The original site of the New England School was on the Oliver estate. Later a frame structure was erected on adjoining property, leased from the late Joseph Painter for one hundred years at a rental of two dollars a year. The lumber for the building was sawn by a steam saw mill located on the farm of the late Joseph Matthews (Sr.), later owned by Fred Taws and then Jack Devereux. The school provided accommodation also for a Sunday School. The frame structure was later veneered with white brick, presenting a pleasing appearance of neatness and order.
Discussion arose in 1923 as to the advisability of closing the school as the attendance had diminished to four, but the idea was dropped. At that time Miss Lauretta Hay of Guelph, a very efficient teacher, was in charge. Much credit must be given to her, as well as to the young people of the section, for the purchasing of new equipment which added so much to the beauty of the interior and to the comfort of the children. A number of plays were presented in the Onondaga and Middleport Halls, and the proceeds were used in March 1924 to purchase five movable chair desks. Later an exerswing and teeter were bought. Miss Hay, who resigned in June 1924, was succeeded by Miss Winnifred Birkett. In 1926 Miss Minta Harrison was engaged. The attendance gradually increased from six to twenty-three in 1932. Miss Harrison resigned in June 1944. She was succeeded by Miss Marion H. Baxter. In December 1945 the basement was dug beneath the school. The furnace, which had been installed in the classroom during the previous year, was put in the basement. This was a great improvement over a box stove. New England School was begun about 1845. In the latter part of the 1950's, the school was torn down and the property sold. For a short time, the students were bused to the old Onondaga School before the new Onondaga Central School was built for 1959.
From an Interview with William E. Wood by Elaine Jermy (Spring 1984) New England School had an outhouse which was at the far end of the school yard. So that there would be water, two children ran to the next door neighbour's at the first recess and pumped the water out of a well into a bucket; then, they ran back with it. If they took too long, they would get a scolding from the teacher because she thought that they were trying to miss a class.
The caretaker used to go into the school at around seven o'clock in the morning to get the fire in the box stove going so that the school would be reasonably warm. Before nine o'clock, some of the boys would bring in wood to keep the fire alight. The caretaker for the school was Mrs. Elgin Matthews (and daughter, Hazel, later Mrs. George Fearman), who looked after the school for a great many years.
The teachers were a lot stricter than they are today because they were getting 'paid six hundred dollars a year for teaching and they thought that was a lot of money. The main subjects were the three "R's": reading, writing and arithmetic. The main sport was baseball. The class library was a cupboard filled with books. All of the students walked to and from school. So that the children would know that they had to come in from recess, the teacher would ring a handbell.
Some school rules were: no chewing gum; if children wanted to go to the "bathroom" they would put up one finger, and if they wanted to get a drink of water from the pail, which was at the far end of the classroom, they'd put up two fingers. Each student had a separate drinking cup to get water.
All students had a desk with a hole in the top right corner where an ink well was kept so that they could dip their pen, which had a nib at the end. The teacher had a desk with a chair and kept a strap in the top drawer.
Two of the students who had -gone to New England became members of the provincial or federal parliament: Mr. Westbrook and Mr. Wood. Another former pupil, Mr. Poss, was a world traveller and helped to engineer the Suez Canal. Every fall there was a school fair where students would take fruit, vegetables, livestock, art work and writing. The girls would bake cakes and make sandwiches. These fairs were similar to those later held for the 4-H classes. Arbor Day and Christmas were the main days of the year. On Arbor Day the students would clean up the lawn around the school in the morning and go for a picnic in the afternoon. (One student is known to have run into the creek while chasing a butterfly.) At Christmas there would be a concert; this was a big event.
Students who attended Ivey England School in a sample year (1944-1945)
Donna Matthews May
Purdy Helen Smith
Lyla Taws James
Smith James Purdy
Robert Smith Ray
Teachers who taught at New England School (not in correct order):
Miss Macnish — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Friar. Mr. Will Axon.
Miss Amy — Minta Harrison's Aunt Emma—Jim Simpson's first teacher.
Miss Ivy S pence — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Mike Simpson.
Miss Frances Fearman — George Fearman's sister—boarded with the Hill family.
Miss Grace Raynor — boarded with the Sam Simpson family.
Miss Laura Morton — boarded with Will and Annie Harrison.
Miss Annette Hull — from Caledonia—boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Fred Taws.
Miss Maude Lee — from Goderich — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Sam Simpson.
Mike Simpson Miss Etta Simpson —daughter of Maude and Mike—later Mrs. Head—left in 1914.
Miss Rita Williams — from Lindsay — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Taws.
Miss Pearl Armstrong — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Mike Simpson.
Miss Jessie Crasthwait — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Sam Simpson —later Mrs. Hincks of Norwich.
Miss Gertrude Buck — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Ed Taws — later Mrs. Tom Nicol of Hamilton.
Miss Loretta Hay — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Ed Taws.
Miss Winnifred Birkett — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. George Wood.
Miss Minta Harrison — lived at hone in Onondaga.
Miss Marion Baxter — boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Charlton.
Miss Alma Henderson — lived in half of Smith's house — went to Arthur, Ontario.
Mrs. Allan — from Fairfield — boarded with Mrs. Ed. Taws.
Miss Mary McLellan — lived at home near Onondaga — later Mrs. Slaght of Boston.
Miss Arlene Mercer — from Aylmer.
Miss Ursula Carver — later Mrs. Doug Whiting.