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N.B. Education in 1883

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New Brunswick Education in 1883

I like this document because it sheds light on the education that some of my ancestors received in the late 1800s. I hope that it will be interesting for you also.

The document is a school Inspector’s annual report to the New Brunswick Legislature for Inspectoral District No. 6 and is published in the Journal of the Legislative Council for the term ending April 1, 1884. Inspectoral District 6 included Sunbury County, both east and west, and Charlotte County all of the way south to include Grand Manan, Campobello and the West Isles. It also extended slightly into Queens County to include Canning Parish which is physically separated from the rest of Queens by Grand Lake.

The document mentions the names of some teachers and includes many details of the extent and limits of what was being taught. The inspector’s frustrations with these limits are also evident. Some tracts are a little tedious, but still include useful information.

Following is the document:

Inspectoral District No. 6

Sir, – I have the honor to submit the following report on the condition of public schools in this district during the past school year.

I reported last year 171 school districts. Since that time two new districts have been added, viz. Bean’s Island No. 8, in the parish of West Isles and Deep Cove No. 9, in the Parish of Grand Manan. In the former district, through the efforts of Mr. Benjamin Simpson, a school-house was erected last spring and a school, made up from the three or four families on the island, was opened May 1st. There are therefore in the Inspectoral field 173 districts, 198 ordinary school-rooms, in 185 of which schools were conducted during the whole or part of the year. 155 of these schools were open during both terms, 30 were open during only one term, while the following 13 districts, having school-houses, did not open them for school during the year, viz.: –

  1. Mann’s Mills, in the Parish of St. David [Charlotte]
  2. McMinn, in the Parish of St. Patrick [Charlotte]
  3. Border, in the Parish of Burton [Sunbury]
  4. Gary, in the Parish of Burton [Sunbury]
  5. Shirley, in the Parish of Burton [Sunbury]
  6. Lower Hardwood Ridge, in the Parish of Northfield [Sunbury]
  7. New Zion, in the Parish of Northfield [Sunbury]
  8. Lower Little River, in the Parish of Sheffield [Sunbury]
  9. French Lake, in the Parish of Sheffield [Sunbury]
  10. Bowery, in the Parish of St. James [Charlotte]
  11. Little Falls, in the Parish of St. James [Charlotte]
  12. Canoose, in the Parish of St. James [Charlotte]
  13. Rear Maugerville, in the Parish of Maugerville [Sunbury]

Of the above 13 districts only the first 8 could reasonably have been expected to open a school. French Lake has only a small number of pupils and most of these are within reach of another school. Bowery was reduced to two families. Little Falls has only four or five children of school age. Canoose and Rear Maugerville did not have school-houses till late last Summer.

The following districts are still destitute of school-houses:-

  1. New River
  2. Diamond Square
  3. Pomroy Bridge
  4. Peltoma Range
  5. Burnt Hill
  6. Upper Lincoln
  7. Cheney’s Island
  8. Immigrant
  9. Deep Cove
  10. Upper Newcastle

These districts are all small, isolated and poor and probably only a few of them will build for some time to come.

Class-Room Assistants were employed at:-

  1. Wilson’s Beach
  2. Bar Island
  3. Fredericton Junction
  4. Welchpool
  5. Moore’s Mill
  6. Whitehead Island

New School-houses have been erected and completed in the following districts, viz:-

  1. Canoose, in the Parish of St. James
  2. Beaconsfield, in the Parish of St. James
  3. Bean’s Island, in the Parish of West Isles
  4. Rear Maugerville, in the Parish of Maugerville
  5. Barter Settlement, in the Parish of St. Stephen
  6. Lower Lincoln, in the Parish of Lincoln
  7. Gary, in the Parish of Burton
  8. Oak Bay, in the Parish of St. David

In the first four districts above named school-houses were never built before. In the next three districts they replace old ones, while the latter at Oak Bay takes the place of one accidentally burned in September last. This building, like the one in Lower Lincoln is a well proportioned, well furnished and commodious structure, and both reflect much credit upon those responsible for their construction.

At Peltoma Range, No. 8, in the parish of Gladstone, the little school-house begun nearly two years ago is still unfinished. Nearly all of these new school-houses are at present occupied by successfully conducted schools.

There are at present, as in preceding years, considerable additions made to the apparatus and appliances of the schools. Many maps of the Dominion of Canada and of the Maritime Provinces have been purchased. Blackboard surfaces have been extended and repaired. New desks and seats of modern style have been substituted for old ones in quite a number of school-rooms. Outhouses have been provided where none existed before, but there are many districts still negligent in this particular. Neither the repeated recommendations and personal appeals of the Inspector, nor the worthy examples of other districts seem to have the desired effect upon many boards of trustees, and unless more stringent measures are adopted to compel to a course of decency where a sense of it was wanting, I fear it will be sometime before our annual education records will be free from this disgrace.

The foregoing statements serve to show the general character and extent of this field and the material progress made during the year.

The following tabular statement will help, in a similar direction, as well as afford a limited comparison with the progress made during the year immediately preceding. 

I am pleased to report a measure of improvement in certain features of school work. Many of our teachers are more and more realizing the breadth of the field which stretches out before them, admitting of unlimited cultivation. Their daily experience is revealing with increased clearness the fact that teaching is both a science and an art, and that for proper development of both, constant study and self discipline are necessary. It is exceedingly gratifying to meet such teachers, anxious for professional excellence, dissatisfied with present accomplishments and determined to attain future success. The school catches such a teacher’s enthusiasm and each becomes an inspiration to the other. While this is true of many teachers, a large number, and probably the majority, are thus not activated. A few there are who, having no natural or acquired aptitude for their work, find it difficult and irksome. They have no love for their profession or their pupils and take little interest in either, seemingly satisfied to receive as much pay for their little work as possible. They make no effort and take no pride in putting principles enforced at the Normal School to the test. They seldom attend the Teachers’ Institute. They neither purchase nor read any books or journals relating to teaching. I have found a number of teachers who have been in the service for years, not yet possessed of the few cheap books prescribed for their use, indispensible as they are to the proper discharge of the important work committed to them.

Some branches of instruction have received special attention during the year.

Geography is more generally being thought through map drawing. The names of cities, rivers, etc., are being associated with some knowledge of their history, character or importance. Natural productions, climate and occupation are, in a measure, inferred from latitude and surroundings. Imaginary journeys are taken, having regard to direction of route, character and occupation of the people, etc.

Elementary arithmetic is being taught more rationally. The majority of schools do not, as was the case four years ago, furnish classing working perhaps in Reduction or Proportion, and yet utterly unable to find out the sum of a few dictated numbers. Some teachers have discovered that the writing or arranging of a series of numbers upon a blackboard for the class to add together is really doing more than half of the pupil’s own work, and that unless the latter can write and arrange dictated numbers properly as well as add them up and read the result, his knowledge of Addition will not avail when put to a practical test. Pupils are being more generally encouraged to analyze and explain their numerical calculations. I have sought both by my method of examination and by advice to induce teachers to make the arithmetic exercises of the school as practical as possible.

Grammar, though fairly well taught, is not carried as far in the country schools as was the case formerly. The highest standard requires a knowledge of this subject as far as the simple sentence is concerned and no further unless the pupil advance beyond the fourth standard, and in my own inspectoral district only a small proportion of the country pupils continue their course beyond that standard. It is possible that this proportion may grow larger in the future. Time will tell.

Reading is taught well in many schools, but in many cases it is an unsatisfactory factory exercise. The ability to read well of course varies with the capacity (both of intellect and voice) of the pupil; but when the teacher is a poor reader, as is sometimes the case, the school generally falls to such teacher’s level. I have found schools rendering, in an indistinct, unnatural and lifeless manner, reading lessons which under another teacher of the preceding year they read in a manner almost beyond criticism. Good reading is largely the result of habit and depends considerably upon the love of the pupil for home reading, and never can be good unless the author’s meaning is well understood. Reading is thought expression, but in a higher sense it is thought gathering, thought assimilating. It is therefore important that thought expression frequently turn upon what is frequently read, that pupils be encouraged to express their views of a given passage and at the close of a lesson to give in their own language an oral abstract of it. I believe it would also be a good exercise occasionally to require the class to read in silence any new selected passage and then with closed books to invite a comparison of ability in rendering orally the sense of the paragraph. It certainly is worth while to remember that nearly all the reading outside the school is silent, and that it is chiefly used as a key to unlock the treasury of knowledge in print. It is a hundredfold more valuable as a method of acquiring information than as a means of imparting it to another, and an examiner should estimate it not only by the clearness with which the pupil, while reading, conveys the thought to him, but also by the evidence he can give of having comprehended the thought himself.

In the subject of Composition both oral and written there has been during the past few years a very marked development. There are now in my district very few pupils, above twelve years of age, who cannot write a fairly well arranged and neatly executed letter. This is an important gain, and one which a school inspector’s experience of “letters received” will prepare him to appreciate. It is not uncommon to find pupils who can give in their own language either an oral or a written abstract of a reading or other lesson with a regard to proper arrangement of ideas, choice of words and grammatical accuracy that was almost unknown in our schools years ago. Among the many demands made upon the schools the cultivation of language is one deserving of the teacher’s earnest attention, and in proportion as he understands that the power to think can best be realized through the expression of thought through spoken and written words, in maps and industrial drawing and other forms and modes of expression, the better will he minister to this important end, and in so doing adorn his profession.

The Useful Knowledge Lessons, including minerals, plants, animals and colour, receive considerable attention but not as much probably as the Course of Instruction contemplates, nor as much as would be bestowed upon them if the teachers themselves had the necessary knowledge. The promised text book relating to these subjects is being anxiously looked for by the teachers. Many of them have successfully given experiments in Elementary Physics and Chemistry, but there are also many who have yet to discover the only successful method of teaching these subjects. The increased interest of the pupils in these branches of study, when treated on the experimental plan, has delighted all who have faithfully tried it.

During the year I have taken special pains to direct the attention of teachers to the Importance of Health Lessons as prescribed by the Course, and I have been much gratified to observe a more general and successful treatment of these very important school exercises.

Singing in the schools is very general, and in many cases it is characterized by excellent time, taste and expression.

Superior Allowance. In fifteen school examinations have been conducted with a view to participation in the Superior Allowance Grant. The results of these examinations were in the main, satisfactory, but a number of pupils did not pass because some subject prescribed had not been mastered, while others failed through bad spelling or defective penmanship. Some papers were surprisingly irregular, unsymmetric and untidy, and, in a few instances, these papers afforded evidence of a fair mastery of the subjects embraced, but believing as I do in the importance of correct and neat manual work, I have felt it my duty to report such pupils as “not passed.”


The Graded Schools of my district have been conducted in their usual efficient manner. Mr. C.M. Hutchison retired from his position of Principal of the St. Stephen schools April 30th. During the three succeeding months the high school was closed, but was reopened in August under Mr. P.G. McFarlane, A.B., who is fulfilling his position in a satisfactory manner. The number of students working on Standards VII and VIII, under Mr. Vroom, becoming too large on the first of May for one department, they were divided into two schools, Mr. Melvin Young having been secured by the Board to take charge of the extra department. There is at present a good prospect for a large accession to the high school next May.

Mr. Roland Lyle, after a successful service, retired at the close of the winter term from the King Street Primary Department and was succeeded by Mrs. D. Martin, who on the first of November, was followed by Miss Emily Markee, one of our high school graduates.

The Mill Town schools have continued in successful operation under the able principalship of Mr. Inch, who has had the same teachers associated with him as during the preceding year.

In the St. Andrews schools there have been several changes. Mr. A.W. Wilkinson, A.B., after conducting the grammar school with marked ability during nearly three years, retired in September last to prepare for the medical profession. His departure was much regretted. He has been succeeded by Mr. J.T. Horsman, A.B.

Miss Addie Hanson and Miss Annie Hanson also retired from the two advanced schools during the year. They were very successful in their respective departments, and will be long and favorably remembered for their faithful service in the St. Andrews schools. Their places have been filled by Mr. T. Rodgers and Miss Algar respectively.

In St. George the primary departments have been well conducted, but the advanced high school departments have not enjoyed the same measure of prosperity. Mr. George W. Hoben, A.B., retired from the high school at the close of the last winter term. He was succeeded by Mr. George Camp, who, I understand, also left October 31st.

The Centreville school, in the Parish of Grand Manan, was introduced as a graded school during the year.

Teachers’ Institutes were conducted in Oromocto in June and in St. Stephen in July. Both were well attended and of an unusually interesting character. These gatherings were assisted by the presence and assistance of the Chief Superintendent of Education who ably addressed the Thursday evening public meetings. A feature of these Institutes was a discussion of the desirability of having Reg. 13 carried into effect, and resolutions were unanimously passed pledging the teachers to use their best influence in securing the planting and preservation of shade trees within the school-grounds of their respective districts.

The Charlotte Institute, besides having several interesting papers and discussions upon school work, and a series of successful chemical experiments by Mr. James Vroom, also had the pleasure and profit of a visit to the Boardman collection of birds and to the St. Croix cotton mill.

It is certainly the duty of all our teachers to attend these annual meeting and to unite in the effort to render them increasingly useful.

In closing this report I beg to record my gratitude for your kindness, promptitude, valuable assistance and advice during the four years of my incumbency as Inspector, and now that our official relations are about to be severed by the resignation of your work in this Province to enter upon an equally important one in the Province of Nova Scotia, where you will continue to be a co-worker in the interests of Education, permit me to express the hope that your life and health may be long spared to labour in your chosen field.

I am with much respect, Your obedient servant,

J.B. OAKES, Inspector of Schools.

To the Chief Supt. of Education.


Written by johnwood1946

February 29, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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