What strange and lovely things turn up at The Review sometimes! Someone recently gifted us a collection of local schoolbooks from the 30s and 40s. As we were going through them, we found this lyrical description of a Caledonia schoolhouse in its general register:
Sixty-four years ago in the “Garden of Ontario” Caledonia, in the County of Prescott, during the boyhood days of Mr. Emmett and Donald Butler, there occurred a very eciting (sic) happening in their vicinity, the destruction of the S.S. No. 1. Public School by fire.
The new school was built in 1870. The land, a halfacre lot, on which it was erected, was secured from Mr. Godfrey Valley. The lumber was bought from Mr. William Cross. The trustees at the time were Mr. William Cross, Ward Leavitt, and Ronald McMaster. The first teacher in the new school was Miss Conley.
Following Miss Conley were Miss Mac Namara, Miss Mac Rae, Miss Mac Pherson and Miss Grant in 1875. The pupils attending school at this early date were as following – John McMaster, John Leavitt, Millie Courtney, Jim Flood, Henry Albert Allen, Emmett and Donald Butler, James Henry, Albert, Edward and Nettie Cross.
This is one of the most picturesque little schools in Ontario. It is conveniently situates about two miles from McAlpine station, and five miles from Vankleek Hill. A few yards from the school hurries a “snorting monster” as it carries wayfarers to some enchanted land beyond. It is a very fitting view from the doorway. The school is surrounded by some of Nature’s most beautiful Maple trees which in themselves are enhancing, especially in the autumn season when they are bedecked in their many glorious, colourful hues. They spread out their high towering limbs, into the blue heavens above as if they were protecting this little lone haven as it nestles peacefully in their embrace. These trees are the homes of many birds that pour forth their superfluous songs with all their benevolent splendour. The most interesting and admirable bird is the Baltimore Oriole.
The school is well kept in repair. It cannot boast of a high, towering bell, but has a flag-pole where floats the Union Jack on fitting occasions. Inside is found many of the modern conveniences not found in all local schools namely – the Planetarium which depict the earth in its relation to the sun and moon at all seasons of the year. The sanitary paper towels are in use.
The attendance has gradually been decreasing through the years, but few pupils as there are, they take pride and a keen interest in their school. We are now awaiting kind Mother Sun to warm the earth and bring our tulip bulbs into full bloom. Arbor day is near at hand, and that meand a visit to the woods to be among our little feathered friends, and to pick a bouquet of wildflowers.
The items will be passed on the the Vankleek Hill Museum for safekeeping.