Next to the Christian Church the Educational Institutions are the most important in a community. For 127 years Smithville has been steadily advancing towards higher and better standards of education. There is room for doubting the wisdom of introducing some subjects and certain text books required by the Educational Department, yet, on the whole, the progress of education has during the last century been in the right direction.
The first school house in the County was built of logs and was situated a little east of the Village of Grimsby in 1794. The same year another was built at the Thirty Mile Creek, in which taught John French. The third school was built at Smithville in 1795 and in 1818 one was built in the Merritt Settlement, and about 183o the log school at Middleport was built. Peter Pitcher was the first school teacher in Smithville. The first school house built in Smithville in 1795, we presume, is the old log school house which was situated where the residence of Mr. John Deans is located. This school was attended by Robert Murgatroyd and Jerry Collins. At a later date Doctor Gilbert Field, father of Mrs. Frank Hays of Smithville, taught school here. This school was also taught by the Rev. Mr. Bartram, who also preached in the old Episcopal Methodist Church. The next pioneer school was the one built about 183o, between Smithville and Middleport, a small hamlet of a few houses, near the Jerry Taylor property on the St. Anns road. Mr. D. W. Eastman, who attended school there speaks of Deacon Page’s active interest in the construction and progress of this school. One of the school buildings, constructed on this sight is the house recently occupied by Mr. Nelson Ness, opposite the Cartright property. This may not be the original school building, as it is remembered as a red building. Sarah Burkholder was the first teacher of this school where the three Rs, Reading, Riting and Rithmetic were well grounded. The following were scholars at this old school: Mike Dalton, Mary Sammons, Ward Eastman, Alfred Page, Joe Kennedy, John Kennedy, Nancy Page, Mary Page, Alvin Hill, Fred Eastman, Ed. Sammons, Hester Sammons, George Oill, Joe Oill, Charlotte Oill, Eliz. Oill, Anna Kelly.
Other teachers in this school were Ann Field (Mrs. Hugh Bridgman), Eliza Dalton and Florella Morse, daughter of Abishai Morse.
In these early days many private schools were conducted in various homes where the children were sent and a fee paid by the parents, to the teacher for the tuition. There was also held select schools where parents who had the means sent their children, and paid the tuition fee for the teacher’s services. Such a school was held in the old Court House in Smithville.
The next progressive movement along educational lines in the village was the construction of the present public school building, of frame structure, and consisting of three rooms. The public school was held in the two lower rooms, Fred Eastman being the first Principal. In the upper room, which is now the senior public school room, was held Smithville’s first High School or Grammar School, as it was then called. This school was taught by Wm. Cruickshank, a man of considerable ability. Here the High School was held until the present High School building was built. Some of the teachers of the public school in days past were Junior RoomMiss Grace McGregor, Miss Laura Merritt (Mrs. James Glover), Miss B. Gove, Miss Louise Teeter (Mrs. Bell), Miss Myrtle Woodlan (Mrs. L. Killins), Miss Smith (Mrs. Willis Lymburner), and Miss Flossie Gove. In the Senior Room were John Anderson, with his famous cat-o-nine-tails. I can feel them yet. Robert Wade, John Nichol, now Rev. Dr. Nichol, Mr. McKinnon, G. White and Miss Com.- fort.
The most outstanding figure in the history of the High School is Mr. James Tremeer, who now lives at Medicine Hat, Alberta. Mr. Tremeer began his work in Smithville in February, 1890, and remained until the summer of 1895. Upon an invitation of the High School Board he returned in the summer of 1899, remaining until 1906. It was during this period that the writer came under the influence of Mr. Tremeer s personality, and instruction. I shall here recall a few scenes of those happy days. Looking back over school days there are certain events that seem stamped upon our memories, while others are but a misty shade of memory. I first began to feel an interest in Mr. Tremeer when I received a postcard through the mail, referring to the H. S. Entrance examinations on which I read with trembling hand and a thumping heart the word ‘Passed.’ This card was signed by Mr. Tremeer. The next recollection I have of him was his kind, encouraging smile when I met him on the street and he said that he was pleased at my success. His kind wife was as pleased as he and ‘said so.’ I wonder if we realize how much we help and encourage the youth in our midst by saying something encouraging. After entering Mr. Tremeer’s school I was to learn something more of his smile, which, though frequent, was hidden behind two fingers, lest the students might think that he was given to levity within the halls of learning. Mr. Tremeer was an excellent teacher, conscientious, untiring, faithful, and was loved by the students whose welfare he had so much at heart.
In 1906 he moved to Leamington, and in 1908 again upon invitation he returned to the Smithville school, retiring from the profession in 1913. In the classes sent up by Mr. Tremeer for Departmental examinations the great majority passed, often whole classes, with but single exceptions, were successful. Many of these graduates are now occupying prominent positions, some Professors in Toronto University, Principals of High Schools and Collegiate Institutes, others as noted physicians, and many others are bringing honor to their Alma Mater, Smithville High School.
Some of the assistant teachers during Mr. Tremeer’s Principalship were Miss Alice Maude Wicket (Mrs. Ellis Murgatroyd), Misses Nelson, White, McArthur, Lick, Bridgman, Hill, Lindsay, McKay, Teeter (Mrs. L. Bell) and Mr. Fathener, Mr. Roper and Mr. Williams.
Mr. Tom Elliott was for a number of years a successful Principal of the school. As he is a native of Smithville, and educated at the Smithville schools, we are proud of his marked success as a Principal.
The rounds of the school were greatly improved and beautified by the individual efforts of Mr. Charles Fritshaw, a former Trustee, whose heart was in the school and his interest in its achievements. Mr. D. W. Eastman, now of Barrie, was for many years a Trustee of the school and many other public-spirited men have occupied positions on its Board, who have had- the welfare of the institution and the youth of the community at heart. Smithville may be proud of her history along educational lines and it is hoped that she may send forth in the next century as many clever and capable men and women, as she has in the past.