School Biography

Picture of Maude Westcott

Maude Westcott was born in Kent County, Ontario on April 8, 1877. She graduated from Ridgetown High School, trained as a teacher at London Normal School and taught in Leamington, Ontario for five years.

In 1903, Maude married Harry Burton Clifford, who at the time, was involved in the Western Ontario oil industry. The couple lived in Detroit, Michigan until 1905 when Harry made a trip to the Grande Prairie area via canoe and pack train, lured by the rich potential of the area. Maude joined him for his second trip in January 1906, travelling by train to Strathcona (Edmonton) and overland by caboose for 31 days via the Long Trail.

On arrival, the Clifford's rented log buildings from the local Metis at Flying Shot Lake until their own house and outbuildings on the west side of the Lake were completed.

In 1906, a patient was brought to Maude to take care of, making her the area's first "nurse". Thereafter, the house and outbuildings became the site of the first hospital, first Protestant (Anglican) church service, first court, as well as a Royal North West Mounted Police post. Maude also gave classes to the children of the area, earning her the title of first teacher in the Grande Prairie area. The Clifford homestead also served as the temporary home of Presbyterian missionaries Alexander and Agnes Forbes and headquarters of early surveyor Walter McFarlane.

By 1916, Harry's health was failing, the trading post was closed, and Maude returned to her old career of teaching. She was employed by the Wapiti School District No. 2802 and the family moved into two rooms at Lacombe Johnson's house. A couple of years later, they moved into Grande Prairie and Maude taught the primary class and music at Grande Prairie's Montrose School from 1918 to 1926.

Harry Clifford died in Grande Prairie in 1925 after several years of illness. The following year, Maude and her children moved to Victoria, BC where she continued to teach. After spending some time in Coleman, Alberta, she returned to Victoria and concluded her teaching career there in the early 1940s. In 1935, she was honoured with a silver Jubilee Medal.

Maude Clifford died on May 6, 1947 in Victoria at the age of 70.

Source: South Peace Regional Archives