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This history of Paris High School was donated by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. It was written c. 1923 by Franklin Smoke.
Owing to inability to find contemporary records, much of the early history of education in the Town of Paris has already become mere tradition.
Few, if any, remain, who can remember what took place in educational matter in Paris before the opening of what is now known as the old High School building. Fortunately, however, the records of what was then known as the Grammar School Board from 26th June, 1853, are still available, and the records of the Public School Board or Union School Board from 9th January, 1856, are also available. These records have been preserved and are in the possession of the Town Clerk. It is to be hoped that they will be carefully guarded, in order that the present and future generations may be in a position to learn at first hand particulars of the evolution of our educational system.
In those days what is now known as the High School was known as the Paris Grammar School. The first Board of Trustees of the Paris Grammar School consisted of Dr. Robert McCosh (who was chairman), Rev. David Caw and Rev. C. Ruttan, and the first meeting was held on the 26th of June, l853. There was but one teacher in the Grammar School, namely Mr. Strafford Lightburne, and he was paid the munificient salary of £150 per annum, and if the writer's memory is correct, a pound in old Canadian currencey was $4.00 instead of $4.862/3. The salary, therefore, was $600 a year, and at that he had to keep the school open on Saturday forenoons, and was given a summer holiday of only two weeks. Mr. Lightburne, however, did not remain long enough to reap the advantage of this holiday, and he resigned in April, 1354. His successor was Rev. P. D. Muir. It is not clear what salary Mr. Muir was to get. Apparently there was a government grant then as now which the teacher would receive, and it was held out to him that the estimate of attendance would be 30, and that each pupil would be charged $2.00 a quarter for tuition.
Instead of having standard text books, the Trustees and the teacher selected the books which were to be used in the school.
Mr. Muir, resigned in April, 1855, to re-enter the ministry. He was succeeded by Joseph White, whose appointment, however, was only temporary, as at the meeting held on the day of his appointment it was determined to advertise in "The Maple Leaf", (a paper published in Paris in those days) and in the Globe, for a permanent teacher. As a result, Mr. Thomas D. Phillips, M.A., was appointed, and he continued to fill the position until December, 1856. David Lennox succeeded him.
The Grammar School was first held in the Town Hall, in probably what was for so long the Council Chamber, but in February, 1856, the Town Council notified the School Board that the room was required for town purposes, and suggested that an empty house which then occupied a corner of the Town Hall square might be used as temporary accommodation. This suggestion was adopted and this house was the site of the Paris Grammar School until April, 1857, when it was moved to the lower room in what was then the South Ward School, where it remained until a new building was erected on King Street.
Shortly after this, the Grammar School Board bought from the late Hiram Canron 1 1/2 acres as a site for building a new school. This site was on the flats somewhere. The exact location of it, the writer has not been able to ascertain. The Board, however, apparently acted too hastily as opposition developed over the site, the old feud between the Upper Town and the Lower Town interests being at its height in those days. Subsequently a site was purchased on which the old High School was erected, from the late Mr. Joseph Steele. A public meeting was called to discuss the relative advantages of the two locations, and as a result of it, the School Board referred the Question of the choice of a site to the Rev. Professor Ormiston of Hamilton. Prof. Ormiston decided on the site upon which the High School was subsequently erected. The School Board got out of the difficulty over the flats site by surrendering it to Mr. Hiram Capron, who gave the town another lot in another part of the town upon which to erect a ward school.
Before the new school was built, a union of the Public and Grammar School Boards was effected in April, 1857. At that time the Grammar School Trustees were Rev. David Caw, Rev. James Boyd, Thomas N. Bosworth and H. J. Greenstreet. The Common School Board consisted of George McVicar, who was chairman, George Michell, James Fisher, Peter Wilson and Daniel Totten.
At a meeting held on the l4th July, 1857, a motion was made to re-consider location of the site for a new school, which resulted in a negative by the chairman casting the vote. Those were apparently lively times as the minutes of the Board recorded that Messrs. "Wilson, Totten and Gouinlock left the meeting without asking or obtaining leave, manifesting conduct very indecorous and highly reprehensible, and it agreed to note their conduct in the minutes."
The l5th of July, 1857 was a most important day for the Paris Grammar School in fact most important to the town and the whole country side, for it was then that the late J. W. Acres, B.A., L.R.C.P., was selected and appointed Head Master of the Paris Union School. He was the only teacher in the Grammar School, but in addition to his duties in the Grammar School, he was required to exercise supervision over the public schools in the town. For forty years Mr. Acres held the position, and it was not long before the Paris Grammar School became known as one of the best of its kind in the Province and pupils were attracted to it from not only the town but the immediate surrounding country, and in fact from many distant parts of the Province. The respect in which Mr. Acres was held was testified by the presentation made to him on: his retirement in 1897 by his pupils of that date and of the previous forty years and is being still testified by the reverence in which those of the present generations who remember the gentle nature of this great educationist continue to hold him.
Mr. Acres' duties, as stated above, extended to a general supervision over the public schools, and it was his duty to visit all of the schools in the town periodically which he had to do on foot for the best part of his forty years service. His initial salary was £175 or $700, and it never exceeded $1100 in one year of the forty. The salaries of the whole staff of the Grammar and Public Schools at that time amounted in the aggregate to only $2,220 per annum.
The building of the Grammar School was let by tender to Turnbull & Thomson - £2,501. The extras amounted to $201.48. This, however, did not include heating and furnishings.
There were no Country inspectors in those days. The Union School Board appointed a superintendent from year to year, his salary in the early days being about $30.00 a year. On the first of December, 1857, the Board ordered the superintendent of that year, Mr. W. H. Oliver, to attend the next meeting to present a report of the statistics and state of the school accounts. What accounts were under his supervision we have not been able to discover, but notwithstanding the order he did not attend. The minutes record that he had not complied with the injunction of the Board. That however, is a public school matter arid does not appertain to the history of the Grammar School.
The Board of 31st December, 1857, appointed Alexander Lester to fill the position of teacher in the English department during the pleasure of the Board, thus leaving Mr. Acres free to confine himself to classics and a few other subjects.
Mr. Lester resigned on first November, 1859, and was succeeded by W. Anderson. In the old days tuition at the schools was paid for by fees, that is so much per pupil payable by the parents. The free school principle was adopted on the 1st January, 1858, but this was applicable to residents of the town only. Outsiders still to pay school fees - generally $3 per quarter.
The new school was opened 9th August, 1858.
On the 11th September, 1860, Mr. Acres asked the Board to grant a holiday for the Paris show, but the Board refused, stating, however, that the teachers "might have the Friday on which the Prince passes through Paris." This was, of course, was Prince of Wales of that day, later King Edward VII.
At the time of Mr. Acres' appointment, he did not possess a University degree but so diligent was he and so faithful to the duty which he thought the position imposed upon him, that he prepared himself by private study to write on the examinations for Trinity University, Toronto, and in September, 1861, he asked the Board for and obtained leave of absence for one week to attend examinations, and also in one or two subsequent years. His efforts were rewarded with the degree of B.A. from Trinity. The first Teachers' Association in Paris was held in the Grammar School in the spring of 1862. In September, 1863, the holidays in the schools were fixed by the Board, consisting of one week at the end of the first quarter or during Easter week, the last two weeks in July and the first two weeks in August, Christmas to New Years (both included), every Saturday and the Queen's birthday.
Mr. Anderson resigned as assistant in the Grammar School in September, 1864, was succeeded by Robert Ridgway, who filled the position for two years.
During the Fenian scare in 1866, a meeting of the Board was called for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of making provision for the accommodation of His Majesty's troops and the use of the Union School and grounds was tendered for one year free of charge. As the Fenian scare died out very quickly, it is probable that the school was not so used, though there is no record of it.
As a result, however, of the Fenian scare, the Inspector of Grammar Schools wrote in September, 1866, as to the necessity of making some provision for teaching gymnastics and military training, and this suggestion was approved by the Board, and it was decided to erect sheds (which now stand) on the bank thirty feet on the girls' side and thirty feet on the boys' side for gymnasium purposes and shelter.
On the retirement of Mr. Ridgway in January, 1868, Mr. Charles Clarkson of St. Mary's was appointed Assistant Master in the Grammar School, and he continued to fill this position with great satisfaction for several years, and when he retired it was for the purpose of continuing his University course. Some years after graduation, he was appointed to and filled the position of President of the Model School in Toronto, Interest in athletics seems to have been quite lively, for on the 8th of September, 1868, the Board ordered a holiday for Thursday to enable the children and teachers to attend the lacrosse match.
Apparently the Board were very solicitous for the finances of the town. Mr. Acres, having applied for an increase in his salary, the Board declined to act. Mr. Acres apparently decided to look elsewhere for employment, and applied to the Board for a testimonial, and the minutes of the School Board contain a resolution in November, 1868, testifying to his efficiency, his devotion to the profession, his irreproachable moral character, Christian, deportment and gentlemanly conduct, commanding the friendship and admiration of many in the community. This did not satisfy the people of the town apparently, as memorials were presented from ratepayers on Mr. Acres' behalf, urging the increase which he had asked for, and action was then taken by the Board.
In September, 1869, Mr. Acres applied to the Board for holidays for the Provincial Show at London and for the Paris show, and a holiday was granted for the first three days of the Provincial show and for the last day of the Paris show.
The records do not show when the campus at the west of the High School building was first used for school purposed, but it must have been in use from a very early date. Cricket and baseball were indulged in to a considerable extent, and the reputation which the Paris Cricket Club obtained in the seventies and eighties of the last century is largely owing to the inspiration which the school boys received in cricket from Mr. Acres himself, who was an ardent enthusiast of the game.
The school bell was installed in October, 1873- at a cost of $50.00.
The first caretaker or janitor of the school was the late Mr. W. Howie, who lived next to the school building, and who filled that position until December, l870j when failing health compelled him to give up. Henry Sylvester, a. retired regular of the British army, having the rank of sergeant, was then appointed in his place, and his duties included the drilling of the boys. Mr. Sylvester remained in the position until the first Manitoba boom days, when he went to Manitoba. Mr. Samuel Lee succeeded him and filled the position for over twenty years.
Mr. Clarkson was the principal of the Public Schools, but the writer thinks some of the High School pupils were assigned to him for some subjects.
On the 31st of January, 1871, Mr. Acres wrote to the Board suggesting the engagement of a young man as assistant teacher. It was moved by W. S. Martin, seconded by A. H. Baird, and adopted, that Mr. S. C. Smoke, who had been recommended by Mr. Acres, be engaged as assistant for the present term at a salary of $25.00 for the term. This engagement continued for the next quarter at a salary of $30.00.
In November, 1871, Mr. Clarkson was appointed Assistant High School teacher, apparently being moved up from the public school. On his retirement in December, 1873, J. B. Hamilton succeeded him.
The late Dr. Franklin Burt was appointed on the public school staff in July, 1874, and on J. B. Hamilton's resignation in December, 1874, the late Dr. Franklin Burt was appointed in his place, but resigned in December, 1875, to continue his studies in medicine. Dr. Burt, it will be remembered, died three or four years ago in the Hawaiian Islands. Mr. G. H. Armstrong, who had succeeded Mr. Burt in the public school, was appointed as Assistant High School teacher in January, 1876, which position he continued to fill with great satisfaction and success for a period of 25 years.
The later history of the High School will be more familiar to the pupils and will only be reviewed here. Following Mr. Acres1 retirement in 1897, Mr. I. Levan, B. A. appointed, but he held the position of principal most acceptably until his death. The death of Dr. Bell caused much confusion in the school term of 1921. Following only a few week's teaching in September, 1921, he became ill, but upon recovering, he held classes in his home. This devotion to his duty proved strenuous for his ill-health, for his much regretted demise occurred in November.
After some weeks of disorganization Miss Blanche Willson accepted the responsibility of the principalship and Rev. J. C. Nicholson took Dr. Bell's position as class teacher until Christmas of that year. In June, 1922, Miss Willson resigned, was succeeded by Mr. W. A. Glass, who held that position until June, 1925, when too resigned. During his principalship the High School moved to its new premises on the northern outskirts of Paris.
During the summer of 1925 the Board of Education accepted the application of Mr. C. W. Butcher, as principal of-the High School, who still holds that position.
Prom a small beginning in the 50's the Paris High School has developed to greater extent perhaps than any other town institution. The recent erection of the new High School building at a cost of over $80,000.00 appears to have given an impetus to secondary education in the town, and with the able and efficient staff now in charge, the future seems assured.
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- History of the Paris High School, ca. 1923. Paris Museum and Historical Society.
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