11 Staffing Issues 1878-1879

The staffing of Residential Schools directly affected the daily lives of students, and many Survivors talk about the lasting impact of the way they were treated by staff. Understanding who worked at Shingwauk and why they were hired can help expand our understanding of the legacy of Residential Schools. The following is an in-depth account of the staffing issues experienced by the first principal of Shingwauk, Edward Francis Wilson, in 1878-1879. This information comes from Letter Book 2013-112/001 (001), and a description of the book can be found here on the Algoma Archives website.

E.F. Wilson seemed to have a lot of difficulty hiring staff to work at the two schools during 1878-1879. One issue was finding a woman to work as the Lady Superintendent at Wawanosh. Miss Browne started at the school in October of 1877 but wanted to leave by June of 1878. Wilson wrote a great deal of letters to supporters across Canada and in England looking for someone to replace her, but he was having trouble finding someone and was worried that Miss Browne would leave without someone to replace her. Wawanosh was also dealing with funding issues and Wilson started to feel that the only solution was to close the school. However, upon finding out this plan, Miss Browne offered to stay on for Winter 1878-79 at half pay in order to keep the school open. Wilson was incredibly thankful for this and mentioned it in almost every letter for a few weeks. Come Spring 1879 Miss Browne tendered her resignation again, finding the work too lonely, and she planned to leave in June. Wilson again wrote to a great deal of people looking for a replacement and eventually found Miss Carry, who he was immensely satisfied with.

The hiring situation for couples at the school was much more dramatic. These couples seemed to have been hired to deal with general grounds and maintenance, tailoring, cooking, laundering, etc depending on the skills of the man and woman. In 1878 Wawanosh had Mr and Mrs Booth but they decided to leave for an unknown reason, so Wilson started writing letters to find a replacement, as well as a separate couple to work at Shingwauk doing the above described tasks for the school in addition to duties for Wilson’s family. Former students Adam Kiyoshk and Alice Wawanosh, recently married, came to work at Shingwauk as carpenter and cook but were not happy with the salary, and thinking they could get something better down south they left. There seemed to be a great deal of confusion in hiring replacement couples since it was all done by letter, Wilson himself in contact with applicants as well as with applicants through Mrs Fauquier (the Head Directress of the Wawanosh Committee and wife of the Bishop of Algoma) and other third parties in England. Consequently, multiple couples were hired at the same time. Mr and Mrs Hardeman were hired through Mrs Fauquier, but Wilson didn’t know if they were coming for sure, so George Paddon and his wife were hired for Shingwauk to replace Adam and Alice and Mr and Mrs Rankin were hired to replace Mr and Mrs Booth at Wawanosh. The Hardemans did show up though, so Wilson had them working in the garden while he figured out what to do with the other couples.

Wilson soon fired the Rankins as Mrs Rankin was required to work “willfully and cheerfully” under Miss Browne and was “very ill-suited to this task”. Charles Cottrell and his wife had been hired in England around the same time as the other couples, but did not arrive until after the Rankins were gone. They replaced the Rankins but then moved to Shingwauk as there was trouble with the Paddons. While Wilson was away on a missionary tour, Mr Paddon was fired by Mrs Wilson for displaying drunkenness (a clear breach of his contract) and creating a disturbance. He left that night without his wife, but returned the next day and refused to leave. After arguing with Mrs Wilson and Reverend Appleby, the couple eventually left. Since the Cottrells replaced the Paddons, this left the Wawanosh positions open for the Hardemans.

 

Artist’s rendition of Wawanosh Girls’ Home circa 1880

The Cottrells came with their own set of problems though. The agreement they signed in England was for them to work at Shingwauk for 4 years, and part of this agreement was that Wilson would withhold a portion of their quarterly payment to be paid out at the end of their contract, in order to ensure that they stayed for the full 4 years. When they arrived, Wilson realized Mrs Cottrell was pregnant, and therefore he did not think that the couple could properly carry out their duties, so they were sent to work at Wawanosh. Charles Cottrell felt that therefore the original agreement was null and he wanted to be paid in full. Wilson refused to do this and Cottrell argued, so Wilson said he would have to let them go if they could not agree with this method of payment. However they decided to stay when they switched to Shingwauk after the Paddons left. The Wilsons travelled to England during the summer of 1879, and the Cottrells were left in charge of the grounds. When Wilson returned there was a disagreement when Mrs Cottrell did not do something she was asked to do, and Mr Cottrell got very heated, the police were called, and he spent the night in jail and the couple was fired the next day.

A previous employee, John Taylor, and his wife were hired to replace the Cottrells at Shingwauk. Taylor had previously worked there as a farm hand of some kind, but was evidently terrible at this job, creating a lot of damage and costing the school a large amount of money. He also was a nuisance to Wilson after he was fired by constantly asking for the money he was owed (he was on the same type of contract as the Cottrells and had money held back from each paycheck). Wilson felt that Taylor had breached his contract by not staying as long as he was supposed to in addition to causing damage, and so refused to pay him the money. When he was hired back along with his wife in October of 1879, it was again for a 4 year contract with money held back to be paid at the end.

Staffing issues continued to cause problems over the course of the school’s history, and more information can be found in the records held at the Shingwauk Residential School Centre.

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Shingwauk Narratives: Sharing Residential School History by Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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