Quest in Roots:
Brookdale Manitoba History

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The pioneers with an eye on their rapidly increasing families, turned their attention to establishing a school district. This was accomplished in 1885, when they all gathered together to erect our first schoolhouse, a small frame building painted a glistening white. It was situated on the southeast corner of the Sirett farm on an acre of land generously donated "for the consideration of one dollar" as the land Titles Office quaintly records it.

In a burst of patriotism they decided to name it Gordon in honor of Gen. Gordon, a famed general of the African Sudan.

It was a great event when school opened early in the spring of ''85. Miss Maclean presided at the brand new desk and the following pupils: Maggie Robertson, William Robertson, Allie Whelpton, Maggie Manly, Mary Sirett, Ida Mclaughlin and Ellen Robertson, all scrubbed and shining, with brand new slates under their arms filed happily through the doors. We are fortunate in still possessing the original school register covering the first 10 years. Glancing through it, we find a repeating pattern of family names.

The same year as the prairie fire the children had a hard time making it to school. In fact during one fierce blizzard, they were obliged to stay there one whole night and half of the next day.

Names of the early teachers include Mr. Code, Wes Helpenny, Miss Heaslip, Mr. McChecherney who says Dr. Sirett, was a real bull-dozer with a text-book in one hand and his rawhide in th~ other.

The pupils'' ages ranged from seven to 21, as many of the older ones could go only in the winter. The curriculum included everything from the ABC''s to Euclid and Algebra. In lieu of a regular school inspector, the minister was paid $5 to periodically check the general progress.

The new school enriched the community three-fold, for it provided not only a place for education, but also a centre for the social and spiritual welfare of young and old, alike.

Glancing over the school register for the years 1890-1910 we see that in spite of economic ups and downs the school continued to run quite smoothly.

Average attendance was around 40 and teachers'' salaries ranged from $400 to $525. John Hill, William Molland and W. Whelpton figured prominently among the early trustees'' names. Evidently they were very conscientious for periodically the teacher has written in, "School visited today by trustee." The register of 1901 is especially interesting as it faithfully records community events. On May 20 of that year the children received their first vaccination. On June 16 of the same year it snowed six inches.

A note of pathos enters the register of 1904, when school was let out for Baby Backwell''s funeral on February 16, Teachers'' names of that period include Jean Urquhart, Jessie Elwood, William Hamilton, A. Blackwell and Jacob Arbuckle, Eleanor Claire and lizzie Burns. .

One February night in 1913, party goers bound for Siretts saw the first flames licking out of the windows of the school. Despite their valiant efforts to extinquish them the little school burned to the ground. It was a grave blow and the trustees solemnly gathered the next day to consider the situation.

After much discussion they decided to build a barn and fix it up to accommodate the pupils until a new school could be erected. This was done and for the balance of the school year the pupils cheerfully attended school in the stable. With the immediate problem settled the trustees next turned their attention to the new building. They finally decided to make a cottage type 36'' square with 12'' studding.

It was to be completely up to date even to boasting a full basement. Very prudently they decided to ''contact the Waterberry heating company to see if they could trade the old furnace which was salvaged from the ashes on a new improved model.

The tender for construction was let to J.K.

Blackwell for the sum of $3475 inclusive. It was to be financed partly by the issuing of debentures bearing 8 per cent interest and partly by a loan from the Merchants Bank. The manager of the latter institution was not entirely unknown to the trustees for nearly every spring they had to visit him in order to negotiate a small loan to tide them over the balance of the school season. In October the basement was dug and by Christmas the new school duly painted pearl grey and white was ready to move into. Miss Ladler was the teacher at that time, a position she continued to hold for the next seven years. In 1914 the district was shocked by the outbreak of the First World War. With mixed feelings they hastily gathered the bountiful crop and the young men marched off to fight for king and country. With a new school a larger playground became necessary, so in 1915 W.F. Sirett was approached with a view to buying more land. He generously gave the necessary amount on the condition that evergreens be planted around the school yard.

In that year it was also decided to put a new foundation under the shed and to fence the entire area. The school grounds were levelled by John Walker who for a significant sum of $19 contracted to mow the weeds and grass and clean them up. He was to plough the ground being careful to get near the fence to kill the weeds by harrowing it twice.

The trustees were rightly proud of their newly landscaped grounds. Then Delbert Reynolds had the audacity to pasture his cattle on them. They wrote that gentleman an indignant letter demanding $25 damages.

In the spring of 1918 the trustees made up their minds to encourage the virtues of thrift and industry.

Consequently they generously equipped the boys and girls with eggs to raise chickens and seed to grow grain. Unfortunately the outcome is not recorded. Probably the outcome is forgotten in the day of the war''s end. That year also the question of consolidation first arose. A referendum finally defeated this move. However, the consolidation of Belton School, a few miles south, resulted in the addition of three sections of land to Gordon school district. The McKees, Nelsons, and McLaughlins all made a welcome addition to the community.

The threat of French being made a compulsory school language necessitated F.A. Sirett being hastily dispatched to Winnipeg to combat it.

Christmas 1922 was very special in school history for that was the first year the concert was held right in the building. Previous to this Gordon and Osprey had produced a joint affair in the church. These annual affairs in which every child takes part are still the gala event of the winter season. All the parents gather to proudly beam on their budding genius and the little ones excitedly await the arrival of Santa Claus.

During 193334, with the co-operation of the children nearly 8000 gophers fell victim to death; in fact they were nearly eradicated. Of course all the tails had to be counted so that gruesome task was added to the teacher''s duties.

The school children contributed their bit by saving pennies for war stamps when the war broke out in 1939.

The years immediately following the war were prosperous ones for the farmers.

During this time the school also underwent big changes. A few of the improvements were the installation of a trouble free oil furnace, a new basement floor, new windows and indoor toilets. All these helped make the school day a lot more pleasant for both Miss Murdock, the teacher, and the pupils.

1957 modern new desks were necessary to accommodate the increased attendance.

The year 1957 also saw the school incorporated in the Neepawa and Brookdale Consolidated School District with the south part attending Brookdale school. They were transported to school by automobile, eventually a larger school district was formed "Beautiful Plains School Division". Then the students were picked up by school buses. There are different sizes of buses with passenger loads of 24-54. These buses take the students either to Brookdale or to Neepawa.


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