From “The hitching post…” column in the Ottawa Herald, a series of articles about early Franklin County schools researched by Bruce Fleming and written by Herald Editor and Publisher Jim Hitch. This article appeared 23 August, 1990.
Silkville School, Dist. 88, was located two miles southwest of Williamsburg on the south side of old U.S. 50.
The old stone school elementary building, which has been tuckpointed and has a new roof, can be seen from the road.
The school building was erected in the late 1860s and the district was dissolved in 1921.
The name of only one teacher –the late Lena Wells- could be ascertained.
Silkville District 88 became the second district in the county to consolidate, when it was merged with Williamsburg Dist. 51.
Fleming’s research turned up considerable historical material on Silkville, but little about the two schools (elementary and secondary).
“The best I can do is give some history of the Silkville settlement, which was the reason for the schools being built.”
A quote found in the Franklin County Historical Society archives declared that “The old Silkville school building (probably the secondary school) had special significance since it was the first school in America that attempted to teach the contemporary literature of the day, commonly called “The Great Books.”
In 1869 Ernest Valeton Boissiere bought a tract of nearly 4,000 acres of prairie land in the southwest corner of the county.
It was bought for the purpose of founding a community centered on an educational and industrial cooperative approach.
Fifteen miles of rock fence and 25 miles of barbed wire fence were erected and 600 acres were put under cultivation. Another 100 acres were planted to grapes and fruit trees, including mulberry. Several of the mulberry trees are still growing in the area.
Silk manufacturing began in 1869, and the production capacity was 224 yards of ribbon per day. Broad goods were woven in 1870 and a decade later a cheese factory produced 1,200 pounds daily.
In 1888, wine and cheese making hit a peak, but silk production was on the decline.
Silkville was first known as Kansas Cooperative Farm, then Prairie Home and, finally, just Silkville.
During its peak there were believed to be as many as 16 buildings at Silkville, including the main house, called the chateau, two schoolhouses , five barns, a silk house, the cheese factory, black-smith shop, winery, ice house, apartment house and church.
When the community was dissolved, the land and buildings were left to the Odd Fellows Lodge to be used as an orphanage.