Lynn Valley’s First School: A Difficult Start
Editor’s Note: This year, marks the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the Community History Centre, now home to the Archives and NVMA administration offices. Initially opening in 1921 as a school, in 2006 it was repurposed to house the NVMA administration offices and the Archives. Over the years, Lynn Valley has had five schools; the Community History Centre building was the fourth. Below is an article chronicling the story of Lynn Valley’s first school which is quite a contrast to our modern Lynn Valley Elementary School.
In 1902-1903 Lynn Valley was mostly forest, loggers, and a mill. There were no streets — only a wooden tote road (also called a “skid road”) used to carry logs from the Hastings Shingle & Manufacturing Company (by Mill Street) down to Moodyville. Sawmill workers and their families lived not far from the mill, near the tote road which served as their “main street.” By 1903 there were several school-age children, but no school. So in Fall 1903, it was decided to build one. The sum of $250 was raised for its construction.
It was to be located in the block between today’s Institute Road and Church Street. Nowadays this block is filled with private homes, a flowing stream, St. Clement’s Church, and tennis courts. But in 1903 there was just the stream, the tote road, and two or three houses. Land-clearing began that Fall. And in Spring 1904, the school was completed and a shipment of school-desks arrived in Moodyville.
The school playground was across the stream, accessed by a bridge. A major mover in the school’s creation was School Trustee James Spurr. A Lynn Valley blacksmith, he and his family had a house on the tote road, close to the school. He hired the school’s first teacher, Margaret Whiteley, whose starting salary was $40 per month. Margaret became a lodger in the Spurr house and opened the school on May 20, 1904.
Unfortunately there were challenges. Parents could only get school supplies in Vancouver. It required a walk or “sled-ride” down four miles of tote road to Moodyville, a ferry-ride across the Inlet, a walk to the store, back across the Inlet and up the tote road at night. Then there was the problem of fluctuating school attendance. It varied from a high of 18 pupils to a low of seven or fewer. One reason was that 14-year-old boys were allowed to quit classes and get jobs in Spring through Fall. Many did so to increase their family’s income. Even in Winter the turnout varied. The result was a very frustrated teacher. In fact, Margaret Whiteley got so fed-up she quit in 1906, after two years. Then, that September, the school closed due to lack of pupils. It re-opened in March 1907, but the new teacher soon quit. The next teacher also found the job unworkable.
by Sharon Proctor
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.