By Carson Ellis For the Independent
Many early schools had short lives. As the province became more populated, both municipal districts and school districts changed rapidly. Many one-room schools were moved and sold after housing students for only a few years. The life of a school depended on their location to larger centers, or how the population in the area fluctuated. Some buildings were sold to local farmers and were either moved or used where they were. A few were even disassembled, and the materials were used for other structures on their new owner’s property. Many went to community groups and continued to serve the people of the area.
One such school that would become a community center was the Fritz Hill school. Named after a local businessman Fred (Fritz) Colley who had come to Stettler on the first passenger train into the townsite and would be a driving force on many early committees including the early incarnation of the Stettler Agricultural Society.
The Fritzhill school was established in 1911, with Roy McKenzie the new school’s first teacher. The first building would burn down one night in the early 40s. The fire was believed to have started in the school’s stove, and quickly spread in the night. The local school district’s maintenance man had just inspected the stove days before and believed it was safe. The students of Fritzhill school had a couple of weeks off from formal classes until a new building was moved to the location.
The schoolhouse that was moved was the former Wellsburg School. Wellsburg was named after Billie Wells who was an early rancher in the area. Unfortunately, Mr. Wells died at a dance at the Zenith school after mistaking carbolic acid for his medication. The Wellsburg school was established about a year before the Fritzhill school. It’s first teacher was Grace Lynn (Fowler). However, the Wellsburg school was used only briefly before it found itself practically abandoned and unused.
The Lone Tree (also called Little Valley by my sources) school was eventually moved to the Fritzhill location when the former school was turned into a community center. The Lone Tree school was established in January of 1921. It was named by one of the school’s trustees for a lone Balm of Gilead tree that sat in the corner of the schoolyard.