At a public meeting held in the village in 1847, a decision was made to purchase two acres of land on present- day Main Street South at a cost of £300 for the erection of a new stone school house. Within two years, the Waterdown common school had been built.
During the next decade, few references to schooling have been found, but it appears at least one addition was made to it to accommodate the growing population of the village. Schooling for the majority of children at that time typically continued until age 12 or 14. Boys left to work on their parents farm or business and girls became domestic servants, with their own family or in the household of a neighbour. Higher education was for a fortunate few whose parents could afford the cost of the education as well as the boarding fees.
By 1857, a second school was established in the village and the boards of the Common School and the Grammar School were united as The Joint Board of the Grammar and Common School Trustees of the Waterdown County Grammar School. Dollars replaced pounds sterling in bookkeeping records and a medical inspection of all pupils was initiated.
The name Grammar School, given to the part of the building housing classrooms for the private school’s older students, was changed in 1873 to Waterdown High School and school fees were eliminated. During the year, the school had the honour of being the first site chosen for written entrance examinations to be set for students to enter high school in the province of Ontario.
On December 26, 1873, the Hamilton Spectator published a letter to the editor:
The Waterdown High School, under the direction of Mr. Hunter, gave its last examination for the year on Tuesday last, at which the scholars acquitted themselves with great credit both to themselves and their teacher, who is truly a thorough working teacher. Only a short time ago, Mr. Hunter took the responsible position of head mastership of the Waterdown High School; it is now in a very flourishing position and although the average attendance has been as low as twenty-four pupils, this year there was a handsome increase of nearly 50 per cent, the average being upwards of 45, which shows that Mr. H. has spared no pains in bringing the school up to as high a position as was in his power and long may he continue to labor with the people of Waterdown.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at email@example.com.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 16 June 2011.