Education in Rainy River

Rainy River. Our Town. Our Lives.

There must have been a school in Atwood Township in the early 90’s for in the fall of 1894, Mr. McQuaig, Public School Inspector for Algoma “including Rainy River”, issued a permit for Miss Edith Cathcart to teach “in Atwood No.8” until July 1, 1895. In 1901 the “old log schoolhouse” was built at the foot of Second Street and was known officially as Atwood No. 12. Its first teacher was a Miss Hay from Lion’s Head, Ontario. Those were the days of screeching slate pencils and double seats. It was worthy of note that this little school supplied the early training for not only those on the Canadian side of the river but also for a handful of children living on the American shore and who would be unable to make the perilous journey through forest and over numerous dangerous creeks and gullies and the unbridged Baudette River to the nearest American school situated near the western end of the International Bridge some tow or three miles away. That building was soon inadequate.

The Atwood School Board began making arrangements for a new, larger and more centrally located school. When the Town of Rainy River had its first election, a school board for the town also came into being. The Atwood School Board rose from their last meeting to meet the Town Board and hand over the yoke of office. Shortly after that, the secretary, J.Hodges was instructed to write to the inspector requesting the dissolution of Atwood No.12 – in vain. The Atwood children not included within the town limits were to be allowed to attend the town school free of charge until accommodations were available.

While the brick school was being built on First Street at Broadway, classes were held in the old school, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Roberts’ block. The new school was completed in 1905 at a cost of $25,000.00. It was named the “Alexandra” in honour of the British Queen consort of King Edward VII. With an eye to the future and in the face of much criticism, provision was made for eight rooms although, when it opened on a very cold day, January 22, 1906, four classrooms only were required. Teachers on that date were Mr. Young, Miss J. Kirby, Miss Leich and Miss Hansman. In September of that year, with the withdrawal of the Atwood pupils to the newly constructed school two miles distant, the Alexandra staff was reduced to three teachers.

The public school population gradually increased until it reached its peak in the 1920’s when ten teachers were employed in that branch and three in the secondary department for the Continuation School housed in the same building and started in 1918. To make provision for that number the attic was utilized and remodelled making window spacing in somewhat gable effect.

Further accommodation was obtained in the purchase in 1925 from Mr. J. Nadon of the old J.A. MAahieu house which became known as the “White School”. At one time, the three primary classes were held there. In 1947, the High School employed four teachers and the public school five. Pupils from Sleeman, where the school was destroyed by fire, attended in both departments being transported by bus. At this time there were no classrooms in the White School; it being used mainly at lunch and recreational hall. The upper floors were used by the Masonic Lodge.

Atwood children attended the Alexandra School until June 30, 1906. In September of that year, a new building belonging to Atwood No. 12 was opened to accommodate pupils west and north of town. The building was at first located on the southwest corner of John Cottom’s homestead, one mile north of the railway on the west government road. The first teacher was Mr. Ebberhart. Some years later, the building was moved a mile further north to the southeast corner of H. Williscraft’s farm. Improvements were added and it was stuccoed. Other Atwood schools were built as the need arose for school sections No. 1,2 and 3. With the expansion of the municipality Spohn No.1 was to be included, this to be known as McInnis Creek School. In 1947, amalgamation of the town and neighbouring schools into one central school was being considered by the School Boards.

The Catholic Separate Schools In Febraury, 1905 the church was moved to the north side of the tracks and used as a school and church. The early teachers were Miss Coffey and Miss K. Byrns. In 1908, a larger school was built north of the tracks and this burned down in 1928. In 1929 a new school was built of cement blocks south of the tracks where the new Municipal building now is. It was torn down in 1956 and school was held in the basement of the church. St. Michael school was built in 1960 and closed in the 70’s. this building now houses the Northern Affairs office and the Municipal offices and Council chambers.

In 1918 a Separate School, 32 feet by 20 feet was built at the corner of River Road and the Harris Hill Road, north of town on the Marshall Ducasse farm. This school operated until 1922 when it was forced to close due to lack of funds.