The Stanley school began as "Watervale School" in mid-1858 with head master Mr. Joseph S. C. Cole (Illustrated at right) and 59 boy students. He taught at the public school at Watervale before he opened a boarding school in 1858.
It was first housed in the Bible Christian chapel in Watervale. The Council of Education had already authorised construction of a new publicly funded schoolhouse, which was opened on 17 February 1859.
That day, had its character depended upon the will of the inhabitants, would have been one of the brightest ever known at Watervale;
but alas! that very day let loose upon them a storm of wind and rain that will not readily be forgotten by the least observant among them.
The shops were closed, and at an early hour the thrilling blasts of a select band told the villagers of the dawning of a gala day.
The events of the day commenced with an examination of the school.
This had to be conducted chiefly by the master, the state of the weather precluding the attendance of the gentlemen who had been specially invited for that purpose.
The programme of the examination included arithmetical and grammatical analyses, with exercises in syntactical parsing and composition, mental arithmetic, geography, etc.
There were half-hours during the examination when to have approached the schoolroom from the nearest cottage would have been impossible without securing a drenching more or less complete.
The room, large and convenient as it is, has but little space to spare from that required for the free evolution of 64 pupils— the number present on the occasion.
The examination concluded, a distribution of prizes; followed by a distribution of refreshments, was made to the scholars.
The ladies of the neighbourhood, with admirable liberality, provided gratuitously a most sumptuous tea. I am told that in all respects in which taste and excellence can be shown in such things their arrangements and viands were completely unique and unexceptionable; and in quantity sufficient to have satisfied in the most substantial manner the appreciative appetites of upwards of 400 visitors.
ln the evening a public meeting was held, at which the chair was occupied Gavin D Young, Esq., J.P. who opened the proceedings by calling upon the master of the school to read a paper prepared by him on Education, which he accordingly did.
This done, the Chairman, on behalf of the Trustees, made a financial statement, which was in every respect satisfactory, excepting the disclosure which it made of the absorption of the whole of the funds by the yet incomplete building.
The meeting, however, without one dissenter voice, authorized its completion according to the design, and guaranteed the additional cost.
Vote of thanks to Mr. Cole, as the master of the school and as the author of the paper, and to the Chairman, concluded the business of the meeting, which broke up after testifying its loyalty by simultaneously rising and standing while the band played the National Anthem.
In the course of the day £10 were collected in aid of the funds.
Mrs. F. W. Johnson, who died at the ripe age of 74 years, after a long illness, at the "Racecourse House," near Kadina, was the eldest daughter of Mr. David Davies, of Watervale, near Clare, and the first white child born north of Gawler, born in 1842 at Clare.
She "conducted" a private school at Watervale from 1859, and later on took the position of matron at the Stanley Grammar School, occupying the post for five years.
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA), Friday 27 May 1859, page 3 WATERVALE, From our own Correspondent - New schoolroom was publicly opened.