An interesting part of Aldershot's history concerns the attention devoted to schools and the education needs of its youth.
Aldershot's second settler, William Applegarth donated land for the area's first school, which opened in 1831 near the present St. Matthew's Anglican Church and next to the Indian Trail (Plains Road). Soon a second school was built on the site of West Plains United Church. In 1868 the two schools size proved inadequate for the growing population, and the two School Sections agreed to unite and build a larger school on the border line of the two sections, (i.e. at the NW corner of Plains and Howard Roads). Originally a one-room school, it was later enlarged, and served the community's needs into the early 1900's.
The area was divided in 1911 into School Section No.1, Maplehurst; and School Section No.3, Fairfield. Over the next two years the construction of two schools was undertaken, identical in most respects, each with four rooms, at a cost of $25,000 per school. Maplehurst was the first to open, in 1912, with Fairfield following a year later. Both schools utilized only the two ground-floor classes initially, the upper floor rooms left unfinished. Expected enrolment was 60-75 students at each.
Maplehurst got it's name from the farm of George Godwin, whose 6000 fruit trees occupied land stretching from the bay through what is now part of the Burlington Golf Course to north of Plains Road . About 60 pupils were enrolled initially, under head teacher Miss Fenton of Hamilton, and Miss A. Blanshard, assistant. "It was a substantial red brick building, very attractive in architecture, and equipped in the latest and best style in every respect" (Hamilton Times, Dec.13, 1912). It was but three months later that the school, "hardly yet completed and not yet entirely paid for" was almost totally destroyed by fire, leaving only the walls standing. The nearby Plains East Methodist Church quickly offered to accommodate the students until the school could be rebuilt.
Construction of a new and larger school was soon underway, resulting in a 4-room school, able to accommodate 150-200 students, opening in the fall of 1914. "The Plains Road school is a model of its kind, and is believed to be equaled by no rural school in this province and by few city schools. A novel feature of the new school will be the flower gardens and experimental plot provided to encourage the study of agriculture. It is surrounded by an acre and a half of land, and the cost of the building and grounds was $26,000." (The Hamilton Spectator, Nov.28, 1914)
By the early '40's enrolment was pushing the 200 mark, and changes were necessary. In 1945 a four-room addition was built on the west end of the school, with the basement housing the gymnasium and washroom facilities. Changes in 1958 relocated the Gymnasium to the east side of the building, and new offices were completed. These changes brought about a totally new look to the building that had fronted on Plains Road for so many years. Further additions took place in 1966 and 1969, with major renovations in 1992 upgrading gymnasium and office areas, and creating a library resource centre.
No history of this institution would be complete without reference to one Isabel McInnis, who joined the staff in 1922 when the school was using only three rooms. At an open house to celebrate her retirement in 1962, her peers recalled the quiet, unassuming teacher who had become a legend in the area. "Her ability to teach with indefinable effective discipline is generally described by such words as 'outstanding' or 'excellent.'" The object of this praise is a shy, unprepossessing woman with a deep love for children and infinite patience. For years, under her guidance, school choral groups won almost every competition at the former Wentworth County Music Festival. Her Principal, Ron Campbell noted that "teachers always recognize former students of Miss McInnis by their attitude, work habits and deportment. She has tried to instill in her pupils a sense of honesty and to make them good students and future citizens. She never raises her voice or uses physical force to maintain order and she has never sent anyone to the office." In 1987, at the school's 75th anniversary celebration, The Isabel Sarah McInnis Memorial Scholarship was established as a $2000 annual award offered to an Aldershot High School graduate who attended Maplehurst and has attained an excellent academic standing while contributing to the Aldershot community.
While the school's mandate and format have undergone numerous configurations, we may rest assured that Maplehurst will likely continue to operate under a Board and staff that put academic and social development of its students at the forefront.
Compiled by Warren McCrea, November 2005