Updated: Oct 2
There was a time (primarily in the 1950s) where it was common practice to honour individuals (usually trustees and other politicians) by naming schools after them, not always posthumously.
However, while the practice perpetuated their names, future generations are often left puzzled at who the namesakes were. Here are brief explanations of the 18 individuals in our area who had schools named after them — of which seven have closed and two have been renamed. Two were in towns that no longer exist. Only one was named after a woman.
The schools are presented in chronological order of being named.
MacLean Elementary (Rossland)
The first person from our area honoured with a school was John Duncan MacLean (1873-1948), who was principal of Central School in Rossland in 1900-01 before becoming a medical doctor and practicing in Rossland and Greenwood. He was elected MLA for Greenwood in 1916 and became premier on the death of John Oliver in 1927, serving for exactly one year. The original school named after him opened in 1918, while he was education minister. It burned down in 1981 but was rebuilt on the same site. The school closed in 2013 and was sold to become école des Sept-sommets.
The original MacLean school. (Greg Nesteroff collection)
J.L. Webster Elementary (Warfield)
An accountant before getting into politics, James Lockhart Webster (1885-1948) was MLA for Rossland-Trail from 1945-48 and a member of the Coalition government. The school that was named in his honour opened in April 1949, eight months after he died in office as a result of lung cancer.
Jewett Elementary School
Named in 1949 following the retirement of school inspector Frederick Arnold Jewett (1883-1950) as a tribute to his “untiring efforts in the area.” He spent 13 years at the helm of schools in the Nelson district, including Kaslo, Ainsworth, and Slocan. Coincidentally, prior to that he was principal of Lord Nelson school in Vancouver. He was also valedictorian of his class at the University of New Brunswick (as seen in the photo at right, courtesy UNB Archives & Special Collections, 1907 UNB Class Composite). A new school opened in Meadow Creek in 1955 or 1956, also called Jewett. However, he is the least-remembered person on this list.
W.E. Graham Community (Slocan)
William Edwin Greenaway Graham (1893-1964) (seen here, date unknown) was many things to Slocan: mayor, city clerk, assessor, treasurer, justice of the peace, postmaster, mining recorder, and storekeeper. He was also a longtime school trustee and chair of the board from 1958 until his death. In 1950, he initiated construction of the school that would bear his name.
W.E. Wasson Elementary (Remac)
This school, which opened in a mining town near the Nelway border crossing, was named for school trustee William Ernest Wasson (1874-1954). Wasson’s other claim to fame was as the near-eternal city clerk of Nelson, a job he held from 1904-42. Wasson Street in the Rosemont neighborhood of Nelson also honours his memory. The school closed sometime after 1964; the town disappeared after the mine closed in 1975.
Laura J. Morrish Elementary (East Trail)
Laura Frances Jewell Morrish (1891-1967) was principal of the school in East Trail from 1925-51 and on her retirement, it was named after her — a rare honour for a woman. The school closed in 1999 and was demolished. The new school built on the site was given a more generic name: Trail Middle School.
Laura J. Morrish Elementary, around the time it took that name. This photo is from Cominco magazine, September 1951.
Trail Daily Times, June 30, 1951
Stanley Humphries Secondary (Castlegar)
Stanley Humphries (1888-1964) was a Castlegar school trustee for a decade and board chair in 1947-48. He was responsible for planning the school that was named in his honour when it opened in 1951. He also spent a dozen years as a local magistrate. Humphries was born in Australia and emigrated to Alberta in 1909, where he took up farming at Morrin. During the First World War, he served in the Canadian armed forces. After his discharge in 1918, he returned to his Alberta farm, then moved to Robson, where he had a ranch. A little-known fact: in 1934, Humphries was foreman of the government relief camp at Longbeach, on Kootenay Lake’s north shore.
J.L. Crowe, depicted in Cominco magazine, March 1948
J.L. Crowe Secondary (Trail)
James Lloyd Crowe (1890-1964) was a school trustee and grocer in Trail. He was a partner in Crowe Bros. & McLeod and was later manager at the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co. store. The original school named after him opened in 1952. The new school, built on a field adjacent to the original school, was completed in 2009 but kept the same name.
J.A. Cochran Secondary (Riondel)
The school, which opened in 1953, was named for John Alexander Cochran (1891-1981), a dairy farmer from Mirror Lake who was school trustee for the area. The school closed in 1972 and sat vacant until 1979 when the Regional District of Central Kootenay acquired it from the school district for use as a community centre. Its future is uncertain. It has seen virtually no renovations and in 2014, residents voted down a referendum to spend $1.2 million on improvements. It is pictured below in 2015.
Harold Lakes Elementary (Jersey)
Harold Lakes (1886-1956) discovered tungsten in the area in 1942 and then became manager of the Emerald mine southwest of Salmo, which led to the creation of the townsite of Jersey. I believe the school named after Lakes opened in 1955. It was still listed in the phone book as of 1973, the year that the mine closed, and the entire town was auctioned off.
L.V. Rogers Secondary (Nelson)
Leslie Vivian Rogers (1886-1946) was the beloved principal of Nelson High School from 1922 until his death. The new school named after him opened in 1956. In 1985, one of his former students, Leslie Drew, published L.V.R.: The Wit and Wisdom of Leslie Vivian Rogers while in 2023 Robert and Patricia Malcomson published L.V. Rogers: The Man Behind the Name, 1886-1946. They make a good case that if anyone deserved to have a school named after him, it was L.V.R., for he was as exemplary an educator as one could find. He is also profiled in Art Joyce’s Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest.
A.I. Collinson Elementary (North Shore)
Arthur Ivan Collinson (1897-1972) was a janitor and maintenance man for Nelson schools beginning in 1923. He became maintenance supervisor in 1947, and held that post until he retired in 1958. The school named in his honour opened in November 1963. It closed in 2008 and two years later was leased to école des Sentiers-Alpins. The school district is now trying to sell the property.
John A. Hutton Elementary School (Grand Forks)
John Albert Hutton (1876-1967) was Grand Forks’ longtime city clerk as well as secretary-treasurer of the school district. The school opened in 1964.
Gordon Sargent Primary (Nelson)
Douglas Gordon Roussell Sargent (1910-69) (seen at right) spent 21 years representing the West Arm of Kootenay Lake on the Nelson school board, including one year as chair. He was also a city bus driver, automotive parts man, and toll collector on the Nelson bridge. The open-concept school named posthumously in his honour opened in 1971, although some felt a school on the North Shore would have been more appropriate. Gordon Sargent school closed in 2008, although a program by that name continued to operate at South Nelson school for four more years. The building was leased initially to école des Sentiers-Alpins and is now home to the School House Early Care and Learning Centre, although the school district recently placed it up for sale.
Dr. D.A. Perley Elementary School (Grand Forks)
This school was dedicated on May 12, 1972. Donald Alfred Perley (1914-89) was a Grand Forks physician and chair of the school district from 1956 to 1971.
Brent Kennedy Elementary (South Slocan)
Michael Lee Brent Kennedy (1953-74) grew up in South Slocan and attended schools there. He joined the RCMP in 1973 and was posted to Banff in Calgary. He died in a car accident near Banff on Nov. 17, 1974, age 21. The elementary school that bears his name opened in 1977 on land donated by his mother.
J.V. Humphries Elementary Secondary (Kaslo)
John Verdner (Jack) Humphries (1923-87) was the longtime principal of what was then Kaslo Elementary Secondary. He was an alderman in 1958-59, mayor in 1973-74, and ran provincially for the Progressive Conservatives in Kaslo-Slocan in 1960. I’m not exactly sure when the school was named after him; it was following his death, but before 1990. This was the second high school in the area named Humphries, leading to occasional confusion between the two. Jack was no relation to Stanley Humphries.
Fred Walker Development Centre (Grand Forks)
This school opened in 1977 as the Grand Forks Alternate School but was renamed to honour teacher Fred Walker (1936-90), shortly after his death from a heart attack. According to a 2015 story in the Grand Forks Gazette, “Thanks to an entirely student-run movement, the students made a presentation to the school board asking for the school to be named in honour of Walker.”
In addition to the above, Hume Elementary School in Nelson is indirectly named after John Frederick Hume (1860-1935), who was MLA for West Kootenay South from 1894-98 and served as minister of mines. He was also namesake of the Hume Hotel, which he built, Hume Creek, and the Hume Addition (although oddly there is no Hume Street in Nelson).
The Hume school district, which included the Hume Addition as well as Bogustown (collectively what is now Fairview), formed in 1899. The first Hume school opened in 1900 while the present Hume school opened in 1923.
Not long after Nelson’s Lt. Robert Hampton Gray was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in 1945, A.S. Horswill suggested in a letter to the editor of the Nelson Daily News that the high school be named after him. While the idea was not acted upon immediately, when a new high school was built in 1955-56, naming it after Gray was strongly considered.
Instead, the school took the name of the late L.V. Rogers, the longtime principal. But the old school, which was to be turned into an elementary school, was then supposed to bear Gray’s name. The 1956 Nelson High School yearbook stated:
The esteem felt for Hampton Gray by his home town is fittingly and permanently expressed by the decision to name this school, which he attended, the Hampton Gray School. Nelson High School students are glad to have this building of memories continue under such a name.
However, it didn’t happen, and instead became South Nelson Elementary. I suspected it was trumped by the decision to name the new post office the Gray Building in the spring of 1956, and that indeed turns out to be the case, although it still doesn’t make much sense.
The announcement about the post office’s name was made in Vancouver on March 20, 1956. On April 2, a Nelson Daily News editorial criticized the federal government for how it rolled out the decision, as “no effort seems to have been made to communicate that decision to the citizens of Nelson.” They added:
Another, and possibly less important feature of the inadequate publicity, is the embarrassment of the school board, who long ago chose the name Hampton Gray for the new elementary school. They now find themselves called upon to avoid duplication by having to find a new name for it.
But called upon by whom? The government? The public? What difference would it have made if Nelson’s school and post office were both named after Gray? The newspaper did not elaborate that I can see. There was, however, an elementary school named after Hampton Gray at CFB Shearwater, Nova Scotia in 1952.
Also, Mount Sentinel Secondary in South Slocan would be known today as Bert Marshall Secondary, after trustee Elbert Ernest Marshall (1907-55), but Marshall declined the honour. He didn’t think schools should be named after living people, in case they did anything disgraceful.
In May 2022, the Kootenay Lake school district introduced a policy that schools will not be named or renamed after people, living or dead. That after Prince Charles Secondary in Creston was renamed Kootenay River Secondary. However, existing schools named after people will keep their names.
Updated on Jan. 9, 2022 to add more details about Stanley Humphries. Updated on June 26, 2022 to add photos of Morrish school and J.L. Crowe, the man. Updated on April 22, 2023 to add details about the change of heart on naming Hampton Gray Elementary. Updated on Oct. 1, 2023 to credit A.S. Horswill as the first person to suggest naming a Nelson school after Robert Hampton Gray.