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THEN & NOW: S.S. No. 12 - Ferndale

Ferndale, a two-room brick schoolhouse, opened in 1899 and had quite a history before it closed in 1963

This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archive curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from the present day.

S.S. No. 12 - Ferndale

When grandpa said he had to walk 20 miles to get to school, he might have been exaggerating.

Back in the day, townships were divided into School Districts (renamed School Sections in 1846 under the Common School Act) and they were actually a square or rectangular size of three to five miles or about five to eight kilometres. If a family lived within that area or Section, the children would attend that school and their taxes went towards supporting it.

A board of three elected trustees were responsible for the finances, hiring of teachers and the management of the school property and equipment. Schools were assigned numbers e.g. S.S. No 12 instead of names until the late 1800s.

S.S. No 12 was located on Concession 7 of Vespra Township, on what we know as Ferndale Drive today. The two-room brick schoolhouse opened in 1899 and the first teacher was L.A. Marlin.

It may have been a small, country school, but newspaper headlines from June 1953 screamed that ‘Ferndale’ had captured their second straight Vespra championship in the track and field meet at the Agricultural Park.

Jimmy Stinson was their star: “Ferndale’s two-room school turned out another crack boys’ team to win the Township honours for the second straight year.,” reported the Barrie Examiner. The girls intermediate and seniors in track had a strong performance, but did not enjoy quite the same success as the boys' team that year.

The following year, 1954, at the Tossorontio School Fair held in Lisle, S.S. No 12 was among the first prize winners in various divisions: Billy Corrigan for field corn, Laura Tryon for turnips and Douglas Crosbie for potatoes/tubers. S.S. No 12 also took two seconds: the Anglican and United W.A. at Clougher prize for Best First Aid Kit and the L. McCarty prize for best school weed collection.

The first Vespra Township School Fair, sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, was held in the Minesing two-room schoolhouse and skating rink for many years until it was moved to the Simcoe County Forestry in Midhurst. The annual Vespra Fall Fair was held until 1938.

But those township days were numbered for S.S. No 12…On Jan. 1, 1959, the section of Ferndale Drive between Edgehill Drive and Tiffin Street, where the school was located, was annexed from Vespra by the City of Barrie.

The last educators to teach at the Ferndale school were Shirley E. Pickles (1958-1963), Isabel (Russell) Nash (1957-1963) in the Senior Room and Thelma (Morton) Rockwell (1960-1963) in 12A. The students of S.S. No 12 were transferred to Prince of Wales School in 1964.

The Ferndale school was used by the maintenance department of the Simcoe County District School Board for a period of time then later sold to the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.