Metchosin School

It was only a short twenty years after the settlement of Metchosin by the first British landowner Thomas Blinkhorn in 1851 that the need for a school arose. By 1870 a number of families were settled throughout the district. With children growing up in many of these families, the need for a school became imperative. The Colonial Government had set aside Section 20 of Metchosin Land District for school purposes. This was along the present Rocky Point Road and not centrally located. Mr. John Witty, who had in 1863 become owner of the Blinkhorn property, offered to donate an acre of land as a school site.

First School 1899
First School 1899

A gathering of residents was arranged by Mrs. Hans Helgesen. Members of the Weir, Witty, Parker, Gleed, Cole and Helgesen families met on February 3rd, 1871, under the trees at approximately the present intersection of Happy Valley and Metchosin Roads. There they selected the site, the acre now adjoining the general store and garage, and drew up a petition to be presented to the Colonial Government, The request was granted in a letter dated March 7th, 1871, under provisions of the Common School Ordinance of 1869. The settlers and the government agreed to share the cost of the buildings, reportedly $150 from the people and from the council. Construction was entrusted to Mr. B.W. Pearse of Victoria. Mr. Pearse was later appointed to the post of Resident Engineer of the Department of Public Works of Canada. The School in mention in the First Annual Report of the Superintendent of Education July 31st 1872.

METCHOSIN SCHOOL DISTRICT.—Formed April 8th, 1871. Boundaries:—”The whole of the District of Metchosin according to the Official Map, together with that portion of Esquimalt District adjoining thereto, which lies outside the boundary of the Craigflower School District.” School under Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher, a duly qualified teacher. Appointed May 29th, 1872. Salary $55 per month. Visited July 10th. Found ten children in attendance, seven girls and three boys. Reading classes creditable; spelling good; arithmetic very fair as far as taught; geography and grammar just commenced. Building new and in good condition. Shed required, and fencing necessary round School lot, one acre in extent. Twenty-one children in District of School age, seven of whom are too far away to attend present School.

The School, looking pathetically small and bare by present ‘standards, was a matter of great pride and satisfaction to the pioneers when it was finished. Equipment and facilities had to be provided then as they are now. Two privies were erected in the yard and a well dug by Messrs. Helgesen and Rosman. There seemed to be no ruling at that time that members of the Board might not receive pay from the Board.

The school, with three small windows on each side, long benches with desks, each accommodating several children, was heated by an open brick fireplace. Fuel was usually dry fir bark which burns with a steady heat and no sparks. The men of the district, when clearing land, were always alert to find a supply of suitable bark which they would haul to the school. About the turn of the century the fireplace was replaced by a wood-burning stove, for a more equal distribution of heat. A water pail filled from the well stood upon a bench inside the door.

It is probably difficult for us at this point in time to realize how important this school was to the early settlers and to realize their pride and satisfaction in having a building where their children could be educated, and where people could foregather. Political meetings were held there as well as dances, concerts and social gatherings of many kinds. Also church services were conducted in the school until St. Mary’s Church was completed the following year, 1873.

New School 1914
New School 1914

The little school continued to be of service until 1913 when it was decided that a new building should be provided. The little veteran of forty-two years was moved back, and the new one, also a one-room school, was built in its place. This was, according to the fashion of the times, high from the ground with concrete foundations and a basement underneath, with two flights of steps leading up to the porch cum cloakroom cum washroom, with larger windows on one side only. It had high ceilings and is still the nucleus of the present school.

The original schoolhouse would be pressed into use with increase enrollment in 1922, 1942 and 1959. The little old school which had sat for so many years directly behind the main one was moved-over to its present location near the eastern boundary of the school yard. On the school’s One hundred Birthday 1972 it’s cease life as a school and became the Metchosin School Museum. Today the little school houses one of the earliest and most complete collections of school records and artifacts.

Old School Closing Ceremony 1949

Source: The First Hundred Years Metchosin Elementary School 1872-1972, Marion I.Helegesen