Estonian School No. 1760

A new Estonian school with teacherage built by volunteer labour in 1945. The Estonian School District emerged in 1910, when local immigrants recognized the need to learn English. Most of the settlers were Estonian, though there were some Finnish and Scandinavian families among them. The school site was located in the northeast corner of Carl Langer's property in the Medicine Valley area north of Eckville.

The school board was made up of local farmers, whose duties included hiring the teacher and keeping a supply of wood at the school. The school served the students well for the next 35 years.

A new Estonian School and teacherage built by volunteers in Medicine Valley area of Alberta in 1945. In 1945, the school fell under the Rocky Mountain School Division, which proposed building a new school. The Division contributed materials and a carpenter, and local farmers provided the volunteer labour.

There was no gymnasium or organized sports; students kept fit by walking or riding horses the long distances to school. There were also no indoor toilets.

Aadu (Ado) Tipman's teaching contract with the Estonian School in the Medicine Valley, 1936. Annual salary is given as $840. One of the first teachers, Mr. Duncan Layton, lived on a small shack north of the school. In the 1914-15 school year, he taught the 52 students in grades one through eight.

Mrs. Layton - Mr. Layton's sister-in-law - taught at the Andrew School, and on occasion the two schools got together for events. Mrs. Layton made a Santa Claus suit for Ernest Kinna, reportedly his first tailored suit of clothes; and the schools came together for the summer picnic.

Olga Posti earned a quarter a day as school janitor - though she was not always paid; the trustees preferred not to pay women for their work.

When parents wanted music taught at the school, they sold raffle tickets to raise money for a piano and a gramophone. The Gilbertsons owned a piano, which they agreed to sell to the school for $100, providing it remained in the Estonian community. Unfortunately, when the school building was eventually moved to Eckville, the piano disappeared. The community felt the loss deeply, because the piano was an important connection to a pioneer family.

The Estonian School eventually fell under the jurisdiction of the Rocky Mountain School Division, which began the process of centralizing schools. Grade seven and eight students were sent to Eckville by bus. Other changes included providing one teacher for each grade, indoor physical education, etc. Eventually, the entire school building was hauled to Eckville, where it became the Home Economics room.

The Rocky Mountain School Division eventually became part of County of Lacombe No. 14. Records of the early history of the Estonian School had been carefully kept, but they were all destroyed when they were transferred to the county. Most of what is known about the school comes from the memories of surviving community members. Many of the memories include pranks the students played, and the adventures they found themselves in on the days they played hookey.

The community is proud of the number of professionals it produced, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s.

The original school site has reverted to the Langer family.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage