From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
Remember This . . . Campbell Public School – a model school!
After the fall of the Clergue Industrial Empire in September of 1903, Sault Ste. Marie experienced an economic recession. The city’s population was about 8,000 people in 1903 and about 3,500 of this number had been employed in one of Clergue’s many businesses. Therefore, almost half of the city’s population was directly impacted by its collapse.
In 1906, the Board of Education made the decision to build a new eight-room elementary school on Albert Street. This was viewed as a sign of the end of the economic recession.
The contract to build this new school went to A.C. McLeod at a cost of $17,950, the plumbing contract went to Gallagher and Dunseath at $965 and the heating contract was completed by Pease and Co. from Toronto for $2,000. The architect’s fee was recorded as the meager sum of $186.50!
This brought the construction cost for the school to about $21,000 plus $6,000 to buy the land for a total cost of $27,000.
When it came time to find a name for this new school the school board decided to honour one their own, the Chairman of the Board, R. G. Campbell.
Robert Campbell was born on October 31, 1856 in southern Ontario. Most records list his birthplace as Guelph, however his grandson, Robert G. Campbell claimed that he believed it was actually Georgetown.
Nevertheless, Robert attended public school in Guelph and then moved on to the Rockwood Academy. He married Jean Moor Symon on Aug. 9, 1882, and they had one son, Charles Stewart Campbell.
Robert established a plant that manufactured knitting machines in Georgetown. Unfortunately a fire destroyed the plant.
R. G. Campbell moved his family to Sault Ste. Marie on March 17, 1900. Upon his arrival in the city, he tried his hand at several different careers. He originally established the Symon-Campbell Hardware Company with his partner Mr. C. Symon.
He was offered a position with the city as a part-time tax collector from 1906-1907 and again from 1910 to 1912. He decided to sell his share of the hardware business to his partner in 1912 when he was offered a permanent position with the city as the city tax collector.
He remained in this position until his death on October 10, 1932. Throughout his life in Sault Ste. Marie, he was well-known for his work in the community, including being a charter member of Rotary and a member of the Masonic Order in addition to many other organizations. The school board members felt that naming the new school after him was a great way to acknowledge the contributions that this well-respected man had made to the community.
When the school opened in 1906 with J.M. Kaine as principal, it included a 'model school'. It was the only school in northern Ontario that had a class with special courses for students who wanted to become public school teachers.
The model school class continued until the “Normal School” (Teacher’s College) opened in North Bay in 1910.
Campbell Public School continued to grow and in 1923, an annex was moved onto the school property to help with the increase in enrolment. However by the early 1970s, population patterns had started to change as people moved out of the downtown core and moved out to the “suburbs”.
The Board of Education made the difficult decision to close the school in 1973. During its more-than-65-year history, the school had 10 different principals and more than 200 teachers who provided the children in the Albert and Bruce Street neighbourhood with an education.
Some of the teachers who taught at Campbell Public School included J.E. Davidson, Eva Depew, Nettie Egan (Pratt), Elin Olson, Esther Burrowes and Miss Violet Petrie who actually taught at the school for 33 years.
After the school’s closure, it was used by the board for office space until a fire in February of 1975 completely destroyed the historic building.
Fortunately the Campbell name has continued on with the construction of an apartment building on the site of the former school, the Campbell South Apartments.
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.