Looking Back


A Sign of Life

A recent query at the Onoway Museum regarding Coyote School served as a reminder of the many small schools that dotted the countryside around Onoway and throughout the province (about 3,500), and the role that the Onoway and District Historical Guild has taken to ensure that these schools are not forgotten.


When the inaugural meeting of the Onoway and District Historical Guild was held in December, 2003, the dream was to create a museum which would preserve local history but also foster civic pride, community engagement and promote tourism. The first meetings focused on a museum site and development of a collection of artifacts. By 2005, the concept of installing markers to memorialize the site of defunct schools around Onoway became a hot topic. The design of the frame for the marker was set and the so the school signing project began.


                                  School Sign
County Map in Retrospect

Coyote School

Coyote School was located near Cherhill and operated from 1929 until 1957. There is now a community hall on the site.


This map pointing to schools in the east end of the County was created for
In Retrospect . . . A Century of Education in Onoway and District 1904 2004

The first school district in this area was Lac Ste. Anne (established in 1902), and the second was Beaupr (opened September 1, 1905 the day that Alberta became a province) near Onoway. In 1921 the Brick School (now Onoway Museum) was built.


Official "unveiling" of the school markers was an event that brought together students and teachers who had attended the school and became an occasion to see long-lost friends. Current school board members and county councillors helped celebrate the occasion. A program with a brief history of the school was provided to all attendees and there was always an informal gathering afterward where stories were shared.


What began as recognition of the handful of defunct schools around Onoway seemed to explode and over the years, 71 schools in Lac Ste. Anne County were marked and numerous schools in surrounding counties as well. Other historic sites have also been marked (e.g. St. Barnabas Mission Hospital, Onoway Creamery)


So as you're driving around the countryside and spot the distinctive red and white signs topped with the image of the good old schoolhouse, take time to stop and read the text. Then think about the parents who felt education was important enough for them to pool their energy and build a school. Then think of the students who walked to the school, the teachers who worked with minimal supplies (no electricity, toilets outside, water carried from a nearby well) and probably boarded with a local family.


So today ... virtual classrooms, online learning. Let's not forget how it all started. Watch for the school signs and remember how it was.

Goldthorpe School
Darwell Students 1925

Goldthorpe School

Goldthorpe School operated from 1909 until 1948.

Darwell School

Class of 1925 at Darwell School


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Last updated: June 6, 2021