Saultites who never formally studied local history are probably familiar with names like Francis H. Clergue, Anna McCrea and Isabel Fletcher, thanks to the monuments named after them. Today, we delve a little deeper into people and monuments named after them that might be less familiar to people interested in Sault Ste. Marie's history.
SooToday spoke with Chief Curator and Executive Director William Hollingshead who enlisted the help of everyone at the Sault Ste. Marie Museum to bring this story of three west-end schools and their namesakes to light.
Upcoming stories will look at central and east end schools named after local figures of note.
Naming a school after Isabel Fletcher was a way of celebrating all pioneer women.
Fletcher was an early Sault Ste. Marie pioneer known for the high-quality vegetables and butter she sold in the farmer’s market.
She was also an active member in the church and women’s institute, said Hollingshead.
Fletcher grew up in an area of Sault Ste. Marie once known as the Township of Korah but moved to Prince Township in the 1930s with her husband. She returned to the Sault upon her husband’s death.
Two decades after her passing in 1940, the Algoma District School Board named a school on Third Line W. after her and it is still in active use as a public elementary school today.
Students and staff at Isabel Fletcher Public School can find a plaque dedicated to her and all pioneer women in Sault Ste. Marie.
Similarly, David Kyle Public School also had a plaque erected in its namesake’s honour.
Kyle was a Scottish-born man who moved to the Sault in 1905 to work in Algoma Steel.
“Due to his outstanding ability and skill he was quickly promoted to Mechanical Superintendent and in 1912, he was promoted to General Superintendent of Operations,” said Hollingshead.
But when WWI broke out in 1914, Kyle left his job to enlist in the military.
"The administration and management of the steel plant thought that he was so important that they persuaded the military to release him from his duties in 1917 so that he could come back to the Sault and become the General Manager of the Algoma Steel Corporation," Hollingshead said. “In 1918, he became a director and vice president of the company.”
Two years later, Harris and Buckley School – an important hub in Kyle’s community – was renamed after the steelworker. The plaque in his honour sits over an iron ingot to symbolize his work in the steel plant.
The school has since been demolished and replaced with David Kyle Park. His plaque remains in place.
The third notable school in this series is named for Uriah McFadden, who sat on the Public School Board for over a decade.
“He was one of the leading criminal lawyers in the province,” said Hollingshead.
Unlike the other two historical figures, McFadden saw a school named after him during his lifetime.
Hollingshead encourages readers interested in learning more about local history to visit the Sault Ste. Marie Museum’s website and social media or visiting the Public Library.
One’s family heirlooms can equally be a source of research, he adds.
"Going back and looking at old photos of your parents or yearbooks in your house, while you’re COVID cleaning,” is a great way to learn about the stories of students of these schools.