Mr. Cameron and his pupils were in the Rolla Mission log building. Miss Annie Ligertwood — for Saskatoon Creek — began her school in Slim Fords’ shack in the Kilkerran area. Miss Winifred Fairman and pupils were in Billy Wadsworth’s (?) shack (SW 1/4 -10-78-15). She had thirteen pupils registered in the school for the 1915-16 term — 8 boys and 5 girls. The children known to have attended school sometime during that year were Angus Lineham Jr., Theodore Yates, Ernest Johnston, Rosco Ramsey, Ray Ramsey, Harry Ramsey, Mattie Wartenbe, Bernice Wartenbe, Irene Wartenbe, Foster Wartenbe, Marion Barrett (boy), Delpha Barrett and Elsie Barrett. Miss Fairman’s monthly salary was $100.00 and she was paid $1,100.00 for that year.
Most of the settlers in these northern regions were in the early stages of pioneer life. The first pioneer schoolhouses consisted of four log walls and a roof — poorly lighted, poorly ventilated, and almost uninhabitable in winter, with equipment reduced to the barest minimum. These schools usually closed during January and February and carried on with school in July and August. The first school trustees were Goldie C. Wertenbaker, Angus Lineham, Allen J. Yates and Z.S. McMillan. As this whole area was called “Pouce Coupe Prairie” at that time, the name “Pouce Coupe” School was given to the original log school which was built on the location of Cedar Lodge motel. It was built by the community volunteers and was completed in the fall of 1916, at which time Miss Fairman and her class moved into it from Billy Wadsworth’s’ shack.
The log school was built on the northeast corner of the George Elmer Kennedy homestead (NE 1/4-10-78-15). He took up his homestead Aug. 28, 1914.
Miss Fairman rode horseback to school every day and home again. She was born in England. After two years, she resigned from teaching and went to Vegreville, where she became secretary to a lawyer, Mr. Baldwin. Mrs. Mabel Harper corresponded with her each year at Christmas time until the war broke out in 1939. Miss Fairman then went home to England and Mrs. Harper never heard from her again. In September 1917, a new teacher, named Dennis Clarke arrived. While teaching here, he first boarded at the Strongs’ residence. Then later he lived in a little log shack a few yards north of the school, closer to the creek. During the summer of 1918, the settlers were moving about. Some of them left and returned to their old homes. Others settled in different parts of the surrounding districts. In the fall of 1918, hardly any children were attending the school. So for about three months the only pupil who regularly attended was Emile Laloge. The frame school was getting built at Pouce Coupe, so Dennis Clarke was kept on in Dawson Creek until its completion. In Nov. 1918, he was sent to teach in the new Pouce School. The log school was then closed down.
Dennis Clarke also was born in England. He was musical and as well did landscape paintings. He taught school for several years at Pouce Coupe and also taught at Springhill School in Fellers Heights district for several years. It is said he passed away on an island in the Caribbean some time ago.
During 1919, there was an influx of settlers back into this country. Among them came a schoolteacher, John McDiarmid. The closed school — now without a name — was brought to his attention and sometime in the late fall of 1919 it was re-opened. As it was situated along the banks of the Dawson Creek, it was given the name of “Dawson Creek” School. John McDiarmid taught there for four years. For his first year, he received $1,236.00. There were twenty-seven pupils registered in the 1919-20 year term — 13 boys and 14 girls. Two Blackstock boys attended the school during the year. Also three girls came all the way from the South Dawson district — Irma Ravelli, Amelia Torio and Helen Torio. In 1920, there was a porch entrance built on to the school.
John McDiarmid first lived in the same shack as had Dennis Clarke. Later he stayed with his brother Roy, until he got a log house built on his own property in the South Dawson district. In 1922, he invited children in from out west and had them stay at his place while attending school. By this time other schools had been opened up in the nearby districts and the children went to the closest one.
John McDiarmid was born in Ontario. He was a B.A. graduate from Queens University and had served overseas in World War I. After the war he took some Soldier Settlement land in the South Dawson district. In summer of 1923, he went to Edmonton, where his basic career was in the Edmonton Public School system. He got married and has two sons. He retired in Edmonton, where he passed away. His wife, Anne now resides in Vancouver. The McDiarmids still own the half-section of land in South Dawson, which they rent to their adjoining neighbour, Carl Torio.
W. Wesley Sutherland was the fourth teacher. He taught in the Dawson Creek School for four and a half years, from Sept. 1923 to Dec 31, 1927. He, along with his wife Eleanor and baby daughter, Jean, came to Dawson Creek in July 1921. They traveled from Kleskun Hill School situated near Grande Prairie in a one-horse buggy. Their first homestead was north of Dawson Creek at the top of the hill now called Access Road. Sutherland’s first school was South Dawson which he started in a little log building that Rev. Jim Henderson had built for a church on the NW corner of the George Hart homestead. Sometime in 1921-22, Mr. Sutherland and pupils moved into the new log South Dawson school, built by community volunteers, where he taught until June 30, 1923. After this, he taught at the Dawson Creek School until Dec. 31, 1927.
Following this, he taught in the North Dawson school. In 1930, Mr. Sutherland moved his family onto his Soldier Grant land in the Bessborough district. Here he started the first Willowbrook School in their house. The community built a log school during the mild winter of 1930-31. Here he taught until 1934.
After, he taught a short while in the Bissette Creek School. While teaching there, he boarded at Pretty’s residence during the week and went home to Bessborough each weekend. He taught again at Willowbrook School from September 1943 until June 1950.
In 1953, Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland moved to Moberly Lake, where he last taught school. There being a shortage of teachers his wife Eleanor was asked by the school board to teach. She had never taught school before and didn’t expect to last long but ended up teaching for seven years and enjoyed every minute of it. She had her piano at the school and there was singing each morning.
In 1960, Wesley and Eleanor Sutherland retired and took up residence in Dawson Creek. They had three children. Mr. Sutherland passed away a few years ago. His wife, Eleanor, still resides in Dawson Creek.
Miss Ann A. Parsell was the next teacher at the Dawson Creek School. She taught for one year — Jan 1, 1928 to Dec. 31, 1928. After graduating from Victoria Normal School at the age of eighteen she came to teach at Bear Flat, north of the Peace, for the 1924-25 term. The next year she stayed at the coast and attended University, to get her First Class Certificate. From Sept. 1, 1926 to Dec. 31, 1927, she taught in North Dawson, then moved to Dawson Creek. When she came to Bear Flat in 1924, she traveled by train to Peace River Crossing, then up the Peace River by boat.
The sixth and last teacher in the Dawson Creek log school was Herbert E. Drake. He taught at the school from Jan 1, 1929 to November 1931. Previously he had taught at North Swan Lake. In 1930, the townsite of Dawson Creek was moved to its present location, from what is now called Chilton Subdivision or Old Dawson.
On Jan. 15, 1931, the railroad extension from Grande Prairie was completed into Dawson Creek and soon afterward the town began to boom. There were now too many children for the little log school. The Reasbeck Hotel was moved from Old Dawson to the new townsite but the Reasbecks left the beer parlor to be used for a classroom. All of the children who lived west of 17th St., attended this location for most of the 1930-31 term and had Miss Emily Buchanan for their teacher. Miss Buchanan was teaching for a short time along with Mr. Drake in the log school before moving into the beer parlor. The Delainey family lived in the top part of the building and school was held in the room below. Mr. Drake taught in the log school that same year, with the children who lived east of 17th Street. During the summer of 1931, the old beer parlor was moved into town to become the first Funeral Home, and the Joe Dills lived in the above part.
By this time, the new four-class room school was getting built on the present location of the Provincial Building. In September 1931 school began at three locations. Mr. Drake taught in the log school, with the higher grades, Miss Parsell taught Grades IV to VII in the United Church basement and Miss Buchanan started with the primary Grades I to III in the living room of the Jack Miner house. The latter was a small long, low building set on the lot where the last half of McLeods store now is found. Mr. and Mrs. Miner lived in the small part at the back of the house, while Miss Buchanan and her class occupied the front.
In the new school, Miss Parsell’s room was completed first. She and her pupils moved in. Although it was a pleasure to be in a new classroom, they had to endure the noise from the hammers and saws for about three weeks. Miss Buchanan, with her many children, were moved out of the Miner house into the basement of the United Church. In Nov. 1931, two more classrooms were completed and the rest of the pupils moved in. There was a special opening ceremony held, with some officials from Victoria attending. It is remembered that a terrible snowstorm and blizzard set in on that day.
The log school was now closed permanently. In the 1931-32 term, Mr. Drake had thirteen students — 6 boys and 7 girls. Miss Parsell had 35 students — 23 boys and 12 girls, while Miss Buchanan had 40 children — 15 boys and 25 girls.
Mr. Drake boarded with a bachelor, Dunc Sanderson, while teaching in Dawson Creek. Later, he taught on the coast, got married and had a son and daughter. He retired in Vancouver where he passed away about ten years ago. His wife still lives in Vancouver. Mr. Drake was known for his magic card-trick performances. Usually during the summer holidays he would go on a tour and put on magician shows, taking along a partner with him.
Miss Parsell, who became Mrs. Turner, is retired and lives in Victoria with her husband, George. Miss Buchanan passed away several years ago. In 1921, a group of women, called the United Farm Women of Alberta, began to hold meetings in the Dawson Creek school. Some of the first members were Mrs. Floyd Strong, Mrs. Reasbeck, Mrs. Cusack, Mrs. Ramsey, Mrs. Travers, Mrs. Church, Mrs. Addil, Miss Neaves, and Miss Simmonds. There were also dances held in the school. One of the dances held in 1921 raised $15.00. Some of the money went to the musicians — Dalia and Pepper — some for membership fees and the rest was given to the U.F.W.A.
One of the school janitors was Howard McKellar. Previous to him were two Callison girls. There was also a regular Sunday School class held for a period of time in it.
About 1935, the Murphys lived in it for awhile.
As the town was continually growing, the Village of Dawson Creek eventually bought the quarter of land on which the log school sat. Sometime in the late 1940’s, it became necessary to move the log school off its site. The porch entrance was given to a local resident. Then the main structure was set up on skids or braces to be moved away by whoever wanted it. As no one else had any use for it, the Carlings moved the log schoolhouse out to their farm, to be used as an animal shelter.
In 1978, upon hearing of its whereabouts, Mr. Walter Wright went to look at the log school. Its new owners, Gary and Carole Painter, kindly gave the building to Mr. Wright. Arrangements were made and in Aug. 1978, the Dawson Creek log school was moved to its new home at the Pioneer Village Museum. In Sept. 1978 the local pupils, who had attended this school, held a home-bake sale and raffle to raise funds to aid in its restoration. Many gifts of money were gratefully received.
The first Willowbrook School, situated in the Bessborough district, was held in Mr. and Mrs. Wesley Sutherlands’ house in 1930. The first pupils were Jerry Weslak, six Robertson children and Jean Sutherland. The community built the log school during the mild winter of 1930-31. Teacher and pupils moved into it in the spring of 1931. Here Mr. Sutherland taught until 1934. A new frame school was built in a different location in 1937. The log school was then given to the Farmers Institute in exchange for building the barn and icehouse at the new site. Mr. Sutherland taught in this school from Sept. 1943 to June 1950.
In 1955, this school was moved to another location. Later this school and Sunrise Valley School were moved two miles north of Bessborough Hall and joined together to make a two-class room school named Willowbrook. This school is now used by the Bessborough Recreation Commission for community use. A new school was built in the Farmington area called Parkland Elementary School and opened in 1977. The children from the districts of Sunrise Valley, Bessborough, Farmington, and Tower Lake are now attending this school.