CHIPMAN CREEK SCHOOL No. 864

The early history of the Chipman Creek School District certainly faced a variety of pioneer educational issues as had its other rural neighbours.

CHIPMAN CREEK SCHOOL No. 864

by Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society

The Chipman Creek School District Number 864, situated just east of the ranching settlement of Pincher Creek, (NW¼, S25, T5, R29, W4) had a pioneer history that bespeaks of the western Canadian frontier. That history tells of the local struggles to educate the district’s students.

SCHOOL ESTABLISHMENT AND EARLY RATEPAYERS

The School District was established in June 1903. The school itself was located four miles south east of Pincher Creek, although geographically the district covered a large area that included the ranching areas directly to the east of town. The clapboard school was accompanied by a stable, also a school structure, where the horses that the children rode to school were housed while the youngsters attended classes. Formal education at Chipman Creek continued for nearly four decades. The school was closed during the Second World War and its students were sent into Pincher Creek for their studies. The close proximity of Chipman Creek to the town schools met that it was one of the first country schools in this area to be closed due to consolidation.

The early school account books held in the Archives of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village richly illustrate that frontier school history. Ledgers indicate that as of the summer of 1904, there were thirty ranching & farming families who were ratepayers within the Chipman Creek School District, truly making it an agricultural community. These documents truly read like a who’s who of area pioneers–including many French-Canadian settlers: surnames such as Berry, Therriault, Cyr, Belliveau, Boyes, Marcellus, Dionne, & LeGrandeur race across the dusty and yellow pages. School taxes from local families ranged from three to 68 dollars that year, and came to a total of $440.35 worth of revenue for the district.

ALLOCATION OF PROVINCIAL GRANTS

Additional revenues included a Government of Alberta school grant to be used for the first school term and amounting to $141.45, which came in on December 8th 1904. Further provincial grants, cashed on March 15th and September 1st 1905 (the latter being the date that Alberta was created a province) amounted to another $262.65 in the school’s bank account. These grants arrived on regular intervals of every six months or so, and were to be used at the School Board’s discretion. The District also received regular “Inspector’s Grants” that were based upon school enrolment, usually amounting to 15 or 20 dollars.
The only grant with strings attached was a smaller allotment of $14.70, received on August 2nd 1907, which was specifically allotted to library expenses within the school. A dance held at the school the previous April realized five dollars in rent. Rural schools were much more than local education centres, and were used for a variety of community functions. The Chipman Creek School was no exception.

EXPENDITURES DOMINATED BY TEACHERS’ SALARIES AND THE BURNING OF COAL

On the expenditure side of the monetary equation, the Board’s spending kept the school functioning in order that the local students were educated in the “Three ‘Rs”. The teacher’s salary was paid irregularly as monies permitted. On July 9th 1904, a cheque was cut in the amount of $62.50 presumably for some of the teacher’s salary the previous term.

A second cheque issued on September 12th amounted to $30.00, and a third prepared at the end of October totalled fifty dollars. Perhaps the first teacher at Chipman Creek was Emma Boyes, who appears to have taught here during the 1903/04 school year. She was the daughter of James D. and Mary C. Boyes who homesteaded in the district from 1903 to 1917. Later, Emma married Charles Lynch-Staunton and became well known as a local historian.

Further expenditures included 500 dollars to Pincher Creek businessman Henry Hyde for the construction of the school itself. In March 1904 he received an additional $75 for the construction of the stable on the school grounds.

During the 1904 calendar year the Board also paid $40.65 for the purchase and transportation of coal to the school. Providing coal to rural schools was an ongoing issue for their respective boards as coal was the most efficient way of heating these educational structures during the pioneer era. No indication is given in this old ledger as to which coal mine from which the fuel was purchased but for many years it may have been the Christie Coal Mine near Beauvais Lake. It serviced many of the fuel requirements in the Pincher Creek area up to its closure in 1943. There was a smaller coal mine which operated briefly in the Chipman Creek District during the First World War era and some coal for the school may have been purchased there as well.