Big Bank Schoolhouse
The heritage value of these schoolhouses lies in the important role they played in the development of our communities. Interviews from some of the people who attended these schools have the same overtones. Each person recalled going to the schoolhouse for Spring and Christmas concerts where skits and pageants were put on by students, they were also sources of income for the schools, parents attending these functions often held bake sales or raffles during the events. Spring and summer concerts and picnics were also times for the community to gather and catch with their neighbours. It was also a chance for young people to meet and socialize, in the spring and summer these events were often accompanied by dances. Stories of long walks to and from schools, hauling water, filling coal stoves, and pranks aimed at getting a day off from class where things that went on in every one of the schoolhouses on our Island. Many of the teachers who came to the area stayed here and raised their families. It is good to see some of the original buildings still standing.
Extensive renovations have significantly altered the architectural appearance of this building.
One room schoolhouses were once very common on Boularderie Island. At one time 12 little schools dotted the landscape from Kempt Head to Point Aconi. Today only 4 of the schools exist in their original shape. The Kempt Head School, Munro (Ross Ferry School), the Big Bank Schoolhouse, and the Southside Schoolhouse maintain their original shapes we associate with a one-room schoolhouses. Other’s like the Millcreek School, which underwent various renovations and eventually ended up as the community centre in Millville. Or the Island Point School on Southside Boularderie, the original was torn down in 1955 and replaced by the existing structure found on the Fraser property. The first school on Boularderie Island was the Boularderie Academy which was run by Alexander and Catherine Munroe. Considered innovators of their time, they educated the children of Boularderie Island, and from other areas of Cape Breton. Courses in navigation, Latin, mathematics, grammar and geography were taught to students at the Academy. The school consisted of several small buildings for classes, as well as huts that provided accommodations for the students who traveled to attend the Academy. Started in 1823, the school educated some of the best navigators of the time. Mrs. Munro taught life skills, along with the rest of the curriculum to the girls that attended the school. She owned the only pair of scissors on the Island at the time; women would come from all over Boularderie Island to make use of her scissors. In return the women would sew and knit clothing for the children of the school. All of the buildings, including the original Munro house burnt in 1846. The population of the Island was growing, and the need for local school houses arose. When the Academy burnt there were already one room school houses were being constructed in the area, with the first schoolhouse constructed at in Millville in 1840. The Kempt Head School was built in 1905 at the corner of the Matheson and Kempt Head Rd. It replaced a schoolhouse located further up the road. This building is still in its original location, but the windows and doors have been replaced and the direction of the building has been changed. Tena Morrison a teacher at the school from 1955-1961, used to cross from Big Harbour to Ross Ferry and the 6km to the schoolhouse. In the winter she crossed the ice from Big Harbour to Ross Ferry, shortening the walk. The Millville school was first built in 1840. Located on what is known as the backlands on the Millpond Road. It had 40 students the first year it was open. Another building was built around 1882, replacing the older building. On January 1st, 1954 the St. David’s Hall on the Millpond road was moved to the location of the school to accommodate the growing number of students. This was the last school to close in 1977. At its peek in the early 60’s the school had over 50 students and 3 teachers. The school has since taken on the role of the Millville Community Centre. The “Big Bank Schoolhouse” was built in 1867 and closed in 1966. Located on the Southside of Boularderie Island, this little schoolhouse is now a private residence. The Munro Schoolhouse, which is located at the end of the Church Road in Ross Ferry, was built circa 1867. It too closed its doors in 1966. It was a small school, averaging 12-15 students a year. Other schoolhouses, like the Island Point Schoolhouse are not considered old buildings but are equally important in our Island’s history. The current Island Point schoolhouse was built in 1955. It replaced the older building which was built in and around the same time as the other schoolhouses on the Island (1867).
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