The Poetical Works of Bret Harte - Donald Montgomery

Donald Montgomery


D. Montgomery (1848-1890)

Donald Montgomery was born on 3 May 1848 in Valleyfield, Prince Edward Island, to Malcolm Montgomery and Christine MacDonald. He was the youngest of three children; his older siblings were Margaret (November 1840) and Angus (April 1843).

During his lifetime, Donald was an avid educator and student. He attended Prince of Wales College, after he taught in rural schools for two years in 1865 and 1866. He excelled at Prince of Wales for the year that he was there, earning multiple prizes and coming first in his class. On 25 August 1874, he was appointed as headmaster of the Normal/Model School. He wanted to reorganize the school in order to refocus the curriculum on training professional teachers. He wanted to restore the nobility that came with the title ‘teacher.’

Due to political differences, Donald was asked to step down from the position in 1877. The L. H. Davies coalition government felt as though Donald did not have the professional abilities to turn the Normal School into a professional institute. After his resignation, he attended McGill law school. He returned to Prince Edward Island a year later, and won a by-election into the House of Assembly for the Belfast constituency. He then went on to win the general election on 9 April 1879.

His political presence was short lived as he was appointed the Chief Superintendent on 25 September 1879. His main responsibility was to ensure the Public Schools Act of 1877 was enforced but he did so much more than that. During his time as Chief Superintendent, Donald introduced a uniform course of studies, classified Island schools into groups according to the level of work they did, and encouraged the improvement of accommodations at schools.

Donald maintained his goal from the Normal School; he wanted to enhance the Prince Edward Island school system and to restore the nobility status of teachers. He wanted people to think of teachers, not as a career anyone can do, but as trained professionals and educators. As a result, he established the Provincial Educational Institute in 1885.

On 10 August 1887, Donald married Mary Isabella McPhail.

Donald was both personally and professionally involved in the educational system and its results, his obituary in The Daily Patriot, explains that “for many years he has been actively and prominently engaged in various capacities in connection with our public schools…”

In the majority of the sources found on Donald, he has been said to have been “the single most important role in putting the Public School Act of 1877 into practice. When he died, while still Chief Superintendent, the province had a progressive educational system.” (Prince Edward Island Legislative Documents Online).

Donald Montgomery passed away on 14 May 1890 at the age of 42. He had died due to a heart condition he developed from a smallpox vaccination in 1885.

Donald gifted The Poetical Works of Bret Harte to Albert Howard McNeill for Christmas 1880. According to the 1881 Canadian Census, the two of them lived together for a period of time.


1881 Census of Canada. Census Place: Charlottetown Royalty, Queens, Prince Edward Island; Roll: C_13163; Page: 138; Family No: 661.

“The Late Superintendent of Education." The Daily Patriot (Charlottetown), May 15, 1890 pg. 2. Accessed through the University of Prince Edward Island Robertson Library microfilm collection.

“Prince Edward Island Legislative Documents Online." Donald Montgomery. Accessed July 13, 2016.

Robertson, Ian Ross, “MONTGOMERY DONALD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 13, 2016.

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