Early Education in Compton County

<strong>INKWELL AND NIB PENS.</strong>
These were used by students at their desks when paper was available. (Compton County Museum Collection / Photo - Jackie Hyman)
<strong>MERTLE CHUTE'S COPY BOOK.</strong>
This copy book (Gage's Practical System of Vertical Writing) belonged to Miss Mertle Emma Chute, born July 29, 1890. Mertle and her older sister, Bernice Estella, attended the Sawyerville School.
(Compton County Museum Collection / Photo - Jackie Hyman)
<strong>MERTLE CHUTE, PORTRAIT.</strong>
Mertle Chute was a pupil at the Sawyerville School in the early 1900s.
(Compton County Museum Collection) <strong>TEACHER'S DESK.</strong>
One room elementary schools, which were built throughout the Eastern Townships, made primary school more accessible for many within walking distance. Generally these schools were 24 x 24 feet  with an entry room with hooks for coats, a shelf for lunch pails, and a stove for heat in the centre of the room (often of sheet iron). Desks were long narrow tables with benches for seats. The earliest schools were of log construction, with floors of hewn boards. The teacher's de <strong>TEACHING CARDS.</strong>
Used like a jigsaw puzzle, these teaching aids taught children to read and to spell. (Compton County Museum Collection / Photo - Jackie Hyman)
<strong>WATER BUCKET AND LADLES.</strong>
It was often a pupil's job to fill the water bucket from the well and to bring in wood. Older children might have been given the task of starting the fire in the stove. (Compton County Museum Collection / Photo - Jackie Hyman)
<strong>EDNA RAND'S COPY BOOK.</strong>
This copy book belonged to Edna Rand, who attended Randboro School. The copy book is dated September 1, 1898, and shows a high standard of penmanship. 
(Compton County Museum Collection / Photo - Jackie Hyman) <strong>PUPIL'S SLATE BOARD AND SLATE PENCILS.</strong>
Paper was scarce, so earlier schools depended on slate boards. The slate used in these boards may have come from the Kingsbury slate mine in the Eastern Townships. Chalk would not have been used on slate boards. Slate pencils, like those shown in the photo, would have been used. These pencils left a thin, clear line. They are too hard for use on modern chalk boards. (Compton County Museum Collection / Photo - Jackie Hyman)
<strong>TEACHING BOARD.</strong>
This flip chart was a teaching aid used in a school in Low Forest in the 1880s. It includes a range of materials for teaching literacy (note the appropriate pictures and dress, and the homestead farming scene) and other more sophisticated subjects, like human anatomy.
(Compton County Museum Collection / Photo - Jackie Hyman) <strong>FLANDERS SCHOOL.</strong>
The Flanders School near Sawyerville was one of many one-room elementary schools in the area. The teacher seen in this undated photograph was Anna Lebdell. (Compton County Museum Collection)
These teacher's bells would have been used for calling the pupils into the school or perhaps for restoring order in the classroom. (Compton County Museum Collection / Photo - Jackie Hyman)
<strong>HIGHER EDUCATION.</strong>
Photograph, c. early 1900s, possibly depicting an examination in progress. Note the teachers standing at the rear. (Compton County Museum Collection / Farnsworth Family Fonds)
<strong>THE OLD SCHOOL HOUSE.</strong>
By 1829, the Eaton Corner primary school was well established, with an average attendance of fifty pupils. It closed in 1947, after which the children were bused to Sawyerville. The building became a private home in 1949. (Photo - Charles Bury)
<strong>EATON ACADEMY BUILDING.</strong>
There were very few academies in the Eastern Townships at this time, partly because the settlers could not afford to forego the labour of their older children and partly because the only government grants available were through the Royal Institution of Learning. As former New Englanders, most Townships' residents resented the Royal Institution's affiliations with the Church of England. 

Before academies existed in the region, local students who attended schoo

There was little time for educating their families when the first settlers arrived in Eaton in the early 1800s. Clearing the land, growing food, building log homes, and preparing for the long cold winters, kept them far too busy to leave much time for teaching literacy and academic subjects to their children.

It was during the long winter evenings, when the work had slowed down somewhat, that youngsters might be given a rudimentary education at home. But these early American settlers valued education enough to establish their own primary schools without government assistance. By the 1830s, Compton Township was found to have one of the most literate populations in the province.

The Compton County Historical Museum in Eaton Corner displays its school room collections on the second floor of the Academy Building. Visitors can see what a classroom looked like at the end of the 1800s, and can view many of the teaching materials used at the time. There are a number of school books on geography, math, French, Latin, and other subjects, published in the 1800s, and many photographs of the old schools and pupils.

The early 1800s: With frequent migrations back and forth cross the border, there was little to distinguish the older townships culturally from New England. Even the school texts were American until the 1840s. Pupils studied the three R's at the lower levels, with geography and English grammar replacing reading and writing as they grew older. Until “model schools” and “academies” were established in the Townships to teach beyond the primary level, students had to travel to New England for higher education.

The first school class recorded in Eaton Township was in 1810, held near Cookshire and taught by a Mr. Prebble. Later, school was sometimes taught by a minister who divided his time between church and school.

<strong>HIGHER EDUCATION.</strong>
Photograph, c. early 1900s, possibly depicting an examination in progress. Note the teachers standing at the rear. (Compton County Museum Collection / Farnsworth Family Fonds)

At first there were only small one-room schoolhouses providing a primary level education. “Model schools,” elementary schools with more than one qualified teacher, were rare. The Cookshire Academy, built in the 1820s, provided the highest level of education in the area at the time, drawing students from all over the Townships. Many graduates of the Cookshire Academy schools became primary school teachers in the area.

In those days, school was not free. Around 1900, fees ranged from 30 cents a month for Primary pupils, to $3 per term for Academy students.

The Eaton Corner Academy opened in 1864. Its purpose was to provide a high school education, and to prepare students for the “Board of Examiners” examinations. If these exams were passed, the student could obtain a teacher’s diploma.

The Eaton Corner Academy had two teachers. Sadly, after only 24 years, it had to close its doors after failing to make insurance payments. It was sold by sheriff’s sale on December 1, 1888 to the Township of Eaton, after which it was used for more than a hundred years for council meetings and community functions. The contemporary Town of Cookshire-Eaton now gives the Historical Museum Society in Eaton Corner the use of the building to display some of its collections and to house for offices.

Sources of information for this page include:

L. S. Channel, History of Compton County and Sketches of the Eastern Townships district of St. Francis and Sherbrooke County, 1896.

C. S. Lebourveau, A History of Eaton, 1894.

J. I. Little, Colonizing an Eastern Frontier, Compton County, Quebec. Canada’s Visual History, No. 58, National Museum of Man, National Film Board of Canada.

Monique Nadeau-Saumier, commissioned research on Joshua Foss, 1796-1881.

Sharron Rothney, Eaton Corner, 1972.

Jackie Hyman