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  • Ontario, Canada

S.S. No. 13 River Road School

(The River Road following the Ottawa River north of Westmeath Village was later renamed Rapid Road.)

The River Road School below Westmeath, downriver from the village, was S.S. No. 13, Westmeath Township, and the first schoolhouse was built in 1882.  The ratepayers financed the building of the school as there was not at that time, a grant given towards the cost of such a project.

River Road Schoolhouse, S.S. No.13, Westmeath, pictured in 1959

Some of the original ratepayers were: Captain Walter Findlay, owner of a farm near Spotswood’s Ferry; Martin Hennessy; James Spotswood; John Vizena; Samuel Vizena; Alex Laderoute; Henry Laplaine; James Deschamps; Louis Primeau; Alex Primeau; Jules Primeau; Eli Marcotte; Napoleon Leclaire; Samuel Huntington and Ben Wilson. The latter was the man who hewed most of the timbers for the building of the schoolhouse. The first trustees were Martin Hennessy; James Spotswood and Samuel Vizena.  The first inspector to visit the school was R.J. Scott.

The first school was located a mile in from the main road in the middle of the woods.  It was centrally placed there to accommodate children as it was about the most central place from each home to the schoolhouse. The once was a fire in the woods, causing much damage, it also made it hazardous for the children travelling to school. Many trees were killed and it was not a surprising occurrence for the students to find their trail blocked by fallen trees. After a windstorm the situation was worse. Then the parents had to come with saws and axes to clear the paths of the fallen trees.

The first teacher was Miss Emily Vizena who later married Andrew Lawless.  She received a salary of $150. per year and paid $35. for her board. Some of her students were James Hennessy, son of Martin Hennessy who became head of J.R. Booth Lumbering Co.; John Malloy and Connelly Malloy who also followed the lumbering industry in later years.

Gradually the number of families declined in the section. After being in this location for a quarter of a century, the ratepayers decided it would be a good idea to move the structure to accommodate the students again.  Most of the residents lived near the backline, so they dismantled the building and rebuilt it at the corner of the lots owned by Arthur Hennessy and Wilfred Lamothe. It remained there for about ten years and then it was moved out to the River Road about four miles north of the village of Westmeath.  This time is was to once again accommodate the students.

All this work was done at the ratepayers expense. It was well equipped for a rural school and had equipment for Fifth classes also.  The first desks were double and they were replaced with Model WW chair desks.  They also had a fairly good library.

The log building was clapboard and painted red.  Years later it was painted brown and ream.  With the declining enrolment the school was finally closed in the mid 1940’s, but its days of usefulness were not over.  After many years it was time to move again and it now is a log cottage belonging to Mrs. Ira Weedmark who lives below Moore’s Beach each summer.

Teachers who instilled knowledge into the students of this school include the names of Mrs. M.A. Shauahaw; Malvina Cahill; Frances Groves; Mary Walsh; Marguarite O’Connell; Emily Griffen; Gladys Anderson; Margaret Cunningham; Inez Pappin; Margaret Cochrane; Hazel J. Smith; Laura M. Wilkie; Harold S. Casselman; Mrs. Lyla Hennessy; Frances Poupore (Mrs. Ted Hennessy); Mary Vizena.  The three inspectors were R.J. Scott; I.D. Breuls and Norman Campbell.

When the school closed there were only five students attending: Gladys Howard; Joan Howard; Sheila Kenny; Lester Dupuis and Lindy Dupuis.  Mr. Dyer Kenny drove the first school bus for S.S. No. 13 using his own car, with an official “School Bus” sign attached to it when he was driving the pupils.

Researched and compiled by Frances Poupore Hennessy, March 1982, Westmeath WI Tweedsmuir Book

This information about S.S. No. 13 was also used in an newspaper article by Evelyn Moore Price, (undated): Education Expanding.

Back Row, L to R: Wallace Howard, Tom Spotswood, Lola Spotswood, Teacher Margaret O’Donnell, Valeria Vizena, Veronica Vizena Front Row: Alcide Lavadeur, Garfield Howard, Bradley Baird, Hedley Baird, Neil Vizena, Gerald Spotswood, Wilbert Lavadeur
Back Row, L to R: Gerald Spotswood, Clare Spotswood, Mildred Spotswood, Orion Vizena.     Centre: Tom Spotswood, Wallace Howard, Valeria Vizena, Hedley Baird. Front: Neil Vizena, Lola Spotswood, Bradley Baird, Veronica Vizena, Garfield Howard

This entry summarizing S.S. No. 13 is from the 1984 book by Evelyn Moore Price; “The History of the Corporation of Westmeath Township”:

The Years 1934 to 1942

Helen Ethier Gervais, named in the ledger as Helen Hickey,  has generously submitted a school ledger for S.S. No. 13 spanning from the fall of 1934 to the summer of 1942. General Register SS No.13 River Road.

The students enrolled in  that time period were:

  1. Howard, Dorothy
  2. Dupuis, Lola
  3. Lamothe, Emmett
  4. Dempsey Emery
  5. Lamothe, Hazel
  6. Howard, Gladys
  7. Dupuis, Leo
  8. Vizena, Wilfred
  9. Dupuis, Lindy
  10. Howard, Joan
  11. Lamothe, Joseph
  12. Bertrand, Budd
  13. Dupuis, Hazel
  14. Dupuis, Laura
  15. Hickey, Helen
  16. Hickey, Patricia
  17. Plummer, Nelda
  18. Laderoute, Helena
  19. Foy, Vernon
  20. Dupuis, Lester
  21. Dempsey. Mildred
  22. Kenny, Sheila
  23. Tannahill, Helen

The teachers employed at No.13 during that time period were:

  1. Pappin, Inez M.,  from Westmeath, Ont.              Tenure Sept. 1934- April 1937.    Salary paid: $600.00, $585.00, $585.00.
  2. Cochrane, Margaret E., from Cobden, Ont.          Tenure Sept. 1937-Nov. 1937.      Salary paid: $563.20.
  3. Smith, Hazel J.,  from Cobden, R.R. 3, Ont.         Tenure Nov. 1937-June 1938.      Salary paid: $582.00.
  4. Wilkie, Laura M., from Lisgar St.,  Ottawa, Ont. Tenure Sept. 1938-June 1939.      Salary paid: $611.10.
  5. Casselman, Harold S., from Finch, Ont.                Tenure Sept. 1939-June 1940.      Salary paid: $663.05.
  6. Hennessy, Lyla, from Westmeath, Ont.                 Tenure Sept. 1940

In the School Ledger there is “a concise history of the school“, written  by teacher Inez Pappin:

The Origin of the River Road School

S.S. 13, Westmeath Township

About fifty-five years ago the first school was built in this section. The ratepayers financed the building of it as there was not at that time a grant given toward the cost of establishing the school. Some of the original ratepayers of the section were Walter Findley, Martin Hennessy, James Spotswood, John and Samuel Vizena, Alex Laderoute, Henry Laplaine, James Deschamp, Louis, Alex and Jules Primeau, Napoleon Leclaire, Eli Marcotte, Sam Huntington and Ben Wilson. Mr. Wilson was the man who hued most of the timber for building the school. The first trustees were Martin Hennessy, James Spotswood and Samuel Vizena. The first inspector to visit the school was Mr. Scott.

The school was built about one mile from where it is built today. It was built about a mile in from the main road and in the middle of the bush. The ratepayers decided to build it here because it was about the central place from the homes of the children. Trails were cut through the bush from each home to the school.

About seventy-five years ago there was a bush fire in this section and much loss came from it. As a result of the fire many of the trees were killed and it was not a surprising occurrence for the pupils to see their trails blocked by pines which often fell after a wind storm. Their parents had to saw these pines out of the road to keep the paths clean.

The first building was a log building and the same log building stands today although it has been moved and has been greatly improved in structure.

The first teacher in this school was Miss Emily Vizena, now Mrs. Andrew Lawless. It might be of interest to know that this teacher received a salary of one hundred and fifty dollars a year and she paid thirty-five dollars a year for board. Among her pupils we would have found James Hennessy, son of Martin Hennessy. He became head of J.R, Booth’s Lumber Concern.  John, Dan and Connolly Malloy were also three of the first pupils and they also went into the lumber business later.

Gradually the number of families diminished in the section and after the school was built about twenty-five years, the ratepayers decided that the school should be moved to accommodate the pupils. MOs of the people lived near the back line so they torn down the first building and built it up again at  corner of the lots of Mr. Arthur Hennessy and Mr. Wilfred Lamothe.  This was about another mile form the main road. This building remained here for about ten years and then the ratepayers torn it down again and moved it back out and built it right near the main road where it stands today. It is about four miles form the Village of Westmeath. It was moved this time also to accommodate the pupils. Both times it was rebuilt at the expense of the ratepayers.

Since the school was built here, it has been lined inside and the ceiling has been raised. The first desks and seats were double but eight years ago they bought fifteen of the New Empire Model “W” Chair Desks which have greatly improved the inside. The school is very well equipped for a rural school. We have equipment for fifth class also. About two years ago the school board installed twenty volumes of the “Books of Knowledge”. There is a fairly good library. The inside of the school has been redecorated. The walls are light gray in colour.

About eight years ago the log building was clapboarded and painted red and two years ago it was painted brown and cream. This year they dug a well and put in an iron pup for which the board received a grant of thirty dollars.

At the present time there are not nearly as many families living in the section as when the school was first built. There are pupils attending school from five families, there being twelve pupils attending this year.

The present school board is made up of Secretary-Treasurer Mr. Norman Reid and the three trustees are Mr. Napoleon Gratton. Mr. Arthur Hennessy ad Mr. Robert Vizena.

                                                                                                                                                   Inez M. Pappin

Sept. 1937: The new Programme  of Studies for Grades I to VI was introduced.