Manitoba Historical Society
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School Inspectors of the Early Days in Manitoba

by A. A. Herriot

MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1947-48 Season

This article was published originally in MHS Transactions by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Organized professional inspection of the public schools in Western Canada dates from 1888. Before that, it was haphazard and sporadic, done by laymen, amateurs, so to speak, in education. They were frequently local clergymen who made reports to the Superintendent of Schools from time to time.

When the newly formed Government of Manitoba passed the “Education Act” and established an Education Branch under the Department of the Provincial Secretary in 1871, there were only twelve Protestant and twelve Catholic schools ready and willing to enter the place of public education. A Board of Education was set up, with six members to represent the Catholics and six members to represent the Protestants. Molyneux St. John was appointed Superintendent of Protestant schools and Joseph Royal was appointed to the same position for the Catholic schools. Remuneration for these men was set at $600.00 per annum. Each had twelve districts under his charge, and the numbers increased very slowly.

By 1875 the number of Protestant school districts had increased to thirty, and had followed the trail of settlement as far west as the “Third Crossing” on the White Mud River (Gladstone). In the same year the Catholics had only twenty districts, none farther from Winnipeg than Ste. Agathe to the south and St. Laurent and Baie St. Paul to the West. Archdeacon Cyprian Pinkham succeeded M. St. John as Superintendent of Protestant Schools. Rev. Elie Tasse succeeded Joseph Royal in charge of the Catholic schools. The number of representatives on the Board of Education had been increased to twelve for the Protestants and nine for the Catholics. Records indicate that enrolment up to that year was 2,714 in Protestant schools and 2,068 in Catholic schools. By 1882 the number had grown to 182 Protestant and 45 Catholic districts, with 6,972 pupils in attendance in the former, and 3,193 in the latter. In 1886 there were 496 Protestant districts with 15,926 pupils in attendance, but only 51 Catholic districts with 4,118 pupils in attendance.

J. B. Somerset became Superintendent for Protestant schools in 1883. T. A. Bernier succeeded Rev. E. Tasse about the same time. It was Somerset who felt the need for some kind of inspection to keep him in touch with the widely scattered schools. He instituted a system whereby he requested a local clergyman, or other citizen, to report to him on conditions of the premises and the work carried on in the schools of the districts of the neighborhood. Seldom more than a dozen districts were visited by any one man so appointed. Often his visits were made when the school was closed, for many of the outlying schools were unable to pay a teacher for more than a few months each year. Such inspection was amateurish and perfunctory, but served its day. The sum of $5.00 was paid for each visit, on receipt of the report, but those doing this work looked upon it as a civic duty. Their loyal services, however, were inadequate, and the Board soon discovered that the rural schools needed full-time, trained and able men to lead and direct their work.

There is no record available of the instruction given to these early inspectors in regard to what they were to do or say. It is likely that they were asked to see that conditions were safe and sanitary about each school premises; that the teacher worked diligently, intelligently and with decorum; that the children were in regular attendance, were comfortable, healthy and happy; that trustee boards were qualified for their office and carried out their duties; that, so far as possible, each district made a satisfactory effort to provide the money required and spent it wisely; in general, that the School Act was obeyed. They may have done, more or less, than this.

Among the names of men listed as doing this work are many who were prominent citizens in the early days. Alexander Mathieson, Rev. John Pringle, Rev. A. E. Cowley and Rev. W. R. Ross visited most of the schools near Winnipeg (Daniel McIntyre, who fathered Winnipeg’s splendid school system as first superintendent, was employed occasionally). Rev. D. McRae did the work at Neepawa; Rev. M. Jukes worked near Portage; Dr. J. H. Morrison at Shoal Lake; Rev. J. Douglas at Minnedosa; Rev. A. W. Bowman at Virden; Rev. J. M. Wellwood at Brandon; Mr. D. A. Stewart at Pilot Mound; Rev. A. B. Stewart in the Deloraine country. Mr. W. M. Rempel inspected the few public schools on the two Mennonite Reserves.

Inspection of the three collegiates—Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage la Prairie—was entrusted to men from the colleges of Winnipeg. Rev. Canon O’Meara of St. John’s and Rev. Thomas Hart of Manitoba College blazed this trail.

In 1886 began a mild agitation among the teachers for regular professional inspection. They were no longer satisfied to have their work reported on by laymen without training or experience in teaching. It took two years to persuade the government that this was advisable. The step was taken, however, in 1888, and five men were appointed to full-time positions as “Inspectors of Her Majesty’s Public Schools in the Province of Manitoba.”

This was the beginning of the inspection section in the Education Branch. In the light of the previous indifference, no doubt, people of that day looked upon the move as a very forward and progressive step; but, to present-day educators, it must seem a feeble and inadequate provision. There were some 600 school districts scattered over the whole area of settlement in the Province of Manitoba. There was one railway cutting the province from east to west. A few branch lines ran north-west, south-west and south-east from Winnipeg for 50 to 100 miles, and a line came up from the United States to Winnipeg. There were only winding prairie trails for horse-drawn vehicles the bicycle was not yet in use and motor cars were still undreamed of. Five giants in seven league boots could not have covered the work, much less five under-paid teachers with no expense accounts. It seems incredible our leaders at that time considered the staff adequate. All districts, except Winnipeg and some 60 Catholic schools, were to be under these five men. It was a Herculean task indeed.

To sketch what was involved in the undertaking, let me indicate how school districts had been set up. The development of the school system had been hit or miss, go as you please. Wherever there were ten children of school age, and settlers bestirred themselves to organize, a school district could be set up. The Education Branch gave it a number, a corporate status and its blessing. The rest was up to the people. Buildings were secured in any possible way and no particular plan or size was demanded. Some districts borrowed a few hundred dollars and built by volunteer labor, others took out logs and built without a loan. Sod construction was used where logs and lumber could not be obtained. Abandoned farm shacks, a spare room of a larger house, or an unused granary was pressed into use. Teachers were secured from any possible source and paid about $30.00 a month. If a country school managed to stay open six full months in a year, it was a triumph of local enterprise. The government grant was 75¢ a teaching day. The register was kept on a twelve-month basis and one return a year was required. On this return the grant was paid. There was a general school levy that paid $1.20 a teaching day in municipalities, and the balance was raised by local taxes. The only programme of studies provided for a teacher’s guidance consisted of some twenty lines of fine print on the back of the register sheet, under the title, “Instructions to the Teacher.”

Work in education increased so rapidly that the government, on 1 May 1890, created a Department of Education, with members of the Executive Council acting as minister. It was not until 1908 that an act was passed, creating a minister’s portfolio in education.

The system of numbering our school districts as they were set up gives us a chronological record of how education spread in Manitoba, and of the geographic direction of settlement. The first ten are: Winnipeg No. 1, St. Andrews No. 2, West St. Paul No. 3, Mapleton No. 4, Lockport No. 5, St. James No. 7. Kildonan No. 8, Headingly No. 9, Portage la Prairie No. 10 all on the Red or Assiniboine Rivers. Among the next ten are: Westbourne No. 11, Poplar Point No. 12, High Bluff No. 13, Palestine No. 17, Woodside No. 18, Rockwood No. 19, and Cook’s Creek No. 20. In this group we find three new districts on the White Mud River, west of the Portage settlement. The next ten include Boyne No. 21 (near Carman), Livingstone No. 22 (near Gladstone), Burnside No. 24 (west of Portage), then Emerson No. 27 and Morris No. 29. The next ten add a few east of the Red: Rosewood No. 37, Springfield No. 38, Transcona (under another name) No. 39, and Sunnyside No. 40. In the next ten are: Balmoral No. 44, Dominion City No. 45, Clandeboye No. 47, eight schools on the Mennonite Reserves numbered between 60 and 68, and Gladstone No. 70. Some of the numbers omitted have disappeared from the records by reorganizations. The next twenty numbers include Dugald No. 80, Plumas No. 88, Longhorn No. 93, Silver Stream No. 98, and Cartier (just 18 miles south of Winnipeg on the Pembina Highway) No. 100. The next 100 numbers cover formations clear across the province, as the following will show: Millbrook No. 101, Pilot Mound No. 105, Crystal City No. 107, Stonewall No. 108, Holland No. 117, Rapid City No. 124, Carberry No. 125, Brandon No. 129, Birtle No. 132, Whitemouth No. 139, Reston No. 141, Miniota No. 149, Breezelawn No. 169 (near Souris), Deloraine No. 195. A glance at a map will show the reader how widespread this movement was. It is dated between 1879-1882 and marks the coming of the settlers just ahead of the railway, which reached Brandon in 1882.

In the formation of districts numbered from 200 to 300, extension was slower, but gaps were being filled in: Hamiota No. 220, Minnedosa No. 232, Millford No. 237, McGregor No. 240, Killarney No. 252, Osborne No. 260, Kenton No. 280, Souris No. 285, and Shellmouth No. 292.

There is no need to go further with the enumeration. It is the record of the enterprise of our pioneer settlers. There was no overall plan, and the lack made the patchwork pattern of the small unit district that is now, so many years later, so difficult to reform.

It was to direct and administer this system, so widely scattered, so incoherent, and so individualistic, that the five inspectors had been appointed in 1888. These five blazed the trail for all future policy. Their numbers have been extended until now there are twenty-five inspectors at the work, but the method has not changed very greatly. Knowledge of the work of the first five is gained through hearsay and legend among the old-timers, and by a perusal of the reports of these men and their successors. It is an interesting story, and to their work the present generation owes much of the progress and improvement education has made. The past three generations owed them more than that they were the men who worked, at all times, to bring what little opportunity for schooling was available at the time to the youth of our province, when hardship was the order of the day, and only courage and self-reliance could meet and overcome privation and isolation. Even to learn to read and write was an achievement in many parts of the province until as late as 1914. There was no compulsory education; there was no minimum equipment for a school; text books were difficult to obtain; school furniture was often primitive and handmade; teachers were hard to find and had little training; roads were often mere cow paths across the prairies; child labor was important in the home or on the land. Schooling was a vision present only to those with eyes to see.

The five men appointed in 1888 to give some closer direction and supervision to the schools of the province were: E. E. Best, J. D. Hunt, D. J. McCallman, J. H. Sparling, and Rev. J. M. Wellwood. Mr. Best was stationed at Manitou, Mr. Hunt at Brandon, Mr. Sparling at Portage la Prairie, Mr. Wellwood at Minnedosa, and Mr. McCallman at Emerson, looked after the eastern end of the province. The City of Winnipeg had its own superintendent, Dr. Daniel McIntyre.

Within five years only two of these men were still in the field. Hunt had left to study law; Sparling and McCallman had taken up the study of medicine; Wellwood had returned to his work in the ministry. McIntyre went on to spend his life in building up the Winnipeg school system. Best continued in inspection, and built up a reputation for service and devotion that will never be equalled. He worked at Manitou from 1888 until 1902, and from that date in the area north of Winnipeg until he retired, after forty-one years in the work. It was he who set the pattern for rural inspection for the entire West. He broke the trails and followed the clang of the school bell from district to district with the zeal of a missionary, loving every minute of it.

Such a career calls for extended comment. Edward Ernest Best came from Chatham, Ontario, in 1882, and was immediately engaged to teach at Gladstone. He stayed there until his appointment as inspector in 1888. The days of his ministration at Gladstone are still spoken of by old-timers in that area. It is recorded that when the district was bankrupt in 1883 and 1884, his wages were collected by voluntary subscription and disbursed without aid of the bank, because all public funds were threatened by court judgments, the legacy of the boom of 1882. It is remembered that he never complained or sought a change.

He ran the school and made a host of friends among both natives, who were numerous, and the settlers who had come to displace them. Best was a man of exceptional vigor and fine athletic physique. He stood six feet one inch, spare and erect. He was impervious to fatigue. He could swim, shoot, run, jump, play football and baseball as few amateurs could, and he preached physical fitness and the value of organized sport long before these ideas became the slogans of education, as they are today. He was, as well, no mean horseman in his day—when horses were far more important than most people of the present generation can realize.

On appointment as inspector, he moved to Manitou with his wife and four children, and took up his new work with vigor and thoroughness. With horse and buggy he crossed and recrossed his division for fourteen years. He often left home for weeks at a time and slept wherever night overtook him. School after school across a vast area that today requires five inspectors, each with a car, received his careful and encouraging scrutiny. No weather could stop him, no road was too long or impassable. If night fell and no shelter was available, he slept under the stars, indifferent to the ghostly wail of the prowling coyotes beyond his camp fire. The Assiniboine he crossed by ford, ferry or home-made raft. When food was available he ate, and when not, he went hungry. His work in any event had to be done. Best not only visited the schools and helped the teachers with advice and encouragement, but sought out all children still without schools, and took steps to have new districts formed for them. The children, the teachers and the parents came to know him as friend. The inspector’s visit was an event in each neighborhood as he passed through the division. He brought, hope and light to all he met, and convinced the settlers everywhere that schools were essential and schooling the right of every child.

In winter Inspector Best arranged a short-term model school at Manitou which, in later years, grew to be a full-fledged normal school. Before long Manitou was sending out young teachers to fill the rapidly increasing schools.

Through it all the inspector went his unassuming way, without ostentation, but proud and independent as one who knew his own gifts. No blare of trumpets or flashy window dressing advertised his efforts for education. It was sound, practical and utilitarian work, well done. He held no degrees in pedagogy or administration, but his fine common sense and his humorous understanding made his work solid and lasting. His work was a living testimony of the value of continuous service, where a true teacher sets a pattern for a school or a community. Best built character into the lives of all who came under his kindly hand. He died at the age of 84, beloved and honored by all who had known him.

As already stated, of the five men appointed in 1888, four left the field within five years. One of their successors was, however, to make a contribution to education equal to that of Best.

The new inspectors were Sidney E. Lang MA, 1890, H. S. McLean, 1892, T. M. Maguire, 1892, A. L. Young, 1893. In the same A. S. Rose was appointed to the inspectoral staff, which raised its number to six men working outside Winnipeg. This group was more permanent than the first. Only H. S. McLean left the work of education for other fields. The other four served out their working years in our schools, and each made a lasting and valuable contribution to the nation, but especially Lang.

Sidney E. Lang MA, was a gentleman, a scholar and a philosopher. His field at first included all Manitoba west of Brandon, from 1890 to 1905. He was Manitoba’s first secondary school inspector from 1911 to 1922. Between 1905 and 1911 he was a teacher in the provincial normal school. He is still alive and lives in contented retirement in Victoria, British Columbia. His interest in education in no way dulled in the eighty-third year of his life. In his field work Mr. Lang always drove good horses. He followed the trails from the international boundary on the South-west, to the mountains north of Russell. Like Best, he was known and loved by all with whom he worked. He was welcome in any home where night found him. He had cone to Manitoba in 1880 and he knew the pioneers and their life. His work will not be forgotten. It was under his guidance that high schools were brought to the towns and villages of the province. Besides this, Mr. Lang was author of one of the best English grammars that has ever been used in Canadian schools. He had a facile pen and often wrote for the School Journal, Empire Day pamphlets, or for newspapers on the topics of the day. Even now, in retirement, he is a contributor to the Victoria Colonist.

A. S. Rose BA served in the field from Brandon, south and north. After fifteen years as an inspector of this field, he went to the normal school at Saskatoon and put his imprint on the teachers who served Saskatchewan in those days. He was a trained educator, an eloquent speaker and a scholar. His work in the West was important and lasting. He died, before his retirement, at Saskatoon.

T. M. Maguire was appointed inspector in 1892 and served his field from Portage la Prairie until his retirement. He taught school in Brandon in the eighties. A bosom friend of Best, Rose and Lang, he patterned his work on theirs, and through the long and trying years, carried the torch of learning to every corner of a division which extended north beyond Dauphin and Kinisota on the west shore of Lake Manitoba, and as far as settlement extended on its eastern shores. He was tireless in his work and faithful to his trust. He used horses, railways and bicycle, and got around with surprising regularity, though not always in good health. Maguire was different from Best and Lang, but a worthy and gallant schoolman. He was outspoken and fearless, and left his mark on his schools and his people. He was a naturalist of keen observation and a lover of outdoor things. Nature study in our curriculum had its beginning in his contacts with our teacher-training. He, like the others, conducted teacher-training classes in winter at Portage la Prairie. When he was cut down by death, in 1925, his funeral was one of the largest ever seen in that prairie city, where his life work had centred.

A. L. Young, a veteran wounded at Batoche in the Saskatchewan Rebellion of 1885, had replaced McCallman in the eastern part of the province in 1893. He was chosen because he was a native of Quebec and spoke French as fluently as English. In 1890 the Greenway Government had altered the School Act so that Catholic schools came under the same regulations as others, and the Catholics had withdrawn from the public schools in many districts. It was Young’s task to re-establish some confidence among them and bring them back into the system, if possible. He was a man of great tact and worked hard in his field. In 1897 the School Act was amended by a compromise between the Laurier and Greenway governments, which partially healed the breach, and after that date most of the French-Canadian districts came back under the act. They were not wholly satisfied with the bilingual regulations, but with Young directing, and later on, Dr. Fletcher, deputy minister, tactfully administering the work, most of the people were induced to comply with the new act. Young held his place and devoted his talent and energy to education until his retirement in 1925. His memory is still green among our French-speaking people.

Another disturbing feature of the period, when the men just described were so busy, was the flood of immigration which poured into the West at that time. Under the Laurier Government, Hon. Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior, set in motion the immigration policy which brought hundreds of thousands of new agricultural settlers from Europe to Western Canada. Whole districts of new land were taken up by homesteaders. Empty townships to the north, north-west, north-cast and south-east were occupied by land seekers from every country of Northern and Central Europe. New school districts were needed and none of these people knew the language or the laws. Inspectors in the field worked overtime, but settlement ran far ahead of their physical capacity. Distances and roads ran them ragged. Manitoba needed more inspectors. The Roblin Government replaced the Greenway Government in 1899, and it was recognized that education needed more help and attention. It was high time to act.

Alex McIntyre MA, later a very successful teacher in our Normal School, was drafted from the principalship of the Brandon Collegiate in 1898 and inspected schools for a few years. Archie Hooper, also in the Normal School in his later life, was called from Selkirk in 1900 and sent to Dauphin to keep up with development in the North country. The same year Roger Goulet MA, was called from St. Boniface to help Inspector Young in the Red River Valley and points east. In 1901, W. J. Cram of Morden was appointed to cut down the field Best supervised at Manitou. He only held this post a few years and returned to teaching in Morden. He was replaced by A. C. Campbell, who went to St. John’s Technical School, Winnipeg, in less than two years. In 1903, Robert Fletcher BA, became Chief Clerk in the Department of Education, under Hon. Colin Campbell, then Attorney-General.

Of those mentioned in the preceding paragraph, Roger Goulet is the only one who stayed in inspection until his retirement age. A native son of the West, and proud of his origin, Goulet was a graduate of St. Boniface College. He was eloquent in both French and English when called upon to speak. Of a commanding figure and personality, he had been a splendid athlete in his youth, and a leader among the French and Métis. Inspector Goulet fathered a family of twelve children. He died in Montreal in 1946.

As inspector, Goulet was devoted to his work. He was kindly and courteous with children and teachers, firm with officials, trustees and ratepayers who failed in their duties. For thirty-two years he worked with the greatest zeal. He helped to train bi-lingual French teachers to supply our needs, and he beat his path from school to school in his division, always striving to bring light and opportunity to the children under his charge. The memory of Roger Goulet will long be fresh among the people for whom he worked. The men of the inspection staff, with whom he shared the load, loved him better than a brother. For a man born in a Red River Métis cabin in 1867, bereft of his father in 1870, Roger Goulet’s rise to an honored place among the people who filled the area of his birth, was testimony to his ability and character. The seed of greatness was in him.

The first decade of the twentieth century witnessed new expansion. In 1904 W. J. Parr BA, was installed at Killarney to replace H. S. McLean, who left the province for the United States. C. K. Newcombe BA, in the next year, gave up the Virden Collegiate to replace S. E. Lang, who, in turn, went to the Winnipeg Normal School. A. S. Rose left Brandon and Archie Hooper came down from Dauphin to replace him. Edward Walker BA was drafted from Gretna School to go to Dauphin. A new division was set up at Neepawa in 1906, and Allan Fallis was called from the Dauphin School to take the field. In 1907 M. Hall-Jones was appointed to help keep up with the work, and Frank Belton was sent to Roblin to ease the work of the Dauphin field. The system was completed when the Department of Education was established and Hon. Stanley McInnis became Manitoba’s first Minister of Education in 1907, with Robert Fletcher as first Deputy Minister.

The department began to advocate consolidation of schools, and many of the men in the field were busy with this movement. It entailed much extra work, and the still rapid growth of population called for more men. Deloraine was made a new centre in the South-west. D. J. Wright, a splendid schoolman and athlete, who had been principal of the school, was made inspector for the field. He left it later to work in the Normal School. Next year Albert Hatcher was drafted from Elkhorn High School. In 1910 J. W. Gordon was called from the Souris Collegiate and sent to Manitou to carry on the teacher-training started there by Inspector Best. His work included inspection of schools for two municipalities. W. C. Hartley was given a new division at Carman. The same year Andrew Willows, a German-speaking teacher, was brought west from Waterloo, Ontario, to direct and encourage the Mennonite settlers to organize public schools to replace the inefficient church schools they had conducted since their arrival in the seventies.

Of the new men mentioned in the last two paragraphs, Parr stayed at Killarney until he retired; Newcombe left the field of education for another public appointment; Hooper and D. J. Wright went to normal school work; Walker died while still in service at Dauphin in 1927; Fallis worked until his retirement in 1938; Hall-Jones died while still in service in 1927; Belton completed his years of service; Hatcher left the inspection work in 1927, but is still in education as Superintendent of Norwood Schools; Gordon served his full years to retirement; Hartley died while still in harness as inspector of the field that Fallis opened in 1906; Willows died in 1925, after fifteen years of useful work in the province.

Parr’s work at Killarney for over thirty years was sound and effective. He gave splendid leadership and direction that bore lasting fruit. He was friend and counsellor to two generations of young people who received their schooling under his hand. Into his retirement in 1938 he carried the love and best wishes of thousands who had met him in his work. Parr came to Manitoba in 1878 and was a graduate of Wesley College before he entered teaching at Crystal City. He died in 1944.

Walker did much the same at Dauphin, where he worked for twenty-two years. He was genial and friendly in his relations with pupils, teachers and settlers. His work threw him into contact with many of our new Canadians who fitted the north country as railways pushed their way between Duck Mountain and Lake Winnipegosis. He met them with tact and sympathy and his name is still honored among them. Walker had lost an arm while but a child, but it never handicapped him.

Fallis held the Neepawa field from 1906 until 1922 and finished his work in the Portage field until retirement in 1938. He had come to Manitoba to teach in 1892. He was a debonair, handsome, well-set-up man who carried his age amazingly well. His work in the schools was such that his teachers loved him. Unhurried in all his ways, he saw to it none the less that his field held its own with steady advance. He is still living at Carberry in the heart of the field where he worked so long.

Belton, a graduate of Brandon Collegiate, was in his field at Roblin from 1908 until he retired in 1935. He combined homesteading experience with his inspection by filing on a quarter section of land among the other recent homesteaders. He worked hard and was able to devise plans for some fine consolidated districts in his neighborhood. Most of his schools were attended by new Canadians fresh from Central Europe.

Gordon, who began teaching in Manitoba schools in 1894, went to Manitou in 1910 and, besides inspecting, handled the Normal School there until 1931, when he took over the field Best had had north of Winnipeg. He was a devoted educator with a true evangelistic zeal. He inspired his normal students with his own spirit, and taught them methods and management successfully. Candidates from his Normal were quick to adjust themselves to work in rural schools. He was beloved by his teachers wherever he worked. He lives in well-earned retirement in the City of Winnipeg and follows educational advancement with the same keen interest he had while at work.

Willow’s work among the Mennonites was very successful. Church schools gave place to public schools on all sides. Instruction was now in English instead of German, and an enriched programme of much new material was placed before the pupils. Boys and girls of Mennonite origin were encouraged to qualify for teaching, and today they are a steady source of supply. He was an able man and made a host of friends in his fifteen years as inspector.

Hall-Jones did not hold any single field for many years at a time. He was an energetic and aggressive man and did much to create interest in consolidation and educational work. He died in harness in 1927.

Hartley, a veteran teacher in the province, commenced work in the Carman field in 1910, moved in 1920 to Teulon and, in 1925, went to Minnedosa, where he died suddenly in 1936. He was a capable schoolman and left his contribution in the fields where he worked.

During these later years Hon. G. R. Coldwell of Brandon was Minister of Education. He and Fletcher, the Deputy Minister, made a good team. Compulsory education was written into our laws in 1916; attendance climbed; new school districts were formed wherever there were children of school age; consolidation was being vigorously advocated and encouraged by generous grants; immigration was still flowing into the West; education was enjoying an innings it had never previously approached; inspectors and teachers salaries were increased and inspectors given an expense allowance that made it easier to keep on the road. C. K. Newcombe was made superintendent of education to assist the deputy minister, for the work was growing very rapidly. S. E. Lang was made inspector of secondary schools, and high schools spread from town to town, and Winnipeg was growing very rapidly and drafting many of the ablest teachers from the province into its schools.

At midsummer, 1911, Mr. Coldwell added five new men to the inspection staff in one vigorous gesture. They were: J. Boyd Morrison BA of Napinka; Theo. Finn of Morden; J. E. S. Dunlop BA of Souris, E. D. Parker BA of Pilot Mound, and A. A. Herriot BA, the writer of this article, from Holland. Each made inspection his life work. Only two are still alive and active in the work—Mr. Parker and myself—who are joint deans of the inspection staff today.

J. Boyd Morrison came to Manitoba as a boy, completed his high school education at Brandon, and taught successfully until his appointment as inspector. His field centred on Brandon and he died there a few years after he reached retirement age. He will be long remembered for his great kindness and fine common sense in all his work.

Theo. Finn was educated in Portage la Prairie. He was teaching in our schools as early as 1887. He left the Morden High School to become inspector of the field centering on that place. He dropped his work a few years to become a major in our forces in World War I, but returned to carry on to his retirement age. His work as inspector was always well done and his friends and admirers are legion. He died a few years after his retirement.

Stanley Dunlop opened a new field at Carberry in 1911. He had come West in 1900 fresh after graduation from Queen’s University. After attending normal school he had won a high reputation as a teacher, and was drafted from the principalship of the Souris Collegiate to inspection. He came to Winnipeg in 1926 and was inspector of the schools lying north of the city until his death in 1945. He will be remembered for his enthusiasm and vigour in all his work. He made a fine contribution to our province and to education.

Elby Parker was born in Nova Scotia. He came West about 1900 and taught in the Ninga and Pilot Mound areas until his appointment. He was placed in charge of the area between Winnipeg and Portage a new division—with St. James as his centre. He organized schools in the Interlake territory until they became so numerous that new fields had to be opened. He is still in charge at St. James and has 170 teachers who “swear by him” under his charge.

As for myself, I have been in Manitoba since 1882. My formal education and training was taken in the schools at Souris, Brandon and University of Manitoba. I came into teaching in 1902, after serving as a trooper in the Canadian Mounted Rifles in the Boer War (1899-1902). I entered the inspection staff in 1911, after serving five years as principal at Holland, the first consolidated school district to operate in the province. I was fourteen years in charge of the field at Gladstone, and in 1925 succeeded Mr. A. L. Young in the St. Boniface field, and am there still. I found the work so absorbing and myself so busy that there was never time to think of a change. I hope my contribution was not less worthy than the men of whom I am writing.

In 1914 a new field was needed in the North. John S. Peach, another Manitoba boy, raised on a farm in the Balmoral area, was selected for the staff. He had been principal at Swan River for several years. Since his appointment he has worked to make schools keep pace with the pioneers as far north as Churchill. The field has witnessed tremendous development under his guidance in the past thirty years.

The foregoing is a brief account of the genesis of public school inspection up to the outbreak of World War I, 1914.

As Manitoba filled up, settlement spilled over into the vast Northwest Territories. The educational pattern there followed that of Manitoba. When Saskatchewan and Alberta were made provinces in 1905, many of the men who started in Manitoba found themselves leading in the educational field. D. J. Goggin, from our Normal School, had gone to Regina in territorial days to train teachers there, as did Inspector Rose of Brandon at a later date; J. A. Calder, who taught school in his youth near Portage la Prairie, was first Minister of Education in Saskatchewan; John C. Ross, who taught his first school at Cartier, south of Winnipeg, was Alberta’s Deputy Minister of Education from 1905 until 1935; J. A. McLeod, a rural teacher near Elkhorn in 1900, was first school inspector at Estevan; James Butchert, once principal of Virden School, was one of Alberta’s first inspectors; George Scott, once teacher at Wawanesa, was MLA for Arm River, Saskatchewan, in its early legislature; and Dr. J. T. M. Anderson, once Premier of Saskatchewan and Minister of Education, was a Manitoba boy who did his first teaching in our new Canadian settlements about 1908. Manitoba sent these young provinces politicians as well as educators.

The same pattern of school administration was followed for many years. Until larger units were established, the inspector bore the brunt of the load and broke the trail of organization which brought schools to the children of the pioneers. He wrote his name large in the life of the West, and his work should not be forgotten in the years to come.

Page revised: 12 January 2013

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