In the year 1871 the rate-payers of Dennison’s Bridge organized themselves into a school section. They purchased land from Mr. John Dennison, father of Mr. Charles B. Dennison, for the sum of one dollar.
A log building was erected, which was used for school purposes and church services. The first teacher was Miss Josephine Williams, who taught for the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars a year. The first Secretary-Treasurer was Daniel Johnson, the first postmaster (and operated a general store).
The second teacher was Miss Elsie Lake; the third was Mrs. Jones, wife of the village Doctor.
In 1880 the name 'Combermere' was given to the village and in that same year a new frame building was erected on the school property and the little log building became a wood shed.
Combermere old school
Combermere Road, Combermere
In 1883, Mr. John E. H. Miller (Combermere Postmaster) became Secretary, an office he held until 1919.
In the year 1892 the new school house was burned mysteriously in the night. The present school building was then erected.
In 1900, Mrs John Stubbs was given the office of caretaker of the school, at a salary of ten dollars per year. At that time the school was swept but once a week. Mrs. Stubbs held the position continuously for thirty years. In 1929 the old log building was torn down, the thick pine grove surrounding the school partially cleared, and the school property and buildings were made as they appear to-day.
In 1936, cloak rooms were partitioned off and in-door toilets installed.
In May 23, 1939 a maple tree was planted to commemorate the visit to Canada by their majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
In 1944 a Union Jack flag 3" x 6" on a 7' standard pole with brass top was presented to the school by the Paardburg Chapter I.O.D.E. Hamilton, Ontario.
On May 13, 1953, the officially opening of the C. F. Cannon Public school took place in Combermere. Work was started on the school in 1952 and completed in 1953 when it was ready for use. Miss Kathryn Farmer and her pupils moved in on the 20th of January 1953.
Combermere school picnic
Combermere Road in front of Methodist Church
On April 1, 1953 the Combermere Home & School Association was established with Mrs. Mock Dunn, President. Other officers were:
-Mrs Harry Stevenson, Vice President
-Mrs Lester Schweig, Secretary-Treasurer
-Mrs. Stephen Kenward, literature and programs
-Mrs William Colfe, membership.
Charter Members of the Home & School Association were:
-Miss Kathryn Farmer
-Hortense Stevenson (Mrs Harry)
-Mrs. Bessie Pringle
-Rev. Mr. Stephen Kenward.
-Mrs. Henry Drevniok
-Mrs. Fred Conley
-Mrs. E. Hamilton
Combermere Public School
Combermere Road near Mayflower Coffee shop
History of St. Mary's
Early in 1948, Reverend Mother Catherine Windle, who had just been elected Superior General of the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus, came to open another house in Canada. Mission City in BC had been selected as a possibility but this was out when this whole area was destroyed by the flooding of the Columbia River in March.
Mother Catherine’s thoughts than turned to her own birthplace at Wingle, ON in the Madawaska Valley. Here she knew there was a need for more educational facilities, particular a high school. She knew of the little one-room schools in the area were trying to give the basics of grades 1 through 10 but this very often marked the end of formal education for over 95% of the children.
After consultation with Bishop Smith and priests of the area, Mother Catherine purchased a small property on the banks of the Madawaska about 20 miles from Wingle. The small property had a building on it that had been built as an overnight home for tourists. This was the first home known as St. Mary’s Convent.
Before leaving, Mother Catherine arranged for the addition of two classrooms and a large assembly hall to be added to the original building, and this was to become the nucleus of the high school.
Later, on September 7th, Mother Miriam Ryan and Mother Brigid Murphy walked down the road to the parish school - a one room edifice. The parishioners soon agreed that a second room should be built, therefore the children were divided into Grades 1-4 and 5-8. Sister Miriam suffered the inconvenience that only she could best describe - teaching for the better part of the year in the parish hall until the new room was built.
St. Mary's High School 1948-1963
The first year St. Mary’s had two boarders - one attending Grade 12 and the other one attending Grade 3 and eight day scholars.
After Easter of 1949 the two new classrooms and hall were ready to open their doors to the surrounding villages. Thus started the growth of both boarders and day scholars and by 1953 it was deemed advisable to build a larger convent. The ground for the new building was broken in September 1953 and everyone looked forward with great expectations as they watched the beautiful building rise.
The building was scheduled to be ready by August 1954 and Reverend Mother Catherine invited many of the sisters from all over to spend the summer of 1954 in Combermere. However, because of strikes and other holdups during the year the guests had to be content to stay in the original little house. In anticipation of the new building being ready for September more boarders than normal were accepted. Unfortunately they had to suffer severe overcrowding and many inconveniences until the end of October when the new dormitories were ready for them. It was December 4th, just in time for the procession in honour of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception that the community was fully moved in and settled in their new home.
The number of students to attend St. Mary’s continued to increase and all of the original house was used as classrooms for the high school. But this too proved to be inadequate to meet increasing demands o the growth in attendance and also to meet the new standards that were set by the Department of Education. In 1963 a new addition was added to the Convent, a beautiful new modern High School and a spacious chapel now was the 'The New St. Mary’s'
St. Mary's High School 1963-1974
St. Mary’s continued to serve the surrounding community and take in boarders from all across Canada, the United States, South America and Europe for another eleven years. After that a new high school was opened in Barry’s Bay named Madawaska Valley District High School and served a wider student base, both for Catholic as well as protestant students.
The parish priest, Father. P. Dwyer was ill when the little house was ready and was replaced by the Oblate Father. So here in Combermere as in the west, for several years, the first mass was offered by an Oblate of Mary immaculate. Reverend Mother Catherine, Mother Euphemia Hickey and the six sisters who were to make up the new community, assisted at the first Mass.
St. Mary’s opened on September 1948
The community consisted of the following individuals:
-Mother Joe O’Connell fcj
-Sister Miriam Ryan
-Sister Bridgid Murphy
-Sister Joseph Laffin
-Sister Mary John Somers
-Sister Mary Rita Lovett
Sister Miriam and Sister Bridgid taught in grade school Sister M. Joseph and Sister Mary Rita taught at St. Mary’s High School
One boarder, a Joan Lesieur (Sawyer) from Quadeville who asked if she could live with the school to do grade 11 and 12. Mrs Agnes Kreiger let her daughter June drive her car. Twelve children from Combermere in grades 9-12.
1950 Sister Mary Somerville joined the community and taught art and music. The school had 8 boarders from Maynooth and Toronto.
1952 Sister Agnes Couglin came to teach in grade school. Sister Miriam came to the high school There was a bus from Palmer Rapids, Quadeville and Latchford Bridge (Mr. Proudfoot, RIP) bought the bus.
1953 Pupils came in private cars from Barry’s Bay
1954 The new st. Mary’s opened with approximately 39 boarders
1960 The largest number of boarders. The school took in their first foreign student and they had 80 boarders.
1963 The new school was ready for classes and a new chapel was added.
Sisters at St. Mary’s from 1952 to 1974
-Sister Philomena Clarke
-Sister Philomena Fitzgerald
-Sister Elizabeth Fitzgerald
-Sister Frances Murphy
-Sister Mary Hoseph McIntyre
-Sister Sabina Hajeau
-Sister Elizabeth O’Connor
-Sister Germaine McDonald
-Sister Maura Grimley
-Sister Delores D’amour
-Sister Helen Costigan
-Sister Joan DeGrace
-Sister Annunciata Curtin
-Sister Mary Agnes Young - kitchen & laundry
-Sister Merchtilde Rouillier - kitchen & laundry
-Sister Catherine Quigley - kitchen & laundry
-Sister Pascal Vallely - kitchen & laundry
-Sister Madeleine Dodrill RIP
-Sister Winnifred Dunne RIP
-Sister Felecitis Fortier RIP
-Sister Joan Theilan
-Sister Patricia Wraw
-Sister Catherine Manning
-Sister Ann Fensom
-Sister Donatienne Mullin
The school was closed June 7, 1977 due to declining enrolment and the new high school (Madawaska Valley District High School) opening in Barry’s Bay.
St. Mary's Convent School, Combermere
Sacred Heart Separate School
A separate school named St. Mary’s was built in the 1920s across from the church approximately where the George Vanier Separate school is today. Grades kindergarten to grade eight were taught for many years when a fire broke out and destroyed the school building. The building was demolished and a new school was built and renamed George Vanier separate school.
Sacred Heart School, Combermere