STATUS QUO MCMLIX
This publication presents the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate at this time – Education Week, 1959 – and their origins.
YEAGERTON PUBLIC SCHOOL
The building is erected on two-thirds of an acre of level land. It was opened under the name of Oakland Provisional School on 29th June, 1886, being situated opposite the boat-building shed and the Oakland Sawmill, and not far from Oakland House.
Oakland House was a two-storey building with 25 rooms, and was built at the same time as the sawmill in 1882 by Mr. W. T. Yeager, one of the great pioneers and promoters of that period. He was born in Lubeck, Canada, in 1840, came to Australia penniless in 1858, and began a sort of river taxi service with a 10-ton lugger, using oars and sails. He selected Oakland property in 1865 and was also married that year in Lismore. Some beautiful and unique furniture for Oakland House was secured during a world tour in 1906 by Mr. E. 0. Yeager, who was the youngest of a family of six and who earned a distinguished reputation as an inventor. One room in the house was completely panelled with over 100 different kinds of local timber with the bark on. Much of the fine furniture was destroyed in a cyclone in 1954, when Oakland House was being demolished and rebuilt to a modern design by Mr. John Yeager. The setting is among beautiful old trees shading large lawns which slope down to the river.
Oakland Sawmill was the most up-to-date and efficient of the many mills on the river at that time. Up to 150 men were employed in this sawmilling business, much of the timber arriving by raft from the Yeager property at Bungabee. The yards and sheds covered almost two acres. Workmen's cottages, mess-room and dormitory, store, school, church, etc., constituted a small busy community.
Mr. W. T. Yeager owned about four river droughers and seven ocean-going boats, including the beautiful threemasted schooner “Amphitrite” of 129 tons, "Neptune" of 200 tons, and the auxiliary schooner "Emu" of 160 tons, also the "Oakland" and "St. George", which were regular passenger and cargo vessels on the Sydney run. His ocean going steam tug "Athletic", earned up to £18 per day in 1872 when a captain's wages were about £10 per month. His steamer, "Wyoming" in 1890 held the speed record of 21 hours from Ballina to Sydney. Only a few piles now remain to indicate where the boats once called at the wharves for timber and corn. The sawmill closed down in 1921 when the supply of softwood petered out, and there are very few signs of the mill left now. But enterprising schemes in cultivation and dairying were undertaken at Oakland, including the largest dairy in the world. Several neighbouring farms are still owned by members of the Yeager family. Half the boat-building shed still stands and the house which was once the home and office of the mill secretary is the only other remaining building. It was occupied by several teachers till the present teacher, Mr. E. F. Cameron, purchased his own home in Coraki, two miles away.
SCHOOL NAMED FOR PIONEER
The name of the school was changed to Yeagerton on 29th June. 1914. The land which was originally leased on peppercorn rental was later given to the Department by Mr. Yeager, and so it is now vested. The whole school building was raised after 1922, and there is still a scar where one pupil returned after lessons and set fire to his books in an attempt to burn also the building. The eastern verandah was semi-enclosed and a store room added in 1950. An interesting old lamp donated by Mrs. C. Mitchell in 1937 still hangs in the school, but it has not been used since electricity was connected in February, 1957. A new boundary fence was erected also in 1957, and in February, 1958, the western verandah was enclosed to provide an extra room in which is used the projector, marionette and puppet stage, kindergarten material, etc. Modern furniture replaced the long desks in 1956.
Many trees have been planted in the playground over the years, but few have survived. Though the school is flood-free, the district has suffered from several major floods since 1945.
Only nine teachers have been appointed to this school in the 73 years, namely S. Cameron, D. Jones, J. McInnes, E. Kearns, A. Apps, J. Ramsay, H. Sketchley, C. McKeough and E. Cameron. Mr. Alex Apps was in charge for 23 years till 1934. Mrs. R. Mitchell is the sewing teacher. Twenty-four pupils are at present enrolled, representing 13 families. John Yeager, junr, a great grandson of the pioneer, left this school last year with the prospects of a brilliant future. Twelve pupils travel on Kirkland's passenger bus, some of them up to eight miles since the school at Buckendoon closed.
The school provides the main meeting place in the area. While the raising of funds is not easy because there is no public hall, the P. and C. Association has done much for the school, especially in the past decade or so, beginning with the laying of a path (material supplied by the Department) and the provision of a radio in 1948. Tuck shops are conducted monthly.
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