Blackford County- Jackson Township
As of 2021, I count three remaining schoolhouses in Jackson Township.
Amongst the first teachers in Jackson Township were William G. Sutton, Edward M. Crumley, and Robert H. Lanning, along with Cornelius Beal and Thomas Dean (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 (Shinn).
The era of subscription schoolhouses ended 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).” Once funds were disbursed, Jackson Township officials began converting the existing log schools into frame ones (Shinn), simultaneously improving courses of study, hiring teachers that were more qualified, and erecting new buildings when money was available.
Another consequence of The School Law of 1852 was that Blackford County’s townships were divided into school districts, generally two miles apart when practical. Even after districts were first established, schools to serve those districts were not always quick to be established, or districts were drawn so large as to require two schools to serve them. Such was the case with District 3, which appears to have been served by both the Dildine and Markle schools at separate locations, and District 4, which evidently consisted of the Trenton and Barr schools despite their locations at separate sides of the township (Hixson, 1905).
Though Jackson Township isn’t home to any communities of note today, in the early 1900s it featured several. One was Millgrove, where a substantial, brick schoolhouse was built in 1886. It burned sixteen years later, at which point another two-story building was erected (A history, 1986).
Eventually, Jackson Township became home to fifteen schoolhouses, and most were given colloquial names after the farmers who initially granted their land, like District 2: Goughenour, District 3: Markle and Dildine, District 4: Barr, District 6: Dean, District 9: Lanning, and District 10: Blake. Other schoolhouses took their common names from their locations, such as District 4: Trenton, District 14: Ridertown, District 5: Crumley’s Crossing -also called White Oak (Farrell, 1962)- District 11: Millgrove, and District 15: Center.
The remainder of Jackson Township’s schoolhouses were commonly known by some other nearby feature, like District 7: Creek, District 8: Cat-Tail -called so due to its location near an old cranberry marsh (Farrell)- and District 12: Linnbark, named so after its proximity to a grove of linden trees.
By 1900, the schools of Jackson Township operated on a 145-day term (Shinn). The school at Millgrove -rebuilt in 1902- operated a two-year high school through 1908, as had its predecessor, though neither were accredited by the state (Spurgeon, 1994). The Jackson Township Trustee had hoped to spur on a consolidation process such as had happened in neighboring Delaware County in recent years, but this did not immediately occur. For several years only two of the school’s three rooms were utilized (Centralization, 1902).
1921 saw the local firm of Clamme Brothers build nearly-identical, two-story schoolhouses at Trenton -also called Priam- and the site of the Dildine schoolhouse, five miles directly east (Album, 1994) as a result of the new construction, the District 8 and District 14 schools closed, consolidating into Trenton (McBride, 1997). It’s likely that the students of District 2, 3, and 7, at least, were sent to Dildine upon the erection of that building.
The second Millgrove school burned down during the summer of 1929. Due to the township’s bonded financial limit being reached for the construction of other schools, it was impossible to replace, so its students were dispersed amongst the township’s other schoolhouses (To Transfer, 1929).
By 1931, Jackson Township had paid down enough debt or accumulated enough funds to construct a replacement high school, a two-story, brick, Art Deco structure (Album), which opened in 1932 (To Open, 1932) and probably led to the consolidation of the remainder of the one-room schoolhouses in Jackson Township aside from at least the District 5: White Oak school at the southeastern corner of the township, which remained open at least through the 1937 school year (School, 1937). By 1945, it, too, had closed (Hartford, 1945), leaving the multi-room Trenton, Millgrove, and Dildine buildings as the township’s only remaining schoolhouses.
After its closure, the Barr School in District 4 was purchased by James Mannix and moved half of a mile north to be remodeled into a home (Hartford, 1942).
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).
The following year, 280 students attended school at Jackson Township’s three schools. 129 went to Millgrove, 76 attended classes at Dildine, and the Trenton school served the remaining 75 (Hartford, 1959). Despite this, the Dildine school closed in 1960, a year before Jackson Township combined with Harrison and Washington Township to form Montpelier Community Schools (Hartford, 1962) per unanimous vote (Vote, 1961).
On Indiana State Road 36, a modern, 16,000-square foot Jackson Elementary across North County Road 500-East from the former District 7 schoolhouse was completed in 1963 (New, 1964), equidistant from the old Dildine and Trenton schools and just three miles north of Millgrove. Subsequently, the Millgrove and Trenton schools closed, while the old Dildine school was purchased by a private party who converted it into apartments over the next several years (Routledge, 2001).
Under the terms of the new arrangement, grade-school students from Jackson Township attended early classes there, before moving on to the high school at Montpelier.
In 1969, high-school students of Jackson Township began attending classes at the new, $5.3 million, 56-classroom Blackford County High School just north of Hartford City (New, 1967).
Due to an ailing budget, the Jackson Elementary School -along with the Licking Elementary School, both part of the consolidated Blackford County Schools- closed in 1993 (Brown, 1993). In 1995, the former Jackson Elementary School became the new Blackford County Jail in a $3.4 million project that nearly doubled its size (Brown, 1994). The conversion of that property marked the last time students would attend classes in Jackson Township.
Today, the majority of the township’s K-6 students go to school in Montpelier before attending grades 7-12 at what’s now Blackford Junior-Senior High School. The Dildine school, converted into apartments, still stands in that state, while the Trenton School was demolished around 1995 (McBride).
The Millgrove school was abandoned in the mid-1990s after an attempt to convert it into a nursing home failed (McBride, 1997). Today, all that remains of the ninety-year-old building are portions of its walls.
The old District 4: Barr School -significantly altered- still apparently stands as a farm house.
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.
Hixson, W.W. (1905). Blackford County, Ind. map. Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.
A History of Blackford County, Indiana : with historical accounts of the county, 1838-1986 [and] histories of families who have lived in the county (1986). book. The Blackford County Historical Society. Hartford City, IN.
Farrell, J. (1962, June 28). Old-Timer Sighs For Frog Alley, Swamp College. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 13.
Spurgeon, W. (1994, March 18). Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
Centralization In Blackford County (1902, December 24). The Muncie Star. p. 6.
Album of Yesteryear (1994, February 27). The Muncie Star Press. p. 15.
McBride, M. (1997, March 24). Town has colorful history. The Muncie Star Press. p. 7.
To Transfer Pupils (1929, July 13). The Muncie Star Press. p. 3.
To Open School (1932, January 14). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 7.
School Closing Dates Are Set (1937, April 19). The Muncie Star Press. p. 2.
Hartford City (1945, August 27). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 3.
Hartford City (1942, September 4). 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 (1959, September 7). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 10.
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 Jackson School to Open on Monday (1964, February 23). The Muncie Star Press. p. 7.
Routledge, R. (2001, October 31). What a scary site! The Muncie Star Press. p. 5.
New Blackford County High School (1967, October 18). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 21.
Brown, D. (1993, May 13). Parents want to limit the shuffle of students. The Muncie Star Press. p. 1.
Brown, D. (1994, March 8). It’s a ‘go’ for Blackford County jail. The Muncie Star Press. p. 10.
McBride, M. (1997, June 2). A stop along the old Pan Handle enjoyed boom times. The Muncie Star Press. pp. 7-8.