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Ayr School - 1883 - 1908

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Ayr School is from the Gladstone district,it also served as a dance hall, community hall, church, etc. The desks were long benches. The Old School Master’s Desk is 140 years old. The students used slates and chalk because there were no notebooks. The blackboards were boards painted black and the school was heated by a wood stove.

The school was located in the community known as "Mekiwin". A note inside the school claims that the name "Mekiwin" is of Native origin and means "many dogs barking"; as the post office attracted many canines, who heralded the arrival of every district resident with much yelping. But Cree authorities at Brandon University disagree with this interpretation; they claim that Mekiwin means "gift".As well as functioning as a school,

There were only 149 schools in Manitoba when the log school house was built in 1883. The school, according to old minute books, was constructed of solid white poplar logs which cost the board $50.00. The Building Inspectors in 1883 were as tough as they are today. A detailed building plan had to be approved by the Department of Education. One interesting item in the original plans was the specification that the teacher’s platform be built at the front of the room, which was to be ten inches above floor level. (It is assumed that this was to ensure that there would be no fooling around at the back of the room.) The completed log school cost approximately $500.00. The Board decided to raise $100.00 per year in taxation, and therefore, paid for the school in five years. In 1883, school taxes were set at four mills in the area and the average farmer paid $6.40 in school taxes per 300 acres.

The early years at Ayr School were hard. One of the first teachers walked seven miles to school. Illness was prevalent. Records show that the school was closed for epidemics of mumps, scarlet fever, and Spanish influenza in the years extending from 1883 to 1910.

The school was used until 1908. In 1909, a cement floor was put in and used as a stable. A new school was built right beside it and this building was used until 1962. In 1962, the school closed in June and the students were transported to Gladstone. In 1966, the school board met and through resolution, donated the school to the Manitoba Agricultural Museum for restoration and the school was subsequently moved to Austin.

At the time of the Ayr School, the teacher was generally anyone who had finished their grade ten or their high school. Later, the teachers were trained in a six week summer course in a "Normal School" in either Brandon, Winnipeg or Manitou. Teachers often boarded with school families or board members. In hard times, they were often paid with goods instead of money.

Copyright 1997-2000 Manitoba Agricultural Museum
This page last revised April 25, 2000