The Schools of Morris Township
Reprinted from The Brussels Post - 1981
S.S. No. 1 - Wallace's School
Wallace’s School or the S.S. No. 1 in Morris Township has been used for everything from a schoolhouse to a pig barn.
With information obtained from Mrs. Harold Laffin, Mrs. Bill Souch and Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey McNichol, some of the school’s history is recorded here.
Built in 1892, replacing an original log structure from 1876, it was purchased by Keith Richmond and then it was sold to Bill Souch. When Mr. Souch’s barn burned down he needed a place to put his pigs so he put them downstairs in the schoolhouse and the grain upstairs.
A church known as Ebenezer Methodist Church once stood across the road from the school.
When Mr. McNichol went to the school somewhere between the years 1936-1938 the attendance was at one point down to six boys and one girl.
Wolfgang Schedler bought the building from Mr. Souch and renovated it for a house. In June of 1977, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Laffin bought the building, making their own renovations for a house.
S.S. No. 2
Not much information can be located on the S.S. No. 2 in Morris Township other than what was printed in the first Morris Township history book – History Township and Stories Relating to Pioneer Days 1856-1956.
The S.S. No. 2 was located on the south-west corner of the township, the brick school being erected in 1867. When Blyth was incorporated in 1876, part of this school section was included in the newly-formed village. The remainder of this section was joined with No. 1 Union, No. 12 Morris and Hullett and some to Union School with Wawanosh.
S.S. No. 3 - Miller’s School
S.S. No. 3 was known as Miller’s school. The school originally cost $850 to build. When the school closed the land was bought by Tom Miller who sold it to Bill McArter. It is currently being used for storage.
In a Brussels Post of January 2, 1902 it states that: “S.S. No. 3 known as Miller’s school cost $850, including new seats and furnace. We mention this so that the ratepayers in S.S. No. 5 can compare the cost with theirs. Some have an idea that No. 3 cost an enormous sum of money. We would like to hear what the cost of No. 5 was all complete.”
S.S. No. 4
A number of the old Morris Township schools have been converted into houses. One of these is the S.S. No. 4 built in 1917.
The first version of the S.S. No. 4 was a wooden structure. Fred Thuell of Brussels who started going there in 1905 thought that schoolhouse was probably built around 1860. One of the first teachers was Mr. Todd who taught Fred Thuell’s three older brothers. After Mr. Todd, Hattie Downing taught for one term and then Isabelle McNabb took over. Mrs. McNabb later married Jim Anderson, a veterinarian in Brussels.
After Miss McNabb, Fred’s sister Annie Thuell taught there for several years, starting in 1919.
Their father was a trustee of the school when they moved to this area in 1900 and he was a trustee for 20 years. Their family were also the caretakers for the old school and they used to supply the wood. The students always filled the woodshed on Arbor Day – May 1 and if they filled it in the morning, they could go to the bush in the afternoon.
Fred described the school as having one room with a large cast iron box stove for heat at one end with the pipe running from one end to the other to the chimney, “because I know it used to catch fire sometimes.”
“There were outside toilets of course and when we used to caretake, kids had to go pump the well dry before school started, so there would be fresh water.”
As in every little country school, this one had its share of antics, perhaps the most popular of which as described by Jack Jordan of Brussels was tying the bell rope around the arm of one of the boys and then letting him fall to the ground.
Mr. and Mrs. Tom Miller of RR 4, Brussels both went to the new schoolhouse and Mrs. Miller said she remembered one year when there were 45 pupils, quite a number for a one-room schoolhouse.
Tom Miller was one of the perpetrators of a stunt to get some of Andrew McCutcheon’s cows into the basement of the school after they wandered into the schoolyard. They also tried to do the same thing with some of Mr. McCutcheon’s pigs.
Another interesting memory Tom had of the school was of his wife’s brother Joe Smith who used to swipe tobacco, a pipe and matches and kept them in his back pocket. On one particular day he came running out to the other boys in the schoolyard with a bucket of water telling them they would have to help him out. He had scuffled around in his seat so much that the matches had lit up and started his pants on fire.
After this school closed, items out of it were sold through an auction. The school desks, however, were thrown down the stairs and smashed. Tom Miller bought the blackboards and Clarence McCutcheon bought the school bell.
The schoolhouse went through a number of owners including the present one, Sheila McPherson who bought it from a syndicate.
Some of the schoolteachers who taught there include Mrs. Ed Martin (now living in Brussels), Mrs. Ross Anderson of Belgrave and Jim Prior, the last teacher at that school, (later teaching at the Brussels Public School).
S.S. No. 5 – Clegg School
Located on Lot 6, Concession 5 the S.S. No. 5 was a one-room schoolhouse formerly known as Clegg School. The school section was organized in 1852. A second schoolhouse was built in 1870. The present schoolhouse was built in 1901.
In 1920, it was the first school in the area to have bought a Brantola phonograph to teach the children the value of music. In the same year, the woodshed was moved to the rear of the school and put up on concrete.
In August, 1925, a reunion was held at this school and according to an August 5 issue of The Brussels Post, “Last Wednesday afternoon, School Section No. 5, Morris Township held a reunion and a big crowd was present to renew old friendships at the schoolhouse. Preparations had been in progress for some months and everything passed off in good style.
The school and grounds were beautifully decorated with flags, banners and evergreens.
The present schoolhouse was built in 1901 and it is a comfortable brick building with basement and ample grounds. It is the third school built. The school section was organized in 1852. Evidence of the way rural population is decreasing is found in the fact that in 1870, this school had 145 pupils on the roll and now there are only nine.”
An account in The Brussels Post, January 9, 1924, states that “S.S. No. 5 re-elected James Grasby as trustee and his associates at the board are Jas. Michie and Richard Procter. Latter has been secretary-treasurer for 15 years. Twenty cords of 16-inch wood wil be supplied by Gordon Gallagher at $4.50 per cord. Jas. Michie will continue as caretaker at $100 per annum. There is only an average of five pupils and Miss Wheatley is the painstaking teacher.”
According to Brad McLellan of Brussels, the school closed in 1966 and was bought by William McLellan of P.E.I. for $600 with the original bell included.
S.S. No. 6
Anderson’s school was built in 1875. At times the school had up to 45 students with much stronger attendance in the winter.
Surrounding the school are beautiful trees which were planted in the 1880s by Miss Megaw, a teacher at the school. Also in the 1880s, the school had a debating society. One debate topic was “that Negroes were treated worse by whites than the Indians were,” according to information obtained from John Bowman and Jim Mair.
In 1907 a teacher earned $400 a year with a $4.00 bonus for sweeping the floor and lighting the fire.
The school closed in 1966. Jim Mair bought it in 1968 and sold it to a Mr. Davies who converted it to a house. It is presently owned by Frank Hooper.
In a Brussels Post story of January 2, 1924 it says that Thos. Bone was re-elected trustee for the next term in S.S. No. 6 at the annual meeting and Cecil Bone was re-appointed secretary-treasurer. Wood supply, 12 cords, 20-inch was given to Wm. Moses at $4.90. Caretaking is done by the pupils. A new school building will be one of the projects before many years. Attendance of pupils is small, only 10 on the roll.
S.S. No. 17 – Stone School
Morris Township’s Stone School is famous for many things, but perhaps one of its most famous people was William Aberhart who taught there and later went on to become Premier of Alberta.
From 1956 centennial issue of The Wingham Advance-Times we learn that the original site for the first school was chosen in 1861 and in 1863 one-quarter of an acre was purchased from John Brandon and a log school was erected in the southwest corner of the lot.
The first teacher was John Ibister who received a salary of $200 a year plus the frame of a house which he was to finish and relinquish at the end of his term. He taught for eight years.
The present Stone School or S.S. No. 7, Morris was built in 1877 at a cost of $850. A well was dug in the same year. The first teacher in the new school was Martha Gilpin and her salary was $360 a year.
W.A. Aberhart taught in the Stone School in 1900 and was Premier of Alberta from 1935 to 1943. W.T. (Doc) Cruickshank who pioneered CKNX radio attended this school.
In June of 1932, teacher Viola McLeod asked her pupils to bring a brick to school to send to the Dunlop Tomb at Goderich.
During the spring floods, pupils of the first and second line of Morris crossed the railroad bridges to get to school.
Between the years of 1946-1954, the ball team from Stone School competed with teams from surrounding districts winning many championships. They also had their own hockey team.
Bill Elston, (the current reeve of Morris Township in 1981) attended the school. The Stone School was converted to a house in the late ’60s.
On July 18, 1928 the S.S. No. 7 held its Diamond Jubilee Reunion. About 300 former students attended. By early afternoon 1,000 people gathered to listen to speeches, music and view the softball game.
One of the highlights was a book written by Mr. C.G. Campbell, an author and former school student. Mr. Campbell who lived in the States couldn’t attend but sent a speech which was read by one of the teachers.
The evening wound down to the sound of the bagpipes and a dance.
S.S. No. 8 – Browntown School
Taking a look at the house on Concession 2 it’s hard to imagine that it was once known as the Browntown School.
According to information obtained from Mr. and Mrs. Bert Garniss, the original frame school was replaced in 1894 by a brick building. In 1945, the present structure was built.
At times, the school had up to 40 students in 10 grades.
The one room school was heated by a huge wood stove which served many purposes. An incident is recalled when the stove was used to demonstrate the use of steam. An ink bottle was corked and filled with water. On one occasion however, it was the bottle that popped instead of the cork and glass was everywhere. The school was also fortunate enough to have a piano which was put to good use.
In December of 1966, the school closed and in the following spring it was sold to Ralph Darlow who converted it to a house.
Mrs. Bernard Thomas said when the school closed those on the east side when to Brussels and those on the west side went to East Wawanosh.
She said a lot of social times and Christmas concerts were held there.
Across from the school was Browntown church which was used each year for plays put on by the school children of Browntown. The congregation gradually decreased and the church and land were sold with the property being used for farmland.
S.S. No. 9 – Buttons School
Buttons School or S.S. No. 9 in Morris Township is now in a decrepit state, but once faithfully served students on the seventh, eighth and ninth concessions. A few from Hullett Township also attended this school.
Built in 1876 and located on lot 20, the eighth concession of Morris, it was about the first school in the Morris school section to close, which it did in 1955.
There were Grades 1 to 8 in the school but also something called a fifth class which would compare with our Grade 9. Rather than go to Continuation School in Brussels some would elect to take their Grade 9 there.
When Jack Bryans of Brussels went to Buttons school, the old double seats were still there, although not in use. Among the interesting things he recalled about the school was that it was heated by a stove in the centre of the building and that there was no basement.
For their water supply students simply dipped out of a spring and everybody drank out of the same cup.
One of the things students enjoyed about the school when Jack attended was that it was set in a swamp. In the winter when the swamp flooded, the children would skate on it.
Jack said they used to eat lunch at recess time so that they could have the full hour to skate on the ice. Sometimes when the bell would ring to call them in to school pupils wouldn’t hear it, but there were other times, Jack says, when they were deaf on purpose.
Senior students took turns sweeping the school. A contract was let for the cleaning of the school which was scrubbed at Christmas, Easter and during the summer holidays.
They would also let a contract for lighting the fire and a lot of senior students would take turns because their fathers would get the contract.
Walter Bewley and Jack did it one year at 17 cents a morning which they divided between themselves. They used to time themselves to see how long it would take to get the stove red hot.
Jack also remembered the time a school teacher who lived seven or eight miles away from the school forgot something and had to go back for it. When she asked if any of the students would like to ride back with her in her Model T Ford all of them put up their hands so she wound up with 17 or 18 students packed into her car.
The school closed in 1955 because of a very small enrolment of six pupils who were then transported to other schools.
S.S. No. 10 – Ramsey’s School
Now in the process of being converted into a house the S.S. No. 10 or Ramsey’s schoolhouse sits on a pleasant location on concession one.
The first school was a loghouse built in 1860. A frame one was erected in 1880 to be followed by the present red brick schoolhouse in 1915.
In 1927 the school celebrated an old boys reunion. Approximately 200 former pupils attended. There was a large parade, softball game, and bands. Everyone was dressed in the school colours of green and white.
When the school closed it was bought by Robert Pullman. It is presently owned by Gordon Cowan of Brantford.
S.S. No. 11 – McGavin’s School
Perhaps the S.S. No. 11, Walton School is now being used for one of the most unusual reasons of any of the other schoolhouses in Morris Township.
McGavin’s Farm Equipment now operates it business out of the brick building. The Walton W.I. Tweedsmuir book provides some of the history of the Walton schoolhouses.
According to it, a frame school was built on the southeast corner of Lot 30, Concession 9, Morris Township on land purchased by Robert Dennis on for $1. The frame school was built before 1873 with one room directly behind the red brick school, now owned by Neil McGavin.
Later another school was built to the east of this frame school and joined to it by a hallway. Then later on one of these rooms was closed.
In 1907, the red brick school was built to replace the two buildings. At one time this building held classes in both the classroom and the basement.
Due to overcrowding in the brick school, another school was built in 1920, a few yards north of the brick school on the same property. This frame building was built for the junior classes. A house was built at the northeast corner. These buildings were covered with red asphalt shingles.
This school which is now being used for storage of some of McGavin’s equipment was closed in 1932 and people returned to the red brick school.
A new school was formed in 1961 which was known as Grey Township School Area No. 2. While the largest assessment was in Grey Township, it was comprised of 25 lots in McKillop Township belonging to the Walton School, Union No. 11 also 14 McKillop lots belonging to Union School No. 12. In addition, a portion of Morris Township was included.
The move was the outcome of a vote in Morris Township which rejected the proposal to build a new school in Walton. A petition of interested Morris and Grey Township ratepayers asked for the formation of a new school area. this new four-room schoolhouse was opened officially on December 12, 1962 with the total cost of construction and equipment and other expenses amounting to about $84,000.
McGavins moved into the red brick schoolhouse in 1962 and added a piece onto it in 1963. The old school bell is used as a paging system to call the men – one ring for Neil, two for Bob.
Occasionally they also ring the bell for weddings in Walton or for special events.
Upstairs where, McGavins keep records, it’s worth a crawl through the cubbyhole to see what school children wrote on the walls – dirty limericks and one-liners combined with students names such as Doug Kirkby, Walton, Ont. Feb. 22, 1950. Born June 12, 1936. Grade eight.
S.S. No. 12
S.S. No. 12 located on the road between Walton and Blyth, was built in 1901.
According to Mrs. John A. Perrie when the school closed it was changed into the Country Studio. The studio contained a potter’s wheel and hobby shop. It was run by Anne Fairservice, an artist from the area. Anne took her art classes in Chicago and taught art to residents in the area.