by Lela A. Ker – first principal of the Canadian School

 The Canadian Methodist Mission began, in 1903, to consider seriously the education of the children of its missionaries. In that year the Council asked that a suitable woman teacher be sent out by the Woman’s Missionary Society. The Council proposed to engage in none but primary school work and a boarding school was not proposed.

In 1904, the Council strongly recommended and urged the opening of a boarding school in Chengtu. They stated that contributions and fees would almost, if not entirely, cover the teacher’s salary. Council again asked that a suitable teacher be sent out without delay.

In 1906, the General Board of Missions made arrangements for the education in the home land of children of missionaries, allowing the mothers to accompany the children to the home land if necessary.

In 1907, the General Board approved of the recommendation of delegations – that the Mission Council make a thorough investigation of the whole question of needs, cost, income, and proposed usefulness of a boarding school in Chengtu.

In 1908 Council recommended the opening of a boarding school in Chengtu, the securing of a site, and that a building, including a teacher’s dwelling and a dormitory to accommodate forty pupils, be erected within the next two years. Council strongly recommended that the teacher be a married man. (carried unanimously.) The same year a special Council made similar requests for site and building, but asked for two women teachers to be sent. In response to this latter request one woman teacher was sent to the field. I left Canada in the early autumn of 1908 and arrived in Chengtu March 5, 1909.

THE SCHOOL OPENED MARCH 9th, 1909There now being both pupils and a teacher on the field, which are the only absolutely necessary requisites for a school, no time was lost in opening the school. A committee meeting was held on

Monday, March 8th, and the school opened on Tuesday. March 9th. There were five pupils James Endicott, Norman Endicott, Edna Ewan, Douglas Ewan and Joyce Canright. There was no school-room, there was no black-board or chalk, nor were there text-books, slates, pencils, paper, or lead pencils. But at the back of the church was a class-room which was made to serve as a school-room. A black-board from a nursery was loaned, Chinese chalk was bought, and paper and pencils were bought at the Mission Press. Any thing that could be made usable as a text-book was put on the curriculum.

REMOVAL TO A CHINESE BUILDING: A few months later many cases of school goods that had come from Canada had wended their way for two thousand miles up the Yangtse and were carried on the backs of men to a Chinese compound, one half of which was occupied by the Primary School for Chinese boys. The inside of the building was no more attractive than the outside; but it offered an opportunity for exercising much Christian optimism.

GRADUAL IMPROVEMENT: Chinese carpenters were trying to fix up this compound for the school, but they were very slow. They were also initiated into making out of window glass some blackboards which are in use in the school-room to-day. Adjustable desks and adjustable seats, brought from Canada, gave the children a most comfortable position and a modern appearance to the schoolroom. Into this room the school moved in June. Beds and bedding for boarding pupil’s rooms, cutlery, china and glass for the dining-room, and all kitchen furnishings were also brought from Canada for the boarding department.

ADDITIONS DEFERRED: The day after I arrived in Chengtu, a letter was received from a lady, three days away, who wanted to send her little girl to school. Then in July, application was made for the admission of two boys from Chungking. But in both cases -the Committee of Management said they thought that if I studied Chinese, taught four hours a day, attended language school, superintended the housekeeping for myself and another, and incidentally had some furniture made for the new school building, I would have enough to do without having boarding-pupils. So there were no pupils in residence until September, 1910.

FIRST BOARDERS: Then in September of 1910, three girls came as boarders. Two were English and one American: they had an interesting time getting acquainted with each other’s games, manners, dress, habits, and especially in get ting acquainted with each other’s language.

An APPEAL FOR AID: In order that the next workers should have time for language study, before beginning work, a teacher and a matron were asked for, to come out in the spring of 1911, so that they would be ready to take the work when I went home on furlough. Miss Perkins came as teacher and Miss Norman as matron.

POST REEVOLUTION PERIOD: In December, 1911, I left China for furlough, as did many of the pupils. So there was no more school until April, 1913, when I returned from Canada. For the year 1913-14, there were only day pupils. When I returned from furlough, Miss White came with me to act as matron. In the spring of 1914, after she had had a year s language study, the boarding department was again opened with three boarding pupils in No. 3 house. So during these years of beginning we have lived in Chinese compounds; we’ve lived in foreign compounds; we’ve lived in a compound by ourselves; and we’ve lived in a compound with our neighbors.

Forty-Seven Pupils Have Attended: From the opening of the school to the present time, we have, for one reason or another, been compelled to refuse admittance to some pupils. We long for the time to come when we may admit all who wish to enter. Our attendance has nevertheless steadily increased year by year, our average for the present year being nineteen. During this year the total number of pupils attending has been twenty-nine, two of whom are non missionary, five of other missions, and twenty-two of our own Mission. Of these, twelve have been students in residence. Since the school opened there have been, in all, forty-seven pupils in attendance. The pupils vary in age from seven to thirteen years.

Mode of Travel: Some pupils come to school with their parents, others traveling by themselves or with a Chinese servant. They ride in sedan chairs carried by two or three men, or occasionally they travel horseback.

COURSE OF STUDY: Our course of study includes reading, composition, grammar, history, arithmetic, dictation and spelling, writing, geography, art, singing, physical culture, nature study, hygiene, sewing and music. The more important subjects are taught daily to each grade separately, others are taught two or three times a week and some even less often. Some subjects, as writing, drawing, singing, physical culture, nature study and hygiene are taught to all pupils as one class. Some subjects receive necessarily much less attention than could be given in a graded school or than in an ungraded school with more teachers.

EXAMINATIONS AND TESTS: The first pupil of this school to take the Entrance Examination to the High School was Winnifred Service, who wrote on it in June, 1916. She passed with honors. Written examinations are given at intervals. Reports of the pupils’ efficiency in the several subjects are sent to the parents at the end of each term. In all teaching the emphasis is placed, not so much on the amount of knowledge imparted or acquired, as upon the degree of development attained in the art of acquiring knowledge. We have had pupils from eight different Missions, as well as some non-missionary. They are also of varied nationalities and will in the near future attend schools of various kinds. It is therefore obvious that no course of study can be followed that will produce pupils already adjusted to whatever schools they may attend. The aim, therefore, is to produce pupils who can readily adjust themselves to any curriculum.

ASSISTANCE IN TEACHING: Several missionaries have kindly and graciously assisted in teaching-Mrs. O. R. Carscallen, Mrs. C. B. Kelly, Mrs. Homer Brown, and Mr. Brace. Dr. Lindsay has given the children a course of lectures in oral hygiene, and Mrs. Brace has taught piano for three years.

Music: While home on furlough I was enabled to obtain the Kindergarten Music Course, which is a year s preparation to the piano, and I have therefore been able to teach it. Thirteen pupils have completed the course and six more are taking it.

HOME-LIFE AND HEALTH: The privilege of ministering to the home life of the pupils in residence is increasingly a joy to Miss White. Regular hours for meals and retiring are observed. Nourishing food is carefully selected. Clothing is suitably changed to meet the needs of the child and the weather. The health of both day-pupils and those in residence has on the whole been excellent. Dr. C. W. Service has been the medical attendant.

CHARACTER : But more than by the mental or the physical have our hearts been made joyful by the development of that alone which will be taken to their eternal home-character. The enriching in character and the leading of these young lives Godward has been a joy indeed. The aim in this regard is to enable the child to do the right when by himself, even amid temptation. This seems especially necessary when one remembers that these children, possibly earlier than many, may be separated from home and parents. The spirit that is developing is indicated by what I heard a senior boy say one day,“We want to do right because it is right”.

OLD PUPILS: Another very interesting feature is that pupils who have left us even six years ago still remember and write to us. One of these is never satisfied with less than 100 percent, in her work, another is head of his class, while another, already a gold medalist, has decided to enter the ministry and return to China.

LAYING THE CORNER STONE OF THE NEW SCHOOL: The central part of our new school building is now erected. For financial reasons only this part can be erected at present. In this building we will have accommodation for thirty pupils. On the afternoon of Friday, December 17, 1916,the corner stone of this building was laid. The members of our Mission and the parents of pupils attending the school were present. Rev. C. R. Carseallen acted as chairman and the honor of laying the stone was given to the principal of the school.

THE NEW GROUND NEEDED: We long to get outside the city to our new compound. The children want to plant their own seeds and see them grow; they want a gymnasium; they want a place in which to play all kinds of games; they want a class-room big enough that they will not step on the next pupil’s toes and knock the next pupil’s elbow every time they stand up; they want a place big enough so that all their cousins who want to come to school and live with them, may come.

FUTURE HOPES: Nor can we close our history without expressing a few of the hopes that have lived with us and grown with us since 1908; that the time may soon come when our new building will be completed; that the staff may be increased sufficiently to give to these pupils, who deserve it, the best possible under these far-away conditions; and that above all, this may be a home for each pupil and for each member of the staff, yes, in the sense of a home being next to Heaven itself that this may be a place where education stands in its true relation to character building, which is the highest aim of life.










4 thoughts on “History

  1. I believe the correct year for the laying of the corner stone of the new school was 1915. My grandfather William Leonard, as “Builder Canadian Methodist Mission,” apparently oversaw the school’s construction. I have a photograph of the corner stone laying on which he wrote the date as “17th DEC 1915.” An online perpetual calendar shows that Dec. 17 fell on a Friday in 1915, while in 1916 it fell on a Sunday. I also have a photo showing that construction of the school was considerably farther along by Jan. 1916. These photos can be seen online at http://loonfoot.com/Leonard/LeonardScrapbook/China/School/M.htm. The closeup at http://loonfoot.com/Leonard/LeonardScrapbook/China/School/02.htm shows my mother, Catherine Leonard, at age 4, standing on the corner stone. (She later attended the school.)

    1. Dear Robert,

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