This strange case occurred in 1925. It was an aberration in the educational experience of the Shuswap. History has recorded that by 1918 Lee Creek’s bustling community was large enough to warrant a school. In 1919, the locals elected a board of trustees, lumber was procured, and a 500 square foot school built to provide tutelage for a dozen students. Teachers were hired, mostly on short term contracts, year after year. In July, 1925, the Lee Creek school was without a teacher. The trustees decided to accept the application of a Miss Deans from Aldergrove for the position. However, Miss Deans declined. The board decided to go with their second choice, Mary Agnes Hourihan. [I noted her mailing address was General Delivery, Vancouver]. Who was she? Where did she come from? How old was she? What was her background? Was she even a licensed teacher? Well, they were about to find out – maybe.

School classes started the beginning of September in Lee Creek, and right away the community was abuzz about “Miss Hourihan”. They were up in arms. She was accused of using “vulgar language” in the classroom much to the dismay of students and their parents. Imagine!

To my mind the Lee Creek students came from rural homes and environments where words like “Gosh, darn, drat and egad” were not in common use. It is more likely that Lee Creek was a possible “wash your mouth out with soap if you say that” kind of community. For the locals to be up in arms, the educator’s use of the vernacular had to be beyond the Pale.







It is clear from trustee notes that they wanted Mary Agnes gone. They called for her resignation over the use of vulgar language in front of the kids. The kids were withdrawn from the school. The school sat empty. “Resign!” was the rallying call. Mary Agnes did not budge. Her language during this exchange was not noted by the trustees. The intransigence in the community and with Mary Agnes lasted through October 1925.

November 3, 1925, the Superintendent of Education in Victoria wrote that with no pupils attending the school that he had to close the school. Mary Agnes was advised by the Department that the school was closed.

With winter coming on, Mary Agnes left the district.

The whole incident begs a couple of questions for me:

1) Why the high turnover in teachers in Lee Creek?

2) Whatever happened to Mary Agnes?

In this effort I will offer a thought on only Mary Agnes. The name is almost untraceable in Canada. There was a possible Mary Agnes Hourihan in New Brunswick but that one didn’t really fit for our situation. There were a fair number of Mary Agnes Hourihans in the US mostly in the Boston area. That seemed more likely. Did Mary Agnes wander across North America, find herself in British Columbia and then when things did not work out for her, return to Boston? I like that possibility. In any event, Mary Agnes simply vanished, foul language and all.


Don Paterson, Researcher and M.D. ret.


Photo of Lee Creek School courtesy of Jim Cooperman author of Everything Shuswap
For more information on Lee Creek click here.

Thank you also to Loretta Greenough, North Shore Historical Society,  for sharing the contents of the Lee Creek School Board Minutes. What a resource!