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Official unveiling of a plaque to commemorate one-room schoolhouse

By Rachel Bell [1]

BELLEVILLE – The first school in Sidney Township, opened almost 200 years ago, was honoured with the dedication of a special plaque commemorating its history Tuesday.

The one-room schoolhouse opened in 1820 was located at the same site as the Old Sidney Town Hall Park, 82 Wallbridge Rd.

Besides honouring the building, the plaque also recognizes Harry J. Clarke, a teacher at the school in the 1890s.

The school, once called Wallbridge Public School, closed its doors in 1969. Clarke went on to become the director of education. He also had an elementary school [2] in Belleville named in his honour.

The official unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the schoolhouse took place at 11 a.m. at the Old Sidney Town Hall Park.

On the plaque are five different photos of the schoolhouse, from its beginning as a log house. Then it was a blacksmith shop. It was converted to a one-room schoolhouse which is now a home. It also has a picture of Clarke with 56 pupils, from a local history book called A Place Called Wallbridge.

This is all part of the Wallbridge Public School Reunion 2017. According to Alex McNaught, eight out of the 30 people who came to the unveiling once attended the school.

The unveiling is a joint project of the city of Quinte West and the Wallbridge Public School Reunion 2017.

According to the annual report of Local Superintendents of Common Schools (1855) for Sidney Township, the Wallbridge Public School opened in 1820. It was four years after the Upper Canada Education Act of 1816 was passed, and two years after the ruling of Family Compact [3] cut grants to common schools.

The citizens of Sidney refused to see a generation denied an education, as several other schools in the township opened soon afterwards.

Mayor Jim Harrison along with Alex McNaught, chair of the organizing committee for Wallbridge Public School Reunion 2017, was present at the event along with Mandy Savery-Whiteway, director of education for the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board, and Richard Hughes, president of the Hastings Historical Society.