At the turn of the nineteenth century, successful businessman and philanthropist, Moses Rittenhouse, funded several projects in his hometown of Lincoln, Ontario, including a school and gardens. These rural children were educated in nature study and natural history, and put theory into practice by learning to grow fruits and vegetables. School gardening taught children valuable life skills, a topic discussed in depth in my previous entry "The Greatest Education-Nature: School Gardening in Canada." The current post explores the history of the Rittenhouse School, with a focus on school gardening.
The Rittenhouse family first came to America in the seventeenth century; they built the first paper mill in the North American colonies in Philadelphia in 1690. Moses' father, John Rittenhouse, was originally from Philadelphia. He moved with his parents to Upper Canada in 1800, settling in Lincoln. Then, in 1846, Moses was born.
As a child, Moses went to school in the winter and worked on the family farm in the summer. At the age of eighteen, he left for Chicago, and soon after became a successful businessman. Following in his ancestors' footsteps, he worked in the lumber industry. He was president of the Rittenhouse and Embree Company, and Vice President of the Chandler Lumber Company, the Sixty-Third Street Lumber Company, and the Arkansas Lumber Company. Although he started a new life in America, and a very successful one at that, he never forgot his roots, making occasional visits home throughout his adult years.
Rittenhouse donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Lincoln County as a means of enhancing the rural community. Some of the projects he funded included: the establishment of a lending library (1886); the Rittenhouse School (1890); an addition to the Vineland Cemetery, which included a trust that was to be invested and used for future cemetery maintenance; a gift of land to the government for a horticultural experimental station; the building of Victoria Hall used for public performances; and the creation of a park with a bandstand. He was known to be a very generous man. An article written about him for the American Lumberman stated that “[h]is charitable instincts are largely developed and every act of his life, whether in a business or a social relation, is prompted and controlled by the principle laid down in the Golden Rule.”
Moses passed away in Chicago in 1915 at the age of 69. He was buried with his family in the Vineland Cemetery which he helped to fund.
Rittenhouse School and Gardens
“Education was not so long ago designated by the three ‘R’s’, but to-day a liberal education is demanded, one more properly known by the three ‘H’s’, the Hand, the Head, and the Heart.”-Rittenhouse School Gardens, 1911
The Rittenhouse School was founded in 1890. Moses bore half of its cost and the Globe called the school "one of the finest in the country." The structure was built in the place of the old stone school, of which Moses was a pupil in his youth. With a focus on natural history, the school was equipped with a library (with more then 2,000 volumes), a museum, children's gardens, and a conservatory. Approximately 45 children between the ages of 4 and 10 attended the school each year.
The first school gardens appeared on the property in 1907. Teacher Harvey Gayman stated that, “[t]he fact that our school grounds were cared for by a gardener, and the children had little to do but admire the beauty of the flowers and plant life, led to the establishment of a school-garden which was to be theirs, one in which they might experiment, and receive elementary instruction in the principles of agriculture, as a part of their education.” He believed that children in country schools should be taught about farm occupations and economics; school gardening was a wonderful way to get children interested in country life.
Around Arbor Day children prepared their individual plots for planting. Plots were 6ft by 10ft for students of the third, fourth and fifth grades. Smaller plots were used for younger students. All pupils were required to use half of their plots for vegetables and the other for flowers. A few months prior to planting, they were given lessons on germination and garden care. They were also responsible for working out their garden plans in exercise books. Gayman explained that "Last year  each child in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Classes was allowed to plant in his own garden what pleased him best. By this method each child sowed his individuality, and results were quite satisfactory."
One year, students performed an experiment with tomatoes. The Ontario Agricultural College supplied students with seeds of 13 varieties of tomatoes, in order for them to determine from a canners' and growers' standpoint which tomatoes were the best. With these seeds, the children planted 480 tomatoes. The Beamsville Canning factory tested the different varieties and it was determined that the Marvel and Ignotum varieties were the best. The students also grew impressive numbers of other vegetables, including 300 celery plants planted in 1911 and 300 watermelons grown annually.
The Rittenhouse School no longer stands, as both it and Victoria Hall were expropriated for the Queen Elizabeth Way interchange at Victoria Avenue in 1936. Victoria Hall was moved to Prudhommes Landing in Vineland and later closed in 2005 due to structural issues. It sadly burned down in 2008. Although these structure no longer stand, the legacy of Moses Rittenhouse is still felt in Lincoln today. The Rittenhouse Library still exists. In 1969, it moved to a new facility built with money from the Rittenhouse Trust. In 1995 it moved again, this time to a bigger facility, on Victoria Avenue. In 2006, Rita Washko, great-great-great granddaughter of Moses, donated his 1897 desk at the request of her father, Paul Rittenhouse Jr. to the Lincoln Library for their 10th anniversary reception at their new location.
The Lincoln Museum had an exhibit to honour the legacy of Moses Rittenhouse in 2006. The Museum's then Director, Helen Booth stated that "Rittenhouse put Vineland on the map as a centre for agricultural experimentation, for education and for just being a pretty town." The legacy of Moses Rittenhouse shows how the effects of philanthropy can reverberate throughout the ages. His projects have positively benefited Lincoln, and are still celebrated today.
Thank you to the staff of the Lincoln Museum for providing me with scanned images and research materials to include in this post. Thank you to Sheldon who kindly gave me his copy of Rittenhouse School and Gardens.
 "Death has Summoned Vineland Benefactor," the Globe, November 8, 1915
 "Ontario School Gets Part of a Fortune," the Globe, November 18, 1915
 “The New Experimental Station in the Niagara District,” Canadian Horticulturist, Vol. 29, 1906, p. 171-173.
 Photographs courtesy of the Lincoln Museum, Library and Archives Canada and the Biodiversity Heritage Library
 Harvey M. Gayman, Rittenhouse School and Gardens, Toronto: William Briggs, 1911.
 "Rich History Lost in Fire," Niagara this Week, March 20, 2009.
 Whatson, "Legacy of Rittenhouse Family Showcased at Jordan Museum," Niagara this Week, June 2, 2006.
 Lincoln Public Library, "A Brief History of Lincoln Public Library," https://lincoln.library.on.ca/brief_history (accessed March 22, 2019)
 "Library Donation Opens up Story of Rittenhouse Family," Niagara this Week, September 29, 2006.
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