Essex District High School

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Essex District High School
244 Talbot Street North
Essex, Ontario, N8M 2E1
School type Public high school
Motto "Quisque Omnes"
Founded 1885
School board Greater Essex County District School Board
Superintendent Dan Fister
Principal Michael Hawkins
Grades 9 to 12
Enrollment 840 (2012-13)
Language English
Colour(s) Red, Black, and Gold
Mascot Raider Man and Raider Woman
Team name Red Raiders

Essex District High School is a public secondary school in Essex, in the centre of Essex County. The school was founded in 1885 and is the oldest operating publicly funded high school in Ontario. The school has a student population of 940 and 78 faculty members.


In 1885, Dr. James Brien proposed and received strong support for the establishment of a new High School in Essex Centre. On March 14, 1885 the first meeting of the School Board took place at Peck's Hall led by James Naylor as Chairman; and J.S. Laird, S.G. Thomas, C.E. Jones, John Milne and W.H. Russell.

Classes started August 31 in the old church behind the railroad station on Medora Avenue, which had been used by the Methodist Episcopal Church. There were 18 students and 2 teachers the first year.

Captain Albert Jones offered part of Lot 284 consisting of 314 acres of his land for the building site for the new school which cost $10,000.00. It was a two storey red brick structure 64' × 67', 3 classrooms on both floors, a basement and an attic all heated with wood stoves. Essex High School officially opened in 1888, accommodating 200 students.

In 1889, the Lyceum, a Literary Society was organized and the Argus (the first school magazine) began. Since attendance reached 59 students, a 3rd teacher was hired. High School Cadets were first organized in 1898. By 1904, Essex High School was highly acclaimed for its well equipped gym. In 1920 an addition to the school costing $5,000.00 was built and there were 6 teachers on staff

A fire on Tuesday, February 14, 1921 destroyed the school. All that was saved were the guns and uniforms of the cadets. All records, science and chemistry apparatus and books were burned.

Essex Free Press article February 18, 1921

"The fire had started about 7:45 in the old furnace room. The Janitor had reported that he had gone to the school and filled the furnace with coal, banking it up well and leaving about 7:15 p.m. About 7:45 p.m. his wife called his attention to a light in the school building and he hurried over to same. On opening the furnace room door, the smoke poured out so dense he could not enter, whereupon he ran to the front door, intending to use the phone and turn in a fire alarm. The smoke was also so thick in that section that he feared to go in so went over to J. Baldwin and phoned the waterworks. The alarm was given and in a few minutes the fire brigade were on the scene, but the fire had gained such headway that their efforts were of no avail."

The building was only a brick veneer. The practice at that time was to oil the wood floors, and so the fire that started in the furnace room spread quickly. The school was destroyed in only an hours time.

People came from all over the county to see the remains of the school. In fact, the Electric railway ran a car from Kingsville to Essex so Kingsville Students could see the ruins. Since Essex High School had been the first school built outside of Windsor, many came from as far away as Leamington.

The Monday following the fire, Orange Hall (the basement of the Library), and one classroom at the public school were used to continue classes for its 160 students. Orange hall also served as the Presbyterian Sunday School. Despite inconveniences, education continued in this state until the new school was built. The new school was built at a cost of $85,000.00. It was formally opened by the Warden of the County on September 5, 1922.[1][2]


Essex District High School offers the following number of courses in these categories:

  • Fine Arts - 16
  • Business Studies - 10
  • Canadian and World Studies - 16
  • Computer and Information Science - 8
  • English - 12
  • French - 5
  • Health and Physical Education - 19
  • Mathematics - 15
  • Native Studies - 1
  • Science - 15
  • Social Sciences and Humanities - 10
  • Technological Education - 16


Essex District High School has 26 sports teams. They all share the same name: The "Essex Red Raiders." The school mascots are Raider Man and Raider Woman. The Red Raiders compete in the AA category of the South Western Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association (SWOSSAA) which is a division of the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA).

The Red Raiders boys hockey team were OFSAA champions in 2002 and 2003.

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Essex Free Press Archives
  2. ^ Essex District High School Centennial 1885–1985 year book
  3. ^ Leo Howard Coneybeare Obituary, Various, Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home & Chapel, Dignity Memorial, January 16, 2012.