The Little Red School House  

School History  
On Jan. 7, 1845, a number of residents in Botany met at the home of Jas. McDonnell to elect trustees for the formation of a School Section. The meeting was called for 1pm. The following voters present were ??? McBrayne, Wm. Atkinson, Wm. McKerracher, Dan Mc????, Jas. Mowbray, & Peter Walker (secretary). They sent a petition to Rowell Pigley Supt. of Schools in Harwich & Mr. Duck Supt. in Howard, certifying to the fact there were 49 children between ages 5 & 16 and asking that a school section be formed to be known as SS No. 1 United District in Howard & Harwich.

Choosing a Site

Jan. 3, 1845 - On this date, a meeting was held at the home of Henry Simington for the purpose of selecting a site - the trusties came to the conclusion that the best place for the school house to be built was on the N.E. corner of Jno. McDowell's lot. This site was on the Howard Road and will be intersected by a road to be opened up from the town line to said Howard Road.


Log School House 24' x 20' ; 8' high shingled roof 5 windows 16 lts 7 x 9 glass. To have a double batten door whitewood floor 1 1/2" thick, ceiled with inch boards. To have one writing table and bench on each side 20' long and 6 benches for reading 12' long and 8' long to be made with 2" planks to have a teacher's desk and bench to match, to have a stove to take in 2 1/2 ft. wood, the hole to be executed at the site and to the satisfaction of the trusties.

There was no playground. The pupils played on the road and in the cemetery. Mr. McDowell received one penny a year as rental, payable out of the school funds. The school was erected by Jas. Glasford of Chatham for 7 lbs, payable 1st Nov. 1845.

James Mobray was the first teacher hired for 6 mos. at a salary of 10 dollars a month, board and washing furnished by the ratepayers.

1866 - In 1866 a new school was built on the present site Lot 5 with one half acre for the playground purchased from Hugh Simington.

1883 - When in 1883 the present school was erected at the cost of $2,345 and the school grounds were enlarged to one acre.

100th Anniversary (August 24, 1946)
They held a 100th reunion in Botany. Hundreds of pupils of the little Botany school, about 15 miles from Chatham, flocked to the old school grounds Saturday and Sunday and staged a "right good jubilee." Some were pushing 90, some were well past the 80's.
Botany School In Kent Celebrates Centennial

BOTANY, August 24 -
Forgotten maybe by the map-makers, but never by the hundreds of residents and ex-residents who once attended its school, this little Kent County hamlet, marked the centennial of Union School Section No. 12, Howard, and No. 2 Harwich, better known as Botany School.

From many points in Western Ontario, from Michigan and as far distant as Manitoba, former scholars and teachers - by early evening more than 500 of them - crowded into the picturesque, tree-bordered grounds of this historic old schoolhouse.

There they reviewed acquaintances, inspected the school building, rang the bell that once summoned them to classes, handled gingerly the once-terrified strap, enjoyed a picnic lunch, heard a few speeches, and generally "had themselves a time."

Continues Today

Tomorrow a more serious observance is planned - a memorial service at Botany Cemetery in remembrance of those former students who will not attend another school anniversary or hear the old school bell ring.

D. M. Winters, secretary-treasurer of the school board for the past 40 years, was chairman for the afternoon program today, which featured an address by Hon. W. G. Thompson, minister of lands and forests for Ontario and M.L.A. for Kent East.

Speaking directly to the farmers present, Mr. Thompson declared:

"In my opinion the income received from agriculture has not kept pace with the price of production. If agriculture is to continue as our major industry, the two will have to be brought more in line."

Deplores Ravages To Soil

Mr. Thompson deplored the ravages to the soil by over-cultivation and erosion, and numbered proper cultivation and nourishment of the soil as two main projects in reclaiming it. Research projects in the realm of insect and disease control, and quality improvement of livestock, were also regarded by the speaker as vital weapons in raising the farmer's status.

As minister of lands and forests, Mr. Thompson had this to say:

"The north holds the key to a tremendous amount of prosperity in Ontario. Its forests, protecting fish and wild life, mean a lot to this province. Hunting and fishing, after all, are an important part of our tremendous tourist trade."

To illustrate this, the minister pointed out that, of the 115,000,000 acres in Ontario, 100,000,000 acres are located in the northern part of the province. Furthermore, an estimated 85 per cent of Ontario is "under trees".

Greatest Resources

"Fish and wild life are still our greatest natural resource," he inserted. "Northern Ontario possesses this in abundance, also a foremost place in the pulp and paper industry, as well as the mining, of our country."

For these reasons, Mr. Thompson recommended that the listeners "get acquainted" with the northern part of the province, to promote a feeling of mutual understanding and sympathy between "Old" and "New" Ontario.

Earl Desmond, M.P. in a brief address, envisioned the spirit of the "little red schoolhouse" as a powerful weapon against the elements of Communism and Socialism.

Traces History

The history of the Botany School from the time the original log cabin structure was erected 100 years ago, was traced by Chairman Winters. This served the community for 20 years, and was replaced. The second school, however, soon proved inadequate for the large school population, and finally in 1882 the present school was built.

From the time of James Mowbray was hired as the first teacher in 1846, Botany has had 60 teachers, their salaries ranging all the way from $150 to $1,400 per year.

Several of these ex-teachers were present for today's festivities. The oldest among them was R. J. McIntosh, of Toronto, who is 78 years of age and taught at Botany in 1889.

From Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he is now principal of a business college, came Frank Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson presided over the teacher's desk at Botany from 1905 to 1908. With Author Anderson, now reeve of Howard Township, and several other very respectable middle-aged men, he recalled giving them a good, old-fashioned licking when they hid under a near-by bridge instead of coming to school.


Reminiscences flew thick and fast throughout the afternoon. James Robertson, 87, of Ridgetown, remembered attending the old log school. Later he received a prize for being the oldest "old boy" on the grounds. To Mrs. Mary Galbraith, also 87, for being the oldest "old girl" present.

That didn't mean they were the oldest people in attendance, however. From Blenheim came William Vernon Wildblood, who celebrated his 94th birthday on August 4, to join in the festivities.

Romances that maybe had their start in the little red schoolhouse were acknowledged, too. Mr. and Mrs. John McKay, newlyweds of 60 years ago, received a prize for being the "longest married" couple present.

A more recent affair of the heart was indicated in a lovely bouquet of gladioli placed on the teacher's desk at the request of Mrs. J. E. Vivian, whose daughter Marjorie - a former teacher at Botany - was married today.

Baseball games and races completed the afternoon program, interspersed with visits to a hardy refreshment booth, and amusing surveys of the collection of pictures (many of them old-fashioned tintypes) tracing in its century of progress.
School Rosters
Year   Name Age Parents
1851   William 15 William & Sarah (Spence)
    Thomas 7 William & Sarah (Spence)
    Jane 10 William & Sarah (Spence)
    Frony Main 6 Mary & Albert Main
1882   Margaret 7 Thomas & Mary (Campbell)
    Isabelle 11 Thomas & Mary (Campbell)
    James 15 Robert & Mary (Willson)
1895   Gracie 8 William & Sarah (Watson)
    John 7 William & Sarah (Watson)
    Welbry 8 John & Mary (Mitton)
    Nora 5 John & Mary (Mitton)
    Flossie 6 John & Mary (Mitton)
    Robert 10 John & Mary (Mitton)
    Thomas 6 Thomas & Mary (Campbell)
    Alice 15 Thomas & Mary (Campbell)
1902   Irene 13 William & Sarah (Watson)
    Thomas 13 Thomas and Mary (Campbell)
1913   James 7 Willard & Annie (Clark)
1918   James 13 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    John 9 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Gladys 7 Willard & Annie (Clark)
1922   John 13 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Gladys 11 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Jean 9 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Clarke 6 Willard & Annie (Clark)
1924   Clarke 8 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Gladys 13 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Jean 11 Willard & Annie (Clark)
1926   Gladys 15 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Jean 13 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Clarke 10 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Annie Laura 7 Willard & Annie (Clark)
1934   Annie Laura 14 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Leigh 10 Willard & Annie (Clark)
    Gordon 10 Thomas & Winnifred (Donoho)
    Mary 9 Thomas & Winnifred (Donoho)
1940   Glen 12 Willard & Annie (Clark)
1963   David 11 Leigh & Barbara (Bain)
    Leanne 6 Leigh & Barbara (Bain)
1967   Leanne 10 Leigh & Barbara (Bain)
    Robert 7 Leigh & Barbara (Bain)
School Picture

Front Row (left to right) - Neil McKay, Ray McKerracher, Johnnie Atkinson, Dan McKinlay, Tommie Atkinson, Peter Cameron, Elizabeth Cameron "McLarty", Cliff McKerracher, Nora Atkinson, Grace Robertson "Leatherdale", Flossie Atkinson, Center Row - Mabel McKerracher, Myrell (Street) Robertson, M.B. Cameron, Bob Atkinson, Dick (Peacock) Wright, Willie Leitch, Gracie Pearl Atkinson, Lizzie Spence, Willie Martinson, Welbry Atkinson, Back Row - Herbie Spencer, Mellie Winters (Holmes), Jennie Cameron, Jennie Stillicker, Annie Spence (Johnson), Alice Atkinson (Holmes), Ella Cameron, Lena Hall, Ray Wilson  


Front Row (left to right) - Albert Leitch, Leslie Borbet, Neil McMillan, Archie Campbell, Mike Miller, Lloyd Adams, Frank Cameron, John Conway, Archie McMillan, Carl Robertson, Albert Steen, Wilford Cameron, Charlie Jenner, Second Row - Grace Jenner, Jennie McBrayne, Ada Cameron, Edna McMillan, Edna Lewis, Mary McMillan, Ethel Campbell, Nettie McKay, Jessie McBrayne, Eva Robertson, Irene Atkinson, Lula Adams, Third Row - George Campbell, Leslie Adams, Barney Elliott, Katie Leitch, Elizabeth Cameron, Tena Mowbray, Flossie McMillan, Neil Robertson, Frank McMillan, William Spence, Neil McKay, Fourth Row - Henery Adams, Peter Cameron, Tom Atkinson, Sylvia Jenner, Grace Robertson, Jean McDonald, Miss L. Gesner (teacher), Mary Bell Steward, Murial Robertson, Maggie Bell Cameron, L. Cryderman


Front Row (left to right) - Marjorie Spence, Mary McTavish, Helen Stewart, ------, Lyle Winter, Clark Atkinson, Jean Cameron, Jean Robertson, Mary McTavish, Second Row - Walter Galbraith, Albert McWha, Julian Evans, John Cameron, Frank Holmes, Earl McTavish, Third Row - Sylvia Brisley, Mary Holmes, Jean Walters (teacher), Gladys Atkinson, Hilda Arnold, Jean Atkinson  


Front Row (right to left) - Mac McBrayne, Ralph Stewart, Robert Spence, Kenny Robertson, Donald McTavish, Jack Robertson, Second Row - George Suds, Clark Atkinson, Norris Suds, Lyle Winter, Mac McKay, Third Row - Leola House, Verda Brisley, Audrey Filby, Jean Robertson, Jean Cameron, Mary McTavish, Winifred Spence, Anna Laura Atkinson, Elva Ferrin, Fourth Row - Helen Stewart, Myrtle Stevens, Marjorie Spence, Jean McTavish, Dorothy Wolfe, Edna Spence, Jean Atkinson, Sylvia Brisley


Front Row (right to left) - Ralph Stewart, Garnet Symington, Mary Atkinson, Willard Arnold, Gordon Atkinson, Lee Atkinson, Second Row - Jack Robertson, Donald McTavish, Robert Spence, Audrey Spence, Leila Fields, Verda Brisley, Third Row - Lyle Winter, Clark Atkinson, Irene Moore (teacher), Mary McTavish, Adeline Munn, Jean Cameron, Jean Robertson


Front row (left to right) - Ruby Symington, Caroline Brant, Josie Hanna, Mary Robertson, Marcella Charbonneau, Mary Atkinson, Doris Campbell, Lloyd Symington, Leigh Atkinson, Harry Mardling, Back Row - Audrey Spence, Helen Robertson, Margaret Mardling, Annie Laurie Atkinson, Bertha Riberdy, Winnifred Spence, Jack Robertson, Robert Spence, Ralph Stewart, Armand Charbonneau, Gordon Atkinson, Garnet Symington, Irene Moore (teacher), Willard Arnold