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Sir Mulock one of Newmarket Grammar School's eminent alumnus

In this week's Remember This?, History Hound Richard MacLeod returns to his exploration of the early days of the town's first high school

In this second article in a series on the history of Newmarket High School, let’s look at the Grammar School on Millard Avenue, precursor to the high school.  

The establishment of the Grammar School system was accomplished by statute in 1807 for the Province of Upper Canada. Early Newmarket families felt the need for a school where their children could be taught language and literature.  As a result, the local populous made representation to the provincial government, with such prominent local names as Beresford, Smith, Irwin, Bogart, Playter, Cawthra and Botsford, as well as clergy supporting the request.

As a result, a sum of 75 £ was allocated by His Excellency the Governor-General for the support of a Grammar School in the Village of Newmarket, in the township of Whitchurch, to provide the inhabitants with a suitable schoolhouse, administered by the Municipal Council.

In 1842, a piece of land was purchased from R.H. Smith, who owned part of a parcel of land on the north side of Lot Street (Millard Avenue) and a building was erected by 1843.

It was a brick structure with walls 13 inches thick, with beams and planking hand-hewn, some measured 24 inches wide and eight feet in length. This building still exists and, although it has had many transfers of ownership and structural changes over the years, the basic elements are much the same today.  

There was accommodation in this schoolhouse for 46 pupils. The school grounds extended south of Raglan, which was not opened as a street until 1879. This area is now occupied by the Bell Telephone company, but was a vacant field also originally owned by Smith.  

According to a report published in 1843, our Grammar School was the second Grammar School opened in Upper Canada, and the first established north of Toronto.  

In 1848, Mrs. (Cawthra) Mulock brought her little family to Newmarket from Bond Head and placed her son, William, 7, in the Grammar School. It is said that he became the favourite victim of a strap-wielding headmaster and was told “he would never earn enough salt to season his porridge".

In the fall of 1854, a new headmaster arrived, Samuel Arthur Marling, who would subsequently become the Deputy Minister of Education for Ontario and that mischievous boy, William, would become Sir William Mulock, Chief Justice of the Exchequer Division of the High Court of Justice for the Province of Ontario.

The building was designated as ‘freehold’ and the fees were set at 4£, 3£ and 2£ per term.

A listing of curriculum at the time lists bookkeeping, English grammar, Latin, geography, Canadian, ancient and modern histories, physical science, chemistry and physiology.

We also have a listing of the pupils who attended the school as of June 30, 1858: G.Lount, B.Irwin, W. Dudley, E. Chapell, E.E. Dudley, G.I. Galliver, I.A. Botsford, T. Taylor, S.P. Caldwell. H. Taylor, J.W. Caldwell, A. Clark, A.L. Willson, A.Y. Ramsay, A. Willson, T. Bentley, D. Stevens, S. Walker,W. Phillips, J.M. Right, W.A. Monkman , T. Wallis, J.P. Collins, B.F. Pearson, N.O’Connor, J.C. Pearson, S.M. Fowler, R. Rowen, I. Johnson, K. Rowen, R.S. Davidson, S.S. Davidson, A. Rogers and J. Easnan.

It is interesting to note many of these students would be recognized later in connection to playing a role in the history of the town.

The Trustees named for the 1858-1859 school year were Rev. Septimius Ramsay, Rev. Nos Baker, Dr. Thomas G. Pyne and R.H. Smith.  

A revised act had been passed by the Ontario Legislature in 1871 (referred to as ‘34 Victoria (1870-1871) Chapter 33) that transformed all Grammar schools immediately into ‘High Schools or Collegiate Institutes’ and our old Grammar School became the first High School in Newmarket until the newer one was erected on Prospect Street.

In March 1871, the high school sent out the following notice announcing: “The undersigned begs respectfully to announce to the inhabitants of Newmarket and Vicinity that the Easter term of Newmarket High School will commence on Wednesday 12th of April. Every facility will be presented to those who wish to avail themselves of the excellent advantages offered by the school, under the new act now in force and every assistance will be afforded to all are desirous of preparing for entrance into either mercantile or collegiate pursuits.

“No pains will be spared to render the school, as an educational institution as efficient and as useful as possible, and the subscriber trusts that there will be accorded to him the same liberal patronage which has hitherto characterized the people of Newmarket and the surrounding country.

“Terms, per quarter, to be paid in advance $4.00. A reduction will be made in the case of more than one pupil from a family.

(Signed) William R. Nason, BA, Principal Newmarket - March 25, 1871

The Grammar School, which was in fact our first High School, attracted the sons of prosperous farmers and Newmarket’s businessmen of the time to acquire an education. The teachers, it is said, left an impression on the minds of the pupils in both a religious and intellectual sense, according to Sir William in his later writings.

The Grammar/High School, together with the practical training received by students at the Mechanics Institute, would serve to produce in Newmarket a class of citizens much above the average.

The Mechanic’s Institute was established in 1856 for night classes for youths and adults from local industry and the farm. In 1895, it merged into the Newmarket Public Library,

Here is a short list of some of those who attended the Grammar/High School and went on to attain prominence in broader public life:

  • The Rt. Hon. Sir William Mulock, K. CMG, MA, KC, LLD, Chief Justice of Ontario and Post Master General of the Dominion.
  • Robert Sutherland, Speaker of the House of Commons.
  • J.D. Dickson,Principal of Newmarket and Orillia High Schools.
  • Dr. J.E. Widdifield, Member of Legislature and Sheriff of York County.
  • Dr. Bruce Smith, Provincial Health Inspector.
  • James Wetherall, High School Teacher and Inspector.
  • Hon. Dr. R.A. Pyne, MLA, Minister of Education.
  • L.G. Jackson, Editor of the Newmarket Era.
  • Dr. Thomas Bentley
  • Aemilius Jarvis

This list, while certainly not complete, does suggests the influence this small school produced.

During our Grammar School period, the community progressed from a small settlement with just a few people to one with a population of more than 700 inhabitants.

Next week, we will look at Newmarket’s Second High School.  I hope you are enjoying our series of articles on the history of N.H.S.  

Sources: The History of Newmarket High by George Luesby, History of the TOWN OF NEWMARKET” Chapter 9. by Mrs. Ethel Trewhella, Documentary History of Education in Upper Canada 1841-1843, Report of Newmarket Grammar School - Provincial Archives, Records in the County Registry Office, Records of Inspector — Department of Education.Public School Records. Minutes of Newmarket Council,York County Council bylaws, Newmarket Era - items 1893 thru 1979, High School Magazine PURPLE and GOLD, High School Yearbooks PHOENIX. Interviews: Elman Campbell, Newmarket Historical Society; J.W. Lockhart, rincipal N.H.S. 1944-1969.

************ brings you this weekly feature about our town's history in partnership with Richard MacLeod, the History Hound, a local historian for more than 40 years. He conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, as well as leads local oral history interviews. You can contact the History Hound at [email protected].

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About the Author: Richard MacLeod

Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod — the History Hound — has been a local historian for more than 40 years
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