poetry and prose about place

old schools in the landscape

with 4 comments

In my last few posts, I have focussed on my research toward a new poetry project I will be beginning. I know there are interesting stories to be told about the ‘inside’ of the one room school. Because of my interests in botany and community history, I would like to reflect on the ‘outside’ of the one room school – its surroundings and geographic location.


I still have to do some thinking about this project. I know that people who attended one room schools will have stories to tell about how the local terrain and landscape influenced their schooling.


A school’s surroundings would have impacted learning in many ways. For example, the view of a lake from the school window may have caused many a pupil to settle into daydreams.  Interesting fields, hills, and watercourses would provide the teacher with opportunities for nature study.


The location of the school would also influence recess and lunch-time activities. My Dad wrote about damming a local stream so they could skate in the winter months. The same stream meant fishing in May and June. A nearby hillside would be great for sledding in January and February. Trees in the school yard?  – A place to climb or to hang a swing.


'willow swing'


Students walked to school before the 1950s. The study I made of schools in Upham Parish, New Brunswick suggests that students walked as many as three miles to school in the late 1800s. Hills made the long walk to school more difficult. The winds by a lake or other shore land would be bitter on a winter day. Rivers, lakes and wetlands meant a place to hunt tadpoles. A spring by the road? – A cool drink. My Uncle, forced to wear a hat/scarf he hated, used the bridge on the way to school as a place to hide his headgear!


One room schools were located near clusters of houses and various community activities. The walk to school may have passed a church, a post office or a community store. Hardwood forests meant lumber mills and, in spring, maple syrup and the sugar shack. Good land meant farms; grazing land meant cows to outstare.


On a drive last weekend, we found an older building along the Saint John River that may have been a school. The Upper Queensbury Community Hall has all the characteristics of a one room school – the steep roof, rectangular footprint, and tall side windows.


Upper Queensbury Community Hall 1

Upper Queensbury Community Hall near Nackawic, New Brunswick. I will have to make some inquiries to find out if it was a school house at one time.


A look at a map shows some of the landscape features in the area.



Map showing landscape features of part of Queensbury Parish, near Nackawic, New Brunswick. The yellow dot is the location of the Upper Queensbury Community Hall which may have been a one room school.


The Saint John River was nearby, although further than it is today since the Mactaquac Dam (built in 1968) has raised the level of the water. The river’s possibilities for fishing, skating and boating were only a downhill trek away. The terrain is gently undulating, as the names of nearby communities (Day Hill and Granite Hill) suggest. Local geographic points the community children may have known include the many-tiered Coac Falls and Coac Lake (an old road runs past the community hall back through the woods to the lake, about a mile away). The aerial photo (taken near the end of September) shows the red of the cranberry bog – picking cranberries may have been a well-known activity. Sugar maples are common in the area, as are old ‘sugar shacks’. When I interview people who went to the one room school I will have to remember to ask them about their memories of these places.


Writing poetry about these ideas will be so much fun!



Copyright  2016  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 9, 2016 at 7:11 am

4 Responses

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  1. Love your projects, Jane. Best wishes with this one and I will be watching to see how it progresses.

    Liked by 1 person


    May 9, 2016 at 8:51 am

    • Once I get started writing the poems, I will be trying them out on you and the rest of the Friends! Thanks!


      jane tims

      May 9, 2016 at 10:42 am

  2. Really interesting series. Enjoying all of it.

    Liked by 1 person


    May 9, 2016 at 8:03 am

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