In any community, we value those who have given something precious to their friends and neighbours, through volunteering, their family, and the role models they are to younger generations. Jean Newans, Gladys Jean Joyner before her marriage to Keith Newans, himself a great addition to the Oxford Mills community, was someone special in that regard. For forty years, Jean went from one one-room school to another throughout the region, teaching music to generations of children. In an article about Jean in a history of North Grenville’s one-room schools, produced by the Historical Society in 2014, Beth Nicol described Jean’s career as a music teacher to generations:

“Hired by the Townships of Oxford on Rideau and South Gower, her schedule had her travelling to 17 schools in just 3 days each week. Each class received one half hour of instruction. She travelled in her father’s car. In it she carried records and a record player, song books and a device for duplicating papers called a jilly pad, everything she might need to make her classes successful. Out of necessity, she became organized, self-reliant, and independent. Her contract was extended to include Kemptville and Marlborough Township. This lengthened her work week to five full days, during which she visited 25 schools. The curriculum included the colour coded sol-fa scale (before the hand signs were introduced) and the basics of musical notation. As students learned to sing in key, she challenged them to learn harmony lines.”

In fact, by the end of the one-room schoolhouse days in 1964, Jean was travelling to 25 schools on a regular basis. After that year, when all the schools were amalgamated, she worked at Oxford-on-Rideau Public School until her retirement in 1988. A special tea was held in her honour on her retirement, and her role as teacher for forty years was noted in the attendance of up to 300 people who dropped by to say thank you for her years of dedication to generations of children.

In addition to the daily round of classes, Jean also formed choirs in each of her schools, often entering them in choral competitions, and usually with very positive results. Her Christmas concerts, when the students of all the schools united in one performance, were especially memorable.

Jean also provided an invaluable service to the community by acting as an unofficial historian of Oxford-on-Rideau Township over the years, along with her colleague, Winnie Lamrock. When the Township marked its bicentennial in 1984, Jean combined her interests by forming a community choir and compiling a book on the Township’s history, called “All Around the Township”. In later years, her home became an archive, packed to the rafters with boxes of documents, correspondence, and historical records of every description. She was a dedicated supporter of the local historical society.

Jean and Keith were an integral part of the Oxford Mills community for a lifetime; between them they held a deep and detailed knowledge of the history of the hamlet and the wider township, as well as invaluable memories of the people and events that were the foundation of Oxford-on-Rideau. Their home in the hamlet stood just across the road from the Newans homestead, still standing as a memorial to those who lived at a time when Oxford Mills was a lively, thriving place with hotels, stores, bakeries and farms, capital of the Township with its Town Hall and schools.

Jean Newans died on December 1, at the age of 97. Keith had predeceased her in 2014 at the age of 96. They were special people of a different time and place, and they helped form the community that we enjoy today. Jean asked that donations after her death may made to the Oxford Mills Community Association, or to a charity of your choice, her last of so many contributions to the community she served so well for so long.


  1. Jean Newans was a remarkable woman, both for her love of history and of music, and for her ability to inspire people to take an interest in applying excellence and accuracy to both of these subjects. I feel privileged to have known her.


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