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In the Initial Years all the Pupils Paid Fees


By John McCaw

[The Welland Tribune and Telegraph, 17 June 1924]

The establishment of the first common school in Welland dates back to 1836. No records appear to have been preserved as to the manner in which the school was supported or conducted from that date to 1858, but it must have been supported largely by pupils tuition fees.

The first school house erected by the municipality was a frame building, situated on the east side in the year 1848. Christopher McAlpine being the first teacher, he was succeeded by Gilbert Cook, Hy Brown and E.R. Hellems, the latter in more recent years being village and town clerk and police magistrate.

The building served till 1858 when it was replaced by a substantial and more commodious brick, two-room school on the same site, with Mr. Hellems as teacher. As time went on and the population increased, it was found necessary to build another school for the accommodation of the junior pupils residing on the north side of the river and in 1862 a brick one-room building was erected on the north side with a Mr. Brainard as teacher, who remained in charge for several years.

During this period and for some time after, the Rev. Chas. Walker and Rev. Joel Briggs were local superintendents, respectively.

In 1854 a higher institution of learning known as the Welland Grammar School was conducted by Nelson Burns and later on, or about 1860 and for some years later, by J.E. Hodgson, who was afterwards public school inspector for the County of York.

This institution was located on what is now known as the River Road, on the A.J. McAlpine farm, afterwards moving to the vacant room in the east side school building.

In January, 1866, the first Grammar School, under the new Grammar School Act, was established in the village. It was an experiment and at the first meeting of the Board, the secretary was instructed to communicate with the chief superintendent and ascertain on what basis the school would be entitled to the Government Grant in case it was not kept open the whole year. Chas. H. Mackridge was installed as head-master on April 1st of the same year and terminated his engagement one month later, owing to financial embarrassment of the board.

The school on the north side of the river was at this time in charge of Miss H. Cook and that on the south side was presided over by Robt. Lamont.

As a last resort, the Grammar School Board decided, if possible, to amalgamate with the common school board, this union having been effected was continued till 1871. J.W. Jolly was engaged as head-master, occupying a room in the east side building till February, 1868, when he resigned, being succeeded by W.A. Delematter.

In 1871, the union board was dissolved. It was also in this year that the names, “Grammar” and “Common” Schools were changed to “High” and “Public” Schools by Act of Parliament.

The children of school age in the town at this period numbered 280.

The next master was E.M. Bigg, who was succeeded by Wm. Oliver.

In 1870 the increased school population now numbered 328 and necessitated the building of a school house exclusively for the use of the Grammar School, so that the building on the east side of the canal could be used entirely for common school purposes.

The Grammar School continued to occupy this building till 1879 when a commodious two-storey brick building was erected on the west side, exclusively for High School purposes. J.M. Dunn was master at the time and continued as such till his decease, a period of about 15 years.

In September, 1877, the County Model School was established in Welland, with the late Robert Grant as Principal, continuing in operation till abolished by the Educational Department some years later. In 1903 a kindergarten department was added to the public school.

In 1900 the need for increased public school accommodation was manifest and the board purchased a site of nearly three acres, very conveniently situated and erected a commodious eight-room building known as the Central School, abolishing the ward schools. This was thought at the time to be ample provision for the school population for years to come, but the growth of the town demonstrated the need of more accommodation and in 1909 a four-room addition was added to the Central School and a three-room building erected on the north side of the river.

As the town continued to grow the need for more school accommodation was apparent and since 1909 three additional eight-room buildings have been erected to provide for the 1500 pupils of public school age in the city.

The public school staff at present is composed of 36 teachers, including the supervisor, with an annual pay roll of over $38,000.

In 1878 the estimates were $2,000 with 3 or 4 teachers; in 1908, $6,570 with 9 teachers; in 1911, $12,000, with 14 teachers; in 1902, $57,000 with 36 teachers.

J. Flower was appointed as head teacher in January, 1905.


A century ago there were meagure beginnings of a system of education in this community. Then there was a Board of Education for the Niagara district, of which Ralph Clench was secretary.

Mr. Clench sent out to the teachers a circular of instruction which we reproduce here as an item of historic interest.


1-The master to commence the labors of the day by a short prayer.

2-School to commence each day at nine o’clock of the forenoon, and five hours at least to be taught during the day, except on Saturday.

3-Diligence and emulation to be cherished and encouraged by rewards judiciously distributed, to consist of little pictures and books according to the age of the scholar.

4-Cleanliness and good order to be indispensable, and corporal punishment seldom necessary, except for bad habits learned at home, lying, disobedience, obstinacy, and perverseness, these sometimes require chastisement; but gentleness even in these cases would be better with most children.

5-All other offences in children, arising chiefly from liveliness and inattention are better corrected by shame, such as gaudy hats, placing the culprits by themselves, not admitting any to play with them for a day or days, detaining them after school hours, or during play afternoon, and by ridicule.

6-The master must keep a regular catalogue of his scholars and mark every day they are absent.

7-The forenoon of Wednesday and of Saturday, to be set apart for religious instruction; to render it agreeable the school should be furnished with at least ten copies of Barrow’s Questions on the New Testament, and the teacher to have one copy of the key to these questions for his own use. The teacher should likewise have a copy of Murray’s Power of Religion on the Mind, Watkin’s Scripture Biography, and Blair’s Class Book, the Saturday Lessons of which are well calculated to impress religious feeling.

These books are confined to religious denomination, and do not prevent the master from teaching such Catechism as the parents of the children may adopt.

8-Every day to close with reading publicly a few verses from the New Testament, proceeding regularly through the gospels.

9-The afternoon of Wednesday and of Saturday, to be allowed for play.

10-A copy of the rules to be affixed up in a conspicuous place in the schoolroom, and to be read publicly to the scholars every Monday morning by the teacher.

Niagara, Aug. 5, 1817