One Mile State School around the early 1890s with the boys' school the middle two buildings, the head teacher's residence top right and girls' school on the left.
One Mile State School around the early 1890s with the boys' school the middle two buildings, the head teacher's residence top right and girls' school on the left. Contributed

One Mile rich in history

THERE were a number of privately-owned schools that popped up in the area within a couple of months of the discovery of gold here at Gympie on October 16, 1867.

These dotted the township at numerous spots, including Duke Street, Monkland, Calton Hill and Two Mile.

But it was Hugh Lonie and John Butler who established a school on the grounds of the current One Mile State School.

Soon after, following a period of lobbying, it was announced in November of 1868 that two national government-run schools would be built in Gympie; one in Gympie proper and the other at One Mile.

The ground where the One Mile School was built originally came from several different sources with churches, private citizens and mining companies surrending parts of their land for the school.

The original school was built in 1869 and opened in September that year.

 

Students at One Mile State School in 1877, most likely with Jane Anne and Jessie McLeod.
Students at One Mile State School in 1877, most likely with Jane Anne and Jessie McLeod. Contributed

It is thought that some of the first desks were made of red cedar and these were sold off by the Education Department in the early 1940s.

The school itself was little more than a shed and sat right across the road from the private school established by Messers Lonie and Butler for a little while and was initially run by James McLeod with assistance from his sisters Jane Anne and Jessie.

There were only 39 pupils enrolled on the first day of school but within three months there were 160 listed.

With the Government announcing education would be free to every child in 1870, and with the continued gold boom, the school numbers grew rapidly and soon overcrowding was a serious issue. The Department of Education was forced to exclude children under the age of five because some parents were using the schools as a child minding service.

By November 1873, with student numbers in excess of 200, a new building was commissioned and when it opened in 1874 it became the One Mile Girls' and Infant's School while the original was the One Mile Boys' School.

James McLeod continued as headmaster at the boys' school while his sister Jane Anne took on the role of headmistress of the girls.

In 1871, the subjects included drawing, vocal music, history, elements of geometry, algebra, French and German for boys and the girls were taught French and instrumental music.

 

One Mile State School, 1912 1913 Class 1a (JOL Neg No 34695)
One Mile State School, 1912 1913 Class 1a (JOL Neg No 34695) Contributed

In 1875, there was some question about the school reserve.

It was thought that it overlapped with Auriferous Lease.

It appears that the problem may have been solved by the School Committee applying for a Miner Homestead Lease and the consultation of the Committee with the Mining Warden.

The grounds were seen as the responsibility of the Committee. There were several issues that seemed difficult to resolve, these being the toilets, fencing, and white ants in the old buildings, school and residence.

The question of road reserves, squatters and the proclamation of the school reserve plagued the school from the 1870s until the mid 1880s.

The United Smithfield and Phoenix Company mines were affected by the land resumption for the school reserve and the tailings from the Phoenix mines ran across the southern end of the reserve area.

 

One Mile State School looking along what is now John St
One Mile State School looking along what is now John St Contributed

As the expansions continued, the grounds expanded from the original acre to five acres. The hotel, owned by the Murphys was taken over, and this was situated in the lower corner.

The noise from the mining batteries also became a problem in the 1880s. Letters were written by James McLeod and others to the Phoenix companies to seek a solution.

Mr McLeod continued on as headmaster until 1915 but his sister was transferred to Brisbane in 1883 because their father had taken ill, so Mary Caine took over the girls' school until 1890.

James McLeod was a well-loved principal who was affectionately known as 'Daddy McLeod'.

In contrast, his replacement Thomas Ferguson had a reputation across the town as a hard task master and stern authoritarian, and boys attending other town schools were threatened with transfers to One Mile if they misbehaved.

He remained at One Mile School until the end of 1939 and eventually changed careers to work in the Main Roads Commission.

Another familiar principal at One Mile was Margaret Hood.

She transferred to One Mile in 1890 to take over from Jane Anne McLeod, and in a lot of ways was ahead of her time, because she was a strong advocate for women's rights and a champion of aged teachers.

 

Students pose for the 75th Anniversary photo at One Mile State School in 1944.
Students pose for the 75th Anniversary photo at One Mile State School in 1944. Contributed

She is quoted as having said "... no problem in the future is hopeless till woman gives it up as well as man; but woman not as a child at man's feet, but fully statured at his side..."

When JD Story proposed a superannuation scheme in the mid-20s she wrote to him in support.

"My deepest thankfulness for your superannuation scheme, and my prayers for its success. Would that something could be done for the poor frail relics of our pioneers."

In 1891, a new boys' school was built and is the current administration block.

At this time, the infants were separated from the girls' school and moved into the old boys' school, but by 1921 the girls' and infants schools were reunited as the numbers of the school fell.

All of the schools were united in 1942 and became one school, and in 1944, the school celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Gympie Times

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