A short history of Noralee’s only school

Noralee School students Jean Brewer (L-standing), Fred Roberts and Jim Tolhurst (standing behind Kay Brewer and Dorothy Newgaard (both seated at desk), Nela Newgaard (R-leaning against window), and Dorothy Roberts (R-standing).

Settlers took up residence along the west end of Francois Lake long before there were roads to the area. Although Indigenous people used the land for centuries, the first Caucasians to live there after Edward Pomeroy Colley and his party surveyed it in 1905 were trappers.

It wasn’t long, though, before farmers followed. Lee Newgaard settled on the north side of Francois Lake near its west end in 1915, walking nearly 80 kilometers to Houston twice a year for supplies. In 1923, he ended his bachelorhood by marrying Nora Middleton. When the couple opened a store and post office over a decade later, the community served by the establishment derived its name from theirs.

By the 1930s, there were enough families in Noralee to warrant construction of a school. The log structure had both students and a teacher when it opened in September 1937, but no desks; Martin O’Connell, who later became a professor at the University of Toronto and a Liberal cabinet member in Pierre Trudeau’s government, conducted his first classes outside.

The original log school remained in use for more than decade before residents started petitioning for a new facility.

“The log building became infested with bats, from which came strange looking insects,” Doris Carleton, who taught at Noralee for seven years, recalls. “We consulted Mr. (Fred) Tolhurst, who was quite knowledgeable on a lot of subjects, but even he was mystified. To solve the mystery, he sent a sample to Victoria to be analyzed. The report came back informing us that (the insects) were quite harmless, however they didn’t make the children and I feel comfortable. Besides, the bats continued to entertain us by squeaking and scratching in the insulation, sawdust, in the gable ends of the school.”

The community got a new, larger school in 1952. The original building was burned to prevent it from being a hazard to livestock.

Declining enrollment eventually forced School District 55 to close the Noralee School. It was sold by sealed tender in 1965.

© 2018 Michael Riis-Christianson and the Lakes District Museum Society

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Wet’suwet’en return to camps near Houston, Coastal GasLink workers move through: First Nation

Opponents of a pipeline who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have reoccupied camps at centre of arrests

Northern Health recommends self-quarantine for people returning from Hubei

The healthcare provider said it isn’t neccessary for healthy children to wear face masks

CN blockade taken down as federal, provincial representatives agree to meet with hereditary chiefs

CN blockade taken down as federal, provincial representatives agree to meet with hereditary chiefs

Village crews restore water service

A contractor inadvertently damaged a line

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Most Read