standard Chapter 1 – The Early Years




For anyone interested in the history of the survey school (Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute, NSLSI) there are two immediate questions that come to mind:

COGS building Lawrencetown NS


Why Lawrencetown?

And why Surveying?


Lawrencetown is a small village in the Annapolis Valley, noted for the apple industry and farming and the annual Annapolis County Exhibition. In A History of Lawrencetown (1977) published locally, the village in the 1890’s was described as a “hive of industry”, with a furniture factory, a tannery, a boot and shoe manufacturing establishment, a saddler, a hatter, two lumber yards and a brickyard where bricks were hand molded. Schooling was compulsory and schools were private for those with the means to pay. School funds were collected from the parents.

The answers to the two questions above can be found in two biographies: the Life and Times of James B. Hall, Ph.D. (Leone B. Cousins, 1980) and the biography of Major James Church, A Life Worthwhile – A Biographical Sketch (James Doig, 1990).

Lawrencetown was important to Dr. Hall. He was born there in1843, his father was a blacksmith and farmer, and James was one of seven children. He attended Horton Academy in Wolfville and returned to Lawrencetown as principal of the local school and then went on to be vice-principal at Horton Academy in 1879. He obtained his B.A from Acadia University in 1873, and both a M.A and Ph.D. in 1877 from Boston University. For the next thirty years he was an instructor at the Provincial Normal College (Teachers College) in Truro. His writing and studies were centered on English and Education. Despite all his travels he remained interested in Lawrencetown and retired there in 1911. He died in 1928, a tireless worker even in retirement. In his will, he left $25,000 in a Trust Fund and stated that it should be used to found a Vocational School in the County of Annapolis and over time this fund grew to $65,000.

To understand why he may have felt Annapolis County needed this, Cousins offered the following explanation of his bequest:

“He saw the need for some further and practical training for the youth other than, or in addition to, academic courses offered by High School and University. He considered something along the lines of a Vocational School where youth could learn skills applicable to his other future life in the community or on the farm. In all probability, Dr. Hall had had this concept in his mind since his exposure to the German Technical Schools many years before.” (Cousins,1980).

An important source of funding, dedicated to a defined project, was available but it needed a champion. In the Foreword to Dr. Hall’s biography, J.F. Doig, then principal at NSLSI, stated that it was almost 30 years before Dr. Hall’s vision began to take substance. The person instrumental in this was Major James Church.

The biographical sketch of Major Church, written by James Doig (1990), contains the details of Major Church’s life from 1883-1967. Church’s first five years were spent on a tea plantation in the District of Coorg, India. After his parents died of cholera, he was raised by aunts in Scotland. Church’s technical education started in Glasgow and he became an articled pupil with a firm of civil and mining engineers. This was to begin a life dedicated to hard work. He worked as a mining engineer in Scotland and then immigrated (1907) to Edmonton, Canada.

The biography describes his experience in the World War I, his marriage, and arrival in Nova Scotia in 1931 where he planned a “retirement on a hobby farm” in Lawrencetown. With the outbreak of war in 1939, he offered his services and became a civilian instructor with the No.6 Vocational Training School (Canadian Army), Halifax. The school was located on the grounds of the Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS) with field trips to Camp Aldershot, near Kentville. In 1943 there were about 18 soldiers in the survey class. With the end of the war TUNS required the space and Church’s school was looking for a new home. The school was moved to Lawrencetown in 1946. From 1945 until 1948 the class was under the direction and control of the Department of Labour. This was a time of transition, and in 1947 classes became the responsibility of the Department of Education. In 1949 Major Church was appointed to the Division of Vocational Education.

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