PINCHER CITY SCHOOL No. 1725

At what we now call "Pincher Station", a one-room school optimistically served a thriving commercial centre.

PINCHER CITY SCHOOL No. 1725

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

The rural school system was the educational life line of most country districts during the early history of the Pincher Creek area. Within the walls of these more than forty-odd one room country schools the local youngsters eagerly received their schooling in the ‘Three ‘Rs’. Such was the case with the Pincher City School District No. 1725.

PIONEER STUDENTS TOOK CLASSES IN A “RUSTIC” SCHOOL BUILDING

Although ranching had flourished earlier, Pincher City, as it was known during the pioneer era, formally came into existence as a result of the Crowsnest Line of the CPR and its system of railway sidings. Always enthusiastic in promoting its own real estate developments, this railway giant had not only a siding but a station and depot constructed just two miles north of Pincher Creek in an interesting attempt to promote a settlement at this more northerly point. For many decades it flourished as a thriving marketing and commercial centre within an agricultural context. Its name of Pincher City promoted that optimism.

The Pincher City School District No. 1725 was established with its elected board shortly after the railway was constructed in 1897-98. It was located in the midst of the Pincher City settlement and served students within the Village as well as the surrounding ranching area, mostly to the north and west. Student surnames which were recorded in the school registers included members of the Higginbotham, Boag, Cook, Robbins, Marwood, Semenoff and McKenzie families.

Archival photos tell us that the Pincher City School building was a rectangular frame building, of a standard size to allow for a student enrolment of up to 30 students in Grades One through Eight. Although there was no porch added onto the entrance of the school, the structure proudly displayed a freshly painted sign proclaiming its existence “Pincher City S.D. 1725”.

Two rectangular windows, one on each side of the entrance, adorned the front of the school, and four similar windows down each side. At the rear corner of the building was a porch in which the students’ coats and boots were stored during inclement weather. Further to the rear, in separate frame buildings were the outhouses, and a small barn where the horses rode by the students were stabled.

SCHOOL TEACHERS AND TRUSTEES

A few of the Pincher City school teachers included Dorothea Cox, who was on staff in 1916. Her father was Arthur Edgar Cox, who from 1884 to 1891 had been the first teacher in Pincher Creek. Phyllis Robbins, a daughter of Cowley area ranchers George E and Nora May Porter, taught at the school twice – first for two terms in the late 1930s and again for one term a decade later. Olive Girard, whose parents Edward and Bessie Sinnott were nearby ranchers, taught here during the midst of the Second World War, for a few years starting in 1942.

For many years during the pioneer era teachers were boarded at Fred and Margaret (McGlynn) Robbins’ residence. In addition to a nearby farm the Robbins Family also operated a livery stable at Pincher City. A comfortable room plus two meals and a noon-time lunch packed away in a traditional old-time bucket was given the teacher for a monthly cost of twenty-five dollars. These memories were fondly recalled by their daughter-in-law Adeline Robbins.

Members of the Pincher City School Board included a W. P. Neilson who served as the Secretary-Treasurer during the early 1930s. The Neilsons were a long-time pioneer family in Pincher City. One of the clan, Percy Neilson, operated the Post Office in the community for a number of years.

When W. P. Neilson was on the school board, he arranged for sittings of the board for any ratepayer who was dissatisfied with the assessment of their school taxes. Such sittings usually were held in the spring, either on a Saturday or, if during the week, later in the afternoon when classes had finished for the day. The school house itself was used to host such events. Assessment notices showed the rate of school taxes as being calculated on the amount of property a ratepayer owned.

Declining student enrolment during the years following the Second World War, primarily due to improved bussing, forced the closure of the Pincher City School. This was a common trend across most rural communities across the Canadian Prairies. Students from the area then took their classes in nearby Pincher Creek.