The Evolution of Schools 1830s

One room schoolhouse
Construction: hewn logs 
Built: by George Bolton
Pupils: about 20
Seating: rough benches
Time span: 1830 to 1840
Marked A on site map below

Earliest School  circa 1830

  • Bolton’s first school was built around 1830.  Constructed from logs, the schoolhouse had a hole cut in the ceiling which allowed smoke to escape from the woodstove
  • It was located just north of the Humber River along what is now Humber Lea Road on land provided by mill owner George Bolton
  • The teacher was Mr. O’Connor and students came both from nearby farms and from the few families in Bolton Mills as the settlement was being called.  It is unknown how long Mr. O’Connor remained as teacher
  • Two of the early students were William and James Fuller, nephews of George Bolton
  • There was no government assistance or regulation 
  • By 1842 the log schoolhouse was redundant.  The logs were likely repurposed as the new mill owner, the younger James Bolton, started to move the grist mill downstream; the enlarged mill then took over the site where the log schoolhouse had stood 
What the log school might have looked like.

The Evolution of Schools 1840s

King Street East Schoolhouse circa 1842

One room schoolhouse
Construction: Mud brick
Built : likely by Charles Bolton 
Pupils:  initially about 25
Seating: long wooden benches
Time span: 1842 to late 1840s
Marked B on site map below
  • By 1842, Peel had been divided into ‘School Sections’
  • A new schoolhouse was built on the south side of what is now King Street East within what was a clergy reserve lot leased by Charles Bolton.  Bolton Mills’ school section was called S.S. No.3 ALBION and was the first school under government supervision
  • The schoolhouse was built from mud bricks which were formed from the abundant local clay and left to dry in the sun.  Some early mud brick structures did not last long 
  • Bolton had been without a teacher for some time and the newly appointed school board, which included Charles Bolton, hired Samuel A. Walford for the job. 
    • Walford, educated in London England, was 26 years old and served as teacher from 1842 to 1844 before  he then moved to Toronto continuing in soap and candle making   
      • see Samuel A. Walford autobiography
  • There are few details available about the school in the years immediately after Samuel Walford left
    • By 1846, Charles Bolton owned the clergy reserve and was rapidly selling building lots
    • The late 1840s were a period of major economic growth in Bolton.  As demand  for flour continued, the mill doubled its size again in 1850. 

The Evolution of Schools 1850s

Schoolhouse S.S. No.3 (King Street West)

One room schoolhouse
Construction:  Frame
Built: likely a School Board contract
Pupils:  initially about 135
Seating: long wooden benches
Time span: circa1848  to 1860
Marked C on site map below
  • In 1848,  the younger James Bolton purchased a plot of land from Samuel Sterne along King Street West; the plot was transferred to the District Council of the Home District, presumably for a school
    • The transaction was recorded  incorrectly; recent research confirmed its significance in combination with the 1854 map discovery
    • It is unclear when the school was built but it was likely intended for the Fall of 1848
  • In 2014, a local resident found a group of undated glass slides one of which shows the school.  The slides have been donated to PAMA
  • Teachers from this era included: John Vert  pre-1854, S.D. Mishaw 1855-1858, S. Arthurton  1858-1859 and Thomas Elliott  1859-1860

Pre 1911 photo of the 1854 school.

This 1911 Building at 3 King St. W. replaced the schoolhouse. It’s demolition in 2015 revealed the school’s original fieldstone foundation.

Schoolhouse S.S. No. 3 (Town Hall)

Building:  Classroom - Town Hall
Pupils:  about 100
Seating: long wooden benches
Time span: 1852 to 1853/54
Marked D on site map below
  • Bolton’s school age population which included children from the surrounding farm community grew rapidly starting in the late 1840s and exploded in the 1850s
    • Older students were accustomed to helping with younger children.  This became a necessity with a rapidly growing student population which varied by farm season.  There was only one teacher
  • Sometime in the mid-1850s, a classroom of students was accommodated in the Town Hall of the day on the south side of King Street West.  See 1854 map
    • The proximity of the school to the Town Hall perhaps made this workable with only one teacher
    • overcrowding impacted the teacher’s ability to teach and the students’ opportunity to learn
    • There is mention of a ‘private school’ operating in the same Town Hall around 1848. This may have been an offshoot of overcrowding in the earlier small mud-brick schoolhouse
The Town Hall building (by then a Ford dealership on Queen Street) circa 1930.

Until 2013, the existence of a school along King Street West had gone unreported and had been long forgotten until a combination of unconnected events resulted in some 1850s Bolton history being unearthed.  The events included:

    • 2 demolitions
    • identifying Bolton’s oldest building as it was being demolished
    • discovering a missing map
    • Finding an old glass negative
    • Realizing that two 1848 land transactions were recorded on Conc 6, lot 9 West  instead of Lot 9 East (in the heart of Bolton)

Part of the missing map showing a school along King Street West.

  • This map extract is from a larger 1854 map discovered in the attic of an old house on James Street during a demolition in 2013.   
    • The map shows a school on King Street West

The Evolution of Schools 1860s

1 room Timberframe Schoolhouse
Converted from Temperance Hall 
Built by: John Helliwell circa 1854
Pupils:  over 200
Seating: desks
Time span: 1860 to 1874
Marked E on site map below

Temperance Hall Schoolhouse (S.S. No. 3)

  • A large timber frame building at the corner of Victoria Street and John Street was built sometime between 1855 and 1857 by John Helliwell.  In 1858, it was purchased by the Temperance Society and was referred to locally as the Temperance Hall
  • In 1860, after only two years,  the Temperance Society was convinced to sell the Hall to the School Board to provide a larger space for the school
  • Thomas Elliott continued as the headmaster and by 1865 Miss Mary Foster was hired as an assistant teacher for the over 200 students housed in one classroom
  • The McTavishes, father and daughter, became the headmaster and assistant teacher later in the 1860s
  • An additional classroom space was created but overcrowding continued

Photo c 1897, 25 years after Hall was used as the school

The Evolution of Schools from 1874

2 storey, four room Schoolhouse
Construction: Brick
Built by: George Watson
          Charles Longbottom
Pupils:  initially 142
         off season over 200
Seating: desks
Time span: 1874 to 1968
Marked F on site map below

Bolton Public School (S.S. No. 3)

  • The student overcrowding issue was resolved with the construction of Bolton Public School on Albert Street in 1874
  • The magnificent building was built in the Victorian Gothic style of the day.  Contrasting red and buff coloured brick for the building was produced nearby at Norton’s Brickworks
  • Mr. S.B. Westervelt became the principal and was supported by 2 teachers
    • A full list of students, teachers and principals can be found in the book: Bolton School Days by Murray Hesp
  • Continuation classes began in 1910 which caused space constraints.  To alleviate the overcrowding, an elementary school classroom was set up in the Creamery for several years. 
    • Blackboards were discovered behind partitions when the creamery was torn down in 1967
  • Two more classrooms were added to Bolton Public School in 1923 and another two in 1957
  • In the early 1960s, the school was named James Bolton Public

Map of Bolton’s Earliest Schools

Albert Street School girls classes, circa 1893