The bullrushes still sit in the window of the Barney’s River Station School, just like they did when Nova Bannerman was a teacher there decades ago.
Nova Bannerman sits in the teachers desk at Barney’s River Station School, where she taught off and on for about 13 years. Now she helps preserve a museum there. ADAM MACINNIS – THE NEWS
Near the front of the one-room schoolhouse is a curtain hanging, the same one that was used annually for Christmas concerts performed by the students. At the front is a desk on a platform – where Bannerman would sit while instructing students who ranged from Grade 1 to Grade 7. It doubled as the stage.
“You would teach one class at a time, but you would make sure everybody else was busy,” Bannerman said. “See, I had gone to a school like this so it was no effort for me to figure out how to do it.”
For a century, the school was the seat of education for Barney’s River Station. It was from the desks there that students turned into workers, and mothers and soldiers. On the wall are the names of the boys who left to fight in the wars with Germany – some who never came back.
The school, despite its appearance, is not a school anymore. It’s a museum, a preservation of the past, kept alive for the months of July and August. Like many rural communities, Barney’s River Station and the greater Barney’s River area have struggled in recent years as families have forsaken their rural roots in exchange for urban life and work.
But in the schoolhouse, which opens its doors every summer, pages that tell of its glory days are bound.
“We had eight saw mills, a grist mill, a tannery, a blacksmith shop, a carpentry shop and a forge,” Bannerman boasts.
She said she’s glad they’re able to keep the place open, with a summer student who is paid by government grants. Throughout the summer, they have people from near and far who stop in. Some people from out west are interested in learning about their past.
“I think people are getting more interested in local history,” Bannerman said.
Every year too the school children come by, to see the kind of school that their grandparents would have gone to.
Today, Barney’s River Station, as well as Merigomish, Lismore and Kenzieville will be holding their kiosk and yard sale day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bannerman hopes that people will take a moment to come out and remember the past. If they come they’ll find books still on the desks and chalk still ready to write.
Editor’s note: This information has been provided to The News by historian John Ashton.
The historical kiosk located at Barney’s River Station School Museum covers the communities of Avondale, Piedmont, Marshy Hope and Barney’s River Station. Each of the communities had its own public school and railroad station.
The first pioneer settlers to the area were from the Highland and Lowland regions of Scotland. The surnames were Dewar, Robertson, Walker, McDonald, Stewart, Hattie, McGregor, McDearmid, Ross, Haggart, Mappel, Forbes, Bruce, Leadbetter, Sutherland, Auld, McPhee and Gordon. Most of the original family names still live in the Pictou County area.
The famous Gaelic scholar and poet John “The Bard” MacLean lived in Barney’s River for several years and penned several famous poems including America, a sad lament of the hardships of pioneer life living in the area.
Many industries operated in the area; two large furniture factories, several grist and saw mills, tanneries, a cheese factory, several merchants and a factory that made wooden bicycle rims for the United States market.
The first public school in the area was established in the community Avondale in the year 1802.
Williams Brothers saw mill has been operating in the area for over 100 years.
Barney’s River Area Population
Year – 1871 – 1,228
1881 – 1,194
1891 – 1,026
1901 – 802
1911 – 709