Brisbin was once known as North Houtzdale, but later took its name from the early coal land developer, George M. Brisbin, when it became incorporated as a borough in 1883. The small community has always had a rich mining, religious and small business heritage.
It suffered a devastating village wide fire in May of 1884 that has become a part of local history and folklore.
It has to be said that even the smallest, and usually poorer communities in Clearfield County, were anxious to build schools to educate their children.
It may have taken generations, but early Brisbin residents inherently knew that education would give their children a better and more fulfilling life.
Ten years after the original schools were lost in the 1884 fire; Brisbin High School was built and opened in 1894. Actually, it also housed elementary students and offered a curriculum to include grades 1 to 10. Grades 11 and 12 were offered later.
The school building stood along Swoope Street (PA Route 153), next to the Brisbin First Church of God. The site is today the church’s parking lot.
The building was, typical for the times; one with a belfry, large windows and high-ceilinged rooms, in order to allow as much light as possible into the classrooms.
The photo shows a decorative flue, which was needed to handle the large coal-fired furnace. Five young students are shown in front of the school, near the then dirt street.
Sadly, the school building caught fire and burned on Jan. 11, 1944. Mrs. Larue (Pope) Cotter remembered that a teacher, Miss Velma Lobb, was teaching her eighth-grade Math class, and noticed burnt debris falling by her classroom window.
She sent student Don Lobb outside to investigate. He saw smoke billowing from the eaves. Miss Lobb quietly pulled the fire alarm and all grades quickly exited the building. Those three witnesses are now deceased.
Houtzdale’s Dr. Eugene Ronan was giving physical exams to primary age kids and, being annoyed, called out, “This is a hell of a time for a fire drill”! He immediately helped clear the building. Thankfully, no one was injured.
The school was a total loss. Only the flue remained at the end to the day. The Houtzdale Fire Company saved the adjacent Church of God, which suffered only paint blistering and broken glass.
Brisbin students moved into temporary quarters and were sent into Houtzdale’s school rooms in September of 1944. They were morphed into the old HWB (Houtzdale, Woodward and Brisbin) school system, which was itself later merged into the present Moshannon Valley School District.