poetry and prose about place

one room school houses – hiding in the landscape

with 4 comments

Last Friday, we took a drive along the west side of Grand Lake, in the Youngs Cove area of Queens County, New Brunswick. We were searching for old one room school houses. As far as I know, there is no list for these buildings in Queens County, New Brunswick, although a list does exist for nearby Kings County.


I had seen one old school in the Whites Cove area, so we began there. This school was operated as a local craft store for a few years but is now a private cottage. The one room school is in good shape, painted bright red. The round plaque in the gable of the roof says 1837. The building had two front doors – one for boys and one for girls.


white's cove school house 5

Whites Cove school house


We then continued toward Chipman, taking old roads when possible. I know that in the late 1800s and early 1900s, each small community (each Parish) had its own school, so we watched for the tell-tale design of the one room school house – a small, rectangular, one-storey building with a steep-sloped roof and rather high side walls. Each school had two or three tall rectangular windows on each side and one or two front doors. Some New Brunswick schools had a small anteroom or vestibule on the front. The bell-tower common on school houses in the United States was not typical of one room schools in New Brunswick.


We followed the road along the shoreline of the peninsulas extending into Grand Lake. In particular, we were watching for the older homes that show what the community may have looked like a hundred years ago.


As we came over a hill, we first saw the Rees school house. It had some of the characteristics I describe above. However, I am new to one room school hunting, so I was not really certain this little building had once been a school. And then my husband pointed to the sign on the small road opposite the building – School House Lane. The school house was being used as a cottage and was in poor condition with broken windows and a crumbled brick chimney. But I was happy to see the original stone foundation, a straight roof line, a large flat stone as a threshold, original clapboard on the front of the building, and evidence of the original vestibule.


rees school 1

Rees school house


Thrilled by our discovery, we continued to the next community and followed a side road. Almost immediately, we saw the Cumberland Bay School, announced by a sign above the door. It was a typical school house design, built on a hill. There was a rock foundation (with some brick) and a straight roof. The building was in good shape with evidence of regular maintenance and use, perhaps as a hall. A cold wind was howling and I felt sorry for the kids who must have come to school in all kinds of bitter weather.


cumberland bay school 4

Cumberland Bay school house


After seeing three school houses, we felt like pros. We took the next road along the shore, toward Cox Point, and found a school house outside the community of Range. It was set back from the road, used in conjunction with a family cottage. The roof was straight, the side windows were intact  and the shingles were in good repair.


Range school 3

Range school house


I was delighted with our drive – we had discovered three school houses we did not know about! I also got a feel for some of the characteristics of these buildings and how they fit into the local landscape.


Old Schools in Youngs Cove area 2016

a map showing the old school houses we found … you can see a pattern emerging … I expect there were once school houses in some of the other communities indicated on the map


Why am I interested in this topic? My interests in landscape, the environment and history all come into play. I am also beginning to think about my next poetry project and have decided to explore the idea of school houses in the landscape.


To do this project, I will think about the setting of the school house in the community and how topography (hills and lakes and rivers), vegetation (fields and forests, orchards and big old swinging-trees) and other built landscape (bridges, churches, stores and farms) would have influenced the students, teachers and members of the community.  Visits to old schools, some talk with people who remember attending these old school houses and reading at the Provincial Archives would give me lots of material for my writing.


Do you have examples of old one room school houses in your area? Did you attend school in a one room school house? I would love to hear your stories!


Copyright 2016 Jane Tims

4 Responses

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  1. Very interesting read with a personal connection. We are the owners of the school on Range Wharf and I found this article while researching ideas on how to restore the building. One of my sisters owns the Reese school and yes it was a school. You can’t take the schoolhouse lane as an indicator however as I think my sister named the then nameless lane only a few years ago after she bought the school. I may stand corrected on that last bit as memory is rarely fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    Richard Hawker

    April 18, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    • Thank you so much for responding. I did a series of poems on the various schools we found and my poem about the Reese School will be the introduction to the book. The book will be published by Chapel Street Editions in Woodstock within the next two years. Interesting about the naming of the lane!


      jane tims

      April 20, 2020 at 4:15 pm

  2. I’m also fascinated by the old one room school houses. It’s fun to picture what they were like when they were filled with students. LIke New Brunswick, there are still old one-room school buildings scattered across the landscape in the area of Pennsylvania that I used to write about when my blog was focused on my grandmother’s diary.

    Liked by 1 person


    April 14, 2016 at 7:34 am

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