Corson’s Siding School
September 9, 2023
Corson Siding School House, 1936-37
Originally Published in the Summer Times, August 5, 1986
Before Captain Corson came to live in what is now the Corson’s Siding area near Coboconk, the settlement was no more than a part of the countryside. During this time the children of Corson’s Siding travelled to the first S.S.#8 (Lakeshore) School for their education. However, as more and more families moved to the area, it became obvious that a school was needed.
The first S.S.#8 was a small pioneer school house built from logs. It was built in a clearing just south of what was known as the Base Line (now Highway 48), just across from the road which presently leads up to Corson’s Siding. At the time there was no road running south to Balsam Lake from the highway. This first school served a small settlement known as “Plentiful Hill,” located east of the school. It was here that Captain Corson originally settled.
The new school, which was a frame building, was built in front of the old school around 1875. The grounds surrounding the school, however, were not improved until several years later.
The old school is thought to have burned down five or six years after the construction of the new building. The school was built through a contract set up by Sir William MacKenzie when he lived in Kirkfield. Gradually, the settlement on “Plentiful Hill” migrated to the present area of Corson’s Siding. Soon, the siding had much to offer new settlers: the railroad, church (built around 1900), and hotel/boarding house were just a few of the drawing cards. As the village grew, the schools also prospered.
The year 1909 was a big year for improvements on the school, which included building outhouses. This, however, ended in a large dispute resulting in a court case. As the story goes, Mr. J. Matthewson charged a total of $27 for the construction of the outhouses. However, because the builders had failed to follow the instructions, the trustees refused to pay the bill. In court, it was found that the builders were at fault and the facilities could not be used because of bad construction or location. As a result, the trustees did not have to pay the bill and a new outhouse had to be built.
The school’s library was formed in 1918. Twenty years later, in 1938, the library contained 278 volumes valued at $151.43. Through the 1920s, the school was given a ‘facelift.’ In 1923 the interior of the building was traditionally painted grey with white trim, varnished above the windows and the ceiling left natural. A new teacher’s seat and desk were also added to the room. On its exterior, in 1927, the school was shingled and painted. New desks for the students were brought to the school for $41.50 and a clock was added at the cost of $12.
Mr. Steven Tripp put up a wire fence along the north and west sides of the school yard in 1932. Simultaneously, Mr. L. Richmond hauled gravel up to the school to be spread around the front steps. Prior to a caretaker being hired to take care of the upkeep of the school, the teacher was responsible for maintaining the building and grounds. The teacher was required to clean the school, build a fire every morning, and keep the grounds trimmed, in addition to the regular teaching. Later, someone (usually a local man) was hired to build the fires at $0.10 per fire and was paid extra for the cleaning. In 1939, the caretaker received $35, for doing this work every day throughout the year.
In the records of the Corson’s Siding School is a clear list of the past school inspectors. Mr. Stephens was the inspector at the turn of the century and through the early 1900s. Mr. Jennings was the inspector up to 1939, when he retired because of his poor health, and Mr. Downey completed his term. In the fall of 1939, Mr. C.W. Lees, who was the former Public School Inspector for Renfrew County, took the position for Victoria County West and stayed on until most of the small schools in Bexley Township had closed.
As in the other schools, Arbor Day was celebrated with great fanfare. In 1941, on Arbor Day, about 75 trees were planted by the students. A border of Soft Maple ran along the fences and Scotch Pine with Red Oak were scattered through the back.
Around 1941, S.S#8 Bexley closed. Since 1934, attendance had been steadily dropping from its previous 19 students. In 1939, 10 students attended the school and the following year, 1940, an average of only 5 students were enrolled throughout the year. The last teacher at the school was Mrs. Elizabeth Weaver from Coboconk, who taught only from January to June of 1941. It is possible that there were no children of school age for the 1941-42 school year, so it was closed down. In 1946, students were taken for the first time from Corson’s Siding to attend school in Bexley at S.S.#3.
After it was closed, the Corson’s Siding School was most likely torn down because it was of no use to anyone. Today, the site is grown over with weeds and bushes, but the stone foundation can still be seen outlining the spot where the school would have stood. The narrow entranceway is quite distinct. Some of the young Scotch Pine trees, which were planted that Arbor Day in 1941, are still growing in short haphazard rows near the crumbling foundation, leaving the reminder that the grounds and school were once groomed and of important use.