Rawdon's First Schools

In Municipalities settled under the English regime, schools did not revolve around a single religion or a single language, but rather on the diversity of origins of the families settled in the various townships. The earliest families were American, Irish, English, Scots, French-Canadian, of Catholic or Protestant religion. At that time, the main method of travel was walking most roads were very difficult, strewn with roots and rocks, etc., or simply non-existent, making it impossible for children to travel more than 3 miles to school. Thus, range schools were scattered throughout the Rawdon Township. Prior to schools being built, instruction for the children was either by the parents, or in improvised classrooms in private houses. It was a challenge to accommodate the few children of the neighbourhood with limited financial resources, low remuneration of the teachers, and little school material. The small agricultural community in the Township of Rawdon struggled to offer quality education.

Background

The Township of Rawdon was created in 1799. The government encouraged education of all children (English, French, Protestant, Catholic) between the ages of 7 and 14 to attend school. As early as 1801, the Royal Institution Act for the Establishment of Free Schools and the Advancement of Education was established. 

 In the 1825 census, there were only 9 French-speaking families in the territory of Rawdon, it would be by virtue of a second legislation "Écoles de Fabrique" allowing French-speaking Catholics to establish schools and to obtain governmental subsidies that the first French-speaking school opened its doors in 1838. This was a great relief for the clergy who feared the danger of total anglicization and the loss of the Catholic faith for the children who were then attending English Protestant schools. The participation of the clergy in education, as was the rule under the French regime, allowed for a significant expansion in the world of education throughout Quebec?

It was only after the Act of Union in 1840 that the responsibility for schools was entrusted to commissioners with the implementation of a taxation system. This was followed in 1863 by the creation of two distinct educational sectors: Catholic and Protestant. In these early days of colonization, the commissioners faced many challenges, not the least of which was the difficulty in recruiting qualified teachers due to the political situation at the beginning of the 19th century and student absenteeism. Early settlers were not wealthy and it was necessary for children to work on the farm. It was more important to hold an axe than to hold a book! Need of extra arms to work the land was seen as essential by the families.   

Catholic and Protestant Schools

Further precision on the first places of the Catholic education is unavailable as all documents and minutes of the school organization of the School Commissioners of the Parish of St-Patrick of Rawdon disappeared in a fire at the secretary-treasurer's house in October 1891. We know that this period was one of progress and rapid population growth.  

The first place of education recorded in the Township was a classroom assumed to be in the house of Philémon Dugas (an American Acadian) located in the 1st range. This class had 12 to 14 students from the area. Most of them, refugees from the War of 1812, had settled on the eastern edge of the first ranges.

The first school, a combination school and church, was built at the junction of the Red and White Rivers in the Second Range. Missionary Burton had about 30 children attending school in 1826. Mr. James Walker was the first teacher. This school/church combination is referred to as the school at the Forks. This school was used until 1880 when it was sold to a farmer. In the book "Up to Rawdon" by Daniel Parkinson, there is an interesting and detailed description of this place of education and worship.

In his book, Sous le clocher de Saint-Liguori,Jean Gagnon writes on page 124: In 1858, with the annexation of part of the Rawdon Township to St-Liguori ... one school was recognized as a French school compared to another which was built at the same time at a place called Les Fourches and which was recognized as the English school at the corner of Labrèche and Nadeau Roads.

Marcel Fournier in his book Rawdon : 175 ans d'histoire reports in a document from the surveyor Joseph Bouchette which informs us about Rawdon in 1832. The latter knew it well, having described it in 1815, surveyed it in 1821 and counted it in 1825. He mentions that there has been a public school in the Village for a few years...

Range Schools and Village Schools

There were range schools and village schools. Today the ambiguity in designating these schools comes from the fact that the schools in the village changed their numbering after the two Catholic schools in the village ceased to be designated as school # 1 and school # 2 but rather as Saint-Louis School (boys' school) opened in 1866 and Sainte-Anne Convent (girls' school) opened in 1865.

In the book, Les écoles de rang de Rawdon by the Brother of the Clerics of Saint-Viateur, Alban Beaudry, it is mentioned that in 1895, the range schools were in Kildare (Canadian Holy Martyrs), at the Forks of the Red and Chalk rivers on the 2ndth range, Beaulac (farm house converted into a school), on Lake Morgan Road, also called the Prud'homme school (corner Morgan and Parkinson). There was also a Protestant school at the corner of Morgan Road and Belair Road which was also attended by Catholics. In the 1940's, the school at Misaël Neveu's also called Sainte-Thérèse school located on Saint-Alphonse Road was added and closed its doors in 1952. Current residence of Steven Neveu, the great-grandson of Misaël Neveu.

In the village, an English Protestant school was built in 1840 at the corner of 3rdth Avenue and Metcalfe to replace a room in a private house on Queen Street that had been used as a classroom.

This review of the history of the first schools is a duty to remember the valour and perseverance of our ancestors, the teachers and the authorities who offered the first inhabitants of Rawdon access to instruction in their language and religion.