The devastating forest fire of 1853 burned across large sections of Pembroke, Stafford, Westmeath, Ross and Horton townships leaving the hamlet of Beachburg with only two houses still untouched. A new log school was then built, followed in 1876 by a brick school.
By 1892 a larger brick school was built on Main Street with a one acre playground and it too was outgrown. More room was needed to house the Continuation School where Secondary School Junior Matriculation was offered. This Continuation School served a large area of the township and its students who lived outside the village would board with village families during the school week.
Evelyn Moore Price in her 1984 book “The History of the Corporation of Westmeath Township“, summarizes S.S. No. 7:
From Beachburg Celebrate 175 Years (1835—2010):
Beachburg Public School, SS #7
Before the Public School Act was passed in 1850, the township was settled in groups and each settlement had its own school. One of the settlers taught the pupils and each family contributed toward paying a small salary. After the Act was passed in 1852, the Township of Westmeath was divided into eight school sections. Later these sections were divided to form seven more sections, making fifteen public school sections throughout the township and one separate school section, located at Lapasse. Beachburg was school section # 7.
The first school in Beachburg was held in a private home, with a Mrs. Nathaniel Chamberlain and a Mr. John Wiggelsworth as the teachers. After the fire in 1851, a log school was built on the Hazelton property, built by Alexander Condie, father of Mrs. Hazelton. The upstairs was used by the Orange Lodge to hold their suppers. The fifth book was the highest you could attain, and a third class certificate allowed a person to teach school. This building later became a store (Hazelton Millinery Shop and living quarters).
In 1876, a brick school was built (now the present home of Gillen Weedmark on Hume Street). The teacher received a salary of $300 per year. The expansion of the village population forced the construction of a new school in 1892. This was a 2 story building on Main Street which later became the Presbyterian Church. After a few years, when this building became too crowded, classes were held in the Orange Hall, the township hall and a small one-room portable.
The present school on Cameron Street, was built in 1923. Originally, it was a large two story brick building, with two class rooms on each floor, a central staircase and a basement. Elementary classes were taught in the two classrooms on the first floor and secondary classes in the two classrooms and the laboratory on the second floor. Secondary classes up to Junior Matriculation were taught by a two teacher team.
n 1953, the secondary pupils of the school attended the Pembroke Collegiate Institute when changes were made in the school system in Pembroke. The classrooms vacated were used by the intermediate grades. Pupils were brought in by bus as the public schools in the surrounding area were closed. In 1967 a new wing with three class rooms and washrooms was added. In 1969, a kindergarten class was introduced for children of the Beachburg and Westmeath area, until the kindergarten in the Westmeath School was established. Three more rooms were added as well as a portable classroom. By 1993-94, three more portable classrooms were needed. In May 1995, sod was turned for the construction of a 3,300 sq. ft. addition to the school to accommodate a kindergarten room, a classroom, a library, washrooms, change rooms, gymnasium and staff rooms. This was opened in May 1996.
Photos from Beachburg Tweedsmuir Book.
xThe Continuation School in Beachburg, occupying the top floor of the Public School Building opened in 1924 and was immediately filled to capacity with “the Lower and Middle School work seen to upstairs with Miss E.J. Johnston as Principal and Miss F.M. White as her assistant.” This quote is from The Gloom Chaser 1924-25, a school publication from that first year. Click on photo below to enlarge. Maybe your own Grandma or Grandpa, as a young teenager, was amongst this group. Or maybe you will find a story or poem written by your great-grandmother in this old yellowed magazine.
This Gloom Chaser copy was owned by a young Ellen Anderson, and some of the friends and classmates who signed their autographs in the back of her book on Page 32, were: Ronald McLean, Irwin Brown, James Walter MacDonald MacLean, Millie Stephens, Lynette Bulmer, Sparling Little, John McLean, Herbert Wilson, Florance McLellan, Royal Ross, Albert Davidson, Iva K., Clarence Orr, Stewart Smith, Isabel McLean, Elvie Wilson, J. Johnson, Irene May, Grace Mathieson, Cora Weedmark, Alan Cameron, Margaret Ross, Matilda Stephens, Mary MacLean, Melina Buttle, Jean Crozier, Ruth McLaren, Helen McLellan, Margaret Metcalfe, Ivie Jamieson, Evelyn Watt, Margaret Bennie, Margaret Herron, and other names too illegible to list.
In 1981, a reunion was held for former members of Beachburg Continuation School. This was planned by Jack and Vera Johnson. Four hundred members attended, some from the West Coast of Canada and the United States. Bus and boat tours took place to points of interest in the community, especially “Wilderness Tours”, enabling everyone to renew acquaintances and reminisce on the old school days.
For further information on the Beachburg school, see Page 48 in Beachburg a Rich History, Celebrating 175 years 1835 – 2010.
Much more detail is available in Evelyn Moore’s History of the Corporation of the Township of Westmeath.