The Trustees

Let us consider now a meeting held to elect the school trustees for the year 1858. Prior to the date January 13th some paragraphs appeared in the “Vindicator” urging people to attend the election. There seemed to have been a lack of interest in education by many in the community. The school trustees did not even come to their own meetings. No one thought the elections of much importance. Nine-tenths of the people never heard of them when they were held or even who the trustees were.

According to the “Vindicator” the following are the kind of people who should hold the position. School trustees should be men who take deep interest in the education of youth, men prominent for promotion of intelligence and morality. Schools are made by trustees for they select the teachers. Lawyers and kindred spirits make doubtful councilmen and I can assure you they make the most careless and indifferent trustees imaginable. Come to the court house for the election.” The remark about the lawyer no doubt was a swipe at T.N Gibbs who was lawyer[1]. He was also on the council. The trustees were elected for three years and for 1857 they had been as follows:

Dr. William McGill – was chairman of the board at the time and continued as trustee for many years. He was the target for plenty of stars. There is an old saying that – “it is only the best apple trees that have the most sticks thrown at them.” Perhaps this was so in his case. He was later on M.P.P for South Ontario.

Dr. West – a doctor in the village

Thomas N. Gibbs – a lawyer. He too was a trustee for a good many years. He was interested in village affairs as was Dr. McGill and a lot of work and planning fell on those two. Gibbs was M.P. for South Ontario later on.

John Ritson[1] – his term of office had expired.

Lockhart – who was leaving town – someone had to be elected to fill out his term.

Ed Dunn – whose term had expired, he was the Treasurer.

When the big day arrived about twenty people were present, not many to be sure for the size of the place, but it was taken for a sign that perhaps more interest was being shown. The school trustees were not wholly guiltless of indifference. For a number of years they too had treated the annual meeting as a matter of trifling concern. This larger meeting was honoured by only one trustee. Dr. McGill the chairman, Dr. West came in later. The others were all absent. As soon as things got under way a wrangle started over business procedure. The school act had to be found[1]. Dr. McGill was reminded that a man of his education should have been able to interpret the law and had everything in readiness. It also came up at the meeting that much of the school property, bought in 1854, had disappeared. Of the maps, globes, charts and chemical apparatus costing $250, scarce a fragment remains.” A library of 600 books costing $400 was in deplorable condition and many had been lost. A committee was appointed to try and set the library to “rights” “No doubt all of it had been destroyed through all management of former teachers,” said Dr. McGill. He was quickly reminded that it was the duty of school trustees to look after the property. Finally they got down to the election!

Jonathan Dickey Sr. – re-elected for 3 years

G.H. Grierson – to fill out Lockhart’s term with Dr. McGill and T.N. Gibbs there were the trustees lined up for the future combat.

A motion was made that school trustees should be paid for their time spent. This was defeated but some thought it showed that a few present were ready to give public men remuneration for valuable service. So it was in 1858.

The following is the list of school trustees for the year 1868. No doubt many of them were on the board in 1867.

Dr. William McGill – Chairman

S.B. Fairbanks – Lawyer

W.H. Gibbs – Miller

W.D. Michael

J. Carmichael

Henderson – Lawyer

J. Boyle


J.E. Farewell – Lawyer

G. Hodder – Dry Goods Merchant

D.F. Burk

E. Miall (not all the names were available)

The trustees were as yet not being paid.  The regulations regarding trustees were changing at this period. Up to that time, eleven trustees had been elected, five for the common school and six for the grammar school. Now they were thirteen in number. One was appointed by the village council to act as trustee for the grammar school on January 21st, 1867. This was George Hodder. The county appointed another. The occasional remark was noticed about there being too many trustees, “It was making for too much disputing over business.”

[1] Common School Act of 1850 perhaps?

[1] Olive French contradicts herself, in an earlier or secondary draft of the manuscript; she substitutes Silas Fairbanks for T.N. Gibbs. “That remark about the lawyer was no doubt a swipe at Silas Fairbanks who was a lawyer and on the council at the time. Another drawback to having a lawyer as one of the trustees was that he would not always see eye to eye with the others about the interpretation of the school laws. However, Mr. Fairbanks was elected at a later date and served on the School Board for a number of years.

[2] Ritson arrived in Oshawa in 1820. He was the first teacher at the school house his father in law, Benjamin Stone, had built. John was superintendent of the first Sunday school in Oshawa, in 1835. John was very interested in music, and was director of the first Methodist Choir, as well as leader of the Village Band. He also had interests in agriculture, being the owner of a farm himself. In 1853 he became the first vice president of the County of Ontario Agricultural Society, and he was involved with events such as township fairs. John Ritson died in 1862, at the age of 72. He is buried at Pioneer Cemetery on Bond Street.

[3] Common School Act of 1850 perhaps?


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