HENDERSON, ANDREW, schoolmaster; b. c. 1797 in County Fermanagh (Northern Ireland); m. in 1815 Susannah Slack, and they had seven children who survived him; d. 25 April 1869 at Annapolis Royal, N.S.
On Saint Patrick’s Day, 1818, the 21-year-old Andrew Henderson, son of an itinerant Methodist preacher, sailed from Ireland for Saint John, N.B., with his 19-year-old wife and their two children. Shortly after their arrival they lost their infant son and were cheated of their savings by relatives. Henderson, with little formal education but a lively mind tried manual labour on the Saint John wharves, then moved his family to Fredericton. Later he wrote: “I was sometimes engaged with a little school; sometimes mending old shoes and making new ones; sometimes tilling the ground and earning by the sweat of my brow my daily pittance; lastly I was lumbering.” In the lumber camps his health collapsed, and in 1820 the family crossed the Bay of Fundy to Annapolis County where Henderson remained for the rest of his life.
Henderson continued studying while teaching, first for three and a half years in Wilmot Township. At that time he also started the first Sunday school in the county. In 1824 he opened the first school in Bridgetown, where he was also secretary-treasurer of the library, an active temperance worker, Sunday school teacher, and lay preacher. He was instrumental in founding the first Methodist church in Bridgetown.
When he moved to Annapolis Royal in 1832, Henderson established a boarding and day school with the help of a generous legislative grant. About 1837, on a 150-acre farm outside the town, he set up Albion Vale Academy, constructing a building, supplying a library of 200–300 volumes and other equipment, and using the large 15 room farm-house as his home and residence for the boarders. These came from a considerable distance – Halifax, Saint John, Bermuda. At one time there were 21 boarders and about 30 day pupils in the school, girls being accepted as day pupils. His older children also taught in the school: George at 14 was licensed to teach English grammar and even at age 11 Eliza taught a class of 11 girls.
In advertising the school in 1838, Henderson emphasized the “pleasant and agreeable” environment for the students, as well as the quality of the education provided: “All branches necessary to form a good English, Mathematical and Commercial Education are here taught, nor are the moral and religious duties neglected.” His students were prepared for a variety of occupations, including school-teaching, business, or seafaring. They got their exercise by sawing wood for the many woodboxes.
All was not easy, however. Despite his many letters and petitions to the legislature, the grants were not renewed after a number of years, perhaps because Henderson was a Methodist, or perhaps because another school was opened in Annapolis Royal. In 1847 he sold the farm and school and moved back to Annapolis Royal, where he became postmaster, a storekeeper, and “an able magistrate.” He may have returned to schoolmastering at a later date.
His life of unremitting struggle and little material reward brought praise from men like Joseph Howe*, and he was particularly recognized for his judgement about the guidance of his students.
PANS, MG 5, Annapolis Royal Cemetery inscriptions; RG 14, 45, Albion Vale and Annapolis Academy; Vertical mss file, Andrew Henderson, Annapolis Academy. Novascotian, 25 Sept. 1828, 10 May 1869. W. A. Calnek, History of the county of Annapolis, including old Port Royal and Acadia, with memoirs of its representatives in the provincial parliament, and biographical and genealogical sketches of its early English settlers and their families, ed. and completed by A. W. Savary (Toronto, 1897; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972). E. R. Coward, Bridgetown, Nova Scotia; its history to 1900 ([Bridgetown, N.S., 1955]), 75–80. J. F. D. Fry, “350 years of education in Canada’s oldest settlement, Annapolis Royal, N.S.” (unpublished med thesis, Acadia University, Wolfville, N.S., 1965), 52. C. I. Perkins, The romance of old Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, Port Royal, 1604 (n.p., 1934; rev. ed., n.p., 1952). T. W. Smith, History of the Methodist Church within the territories embraced in the late conference of Eastern British America . . . (2v., Halifax, 1877–90), II. Grace Tomkinson, “An old schoolmaster speaks,” Dal. Rev., XIV (1934–35), 33–41.