Delaware County- Hamilton Township
As of 2021, I count four remaining schoolhouses in Hamilton Township.
Joseph Custer taught the first school in Hamilton Township during the winter of 1838-39 in a deserted cabin on the land of Thomas Reeves (Helm, 1881) near where Irving Materials is located today (Delaware, 2021). Around 1841, the first cabin intentionally erected to be a schoolhouse was built on George Shaffer’s farm. Other log schoolhouses followed, which were simple designs, 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).
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, Hamilton Township officials converted their extant subscription schools into free ones, simultaneously improving courses of study and hiring teachers that were more qualified.
As funds continued to grow, many of the old log schoolhouses were demolished and replaced by frame buildings, which later tended to be replaced by brick schools. In addition, schools opened across the township -generally every two miles- in order to provide an education to every student, not just those whose parents were able to pay a subcription. In accordance with this, the first Royerton school was erected at the northwest corner of Ann and Vine streets around 1880. A school at Shideler -which straddles the Hamilton and Union township line- was established that year as well to serve residents of both townships ( A View, 1880).
In 1881, Helm listed eleven schoolhouse open in Hamilton Township, five brick and six frame. Those schools were District 1- Slonicker, District 2- Stafford, District 3- Gerrard, District 4- Williamson’s, District 5- Center, District 6- Jake’s Creek, District 7- Weir, District 8-Abbott’s, District 9- Pleasant Valley, District 10- Royerton, and District 11- Shideler. That year, a new District 6 school was built on land donated by John Minton (Delaware, 1881).
1897 brought the construction of two new brick schoolhouses, a replacement for the frame Williamson’s school located about three-quarters of a mile north on the Muncie and Granville Turnpike (National, 1984), and a new District 10 school on Riggin Road, intended to serve students of both Hamilton and Center townships in similar manner to the Shideler school (Ellis, 1898). The year ushered in greater changes, though, stemming from Delaware County Superintendent of Schools Charles Van Matre’s trip to Wayne County to see the new consolidated school at Webster, which combined three buildings into one and “answered every purpose of the three (Kemper).”
Though Perry Township was the first to consolidate a school in Delaware County, Hamilton was the first to really dig in. Prior to 1898, the township’s districts were renumbered and Districts 1 and 4 -a two-year-old building— were abandoned during the fall of 1899, their students taken to the two-room school at Royerton by wagon (Kemper). District 8 closed the following year.
Four more districts -2, 5, 7, and 10- were all abandoned in 1901 (System, 1900). The intent was to combine every school in the township -aside from District 3 and the Shideler graded school- into Royerton (The Consolidating, 1903) since the two were situated inconveniently (Plan, 1901). The District 6 school closed in 1903.
By this point, Royerton was holding classrooms in two small buildings. In 1903, a four-room addition to one of them was constructed at the southern edge of the town. Costing $17,5000, the school was two stories with wide hallways on the second floor that converted into a 300-seat auditorium along with a lavatory and modern steam heating system in the basement. According to Kemper, (the advantages offered by the Royerton school [were] far and away superior to those afforded in the best district schools (1908).”
In 1904, the empty Royerton, Mud Creek, Weir, and McCulloch/Williamson schoolhouses were sold at auction along with several lots once dedicated to school purposes (Who, 1904). Also that year, the District 2 property was deeded back to Sylvester Stafford (Delaware, 1904).
By 1909, the Royerton Schoolhouse was bursting at the seams, and David Wingate -Hamilton Township Trustee- filed a petition seeking the condemnation of vacant ground adjacent to the schoolhouse so the building could expand (Wants, 1909). Seven years later, the closure of the District 3 Gerrard at the end of the 1915-16 school year (Delaware, 1916) compounded the problem, but relief finally came during the following year, when an addition to the structure, including two grade rooms, three classrooms, a library, and a gymnasium, was erected (Royerton, 1917). In 1923, the graded school at Shideler was the last schoolhouse to consolidate.
The expanded school at Royerton became outmoded by the 1930s. Just south of its site, a $171,000, two-story school was completed in 1938 that featured 12 classrooms on the first floor and nine on the second accommodated by an assembly hall. Additionally, the new school -completed as a Public Works Administration project- featured four shower, dressing, and locker rooms and a 1,800-person gymnasium/auditorium (Burgess, 1938).
In 1959, 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 in Delaware Township and Eaton High School in Union Township combined with Royerton to form the Delaware Metropolitan School District in 1967 with the 1938 Royerton building acting as the new district’s high school. The following year, the school-city of Albany joined the district.
Prior to the consolidation of township school districts, the 1903 Royerton school was demolished around 1961 (Brantley, 1967) and a new, 14-room Royerton Elementary northwest of the high school was completed at a cost of $510,000 (Royerton, 1965).
After many delays involving the private holding company whose job it was to finance and build it (Love, 1971), Delta High School opened in 1974, leaving the previous high school to become Nor-Del Middle School. A new Delta Middle School opened north of the high school ten years later, and the district abandoned the old structure at Royerton. In 1987, the former high school was finally demolished.
Today, the Delaware Community School Corporation operates Royerton Elementary, Delta Middle, and Delta High schools in Hamilton Township.
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.