First Principal of "M.T.S."
On February 21, 1878 an act establishing a training school for teachers in the Madawaska territory was approved and signed by Maine governor Selden Connor. Specifically, the act stated:
...the Trustees of the Normal Schools are hereby authorized to establish and maintain, for a period of not less than six months in each year, two schools in Madawaska Territory, so-called, for the purpose of training persons to teach in the common schools of said territory. The towns in which said schools may be located, shall furnish suitable buildings therefore, free of expense, and shall also furnish fuel for said schools. The choice of books and teachers for said schools, the course of study to be pursued therein, and the grade of scholarship for admission thereto, shall be under the control of said trustees.
A sum of $1,000, taken from school funds appropriated to the several municipalities in the territory, was set aside in the State Treasury. This money was to be used to establish and maintain, "for a time at least," what would be familiarly referred to as the Madawaska Training School, or M.T.S.
As State Superintendent of Common Schools W.J. Corthell noted at the time, the reasons for establishing the school were found in the "peculiar character of the people of this section," who were "...almost wholly French and French speaking." The idea for the creation of such a school for the residents of the St. John River Valley was not a new one, Corthell said. "To Americanize them, to bring them out of their isolation in character, modes of life and of thinking, and make them, as far as possible, homogeneous with the population surrounding them, has been the purpose of various educational experiments since 1857." Furthermore, the Superintendent commented, "To teach these people with other necessary things, to speak and read English, and thus break down the barriers between them and the 'outside' has been found a difficult thing to do."
Corthell recognized the need for, and the value of, bilingual teachers. In
the Madawaska territory should not only be "versed in the ordinary branches
to he taught." They must also, in his opinion, be able to "speak and
read both languages." To obtain teachers thus qualified, especially a sufficient
number who could afford to work for the "small pay made necessary by the
comparative poverty of the section," had previously been "practically
impossible." Educational progress in the area in the past had been "as
great as could be expected under the circumstances,'' but the State Superintendent
felt that that progress had not been "commensurate with the expenditures
made." A "careful personal" examination of the schools in most
of the towns and plantations to be served under the act had been made and convinced
Mr. Corthell that "some special agency for training up a special body of
teachers from the native population" was definitely needed. "Hence
the Madawaska training school," he said.
The new school opened September 30, 1878 under the supervision of Vetal Cyr,
"a native of that section." Cyr was a graduate of Houlton Academy
and the State College in Orono in the class of 1876. He also was an experienced
teacher, having taught in "some of the best schools in Aroostook County."
He was assisted by Miss Mae B. Morrill, a graduate of Farmington Normal School.
Forty-six "thoroughly interested" pupils attended the first term,
which closed on December 20th. All students pursued the common school studies
required by law except physiology and book-keeping. English textbooks were used,
and "special attention" was given to training that initial class "to
speak and think in good English."
After a second term of twelve weeks the school was transferred to Van Buren,
where two similar-length terms were held under the same teachers. Superintendent
Corthell found the results "so promising" that he recommended that
the same schedule be kept for at least two years longer, and after that the
school meet in Fort Kent and Van Buren on alternate years. "As a matter
of equity," Corthell further advised that M.T.S. be funded on the same
basis as the other Normal schools.
E. S. Morris succeeded Mr. Corthell as State Superintendent of Common Schools,
and it is interesting to note his comments on the progress made at the Madawaska
Training School during its second year of operation. Morris found that "quite
a percentage of" the students there had "but little knowledge of the
English language." Because some could not speak the language "to any
great extent" when they entered, he explained, instruction of necessity
had to be "very elementary and even primary in its character." Morris
reminded the trustees of the Normal schools that M.T.S. had a special mission.
"This school is not a High School or an academy, but as its name indicates,
(is) particularly devoted to the training of teachers."
School terms were again split between Fort Kent and Van Buren. The school population
in what Morris called "this interesting portion of our State" numbered
nearly 3,500 in 1879, and as the Superintendent pointed out, "The State
wishes to educate all its children in the language of the State and Nation,
and to make them an English Speaking people." After all, he stated, "the
laws are printed in English" and the "business of the courts is transacted
in the same language." That meant something as basic as the deeds by which
the local people held title to their farms were, to them, written in a "foreign
language." Accordingly, all instruction at the training school was given
Although "many" of the pupils attending M.T.S. that year had some
teaching experience, perhaps the "larger part" had not, but wanted
to teach in the near future. Like Corthell, Morris recognized that "Those
employed to teach in this region must of necessity be able to talk the French
language, for as yet many of their pupils understand no other." Previously,
Valley teachers had had no opportunity to prepare themselves to teach English.
Therefore, the fledgling training school provided a particular "want."
Besides, and this was important from Morris' point of view, the students there
were "not only being instructed in WHAT to teach but HOW to teach."
Morris himself visited the school in Van Buren in June of 1879 and attested
to the "faithfulness of both teachers and pupils." Subsequently, Miss
Morrill died and was replaced by Miss L. Maria Knight, another graduate of Farmington
Normal School. Further reports received by Morris indicated that M.T.S. was
continuing to do "good work," and he offered the following predictions
in his annual report: "as it continues from year to year the standard will
be raised in the school, the standard of teachers in the Madawaska district
will be raised, and the education of this interesting people will become more
general and of a higher grade." The Superintendent entered his plea for
continued funding of the training school. "It is hoped that the State will
take no backward steps, but continue to appropriate a sum sufficient for the
expenditures of the school."
Vetal Cyr submitted his first annual report as Principal of the Madawaska Training
School in December of 1879. He listed the following attendance figures: fall,
Fort Kent, 46; winter, Fort Kent, 49; spring Van Buren, 32; summer, Van Buren,
34. Some of the best textbooks then available were being used, for example:
French and English Royal Reader, Harpers' and Swinton's Geographies, Hagar's
and Robinson's Arithmetic, Quackenbo's Grammar and Language Lessons, Harpers'
Smaller United States History, Payson and Dunton's Book-Keeping, Kini's FreeHand
Drawing, the Soencerian Copy-books, Webster's Dictionary and the French Neuveau
Treate. The two instructors provided other books for reference. The Principal
pointed out that instruction was "not confined to the line of any textbook,
although the best were in use...." Most important, as he viewed it, was
to make the school "in a true sense PRACTICAL, adapting it to the advancement
of the pupils." He was sure that Morris's visit during the summer term
had made the State Superintendent" familiar as to the necessity of such
a school in this territory and with the general character of its work.
Principal Cyr said he had two primary responsibilities. First, he must assist
the pupils in "securing a thorough knowledge of the ELEMENTS of the common
school studies. Second, he considered it important to make them "sufficiently
familiar with the English language to enable them to teach the same in that
tongue." He was well aware of the fact that "a very large percentage
of" his students did not speak English. Indeed, he said, "many could
not even understand it when they joined the school." For that reason "progress
was necessarily very slow," and he had to make "sure of ONE STEP before
Cyr was careful to note that the methods used during the first year were "experiments,"
not set policy, and at least in part determined by the "limited previous
preparation of the pupils." He was encouraged, however, by the dedication
of the first class. "Nearly all" had entered with the "intention
of fitting themselves to teach," and had remained through the two terms
held in each place. The recommendation that "professional work by the pupils
should accompany every step of the work," had been followed to "a
certain extent." Progress in meeting this recommendation was slowed by
the "variety of grades" of preparation that had to be dealt with and
the "amount of time necessary to the teachers in giving instruction."
Vetal Cyr indicated his belief that "one must KNOW before he can apply,"
and he personally felt "content for the present in using the best methods
and teaching WHAT and HOW to teach." These were not empty words, for Cyr
had formed a primary class during the summer session, where M.T.S. students
were given "opportunities for observation and practice in teaching"
one hour each day. And, he thought the results were "very satisfactory
and of a practical benefit to all."
Principal Cyr, looking to the "advancement of the (training) school and
all the common schools," suggested that "a grade for admission and
a course of studies" be established. The former, he felt, would "excite
an interest in those who wished to attend to fit themselves at the common schools...."
In turn, he continued, "better teachers would become necessary and better
teachers would be employed." As for the value of a definite course of studies,
Cyr contended that it would "mark out a certain amount of work to be done,
and would encourage those attending to persevere till this was accomplished,
giving as a result a more intelligent class of teachers."
In 1880, N.A. Luce, the new State Superintendent of Common Schools, reaffirmed
the support given to the Madawaska Training School by his predecessors Corthell
and Morris. He agreed that a "class of teachers" was needed in the
Valley schools who could "readily use both languages." Such teachers,
he reported, simply "could not be secured" prior to the establishment
of M.T.S. He attributed the "successful operation" of the school over
the preceding two years to the following: selecting "the best and the brightest"
of the older pupils and the existing teachers from the area schools, thorough
drilling in the "elementary branches of knowledge," perfecting, reading,
writing and speaking in English, seeking to develop the students' "power
to think and express thought clearly and readily in both languages," and
striving to train the students "in those methods of teaching and of school
management best adapted to the conditions of the schools in which they must
teach." Luce personally examined the training school students that summer.
He also talked with "some forty" school children taught by people
who had attended M.T.S. and had come away with a "more than satisfactory"
impression. He found that fifty-seven of the seventy-seven teachers employed
in the various school districts in the French towns and plantations had attended
the training school for one or more terms. The new institution was then "powerfully
affecting for good the educational interests of the section." Superintendent
Luce observed, "It has already given an uplift to the schools there, such
as all previous effort had failed to give, and the influence in the future will
be still more potent."
Luce was anxious that an appropriate level of funding for M.T.S. be consistently
maintained. The original figure of $1,000 was reduced to $800 in 1879, which
proved insufficient, and the legislature had to make up the "deficiency"
by "drawing for the balance on some other appropriation." It cost
$987 to run the school in 1880 and that did not include $187 owed to teachers
in back pay. Lute urged that the latter bill be paid promptly and encouraged
the legislature to increase the appropriation for the coming year to $1,200
and $1,000 annually thereafter.
In his report to Superintendent Luce in 1880 Vetal Cyr indicated the following
attendance figures: fall, Fort Kent, 44; winter, Fort Kent, 55; spring, Van
Buren, 32; summer, Van Buren, 34; total, 96. Physical Geography, Physiology,
Civil Government, Free-Hand Drawing, Penmanship and Practice of Teaching had
been added to the course of study. Among the new textbooks adopted were: Franklin's
Fifth Reader, Cornell's Physical Geography, Townsend's Civil Government, Payson
and Dunton's Book-Keeping; Krusis' Free-Hand Drawing and Worcester's Dictionary.
The instructors "sifted and rendered easily comprehensible" the text
material and made "many of the best authors" available to their students.
According to Cyr daily attendance was up from the year before, and the students
"found little difficulty in going forward with their English studies, doing
the work with more pleasure and satisfaction than formerly." To encourage
proper use of the English language pupils had to "use no other in and about
the school rooms."
Mr. Cyr was encouraged by the interest shown by parents in the school's efforts.
He was enthusiastic about the decision made in Van Buren to erect a "fine
building" to accommodate the school terms held there. In Cyr's words "there
seems to be now few obstacles to retard" the school's progress, providing,
the State shall look upon it with favor." Even more progress could be made
Cyr felt, if "a change in the present method of certifying and examining
teachers in this territory" were made. He hoped Luce would agree, saying,
"You no doubt observed this need while visiting this section during the
last summer, and it is hoped some different mode will soon be adopted and the
N. A. Luce, commenting in his 1881 report, saw the improvements in education
in the St. John Valley as part of the benefits being reaped from the creation
of the statewide Normal School system. "In the schools among the French
along the St. John, and in those in the remote plantations of Franklin, Somerset,
Oxford and Washington, one familiar with the spirit and methods of the normal
schools, can find the signs of their influence." One sign of that influence
was the increase in enrollment at M.T.S. that year. Two twenty-week terms were
held in 1881 with 48 attending in Van Buren and 65 enrolling at Fort Kent. The
total attendance of 113 marked an increase of 17 over the previous year. There
were no textbook changes for existing courses, but Greenleaf's Elementary Algebra
and Steele's Fourteen Weeks in Philosophy were adopted for the two new courses
in algebra and philosophy. Cyr again reported good daily attendance and "little
difficulty in going forward with their English studies."
Cyr's recommendation of the previous year was put into effect. New students
were "subjected to an examination upon entering," and this, he judged,
"made up a class better fitted for the work." One result was, he said,
"there has not been so great a demand for primary work as heretofore."
He looked forward to the first graduation. At the end of the next 20 week session
at Fort Kent a class of six would "complete the studies and be ready to
graduate." Four of the six, he noted, were French and "understood
little or no English when they entered four years ago." By contrast, "they
now speak the language fluently and intelligently.'' Cyr hoped these prospective
graduates would soon be gainfully employed. He suggested to Luce, "could
the law be so arranged that the graduates would be the chosen teachers, the
influence of the Training School would be greatly increased and soon felt in
all parts of the territory."
The school calendar remained unchanged at M.T.S. in 1882. Attendance dropped
slightly (Fort Kent, 53; Van Buren, 48). Physics was added to the curriculum
and the text by Steele adopted. School libraries were started in both Fort Kent
and Van Buren, with "pupils and parents... receiving the benefits of choice
literature." Principal Cyr observed, "General PROGRESS is now being
made, and it is hoped that NO ACTION of the State will retard it." He noted
proudly that all of the first graduating class, eight instead of the six he
projected in an earlier report, "taught during the past year and acquitted
themselves with honor."
That first class consisted of Theodore Bouchard, Marion Cyr, Remi Daigle, Cora
P. Dickey, Jane M. Farrell, Ozite Landrie (sic), Cassius A. Scars and Michel
Therriault. This class evidently listened to Horace Greely's abmonition to go
West. Two years later three of the class were living in Minnesota and one in
Montana. Ozite Landrie, now Mrs. Fred Mallett, was located in Minneapolis, Theodore
Bouchard resided in St. Paul, and Remi Daigle was at Watertown, Minnesota. "Mike"
Therriault was then making his home in Missoula, Montana. Cora Dickey and Marion
Cyr remained in Fort Kent. Jane M. Farrell, married to Alexis Vasseur (sic),
was in nearby Grand Isle. Cassius A. Sears was attending the State College in
Orono. It is not clear from an account of the 1882 class, contained in the M.T.S.
catalog for 1884, how many of the first graduating class were still actually
teaching, regardless of their location.
The State Superintendent of Common Schools reviewed the five year history of
the Madawaska Training School in his annual report for 1883. A good deal of
the success of the school he credited to Vetal Cyr. A man" 'to the manner
born' of the people among whom he had labored," Cyr understood, the people,
of all ages, with whom he was working. "His intimate knowledge of the peculiar
character of the people of that section, and of the special needs of their schools,
his acquaintance with the art and science of teaching acquired by previous experience
and study, and his special natural adaptation to the work, have enabled him
to fashion the course of study and methods of instruction as to make its work
at the same time popular and in the highest degree effective." The Superintendent
had similar praise for Miss Nowland, Cyr's assistant. Moreover, he went on,
"Both have labored with unremitting zeal, notwithstanding the comparatively
meager salaries which they have received previous to the current year."
Although the legislature had increased its annual appropriation from $1,000
to $1,300 the preceding winter, he felt this "did but scant and tardy justice
By 1883 the course of study at M.T.S. was set at two years of 40 weeks each.
Eight more students were graduated that year: Frank Austin, Mary Brown, Mattie
Cyr, Thalie Daigle, Mae G. Maley, Elodie Marquis, Marie Michaud and Hattie Stevens.
A year later, Mary Brown (Mrs. Michel Michaud) was living in Frenchville. Two
of her classmates, Thalie Daigle and Hattie Stevens, were located in Fort Kent,
Marie Michaud was in Wallagrass and Elodie Marquis was in Caribou. Frank Austin
had gone to Orono, and Mattie Cyr was now in Great Fails, N.H. Another dozen
were scheduled for graduation in March, 1884.
With the growing number of graduates, the school's impact was beginning to
spread, and happily so, as far as Mr. Luce was concerned. "The effect of
the school upon the educational interests of the section for whose benefit it
was established, has been all and more than was hoped for even." He was
perhaps even overly enthusiastic about the results to date. "The change
its has wrought in the condition of the common schools, nearly all of which
are now taught by its pupils or graduates, is almost marvelous." The money
spent on improving education in this part of northern Maine, he said, had been
a good investment of tax dollars. "To-day, because of what the school has
done and is doing, the State's benefactions so generously bestowed upon the
section for the support of common schools, have ceased to be as water poured
into a sieve, as was formerly the case and are now as good seed sown in fertile
Another $1,300 was appropriated by the legislature for the 1884 school year
at Madawaska Training School, but it was not long before this was "fully
expended." The State Superintendent complained that the annual appropriations
were "too small," and allowed no margin for extraordinary calls,"
such as "making of any additions to the libraries or apparatus of the schools."
Unless regular appropriations for the Normal Schools, which included M.T.S.,
were increased to at least $20,000, he prophesied, special appropriations, "which
are even now sorely needed will soon have to be made..."
A larger number of males attended the two terms of twelve weeks each held in
Fort Kent and one term of sixteen weeks held in Grand Isle in 1884. Fifteen
of the fifty-seven enrolled at Fort Kent were "gentlemen," and the
men actually outnumbered the "ladies" thirteen to nine at the session
held in Grand Isle: Total enrollment for the year, male and female, was ninety-two.
"A large gathering of the people coming from every town in the territory
above Van Buren" attended the graduation ceremonies held under the supervision
of the State Superintendent at the close of the second term in Fort Kent in
1884. Those graduating were: Essey L. Brown, Olive M. Cyr, Alphonse Cyr, Josephine
Daigle, Meddie Daigle, Elise Dionne, Lillie J. Dowries, Euphemie Pelletier,
Edithe Pinette, Denise Sirois, Thomas Scars and Marc Vaillan-court. Half of
the class claimed Fort Kent as their residence, two were from Madawaska, and
one each came from Eagle Lake, Grand Isle and Caribou. This brought the total
number of graduates to twenty-eight, and it is interesting to note that all
but three of these had graduated from the Fort Kent branch of the Madawaska
The school serving the "lower section of the territory" was moved
from Van Buren to Grand Isle in 1884 by the order of the State Superintendent
acting for the Trustees of the Normal Schools. The Superintendent said that
this move promises to increase its (M.T.S.'s) usefulness." The people in
Grand Isle were already "showing a warm interest in its success and stand
ready to furnish every facility for its work." The town's citizens had
"expended a considerable sum in fitting up the school-house for its reception."
And, if they could "be sure of its continuance among them," the Trustees
of the Normal Schools were assured Grand Isle would "cheerfully do more
in the same direction." The initial enrollment at Grand Isle pleased all
concerned. "The attendance...has been larger than was expected, larger
than the last term at Van Buren, and promises to be even larger in the future."
There may have been additional reasons for the change of site from Van Buren
to Grand Isle. In his annual report Principal Vetal Cyr said, "There seem
to be here (Grand Isle) no influences unfavorable to the school, unlike the
conditions at Van Buren during the last term there, where certain hostile influences
affected it to a marked degree, which fact I presume, was the cause of its removal
from that place."
Cyr, "to answer what seems to be a local need," modified the curriculum
at M.T.S. to provide for the teaching of the "rudiments of French as written
and spoken by the cultivated." This change was initiated at Grand Isle
by Cyr lmself. An hour a day was devoted to French. The class translated their
English reading lessons into French, and Principal Cyr "explained and illustrated
the principles of French grammar" through these translations. As a result,
the class "did excellent work, not only to the end of learning the French,
but also of getting a further knowledge of the English by the method."
Although textbooks remained the same, they were supplemented by "constant
and much oral instruction."
Students were restricted by a minimum number of regulations at M.T.S. in 1884.
Entrance exams were given on the first day of each term, and every student had
to declare his, or her, intention of remaining a full term. No student could
be admitted, other than at the beginning of each term, "unless satisfactory
reason be given for the delay." A pupil could not leave school at any time
besides the end of the term without giving "reasons satisfactory to the
Principal." If not excused by the Principal, the pupil concerned forfeited
his right to return. The attendance policy was open to individual interpretation.
"Absence from school or tardiness is not permitted when avoidable."
Students were expected to be in their rooms, or at home, during appointed study
hours, and during those hours they were restricted to "quiet study."
All pupils had to "duly observe" any "requirements and suggestions"
made by their instructors in regard to deportment, as well as study habits.
Vetal Cyr had nothing but praise for the performance of his students that academic year. Everything had been "successful up to the full measure to be expected." The student body had been made up of the "best material in the territory," and as expected had been "earnest and zealous" in their work. From the Principal's viewpoint, they had been "remarkably prompt and regular in attendance, and in deportment all that could be desired." Because of students such as these, Cyr said, M.T.S. had "Grown in usefulness and popularity, and the outlook for the future is bright with promise of still better things."
Attendance hit a new high in 1885. Sixty-four registered at Fort Kent and another
fifty at Grand Isle, for a total of 114. Cyr attributed at least part of the
increase to the enthusiasm of the inhabitants at Grand Isle. The people there
had shown they were "deeply interested" in the school and were "doing
all in their power to secure its continuance there." "Extensive repairs"
had been made on the Grand Isle school-house, and a "large and pleasant
classroom had been fitted out in the upper story. It was now hoped that the
building would be "very comfortable," in terms of room for expansion,
for "several years." There were no curriculum or textbook changes
that year. Accordingly, the "WORK of the school" was performed "very
nearly in the same manner as that of previous years." With the addition
of "several volumes of choice literature," the school library collection
numbered 120 volumes. Money for the purchase of books was supplemented by "levying
a small amount upon each pupil" and from "school exhibitions occasionally
given." More and more students were showing their interest in "general
reading" by checking out books on Friday afternoons.
There was no graduating class in 1885, and there were only seven graduates
in the fourth class, that of 1886: Lucie Albert, Edithe Cyr, Modeste Martin,
Mary McClean, Josephine Paradis, Mary J. Sweeney and Joseph F. Cyr. Again, all
were from the St. John Valley, with two each from Fort Kent and St. Francis,
and single students from Madawaska, Frenchville and Van Buren. The school year
had opened on September 21, 1885 at Fort Kent, where consecutive terms of twelve
and ten weeks were held. The term at Grand Isle lasted eighteen weeks. Fifty-five
had attended in Fort Kent, and the Grand Isle enrollment was forty-six. The
State Superintendent again personally handed out the diplomas. Madawaska Training
School had now contributed thirty-five graduates to the teaching force in northern
A "School Committee" in Fort Kent recommended a change in readers
for the Training School, and the Swinton Readers were introduced, providing
"excellent satisfaction.'' For the first time, Principal Cyr broached the
subject of crowded conditions at the Fort Kent site. The district school house
then being used was described by Cyr as "small and cold." He told
the Trustees that "many" pupils were being refused every year "for
the want of suitable accommodations." "No changes or repairs"
had been made "about the school buildings." In summary Cyr said, "At
Fort Kent a new school-house is much needed," and he "greatly hoped
that the State will do something for this school very soon in the way of buildings."
Cyr implied that such help from the State was warranted by the school's record
in placing its thirty-five graduates, who, as he proudly noted, "not only
find ready employment as teachers in this territory, but while some have proved
successful teachers in different parts of this State, others have made themselves
useful as such in the West."
The State Superintendent of Common Schools evidently agreed with Vetal Cyr,
for he recommended in his list of special needs for the coming year "such
legislation as will permanently locate this school at Fort Kent, and will provide
for its suitable accommodation." He began his argument for such legislation
by tracing the accomplishments of the school to date. "Since it began its
work it has fully proved its right to be, in practically revolutionizing the
common schools of the section in whose interests it was established." The
"peculiar conditions" that had led to the establishment of M.T.S.,
he remarked, "still exist to such extent that without its continued work
the common schools would rapidly relapse to something of their old inefficiency."
While there was no longer a question of the school being "a permanent
need of the section," he continued, "conditions have so changed that
its management needs modification." It was now time to give M.T.S. "a
local habitation by permanently locating it in Fort Kent, the most eligible
location for it." But, the former practice of holding the sessions in the
village school house (especially because this could only be done "at such
times as the common school there was not in session") would not suffice
for the future. "Building for it must, therefore be erected at the expense
of the State." A sum of $1,500 for the building was suggested, as well
as "a small sum additional to that now annually appropriated" for
the "heating and care" of a new building.
The following year the legislature did provide money for the erection of a
new building to house the Madawaska Training School in Fort Kent on a permanent
basis. Actual construction, however, was delayed. Miss Nowland was granted a
leave of absence from Grand Isle, and Vetal Cyr continued as the only teacher
while waiting for the new building in Fort Kent to be completed. Twenty students
registered for the term in Grand Isle in 1887, compared to fifty who attended
the two terms in Fort Kent. Cyr pointed out that the "deep snows"
that winter had "little effect in keeping pupils out of school," and
"interest" on the part of the students at Fort Kent was "never
better." Looking ahead, he said, "By the erection of the new school
building at Fort Kent, the present usefulness of the training school cannot
fail of being greatly increased." He did express the hope that the curriculum
could be "expanded and see what changes may profitably be made."
Cyr's annual report to the Trustees of the State Normal Schools in 188 indicated
some changes made. The legislative act of 1887 had deprived M.T.S. "of
its 'wheels,'" by locating it permanently in Fort Kent. The school year
was shortened to eight months, instead of the usual ten. The school year was
divided into two sixteen-week terms, with a "vacation of two weeks during
the holidays." The first term ran from September 6th to December 22nd,
and the second term opened January 9th and closed on April 26th. Girls outnumbered
the boys attending by about three to one. Total attendance was only fifty, but
Vetal Cyr explained, "The school, being now stationary, cannot reach as
many different pupils as it did when it was traveling about the territory."
Yet, average attendance for the year had been good, and student interest "never
The fifth class to graduate from Madawaska Training School reflected the change
to a permanent site. Four of the seven graduates were from Fort Kent. The other
three claimed residence in Wallagrass, St. John Plantation and Madawaska. Class
members were: Madelaine Cyr, Edithe Daigle, Sophie Daigle, Vlarise Labe, Josephine
Michaud, Pauline Pelletier and Vincent Theriault. This brought the total number
of graduates to forty-two. Obtaining a job then was no problem. "All find
ready employment as teachers here and elsewhere." This class had the advantage
of taking a course in school laws of Maine, recently added to the curriculum.
The catalog and circular of the Madawaska Training School for 1888 advertised
the benefits expected from the new facilities at Fort Kent. "A Building
for its occupancy has been erected, and it will begin its next school year under
conditions which promise increased efficiency and power for good." Pricipal
Cyr echoed these sentiments, saying in December, 1888, "The new building
is sufficiently completed to be occupied, and the school opened its present
term in it under the most favorable conditions and with a larger actual attendance
than of any previous year." Cyr cautiously recommended another appropriation
request. "The school needs a LITTLE more money from the State to make the
building and its surroundings comfortable and attractive." He expressed
confidence that "This money will of course be granted by the next legislature."
Cyr's confidence was inspired by the support given him by the State Superintendent.
Well aware of the "fiscal expectancies" of the state legislature,
the Superintendent reminded its members that the new building at Fort Kent was
"planned and carried forward to completion with constant reference to keeping
the expenditure therefore within the amount available for the purpose."
He noted that the M.T.S. building was "large enough for the immediate,
but not for the prospective needs of the school." The original plans included
provision for enlarging the building "at the least possible cost."
The State Superintendent then made his bid for additional funds in two steps.
"To enlarge it at once would be, however, good policy. The sum of $600
would put on the necessary addition, and in the building so enlarged accommodations
could be provided for a needed model department." The finishing touches
called for by Principal Cyr (painting inside and out, a bell tower and a bell,
grading and fencing the grounds), he felt would bring the additional appropriation
request for M.T.S. to $1500.
The Maine legislature responded with a special appropriation of $600 for "sundry
improvements upon the buildings and grounds of the Madawaska Training School."
Approximately another $100 was squeezed out of another appropriation. With this
money a belfry was added. Provision was made for a small library and "apparatus
room" in the base of the belfry. A bell was ordered, as well as a fancy
weather vane for the top of the belfry. "Settees" were purchased for
the recitation room. The main part of the building was painted inside and out.
Plank walks were laid to both entrances, and the school lot was fenced in. Vetal
Cyr was pleased. "The new building is comfortable, and when the contemplated
additions are made the rooms will be very pleasant."
Attendance for the 1888-1889 school year was the largest in the history of
the school at Fort Kent, 65. The same textbooks were in use, but "several
good works of reference" were available at the teachers' desks for "general
use." However, more books were needed. "A taste for reading is being
cultivated among the pupils, and the little private library is not sufficient
to supply the present demand." Cyr hoped that "something may be done
in order to furnish the school with more reading matter." Through private
donations and "fees resulting from school entertainments,'' M.T.S. was
able to buy a "fine organ" and have it placed in the school-room.
Fifty-nine students registered for the fall term in 1889, and sixty-eight enrolled
the following spring. Again, there were no text-book changes, but "several
good books of reference" were added to the library, including a set of
encyclopedias presented by N.A. Luce, Maine's Superintendent of Common Schools.
The pupils raised money to buy a school-room clock, and private subscriptions
paid for a flag, which was "unfurled to the breeze every pleasant day."
Miss Mary Nowland was on leave of absence for the year, and Miss Carrie Nowland
"filled the position doing efficient work." Principal Cyr made his
usual favorable comments. "General good health prevailed among the pupils
and teachers, all working earnestly, and endeavoring to carry out the design
of the school."
Vetal Cyr made his first serious attempt to acquire state money for a boarding
house in his spring report in 1890. The recitation room was becoming too small,
considering the "increasing attendance." Besides, Cyr correctly observed,
"Many teachers from distant towns cannot secure beard or lodging within
proper distance of the school." Therefore, he concluded, "a boarding
house near the school seems a necessity in order to increase or even maintain
the present attendance."
The graduating class of 1890, the sixth on record, consisted of Mattie G. Cunliffe,
Jessie B. Dickey, Emma Marquis, Delia Pinette, Lula Savage, Marguerite Violette
and Francis Corneault. Five were living in Fort Kent, one in St. John Plantation
and another in Great Falls, New Hampshire, two years later. At that time four
were listed as teaching, two classified themselves as housewives, and Francis
Corneault categorized himself as a "merchant clerk."
The 1890 graduates were well aware that M.T.S. needed expanded facilities,
and were pleased that the State Superintendent recommended to the state legislature
that $5,000 be appropriated for building a boarding house. The Superintendent
made a good argument for his case. He began by saying, "No school in the
state is doing more important and valuable work than (M.T.S.), and none is growing
more rapidly." Since its permanent location in Fort Kent and the erection
of a building there, the attendance had "so largely increased" that
the school was "already over-crowded." He reminded the legislators
that the building, because of provision for such in the original plans, could
be "readily and cheaply enlarged." Now was the time. "Such enlargement
is our immediate necessity."
Although the "facilities for boarding seemed ample" in the beginning,
"many" students were "unable to attend" in 1889. And, the
space problem was likely to become even more serious. The Superintendent explained
why. "Owing to the opening of a railroad to the town and the conditions
consequent thereto, the present lack of facilities is almost certain to become
greater." If the Training School was going to do the task it was assigned,
room would have to be provided, and soon. "There is imperative need,"
the State Superintendent argued, "that adequate facilities for board of
students shall in some way be made secure. This can be done only by establishing
a boarding-house under control of those having charge of the school." Not
one to suggest halfway measures, the Superintendent estimated that for $5,000
a boarding house could be erected, plus enlarge the existing building "sufficiently
to meet the growing needs of the school."
There was a larger number of males in attendance at Madawaska Training School
during the next academic year, forty-five out of the 109 registered. Miss Mary
Nowland had returned from her leave of absence and was "doing her usual
efficient work." "Entertainment by the school" raised funds for
"a considerable addition of choice literature" to the library. "These
additions," Vetal Cyr complained, "must necessarily be made slowly"
because of inadequate funds. This was especially unfortunate, in Cyr's eyes,
because "The library is a source whence the pupils derive much benefit."
We wished the state would provide free text-books. That would not only be "a
great advantage to the school." It would also release funds to acquire
"Some apparatus with which to help illustrate the principles of physics,"
which he felt had become "almost a necessity." With the addition of
three dozen music books and the Normal Music Chart, music "formed one of
the daily exercises of the school."
The State Superintendent of Common Schools had proudly announced the Maine
state legislature's approval of his request for $5,000 for a boarding house
at Fort Kent. Despite the fact that work had begun as "early as practicable''
it was not finished "in season for opening it to students for the current
school year." The Superintendent judged the building to be, even in its
unfinished state, "convenient in arrangements and sufficiently commodious
for the accommodation of forty to fifty students. The contractor had stayed
within the appropriation to date, but the inside painting was still undone.
Vetal Cyr was satisfied with the quality of the work accomplished. "The
work on the new boarding house is progressing finely and being thoroughly done."
He regretted that it could not be completed for the coming winter, but, as he
said, "we hope that the school will not long be deprived of the pleasant
accommodations which it promises." Cyr felt that fifty to sixty pupils,
that is more than the State Superintendent estimated, could be "lodged"
in the finished building.
The new boarding house was still not ready for occupancy when the fall term
opened in 1891. Only thirty pupils were registered at the beginning of the year.
Although this number increased to fifty-seven by the end of the first term,
and "the whole attendance during the year was sixty-four, prospective students
had to be turned away because of the lack of space. In Principal Cyr's words,
"This was a great drawback on the attendance, for it is very difficult
now to obtain lodgings in the vicinity of the school." For example, "TWENTY
SCHOLARS - besides a family,- each doing separate cooking on one small cooking
stove" were crowded into one rooming house designed to hold, at most, nine
or ten persons. And, Cyr recorded, "It was not an uncommon occurrence for
some of them to return to school for the afternoon session without any dinner."
He repeated his plea for additional legislative funds. "It is hoped that
the amount of money so necessary to render the building fit for occupancy, will
be appropriated by the next legislature." Cyr was looking forward to a
finished "school-room having a seating capacity for ONE HUNDRED pupils...."
The legislature received a similar plea from the State Superintendent of Common
Schools. The boarding house still needed painting inside and "to be plainly
furnished in order that it be made available." There was "pressing
need" for this, he said. As in his previous report, he asked for monies
to enlarge the school itself "to meet the exceptional increase in the number
of students applying for admission." There were seventy-two students then
crowded into the building originally planned for sixty. Some of the younger
pupils had to be turned away to make room for older ones. Others had been refused
admission. "Had it been possible to keep and receive all desiring to attend,"
he claimed, "the attendance would have been about one hundred." To
him, the "State cannot afford to long ignore the demands made upon the
school for larger accommodations.''
There were only six graduates in the class of 1892. Five of them, Edithe Beaulieu,
Lizzie Bellefleur, Marie Daigle, Amanda Sinclair, and Emma Thibodeau, went directly
into teaching. It is not clear whether the other member of the class, Mrs. J.A.
Laliberte, the former Isabelle Sweeney, was employed in the classroom or not
the following fall. A total of fifty-five Valley residents had now graduated
from M.T.S.. Although the number of males attending the Training School was
increasing every year, Vetal Cyr complained because "few young men complete
the course and are graduated." He was not sure if the explanation was the
"necessity or a desire to earn money." More likely he thought, it
was "due to circumstances and the lack of remunerative opportunities in
this locality for educated young men." Cyr recognized the economic facts
of life in northern Maine. "The leading occupation being lumbering, the
boys follow the impulse and remain in school only until they are sufficiently
large and strong to work in the woods." The establishment of winter schools
would help to correct this. As Cyr saw it, "This regretted evil will no
doubt remedy itself in time - when our school system is carried on under more
favorable conditions - when winter schools can be maintained, young men to teach
in them will be necessary, and the desire on their part for a better education
will be increased accordingly." Hopefully, more than eleven of the next
fifty-five graduates would be males.
Vetal Cyr's report to the trustees of the Normal Schools in the spring of 1894
covered statistics for two years, instead of the usual one. Thirty-five of the
seventy-five pupils attending M.T.S. in 1892-1893 had had experience in teaching.
The following year, 1893-1894, total enrollment increased to eighty-eight, thirty-nine
of whom were males. Fourteen graduated on May 10, 1894: Ethel M. Bradbury, Xavier
A. Cyr, Albert Currier, Isaie Daigle, Mary L. Pinette, Sophie M. Pinette, Alexis
Robbins, Nathaniel B. Savage, Evelina M. Therriault, Fred W. Therriault, Mattie
S. Wheelock and Bruce R. Ward. Of these, eight were from Fort Kent, two from
St. Francis and one each from Madawaska, Grand Isle, Seven Islands and Caribou.
Ten in the class were listed as teachers. Two were farmers and the class included
a merchant clerk and a band master. Superintendent Luce was on hand to present
Cyr reported that his pupils had been "attentive, studious and ready to
obey all the regulations of the school." "At no period," he claimed,
"has better work been accomplished." He attributed the "greatly
increased" attendance and interest to the completing of the new facilities,
which included a "fine" school room and recitation rooms. These, he
felt, had "added much to the convenience and comfort of both pupils and
teachers." The school library now numbered about two hundred volumes, but
many of these were "getting worn out and must soon be replaced by new ones."
It was clearly evident, said Cyr, that "the library is too small for the
demand." One answer was for the "friends of the school" to "confer
a great benefit upon the institution by making donations to its library."
Secondly, "It is hoped that the State will grant us something in this direction."
Cyr, however, was satisfied with the school's supply of charts, maps and globes,
and these, plus the furniture, were in good condition. The hall on the second
story of the school house and the outside of the school house still needed a
coat of paint, but the grounds had been graded and fenced. "Ornamental"
trees for the grounds were on order. There were some definite needs though;
the "great and immediate one" being an adequate "WATER SUPPLY."
During the winter all the water used in the boarding house had to be hauled
a half mile from the river. The regular .attendance of the school had nearly
doubled within two years. Two teachers were now "insufficient to do the
work." Therefore, Cyr suggested that another teacher be added the following
fall. "With three teachers the school will be in a condition to do most
efficient work." He knew the legislature might become tired of special
requests for the Training School, so he couched his appeal as diplomatically
as possible. "The State has been so generous towards the school since our
last report that it would seem we might be satisfied, but all these new and
fine buildings have attracted scholars," that is numbers made it necessary
to hire an additional faculty member.
Superintendent Luce described the improvements made at Fort Kent in minute
detail in his annual report. The lower story of the new building, "attached
to the old building as an ell," contained an "elegant 40 by fifty
foot school-room, a twenty by twenty foot recitation room, a twenty by fifteen
foot recitation room, a twenty by thirty foot model school room, two "commodious"
dressing rooms, and a large stairway leading to the upper story. All the rooms,
except the model school room, were furnished in native spruce and the walls
painted in "neutral tints." Modern desks and chairs were provided
throughout, and the main school room alone would seat 108 students.
Upstairs was a fifty by fifty foot hall, "with necessary ante-rooms."
Fuel for the two furnaces was stored in the basement. Luce estimated it would
take an additional $600 to "complete and furnish" the building. Most
of the work had been completed by October, 1893. The special $8,000 appropriation
to cover the cost of the building had been divided equally, $4,000 being made
available in 1893, and the other $4,000 the following year. Water closets in
the basement ("with necessary apparatus and sewerage"), storm windows,
walks and a 500 pound bell were purchased under this appropriation. The boarding
house was sufficiently complete to be "opened to students" at the
beginning of the school year, 1893-1894.
In return for this investment, Luce told the taxpayers, "The State has
now at Fort Kent, for the use and benefit of the Training School, buildings
and grounds which are highly creditable in appearance, fully adapted to the
needs of the school, and a source of pride to the people of all that section
of the State." The "wise and liberal policy of the State" had
provided the funds for creating the facilities that had enabled the Madawaska
Training School to attract an ever-increasing number of students (from sixty-four
in 1891-1892 to eighty-eight in 1893-1894).
"Notwithstanding the liberality with which the State has met the pressing
needs of the Normal and Training schools in the last ten years, by making appropriations
for improvements,'' Superintendent Luce explained, "there are yet needs
existing which must be met with other appropriations.'' The "immediate
and pressing needs" could be covered by "large appropriations."
The "less immediately pressing needs" called for "smaller appropriations.''
Trying to convince the legislature to take favorable action, Luce pointed out
that to "meet them (the pressing needs) at once would be in the line of
a wise economy." For Fort Kent he recommended finishing and furnishing
the hall and model school room in the school building and purchasing additional
land to allow for expansion. Like Cyr, he called for "some arrangement
for a sufficient water supply," for both buildings. The school building
needed another coat of paint the next year. He also felt M.T.S. ought "to
be furnished with some apparatus for science teaching." He figured these
needs could be met with a $2,000 appropriation spread equally over the next
two years. Enough of the state's money had already been invested in the normal
schools at Farmington, Castine and Gorham and the Training School at Fort Kent
to warrant covering all these "school properties" with adequate insurance.
Although he set no figure, Luce suggested that this be taken care of by a separate
Superintendent Luce also presented an argument for increasing the regular annual
appropriation for both the normal and training schools. In the case of Fort
Kent he maintained that increased support was needed to carry out the mission
of the school - to provide teachers who could "speak, read and write the
English with correctness and facility." "All this work had to be done,"
he noted, and "the school buildings...heated and cared for," on only
$1,600 per year. Only two teachers could be hired within the amount available,
and as Principal Cyr had already demonstrated, the present enrollment indicated
the need for an additional teacher. To accomplish this, Luce asked the legislature
to increase the regular annual appropriation to at least $2,000. For that matter,
Luce went on, "there is no good reason why the amount necessary for the
running expenses of this school should not be included in the annual appropriation
for Normal schools." As he correctly recorded, "It is to all intents
and purposes a Normal school," and all four schools "should now be
put on equal footing in this regard."
Luce ended his annual report with a list of specific recommendations, two of
which applied directly to M.T.S. His third recommendation read as follows: "That
the sum of $2,000 be appropriated for finishing and furnishing the hall and
model-school room, for repainting the school building, and for enlarging the
grounds and procuring a water supply for the Training School at Fort Kent."
His last recommendation was "that the separate appropriation for the Training
School be discontinued and that the amount necessary therefore be included in
the general appropriation for the support of Normal schools." Probably
he realized that he was asking for too much at one time.
Most likely students attending Madawaska Training School on 1893-1894 were
more interested in their personal costs than in considering the annual budget
of the entire school. Those staying at the boarding house (thirty) paid no rent
per se, but they did have to bear their proportionate share of "HEATING,
LIGHTING and supplying their house with water," an equivalent of $1.50
per month. The rooms at the boarding house were designed to accommodate four
students each. Each student room was furnished with "CHAIRS, TABLES, COMMODES,
BUREAUS, BED-STEADS, MATTRESSES, MIRRORS and CURTAINS." The students had
to bring "all other necessaries." Instate students paid no tuition,
and even those from the Canadian Provinces paid only twenty-five cents per week.
Text books were obtained "at cost" from the principal, and all students
paid "an incidental fee of $1" for each year they attended. The Training
School was providing an inexpensive education.
The Maine legislature did not see fit to follow all suggestions made by Principal
Cyr and Superintendent Luce. Money was not provided for a third teacher, but
Cyr was not discouraged and repeated his request for a third instructor in his
spring report for 1895. Only with an additional teacher, Cyr said, could the
school "give justice to every department." Numbers seemed to support
his request. Ninety one different pupils attended M.T.S. during the year, eighty
in the first term, eighty-six in the second, and the teaching load was borne
by Cyr and Mary P. Nowland.
The 1895 legislature did make a special appropriation of $2,000 for repairs
on the school building at Fort Kent. A building committee report indicated how
this money was spent: an additional story was built on the original building.
A recitation room was finished, as was "a large, handsome and attractive"
hall, "...with wainscoting and substantial finish around doors and windows."
A large stage with anterooms was added, and 250 chairs supplied for the hall.
Besides being used for "general exercises," the hall was to go open
to "all entertainments and public meetings eon-netted with the school."
Still more money would be needed, however, for manual training was being taught
in "a large UNFINISHED room."
Principal Cyr acknowledged the improvements made under the special appropriation,
but he saw some remaining needs. True, he admitted, the boarding house had received
"a good coat of paint" the preceding summer and would be "all
right for a few years," but the school house itself needed a second coat
of paint. Equipment money was needed, preferably on an on-going annual basis.
"The school has no apparatus of any kind; a supply is greatly needed in
the illustration of physical principles." Also, more money was needed for
acquisition of books for the library, the size of which, he again noted, was
"not sufficient for the growing demand as the scholars are fast cultivating
a taste for reading."
Cyr made out a list of five "great needs of the school:" enlarging
the grounds, finishing and furnishing the hall, finishing and furnishing the
model school room, furnishing the boarding house with an adequate supply of
water, and furnishing the steward with a small stable. Some of these needs would
"receive attention" through the appropriation made by the last legislature.
It seemed practicable to take care of the most pressing needs first. In terms
of priorities Cyr recommended that the grounds "be enlarged at once, as
the opportunities to do so are limited, and the future prosperity of the school
will depend largely upon it. Then the hall "should come next in your consideration,"
and to complete the list, "the means of supplying water and model room."
If necessary, the last items in the list could "wait for another appropriation."
Although annual reports of the State Superintendent do not provide details on
salaries, both Vetal Cyr and Miss Nowland evidently received an increase in
wages that year. In concluding his annual report in the spring of 1895 Cyr stated,
"I believe more firmly than ever that this school has made and is making
a great educational stir in this section of the State and will richly pay the
State for its fostering care, in giving it good citizens, capable of speaking
and transacting business intelligently both in French and English."
Enrollment at M.T.S. increased by thirty students the following year. There
were 117 different students registered. Ninety-seven attended the fall term,
and 108 the winter and spring terms. Miss Sophia Pinette, a graduate of the
Training School, was temporarily placed in charge of the preparatory classes,
and the school catalog for 1895-1896 indicates that Miss Laura E. Crockett joined
Mr. Cyr and Miss Nowland as part of the instructional staff. Although satisfied
with Miss Pinette's work, Principal Cyr recommended that a teacher "trained
in an older normal school," be placed in charge of the preparatory department
on a permanent basis. Some "special needs" remained. "We need
something more to make these buildings complete...and to afford to the young
people who are being educated here the greatest possible advantages." Cyr
also repeated his request for library aid. "I have called the attention
of the trustees to the needs of the small library, for the past fifteen years,
yet no action on their part to better the conditions, is taken." He felt
his annual appeal was both modest and warranted. "If it be within the range
of possibility to add a few good books of reference, with some biographical
and literary works, it would afford the teachers and pupils a great source of
information and pleasure." The normal school trustees only recommended
"enlarging the lot and making necessary repairs at Fort Kent."
There were eighteen students in the graduating class of 1896, bringing the
total number of graduates to eighty-seven. Those in the class were: Raymond
P. Albert, Marie B. Cyr, Caroline Dionne, Lizzie J. Freeman, Germain R. Dionne,
Denis B. Martin, Arehile M. Miehaud, Philomen Miehaud, Joseph C. Morin, Meddie
L. Pelletier, Ozite P. Pelletier, Arthur P. Pinette, Jennie Pratt, Flora B.
Robbins, Omar J. Robbins, Nelson D. Sinclair, Henry W. Therriault, Remi Thibodeau.
All were from the St. John Valley (Fort Kent, 6; Madawaska, 4; St. Francis,
3; Wallagrass, 2; Eagle Lake, Allagash and Grand Isle, one each). Cyr noted
"the large increase in the attendance of young men from year to year and
the number graduating." This led him to believe "more firmly than
ever that the results of this school are paying the State a high rate of interest
on all the money invested here." Moreover, Cyr said, "when these young
people become the active citizens in this part of the State that interest will
become compounded.'' At least fifteen of the eighteen graduating that year were,
or became, teachers.
Attendance was again over the one hundred mark in 1897: fall term, 92; winter
and spring term, 102; and different pupils during the year, 111. Vetal Cyr spoke
in "hearty commendation" of the new assistant teacher Miss Louisa
Crockett, who worked with Miss Nowland in the first term, and Miss Rose A. Coney,
who assisted during the second term. The perennial request was made for library
support. The state did pay for the addition of a "highly prized" set
of History for Reading Reference, but works on "Methods of Teaching, Didactics,
etc., for professional reading" were still "badly needed." Cyr
thanked the last legislature for its "generous" appropriation, which
was used to furnish the boarding house, purchase an air motor to pump water
from the river, enlarge the grounds, finish and furnish the model room and paint
the school house.
Cyr used the increase in attendance to justify the request for an additional
faculty member. He suggested "a lady teacher well versed in the French
language and literature be added to the present corps of teachers." After
all, he reminded the trustees, "The design of this school is t educate
teachers for the schools in this territory. To educate them in English alone
does not qualify them sufficiently.'' It was obvious, at least to Cyr, that
"There is need for a regular course in French, including reading, language
and grammar, translation and literature, and a teacher especially fitted to
teach those branches placed in charge of it." Without such an instructor
there was the possibility that the students would seek "those advantages"
in "neighboring schools."
The whole numbering graduating from Madawaska Training School reached one hundred
with the tenth class, the class of 1897. The twelve class members were: Catherine
Albert, J. Harvey Collins, Deliria M. Cote, Alice M. Cyr, Joseph C. Martin,
Clara Michaud, George A. Michaud, Theodula Morin, Michel Ouellette, Fortuna
W. Pelletier, Elodie Pinette, Lucie A. Thibodeau. Fortuna Pelletier, a clerk
in Madawaska, and J. Harvey Collins, no occupation listed, were the only members
of the class not listed as teachers. The class represented the Valley towns
of Fort Kent, St. John Plantation, Frenchville and Wallagrass.
The State Superintendent of Common Schools had visited the schools of northeastern
Maine for three years in a row "for the purpose of learning their condition
and devising means for their improvement." A history of what he found is
contained in his annual report for 1897. After tracing the "origin and
character" of the Acadians in northern Maine, he outlined the educational
history of the region. In 1895, he wrote, there were 118 schools maintained
by the fifteen towns and plantations in the region. These schools were attended
by 3,690 pupils. Of the 118 schools, thirty-two were taught by graduates of
M.T.S., and the most of the remaining schools were taught by "the more
advanced students of that school." He was "exceedingly pleased with
the specimens of work from the several schools" exhibited at a teachers
meeting held in Fort Kent in the fall of 1896. The Superintendent attributed
the educational advances in northern Maine to "the influence of the Training
School as one of the forces promotive of educational progress among the people."
The influence of M.T.S., the Superintendent pointed out, had not been "exerted
through the teachers alone who had gone from it into the common schools."
True, he continued, "The fact of its existence has been a constantly acting
force." WHY? "That such a school was accessible to the poorest boy
or girl in the territory who would prepare in the common schools for admission
to it, has aroused the ambition of the children, and their parents for them,
for more than the home school could give, and has, at the same time, compelled
the home school to do better work." One could see "In nearly every
section of the territory there are homes made by those who have been graduated
from it," and those homes were "centers of educational interest and
sources of educational influence."
Madawaska Training School had made its influence felt in the St. John Valley
both directly and indirectly. "It is not too much to say that the influence
emanating from the Training School in...indirect ways, has been only second
in force to that exerted by it more directly through the teachers who have been
graduated from it." But, even more indicative of the total impact made
by M.T.S. was "One Man's Work," the efforts of Mr. Vetal Cyr.
The governor of the State of Maine was scheduled to visit the Training School
in the fall of 1897. Principal Cyr was supposed to "dispense the honors
of the house" on that occasion but fell ill. Those present exclaimed: "How
regrettable that poor Mr. Cyr be deprived of the pleasures of the festivities
and the public be deprived of the pleasure of his company !" Eight days
after taking sick Cyr died. The Reverend F.X. Burque eulogized the first Principal
of Madawaska Training School at the widely attended funeral. For two decades,
Burque observed, Cyr had "occupied the position of Principal of this institution,
with most admirable skill, tact, courtesy, devotedness, giving the most gratifying
satisfaction to the public, in the fulfillment of his difficult and delicate
duties, never offending, never deceiving anybody, being always true, sincere,
honest and loyal."
Cyr had also served many years as town superintendent of common schools, Burque
noted, and in that position had "distinguished himself by the most untiring
efforts, the most unselfish labors, the most gentle manners, in fostering the
educational advancement of the children." Father Burque repeated the comments
made to the Governor just days before. "Among the benefactors who have
been most immediately instrumental in bringing about the magnificent educational
results we are now noticing and admiring," he said, Vetal Cyr stood foremost.
To Burque, Cyr seemed to "live but for his school, for his classes, for
his pupils," and was "just as proud of each graduating class as any
father could be...." Cyr was "never more delighted" than when
he saw in the local schools "the success of the teachers he has formed."
As town superintendent he carefully assigned teachers "to the best possible
places, to appease parental susceptibilities and to encourage children in a
thousand different ways."
M.T.S. had lost a "Principal and a teacher of the highest distinction."
The town of Fort Kent had been deprived of a "most able and devoted servant."
The "county of Madawaska" was now without "one of its most illustrious
sons," and the Catholic church "one of its most faithful members."
One of the state's "most noble citizens" had passed away, and everyone
in the audience would miss their "cherished friend."
The State Superintendent of Schools had similar praise for the late Mr. Cyr.
"Probably no one personality has made itself felt, and always for the good,
in so many homes in every town in the Territory as that of Mr. Vetal Cyr."
Part of Cyr's success, he felt, had been due to his pleasing personality. "Hearty
cheerfulness, his kindliness of manner and his enthusiasm were contagious; and
not less so was his interest in the schools everywhere and in the children in
the schools. His manner and voice inspired confidence." Many teachers recalled
his visits, either alone or with the State Superintendent, to their schools.
These visits "carried cheer and courage to teacher and pupils alike."
The "diffident trembling teacher dreading the coming of the strange visitor,"
would be put at ease by Cyr's "cordial, cheery greeting with happy phrase
of introduction,'' and that would give her "a self-command which would
otherwise have been lacking and have rendered the visit a torture to her and
the inspection of her school valueless so far as giving any definite and just
idea of its real condition."
The Superintendent sincerely believed that "such a man at the head of such an institution could not fail to be a force for good." Those who knew him best could attest to his real abilities. "How great a force he was will never be fully realized save by the few who knew him and his work thoroughly and had his fullest confidence." From the time "the young Frenchman" took the position as the first principal of M.T.S. he had proven his ability to "organize wisely, build firmly, and direct efficiently the work and influence of the school in which his life work was to be done." The Superintendent echoed the feelings of many in his final evaluation of the career of Vetal Cyr. "The good he wrought will live after him in the larger, better and more fruitful lives of those who have been under his instruction." The man was dead, but his influence lived on. "And while we can but feel that his work was too soon ended, that there was in him the power for further, larger usefulness, that there is needed still in the school and among the people the inspiration of his enthusiasm, the directive force of his intelligence, the influence of his wise advice, and the example of his manliness..." Thus read the eulogy for Vetal Cyr, the man for whom Madawaska Training School had been "the center of his thought and affection and which had stood to him in place of wife and children.., and grown to a lusty strength far beyond his earlier expectations."
That Cyr's "further, larger usefulness" continued was seen in the wording of resolutions passed in his honor by the teachers attending the Northern Maine Summer School in Houlton the following July. The "genial Christian gentleman, with his "warm hearty greeting" and sympathetic manner was gone from their midst. They indicated their respect for Cyr as one the "most painstaking and efficient members" of the teaching profession, and as a man "who had not only a board interest in education in general, but a deep interest in education in general, but a deep interest in the welfare of each individual student who came under his care." They agreed with the conclusions of Burque and the State Superintendent, "That his special adaptation to the position which he filled, because of the bend of sympathy between himself and his people and his success in educating them in the true principles of American citizenship, makes his death a loss to the whole state." Copies of the resolution were sent to Cyr's family and to the State Department of Education to be inserted in the annual report of the State Superintendent. Among the signers of the resolution was Isaie C. Daigle, a 1894 graduate of M.T.S., and superintendent of schools in New Canada at the turn of the century.