Tag Archives: one room schoolhouse

Clayton Schoolhouses had No Insulation— Warm Memories

Clayton Schoolhouses had No Insulation— Warm Memories

Clayton Ontario History

A report card from Clayton School from 1912. Thanks to Allan Bellamy for sharing

In the fall of 1927, he arrived at the one-room schoolhouse as a 20-year-old fresh out of teachers’ college. He had no experience and 42 students spread out over Grades 1 to 8 to teach. “Sometimes I have no idea how I got through it,” Lloyd Sutherland, now 91, of Toronto said yesterday while attending the S.S. 4 Ramsay reunion in the Clayton Community Centre. “It was a lot of work, but I got through it.” By the next year, Mr. Sutherland had moved to a better-paying job in Pakenham in these early days of his 44-year career in education across the province, with a gap of four years when he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.

And even though he spent only one year at the school, Mr. Sutherland says the lessons he learned in the village of Clayton, about 60 kilometres west of . Ottawa on the Indian River, were among the most valuable in his career. “You had to be a master at problem-solving, and you had to be good with , your time,” he said. “There were all those kids and just me. It was some of the hardest work I ever did, but some of the most rewarding, too.”

Clayton Ontario History
April 19 ·
Effie Dunlop and Lloyd Sutherland 1925. Thanks to Fran Cooper for this photo.

Mr. Sutherland was one of about 100 former students, teachers and administrators who attended the reunion at the village community centre. They couldn’t hold it in the schoolhouse because it’s now a private residence. The village of Clayton is a collection of houses, cottages and businesses clustered around the eastern end of Clayton-Taylor Lake. It is rich in Canadian cultural and social history. Much of that history could be found in the two, one-room schoolhouses that made indelible marks on the memories of teachers and young Clayton residents who passed through their doors in more than a century of learning.

The first schoolhouse was built in1849 and a second, slightly larger one was erected in 1876 to cope with a deluge of new students. Now, 29 years after the village closed its last one-room school in 1969, former teachers and students remembered minute details as if only days had passed since their time at each of the two tiny schools. “In the winter, you always hoped you got a seat close to the stove because the further you got away from it, the colder it got and the building wasn’t insulated,” said Rose Mary Sarsfield, who attended one of the schools from 1952 to 1956 before graduating to the high school in Almonte.

Clayton School 1913-1914. Teacher Lottie Blair. If you enlarge, the names are there.–Clayton Ontario History

Many of the memories were sparked by a table with old notebooks, textbooks, a small chalkboard and newspaper clippings about the school. There were also a couple of report cards from 1933. One had straight As, the other was not so good. But what drew the eye were several pictures of children sitting cross-legged in front of a schoolhouse. One, from 1898, was particularly interesting.

Some former Clayton School teachers: Lloyd Sutherland, Sadie Gardiner, Doris Camelon, Evelyn Kettles, Emily Moulton, Dana Featherstone-Clayton Ontario History

Although the children were dressed differently some without shoes, some in waistcoats they looked like any group of schoolchildren today. One rapscallion, all but his head hidden in the back row of students, was even sticking out his tongue at the camera. The pictures spoke of a different time that ended in 1969, when rural one-room schools were closed across the province to make way for a new vision of education housed in larger schools in the larger centres of Ontario communities.

In Ramsay Township, 10 small schools were closed and many students including those from Clayton were bused to nearby Almonte to 1 pursue their education in single grades. It was an unceremonious end to a school that was once the pride of the village. Before the first schoolhouse was built, reading, writing and arithmetic were taught out of private homes. Clayton trustees borrowed $450 a overcrowded ‘ at hefty sum in 1849 to build their village’s first school, a debt that had to be paid back within three years. Soon, the one-room was overcrowded with students.

In 1876, a slightly larger school that measured 28 feet by 38 feet (eight metres by 11 metres) was built beside the original. “It had a cloakroom across the back where we could hang our coats,” remembered Ms. Sarsfield. “And bathrooms. There were two bathrooms at the back, one for girls and one for boys. “There was no running water.” At the smaller school, bathroom breaks were even less high-tech. One side of a bush was an outhouse for girls and the other side was for boys.

The next addition to Clayton’s school system was the hallmark of any rural school from that time period: a bell. In 1886, students, teachers and parents hosted concerts at which they charged 10 cents until they raised enough money to buy a bell. The final cost of the bell is unknown, but it hung at the larger school until closing. The bell now hangs at the front of the Dr. James Naismith School in Almonte, about 10 kilometres east of Clayton. During Clayton’s heydays in the late 1880s, there were some 140 pupils shared almost evenly between the two schoolhouses. The smaller building housed the primary grades and the larger one, the senior grades.

Clayton School 1949–Clayton Ontario History
Front row: Gary Hudson, Clarence Drynan, Louie Ladouceur, Howard Wark, Keith Drynan, Bruce Anderson, Leslie Ladouceur, John Bellamy
2nd row: Dawna Mather, Marion Drynan, Esther Wark, Margaret Godwin, Elizabeth Ladouceur, Anita Murray, Elizabeth Drynan, Isobel Wark
Back row: Russell Wark, Harold Barr, Norma Mather, Anne Rath, Dorothy Craig Reid (Teacher), Shirley Hudson, Alice Murray, Ray Rath
Thanks to Allan Bellamy for the photo and Fran Rathwell for having a copy with the names as confirmed by Dorothy Reid.

Teachers came and went. Their stints generally lasted two or three years. Margaret Bellamy, a longtime resident in the community, figures probably 100 teachers taught in the Clayton schools. “In the start, it was mostly men, but then mostly women by the end,” Mrs. Bellamy said. By the early 1900s, the village population couldn’t sustain a school for primary grades and a second school for senior grades. Down from historic highs, only 60 students attended classes between the two schools. In 1907, the smaller schoolhouse was taken down meticulously piece by piece and moved to Almonte, where it was rebuilt.

Heading into the 1960s, the wave of consolidation began to sweep through the Ottawa Valley as students began moving to larger schools in the region. By 1969 there were perhaps 30 students at Clayton’s remaining school. “Bigger was better, they thought. Truck them all to town and then they’ll all be in single grades. It was a sign of the times, I guess,” *Mrs. Sarsfield said. But for many at the reunion, bigger isn’t better when they reflect on the time they spent at the school. “A lot of people started their education in schools like S.S. 4 Ramsay,” Mr. Sutherland said. “And because they were small, people learned differently. The older students helped teach the younger ones. It gave people more of a sense of community you don’t get in larger schools. “I liked teaching in schools like that, but they’re gone now. Oh well, we’ll just have to remember.” The Fight Over One Room Schools in 1965!

Clayton schoolhouses had no insulation, but students’ recollections are warm arid fuzzy. Jake Rupert and Dawn Walton report.–CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada21 Jun 1998, Sun  •  Page 15

*Rose Mary Sarfield

Rose Mary Sarsfield
 There are still a few copies of my book available for those who haven’t gotten a copy yet, or as a Christmas gift to someone with ties to Clayton. They are available at the Clayton Store, the Mill Street Books or from me. rose@sarsfield.ca

Another House/School that Moved and Move

Norman Paul Talks About the Little Red School House- The Buchanan Scrapbook

So Which One Room School House Became a Pig Barn?

Suspended Teacher —Appleton School 1931 — Miss Annie Neilson

Ladies & Gentlemen- Your School Teachers of Lanark County 1898

School Salaries of 1918

The Fight Over One Room Schools in 1965!

The Condition of One Room School Houses

The Condition of One Room School Houses



The cracks and crevices which are now many in our school houses allow enough cold air in the winter , but not enough fresh air. The rooms should be larger and ceilings higher, and that more attention should be paid to the cleanliness our school and some of the scholars. The foul over- breathed air in the classrooms is a grave capacity for the students and the energy of the teacher. The occupants can not breathe freely. The school rooms were not clean enough nor were some of the students.




Outhouses Need to Be Cleaned– Conditions of Our Rural School– 1897

The Outhouse is Trending Again!

The Passing of the Backhouse — Bill Clark

Remember the Registered Restrooms?

The Carleton Place Bathroom Appliance Cars

Local Public Works 1890s to 1930

eware of Germ Ridden Phantom Limbo Dancers – Public Bathrooms

Cisterns I Have Known

Hats Off Carleton Place! — A Hard Wood Makeover-Before and After

      1. What Was a Honey Wagon?- The Job of a Night Soil Scavenger

      2. Did You Know Ladies Had a Spit Cup?

Outhouses Need to Be Cleaned– Conditions of Our Rural School– 1897



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Screenshot from the Report of the Minister of Education 1889–F. L. M i c h e l l , P. S. Inspector

May 28, 1897 Almonte Gazette


S.S. No. 12, Lanark (James).—A good building on an excellent site. The room needs cleaning and the outhouses, especially the woodshed, need repairing. School work greatly improved, but still inferior in some subjects. Order and discipline good.

S.S. No. 3, Ramsay (Union Hall).— One of the neatest and prettiest school properties in the county. The trustees and teacher seem determined to keep the school in a front rank. The school Walls have been neatly papered (the only school in the district thus finished). This together with a full supply of good pictures presented by the parents gives the room a comfortable home-like appearance. Contact with neatness and beauty must exercise a beneficial influence on the formation of character. Thanks to trustees and teacher for their pioneer effort towards a more cheerful state of things in the school room. The teacher is energetic and enthusiastic, and his school ranks among the best in the inspectorate.

S.S No. 1, Pakenham (Cedar Hill).— An excellent building on an ample site. School dirty and yard overgrown in places with weeds. Outhouses need repairs and cleaning. Some of the desks are broken. This state of things is not usual in this section. The teacher, though without previous experience, is doing very fair work and will doubtless have better results at next visit.


S.S No. 2, Pakenham (Sadler’s).— Accommodation excellent except floor. The blackboards need renewing. Excellent yard, but outbuilding dirty. The school is in charge of a teacher of wide and successful experience, and the standing is good in all classes. A first-class school.

S.S No. 3, Pakenham (Ellis)—Excellent school house and site. The floor is worn out and the fence very unsubstantial. Outhouses must be cleaned. Here also, an experienced and energetic teacher is in charge, and though the full programme is taught, the work is well done. The grading excellent in standing, order and discipline.

S.S. No. 5, Pakenham (Scott’s)—A commodious building, but dirty and out of repair. Blackboards bad and new window blinds needed. The fences are in a disgraceful condition ; no pump and general neglect apparent. As this is one of the wealthiest sections in the county, such a condition of things is inexcusable. No grant can be paid unless the necessary improvements are attended to. The school work is exceedingly well done and the standing very satisfactory. Though the attendance is large the order is excellent.

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Screenshot from the Report of the Minister of Education 1889–F. L. M i c h e l l , P. S. Inspector


S.S No. 6, Pakenham (Doyle’s).— An excellent new school on a well chosen site. Out-house needs repairing and cleaning. School work, except in grammar, is good, The attendance in some cases has been irregular.

S. S. No. 7, Pakenham (Bellamy’s Road).—Building greatly improved, but it needs sheeting within. The yard is not fenced as the law requires. The school work is below the average and the classification is very unsatisfactory. A regular certificated teacher must be engaged in future. The increase in attendance is phenomenal.

S. S. No. 8, Pakenham (Lowe’s). A good building, but in need of cleaning and painting. The yard should be levelled and large stones removed. The standing is fair—writing, arithmetic metic and literature below the average, owing in many cases to irregularity.

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Screenshot from the Report of the Minister of Education 1889–F. L. M i c h e l l , P. S. Inspector

S. S. No. 11, Ramsay (Appleton) An excellent brick schoolhouse of two divisions, but getting out of repair through continued neglect. Floor will soon need renewing. Desks cumbersome and uncomfortable. School should be reseated with modern desks. Outhouses need cleaning. The attendance is increasing and the school work well done in the senior division and fairly done in the junior. The order is generally satisfactory. Good work should be done here this year.

S. S. No. 12, Ramsay (Simpsons). A very comfortable brick school on a good site. The walls must be repaired and interior repaired and cleaned. Floor, bad in places. Gates, need attention and outhouses must be cleaned. The school attendance increasing and the work exceptionally well done. The teacher is earnest and competent. Trustees act wisely in securing tried, successful teachers, since loss of time and opportunity must often result when the opposite course is pursued.

F. L. M i c h e l l , P. S. Inspector




S.S. No. 1 Pakenham-The One Room Schoolhouse

Rural Schools: Ramsay Township etc, Pages of the Past, County of Lanark, Ontario Canada”.  To purchase this book and others, go to www.archiveslanark.ca .



Don’t you just feel for those folks using these when it’s -20C.