CROOK SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 520

Documents recently received fro, two families, now preserved in the Archives of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, tell new tales previously hidden about the Crook School.

CROOK SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 520

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

Intriguing chronicles encapsulating the pioneer stories of the Crook School District No. 520 have been recorded in “Unfolding The Pages” and elsewhere, thanks to the efforts of the Crook and Schoening Families. Yet recently received old documents from these two families, now preserved in the Archives of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, tell new tales previously hidden away. In this instance, this truly is a case of “if the pages could talk”.

Historical highlights primarily are from the 1904 to 1906 time period, some four years after the Crook School (SW ¼, Tp 5, R 29, W4) noted its first enrollment of rural students.

EARLY TERRITORIAL AND PROVINCIAL GRANTS

Country schools received from their territorial or provincial Department of Education operating grants that were based upon local school district land assessments, student attendance, and the number of days lessons were taught. One of the grants received by the Crook School, issued by the Department of Education of the old Northwest Territories Government, was dated March 15th, 1904. That year 10,240 acres of land were assessed. A total of $88.80, based upon eighty days of school classes at a daily rate of one dollar and eleven cents, was issued to the local school board. An additional 29 school days received total funding of $11.60.

A Northwest Territories cheque issued some five and a half months later in late August amounted to $128.62, based upon 118 days ($1.09 was the daily fee) that the Crook School had been open since the previous reporting period. In early January, 1905 the operating grant totaled $97.93 based on a similar formula. The last two cheques of the Northwest Territories Department of Education, dated August 1905, totaled $99.96.

Records show that similar payments were in the works after the Province of Alberta was created on September 1st, 1905. One cheque, issued in April 1906, paid the Crook School $29.44. A second, based upon calculations up to the final week of July 1906, showed that the school had been open for 67 days with a grant payment of $69.68.

TEACHERS’ WAGES

There were two Crook School teachers during this 1904 – 1906 era, the first being Miss L. Watson. Her tenure was during the spring of 1904. Her teaching salary to April of that year amounted to one hundred and thirty-five dollars. A second cheque, issued in July 1904, totaled $175. Her brother was Jim Watson, a slight fellow who the following year was a member of the Pincher Creek Citizens’ Band.

The following teacher was Miss Myrtle R. Hind, who received a total of 212 dollars for her teaching services up to the end of the 1904/05 school year. She resigned her position over the summer and her next teaching appointment appears to have been at Quill Lake, Saskatchewan.

COUNTRY SCHOOL CONDUCTED LOCAL BUSINESS

The banking of the Crook School District was handled through the Pincher Creek Branch of the Union Bank of Canada. This national financial institution originated in Quebec City in 1865, but its headquarters moved west to Winnipeg in 1912.

The local branch owes its origins to Pincher Creek entrepreneur Henry Hyde (1860 – 1933), who in 1889 established his own private financial services. By 1898 the business was acquired by the Union Bank, and in 1904 the local branch moved into its impressive sandstone two-story building just constructed at the corner of Main Street and East Avenue. The script on its old cancelled cheques bespeaks of an older time.

Financial records of the Crook School District indicate that much of its business was conducted locally. Cheques to cover education and building supplies were made payable to area places of commerce included Timothee Lebel and Co., E. J. Mitchell, Druggist, the Hudson’s Bay Co. (whose store was located on Main Street, east of the Scott Block), and Schofield and Co., whose company stores were in Pincher Creek, Cowley, Cranbrook and Fort Macleod during the early 1900s.

Two cheques totaling $234.65 also were issued to Albert M. Morden, one of the Pincher Creek oldtimers. These may have been payment for yard and repair work done at the School, particularly as Morden was adept in working with horses. Two smaller cheques also were issued to Fred Sorge for school repairs.