Delaware County- Delaware Township

As of 2021, I count four remaining schoolhouses in Delaware Township, including two within the Albany town school system’s old limits. There may be a fifth, but the jury’s still out on that one.

District 1: Albany
District 1: East Side (Albany)
District 5: Sharon
District 9: Valley College

Historic Overview

The history of education in Delaware Township is fractious in similar manner to Center Township’s in that for most of its existence, the town of Albany operated its own school system separate from the rest of Delaware Township (Grabill, 1961). This arrangement led Albany, like the Muncie high schools, to be excluded from the county basketball tourney (Lemasters, 1973) as an example, and outside of Albany’s limits, school consolidation centered around Desoto.

The first school in Delaware Township was taught by Joseph Godlove, who lived north of the village of Sharon, around 1835. Godlove used his kitchen as his classroom (Helm, 1881). In 1836, a cabin that had been the residence of William Venard near the center of Albany was used as a schoolhouse, and the following year a purpose-built schoolhouse was built on Adam Keever’s farm two miles south of Albany (Ellis, 1898).

These early schools were simply built, 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. 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).

The era of the subscription school 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, officials in Delaware Township converted their extant subscription schools into free ones, simultaneously districting the township, improving courses of study and hiring teachers that were more qualified.

The first schools built under the provisions of the new law were at District 2 near where Godlove’s school had been established, District 6 east of the White Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church, and District 9 on the land of Thomas Myers. Enoch Current and John Bortsfield built the schools at Districts 6 and 8 for $275 each and John H. Ellis was paid $290 to erect the schoolhouse at District 2 (Ellis).

An alternate view of the District 5: Sharon schoolhouse. Photo taken April 14, 2021. From the author’s collection.

Aside from the adoption of Indiana’s 1851 constitution, there was no event more significant to the livelihood of Delaware County’s common schoolhouses than Charles Van Matre’s trip to the town of Webster in Wayne County. In 1897 Van Matre, the county’s superintendent of schools – along with trustees Thornburg and Hollinger- ventured thirty-five miles south to see Webster’s newly-consolidated school, which combined three buildings into one and “answered every purpose of the three (Kemper)”. 

In Delaware County, Perry Township was the first to consolidate in 1898. That year, Delaware Township had eleven schoolhouses aside from Albany’s, all of them brick except for two recently-built frame structures at District 9: Valley College and District 11: Desoto (Ellis). Starting in 1900, Districts 4, 8, and 9 began petitioning District 11 to allow them to send their pupils there, but the frame schoolhouse was too small to accept that many students and it wasn’t until 1905 that Delaware Township began to consolidate its schools, sending the pupils of the District 2: Stafford schoolhouse to Albany. That year, District 4 was combined with District 9 although the resulting school wasn’t graded, and District 8 was combined with District 11 (Kemper).

An alternate view of the District 9: Valley College schoolhouse east of Desoto. Photo taken January 18, 2015. From the author’s collection.

A 1907 law that obligated township trustees to shutter schoolhouses with fewer than twelve pupils led to the closure of the District 10 schoolhouse; its students were sent to Albany (Kemper). The following year, a consolidated school at Desoto was dedicated, absorbing the students of Districts 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 11 (Patrons, 1908). The school at District 7 was not originally intended to consolidate at that time, but it burned down prior to the start of classes (Kemper).

The new Delaware Township School at Desoto -a near-replica of Perry Township’s Center School with two brick stories, four rooms, and an auditorium- cost $13,000 (Ask, 1907).

In the District 3 schoolhouse on Muncie-Granville Pike closed after the 1911-12 school year (Delaware, 1912). The District 6 school at the southwest corner of what’s now North County Road 800-East and East County Road 500-N followed suit after the 1918 school year, when Mable Tharp was teacher (Delaware, 1917).

A gymnasium and high school classrooms were added to the rear of the Desoto schoolhouse in 1923 (Normal Notes, 1923). Thirty-five years later, a new Desoto Elementary School was finished to house students from grades one through six. As originally built, the school cost $182,000 and consisted of six classrooms, offices, a clinic, and a kitchen (Delaware, 1958).

The 1972 addition to the 1958 Desoto Elemntary School. Photo taken September 24, 2021. From the author’s collection.

The following year, 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. The only districts in the county that met both minimum requirements were Muncie Community Schools and Yorktown (Delaware, 1959). As a result, Desoto High School merged with, Royerton High School in Hamilton Township and Eaton High School in Union Township in 1967 to form the Delaware Metropolitan School District. A major addition to the Desoto Elementary School was completed in 1971 (Metro Board, 1970) and the old Desoto High School was demolished the following year (Grand, 1972).

The site of the Delware Township consolidated school at Desoto. Photo taken September 24, 2021. From the author’s collection.

The Desoto Elementary School closed in 2011 (Roysdon, 2011) and was recently home to the Delaware Christian Academy. Today, the Delaware Community School system operates one school, Albany Elementary, in Delaware Township.

An alternate view of the former Albany schoolhouse. Photo taken January 24, 2015. From the author’s collection.

Several schoolhouses existed in Albany prior to the present building. The first, after William Venard’s cabin, was established on the east side of South Water Street just north of Albany’s modern-day Lions Club building (Town, n.d.). In 1887, two schoolhouses served the town, catty-cornered from one another on the northwest and southeast corners of West State Street and North Delaware Street (Griffing, 1887). The school at the southeast corner, built as a church, still stands, and the larger of the two may have later become the passenger depot of the Muncie & Portland Traction Company (Bilger, n.d.). A graded schoolhouse that replaced both structures was erected in 1889 (Town). In 1893 Albany was expanded east of Halfway Creek and an East Side Public School was erected shortly after. It still stands.

An alternate view of Albany’s East Side Public School. Photo taken April 29, 2021. From the author’s collection.

The graded schoolhouse was condemned in 1913 (Albany, 1913), and it appears that it was either heavily reconstructed or replaced outright in 1915. 1927 brought the addition of a gymnasium and several high school classrooms (The Albany, 1953). In 1958 a $225,000 elementary school was built just east of the old structure, consisting of eight classrooms, a teacher’s lounge, kitchen, multipurpose room, clinic, and offices to serve grades 1-6 (Delaware, 1958).

In 1963 Albany’s school board agreed to a plan that saw it join Redkey and Dunkirk schools through a proposed new structure in Jay County’s Richland Township (Albany, 1963). This didn’t happen. Five years later, though, Albany’s schools joined the Delaware Metropolitan School District. Albany’s High School was transformed into a middle school and it closed it 1980. The school was demolished that year, though its bell was saved and put on display in the adjacent elementary school (Satterfield, 1980).

In 1982, Albany Elementary School received a 21,000 square-foot addition that consisted of a library, music room, art room, conference areas, testing facilities, a gymnasium, an a teacher’s lounge that cost $1.7 million (Mason, 1982).

References

Grabil, M. (1961, August 15). School Bond Deadline Set. The Muncie Star. p. 1.

Lemasters, R. (1973, January 14). Yorktown Tigers Win County Tourney, 76-48. The Muncie Star. p. C1.

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.

Ellis, J. S. (1898, August 17). Our County. Its History and Early Settlement by Townships. The Muncie Morning News. p. 6.

Kemper, G. W. H. (1908). Education in Delaware County. In A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County, Indiana, Volume 1 (Vol. 1, pp. 237–237). 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.

Patrons Celebrate. (1908, April 11). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 9.

Ask for new bids on Desoto School. (1907, July 8). The Muncie Press. p. 1.

Delaware County Public Schools. (1912). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1912-1913. Muncie, IN.

Delaware County Public Schools. (1917). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1917-1918. Muncie, IN.

Normal Notes. (1923, November 24). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 12.

Delaware County Reflects Growth With School Construction (1958, November 30). The Muncie Star. p. A-9.

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.

Metro Board Approves Plans for New DeSoto School (1970, March 27). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 11.

Grand Opening. (1972, July 2). The Muncie Star. p. 1.

Roysdon, K. (2011, March 16). County needs to cut $2-3M. The Muncie Star Press. p. 1.

Town of Albany, Indiana. (n.d.). A brief history of Albany, Indiana. Albany, Indiana. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from https://albanyin.com/about-albany/.

Griffing, B. N. (1887). Delaware Township. An atlas of Delaware County, Indiana . map, Philadelphia, PA; Griffing, Gordon, & Company.

Bilger, N. (n.d.). CHAPTER 21. Indiana Railroads. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from http://www.indianarailroads.org/interurbans/remnants/larryslist/21UnionTrac.htm.

Albany schoolhouse condemned by board. (1913, April 23). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 12.

THE ALBANY SCHOOL building. (1953, March 28). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 16.

Albany O.K.’s School Plan (1963, March 15). The Muncie Evening Press. pp. 1-2.

Satterfield, E. (1980, September 10). Del Com Schools Show Decine in Enrollment. The Muncie Star. p. 18.