Charles Clark

Schoolmaster, Craigflower, 1855 - 1859

In 1852 Kenneth McKenzie was hired by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company as bailiff for one of four farms to be established near Victoria. A few months prior to leaving Scotland for Vancouver Island, McKenzie was directed by Alexander Colville, Hudson's Bay Company governor, to hire a number of labourers, blacksmiths, carpenters and a schoolmaster.1 A short time later Colville again wrote to McKenzie regarding the teacher: "I shall be glad to hear also whether you have found a good Schoolmaster and whether you think it will be best to take him with you or to engage him to follow you next year, when having got yourself and your servants housed it will be easier to prepare for his accommodation."2 However, McKenzie was obviously much occupied with the hiring of farm labourers and in spite of the August sailing date he did not advertise for a teacher until June:

Wanted: A Teacher for the Settlement of Vancouver's Island, in North America, the opening very desirable, and salary liberal. For particulars apply immediately to Mr. McKenzie, Seggersdean by Haddington.3

In response to this McKenzie received a number of applicants; they were sent a form letter, in which McKenzie essentially cited Colville's directive to him regarding the position:

Seggersdean, June 15, 1852
To answer yours, I beg to state that the appointment of Teacher is one under the Hudson's Bay Company.
The emoluments are f50 p. annum with 50 or 60 acres of land attached to the School and Board allowed until such time as the above land is made productive by Company. A free house and School fees, a scale of which will be fixed by the Company so that no advantage may be taken of the Colonists allowing at the same time a fair remuneration for his labour. A free passage to the Island. The engagement to be for a term of years but a permancy may be secured by good conduct and by giving satisfaction as a Teacher.
If you intend to become a candidate... forward your testimonials... without delay as the Teacher will be required to leave this Country in one of the Company's own vessels about the end of July next.
The Climate is healthy and well adapted Europeans.
I am, etc.
K. McKenzie
P.S. State age and whether single or married.4

One of the applicants was Robert Barr; with his usual energy McKenzie made a thorough inquiry into Barr's credentials:

Seggersdean, June 22, 1852
Mr. Barr:
I enclose Testimonials as requested... and will give your application due consideration... but in the meantime a few points which I will require to be satisfied with, viz. What branches of Education you were educated with -- if you are fully qualified to teach the following branches The Latin and French Languages -- Practical & Theoretical Mathematics, Arithmetic, Book-keeping by Double & Single Entry and the Measurement of Land; and if you have taught the above branches previously or in the School in which you are at present the Teacher and be so good as to forward to me without delay Certificates bearing on the above and if found satisfactory I will be happy to lay them along with your applications before the Directors in London. Let me know what religious denomination you belong to.
I am Sir
Your obed. S.
K. McKenzie.5

Barr was deemed satisfactory and he and his wife left England on 18 August 1852 in the company of others bound for Craigflower. It is possible that after their arrival on Vancouver Island, McKenzie was so overwhelmed with the task of providing the essentials for his company that a schoolhouse and its master were not a priority. In any event, James Douglas met little opposition when he seconded Barr to teach at the Victoria School.6 The unfairness of this move was duly appreciated by head office and Douglas was reprimanded:

Colville to Douglas:
I understand that in place of locating Mr. Barr the schoolmaster, near to Mr. McKenzie's farm you employed him elsewhere, which I regret, as Mr. McKenzie took much pains in the selection of him and had some right to expect his family would have the benefit of his teaching. I thought my private letter to you would have made you aware of my wishes, but I am looking out for another schoolmaster, who I trust will be competent to replace Mr. Barr.7

By February 1854, Colville still had not secured another teacherfor McKenzie. One applicant, a Mr. Silver, was found "upon further inquiry to be not at all the kind of man to send to you."8 Oblivious to the problems confronting McKenzie regarding the lack of equipment, labour and arable land in the island wilderness, Colville went on to instruct him to have ready for the schoolmaster a proper lot of 60 acres, a site for the school house and a dwelling house; the land was to be "cleared... leaving a proper portion in wood, but not less than 2/3 or 3/4 in a state of useful pasture and arable land... he and his family will be entitled to maintenance until the land is delivered to him in this condition and until he can get a crop for his support...."9 However, by April 1854 Colville wrote to McKenzie admitting to failure in having secured a Scottish master and having to resort to an Englishman:"...after a long and anxious search I failed in finding a proper schoolmaster for you in Scotland. Those who were qualified declined after consideration, their wives generally disliking to emigrate to so distant a place. However, I have found a man educated at the Training College at Battersea who I think will give you satisfaction and Gov. Douglas will be instructed to place him conveniently to your farm."10

Charles Clark, the newly found schoolmaster, prepared to emigrate to Vancouver Island, but according to W.G. Smith, HBC Secretary, he intended first to marry.11 Subsequently, Clark and his newly acquired wife, Eliza, left London on 3 June 1854 on the maiden voyage of the Princess Royal. "The cabin passengers consist of Mr. & Mrs. Clark and Mr. & Mrs. Robinson with two children. Mr. Clark is the schoolmaster about whom I wrote to Mr. Douglas... and Mr. Robinson is intended manager... of the Company Coal mine, Nanaimo."12 The voyage itself was a "gloomy history of death, misery and dissatisfaction."13 A minor mutiny took place when the crew refused to work owing to the condition of the rice served to them. On July 1, the first mate recorded in the ship's log:"Mrs. Clarke lost her baby and the child was buried at sea the evening of the same day."14 Before rounding the Horn three more children died; when the ship anchored at Honolulu in October, another child, a miner and a miner's wife in childbirth died and were buried on the Island. By November when two more children died the first mate noted:".... the Incher baby died... was throwen overboard and no more notice taken of it then as if it had been a ded cat."15

Upon their arrival in the straits of Juan de Fuca on 20 November they encountered a winter gale of such force that it was three days before the ship could anchor at Victoria.16 Clark, his wife and a female servant of Mr. Robinson's were landed on 25 November 1854. Temporary accommodation was provided until December 8 when Melrose noted that the schoolmaster "got a house," [i. e. a small cottage].17 On 8 January 1855, Melrose recorded that "Mr. Clark taken up his school." The school house itself was not completed until 23 February and Clark "removed to his new house" on 2 March 1855.

Of the new master, McKenzie had written to Colville giving qualified approval:"Our schoolmaster also arrived safely and so far as I can judge of him will answer very well provided he does not get affected like others with dealing propensities [properties?] in preference to following his profession."18

On March 11, Clark apparently undertook to impart knowledge of a theological nature as Melrose recorded "Schoolmaster started to preach." This was continued on a fairly regular basis until the following year when it was noted "Mr. Clark dropped his preaching altogether."19Once again pregnant, Mrs. Clark "gave birth to a female child" on 1 May 1855.20 Although the infant lived, Mrs. Clark subsequently died, on 10 June.21 McKenzie wrote to Colville concerning her death:"I am sorry to have to inform you of Mrs. Clark's death. Her loss is sincerely felt by the whole community; she having devoted a large portion of her time to the tuition of the girls in sewing, etc."22

Clark ensured that his daughter was duly christened by the Reverend Edward Cridge and then proceeded to organize the school examination "on a Royal scale."23 His flurry of activity is reflected in McKenzie's accounts for July which indicate that Clark was not only purchasing building supplies but paying Indians for labour.24 For those pupils who distinguished themselves, twelve copies of the History of Rome and England were to be awarded as prizes.25 Clark even undertook to write a "circular inviting attendance [which was] sent to everyone about."26 John Work admitted to having missed the festivities but provided a colourful second-hand account:

I did not go, but Mrs. Cridge took the girls with her and Mrs. Finlayson also went. Mr. Douglas was there with Mr. and Mrs. Cameron. Craigflower had triumphal arches erected at both ends of the bridge leading to the school, and an elegant device put up with V.R. in the middle of it and, to finish, a salute of 21 guns fired (whoever before heard of a salute being fired at the examination of a school.) But it seems it suits Craigflower's views. He [Clark] also finished off with a repast to the company of wine, cakes and other dainties.27
McKenzie also gave a generous account of the examination to Colville and concluded with a slight poke at Mr. Barr.28 "Mr. Clark is giving every satisfaction himself and I am happy to say that on Saturday week last we had the first public school examination on Vancouver's island, Mr. Douglas presiding and a numerous attendance of the Parents, Gentry and men-of-war officers etc. all of whom seemed much pleased and not a little astonished that such institutions were now established on this Island, as well as at the progress made by the children in so few months, & I must also give Mr. Clark the credit of setting the example for Mr. Barr took the hint and had a public examination on Saturday last."29

In his diary for August, Melrose noted that "Mr. Clark's juvenile Pic Nic celebrated on Esquimalt Bay."30 It is probable that Clark was concluding his first term and that the children were given a short holiday period - which also coincided with harvest time. At the end of the year, 1855, McKenzie once again expressed satisfaction with Clark: "I am happy to say [he] is giving every satisfaction and the children under his charge are making extraordinary progress."31

Not only was Clark providing tutelage, he was also undertaking further construction and repairs on the schoolhouse:

January 1856: For Cash paid Chas. Clarke for building water closet and fencing in School f32/16/7
August 1856: To cash paid Charles Clarke for repairs to School house f12/5/4
September 1856: For 1/4. cwt. yellow paint f-/7/8
2 Galls Boiled Linseed 0il 5/7 for Maple Point School.32

By March 1856, Reverend Cridge, the colonial chaplain who had replaced the Reverend Robert Staines had been appointed to the Committee 'for inquiring into and reporting upon the state of Public Schools.' He was requested to hold quarterly examinations and report on the progress and conduct of pupils and the system of management.33 On 31 July 1856, Cridge examined the children at Craigflowe. His report gives a good indication of what was happening in Mr. Clark's schoolhouse:34

The subjects taught are as at Victoria School [Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, History, a little Geography & Grammar; also Scripture]. One boy has begun elements of Euclid and Algebra.
The children are fairly grounded in the elementary parts, the master bestowing a good deal of pains on this point. There are 21 pupils, aged 4 to 16, 3 are boarders. 12 are under 10 years. 11 girls, 10 boys, 18 day pupils. 11 are labouring class. 14 are from Craigflower, 3 are from Victoria, 1 - Colwood, 2 - Burnside, 1 - Viewfield.
There are 4 classes; the system is that which is usually followed in the National Schools in England. The school is sufficiently provided with books and maps. A considerable improvement was remarked by those who attended the examination of the previous year.35

In the matter of his private life, a year had now passed since the death of his first wife and Clark decided to remarry. Regrettably, current research has revealed little about the bride or the wedding except that it took place in the schoolhouse.

Charles Clark of Craigflower and Matilda Botwood of Craigflower were married in the School room of Craig Flower by License this seventh day of August in the year one thousand and fifty six by Edward Cridge, Colonial Chaplain in the presence of W. J. McDonald [and] C. Cooper.36

It is significant that the witnesses do not include the McKenzies for it appears that the relationship between Clark and McKenzie was rapidly deteriorating. It is difficult to judge from Melrose's brief entries whether the rivalry was initially jocular: "Mar. 28, 1856 Mr. Clark gave a great dinner." "Mar. 30, 1856 Mr. McKenzie gave a great dinner in opposition to Mr. Clark." However, by the spring of 1857 the tenor of their correspondence was one of hostility:

Jan. 19, 1857 Sir: [McKenzie] ... I request that you make an early settlement, as dollars are much wanted. When writing to me please not to address as a labouring lad at f17 a year...
[signed] Charles Clark

Sir: You will get no further settlement from me, you will therefore have to sue me... I request that you will not annoy mewith any more of your bills or papers... [the dishes are cracked? MS illegible] you will have to pay for them.
[signed] Mr. Clark37

It is not known whether Clark received satisfaction in this case. Melrose, however, noted that in mid-February "Mr. Clark received a respectable round from Mr. McKenzie."38 By late March, Clark was so incensed over another seemingly petty issue that lie sought legal resolution. The following summons was served on McKenzie:

Inferior Court of Civil Justice
Between Clarles Clark, Plaintiff & K. McKenzie as agent of PSAC, Defendant.
Kenneth McKenzie of Maple Point in your Capacity of Agent of the PSAC of VI you are hereby summoned to appear at our Inferior Court of Civil Justice to be held at Victoria on Monday, 20th day of April instant [11:00] to answer Charles Clark, the Maple Point Teacher, to a claim the particulars of which are herunto annexed.

April 9 1857
David Cameron, C. J. [chief justice]
Debt or Claim fl/12/1
Cost of summons 5/3 & service 9/3 14/1
Total Debt & Costs f2/6/7
PSAC by their agent K. McKenzie Esq. 1855 to Charles Clark
Aug. 1 canoe f1/10/0
2 paddles 2/1
True copy served by Mr. Andrew Muir, 11th day of April 1857
Andrew Muir, Sheriff39

Although Cameron's Benchbook does not record this case it appears that McKenzie was the victor for the omniscient Melrose noted, "Mr. McKenzie gained a law plea over Mr. Clark."40

In Clark's life the remainder of 1857 appears to be noteworthy for two unrelated events. The size of Clark's family increased in September when a daughter, Eliza Maria, was born. She was baptized by Rev. Cridge on 13 September 1857.41 Secondly, McKenzie finally rendered the total cost of the schoolhouse to the colonial accountant.42 However, in considering these costs the House of Assembly recommended "that the schoolhouse opposite Craig Flower being in a very delapidated condition be thoroughly repaired before being taken off the contractor's hands."43 The contractor here referred to is presumably Gideon Halcrow, but there is no indication that such repairs were undertaken. As evidenced by reports made during Claypole's tenure (1859-65) the building continued to deteriorate. Moreover, although the schoolmaster had undertaken some carpentry earlier, present documentation does riot suggest that Clark undertook any repairs during this period.44

The mandatory examination, was field at Craigflower in August, 1858, but Victoria was enthralled by gold fever; with the arrival of thousands of miners, public interest in Craigflower dwindled.

Examination - of the Colonial School at Maple Point, Craigflower - was field. The attendance of visitors, owing no doubt to the rain, was rather smaller than usual. The Governor (James Douglas), who has always been present on former occasions - was hindered from coming by business. The Rev. E. Cridge examined the school in Scripture, and the master, Mr. Clarke, in the other branches. Prizes sent by the governor were awarded to Jessie Mackenzie, William Lidgate, Christina Veitch, Dorothea Mackenzie. The girls of the school has also prepared a present of useful needlework for, the governor, which, with an address from them was duly forwarded to His Excellency.45

Aware that his five year contract expired in the spring of 1859, Clark agitated not only for a salary increase but the guarantee of a free passage to England. Cridge supported him in this but the request was denied. Clark then replied that he was willing to re-engage for a period not exceeding five years at the same salary but that he be granted the sum of f200 as equivalent to the passage to which he was entitled. In his letter to Cridge, dated 18 March 1859, Clark added that should the Governor's reply be unfavourable he intended to leave for England on "the ship about to sail."46 In spite of this threat, Clark's services were not considered indispensable by the colonial government and this request was also denied. "His Excellency regrets it is... beyond his power to... afford ... compensation to Mr. Clark for the passage to England... but under the circumstances His Excellency has but little doubt that if Mr. Clark were to re-engage and to faithfully fulfill his agreement he would be entitled to the same consideration as other officers in the service of the fort returning [retiring?] to England."47

On 23 March 1859, Clark, his wife and two daughters sailed for England on the Princess Royal.48 One final piece of evidence indicates, however, that Clark did not return as an impoverished schoolmaster. During his stay in Victoria, Clark was sufficiently solvent that he could lend a Dr. Kennedy f300. As the money was not repaid before Clark returned to England, he left the matter in the hands of Reverend Cridge. Shortly after Clark's departure, Dr. Kennedy died. Clark wrote to Cridge empowering him to take what legal action was necessary. The letter reveals an astute business sense on the part of Clark and the want of the money is seen not as a great hardship but rather a "severe disappointment and inconvenience."49 According to later correspondence, Clark's claim was finally settled in 1861.


Written and researched by Judith Stricker, British Columbia Heritage Branch, in 1983 and posted to the Craigflower Farm web site in 1998. This biographical sketch is posted on page devoted to Craigflower resources.