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Rural Schools of South Eastern Alberta

Seven Persons - Once Hundred Sixty Acres and a Dream

Chapter 25

The Little White Schools of the area surrounding Seven Persons were important, "Empire Builders" when our West was new. They grew of necessity, weathered the storms of economics, politics and time, and succumbed to progress after half a century or so.

These centres of learning played an indispensable part in shaping the communities. They offered an education to the children, served as social centres for all, housed the facilities of churches and Sunday schools and tended to unify each separate district. All who attended or taught in a rural school understood the significance of the words "Our School". To most it meant training, friends, sports, competition, and life in the country.

Settlers began to come to this part of the province before 1900. Most of these were ranchers of cattle and horses, employees of the railways or of the government. By 1908, the land had been surveyed, and in 1909 homesteads were being given out. Free land, train fares as cheap as a cent a mile and the spirit of adventure brought settlers. Of course, with these immigrants came children. They needed schools.

Forming a school district was not difficult. Residendents could collaborate in petitioning the Provincial Government to organize a school in the area and provide the necessary facilities. A committee was formed to plan a district and to elect a board. These districts could not exceed an area of five miles by five miles, but were usually four miles by five miles and included at least four families and a minimum of six prospective pupils between the ages of five and sixteen.

As each district was identified by an official name and a number much controversy arose at times over the choice of a name.

"Let's call it Loch Lomond, after ma' hame land."

"No, Alex, no. This isn't Scotland. I'd say Union Valley. From where the school will be, you can see the valleys joining one another as they converge to the nearby South Saskatchewan River."

"So be it. So be it. I do miss that beautiful old land and I love the names from there. You wouldna consider the names, Aberdeen or Dunfermline?"

"We are afraid not. The school board has chosen the name, Union Valley."

The Amos School was named by Mr. James Amos, who wished to donate parcels of land for sites for a school and for a church. These were to be taken from his holdings, and named for his family. A better site for the school was chosen nearby on Mr. John Reynold's land, but the Amos name was allowed. The Amos Church was built on the donated land. Some other names that might have taken some consideration, and have a ring of imagination to them are: Rocky Lake, Golden Sheaf, High Bank, Red Rock, Forks, Social Plains, Glen Echo and Rolly Point.

The schools' sites were common problems. According to Government Ordinance, the school must be located in the district's centre, but common sense usually prevailed and the site was selected near the majority of the children's homes. Terrain of the site, proximity to passable roads, or ease in securing a clear title, were factors affecting the choice.

The grounds for these "edifices of education" were to be: of at least one acre, twice as long as wide, level, clear of brush and weeds, suitably fenced, well drained and of good surface. Even after careful selection, there were playgrounds that were located on sloughs of gumbo4ike soil, hills of rocky terrain, near foul-smelling lakes or on fields of whirling, blowing topsoil. Children and teachers learned to live with what could not be changed.

The minute book of the meetings of the Seven Persons School District #1440, provides interesting information about the formation of such an early southeastern Alberta district. This school, founded in 1905, was located about two and a half miles southeast of Seven Persons, the then beginning, but underdeveloped, village. For many years it was the only school in a large area. In 1916, the increased population of this village required educational facilities of its own and so the new Seven Persons School was built, taking that name. Number 1440 changed its name to Joffre in honor of General Joffre, a famous leader of the First Great War.

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Mary Tollestrup