If you were to describe a school in contemporary language, you would undoubtedly use words that together paint a very different picture than if you were to ask someone from a hundred years ago to do the same. Gigantic, multi-storied buildings that house hundreds of students every day, with miles of endless corridors dotted with a multitude of doors, each leading to rooms filled with all manner of modern gizmo to help young minds feed themselves the information that they will need to navigate the rest of their lives. Slate tablets have long ago given way to super computers and the internet, allowing students today to ponder and explore the universe in a way that would have been inconceivable to their school mates of yesteryear. And yet, even in those days of comparatively primitive tools, great scholars and scientists emerged, distinguished musicians and actors were shaped, fine poets and writers flourished, and young, creative minds blossomed and grew.
With one classroom, one teacher and ten children, Metchosin Schoolhouse opened it’s doors for the very first time in 1872. Sitting among acres of farmland, it was the first school built in British Columbia after confederation. It remained in use until 1914, re-opened again in 1942 and then closed its doors as a school for good in 1949. It is now a museum, home to one of the most complete collections of school records and artifacts from its school days, as well as some that have found their way there through donations through the years from some of the founding families of the area. Additional information can be found at this interesting site: HeritageBC Stops.
Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher moved here from England with her husband, as many of the early pioneers did during the mid 1800’s. Having graduated as a teacher in England, she was offered the position and became the first teacher at the new school. She and her two daughters lived in the quarters provided for them at the school and her husband brought them supplies every week from Victoria. Eventually they bought land in Metchosin and established a farm where she remained until she died in 1918. More information about Elizabeth Fisher and her family, written by her granddaughter, can be found here: Metchosin School Museum Society.
Now when I was growing up, the classroom looked very different to this one. We did not have to rely on a wood stove to keep the often brutal Canadian winters at bay. I would imagine there were more than a few days that chattering teeth and frozen toes were part of the curriculum at this little country school! Where once little faces stared wide-eyed at the chalk board learning math and ABC’s, faded photographs now keep vigil over the quiet classroom, a silent reminder of those that filled these walls with life and laughter throughout the years.
This room, once sparsely populated with a few pieces of furniture and ten little bodies, is now home to a wonderful collection of antiquated treasure just begging to be explored. Hours could pass unnoticed as you take in each object and come to realize that they are not just things, but pieces of a puzzle that together tell the story of a place and its people.
This particular photograph of a very handsome Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher still sits among her teaching tools, allowing her the perfect vantage point to ensure that any visiting children abide by her classroom rules and mind their lessons!
And judging by the ornaments kept visibly on her desk, the rules were most definitely enforced if and when one should entertain the idea of dipping neighbouring pigtails in the inkwell or slipping a bemused toad into an unsuspecting pocket!
As the world slowly and inevitably changes around us, it becomes ever more important to be able to reach back in time, to place our fingerprints on top of those of our ancestors and to stand in their footprints. To bring the important lessons that they impart on us forward, ensuring that the future is built on the solid foundation that was provided to us by those courageous enough, and luckily just foolish enough, to leave the comforts and familiarity of their homes to face the perils of an often relentless sea and sail off into the unknown.
Join us again as we take a closer look at some of the artifacts and documents left behind by those who breathed life into the stories. A veritable mish-mash of every conceivable item, there is sure to be a little something for everybody as we explore this fascinating little schoolhouse in more detail.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, and please do leave any comments or thoughts you may have as we always love to hear from everyone.
Until next time!