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John Knight Wharf and Home and School

Formal schooling in the Souris area has a long and diverse history.

The Foundation of Education Edit

Prince Edward Island did not receive its first Education Act until the year 1825. Within this act, small grants were provided for the construction of public schoolhouses and paid for one sixth of a teacher's salary[1]. At that time the balance was then to be made up by pupil's fees, which essentially ensured that the poor could receive no education whatsoever[1]. By 1834, 71 district teachers had been named on Island. John McNeill, was named the first School Visitor (somewhat of an equivalent to today's position of superintendent) for the Island in 1837[1].

Townshend writes that "first Class or lowest teachers were to be competent to teach English, reading, writing and practical arithmetic. Second Class teachers, in addition to the above, were required to teach geometry, trigonometry, mensuration, land surveying, navigation, together with English grammar, and to have competent knowledge of classics and the higher branches of mathematics, together with geography and the use of the globe. Third Class or highest were to be competent in all of the above with at least twenty-five scholars, five of whom should be doing Latin or Greek or the higher branches of mathematics" [1].

The first reference we have to formal schooling in the Souris area is to a "Country Schoolmaster" named Garth Village near East Point, whose satirical letter appeared in the November 29 issue of the newspaper The Register[1]. The next indicator of schooling in the area came in 1833, where the census of that year listed one school in Lot 44 with 17 males and 3 females,and two schools in Lot 45 with 32 males and 10 females[1]. In the 1841 census there were in the 1841 again two schools in Lot 45: one at Norris Pond (no teacher named) and the other at the western edge of the Lot on the Souris River, with the teacher listed as Edmund Shea[1].

As Townshend writes, "there was little encouragement to become a teacher in the early years of the nineteenth century. Of the 34 schools in King's County in 1853,11 were frame and 23 were log houses. Of the log houses, half were quite suitable; the other half were described by the School Visitor as "ill-looking, ill-lit and ill-fumed,being completely destitute of attraction and comfort so essential to a school"[1]. However, this was sought to be improved by inspections from the School Visitor, which began in 1837.

By 1847 a Visitor was named for each county, whose duty it was to "visit each school twice a year, advise with the teacher and determine the system and course of instruction to be practised in the schools"[1]. The Visitor for King's County at that time was John Ross. Townshend informs us that "on March 1,1849, John Ross called at the Souris schools. The teacher at the Souris District School was John McNeill, a local man from east of Souris. Twenty-two of the twenty-three students were present. The teacher in the Norris Pond School was Michael Dunn. This school was given an exceptionally good report. Twenty-seven of the twenty-eight students were present"[1].

Souris Schools Edit

Townshend records a later visit of John Ross, wherein he reported that "Souris School built since I reported last. A commodious well lighted house has been recently erected in this district in which a school has been in successful operation during this past winter. Subjects taught: reading, writing and arithmetic"[1].

Colville School Class

Colville School Class, 1897. For a detailed list of the names of students pictured here, consult Ten Farms Become a Town, p.112.

Thus, Townshend speculates that "this must have been Colville School, erected on the west side of Prince Avenue, south of where the railway would later pass. If so, it was 39 feet by 23 feet and used for many years as a Primary School. In 1883, this school was moved to the west side of a 100 foot square of land bounded on the north by the railway fence, on the east by Church Avenue and on the south and west by land owned by the vendor, Amelia Knight"[1].

The reports of the school visitors to the eastern and western parts of the Province were contained in the July 27,1866 edition of the Supplement to the Islander. Here, School Visitor John Arbuckle said, "Grammar school needed at Souris..." A visit there showed 67 pupils in one school, L. Mclnnis, teacher in charge and, no doubt one or more teachers on staff. A detailed account showed 90 young people between the ages 5 to 16 in the Souris area, over twenty of them not in school.

In 1871, School Visitor John McSwain, said in his report that a grammar school had been established in Souris four years earlier. From this we can assume that Souris Grammar School began circa 1867. At first, the Grammar School classes were held in the upper floor of the Agricultural Hall (located near the corner of Chapel and Souris River Road, where the present day Seniors Homes are). In 1878, tenders were called to "finish the interior of the Souris Grammar School (formerly Souris Hall) according to plans and specifications to be seen at the office of Ronald L. MacDonald, Secretary to the Trustees"[1].

Another documented early formal school in the Souris area was located in Norris Pond[2]. It was situated on the West side of the pond, and was accessed (although notes are somewhat unclear) by the road which leads down to the beach. The school, we are told, was situated to the North of this road[1]. This road is still in place today, and can be accessed from Hope Street, near Agra-West. For further information, see Norris Pond School.

It is also known that by at least 1858 John Knight had established a private school (see photo above) on his property near Breakwater Street [1], as it has been noted that Souris Methodists used the school as meeting hall as they had no church building. Amelia MacDonald, Knight's second wife, was a teacher there at one point[1].

School across from the old manor, the "agricultural hall school" mentioned on Townshend p98.

Colville School, souris, Townshend p100

Into the 1900s Edit

Amalgamation and Consolidation Edit

SRHS 1955-0
In 1954 planning began on a new school building, after the current building was damaged by a fire in May of 1954. Figures at the time indicated that it would cost approximately $100 000 to erect a new building for all grades from 1-12. To build a school to house grades 9-12 was priced at $48 000, plus an additional $12 000 to repair the current school for the lower grades. These numbers were brought to light at a a committee meeting in June of 1954. At a second meeting later that month, the decision was made to build a four room school to house grades 9-12, and to repair the current school for the younger students. This decision was made by a vote of 50-41. Mr. Peter A. MacIsaac was chairman of the meeting, which was one of the largest school meetings ever held in the town at the time.
SRHS 1957

SRHS in 1957.

The school was constructed beginning in the early fall of 1954, and was completed by spring of 1955. It is noted that the bulk of the building material for the school was provided by Matthew and MacLean Ltd., of Souris.

SRHS received a seven room addition in 1960. The wing was added on to the south eastern end of the school, nearest to Main Street. Included in the renovations was a basement auditorium, said to be "one of the finest on the Island." The official opening of the new section was on November 24th.

Then in 1961 a vote was made in favor of establishing a regional high school in Souris to serve the surrounding area. At the time there were many smaller school districts in the area, as follows: East Baltic, Chepstow, East Point, Eglington, Elmira, Fortune, Gowan Brae, Howe Bay, Kingsboro, Lakeville, Little Harbour, Monticello, Rollo Bay East, Rollo Bay West, Souris, South Lake, Souris Line Road South, North Lake, Priest Pond, Red Point, and Rock Barra. Official government approval for the new regional high school was granted at a meeting on June 8 1961.

References Edit

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Townshend, Adele. Ten Farms Become a Town. Print.
  2. Town of Souris. "History of Souris" Web. Accessed 2 November 2017