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Valleyfield River School
District No. 3327

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bonita and Surrounding Districts,
Pages 158 - 159

Valleyfield School District No 3327 was established 24th of December 1915. Senior Trustee was D. W. Owens of Taylorville. The district included Sections 4 to 10, 14-23, 27-30 and those portions of Sections 2, 3, 11, 13, 24 lying west of Milk River in Township 1, Range 23, West of the Fourth Meridian.

On April 7, 1930 the following land was withdrawn from the Valleyfield School Division No. 3327: North 1/2 of Section 27; N. E. 1/4 of Section 28, N.W. 1/4 of Section 30 in Township 1, Range 23, West of the Fourth Meridian.

October 3, 1936 the Valleyfield School District No. 3327 was included in the Subdivision No. 3 of the St. Mary's River School Division No. 2.

May 1, 1942 approval was given to dispose of the schoolhouse, barn and outbuildings.

May 6, 1960 the following land was transferred from Valleyfield to Rinard: that fraction of Section 13 being west of the north branch of Milk River and all of Section 14 and the south half of Section 23, that fraction of the south half of Section 24 lying west of the north branch of Milk River in Township 1, Range 23, West of the Fourth Meridian.

Information from Bill Harper states the first school trustees of the Valleyfield School No. 3327 were: August Plunet (chairman), David Owens, and Arthur Roney, with J. K. Faulkner as Secretary-Treasurer.

Among the suggested names sent in for the district were Whiskey Gap and Valleyfield. Whiskey Gap was rejected because the Department felt this name was not dignified enough, so the name Valleyfield was chosen.

The site chosen for the school was a lot on the southwest comer of the S.W. 1/4 of Section 16, Township 1, Range 23, West of the Fourth Meridian. A contractor was chosen to build the school to be ready for operation in September, but there were delays and school did not start until November.

Mabel (Bennett) Secretan tells of attending the opening dance in the school with her brother. Charlie Secretan was playing the violin that night. He put his fiddle aside a few times and danced with her. This was the beginning of a beautiful romance which resulted in their marriage the next March, 1918.

The building was the traditional one room, " Little White Schoolhouse" with green trim. Bruno Sommerfeldt, who purchased the building after it had served its days as a schoolhouse, estimated the size as about twenty-eight by fifty feet. The ceiling was high and the floor was oiled. The front of the school, where the teacher's desk was, was at the west end. On this wall and about half way along the north wall hung the blackboards. At the end of the blackboard on the north wall, stood the big round stove with a jacket around it. Along the rest of the north wall stood a low cupboard which held supplies. The counter top held the covered drinking crock with the push-button at the bottom, and the wash basin and a dish of soap. On the east wall was a small entrance just about large enough to hold the brooms, but a real life saver when the cold southeast wind blew and drifted the snow. Along the east side of the school on both sides of the door a couple of boards running parallel to each other about eighteen inches apart were nailed to the wall. These strips supported the coat hangers which took care of the students' outer clothing, the boys' on one side and the girls' on the other. The south wall was largely taken up with tall windows with frosted panes to cut the glare of the sun. At the end of the row of windows stood the tall book cupboard, with library books in the top and school supplies in the bottom.

This school district issued supplies to the students; scribblers, pencils, erasers, pens, nibs of different sizes, and ink as well as art pads. This worked very well but was quite a responsibility for the teacher to see that the supplies were not wasted. It was also quite a task to see that the ink which came in quart or gallon jars was distributed into ink wells without too many spills and splashes. The floor was proof that some spills occurred.

School started in November with an enrollment of thirty students. The first teacher was Miss Emma Clair, a little dark-haired French Canadian who spoke very broken English. She had received her education in a convent and was teaching with a grade eight certificate. She taught until the end of March. The term was finished by Miss Stuckey. Bill Harper says quote, "She was a tremendous teacher. She put me through grade eight in three months - April, May and June."

The next year Hazel Keith came to teach and Bill Harper became the first grade nine student to attend the Valleyfield School.

Other teachers were: Effie Burns (Mrs. Norton Roe), Francis Johnson (Mrs. Clarence Jensen), Alice Harrington, Bessie Thomas, Bella Barrett, Miss McIntyre, Mr. MacDougall, Donna Johansen, Margaret Gallie, Crilla Ellison (Mrs. Owen Richards), Marvelia Skriver (Mrs.Tom Duce), Helena Larsen, Selma Lowry, (Mrs. J. K. Hadfield), Lorraine Hadfield (Mrs. George Salt), Julia Short, Mary Heggenberg, Rowan Stutz, and Hubert West.

As in most rural schools the turn over of teachers was rapid. Few stayed more than one year and in a few cases there were changes in one year. A few stayed two and even three years.

Most of the teachers boarded with a family in the community. Effie Burns stayed with the Harpers. Most of the others stayed with either May Plunet or Mabel Secretan. A teacherage was provided for the last two teachers and their families, Mr. Stutz and Mr. West.

This schoolhouse, like most rural schoolhouses served as much more than just a schoolroom. It served as the social center for the community. There were public meetings, political meetings, floor mats were rolled out and the boys exercised before their boxing lesson, church was sometimes held there, and during the winter months on a Friday or Saturday night the desks were pushed along the walls and a dance or basket social was held. On some occasions a blizzard came up and the dancers danced on until daylight.

These dances not only provided entertainment but were a means of raising funds for such things as buying the piano and paying for treats for the Christmas party for which Whiskey Gap was famous.

On June 30, 1941, the Valleyfield Schoolhouse closed its doors forever in the name of progress. It had served its purpose well for over twenty years. The children of the Whiskey Gap area were taken by bus, in the fall of 1941, to the Jefferson Centralized School.

Otto Sommerfeldt bought the barn and moved it. Bruno Sommerfeldt bought the schoolhouse, tore it down and used the lumber to help build his first house in Cardston.

As one drives by the site of the Valleyfield School there are few signs it ever existed. It now exists only in the memories of those who once knew and loved it.

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Mary Tollestrup