Every week, I share an excerpt from my Great Aunt’s book, As the Story is Told: A History of Morpeth and Community, which was printed in 1986. This week is the story of the Morpeth school, which I never saw standing. My great aunt taught there, and my dad and grandfather attended school there.
Morpeth School, S.S. No. 2, Howard
Since the early records of the school in Morpeth have also been lost, there is very little of its early history available. It is a known fact, that for many years, the old Rockey house was used as a school. The younger children gathered in a room in the front part of the house while the older ones were taught in the back room with the principal in charge. In 1866 Mr. J. J. Boulter was the principal with Miss Esther Tobias his assistant.
Such noted men as The Honourable David Mills and Mr. Edmund B. Harrison were among the early teachers here in Morpeth. Mr. Harrison was a Kent County pioneer and succeeded the late Hon. David Mills as an inspector in the public schools in Kent in 1865.
In 1877 a new red-brick school was built with Mr. Brier as principal and Miss Emma Reynolds as his assistant. Both of these teachers had taught in the old school. The land for this new school had been bought in 1873 and 1874 at a cost of almost two hundred dollars.
The lots purchased were as follows:
- February 17, 1873 – Lot 9 on south side of Spring Street and Lot 9 on north side of Furnace Street, from John and Mary Duck, $70 for one-half acre.
- February 19, 1873 – Lot 10 on south side of Spring Street, from Elizabeth Elson and James Elson, $35 for one quarter acre.
- March 1, 1873 – Lot 11 on south side of Spring Street, from John Palmer and Celesta Palmer, $40 for one quarter acre.
- December 12, 1874 – Lot 11 on north side of Furnace Street, from John Edmund Brook and Betsey Johnson Brook of Chatham, $40 for one quarter acre.
A high picket fence was put around the yard. A board walk went from the gate to the doors and on around the school. The pump was just at the point where the walk divided. The school was heated with wood furnaces. There was an attendance of around ninety in the early days of the school. At that time, public examinations were the fashion and were held twice a year.
In the 1880s’s Mr. Robert Park was the principal. He was the father of Chatham’s Victor Lauriston. Willie Park chose Vcctor Lauriston as his penname and later adopted it as his legal name.
According to the records the following changes took place down through the years:
- In 1908 a wire fence was put around the yard and the flag-pole and windmill were erected.
- The metal walls and ceiling in the lower room were put in and slate blackboards were acquired in 1910. The blackboards upstairs, which were just plaster, were not changed until after 1918.
- Natural gas was piped to the school in 1911 and a cement floor put in the basement. The big old stove in the junior room was installed at the same time.
- In 1912 the porches were built and a few years later they were closed in. For some years there was only one room in use but in 1912 the attendance had increased so much that two teachers were necessary again.
- The old board fence and the out-buildings disappeared from the sccene in 1920 when a chemical system was installed.
- In 1927 the hydro was brought to the school. The lighting in the class rooms had always been a source of complaint for the health authorities.
- After the drilling of a new well in 1928 the water was piped to the classrooms. In 1932 a more modern water system was installed.
- Music was introduced into the school in 1928, with Mrs. Myrtle Elsworth as the teacher. At first, the cost was borne by the Morpeth Women’s Institute, but several years later the project was taken over by the School Board. Over the years the pupils brought back a goodly number of prizes from the Music Festivals which they attended.
In 1967, when the new central school was opened, Morpeth school was purchased by John Coll who soon tore down the ninety year old building and erected a new home on the property. Miss Duck and Mrs. Dell moved into the central school where they became members of the first staff.