From the “Scratcher” or notebook of Superintendent of Public Instruction Philetus Fales:
Dec.31, 1868 “Visited school in District 48. Fine stone schoolhouse, but not furnished. On account of mud, only slim attendance. Mr. McClure teacher, 35 enrolled.”
Feb 19, 1869: “Revisited schools 13 & 48. Both doing well. Quite a falling off in attendance in district 48. Both Mr. Bradford & Mr. McClure teaching better schools than their education would seem to warrant.”
May 4, 1869: “Visited School 48. Commenced May 2nd. Miss Pyle teacher. 19 pupils, small.”
Nov. 15, 1869: “[Term began] Nov. 1. C.T. Sweetland, Teacher. Visited Nov. 15. Want of uniformity of text books. No map. Revisited Dec. 24th.”
Briles School, District 48, was located a half mile east and 2 ½ miles north of Peoria along what is now K-68, on the northeast corner of the intersection. The first schoolhouse was completed in 1868 and the school was closed in 1961.
The last teacher was Alberta Gere and members of the last school board were Elton Vickers, Claude Sink and Ralph Batdorf.
Jess Clark of Gardner, who taught at Briles from 1922 to 1924, remembers the school as the bustling center of community activities. When trees were planted in the school yard, she recalled, Nelson Briles put oats into the holes. His theory was that the oats would swell and give the tree roots more room to grow. Cement sidewalks, swings and basketball goals were put in at the time.
In the early days, church and Sunday school and weekly prayer meetings also were held at Briles School.
During the Depression years (the 1930s) a community club was formed to stage three-act plays, with George Gould as president. The club decided it needed a curtain for the stage and took up a collection. Members also contacted Ottawa businesses, which agreed to contribute if their names were displayed on the curtain.
The curtain was obtained from Ralph Burke of Burke’s Awnings. It rolled down from the ceiling. A picture was painted in the center and the edges were lined with business advertisements.
Those included Ottawa Hardware, Richardson’s Produce, Moffett’s Bakery, Overholt’s Café, Franklin County Cream Co. and Ross Milling.
The club performed its plays for as many as 14 different community gatherings in a year.
Mary Shelton, Ottawa RFD 2, said she rode a pony to school. Her father built a little shelter for the pony on the school grounds, and it was torn down when she graduated.
During the 1980s the state highway department announced that it would widen and rebuild K-68 east of Ottawa. The right-of-way was to be widened and it would cut off the front of the schoolhouse.
The school had served as an activity center for so many decades that residents decided to try and save it , Led by the 4-H members who met regularly at the school they convinced the highway department the instead of paying for the right-of-way, it should pay to have the building moved back.
With that agreement there was renewed interest and donations of money and labor poured in. According to Phyllis (Fisher) Schamle, a 4-H leader, improvements included a new furnace, kitchen, bathroom, front porch, ceiling and ceiling fans and a ramp.
Among the last pupils to attend Briles, in 1961, Janice Vickers, Richard Elder, Becky Slaven, Teresa Slaven, Carl Elder, Linda Harra, Judy Hancock, Gary Knight , Freddy Knight, Susan Finch and Nancy Slaven.
Briles teachers often boarded with the Nelson Briles family who lived just east of the school. Among those who taught there were Allie Mae (Turner) Broers, Ada Coltrane, Genevieve Richardson and Helen (Tulloss) Barnett.
Former pupils still living in Franklin County include: Mary Shelton, Beth (Batdorf) Chambers, Jerry Vickers, Janet (Vickers) Breashears, Wanda (Fisher) Briles, Sharron K. (Ball) Higgins, Donnie and Ronnie Ball, Kathryn (Fisher) Yokum, Shirley Elder, Tommy Sink, Duane Anderson, Bonnie (Anderson) Gibbons, David Anderson, Lyle Turner, Elizabeth (Williams) Foster, Susan (Finch) Moyer, Mabel (Finch) Lister, Violet (Crane) Davies, Raymond Adcock, Eunice (Gould) Johnson, Carl Elder and Jane Elder.