The first brick schoolhouse was a two-story building, built in Nevada in 1858. It was located on the corner of Fifth Street and I Avenue, facing west. Otis Briggs, a member of the original board of education, purchased the bell for the school in 1859. The cost was equivalent to the value of 80 acres of Story County land. The bell was placed inside an eight-sided cupola surmounting the brick schoolhouse. It would ring out to remind children of the village to begin their school day.
The schoolhouse was the scene of gatherings and significant incidents that were history-making. In 1865, the bell had rung out joyfully when word reached the little village that the Civil War was over. Fourteen days later, it slowly tolled at the sad word of the death of beloved president, Abraham Lincoln. The bell would also be rung for village fires. A boy, named Izaac Hawthorne, got a “licking” for ringing it as a fire alarm when there was no fire. A yellow frame building was added in 1865 when enrollment increased, and stood north of the block in the middle of the street now known as I Avenue. The bell hung in the first brick schoolhouse until 1876, when the new building, which stood on Ninth and J Avenue, later known as Central grade building, replaced the first brick schoolhouse and the yellow frame building.
The two outgrown buildings and the lots upon which they stood were sold to T. E. Alderman, father of Mrs. Minnie A. Mills. Mr. Alderman wrecked the brick structure, using some of its material in the construction of a residence. For a number of years was occupied as a home by his son, Oscar Alderman, and his family; it stood there until a few years ago. The yellow frame building was used as a horse barn for a number of years until it was torn down.
In 1942, George Connolly, who had been given the original 1859 schoolhouse bell by William Briggs, son of Otis Briggs, presented it to the school. A tower was designed to resemble the tower the bell was enclosed in on the first brick schoolhouse. It was dedicated on Sept. 11, 1942. It sat between the 1908 Science building and the 1918 High School building, in front of the 1875 Central building. Pep rallies often took place around the bell — it was referred to as the Victory Bell.
“It is veneration of traditions such as this that makes our American Democracy what it is,” said Charles H. Hall, guest speaker at the dedication. Time was when the bell’s clear sweet tones could be heard a distance of two miles — but that was eighty-three years ago when the little village — and the bell — were new.
The erection of the Victory Tower has been largely a labor of love — Lew A. Larsen said its masonry would be his very best — it is. Mr. Larsen, who lacked six months becoming an alumnus of N.H.S., let Jack Belcher, who makes his home with him, lay the first and last brick. The octagonal tower was the handiwork of Supt. H.C. Willis Sylvester — a high school alumnus. The bell itself is the gift to the Nevada schools from George Connolly, who had received it from the late Wm. Briggs. Mr. Connolly, whose name appears upon the dedicatory plaque, and who had treasured the bell for many years, was called upon last night during the ceremony around the Victory Tower and made a few appropriate remarks. He was the first to enter the tower for the ringing of the historic bell. His granddaughter, Marcia Connolly, a NHS sophomore, acted as emcee as the large audience formed a semicircle about the tower. The bell was rung by Bill Sapp as representative of the high school, Clarice Maland as representative of the junior high and Larry Houston for grades.
While the bell itself has, for many years, outlived the usefulness for which it was originally purchased, its value in sentiment and as a memento of the early days is immeasurable.
Its return to school at this time seems epochal for it would be but repeating history to ring for the cities of our Armed Forces and for the men and women of the Nevada schools who are scattered all over the globe. Again, could it speak, it would utter a prayer to speed the day when it may again ring announcing the end of another great conflict. (Nevada Evening Journal, 1942)
In 2016, with the help of volunteers and Nevada Community School alumni, Linda Griffith at the helm, the bell was placed once again on the Nevada Community school grounds. Its new home is in front of the Central Elementary building. In addition to the bell getting a new tower, a time capsule was buried in the southwest corner of the concrete base that holds the bell. The time capsule contains a copy of the Nevada Journal, the article of the girls’ basketball team going to state, a Nevada Community school paper and information on the bell.