The Colpoy's Bay Schoolhouse

The first school sessions in Colpoy's Bay that took place in 1863 in the log building that was located to the northeast of where the United Church stood until 2007. This building served as the village's joint community hall-church-school. Fifteen years later, classes were moved to the village's one and only purpose-built schoolhouse.

Known as School Section #1 (of Albemarle Township), the Colpoy's Bay school was a classic one-room schoolhouse in every sense of the word. It was long, narrow and symmetrical in design, painted red with white trim, flanked with windows down each side, two doors at the front (one for boys and the other for girls, even though they entered directly into the same large room on the inside) and featured a small bell tower. This small school with its creaky desks, draughty windows and pot-bellied stove likely educated at least four generations of my family, from John Wood's younger children to my Mother. Figure 12A shows a typical class photo from 1939, including my grand-Aunt Marjorie (third girl from the left in the back row).

Figure 12A:  Class of Colpoy's Bay Public School (c. 1939)

Aside from an enlargemnt in 1899, the school changed little over the years. It saw fluctuations in enrollment usually in the 40 to 60 child range and the addition of such ammenities as a bookcase (built by my great-grandfather Edwin Kalbfleisch in 1907), slate blackboards (1918), chemical toilets (1934, later upgraded to flush toilets in 1959), enlarged windows (likely in the mid-1930s) and electric lights (1939). Despite these changes, the school remained an intimate setting with eight grades and one teacher.

The final graduating class of Colpoy's Bay Public School was 1967, after which elementary school students attended classes in Wiarton. That same year, the schoolhouse was purchased by the Association for the Mentally Retarded, an organization that had been operating in Wiarton since January of 1964. Renamed "Gateway School", it served this purpose until 1984, when its students were transferred to the school in nearby Hepworth. This would be the last class of students ever taught at Colpoy's Bay school. This small structure had furnished the education of the village's children for a total of 106 years. When it was built, horses and buggies rumbled by on the muddy road. Most of the landmarks of Colpoy's Bay, such as the Whicher Store, Whicher's Mill, the Kalbfleisch House, Hughenden, the Women's Institute Community Hall, even the government wharf had not yet been constructed. When it closed, cars whizzed by it on paved roads, Whicher's Store had been closed 14 years, Whicher's Mill had burned down thirty years prior and the world was on the verge of the personal computer technological revolution.

Thankfully, the Colpoy's Bay schoolhouse was not torn down as were those in many small towns throughout Canada. The building exists to this day as a private residence. Although the building now features siding of stained wood, modern windows and skylights, an adjoining patio deck, and is doubtlessly separated into more than one room, the building's past as the village school can still be seen in the overall shape of the structure. Figure 12B shows four images of the school throughout the years.

Figure 12B:  The Colpoy's Bay Schoolhouse (c. 1939, 1980, 2006, 2023)

The top image of Figure 12B gives a classic 1939 view of the schoolhouse as it looked throughout much of its long life as a Albemarle Townships Section School #1. The middle image of Figure 12B shows the schoolhouse in its second guise, as the Gateway School for the mentally retarded. Note the new white siding, the combined single front entrance, and the new back door. Finally, the bottom two images of Figure 12B show the schoolhouse as a residence in 2006 and 2023, respectively. Despite its new purpose, it still looks like a schoolhouse, complete with its bell-tower. As shown below in Figure 12C, the flagstone sidewalk that replaced the old plank sidewalk in 1930 still remains today, tracing the steps that the children of Colpoy's Bay walked for over a century.

Figure 12C:  The Colpoy's Bay Schoolhouse with original flagstone walkway (2023)

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Postcards From the Bay was launched April 14, 2000


Copyright 2000 - Christopher R. Graham