Historical Society to commemorate one-room schoolhouse

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One of Bruce Township’s historic one-room schools will be commemorated on Friday, June 1 with the dedication of a cairn and a commemorative plaque, followed by the screening of a video featuring interviews with former teachers and pupils. 

The Township of Bruce Historical Society invites members of the public to join in commemorating the S.S.#14 school, located on the 12thconcession of Bruce, just east of Hwy. 21.   

The school commemoration project has been a major undertaking this year for the Township of Bruce Historical Society, which is marking 35 years since it was established to help preserve the history of the township. Over the years the historical society has erected plaques commemorating schools, churches and small communities in the township that have disappeared into the sands of time.  

For this project, society members researched the history of the school and also took the additional step of recording video interviews with some of the school’s surviving teachers and pupils.   

Teachers Gwen Wilson (née Howe) and Helen McKenzie (née Smith), were interviewed by historical society members Anne Judd and Eleanor Thompson. Herb Henkenhaf conducted interviews with former pupils Jack Ribey and Gwen Turner.   

These surviving teachers and pupils will be present at the cairn dedication ceremony. And a video presentation produced by local videographer Tom Church containing the highlights of the interviews will be shown at the Bruce Township Historical Society’s annual general meeting and dinner, being held immediately after the cairn dedication ceremony. 

The Bruce Township history book entry on S.S.#14 notes that in 1873 – when the first records were kept – the trustees were Neil Cameron, Lachlan McPhail and Murdock McRae, on whose farm the school was situated on Lot 21, Concession 12 of Bruce Township.   

In 1874 a porch was built across the front and a year later, a board fence was put up around the grounds. The teacher in 1876, Thomas Rankin, was paid $370 per year on condition that he spend $5 on books as prizes for the children and also act as the caretaker for the school. 

A new school was built in 1899, designed by architect Solomon Kinsey. Pupils made a trip to Stratford in 1939 to see King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. In 1941, a bee was held to draw soil for levelling the grounds and to erect a flag pole. Electricity came to the school in 1944 and an oil furnace in 1949.

The history book notes that attendance at the school declined until 1955, when the school was closed, and the remaining students transferred to S.S. #15. In 1965 the property was sold to Alan Ribey and it later became part of the farm property of Barry Ribey. The building has since been torn down. But Barry took care to keep some of the bricks from the school and those bricks have been used to build the cairn. 

The cairn dedication ceremony at the school site is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on June 1. It will be followed by the historical society’s annual general meeting, at the Bruce Township Community Centre in Underwood, where photos and memorabilia from S.S. # 14 will also be on display.