Founded in July 1907 and closed in June 1957
When I think of a prairie school with walls of stone, Hearts of Oak is exactly what I picture in my mind’s eye. The school and a small playground area is surrounded by a ring of trees that give it a pastoral setting. This school uses split fieldstone cut into uniform sized blocks to make for thick solid walls of rock. It may look a little rough around the edges but I didn’t see any cracks in the thick stone walls. That speaks volumes about the skill of the stone mason, Billy Good, and his father John Good, who moved here from Ontario. They selected the highest piece of land in the district – to avoid damage from floods and low lying wet area – so the location also contributed the lack of cracks in the school.
Most of the local people whose children would attend this school were Danish. One teacher, Jessie (Foster) Wilson, dedicated one night per week to provide English classes for the Danish immigrants. During the warmer months there was a Danish Lutheran church service held in the school once per month.
The school district had an official opening date of July 23rd, 1907, but that might not be accurate because one former student said that there were books stamped “District of Assiniboia, NWT”, which means that there might have been a school here before the stone school was built in Saskatchewan (for those who don’t know, Saskatchewan and Alberta were part of the North West Territories before they became a provinces in 1905). On September 1st, 1905, the Saskatchewan Act and the Alberta Act were adopted by the Canadian government and two new provinces joined Canada as provinces. Of course those old texts marked “District of Assiniboia” could also mean that the books were obtained from another school that existed prior to 1905, or that the date of the official opening of the school is recorded incorrectly. Whether it was built in 2007 or a few years before that year doesn’t really matter at this point. This well built stone structure operated as a school for at least 50 years.
Some Images of the School
Note that you can click on some images for a larger view
I can’t tell you what it was like to be a student here but perhaps this quote, from my aunt no less, who attended a one room school north of here, will provide you with a glimpse into the past and what it was like to go to school.
I can vividly recall my dad harnessing up the one horse cutter (sleigh). After he tucked us in and covered us with a blanket, we simply said “gittyup” and the horse trotted away, and when he got to the highway, and stopped, we looked out and if all was clear we crossed what is now the #1 Hwy. The next stop was at the livery barn at the school. Either Alfred or Wally unharnessed the horse, gave it some hay in the barn, and after school we travelled home the same way,My Aunt talking about her one room school
Over the years there were a great variety of events held at the school. Christmas concerts consisted of plays and songs and the evening ended with coffee and lunch. Everyone would receive a paper bag of mixed candy plus nuts, a Christmas orange, and an apple. Remember the gas-lamp lights? The men would have to pump the lamps when the light dimmed.Iona (Madison) Miller for Precious Memories of Time (1989)
One can not underestimate the importance of the school as the social centre of the district. As a matter of fact, it was at one of these dances that my father, Peter Madsen, proposed to my mother, Anna Olsen. I am glad to say, I was one of those who experienced going to Hearts of Oak School. They were wonderful years; an education in itself.Iona (Madison) Miller for Precious Memories of Time (1989)
Update in December 2021
I just learned that there is an effort underway to replace the roof of this fine old school. The school was built very well so as long as the roof is functional the structure can remain standing for another century. They are accepting donations but for more details you will have to check with the local people who are doing the fundraising. It’s all in the comments below from Bryan Larsen but I’ll reproduce the important parts here.
This is your opportunity to help preserve a small part of Saskatchewan’s historic legacy of stone structures.
- Portrait of Change, The Journey Forward: Memories of Redvers and District, published in 2010 by the Redvers and District History Book Committee and Redvers Centennial Committee in Redvers, Saskatchewan. The above quotes from, Iona (Madison) Miller for Precious Memories of Time (1989), was found in this book Local History For Redvers. This was obtained from the Saskatchewan Archives.
- Legacy of Stone: Saskatchewan’s Stone Buildings (2008) by Margaret Hryniuk, Frank Korvemaker, and Larry Easton: http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/korvemaker_f.shtml I didn’t use Legacy of Stone for this blog but I know that Hearts of Oak School is in that book. It’s an excellent resource if you can find a copy.
If you visit the structures shown in this blog, or any other old potentially abandoned structure, please respect the landowners” rights and obtain their permission to access and photograph their structures. Always exercise caution when visiting abandoned buildings as there are potential dangers such as crumbling structures, deep wells hidden by grass, and even spores of mould in the air.
Frank Korvenmaker has a number of copies of the book Legacy of Worship for sale. They retail at $40 (plus tax) in bookstores, if available. He is selling them at $25 (no tax), plus shipping, usually in the $15-$20 range. For any person or group wanting to buy books in bulk, he is selling them for $10 per book on orders of 10 copies or more. Pick-up of bulk orders may be arranged between the the buyer and Frank in Regina for those who may be passing through. Email Frank Korvenmaker at email@example.com for details and to discuss shipping. I receive no commission or other remuneration for assisting Frank to sell this book.