Schooling in Guysborough County 1735-2016

John N. Grant

John N. Grant released Schooling in Guysborough County 1735-2016 – A Case Study of Public Education in Rural Nova Scotia in the fall of 2019. The cover and interior were formatted and designed by Quarter Castle Publishing. The book was published by Guysborough Historical Society.

Number of Pages: 350


The history of schooling reflects the impact of economic, political, military and other social forces on the local community. The history of schooling in Guysborough  County covers almost 300 years. In 1735, there was one school in the County; in 1959, there were almost one hundred; in 2018, there were three. This is the story of what happened in between.


The history of schooling in Guysborough County covers a period of almost 300 years. While the history of the education of children is as old as time, formal schooling in this area can be traced back to historic Canso in the 1730s. The Loyalist pioneers and other early settlers brought their attitudes about schooling from the societies they had left. This sometimes led to an uneven level of opportunity for schooling as some communities valued it and paid the price and others did not. The story also reflects the efforts of school leaders to use every opportunity afforded by the province’s many school acts to support formal education. The story of schooling must also be told within the context of historical events. Immigration, out-migration, financial booms, depressions, struggles for power between political parties, racial divisions, and religious differences are all reflected in the local efforts to provide schools for the children of the community. So too is the story of the centralization of the power of government in Halifax, social movements like the feminization of the teaching staff, and the consolidation of schools. As such, the story of schooling in Guysborough County provides a case study of schooling and school-house politics that helps to illustrate the process throughout the province.

The territory that today is Guysborough County was hived off Halifax County in 1784, was named Sydney County, and included what is now both Guysborough and Antigonish counties. “In 1836 Sydney County was divided and Guysborough County was established.” The former Upper District retained the name Sydney County until 1863 when it was renamed Antigonish County. In 1840, the Township of St. Mary’s “was set off as a separate and distinct district”within Guysborough County. While there have been a number of boundary changes over the years, most notably the expansion of St. Mary’s at the expense of Halifax County, the political unit remained the same until 1879 when the two Districts of Guysborough County became municipalities. Canso held status as an incorporated town from 1901 to 2012 when it again became part of the rural Municipality of the District of Guysborough. The Town of Mulgrave was incorporated in 1923 but after 93 years as a separate political unit is now (2016) also moving to revert to being part of Guysborough municipality.

How to Buy the Book

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Author: John N. Grant

John N Grant, BA (St FX), MA (UNB), BEd, MEd (Dalhousie), EdD (U of T), is a native of Guysborough, NS. He taught in the public school system, was a Research Associate of the Atlantic Institute of Education and between 1984 and 1997 taught history at the Nova Scotia Teachers College. He retired as a full professor at St. Francis Xavier University. He has published in the areas of African-Nova Scotian history, history of education, local history, and the history of academic costume in Nova Scotia.

Dr. Grant has been a member of the Board of the Little White Schoolhouse Museum for many years. John and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Enfield, NS.