On Sunday evening (Sept. 30) a fire swept through a residential building that at one time was the schoolhouse for the Village of Ompah. The building had been converted into a single family dwelling in the years following the school’s close in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. It was occupied by a family of 4 until this week. The family is reportedly living in Perth and a number of local people are attempting to reach out to support them.
“The good news was that no one was injured in the fire. I believe the family pets made it out unscathed as well,” said North Frontenac Fire Chief Eric Korhonen.
Korhonen said that North Frontenac Firefighters and the Kaladar Barrie department responded to the fire. By the time they arrived, the building was beyond saving and the efforts were focussed on preventing the fire from spreading and making sure it was completely out.
The department still needs to complete an investigation, but Korhonen said it looks like the fire will be classed as “cause undetermined” because the building had burned completely and all evidence about what may have caused it has been destroyed
The Ompah Schoolhouse was built around 1870, roughly at the same time as the Anglican Church in Ompah. It closed about 100 years later, when Clarendon Central Public School opened in Plevna.
Barbara Sproule was the teacher in the one room school between 1958 and the school’s closing. She remembers that the building was rather basic; the school was heated by a wood stove, and did not have running water, although it did have a well and hand pump.
“We had a caretaker who came in early to start up the stove, but there were winter days when we started the day with the children sitting around the woodstove until the building warmed up.” She said, “but we made do and everyone co-operated. Those were good years.
Sproule was only 16 when she started teaching at the Canonto school, and 17 when she started teaching in Ompah, not much older than some of her students.
“I never told them my age, but I think they knew,” she said.
Not only did she teach in the Ompah school, Sproule also attended the school, as did both her mother and her son.
When the school closed it was purchased by members of the Thomas family as a cottage, and it was later renovated into a family home. The current owners have lived there for several years.