Deseronto Public School


In April and May 1916 there was a measles epidemic in Deseronto. The 1916 report of the Medical Officer of Health was presented to the Town Council at a meeting on December 15th of that year and described the outbreak in the following way:

Description of measles outbreak

During April and May, an Epidemic of Measles passed through the town, a large number were attacked and there were two deaths from this disease. It was part of a general epidemic which swept through the Province of Ontario last winter and spring.

The first death was of Audrey Jean Whiting, daughter of Arthur Henry Whiting, the principal of Deseronto Public School, and Annie (née Leedham). Audrey was two years old. She died on May 16th.

Isabella Barnhart was the second child to die in the epidemic. She was the daughter of George Barnhart and Isabella (née Louis or Lewis), who were both Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. She was fifteen months old when she died on June 17th, 1916. She had been ill for three weeks.

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Estella Burkett was a teacher at the Deseronto Public School. She was born in Maynooth, Ontario in 1913 to Agnes Shields and Patrick Burkett. The picture below shows her with her class of children in 1949, outside the old Public School building. Estella retired in 1974 and lived in Belleville until her death in 2010 at the age of 97.

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Estella did a considerable amount of travelling in her vacations and she donated some of her photographic materials and notes about her excursions to the Deseronto Archives in 2004. These materials include some photographs taken on a trip to Berlin in 1955, ten years after the end of World War II and six years before the city was divided by the construction of the Berlin Wall. Estella took photographs of the monuments her tour group visited, including this image of a statue of Joseph Stalin, which was removed in 1961 and melted down.

Statue of Stalin

She also photographed the Brandenburg Gate, which would be isolated by the Berlin Wall six years later and impassable until the Wall’s destruction in 1989. The damage caused to the Gate during the Second World War is visible in this image.

Brandenburg Gate 1955

These photos are good examples of the way that small local collections can be unexpected sources of information about entirely different parts of the world. It’s not until we dig into the boxes and do the work of describing the materials, that it becomes possible for everyone else to see what is in them.

Well done to the winners of this year’s Archives Competition at Deseronto Public School:

First Prize: Hannah Rooney
Second Prize: Jarrett Moss
Third Prize: Cassidy Jackson
Honourable Mention: Ziah Silver-Lanuza

The Archives Board would like to thank Principal Heather Seres and her staff for their support of this annual competition. The standard of the entries is always very high and it is extremely difficult to choose winners!

This year the theme was ‘My Deseronto’ and the students described aspects of the town that are important to them. The Library featured fairly frequently, as did local restaurants, the parks and the children’s friends and family.

2012 Archives Competition winners

The prizewinners with Archives Board Chair, Paul Robertson with fellow Board members, Councillor Edgar Tumak and Archivist Amanda Hill. (I should probably mention that the school were having a Pyjama Day, too…)

Today saw the Archives Board facing its annual task of choosing between the entries in our Deseronto Public School/Deseronto Archives competition.

Judges hard at work

As you can see from the photo, there was no shortage of entries this year and it was very hard to choose the winners. Thanks to Archives Board members Edgar Tumak and Sharon Sharpe for their invaluable help. The winners will be announced next week!

Last year’s family heritage competition, run by the Archives Board in conjunction with the staff and students of Deseronto Public School was such a great success that it didn’t seem possible that 2011’s competition could be as good.

Prize-giving

But it was! Thanks to all the children who entered – it was very difficult to judge, but Board members Reverend Betts and Sharon Sharpe chose four winners from the entries we received. Congratulations to Gabe Cook, Stevi Menard, Jakob Howald and Britney Wotherspoon.

The prizes were presented in the new Community Hall of the Deseronto Recreation Centre by Deputy Mayor, Clarence Zieman and Archives Board Chair, Paul Robertson, following on from a great show by magician Nigel Harrison, who escaped from a straight jacket immediately beforehand. Another tough act to follow!

Magician Nigel Harrison

All the entries received this year will be on display in Deseronto Public Library for the next week or two: please drop by and see the excellent standard of work by the children.

At a meeting of the Council of the Town of Deseronto of February 8th, 2011, the following proclamation was made:


WHEREAS, the Heritage Canada Foundation has long promoted the recognition of the third Monday in February each year as Heritage Day as an opportunity to celebrate Canada’s rich heritage of collections, architecture, parks, and historic places; and

WHEREAS, Heritage Day is a time to reflect on the achievements of past generations and to accept responsibility for protecting our heritage; and

WHEREAS, our citizens should be encouraged to celebrate Deseronto’s uniqueness and to rejoice in their heritage and environment; and

WHEREAS, for many years the Town of Deseronto Archives has collected, preserved, and interpreted the town’s heritage documentary and photographic resources for the benefit of the town’s residents. The Archives sponsors an annual Heritage Day prize to encourage students to learn about and celebrate that heritage through special research projects; and

THEREFORE, I, Norm Clark, Mayor of the Town of Deseronto, do hereby proclaim 21 February 2011 as Heritage Day in the Town of Deseronto, and call upon all citizens to celebrate the richness of our past and the promise of our future.


As part of Heritage Day, the Archives Board will be presenting prizes to members of Deseronto Public School who have entered the annual Heritage Day competition. Prizes will be awarded on Heritage Day at 3pm in the Deseronto Community Recreation Centre at 51 Mechanic Street.

2011 Heritage Day competition entries

Thanks very much to the Archives Board members who have helped to promote this competition and the Heritage Day proclamation in Deseronto.

On Family Day the prizes for the winning entries in our Family/Heritage Day competition were distributed to the winners as part of a day of activities in the town. Congratulations to Gabe Cook, Jeremy Martin, Leah Hill, Hannah Brinklow, Erica Fox and Levi Van Vlack for their achievements.

Winning entries

Thanks again for everyone who put so much hard work into this, particularly to The Rev. Canon Cyril Betts, a member of the Deseronto Archives Board, who came up with the idea in the first place and who announced the prize winners at yesterday’s event. Thanks are also due to Mr Launderville, the Principal of Deseronto Public School, for his enthusiastic support for the competition and to Noni McMeeken, Paul Robertson and Councillor Edgar Tumak, members of the Archives Board who were all highly instrumental in its organisation.

Leah receiving her prize from Paul Robertson, Chair of the Archives Board

Well done to all the children who put so much effort into their projects. All the entries will be on display in Deseronto Public Library for the remainder of this week; they are well worth a closer look!

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