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  • Ontario, Canada

S.S. No. 5 Pleasant Valley

At Corner of Pleasant Valley Road and Desjardins Road, with notes from Evelyn Moore Price writings, Westmeath Tweedsmuir Book and other sources.
Prior to 1888 this school section comprised the area extending along the sixth line of the Township of Westmeath from the farms two miles south of the Village of Westmeath, to the line running east from Ledgerwoods Corner, and with a depth in the east-west direction from the Fourth Line to the Ninth Line.

The first school, a log structure, was built at the foot of Dunn’s Hill on the property of Robert Dougherty.  Later, a larger frame school was built on the Sixth Line of the Fynn farm and it was known as the “Stoney Hill” school house.

1930 Pleasant Valley viewed from the air, with the two schools marked.
Photo courtesy of John D. Wright.

Section Subdivision: In 1888 the school section was divided into Nos. 5 and 14 . Land was purchased from John Prettie at the south-east corner of the lot at the intersection of the Seventh Line and the Proven Road for No. 5 school house. The land was obtained from Messrs. T.H. Collins and Alex Barr for the  for the newly formed S.S. No. 14, which was situated midway between the Seventh and Eighth Lines on the Beachburg–LaPasse Road. The Stoney Hill School was then sold to J. Scott for a residence.

Miriam Mathieson Barry, a descendent of the Prettie Family writes:  I have visited the Renfrew county land registry archive in Arnprior library twice and hope to go back to add to the family history.  That is how I found out that John Pretty had sold land to S.S. No 5  trustees for the school, which became known as the Pleasant Valley school.  The trustees dealing with John Pretty were John T. Anderson, Robert Ross and Osborn Wright,  farmers. 

Pleasant Valley School pictured 1956

The present school house for S.S. No.5, (pictured from 1956), was built in 1888, classes commencing the following year. The first teacher was Miss Mary Wright, who married Joseph Keyes while teaching later at the Bromley Line School.

A Sunday School was organized in 1891 by Joseph C. Jackson.  One day as he gazed over the expanse of land towards LaPasse, he exclaimed “What a Pleasant Valley!” Thus the named originated and this particular school is since referred to as Pleasant Valley School.

William A McMullen was sec.-treas. for S.S. No. 5, for the Board of Trustees, for a period of thirty-eight years. The present sec. treas. at S.S. No. 5 is the school area secretary-treasurer Mr. Milton Bromley.

During those early years, a cheese factory operated at the Eighth Line  & Proven Line corner, (now renamed Hawthorne  & Desjardins Roads), and the school children would run down to the factory at lunch time and get some fresh curds. Yum!

1895 Pleasant Valley School Picture
Back Row L to R: Teacher: Mr. W.G. McAlister, Margaret Ross, Martha Jeffrey, William Ross (Visitor), Addie Smith, Rebecca Scott, Arthur McCagherty, William Hannah, Harry McMullen, Harry Dickson, William Anderson (Visitor)
Second Row: Jessie Jackson, Alice Ross, Sarah McMullen, Ida Poff, Sarah Nelson, Margaret Nelson, Alice Nelson, Julia McMullen.
Third Row: Margaret Anderson, Addie Ross, Harriett Blackwell, Lottie Smith, Rachael Ross, Florence Nelson, Ella Hannah, Jennie Scott, Annie McCagherty, Bertha McBride.
Fourth Row Bottom: Donald Nelson, Stephen Ackison, James Anderson, Jacob McMullen, John Ross, Donald Ross, Holland Conley, Milburn McBride. – Photo from Westmeath Tweedsmuir Book
1917 Photo courtesy of Herb & Sandra Jeffrey.
Photo from Herbie Jeffrey

There were four “Rs” taught at Pleasant Valley School: Reading, Riting, Rithmatic and Rafters! Every student at #5 can vividly remember the adrenaline rush of playing on the beams of the woodshed behind the schoolhouse.  The call for help in naming the children in this 1944 picture set off some memories:

“I recall regularly playing tag on the widely separated beams of the woodshed (something strictly forbidden by all our teachers) and I recall that one day a missed step took me head first onto the hardwood firewood below resulting in a severe blow to my head and a seriously split lower lip which has a major scar to this day, (no stitches in those days).  Everyone tried, including me, to carry on that day as though nothing had happened and as long as possible not to tell the teacher (always a “no, no”).  As I recall it, there were no boards on top of the beams, you had to hit the widely separated 2″ x 6″ beams on their edge accurately or you were a goner.  As I remember it, it was always tag but maybe others remember more about other things.”    – from Murray McBride

 “A couple of other memories from Pleasant Valley:  Remember Arbour Days?  We washed those tall windows, raked the yard, maybe a couple of small trees were planted down in the corner, but I’m not sure.  One time we all went on a picnic to Jimmie McBride’s woods (or was it Mr. McMullen’s).  We had a field day with sack races, etc. and lemonade.  Must have been the end of school?  Once we took our toboggans that we’d bought with proceeds from a Christmas concert, if I remembered correctly, and went up to Prettie’s Hill at lunch time. Remember the garden plots that we had in the yard near the back fence?  I guess that was wartime.  I think Harry and Arthur continued to tend theirs during the summer, but the rest of us didn’t find much other than grass and weeds when we came back in the fall.  Harry and Arthur also swept the school floor after school, using that green stuff that kept the dust down.  They also came early on winter mornings and got the fire going, which they tended all day.” –  from Beth Wright Breeding.

 “Beth’s and Murray’s recollections bring back good memories but in addition to those events there were also some impromptu happenings that occurred without the benefit of the teachers organizing, like (from my grade 1 or 2 years), all the boys lined up behind the woodshed, between the two out-houses, in competition to see who could pee the highest up the back wall of the woodshed.  I think maybe Arthur or Clarence would be the only ones left who might remember.  One fellow cheated I thought, (name with-held), he choked off his stream till the pressure built up and then let it fly.”      – from John Wright

 ” No one has mentioned the noon-hour fishing at the bridge over Elm Creek. We would run with our lunch bag and fishing line to the creek and fish for minnows over the edge of the bridge or thru the cracks between the logs that made up the deck. We had the teacher convinced to come out on the road and ring the bell 5 minutes early so we could run back in time.  I remember one time that there had been new logs put on the deck and they were not spiked down so we lifted one out for great fishing but when a car came along we had to put it back down in place.  Next day the logs had all been spiked down.  – from  John Wright

“Some construction work was being done at the school and the extra boards were scrounged to put across the beams and the kids started a square dance up on the boards. A beam broke and the shed’s rafters were going to come down. No one would tell the teacher; but the idea of the whole woodshed collapsing sent Dorothy and Jackie Fynn running inside to tell!”  – from Elaine McBride Hawthorne.

The Closure

1964 was the final year of operation for the one-room school. Students would be bussed  to Westmeath Public School or Beachburg for elementary school.

The demolition of Pleasant Valley School in 1965.

In June of 1964 a small party was held to commemorate the closing of the school and the retirement of the well-loved teacher Mrs. Eva McLaren. Fortunately one of the mothers,Beulah Wright took her camera to the school to record the event.  Patti Desjardins, herself a graduate of #5 has submitted these photos and has supplied the captions. She writes:

“Nancy Grylls played the piano and the senior girls sang “From this Valley They Say You are  Going“. A plain cake was served and juice. Mothers and pre-schoolers attended as well as high school students (girls). Guess fathers and boys were working!”

Left hand picture: Along the wall, under the coat hooks: Velma McBride, Agnes McBride, and Katie Nieuwenhuis; Grace McBride at door; three senior girls at rear: Linda McBride, Almira Fynn, and Heather McBride; Nancy Grylls at piano; in the desks from front to back, left to right: Klasiena Nicolai, Eric Brown; Billy McBride, Billy Nicolai, Barry Nieuwenhuis; Lorna White, Barbara McBride, Ronnie Nicolai, Chris Wright (pre-schooler)
Middle picture: in rear doorway: Cathie Timm holding Fern McBride, Ann Grylls. Sitting at right: Bowena Nicolai, Ray Grylls, Noreen Desjardins on bench; far right row in student desks: Danny McBride, Patti Desjardins, Cheryl McBride, Gordie McBride (pre-schooler).
Right side picture: At rear: Cathie Timm with back facing, Eva McLaren, teacher in blue suit; sitting back bench, Bowena Nicolai, Ray Grylls, Jean Timm; sitting front bench: Noreen Desjardins, Sybil White. Far right row in student desks: at front, Eddie Desjardins (pre-schooler), Doug Desjardins, David Brown (barely visible) Judy Wright, Trudy Desjardins (pre-schooler).

Evelyn Moore Price in her 1984 book “The History of the Corporation of Westmeath Township” summarizes this school in this excerpt: