Delaware County- Center Township

As of 2021, I count three remaining schoolhouses in Center Township. A fourth burned in 2019.

District 5: Moore/Water Works
District 7: Reese
District 12: Orphan’s Home
District 14: Whitely

Historic Overview

Early history of the Center Township’s educational structure outside of Muncie is muddled since most sources focus on the development of schools within the city’s expanding limits. By 1874, twelve districts had been laid out across the township (Kingman, 1874), though actual classes were not necessarily conducted in all of them. 

As with other townships, Center’s earliest schoolhouses were primitive constructs often 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.Prior to 1840, 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. That year, proceeds from real estate transactions began to partially fund the subscription, but once the money dried up for the year each schoolhouse reverted back to the subscription model (Helm, 1881).

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, township officials typically began converting their extant log or frame subscription schools into free ones, simultaneously improving courses of study, hiring teachers that were more qualified, and erecting new buildings when money was available.

The 1926 Eugene Field school, now the headquarters of Arrowhead Plastics Engineering. Photo taken August 10, 2021. From the author’s collection.

Unfortunately due to the lack of early information it’s probably easiest to garner an understanding of the schoolhouses of Center Township by starting with the Griffing, Gordon & Company county plat map that was published in 1887 and lists ten extant schoolhouses there. Starting from the northeast side of the township and following a serpentine motion, those were as follows: District 1- Priest. District 2- Conn. District 3- McClellan/Phillips; later known as Andersonville. District 4- Shaffer/Hazel College. District 5- Moore/Water Works. District 6- Madden/Macedonia Pike; later known as Industry. District 7- Reese. District 8- Bishop/Clay College. District 9- Mound/Fair Grounds. District 10- Hurst/Middletown Pike/Field. 

During the next twenty years, a handful of suburbs sprung up outside of Muncie’s boundaries and Center Township built several new schools to accommodate the residents there. One was at Boyceton, District 11, located in an industrial neighborhood established by James Boyce near the intersection of East Jackson and South Leland Avenue (Boyceton, 1888). South of Boyceton, a schoolhouse was erected in the suburb of Whitely in 1893 ((Whitely, 2016). Two years later, a frame schoolhouse was erected in the neighborhood of Congerville at the northeast corner of South Elm and 19th Streets (Spurgeon, 1995). In 1898, a new, two-story, frame District 8 schoolhouse known as Forest Park and located west of Port Avenue on Eighth Street was completed (The Township, 1898).

The year 1900 saw the opening of a new District 7 school in the community of Riverside (Loss, 1900), and around the same time further west of that a two-story, frame District 15 school was erected in Normal City at the northeast corner of West Jackson and East Calvert Streets (Sanborn, 1902). A new, brick Congerville school designed by Fort Wayne architects Wing & Mahurin was finished in 1902, the same year that the District 5 Water Works and District 10 schools were expanded (The Building, 1901), and the District 11 Boyceton school was abandoned in favor of the Whitely schoolhouse. Beginning that year, a portion of the students from the Mound and Andersonville schools were sent to Riverside. 

By 1903, the twelve schoolhouses of Center Township reached an all-time high number of regular enrollments, with Whitely school reporting 253 pupils followed by Roosevelt at 232, Riverside with 179, Normal City’s 171, Water Works with 96, Forest Park at 90, Hazel College with 64, Hurst/Field’s 56, Orphans’ Home at 47, Conn at 36, Priest with 30, and Phillips/Andersonville with 28 students altogether. (High, 1903). 

The 1915 Forest Park school. Photo taken August 10, 2021. From the author’s collection.

The following years were times of improvement and expansion, along with some later retraction as the greater areas of Center Township were annexed by the city. This period also saw, generally speaking, new Center Township school named after poets and Muncie’s new city schools named in honor of politicians. The phenomenon started after the Roosevelt school at Congerville was erected. In 1905, a substantial, brick structure called the Longfellow school was erected at the corner of North Broadway and East Highland streets (School, 1905) as a replacement for the twelve-year-old Whitely building. Three years later, a brick Normal City schoolhouse named in honor of poet John Greenleaf Whittier was completed (School, 1908) at the present site of the College Avenue Methodist Church. It absorbed the students of the former West Side and Hazel College schoolhouses.

North of the city, the James Whitcomb Riley School opened on Center Pike in 1914, displacing the District 2 Conn schoolhouse nearby (Opening, 1914). In 1915, a $15,000, brick, four-room Forest Park schoolhouse with manual training and domestic science departments was completed two blocks west of the old frame structure, which was discarded (New, 1915). For a brief time, the school was known as Wilson Elementary school (Dedication, 1939), and it was added to Muncie’s city schools following the 1917-18 school year.

The $50,000, eight-room Robert Louis Stevenson school opened in 1918 at the northeast corner of S. Mock Avenue and East 18th Street, taking pupils from the District 6 and District 7 schools (Stevenson, 1918), which were closed. The Riverside school -by then known as Emerson- was annexed by the city of Muncie after the 1918-19 school term (Delaware, 1918), as were the Roosevelt, Longfellow, and Whittier schools. 

The 1921 Wilson Jr. High School, now senior apartments. The brightly-colored portion is home to the Maring-Hunt branch of the Muncie Public Library. Photo taken August 10, 2021. From the author’s collection.

The 1920s saw more changes. In 1921, Center Township finished the construction of a new centralized high school building known as Woodrow Wilson High School. Initially, the school was intended to serve students residing south of the railroad -presumably the New York Central tracks that angle through town across Kilgore Avenue and leave Muncie south of Indiana State Road 32 (School, 1922)- but it as it happened, Wilson never actually functioned as a high school serving grades 9-12.

In 1926, a new District 10 Eugene Field school was completed that replaced the previous structure and even used some of its bricks. That year also saw Stevenson become a city school (Council, 1926) after Muncie annexed its territory. Wilson and Riley schools were annexed by Muncie following the 1928-29 school year while Whittier closed after its district was absorbed by the new Burris Laboratory School, leaving Eugene Field as the final Center Township school, a role it would play for nearly three decades (Delaware, 1928).

In 1957, Center Township and Muncie Schools agreed to consolidate into one district called the Muncie Community School Corporation effective during the 1958-59 school year (Bump, 1957). Immediately prior to the consolidation, a new Center Township elementary school, Claypool, opened north of East Jackson Street near the Mayfield neighborhood in 1958. On January 1st of 1959, Claypool and Eugene Field were added to the Muncie Community Schools. 

The 1958 Claypool Elementary School, now home to Head Start. Photo taken August 10, 2021. From the author’s collection.

Longfellow, Eugene Field and Stevenson were the first former township schools absorbed into Muncie’s district to close, which they did in 1973 when Stevenson’s students were sent to the newly-constructed Grissom Elementary School and Field’s were split between Grissom and Morrison-Mock. Students at Longfellow were sent to the 1954 ‘East’ Longfellow school, and the old schoolhouse was demolished to make way for the Roy C. Buley community center. 

1984 saw the closure of Riley, which had been expanded in 1955, and Forest Park, which had been enlarged in 1938 and 1952. Students at Riley were dispersed across the modern Anthony, Northview, and Washington-Carver schools, while the pupils of Forest Park were split between the Southview and Westview elementary schools (Terhune, 1984).

Wilson Middle School, which had been expanded in 1928, 1955, and 1965, closed in 1995 after its students were sent to a new structure south of town that is now the Delaware County Justice and Rehabilitation Center. A decade later, Claypool -the last remaining former Center Township School in use- closed for good. 

The 1955 addition to the Riley school still stands on North Walnut Street in Muncie though the original building does not. Photo taken March 3, 2019. From the author’s collection.

Claypool, Wilson, Forest Park, and Eugene Field are all still standing, as is the 1955 addition to the Riley school erected during its time under the Muncie Community Schools roster. Claypool is currently home to Head Start, and the oldest portions of Wilson have been separated into senior apartments while the modern wing serves as the Maring-Hunt branch of the Muncie Public Library. The old Forest Park school is now home to the Muncie Delaware County Senior’s Center, and the former Eugene Field school serves as the headquarters of Arrowhead Plastic Engineering’s fiberglass plant. Since its closure, the modern portion of the Riley building has served as an alternative school, head start, and several other purposes.

Though it was built several years after the District 7: Riverside/Emerson school consolidated into Muncie’s city district, the lintel and date block of the second Emerson school, which was demolished in 1981, are visible on site on what’s now the Emerson Dog Park on North Pauline Avenue in Muncie. 

As of 2021, Muncie Community Schools operates six elementary schools: Grissom, Longfellow, Northview, Southview, Westview, and the East Washington Academy. Two middle schools -North Side and South Side, both former high schools- and one high school, Muncie Central, also serve the community, as does Burris Laboratory School which is operated by Ball State University.

References

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.

Delaware County Office of Information & GIS Services. (2021). Parcel ID: 0725100004000. Delaware County, Indiana Assessor. map, Muncie, IN.

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.

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.

A view of the schools. (1880, March 30). The Muncie Daily Times. p. 2.

Delaware County, Indiana. (1881 October 23). Deed Book 49. p. 254.

National Register of Historic Places. (1984, December 27). Hamilton Township Schoolhouse No. 4. National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. United States Department of the Interior.

Ellis, J. (1898, July 13). Our County. The Muncie Morning News. p. 6.

System was successful. (1900, April 25). The Muncie Times. p. 5.

The consolidating of Delaware County schools progresses (1903, June 28). The Muncie Morning Star. P. 9.

Plan is successful. (1901, September 21). The Muncie Evening Times. pp. 1-8.

Who wants to buy school houses? (1904, January 9). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 2.

Delaware County, Indiana. (1904 December 29). Deed Book 116. p. 224.

Wants tract of land condemned for school. (1909, July 22). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 1.

Hamilton Township School at Royerton to Open Soon. (1911, August 23). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 6.

Delaware County Public Schools. (1915). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1915-1916. Muncie, IN. 

Royerton school to be dedicated Wednesday; State Supt. Coming. (1917, November 27). The Muncie Press. p. 12.

Burgess, D. (1938, February 5). Progress in Education in Royerton Schools Dates Back To Early Leaders; Dedicate New Building Next Friday. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 12.

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.

Brantley, B. (1967, April 2). It’s Spring in Muncieland!. The Muncie Star. p. 2-D.

Royerton Plans Elementary Building. (1965, October 15). The Muncie Star. p. 36.

Love, N. (1971, July 11). Long-Delayed Construction of New Delta High School to Start Soon? The Muncie Star. pp. 1-8.