The Briar Hill School was a small one-room school building located out on Briar Hill Road in the Eastbrook area of rural Hickory Township in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. It stood across the street from where the Briar Hill Cemetery (also known as the Eastbrook Methodist Cemetery) is currently located. I am not sure when the school was originally constructed, but it was sometime prior to or about 1847 – when the area was still part of Mercer County. The school was used as a meeting place for the Methodist Society back then, until 1851 when they built a small church of their own across the street and where the cemetery now sits. There is a commemorative plaque in the cemetery showing where that church once sat. A second church, the Eastbrook Methodist Church which is currently still in operation, was built in the heart of the town of Eastbrook in 1881.
In the late 1800’s the town of Eastbrook was a thriving community along the Hettenbaugh Run with its own shops, mills, and factories. The small school, and several others located nearby, was probably packed with students from the local area. My paternal grandfather, Ray Bales Sr., lived nearby off of East Maitland Lane as a youngster and started his schooling at the Briar Hill School back in the early 1920’s.
The school was in operation for many years until I believe it was closed in June 1926. That fall the students from the Briar Hill were transferred to the new consolidated school at Eastbrook (also known as Eastbrook High School). The former students and staff of the schools at Briar Hill and nearby Painter Hill (which closed a few years later) held a yearly joint reunion for many years, usually at the picnic area at nearby Lakewood Beach. The once-thriving community of Eastbrook is now a quiet, rural area sitting on the outskirts of New Castle.
To read an article about the school being closed in December 1919 because its only teacher was ill click on: TEACHER SICK ARTICLE. To learn more about the close of school in May 1926 – which I believe was the day the school closed for good – click on: SCHOOL CLOSED ARTICLE. To read a September 1926 notice soliciting for a driver to take students from the former Briar Hill School to the new consolidated school at Eastbrook click on: DRIVER WANTED ARTICLE.
This old aerial photo reveals the general location of the Briar Hill School on Briar Hill Road in Hickory Township. (1939) Full Size
The small school sat close to the road in this clearing right before the trees on the right. (2009)
The school sat just off photo to the left and past the trees. (2009)