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Wawanosh Home once stood here

This edition of Remember This looks back at the site that housed Wawanosh Home, an Indian residential school for girls
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A plaque now stands at the former site of Wawanosh Home, an Indian residential school for girls built in 1879. Sault Ste. Marie Public Library photo

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

While passing by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 on Great Northern Road we see a stone monument with a plaque affixed. For those who have not had the opportunity to read the plaque it states:

The Rev. E. F. Wilson founded the first home for Indian girls on this site, August 19, 1879. It was named Wawanosh Home in honor of Chief Wawanosh, meaning White Goose. Rebecca & George Hardiman mother & step father of C. W. Egglesfield came from England to act as matron & superintendent. Erected by the South Tarentorus Women’s Institute 1967

For the curious plaque readers Chief Joshua Wawanosh of the Sarnia Reserve was a key figure in the Treaty of 1827; Edward Francis Wilson ”Rev. E. F. Wilson” was the Principal of Shingwauk School and Wawanosh Home; and C. W. Egglesfield was a prominent figure in the history of Tarentorus Township.

Construction of the Wawanosh Home began in 1877. When the land was purchased it consisted of bush and cultivated land. The original building was a stone structure, two stories high with a frontage of 45 feet. In a 1967 Sault Star article, it is reported that during construction “a number of young Indian boys made summer spending money collecting and piling rocks”. Stones from this original building were used in the construction of the existing monument.

The Wawanosh Home opened in 1879. It was built to partner with the Shingwauk Residential School, erected in 1874 which was not equipped to house female residents. The Wawanosh School operated in the Great Northern Road building for 18 years before the residents were moved to the Shingwauk location on Queen Street East.

The building remained vacant for a few years before being purchased in 1899 by Alfred Huckson for his family home.

In 1912, the Children’s Aid purchased the property for $6,000 and spent $21,000 on renovations. These renovations included the addition of a third storey and a large sunroom, used as a school room. At the time, the Children’s Aid had outgrown its first shelter located at 118 Biggings Avenue. The society had recently received a donation of nearly $3,000 from the estate of William Keenan. “Generously disposed” people were encouraged to include the society in their wills.

In 1955 the Children’s Aid closed their shelter because children were being fostered in homes rather than institutions.

Tarentorus Township offices moved into the building in 1957, remaining there until 1965 when the Township of Tarentorus amalgamated with the City of Sault Ste. Marie. The building was demolished in 1965. The Canadian Legion building was built on this same site and opened in 1967 as a Centennial Project.

Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at www.ssmpl.ca and look for more Remember This? columns here