Compiled by Tom Henry
Clayton MacDonald compiled the history of S.S.#2.


In the early 1880’s there were over 5000 public schools in Ontario served by nearly that many school boards.  Most of these schools of course were one-room structures.

Individual school sections with their own Boards of Trustees remained the norm for many, many years. There began a trend though, some 50-60 years ago to move from individual school section areas of administration to larger township areas. By the mid 1940’s perhaps half the old school sections had disappeared to become township school areas. Not until 1965 did Ontario law require that each township become the school area of administration. In 1991, of course, areas of jurisdiction much larger than individual townships are in place.

The history of the schools in Laird township reflects this Provincial pattern.

The formation and development of each of the schools and school boards in the township is described below under individual school headings.

A map in the Laird Museum shows that by 1898 Laird was divided into 3 school sections. S.S.#1 included that part of the township east of Highway 17 from the Laird/Macdonald townline to Reid’s Road.  S.S.#2 included all the township south of Reid’s road except sections J. K. and S.S.#3 included the remainder of the township, i.e. from the Laird/ Macdonald townline west of Highway 17 to Reid’s road and sections J. K. and L. (S.S.#4 located in Bar River village was not formed until 1915).

Grades 1 to 10, known earlier as forms I to V, were taught in each of the schools until the 1940’s. Students wishing to continue their education to Grade 11 and beyond had to relocate, usually to the Sault.

Beginning in 1946 however, Laird township students of Grades 11, 12, and 13 were bussed to the Sault and, for the first time could continue to live at home while completing a high school education. Soon, the students of Grades 9 and 10 were also being bussed to the Sault.

As is mentioned later in this article, many old school documents remain to provide insight into the past.  As well, the Tweedsmuir books of the township are valuable sources of information. Certain individuals with knowledge of the history of the township have also provided information used in this history.


S.S.#1 Laird (Bluff School) 1889-1944

Records for this school remain reasonably complete. The original daily register for 1889 and a minutes book of Board meetings from 1890 to 1906 still exist.

School Section #1, Laird was formed in 1888 with Charles Grainger, Henry Gibson, and W.H. Evoy as trustees. The original school, a log building 20 feet by 30 feet, opened in 1889. The teacher was Miss Sarah Blackwell and 24 students were on the role. The school opened in May and no summer holidays were given that year. These surnames only are found of students in 1889; Bradshaw, Evoy, Gibson, Gordon, Grainger, Hair, Lothian, Taylor, Venn, and Wilson.

A new school was built in 1902 directly across the Government Road from the original log building. Apparently, the old log school was now too small. The new school of wood frame construction on 1/2 acre of land purchased from John Evoy in the SW quarter of Section 9, Lot 16, was erected. The present Riley Road passes through this site just as it leaves Government Road.

The 1902 daily register is available and shows Miss Laura Harris was the first teacher in the new building.  During the course of that year 36 students were nominally on the role although attendance was quite irregular for many of them. The average attendance for any month did not exceed 17 pupils and the average attendance for January, the lowest month, was 5 pupils per day.

Laird S.S. #1, Bluff School, opened 1902.

Over the years, improvements were made to the school.  The bell was purchased in 1903, a woodshed was built in 1906, and the verandah was added in 1930. Of interest in the record is the erecting of a flag pole by Alex and Ernie Stewart in 1937 on which the flag was flown for the first time on coronation day.

In 1939 chemical toilets were installed.

In 1944 Bluff School along with S.S.#3 and #4 merged to become Laird Township School area. (S.S.#2 Laird and Tarbutt had earlier passed into the jurisdiction of Tarbutt township). As space for students was not required and because Bluff school was no longer the centre of any significant student population, this school closed in June, 1944. The teacher in that year was Mrs. James Larocque and the Board members were George Gibb, Jack Junor, and Jack Johnston.

The school sat empty until 1952 when it was purchased for $500 and moved to Tarbutt township where it still stands. The writings under S.S.#2 describe its history since then.

Some entries gleaned from early documents are interesting. For example, in 1890, 4.5 cords of firewood were purchased for the school at $0.60/cord and fire insurance for 3 years for the new school of 1902 cost $4.25.

Random excerpts from the 1890-1906 Board minutes include; ”Be it resolved 1) that we employ Willie Brown to fight the fires and ring the bell and that he be paid $1.50/month, 2) that the old (original log) school and grounds be sold for $100, 3) that we send for a copy of the school regulations, 4) that we pay the teacher all the money in the treasury (December 31, 1890), and 5) that we permit Mr. MacMillan the use of the school house for to expose his magic lantern (1892).”

For those who may be interested in the documents that have been located dealing with S.S.#1, Bluff school, there exist individual daily registers for the years 1889, 1902, 1904-1907, 1909, 1910, 1914-1919, 1921-29.  Combined yearly registers exist for the years 1930-34 and for 1935-39. A general register of those attending is also available covering the years 1934-1944. There are the Board minutes from 1890-1906, also a “cash book” listing receipts and expenditures for the section from 1904 onward. A list of teachers from 1899 to 1944 is also tabulated and believed to be complete.


S.S.#2 Tarbutt and Laird School

The first school was built on the corner of NE 1/4 Section P Laird Township, it was built of logs by John Armstrong for $240 and was accepted by the school board August 2, 1884. The first Board meeting was held on November 9, 1883 with trustees Robert Nott, Secretary, Jacob Shewfelt, William Headley Sr., and Murdock MacLeod. The first teacher was Alice Sterling of Sugar Island and her salary was $100 per year. Some of the other early teachers were Maggie Cash, Mary MacLennan and Etta Grimshaw.

The log school was replaced with a frame building in 1897 by Albert Nott for the sum of $495. It was built across the road from the log school on a small gore of land in Section T Laird Township. It was close to the same spot as the present Tarbutt Central School is now.

S.S. #2, Tarbutt and Laird School.

This school served the Tarbutt and Laird area children until 1921 when the Tarbutt and Laird School section purchased the old Methodist Church that was built in the same area in 1889. They used this building as a junior school from 1921 until 1942. The school board sold this school to Alvin Swire who tore it down and built his house with the material. The number of pupils had dropped and they were able to get them all in the large school. On January 2, 1950 the Board of Education changed the school system so that one Board could handle all the school sections in one township. The Tarbutt & Laird School #2 became Township School Area of Tarbutt & Tarbutt Add’l #3 school.

On March 22, in the evening, the old school was burned (this was on Good Friday). The children from this school were bussed to #1 Tarbutt & Tarbutt Add’l school on Highway 17 near St. Joseph’s Island Road until in 1952 the old Bluff School (S.S.#1) in Laird was bought for $500 and moved to the area where it is at present. The costs for moving and erecting the new school were: C. McMillan of Echo Bay, $2,458 for moving; H. White, $4,741 for building the basement; $3,293 for remodelling the old school; the total cost was $10,494.

They used this school and the Township Hall until the present School was built. The old Bluff School was used as a Junior room as it was needed. It is now used for storage of school area supplies.

Note:  The facts and figures were taken from old school records and from Pearl (Irwin) Hurley’s Family Tree Book #1.


S.S. #3 Laird

Early documents relating to this school cannot be located. None-the-less it is known that this school section was formed in 1897 by the Municipal council. The first trustees elected were D. Blair, D. Forrest, and T. Lidstone.

A construction contract was let to Levi Mick and Dan McIver in early 1899 to build the school in Section 7. The contractors were to furnish all materials and construct the building at a price of $299. Specifications called for “rough lumber on the outside, then paper and matching siding, lath and plaster inside with wainscotting and painted right away”.

The school opened in the autumn of 1899.  Minnie Collard of Thompsonville was the first teacher. Her salary was $250 for the year. Although documents are lacking, residents of this school section recall the names of several early teachers.

S.S. #3, Laird School, 1961 class: Back row: Stephen Reid, Leonard Lidstone, Brian Mount, Bobby Matthews, Carmen Redmoned (teacher); 2nd row: Ken Evans, Donna Evans, Lee Ellen Collins, Carol Brason Matthews, Judy M., Melvin Mount; 3rd row: Doug Rix, Ron Wyslocky, Tom Fremlin, Duncan Fremlin; 4th row: Laurie Shellhorn, Luba Wyslocky, Sharon Bezo, Peggy Evans, Marilyn brason, Donelda Rix; Front row: Jimmy Fremlin, John Stevens, Vicary Fremlin, Phillip Mount, name unknown.

A Miss Doonan taught in 1905 or 1906, and other early teachers included Miss King, Miss Thomas from Echo Bay, Miss Rae McLeod who married Bill Bradshaw, Miss Pearl Gibson of Laird Township and Miss Louella Donahue. A complete listing of teachers from September 1929 is available.

When the Laird Township school area was formed in 1944, Mrs. Victoria Bagler was the teacher. She began teaching in S.S.#3 just prior to the time Laird Township school area was formed. Trustees were Warden Headrick (chairman), James Khull, and Robert Kehoe. Records indicate their positions earned a salary of $1.00 per meeting.

The first slate of trustees for the newly formed Township School area were Mrs. J. Johnston, Mr. C. Tomlinson, Mr. W. Headrick, Mr. V. Catling, Mr. A Becking (chairman) and Mr. H. Henry (secretary/treasurer). The school continued in operation until 1962 when Laird Central School was opened.

After its closure it was sold and used as a private residence.  A few years ago, the building was destroyed by fire.

Daily registers are available from 1930 onward and there is a minutes book that begins in 1937. The 1930-34 register contains minutes of annual meetings.

The minutes book indicates the normal concerns of trustees for any school section of that period. Firewood had to be purchased, fences repaired, teachers hired, teaching supplies authorized and ordered etc. A few specific entries from the minutes include a new roof for the school in 1932 at a cost of $47.75, payment of tuition for certain students from the school section who were attending Maple Leaf School in Macdonald Township in 1933, and a payment in 1937 of $1.00 for transportation of the teacher from the station to the boarding house (no mention made of what station or what boarding house). Finally, a motion noticed in the 1930 minutes “that trustees act and see that all cattle and pigs be kept off the school grounds”.


S.S.#4 Union School, Laird and Macdonald 1915-1962

This school was commonly known as the Bar River School. It was built in 1915 on land purchased from G.H. Lapish in Section 4 of Laird township. The school was built of brick veneer at a contract price of $1,950. Funding sources for this school section then, according to the archives, included Laird Twp., Macdonald Twp., Sylvan Valley School Board, Provincial grant, fifth form grant, rural school library grant, and a grant ($10) for teaching agriculture.

An advertisement for a teacher was placed in the August 1915 Family Herald at a cost of $0.50. The records indicate though that the first teacher hired was Miss R.E. Neelands. She had been teaching immediately prior to this in S.S.#1, Bluff School. Her monthly salary is recorded at $55.

Thirty-three students are listed in the September 1915 register. Grade levels ran from Junior primary (Grade 1) to Fifth form (Grade 10). Surnames of students in 1915 are these: Booth, Brodie, Chappell, Collings, Greenwood, Howard, Lapish, Stewart and Stuart.

Board trustees in 1915 were J.H. Lapish, R.E. Stewart and Alex Stewart.

For September 1916, a new teacher was needed, so an ad was placed in the Globe and Empire to attract applicants. This ad cost $3.60 and resulted in the hiring of Miss Proud at a salary of $60/month.

S.S. #4, Bar River School.

Some early additions to the school and supplies purchased included a furnace from E.N. Moyer Co. costing $150, a ladder from T. Eaton Co. at $1.50, postage and stamps $0.25, pail, broom, nails, and staples from R.D. Cuny $1.50, fencing school grounds $9.00, school clock $5.00, firewood at $3.00/cord, delivered, school fair $20.00 to J.M. MacIntosh (Agricultural Rep.).

Christmas concerts were held for the pupils in each school. Students in S.S.#4 were fortunate to have the Orange Hall nearby in which to stage their annual performances. This hall had a permanent stage, a marvelous stage curtain that could be rolled upward and downward, and there was access to the stage that was hidden from the audience. I should expect that all former students of Bar River School will never forget their Christmas concerts.

When the school sections merged to become a Township School Area in 1944, the teacher at S.S.#4 was Miss Florence Henderson. She later became the chief executive officer of the Federation of Women Teachers in Ontario. Her register for the year shows 27 students enrolled and all grades from Grade 1 through Grade 9 were taught.

In 1960 enrolment had increased to the extent that the MacIntosh Community Hall (which earlier had been the Orange Hall referred to above) was needed as a school annex.

S.S.#4 continued to educate students until June of 1962 when the Laird Central School was opened at its present site on Lake George Road.

Following the closure of S.S.#4 the property and building were sold to Tom Lapish. The school building was removed and Tom’s current home is located on the property.

For anyone interested in more specific details re S.S.#4, these records are available: daily registers for many years, a “cash book” giving a record of receipts and expenditures from 1915 onward and from these a fairly complete list of teachers and students can be determined. Also, information on S.S.#4 is contained in the Laird Township School Area minutes of Board meetings beginning January, 1944.


Laird Central School 1962 – present

This school was built and ready for use in September 1962.

It was a 3-room structure and the original teachers were Robert Armstrong (principal), Mrs. Mamie Buchanan and Miss Helen Tomlinson. Sandy Caldwell was the caretaker. The trustees at that time were Cliff Brason (chairman), Brian Rix, Ron Martin, Roger Fremlin and Doug McLean.

Because it was the only school in the township (the other two schools S.S.#3 and S.S.#4 were closed in June, 1962) it was necessary to bus many of the students to this central location. The contract for this was let to D.E. Brodie and his bus driver was Tony Evoy.

A room was added in 1967. A gymnatorium, lunchroom and kitchen facilities were added in 1974. In 1991 there are seven classrooms and an additional special education area.


Central Algoma Board of Education 1968 – present

The inaugural meeting of this expanded area Board was held in 1968. This Board had jurisdiction over schools from the Thessalon area to the Echo Bay area. There are 12 elected trustees, about 150 teachers, 6 elementary schools and 1 secondary school. Board offices are located in Richards Landing in the old High School building.


Where To Next?
Go To Next Chapter – Farming In Laird 1874-1991
Go To Previous Chapter – The Churches Of Laird
Go To Top Of This Page
Go To Home Page

Discover More About The Schools Of Laird Township:
Laird History Volume Two – Schools
Photos – School Books & Teacher’s Aids
Photos – School Records