Black Spring Valley No. 1455

Black Spring Valley School was located at NE 36-13-22-W4. It was fourteen miles east of Carmangay on Stonehouse Road. An article by Rena Burns tells about the school. It was built by Nikolia Martin Paulson in 1907, on land purchased from Leon Burns. The building material was hauled from Lethbridge, Alberta. Serving on the first school board were Gus Hadford as secretary-treasurer, Alec Casement, and Gus Lund. Charlie Murray was the first teacher. He homesteaded nearby. A teacherage was later erected, and a well dug.

The geographical feature on which the school’s name was based, Black Spring, got its name from the Blackfoot Indian word “sicehkicon”, meaning “black spring water”. The ground turns black where the water comes from the ground. The sloping valley rises to the foothills and on to the Rocky Mountains.

Black Spring Valley School was often referred to as the Burns School. Not only was the school built on land purchased from Leon Burns, but Mrs. Lily Burns had the largest family attending school in the district, so it familiarly became known as the Burns School.

Throughout the years, Black Spring Valley School was the social centre in the district, as were all the little country schools. Fundraising events, such as pie socials, basket socials, suppers, and dances were held. Christmas programs were an annual event. It was the general practice to arrange the various Christmas concerts in the schools throughout the community, so that they all weren’t held on the same evening, thereby making it possible for visiting children from other districts to participate in the fun. Consequently there was always a full house.

The Williams children had no schools until 1906 when the Burns School was built nine miles away. The children boarded at farms closer to the school, the Burns and Thompsons. In 1910, the Kasimir School was built five miles east of the ranch. The children could now drive to school in a buggy in the summer time, though still boarding closer to school in winter. By this time the district was thickly settled with both farmers and ranchers.

The girls outnumbered the boys in this picture. Shown are the teacher, Miss Christman, and Greene, Brandvold, Burns, Fraser, Wennes, McMillan, Brownell and Gray children.

In 1911-1912 the Black Spring Valley Board found it necessary to close the school, due to the shortage of funds. The children of the district attended school at Bowville, and Black Spring Ridge, until such a time as the government took over the operation of the school.

During one very bad blizzard, the teacher wouldn’t let anyone leave the school. It blew in with all its fury just about noon and continued until the next morning. As there were no telephones in the district, there were certainly some very anxious parents. Gus Greene was able to get to the school after midnight, bringing extra bedding and supplies with him. By morning most of the parents were able to get to the school. All were so thankful that the teacher had insisted that they all had to stay there.

After the centralization of the schools in 1942, the Black Spring Valley residents once again found their little school closed. The building was sold to the Roman Catholic Church, and moved into Carmangay in 1953, where it was used as a church.

Some time after the Sacred Heart Church closed, the building changed hands again. In 2009, it had become a clubhouse for an out-of-town group. The clubhouse still had the church’s name sign in 2009.

More information about Black Spring Valley School may be found in “Wheat Heart of the West – A History of  Barons and District” and “Bridging the Years – Carmangay and District”, at the Vulcan and District Archives and from school directories (maps and driving directions) which are available at the Carmangay Community Center and the Vulcan & District Museum.

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