The old Mohawk Trail School on Hamilton’s west mountain is a prime example of a nineteenth century one-room Ontario schoolhouse. The school began life as S.S. # 5 Barton, built in 1882. It continued in operation serving area students in Hamilton classroom until as recently as1966. A newer school called Mohawk Trail School was built beside the one-room structure in the 1950s. That school has since been demolished and replaced by housing. In 1967 the “official” organization of Hamilton’s public elementary teachers, the Hamilton Teachers Council, undertook to renovate the old school, now also called Mohawk Trail. For many years thereafter, the restored schoolhouse, located on Mohawk Road W. at W. 16th Street in Hamilton, served as a location for area primary and junior students to visit and to learn about education from another era. The school, is a museum today under the auspices of the Educational Archives and Heritage Centre and is maintained, in coordination with the HWDSB, by our hard-working volunteers.
Archives Executive member Diane Cole, and other Volunteers, have assumed primary responsibility for the Mohawk Trail site. We have opened the school for the Hamilton Doors Open event each spring for the past three years, and we hope to have it open on other occasions so we may share this wonderful resource with the public.
Because the school building was officially 125 years old in 2007, we made our Doors Open event an especially memorable one for 2007.
Diane Cole recalls for us a few of the events at Mohawk Trail’s Doors Open event in May of 2007:
For the second year in a row, on May 5 and 6, 2007, Mohawk Trail Museum School was a site for the Doors Open Hamilton program. Visitors, some with personal connections to the school, others interested and curious, came to observe displays and artifacts set to represent life in a one-room schoolhouse of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Visitors of all ages were much in evidence, many who had attended Mohawk Trail in the mid-twentieth century, as well as their children and grandchildren. The younger visitors (and maybe more than a couple of the adults) especially enjoyed working at the slates on each desk and pulling the rope ringing the school bell in the old tower.
One family of former students who had attended Mohawk Trail School in the 1940s gathered together at the site as a surprise treat for their brother. They left with pictures and copies of attendance register pages that brought
back many fond memories of their days at the school. Another visitor who had attended the school in the 1940s remembered there was a time of such overcrowding that some students were taken by bus from Mohawk Road to McIlwraith School on Murray Street in Hamilton’s North End! This meant a long school day indeed.
We were told of times in the one-room schoolhouse when the teacher would warm up the lunches on the potbellied stove. This often included a pot of soup provided by the teachers, one of the parents or a kindly neighbour as a special treat. In some cases, the teacher prepared the entire lunch each day. Now that’s lunchroom supervision with a twist.
These and other revealing memories have been shared with us each year at the open house. We hope to have many more visitors – and their interesting stories — at Doors Open events in the future.