DeMill (1871 – 1920)

The students were required to spend a given time out of doors each day. Two days in the week, long walks were taken in company with a teacher. Instruction on calisthenics was given semi-weekly throughout the year. The suits worn for this were of navy blue flannel made with a blouse and short full skirt, trimmed with white braid.

There was a reading room provided and students had access to good books and daily papers. Also they had a literary society and the programmes were of the highest order.

Scholars were requested to bring with them, to the college, their own towels, table napkins and ring, one pillow and pillow cases, one pair of sheets and bed covers suitable for the season. They also had to bring a knife, a fork and a spoon, all these articles was to be marked with the owner’s name. They must provide themselves with clothing suitable for the season and were requested to wear inexpensive, neat and plain clothing. More thought was to be given to schoolwork than to dress.

The rooms were provided with all the necessary furniture, but students would do well to bring with them, a carpet and any other articles which would make their rooms more attractive and homelike.

No day scholars were allowed to attend the college. Day scholars might keep late hours at home and hence, not be able to keep up with their studies the next day. They would bring in with them the current town or city gossip. The students were not allowed to have visitors or correspond with anyone, only those authorized by the parents. They were allowed to do necessary shopping every four weeks, accompanied by a teacher. They were forbidden to leave the grounds at anytime, alone. Frequent lectures were given in the school on the subject of good manners.

By the year 1877/1878, sixty more acres of land had been bought; this included an orchard and also enabled them to keep a dairy herd. Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables would then be available. The cost of the land in connection with the college was $7450 and with buildings and furnishing etc. The total expenditure was $50 000. There were some hints given out that the fees might have to be raised.

Things at the college went along on an even keel for a number of years. Hundreds of girls from small towns and farms received a useful education. In the more remote parts they would not have had the same opportunity. Mr. DeMill referred to the institution as the “College” and the teachers as the “faculty.” The management of course was Mr. DeMill. Meetings of the Faculty took place in the assembly hall with the Faculty seated on the stage and the students filling the auditorium. They were addressed most eloquently by the management, DeMill.

However, as time went on it was realized that the source of revenue was beginning to dry up. A new batch of Scholarships were issued and Mr. DeMill drove long distances with a horse and buggy trying to sell them, but was not always successful. The farmers were not as prosperous as they had been. They had met with some reverses and hence were not so interested in their daughters’ improvement. Mr. DeMill could not ask the citizens of Oshawa for any more private donations, they had already done their “bit.” He managed to gain enough though, on his trips, to barely keep the place going but it was getting harder all the time. When the college was being erected, people were so eager to send their daughters to it, that they bought scholarships for them before they were old enough to attend. These scholarships were held in trust by the parents for the girls until they had reached the required age. What a change in the attitude of the public in so few years.

The solution to the problem came from an unexpected source. On the night of April 6th, 1896, the place was burned to the ground. A few people living now can remember it. It was a most spectacular blaze and could be seen for miles. There was a high wind blowing as well and the immediate neighbours had all they could do to keep their buildings from sharing the same fate. The Oshawa fire equipment, at that time, was very inadequate and the firemen, if they were there at all, were helpless.

Mr. DeMill had neglected fire insurance (so it was reported) and consequently all was a total loss. On the whole, his entire experiment in the establishment of the College was quite an undertaking. A brave one indeed, for a man who had no money with which to start it and no backing by any company. Only a person who had plenty of self-assurance and a large amount of ego could carry on such a project as long as he did. The college was never re-built.

The following is the story of a happening which took place at a concert in the college. “Some mischievous urchins slipped a noose over a gentleman’s head, he, not perceiving that such was done, and just as eight young ladies were on the eve of starting the four piano quartet, the noose was tightened, and the man in danger of strangulation, cried out at the top of his voice “hold on.” He meant the boys of course but the ladies thought the shout was directed to them. An explanation settled the matter in a minute or two and the quartet was executed.”


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