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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Willow Plain School No. 1588 (RM of Hanover)

When Ukrainians arrived in Manitoba at the turn of the 20th century, some of them settled on a tract of land ten miles south of Steinbach in Township 5, Range 6 and Township 6, Range 7. This land was mostly poor quality with rocks and bush. The Ukrainians, not afraid of hard work, managed to cultivate it, raise livestock, and feed their families. In 1904, when postal services were established in the area, the local post office was named Sarto in honour of Pope Pious X del Sarto. Previously, the area had been known unofficially as New York.

Three school districts were organized in the region: Sarto School No. 1539 organized in 1910, Willow Plain School No. 1588 in 1911, and Slawna School No. 1624 in 1912. In later years, three other schools were added: Barkfield School No. 1951 in 1919, Carruthers School No. 2188 in 1928, and Tiny Creek School No. 2344 in 1952. These schools operated until 31 December 1967 when they became part of the Hanover School Division.

Restoration of Willow Plain School in the village of Sarto, in the Rural Municipality of Hanover, is being undertaken by the District School Heritage Association. In the 2000s, the building was part of the Manitoba Prairie Icons Program. It is a municipally designated historic site.

Among the teachers at Willow Plain School were Emily Bilinska (1919), Demetrius Rostocky (1919), Weston Sweet (1920), Peter Humeniuk (1920), M. Saranchuk (1920-1921), D. A. D. Wright (1921, 1922), Eugene Kozlowsky (1921-1922), Rebecca Gillespie (1922-1923), H. R. McCaw (1923), John Frank Boitson (1923-1925 & night classes), I. Goresky (1925-1926), D. M. Stephens (1926-1928), A. R. Pateson (1928-1930), Stephen Nykyforuk (1930-1946; 1957 substitute), Olga Slotiuk (1946-1949), ? (1949-1950), Thomas “Tom” Ladobruk (1950-1957), Andrew R. Sobering, (1957), Stan Cholka (1958), Walter Kohut (1958-1964), and Sam Letwinetz (1964-1968).

Willow Plain School

Willow Plain School (no date) by James Tod
Source: Archives of Manitoba, School Inspectors Photographs,
GR8461, A0233, C131-2, page 144.

Willow Plain School

Willow Plain School (1968)
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Architectural Survey - Sarto 4.

The former Willow Plain School building

The former Willow Plain School building (circa 1986)
Source: Historic Resources Branch, Public School Buildings Inventory, slide 530.

The former Willow Plain School building

The former Willow Plain School building (September 2010)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

The former Willow Plain School building

The former Willow Plain School building (May 2020)
Source: Rose Kuzina

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N49.39956, W96.74495
denoted by symbol on the map above

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Municipally Designated Historic Sites

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Manitoba Prairie Churches Project / Manitoba Prairie Icons Project


One Hundred Years in the History of the Rural Schools of Manitoba: Their Formation, Reorganization and Dissolution (1871-1971) by Mary B. Perfect, MEd thesis, University of Manitoba, April 1978.

A Study of Public School Buildings in Manitoba by David Butterfield, Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism, 1994, 230 pages.

Willow Plain School, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch.

Manitoba School Records Collection, Willow Plain School District No. 1588 - Daily Registers, GR2656, Archives of Manitoba.

Obituary [John Frank Boitson], Winnipeg Free Press, 14 March 1968, page 33.

We thank Ernest Braun, Steve Naherniak, Nathan Kramer, and Rose Kuzina for providing information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 1 September 2020

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