profit and loss$1.00

A Few Expense Items:
1894Janitor paid$4.00
18941 pane of glass.05
18943 dozen screws.09
18941 broom.25
18948 3/4 lb. zinc.70
18941 box chalk.13
19011 bucket.40
19011 Coal scuttle.40

Pictou County Reminiscences

Stanley Graham, Scotsburn, Nova Scotia

Compiled by: John Broderick

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