The history of public education in Ottawa East goes back
as far as 1850 when the province passed legislation dividing Nepean Township
into school sections (SS's) As seen on the map below, the community initially
was part of School Section #1, located in the northeastern part of the
township. Ratepayers for each of these sections were responsible for maintaining
the local school.
While no information has yet been found on the specific school that served
Ottawa East, it is clear that most schools of this era were sparse to
the say the least. Elliott, in his definitive work "The City Beyond"
describes facilities as "rough-hewn and the learning rudimentary)(1).
Only a few had blackboards and desks consisted of "angled planks
that ran along the side walls . . . children sat on benches made of split
basswood logs, facing the wall (and stood in the centre of the room between
the stove and the teacher's desk to recite lessons"(2).
It must be remembered that Nepean was essentially rural at that time.
While children were entitled to a basic education, their future lay in
a predominantly agricultural community. Most ratepayers therefore did
not place a high priority on education and tax support was kept to a minimum.
Elliott notes (3) that the original school
for SS#1 was located west of Dow's Lake where the Experimental Farm is
today. In 1872 a "substantial, and . . . superior, brick building"
was constructed near the present-day Hopewell School. It is not clear
however, how many Ottawa East students journeyed to these schools.
By the 1870's the suburbs of Archville and Spenceville (later to become
Ottawa East Village) were demanding their own school section and school.
While SS#1 had been reduced in size, control of education still lay in
the hands of predominantly rural school trustees. And, as noted in the
historical overview (found here), many
ratepayers objected to funding the children of the squatter camp along
the canal. Led by such notables as James and Thomas Ballantyne, Robert
Lees and Archibald Stewart, the community convinced the township to create
a new school section - SS#17.
On April 22, 1875 Nepean Township Bylaw No. 243 (4)
was passed and this provided for the borrowing of $800 for a new school
house. On April 30, 1875, Bylaw No. 245 (5)
established School Section #17, which included all of Ottawa East from
Ann St. (Mann Ave.) to Elliot St. between the Rideau River and the Rideau
Canal. The responsibility for the organization of a school committee and
construction was given to Thomas and James Ballantyne and Archibald Stewart
donated land - familiar names in the history of community.
school was built on the northeast corner of Centre St. (Concord North)
and Fifth St. (Harvey St.) and opened for students in September of 1875.
(6) According to an article in the Ottawa
Citizen (January 26, 1876), by the end of the year there were 74 students
on the register with an average attendance of over 50. The article described
the school as a "neat wooden structure, 24 x 20 with 11 feet of ceilings".
The full article has been reproduced
The register in 1875 noted that there were 74 students with an average
of 50. In 1890, the records of the new Ottawa East Public School Board
(OEPSB) showed 77 pupils in the register, "the highest on record".
By today's standards, cramming over 50 children in an uninsulated wooden
box" with eleven feet of ceiling" would be deemed criminal.
One can only imagine how Miss Hasty, the original teacher in 1875, managed
By 1890 the conditions of the school had become intolerable and, according
to the February 18, 1890 report of the schools inspector "not adequate
in any sense". His
actual report can be found here along with "Duties of Teachers".
Under threat from the Education Department, the School Board was forced
to act immediately.
The Board passed a motion on April 7, 1890 agreeing to build a new brick
school. On May 19 tenders were considered and Mr. Tomlinson's bid of $2,497
Footnotes: For complete
- Elliott, "The
City Beyond", p 56.
- Ibid, p 58.
- City of Ottawa
Archives, Nepean Township Minutes, 1875.
- City of Ottawa Archives, Ottawa East Public School
Board Minutes, 1889 to 1907, MG 327-4. All additional information on
the school has been extracted from these records.