According to a document from the Boardroom Central Academy signed by Secretary W. Cundall, June 24, 1853, the first Cornwall school house was located on John Hyde’s land on the Ferry Road.3 The document describes the site as, “Near the cross roads at Mrs. Py’s corner about three fourths of a mile to the eastern township no. 31–close by the Mill Creek and about a mile and a half from the Elliot River-Dog River -schoolhouse, to the westward about two and a half miles and the North River schoolhouse, to the eastward about three miles.”4
1863 Lake Map (Source: UPEI)
As you can see from the 1863 Lake map, the school house was located on the right hand side of the road, if one was turning onto the Ferry Road from what is now the TransCanada Highway. At some point after 1863 and before 1880 a new school house was built across the street.
1880 Meacham Atlas
Some records refer to Cornwall School No. 1 and No. 2. In his book entitled, The old Cornwall and the new, 1799-1964, the late Frank MacArthur, a former Cornwall resident, claims that the first schoolhouse was built in 1855 and that the first teacher was Miss Lucy Crosby, which is at odds with provincial records. He goes on to say that the first schoolhouse was a log cabin which was constructed as a result of the early settlers’ desire for early education.5 However, provincial records (Annual Visitors Reports) for the year 1859 states that, “The school house, which is new, is a substantial building. It is well furnished, and, in all respects, clean and comfortable. It is in fact a credit to the district. Writing is carefully and successfully taught by the teacher.”6 Interestingly, another School Visitor’s Report for the year ending February 1858 says that, “A new and superior school-house lately erected; and the character of the school will bear favorable comparison with the best in the County.”7 It could be that the first “school” was just a very simple shack or “log cabin” until the Cornwall school No. 1 was built in 1858 or ‘59. Cornwall school No. 2 could be the school house that was built across the street sometime after 1863. It appears that Cornwall school No. 2 was the one that operated until 1963 when the new one was built. School No. 2 still stands as a multi-unit apartment complex on the Ferry Road.
Cornwall school No. 2 was a two-room school house, there was a “little room” and a “big room,” although the “little room” was not always needed. When speaking with senior Cornwall residents and reviewing old records, it appears that at times the second room was used as a classroom and at times it was not, it depended on the number of students attending the school at any given time. In 1855 the student population at the Cornwall School numbered 60.8 This large number may have been the deciding factor to build a two-room school house in 1859. Over the next fifty years, the number of registered students would have fluctuated and the other room was not needed. During the later years however, when the population of Cornwall began to increase, both rooms were used. The “big room” was used for the higher grades and the “little room” was used for the lower grades.
There were several different uses for the “other room” over the years. At one time in the early 1900’s, the other room, which was referred to then as the “division room,” was used for temperance meetings.9 In the years leading up to the school’s closure, the other room was used to play in, and to conduct Red Cross meetings, which were held on Friday afternoons.10 These meetings were more informal than the average class and were used to teach the students proper conduct.11 Like large organizations, students were assigned rolls such as president and vice-president and committees were formed. There was a water committee, in which two students were designated to carry the bucket of water to the classroom.12
The Cornwall school was outfitted with the basic necessities of the day. There was a pot-bellied stove for heat, desks, chairs, blackboards, and maps. The Register and Class Book for the Cornwall school in 1935 inventoried the school equipment at the end of the year – 2 blackboards – one good, one fair, 1 (blackboard) eraser, 1 teachers desk, 16 pupils’ desk, 6 chairs, 3 maps, 1 globe, 1 thermometer, 1 scuttle, 1 stove, 1 bookcase, 3 pictures – 3 framed and several without frames, 25 pupils.13 The equipment and layout of the classroom(s) changed throughout the years in both rooms according to what was needed.
It was around that time, during the 1930’s that the Teacher’s Register and Class Books become more detailed with activities and visits that took place over the school year. It was during the 1944-45 school year, that we see the first record of a visit from the Public Health nurse. Cornwall teacher Marion Bell recorded in her class book that Bessie B. Beer, the Public Health nurse, came to visit the school on November 14, 1944.14 The Public Health nurse would visit the schools and administer vaccinations to the children. The children would be vaccinated against small pox, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.15 The Public Health nurse would also conduct a throat, ears, hair and eye inspection. Hair inspection was needed as head lice was a common occurrence among the schools at that time. Children would also be weighed and their height measured. Other health precautions included cod liver oil pills which were issued by the Red Cross.16
Other interesting entries noted in the Teacher’s Register and Class Books were annual outings and events such as the Christmas concert and the end of the year picnic. The Christmas concerts were almost always held a few days before Christmas and were the highlight of the community. The Christmas concerts were always held at the community hall. The end of the year event was normally a picnic and the locations for the picnics differed from year to year. Some took place at the community hall, Stanhope, Argyle Shore, Strathgartney, Bonshaw, and in later years, Holiday Haven and Fairyland.17