Argenta Friends School

February 18th, 2021 2 Minutes

Argenta was founded in the silver boom in West Kootenay in the 1890s. It was named after the Argenta Mining Company, in which it derived its name from the Latin word for silver, Argentum. The elusive mother lode was never located.

#0131.0076 Argenta, B.C. ca. 1965 – Image courtesy of the Kootenay Gallery of Art, History and Science and the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History

At the turn of the 20th century, the area was marketed for fruit ranching. Due to its isolation on the northeast shore of Kootenay Lake, Argenta remained a small, tight-knit community of pioneer minded people.

Fast forward to the cold war of the late 1940s and 1950s, where the Selective Service Act of 1948 had instituted a peacetime draft. All men 18 to 26 were required to register for the draft. McCarthyism had gripped the United States. All government workers in California, including public school teachers, were required to take an oath of citizenship. These developments ran contrary to Quaker principles.

John and Helen Stevenson and George and Mary Pollard, accompanied by their children, were the first two Quaker families to arrive from California. They found Argenta and purchased 300 acres at $10 an acre in 1952. They were joined shortly by the Boyds – Bob and Ruth – and their family.

Early on, Helen Stevenson, a certified teacher in California, began teaching Quaker and other local children in an old schoolhouse abandoned four years prior. By 1954, several other families had joined, and a Quaker meetinghouse was constructed.

The families also founded the Delta Co-operative based on Friends rules in the fall of 1954.

It became evident in meetings that education was important as 17 of the 23 adults had classroom teaching experience. In 1959, the Argenta Friends School opened as a boarding school aimed at preparing students for university. Students in grades 11 and 12 from across Canada and the United States, and overseas attended the school. The school also attracted instructors and musicians from all over wishing to teach courses in a more open academic setting.

The Vietnam War in the 1960s resulted in more American Quakers and other resisters moving into the area. In 1967, Norman and Betty Polster, both active in the peace movement and Quakers, packed a moving van in Pennsylvania and headed west. Both worked as teachers and house parents at the school.

The school ran under a consensus with students working with teachers and others to determine school policies and curricula that embraced a broad scope of study and prepared them for provincial exams. The meeting closed the school in 1982.

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