In the area that became District 8, a log cabin on the Culham Place held the first school in 1865; there were 4 students and the classes were taught by Ella Taylor. In 1866 District 8 was formally established with boundaries by the County Superintendent, making it one of the oldest districts in Geary County.
Presumably school was held in the log cabin, or someone’s home, until 1871 when a frame schoolhouse was constructed on the McGee farm. The school didn’t actually receive the name Brookside until an annual school meeting in 1916, before that is was referred to as the Taylor School.
Brookside was like many other one-room schools in Geary County with a teacher teaching all the classes for grades 1-8. One thing that makes Brookside just a little bit different is the school building that was erected in 1914. Located at the corner of Spring Valley Road and Old Highway 40, the stone schoolhouse looks like something on a Victorian era city block instead of a rural schoolhouse. The new school building was built of stone quarried at the Culham Place and was built by John Holmgren, who built many of the county’s schools. The architect was John Tuffs.
District 8-Brookside School located at Spring Valley Road and K-18 was constructed in 1914-1915 and opened for classes in April 1915.
The building has a bell tower on the front corner which faces eastbound old highway 40. This rural schoolhouse was more modern than many others because it actually had more than one classroom. In 1922 a basement classroom was planned and used, in 1918 electricity was installed, and in 1928 a telephone was added.
In 1956 a concrete pad was added that allowed play during wet weather. Recess at country schools was similar across the county and one of the favorite games was baseball. One Brookside student, Lorena Roediger, now Kennedy, shared one of her memories with us. She said, “Her lasting memory was playing 1st base in baseball and the ball coming straight at me. I threw up my left arm over my face, the ball hit my arm and I never played baseball again.”
The new school had some added benefits that some of the other one-room schools did not. In winter temperatures can get brutally cold and one pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room can’t always warm everyone.
Gladwin Read remembers moving from Taylor school to the new Brookside building in 1915. According to his sister, Mary Bell Read Glick, “the new school building had a coal burning furnace that Gladwin appreciated because the old [school] was heated with a pot-bellied stove.”
Mary Bell also remembers that in the new building it was possible with a “new arrangement in the finished basement for warming food which was a treat. The first thing served was cocoa and this surprised me with the punishing shock of the rim of the hot tin cup.” Despite the burnt lip hot cocoa must have been a welcome treat on days when it was so cold the children were covered in icicles when they arrived, despite being driven in a wagon instead of walking.
Like many other schools all 8 grades were taught in one room, and despite the difficulties that could have caused Walter Ramsour comments, “I don’t think I ever remember having a bad teacher. The one I remember most was Miss Katherine Brannick. She was great in getting us going in the right direction, no nonsense, without being more strict than necessary. She just knew just how to make us want to do the lessons.”
Brookside closed, like many other schools in Geary County in the few years before unification. Brookside closed its doors May 17, 1963 sending its students to Chapman and Junction City. The building is privately owned and is in the process of being restored.
If you or a family member have school memories you’d like to share please come by the Geary County Historical Society and we can record them, or you can write them down and send them in to: GearyHistory@gmail.com or mail them to 530 N. Adams, Junction City, KS 66441.