Excerpts from “Walk E” in “St. Catharines A-Z” by Junius, originally published in the St. Catharines Journal on June 5th, 1856.
In Walk E, Junius takes us on a guided tour of the churches and schools that were in the city in 1856. He describes the following eight churches: St. George’s or “the English” Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Scotch Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Church and the Baptist “colored” Church buildings, along with the names of clergy and prominent citizens who were members of those churches. His description of religion in St. Catharines includes the following: “How delightful it is to see, on a beautiful Sabbath morning an entire community, whole households, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and neighbors, strangers and kindred, strangers and all, wending their way, watch to his own Church to worship his God…” The number of churches in St. Catharines has grown so much so that it is difficult to count them all.
Junius then goes on to describe the education system, which at the time consisted of: “one Grammar, two common, and one Colored School.” He later states: “We really can’t say how many school children there are in this Town, but at a rough guess, we would set them down at one thousand. We have still too many truant urchants, idling away their time in our Streets, and particularly cutting up their shines around the Market and Town Hall, to the no great annoyance of many of our citizens who have business there.”
It’s hard to imagine a time when there would have been only 1000 school aged children in St. Catharines. Currently, the District School Board of Niagara lists 25 elementary schools and 7 high schools in St. Catharines. The Niagara District Catholic School Board has 13 elementary and 3 high schools. There are also two Montessori schools and other private schools such as Ridley College and a more recent addition to the school system, the Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada which is a private school located in the old Merritton High school building.
It is passages like these, from texts written in the mid 1800’s that really show us how much St. Catharines has grown from the small village it once was to the large city it has become.