Blackford County- Harrison Township
As of 2021, I count three remaining schoolhouses in Harrison Township.
District 1: Waugh
District 3: Blackford
District 4: Goodboo
Franklin G. Bladwin, one of Blackford County’s first justice of the peace, was one of Harrison Township’s first teachers, as were Gideon W. Shannon, O.B. Boon, and H.C. Baldwin (Shinn, 1900).
These pioneers taught in basic schoolhouses, simply built and generally measuring no larger than twenty by twenty feet. Walls of notched logs slathered with mud or clay rose above simple, puncheon floors to an eight foot, peaked roof covered in shake shingles. A wide fireplace that terminated in a chimney made of mud held together by a simple framework of sticks was frequently located across the wall opposite the school’s entryway, while narrow “windows” made by cutting out a length of log five or six feet up each flanking wall provided natural illumination to the interior of the structure (Kemper, 1908).
Early schools were so simple largely due to a lack of money. As first established, each schoolhouse was funded predominantly by subscription, a sort of tuition paid to the school’s proprietor that also covered a salary for the teacher (Helm, 1881). Generally, these revenues were insufficient to finance a township’s schools for more than two or three months at a time. Sometimes, classes were taught months in advance leaving teachers waiting for their wages.
The era of subscription schoolhouses ended in theory in 1851, when the state of Indiana ratified a new constitution that provided for the basics of a township-based, common educational system (Natali, 2007). The School Law of 1852 expanded upon the new constitution, authorizing a schoolhouse fund and an official statewide Superintendent of Public Instruction, as well as a “general and uniform system of common schools, wherein tuition shall be with out charge, and equally open to all (Indiana, 1851).” It took several years for funds to become available in Harrison Township, however, and the township did not hold any school sessions for the 1857-58 school year (Shinn). Once funds were finally available, officials began converting the existing log schools into frame ones, simultaneously improving courses of study, hiring teachers that were more qualified, and erecting new buildings when possible.
Outside of Montpelier which operated its own schools, Harrison Township eventually featured ten district schoolhouses, the majority given colloquial names by their patrons that honored the farmers who deeded their land to the township. District 1 was Waugh, District 5 was Hoover, District 6 was called Slater, Disict 7 was Schwartzopf, District 8 was Cale, and District 10 was Jackson. Meanwhile, District 2 was known as Matamoras because of its location in that town, and 3 was known as Blackford, probably as a reference to the county it served. District 9 became known as Pleasantdale to its location in that settlement, and District 4: Goodboo received its name, apparently, from a Native American expression that meant “Good Morning (Goodspeed, 1972).”
By 1900, Harrison Township operated a 157-day class schedule, while Montpelier held a 180-day term, the longest in the county (Shinn).
It appears as though the first schoolhouses to close in Harrison Township were the Hoover and Schwartzopf buildings in 1913. According to record, the Hoover building had been in dangerous condition since a wind storm had damaged it during the previous school year, while the Schwartzopf school was viewed as unsanitary (Hoover, 1913). Three years later, the west side and roof of the District 1: Waugh school were removed and destroyed in a wind storm, so classes were moved to the Nora Burson house nearby (Montpelier, 1916). The Waugh Schoolhouse was eventually repaired.
By 1919, only the Waugh, Matamoras, Blackford, Goodboo, Slater, Cale, Jackson, and Pleasantdale schools were listed as operating in the township, which officially combined with Montpelier in 1921 for the purposes of erecting a high school (Hartford, 1921). In preparation, the Matamoras, Blackford, Slater, and Pleasantdale all closed after the 1922-23 school year (To, 1924), leaving Goodboo, Cale, and Jackson Harrison Township’s only remaining rural schools.
However, the Goodboo school was condemned the following year due to its ramshackle condition: the building’s walls were cracked on all sides, its floors were loose and full of holes, and the school’s overall ventilation was poor (Goodboo, 1923). As a result, the trustee examined the shuttered District 2: Matamoras school to determine whether or not it was suitable to take on the students of District 4 (Goodboo). Evidently it wasn’t, so Goodboo and Cale, which was also condemned, were used for the remainder of the 1923-24 school term because there was nowhere else to send their pupils (Montpelier, 1923).
Meanwhile, the old Montpelier High School was remodeled in 1923 in order to turn it into a grade school ready for the following year (Montpelier, 1923). In 1924, a new township-wide high school opened at a cost of $31,500 (Mayer, 1931). The school district utilized nine large trucks to convey the students of rural Harrison Township to the new school (Teachers, 1926).
1924 was also the year that the township trustee sold off several of its retired buildings, though the old school at Matamoras was retained to be used for storage. In auction, the Waugh school was purchased by Sam Wearly for $252, and the Hoover school -which the township had evidently retained ownership of for some time after it closed- was sold to W.A. Hoover for $151. Alex Johnson purchased the old Pleasantdale school for $225, while F.G. Sarber acquired the old Blackford schoolhouse for $175. Due to its deplorable condition, A.M. Shannon was able to obtain the abandoned Goodboo schoolhouse for only $101- about $1,641 today (Sale, 1924).
After the opening of the joint high school, Harrison Township operated three schools. The Main Street school -the former high school situated at the northeast corner of Main and Monroe streets- served students from grades 1-4, while the Huntington Street school on the site of Baldwin Park served grades 1-6. The high school took in the remainder of the township’s pupils (Open, 1928).
By 1938 it became clear that the Huntington Street departmental school and the Main Street primary building were too old to continue classes from. They were also potentially dangerous, with oil-soaked floors and stairways, and couldn’t be modernized efficiently. That year, a $45,818 grant was received through the Public Works Administration in order to erect a combined elementary school on the site of the Main Street building, just across Monroe Street from the joint high school (Montpelier, 1938). It was finished in 1939 and made its predecessors obsolete.
In 1958, Indiana’s State Commission for the Reorganization of School Corporations passed new guidelines for school districts specifying that, at a minimum, each must have a resident school population of at least 1,000 students in terms of average daily attendance, as well as an adjusted assessed valuation of at least $5,000 per pupil in average daily attendance (Delaware, 1959). Asa result of this, Harrison Township combined with Jackson and Washington townships to form Montpelier Community Schools (Hartford, 1962), per unanimous vote (Vote, 1961). Montpelier became the sole high school in the district.
In 1969, after every township combined to form a county-wide Blackford school system, high-school students of Harrison Township began attending classes at the new, $5.3 million, 56-classroom Blackford County High School just north of Hartford City (New, 1967). Montpelier continued to house elementary classes in its 1938 building, while the old high school became a middle school.
The 1938 Montpelier Elementary school was closed and demolished at the end of the 1998-99 school year, and the former high school was enlarged to become a middle school (McBride, 1998). In 2010, the old high school and then-elementary school was converted to an elementary school after the Blackford County School Board reconfigured the district by consolidating its seventh- and eight-grade students into a single building in Hartford City. Fifty-two students transferred to the nearby Southern Wells Community School District in protest (Leiker, 2010).
Today, Harrison Township is home to Montpelier Elementary, which remains housed in the 1924 structure, which has been expanded. The District 4: Goodboo still stands in a state of abandonment, as does the Harrison Township District 3: Blackford school. The District 1: Waugh Schoolhouse appears to serve as a kind of detached garage for the home directly to its north.
Shinn, B. (1900) Biographical Memoirs of Blackford County, Ind. book. The Bowen Publishing Company. Chicago, IL.
Kemper, G. W. H. (1908). Education in Delaware County. In A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County, Indiana, Volume 1 (Vol. 1, p. 252). book, Lewis Publishing Company.
Helm, T. B. (1881). Mount Pleasant Township. In History of Delaware County, Indiana: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers (pp. 268–269). book, Kingman Brothers.
Natali, B. L. (2007). The Impact of Caleb Mills on the Hoosier Education Debate: An Edition of Two Unpublished Addresses (thesis). University Graduate School, Indianapolis.
Indiana Constitution. (1851), art. 8, sec. 1.
Goodspeed, D. (1972, October 29). The Muncie Star. p. 39.
Hoover School Condemned (1913, June 25). The Muncie Star. p. 8.
Montpelier Notes (1916, March 25). The Muncie Star. p. 9.
To Eliminate 6 Old Schools (1924, July 4). The Muncie Star. p. 2.
Hartford City Notes (1921, June 8). The Muncie Star. p. 8.
Goodboo School Is Condemned (1923, October 12). The Muncie Star. p. 8.
Montpelier (1923, November 15). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 2.
Montpelier (1923, March 19). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 5.
Mayer Block Is Sold (1931, July 11). The Muncie Star. p. 9.
Teachers Will Meet Monday (1926, September 3). The Muncie Star. p. 5.
Sale of Abandoned Schools Bring $1,575 (1924, July 30). The Muncie Star. p. 9.
Open At Montpelier On Tuesday, Sept. 4 (1928, August 26. The Muncie Star. p. 3.
Montpelier to Get New PWA School (1938, August 11). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 2.
Delaware County Committee for the Reorganization of School Corporations. (1959). A Comprehensive plan for the reorganization of school corporations of Delaware County Indiana. Muncie, IN; Delaware County Committee for the Reorganization of School Corporations.
Hartford City Students to Go to School Sept. 4 (1962, August 27). The Muncie Star Press. p. 10.
Vote Two-Unit School Plan in Blackford (1961, April 9). The Muncie star. p. 3.
New Blackford County High School (1967, October 18). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 21.
McBride, M. (1998, August 18). Blackford schools won’t be delayed by construction. The Muncie star Press. p. 1.
Leiker, J. (2010, August 17). Crossing the (county) line. The Muncie Star Press. p. 3.