BC Historical Quarterly October 1938
D.L. MacLaurin

No reference to the existence of schools in what is now British Columbia earlier in date than 1849 has yet come to light. In that year the headquarters of the Columbia Department of the Hudson’s Bay Company was moved from Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River, to Fort Victoria. There had been a school of one sort or another at Fort Vancouver ever since January 1833, and Chief Factor James Douglas, and the other officers of the Company, were naturally anxious that similar provision for the instruction of their children should be made at Victoria.

The Governor and Committee in London shared this view, and in 1849 the Rev. Robert J. Staines, an Anglican clergyman, arrived at Fort Victoria in the barque Columbia to act as chaplain and schoolmaster there. He was to receive £200 per annum as chaplain and £340 as schoolmaster, a fact which would indicate that some importance was attached to the latter position. Staines was accompanied by his wife, and together they opened a school, attendance at which was evidently restricted to the children of the officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The pupils included two children of Chief Trader A. C. Anderson, who was then stationed at Fort Colville, and a letter from Doug las to Anderson written in October, 1850, contains the following passage:

“The school is doing as well as can be expected in the circumstances. More assistance in the way of servants of respectable character is required than we have at our command; so many children give a great deal of trouble and I often wonder how Mrs. Staines can stand the fag of looking after them. She is invaluable and receives less assistance than she ought from her husband, who is rather lazy at times. The children have greatly improved in their personal appearance and one thing I particularly love in Staines is the attention he bestows on their religious training. Had I a selection to make he is not exactly the man I would choose; but it must be admitted we might find a man worse qualified for the charge of the school.[i] Douglas adds that the Anderson children were “decided favourites with the Staines,” and it is clear that they boarded at the school. Beyond this no details of the establishment are known, except that Captain W. C. Grant, Vancouver Island’s first independent settler, described it as being “exceedingly well managed” and “calculated to have a most civilizing influence on the future prospects of the island.”[ii]  

Staines was a picturesque and belligerent character, and Bancroft has given an amusing account of his efforts to provide the Colony with a better breed of pigs. It was not long before he was at loggerheads with the local authorities. Settlers were beginning to arrive, and Staines soon espoused their cause against the Company. Finally, in 1854, he determined to proceed to London and protest to the Colonial Office against what he considered to be the tyrannical rule of the Hudson’s Bay Company. It was a decision which cost him his life, as the lumber vessel in which he sailed from Sooke foundered off Cape Flattery, and Staines in the was drowned.[iii]

In the meantime the population of Vancouver Island had been increased considerably by the arrival of several parties of labourers brought from Great Britain by the Hudson’s Bay Company, and a certain number of independent settlers. The first of these arrived in the Harpooner in June 1849, and much larger parties came in the Norman Morison in 1850, and in the ship Tory, in June of 1851. That James Douglas had plans for common schools for these settlers appears in a letter of his to Archibald Barclay, Secretary of the Hudson’s Bay Company, dated May 16, 1850, from which these lines are taken:

“The site I proposed for the town was immediately around Fort Victoria, which would at once serve as a nucleus and a protection. It was however no part of my plan that the company should be put to the charge of providing churches and school-houses. I would recommend leaving such matters to the inhabitants themselves, the company merely furnishing the sites and such pecuniary assistance as they may deem necessary, but by no means to act as principals.[iv]  

When this letter was written Douglas was still only Chief Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In October 1851, about a month after he had succeeded Richard Blanshard as Governor of Vancouver Island, he dealt with the school question in more detail in another letter to Archibald Barclay:

“I will also take the liberty of calling the attention of the Governor and Committee to the subject of education by recommending the establishment of one or two elementary schools in the Colony to give a proper moral and religious training to the children of settlers who are at present growing up in ignorance, and the utter neglect of all their duties to God and to Society. That remark applies with peculiar force to the children of Protestant Parents; the Roman Catholic families in this country having had until lately a very able and zealous teacher in the Rev’d. Mr. Lampfrit, a French Priest of the Society des Oblats, who is now living with the Indians in the Cowitchen Valley. One school at Victoria, and one at Esquimalt will provide for the present wants of the settlements, and a fixed salary of £50 a year to be paid by the Colony with an annual payment by the Parents of a certain sum not to exceed thirty shillings for each child with a free house and garden is the plan and amount of remuneration I would propose to the Committee. In regard to the character of the Teachers I would venture to recommend a middle aged married couple for each school of strictly religious principles and unblemished character capable of giving a good sound English education and nothing more, these schools being intended for the children of the labouring and poorer classes, and children of promising talents, or whom their parents may wish to educate further, may pursue their studies and acquire the other branches of knowledge at the Companys School conducted by the Rev’d. Mr. Staines.

“I would also recommend that a good supply of School Books from the Alphabet upwards, with slates and pencils be sent out with the Teachers, as there are very few in this country.[v]

 Two items stand out in this letter. The schools were to give “moral and religious training” and they were not to be free, although they were to have Government support. The provision of separate schools “for the children of the labouring and poorer classes” will also strike the reader of to-day.

It is interesting to note at this point that there is at least an element of uncertainty as to whether the school established by the Rev. Robert Staines, or possibly one established by the French priest, Father Lamfrit, was the first school on Vancouver Island. Lamfrit was sent to Victoria in March, 1849, and may have commenced the instruction of the Roman Catholic children there before Staines arrived, or at any rate before he and Mrs. Staines opened their school.[vi]  Rear-Admiral Moresby, who visited the Colony in the early summer of 1851, describes Father Lamfrit as being “a very intelligent and earnest Missionary,” and adds that he has “erected a house in Victoria, a part of which is appropriated for a Chapel . . .“[vii] Unfortunately, he makes no mention of the school. Soon after this Father Lamfrit departed to live amongst the Cowichan Indians, “without a single white assistant,” as Douglas informed the Colonial Secretary, “and without any pecuniary means to defray the expense of an establishment, as he trusted entirely to his Indian converts for support, a plan which could hardly be expected to succeed with ignorant savages.”[viii] Relations between the priest and the Indians presently became strained; and after reports that his life was in danger had reached Douglas, an officer and a small force were sent to Cowichan in May of 1852 to ascertain if he were safe, and to insist upon the abandonment of his hazardous mission.

Some time before this, Douglas had put his plans to open a common school into effect. In March 1852, he wrote to Archibald Barclay:

“Mr. Charles Bailey the young man who acted as schoolmaster for the Emigrants during the outward voyage of the Tory having conducted himself with great propriety since his arrival here and not being particularly useful as a mere labourer I have opened a day school for boys, the children of the Company’s labouring servants at this place, who are growing up in ignorance of their duties as men and Christians. It is now attended by 18 boys, who are making fair progress in learning. The Parents furnish Books and stationery and pay £1 annually, for each child which goes into a fund for the support of the schoolmaster and he also receives his wages and provisions from the Company, who are put to no other expense for the institution.[ix]  

According to a despatch to the Colonial Secretary this school and that conducted by Staines provided “secular and religious instruction for all the children in the settlement.” [x]

 In the same letter to Barclay, Douglas enters a plea on behalf of still another school on Vancouver Island:

“I beg also to inform the Governor and Committee that Mr. Langford is desirous of opening a young lady’s school at his establishment with a view of bettering his circumstances, and has written to a young lady of his acquaintance a Miss Scott; who has had much experience as a teacher to join him in this country, provided she can obtain a free passage in any of the Company’s ships. May I take the liberty of asking the aid of the Governor and Committee, in promoting that important object so far as to allow that lady a free passage in the Norman Morison to this country should she feel disposed to undertake the voyage. This would be a great boon to the country, and another proof of the deep interest felt by their Honors in the progress of education.[xi]  

These plans met with approval, as is shown by the following paragraph from a letter written by Douglas in December 1852:

“I am happy to observe that the Governor and Committee approve the plan of the day school opened for the instruction of the labourer’s children and of the appointment of Mr. Baillie as Teacher, and I sincerely thank their Honors for the liberal encouragement they have so kindly promised to the young ladies’ school, at Mr. Langford’s Farm. The day School is very well conducted, and the children are making satisfactory progress.[xii]  

Having secured a teacher and opened the common school, Douglas next arranged for the construction of a special school building. Hitherto he had been acting primarily in his capacity as Chief Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company; but the building of a school was a Colony rather than a Company matter, and Douglas therefore dealt with it as Governor of Vancouver Island. Under the date March 29, 1853, we find the following entry in the Minutes of the Council of the Colony:

“The subject of public instruction was next brought under the consideration of the Council. Applications having been made from various districts of the country for schools, it was resolved that two schools should be opened without delay, one to be placed on the peninsula, near the Puget Sound Company’s establishment, at Maple Point, and another at Victoria, there being about thirty children and youths of both sexes, respectively, at each of those places. It was therefore resolved, that the sum of £500 be appropriated for the erection of a school-house at Victoria, to contain a dwelling for the teacher, and school-rooms, and several bedrooms and that provision should be made hereafter for the erection of a house at Maple Point.

Two days later the Council considered the matter further, “fixed upon a site near Minies Plain” for the school in Victoria and decided “that the size of the building should be 40 feet long by 40 feet broad.” The Minutes continue:

“A Commission of two persons, The Honble. John Tod, Senior Member of the Council, Robert Barr, Schoolmaster—were then appointed to carry this measure into effect, and to report from time to time their proceedings to the Governor and Council.

It may be explained that the site chosen was on the School Reserve, the present location of the Boys’ Central School, Victoria, but then about one mile distant from Fort Victoria. Maple Point was the name then given to the location where the old Craigflower School now stands. Craigflower was the name of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company’s farm just across Portage Inlet from Maple Point. Robert Barr, as will appear later, had come out from Great Britain specially to be schoolmaster at Craigflower, but Douglas decided to make use of his services at Victoria instead. The reason for this appears in a letter from Douglas to Archibald Barclay, written early in September, 1853, after Douglas had visited the new town of Nanaimo and inspected the coal-mining developments which were taking place there:

“While at Nanaimo I had much conversation with the Miners, and other married servants of the Company, on the subject of opening an elementary school, for their children, who have been much neglected, and are growing up in ignorance of their duties as Christians and as men. Seeing that they all expressed an ardent wish to have the means of educating their children, I transferred Mr. Baillie, who has for some time been employed as Teacher of the Victoria Day School, but who is not now required here, to the Establishment of Nanaimo where he has since opened school. His emoluments are the same as formerly, say £40 a year with board from the Company, and one pound sterling per annum, for each child under his tuition to be paid by the Parents, who are also to provide books and stationery at their own expense.[xiii]

According to Captain Grant, whose remarks would apply to the early part of 1854, “about 24 children” attended this school, and he described Nanaimo at that time as being “a flourishing little settlement, with about 125 inhabitants, of whom 37 are working men, the remainder women and children. “[xiv]

 In May 1853, Douglas informed Barclay that the school for Mr. Barr was under construction, and that it was expected to be ready for occupation about the end of the summer.[xv] In October he described the settlement the school would serve as follows:

                “The Town of Victoria contains 87 dwellings and Store Houses and many other buildings are in progress. A public-school house has been erected this season, and we are now building a Church capable of containing a congregation of 300 persons.[xvi]

 Ten days later he gave Barclay some particulars of the school itself:

“The disbursements on account of the Victoria District School came to £469.11.2, and the internal arrangements are not yet completed, though sufficiently advanced to be habitable, and Mr. Barr now resides on the Premises, and has 33 Pupils, who are making satisfactory progress.[xvii]

 It was not until nine months later that the last accounts due for the construction of the building were settled, as is shown by the Minutes of the Council of Vancouver Island for July 12, 1854:

“The Governor laid before the Council an account received from Mr. Robert Barr, Master of the Colonial School, amounting to £36.5.11, being the sum expended by him in completing the school-house, papering the bedrooms, enclosing and bringing into cultivation a small kitchen garden, and various other fixtures and improvements, as stated in said account. That account ordered to be paid and charged to Vancouver’s Island Trust Fund. The trust fund referred to consisted originally of £2,000, and had been established by the Hudson’s Bay Company to furnish the funds required for such “colonial purposes” as roads and school houses. It amounted, in actual fact, to a loan to the Colony, and the Company expected to be repaid out of the proceeds of the sale of colonial lands.

The story of the founding of the famous old Craigflower School is told in a letter written in 1903 by Thomas Russell to Dr. S. D. Pope, a former Superintendent of Education in British Columbia. As this letter indicates, Mr. Russell was the brother-in-law of Kenneth McKenzie, who was in charge of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company’s farm at Craigflower; and it may be well to add that the Puget Sound Company, though nominally a separate corporation, was for all practical purposes a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Referring to the school, Mr. Russell says:

“It is only fair to the memory of my brother-in-law, the late Kenneth Mc Kenzie, to state that when leaving Scotland for Vancouver Island in charge of a number of families, young men and women, he was not unmindful of the great responsibility and trust placed in his hands, namely the education of not only the bairns that were going with him, who had gathered hips and haws on Scotland’s bonny braes, but the other bairnies that might be expected after our arrival, hence he made it a condition that a school-master should be engaged at the expense of the company before leaving. Mr. [Robert] Barr was engaged to fill the position, himself and his wife arriving with us in the ship Norman Morrison, on the 16th January 1853. At the time of our arrival at Fort Victoria the late Sir James Douglas was Governor of the Colony, and head of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and having full control over all matters and no school-master being at the Fort, Mr. Douglas retained Mr. Barr for that section—hence we had to locate at Craigflower without a teacher. An afternoon class was established for the benefit of the children who had been at school before leaving, until a master could arrive.  In the fall of 1854 the ship Princess Royal arrived bringing with her our much-wished-for schoolmaster, Mr. Charles Clarke and wife. Shortly after their arrival the school was opened with due form and ceremony, the enrollment consisting of eight boys and six girls from our own little party.[xviii]

It will be recalled that Robert Barr was kept at Victoria not because there was no teacher there, but because Douglas wished to send Charles Bailey to Nanaimo, and that the Council of Vancouver Island decided that a school should be opened at Craigflower (Maple Point) as early as March, 1853. Nothing further seems to have been done for more than a year, but in July, 1854, this paragraph is found in a letter from Douglas to Archibald Barclay:

“The Governor and Committee’s instructions in reference to Mr. Clarke the Schoolmaster expected by the Princess Royal shall be duly attended to and I will desire Mr. McKenzie to make immediate arrangements for his reception.[xix]

In December, Douglas reported that:

“The school house for Mr. Clarke not being yet quite ready for his reception, will be opened in the course of another month.[xx]

Some unforeseen delay must have occurred, however, as it was not until March, 1855, that the Craigflower School was actually completed and opened. These excerpts from the letters and despatches of James Douglas, from the Minutes of the Council of Vancouver Island, and from Thomas Russell’s letter, enable us to conclude with certainty the order of establishment of the first colonial schools on Vancouver Island. Craigflower was not the first, as is often supposed. The first colonial common school was opened in Victoria early in 1852, with Charles Bailey as master. The first colonial school-house was built in Victoria and occupied prior to October 21, 1853, with Robert Barr as master. Prior to September 3, 1853, a school was opened at Nanaimo, although no school house was built there. Mr. Bailey was transferred from Victoria to open this school at Nanaimo. There were afternoon classes for children at Craigflower during 1853, but the Craigflower school-house was not completed and opened until March 1855. To Craigflower alone, however, belongs the honour of having preserved its original school-house. This building can justly claim to be the oldest school building still existing in British Columbia, but not the first school-house. Craigflower was the third colonial school established and the second to build a school house. According to a census of Vancouver Island completed by Douglas in August of 1855, the three District Schools at Victoria, Craigflower, and Nanaimo then had a total of eighty-one pupils regularly in attendance.[xxi]

The death of the Rev. Robert Staines left the Hudson’s Bay Fort at Victoria without a chaplain, and in due course Andrew Colville, Governor of the Company, issued a memorandum dated August 12, 1854, which in effect advertised for a successor.

After setting forth the clerical duties involved, and the remuneration proposed, this memorandum dealt with the school question in the following terms:

 “The Company think it very desirable that the Clergyman should as is done at Red River by the Bishop of Rupert’s Land take charge of a Boarding School of a superior class for the children of their officers and would wish that he should take out with him a gentleman and his wife capable of keeping a school of this nature. The Fur Trade Branch would find a school house and residence for the master and his family & will vote an annual grant of £100 in aid of the School. Should they give satisfaction to the gentlemen in the country they might expect from thirty to forty pupils & the usual payment for each pupil has been £20 per annum for Board, Lodging and Education. A free passage will be allowed from London to Vancouver’s Island to the Clergyman, his family & servants and also to the schoolmaster & his family.[xxii]

The terms and conditions set forth in the memorandum were formally accepted on September 13, 1854, by the Rev. Edward Cridge, who arrived in Victoria on April 1, 1855. No school master accompanied him, but Mrs. Cridge opened a private school similar to the one formerly conducted by Mrs. Staines. To Mrs. Cridge belongs the honour of opening the first Sunday school in the Colony. The Rev. (later Bishop) Cridge was also deeply interested in education and soon began to play a most important part in its progress. The following minute of the Council of Vancouver Island, dated February 27, 1856, records the appointment of Mr. Cridge to what may justly be termed the position of first inspector of colonial schools:

“The Governor then called the attention of the Council to the subject of the Publick Schools, and recommended that the Revd. Edward Cridge, District Minister of Victoria, should be appointed a Member of the Committee for inquiring into and reporting upon the state of the Publick Schools, It was then Resolved, That the Revd. Edward Cridge be, according to the Governor’s recommendation, appointed a Member of the said Committee, and be requested to hold quarterly examinations and to report on the progress and conduct of the pupils, on the system of management, and on all other matters connected with the District Schools which may appear deserving of attention.

The names of the other members of the Committee in question have not come to light, but references in Cridge’s first report on the colonial schools make it clear that other members either had been or were subsequently appointed to it. This report, sub mitted to the Governor in November 1856, throws so much light upon the condition of the colonial schools at the time that it is worth printing in full. Readers will note that it deals only with Victoria and Craigflower and, unfortunately, gives no account of the school at Nanaimo.


The Parsonage
Novr. 30. 1856.

To His Excellency the Governor Sir

In conformity with the instructions of the Council of the Colony, I submit a report of the Colonial Schools. With your Excellency’s concurrence I have so far departed from those instructions as to hold half-yearly instead of quarterly examinations, believing that more frequent periods would tend to unsettle the schools, & render it less easy to mark the progress of the pupils.

  1. Report of the Victoria School, Mr. Barr, Master—up to August 1856. A private examination was held before the Committee in July, when the children were examined jointly by the Master & myself—13 children present. Some of the children answered with intelligence, & shewed a fair under standing of their subjects as far as they went. The chief deficiency noticed was a want of accuracy and grounding in the elementary parts. The subjects taught are Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, History, a little Geography & Grammar. Owing to domestic circumstances the Master preferred not having a public Examination this year.

The number of children on the books is 17 all of whom are boys. Their ages vary from 6 to 15 years, there being 7 boys under ten years of age & 10 of ten years & upwards; 9 are boarders & the remainder day scholars. Of these latter 3 are of the labouring class. That only 3 boys & no girls of this class attend the Colonial School at Victoria is a remarkable, &, I think, rather a painful fact. As to what may be the real causes of this deficiency I do not feel myself able to speak with confidence. There is evidently a feeling unfavourable to the school existing among some of the people chiefly on the alleged grounds of the irregularity of the Master’s attendance. With regard to this Complaint I will only state the fact that during the three months immediately preceding the examination mentioned above there were given one whole & five half days holidays; & of these I believe that a part were given on account of the necessary absence of the Master on other duties.

In answer to the question as to what children had been removed from the school during the last 12 months & on what grounds, the Master writes, “Many children have left during the last 12 months but as to what schools they have gone to, or for what reasons they left I have not been made acquainted.” Some girls formerly at this school have been placed at a girls’ school, but none of the labouring class. Two boys have been removed & placed at the Roman Catholic School lately established at Victoria; partly on the ground of distance, & partly for the reason I have already specified.

 With regard to the Conduct of the children I have heard no complaint. I have been always pleased with their Conduct and attention whenever I have visited the school.

 I wish I could speak in terms equally favourable of their attendance. This is exceedingly defective & irregular. During the 3 months preceding the examination, there were absent of the day scholars 1 above 60 days, 4 above 30 days, 2 above 20 days, & 1 above 15 days. This fact alone will account for much deficiency, as it is impossible that children should make due progress in their learning who are frequently absent from school.

In answer to a question relating to the organization of the school, the Master replies, “In consequence of the different ages & abilities of the children I am unable to classify them.” They are therefore taught in detail or grouped miscellaneously. It is perhaps owing to this method that the younger children do not make that progress which could be desired.

This school is not well supplied with books—& other requisites—a serious defect. I would suggest that an adequate supply should be ordered from England or San Francisco at the earliest opportunity. The books published by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland are very suitable to a school of this description & are very cheap.

 The subject of a new Master in place of Mr. Barr who has resigned is one on which I have heard a good deal of interest expressed, and one which I would respectfully urge on the attention of the Council. The filling up a vacancy in such an office is not easy in a distant colony; & if, as I under stand from His Excellency, the appointment has not yet been made, I would venture to suggest whether it might not be desirable, in case of a person of this colony being chosen, that he should be taken on trial before the appointment is permanently conferred.

 It may not be irrelevant to this report if I name a request which the Master has desired me to make, that the furniture & fixtures, or a portion of them, might be bought at a valuation for his successor, as many of them were provided specifically for the school & school house. Should the Council think proper to grant this request, I do not doubt but the Committee would undertake to arrange this matter with Mr. Barr.

  1. Report of the Craig Flower School Mr. Clark, Master,— up to August 1856.


 A private examination of this school before the Committee (of whom only myself was present) was held on two successive days in July. A public examination was held at the end of the same month before the Governor and a considerable number of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The examination was conducted by the Master, & its results with regard to the standing of the children corresponded with those to which I had arrived in the private examination. The subjects taught are those mentioned in my report of the Victoria School; & in addition to these, one boy has begun the elements of Euclid & Algebra. The children are fairly grounded in the elementary parts, the Master bestowing a good deal of pains on this point, & the Examination on the whole seemed to give satisfaction to those who were present. A considerable improvement was remarked by those who had attended the examination of the preceding year. Prizes were bestowed on three children in each class except the lowest, & one on a little girl who had only been 8 days absent in 18 months. The examination in Scripture was inadvertently omitted till too late on the day of the public examination, but I had examined the School previously in this subject, in which I did not find that the children had made the same improvement as in some others.


The number of children on the books is 21 of ages varying from 4 to 16 years, there being 12 under ten years of age & 9 of ten years and upward. There are 11 girls & 10 boys; 3 are boarders. Of the day scholars 11 are of the labouring class (5 girls & 6 boys). Of the whole school 14 are from Craig Flower, 3 from Victoria, 1 from Colwood, 2 from Burnside & 1 from View Field.


The school is divided into 4 classes and the system is that which is usually followed in the National Schools in England. The conduct & attention of the children have been always pleasing when I have visited the school, & I believe this is generally the case.


The attendance though not so good as it might be, is fair. In three months preceding the examination there were absent 1 child about 30 days, 1 about 20, 1 about 15 & the rest not exceeding 10 days.


In answer to the enquiry as to how many children had been removed during the past year, the master informs me that one boy, a Canadian was removed to the new Roman Catholic School at Victoria, one girl had finished school & two were removed to the girls’ school at Victoria.


The school is at present sufficiently provided with books & maps; & on the whole, I think that it is fairly suited to the class of children chiefly found in its immediate vicinity. Its position also seems central to the population as at present distributed.


In framing this report I have thought it better to avoid any lengthened comment & to Confine myself chiefly to facts; & I would remark that what ever prejudice may exist against either of the schools it is the common lot of schools; & in forming my judgment I have endeavoured to keep myself clear of any influence of this kind. I have also endeavoured to the best of my power to give such information as should enable the Council to judge of the state of the schools; & I shall hope to have the pleasure of presenting another report after Christmas relating to the half year shortly about to expire.

In conclusion, I would take this opportunity of stating to the Council what I conceive to be a great want in this Colony, & that is a girls’ school for the labouring class. It seems greatly to be lamented that those who are likely hereafter to perform so important a part in the community in the capacity of wives & mothers, should be suffered to grow up without Education.

I shall be happy to receive instructions from the Council with regard to any wishes they may entertain in relation to the schools. Meanwhile I beg to remain Your Excellency’s obedient Servant

EDWARD CRIDGS, Colonial Chaplain.[xxiii]

                A number of points in this report are worthy of note. The Scriptures were taught in the Schools. The repeated references to “the labouring class” seem to suggest a rather deeply ingrained class-distinction attitude in the mind of the writer of the report. The reference to a “new Roman Catholic school” indicates that a successor to the pioneer Catholic school opened by Father Lamfrit had recently been established. It is surprising to find that the District School at Victoria was attended by boys only; and though there was a “girls’ school at Victoria,” attendance there must have been either expensive or restricted in some way, since Cridge concludes by stressing the need for “a girls’ school for the labouring class.” As noted in Cridge’s report, Robert Barr resigned as master of the Victoria District School in November 1856. His lot does not seem to have been a happy one, financially as well as in other ways, and a dispatch from Douglas to the Secretary of State, written in 1854, records the fact “that the sum of £50 sterling was granted for the relief of Mr. Barr the Teacher, whose salary of £60 a year is insufficient for his support.”[xxiv] He was succeeded by a Mr. Kennedy, who held the post until March, 1859, when he in turn was succeeded by W. H. Burr. In January 1857, another staff change occurred when Charles Bailey resigned as master of the Nanaimo District School. His successor was Cornelius Bryant, who was furnished with the following interesting letter of introduction by Governor Douglas when he left Victoria to assume his new duties:[xxv]

 Victoria, VI, Captain Stuart. 30th Jany. 1857.

 Dear Sir: I beg to introduce to you Mr. Cornelius Bryant who after undergoing an examination before the Revd. Mr. Cridge, and being by him pronounced duly qualified, has been appointed Teacher of the Nanaimo School, on the following terms; that is to say, he is to have a fixed salary of £40 per annum, and an allowance of ¼ a day for ration money; to levy a fee of £ sterling per annum to be paid by the parents, on every child who attends the school for the purpose of being educated. He is also to have the House occupied by the late Teacher, for his residence, and the school room will of course also be placed under his charge. You will install him without delay, and his salary and other emoluments, will commence from the day of his entering upon the office & not before. I have requested Mr. Bryant to open a Sunday School for the children, which he has cheerfully agreed to do, and also to read the church service to the people at large. I trust you will give him every encouragement and support in effecting that laudable and highly necessary object, which will prove an advantage to all and be a means with God’s blessing, of maintaining order and decency among the Company’s Servants. You will give Mr. Bryant such instructions in respect to the opening and management of the school, and the distribution of Books, Slates &c., as you may consider requisite and necessary. I have appraised him that such instructions would emanate from you, and he is therefore prepared to obey them.

 I remain Sir, Your obdt. Servt.


How these meagre salaries were to be supplemented is shown in the following notice, issued by the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island in 1857:

NOTICE. Whereas it appeareth from a report of a Committee of the House of Assembly appointed to enquiry into the state of the Public Schools of this Colony, and some misapprehension exists with respect to the District School Fees as authorized by the Governor and Council: It is therefore desirable to make known to all whom it may concern that the Teachers of the District Schools of Vancouver’s Island are, in addition to their annual salary and board allowance from the Colonial Trust Fund, authorized to receive pupils in the manner following, and to charge according to the Scale of Fees hereinafter set forth for each pupil; that is to say, children placed under the care of the District Teachers for tuition shall be boarded at the following rates:

1st. Children of Colonists residents of Vancouver’s Island and of servants of Hudson’s Bay Company.  18 guineas per annum.

2nd. The children of non-residents, not being servants of Hudson’s Bay Company. Any sum that may be agreed with the parties.

Day scholars attending the District Schools shall pay at the following rates for tuition, viz.: Five shillings per quarter of (or) twenty shillings per annum for the following instruction, viz.: Reading, English grammar, writing, geography, arithmetic, and industrial training. When a higher series of education is given, such as Latin or other languages and the higher branches of arithmetic and mathematics, they shall pay an increased rate of school fees to be arranged between the Governor for the time being and the Schoolmaster. In all cases the pupils are to find books and stationery at their own expense, the same not being provided by the Colony.

RICHARD G0LLEDGE, Secretary. Victoria, Vancouver’s Isld.,
December 15th, 1857.
By His Excellency’s command.

It will be interesting at this point to add Cornelius Bryant’s own account of how he came to secure the appointment of school master at Nanaimo, as it is given in his diary. He had travelled from England in the Princess Royal, which left London in August 1856, and arrived at Victoria on January 17, 1857. The entries in the diary for Thursday and Friday, January 29 and 30, 1857, read as follows:

“Had my first interview with His Excellency Jas. Douglas Govr. of the Island, who informed me that my Uncle at Nanaimo [George Robinson] had applied to him (for me) for me to have the appointment of School master there which was then vacant. He said that if congenial to my wishes, I could have the appointment, after having been examined as to my qualifications by Mr. Cridge the Chaplain, to whom he sent me with a note of introduction. I saw Mr. Cridge that night, and again the next day, Friday, after which I returned to His Excellency who receiving from Mr. Cridge by me a letter as to my abilities, &c., then congratulated me on my success and on the favourable opinion Mr. C. entertained of me in his note. He accordingly gave me the appointment of Schoolmaster at Nanaimo. His Excy. was very courteous and kind, enquiring as to the welfare of me and my relatives during the voyage we had just ended, besides other marks of attention which he paid us.[xxvi]

The next day Bryant left for Nanaimo in the Recovery, and on Thursday, February 12, as his diary records, he “Commenced School at Colville Town Nanaimo.” Two later entries show that on May 11 Cridge “paid the school a visit and privately examined the scholars,” and that the next day “The Governor & suite heard the children examined at School.” Bryant served as schoolmaster at Nanaimo from 1857, when he succeeded Charles Bailey, until July 1870. For nearly seven of the thirteen years he held the office of postmaster as well.

The third of the teaching pioneers, Charles Clarke, remained at Craigflower until May 1859, when he was succeeded by Henry Claypole. These notes and documents complete the sum total of our knowledge of the colonial schools in what is now British Columbia before the gold-rush. Though it is clear that Cridge continued to examine one or more of the schools year by year, no second report from his pen has survived which is earlier in date than January 1860—by which time the influx of gold-seekers had transformed the colonial scene.


[i] James Douglas to A.C. Anderson, October 28, 1850. Archives of B.C.

[ii] W Calhoun Grant, “Description of Vancouver Island,” Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, XXVII. (1857), p. 281

[iii] On Staines see H.H. Bancroft, History of British Columbia, San Francisco, 1887, pp 238-243

[iv] James Douglas to Alexander Barclay, May 16,1850.

[v] Douglas to Barclay, October 8, 1851.

[vi] This point is raised by Donald Alexander McLean in his Catholic schools in Western Canada, Toronto, 1923, p 43, and is well taken; but the evidence McLean presents to prove that Lamfrit opened his school at least as early as 1850 is obviously faulty. He accepts a statement by Father Morice to the effect that Lamfrit left the Cowichan Indians, after a residence of nine months among them, before Bishop Demers arrived on September 5, 1851, yet he himself has just quoted from the letter from Douglas to Berkeley dated October 8, 1851, which shows that Lamfrit was still living with the Indians at that time. Furthermore, we know positively that he remained there until May 1852.

[vii] Moresby to the Secretary of the Admiralty, July 7, 1851. (Hudson’s Bay Papers, Colonial Office, Vol. 725, p. 208; transcript in Provincial Archives.

[viii] Douglas to Grey, May 28, 1852.

[ix] Douglas to Barclay, March 18, 1852.

[x] Douglas to Grey, April 15, 1852.

[xi] Douglas to Barclay, March 18, 1852.

[xii] Douglas to Barclay, December 8, 1852.

[xiii] Douglas to Barclay, September 3, 1853.

[xiv] Grant, op.cit., p 279.

[xv]  Douglas to Barclay, May 27, 1853

[xvi] Douglas to Barclay, October 10, 1853

[xvii] Douglas to Barclay, October 21, 1853.

[xviii] Thomas Russell to S.D. Pope, dated Victoria, June 24, 1903. This letter was written to be read at what was supposed to be the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Craigflower school.

[xix] Douglas to Barclay, July 13, 1854.

[xx] Douglas to Barclay, December 20, 1854.

[xxi] Douglas to Lord John Russell, August 21, 1855.

[xxii] From Cridge’s own copy of the Memorandum of Salary Allowance for a Clergyman for Vancouver’s Island, now preserved in the Provincial Archives.

[xxiii] From the original manuscript report, preserved in the Provincial Archives

[xxiv] Douglas to Newcastle, August 17, 1854.

[xxv] From Douglas’s letter-book copy, in the Provincial Archives.

[xxvi] Quoted from the original diary by courtesy of Bryant’s son, Mr. Thomas Bryant, of Ladysmith, B.C