Delaware County- Harrison Township

As of 2021, I count six remaining schoolhouses in Harrison Township.

District 3: Brady/Maple Grove
District 4: Beech Grove
District 6: Bethel
District 8: Buncomb
District 9: Mt. Olive/Jaybird
District 11: Africa/Fairview

Historic Overview

Historian Thomas Helm believes that the first school in Harrison Township was held in a purpose-built cabin on the land of Job Garner during the winter of 1934-35 (1881). That year, another schoolhouse was established in a cabin on Archibald Parker’s farm that had previously been the home of his son-in-law near the modern-day routing of Lee Pit Road (Kingman, 1874). In 1840, Garner officially granted the township trustee a segment of his land for school purposes (Delaware, 1840). 

Schools such as these were simple designs, 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).

A rear view of the District 6 Bethel schoolhouse. Photo taken April 5, 2021. From the author’s collection.

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).

This all changed 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 Harrison Township converted their extant subscription schools into free ones, simultaneously districting the township, improving courses of study and hiring teachers that were more qualified.

Up until the 1860s and 70s, schoolhouses commonly served double-duty as houses of worship for itinerant congregations. The Olive Chapel Brethren Church originally used the first District 2 schoolhouse before erecting a sanctuary of their own (Helm), and the Mt. Olive Methodist Protestant Church utilized the frame District 9 school that had been built in 1867 (Mt. Olive, n.d.). Even the log schoolhouse on Job Garner’s farm was commandeered by early worshippers (Helm).

A view of the Harrison Township District 4: Beech Grove schoolhouse. Photo taken April 14, 2021. From the author’s collection.

In 1873, a brick Mt. Olive school replaced the original frame structure at the eastern edge of the township (Harris, 1988). Three years later, land was granted to construct a new District 4 schoolhouse (Delaware, 1876) to serve pupils living in the northeastern corner of Harrison Township. 1880 saw the construction of a brick school for District 3, which had not previously been served by a schoolhouse (Delaware, 1880) and by the following year, Helm listed twelve schoolhouses serving the area: District 1: “Lungdon”, District 2: McCreery, District 3: Brady, District 4: Beech Grove, District 5: Stringtown, District 6: Bethel, District 7: Center, District 8: “Buncum”, District 9: Mt. Olive, District 10: Sugar Grove, District 11: Africa, and District 12: Parker on the site of the 1834 school at Archibald Parker’s farm. In 1883, a brick District 11 schoolhouse was erected near the southwest corner of the township (Our, 1884).

It appears as though the District 8 schoolhouse closed -temporarily, at least- in 1896, which necessitated the construction of a new District 6 schoolhouse north of Bethel large enough to hold the students of both districts. The District 6 school, finished in 1898, became arguably the finest in the township thanks to its two stories, soaring bell tower, and gabled roof. By 1907, the school was accredited to serve students entering their first year of high school (Spurgeon, 1995). The District 4 school was also an impressive structure for the time, featuring an entrance hall, one large and two smaller cloak rooms, and windows that illuminated the classroom from the left and rear of the students there (Black, 1916).

The site of the District 7: Center or Null’s schoolhouse in Harrison Township. Photo taken September 7, 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, but aside from the brief dalliance with closing the District 8 school, Harrison Township lagged considerably behind. After the 1914-15 school year, the District 1 Langsdon school was the first to shut down (Delaware, 1914). Its students were likely sent to District 10, which stood just west of the building on what’s now known as West County Road 300-North (Griffing, 1887). The District 3 school -by then called Maple Grove (Greene, 1977)-shut down the following year (Delaware, 1915). 

Another view of the District 8 Buncomb school. Photo taken April 4, 2021. From the author’s collection.

The District 2: McCreery school was shuttered in 1917, followed by the District 8 school in 1918 (Delaware, 1918). Though the two-room Bethel school, the apparent-two-room Stringtown school (Album, 1978) and the large Beech Grove school were likely able to accommodate students from the closed schoolhouses with some success, it was clear that the township’s educational facilities needed to modernize and expand. That happened in 1925, when the new Harrison Township consolidated school was completed. All of the remaining schoolhouses in the township -including the District 7 school across Yorktown-Gaston Pike- closed in its wake. 

The Harrison Township school was built of pressed brick, stone, and concrete and originally measured 174 feet by 168 feet. Unique amongst its peers in other townships, the building was only one story, and it was designed with two entrances; the west doors led to the department housing grades 1-6 and the east doors provided access to the high school and an assembly room. The rear of the school featured a 1,000-person capacity auditorium/gymnasium combination that separated the two groups of students (Denny). In 1959, a $160,000 addition containing a cafeteria, drafting room, shop room, science laboratory, home economics room, bathrooms, kitchen and teachers lounge was completed (Delaware County, 1958).

The site of the 1925 Harrison Township consolidated school. Photo taken September 7, 2021. From the author’s collection.

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, Gaston High School combined with the Harrison Township High School to form the Harrison-Washington Community School District in 1966. A new high school located at Yorktown-Gaston Pike and Indiana State Route 28 was completed in 1966 with a gymnasium seating 2,400 students and an auditorium for 467. The total cost of the building, including renovations to the former Harrison Township High School to serve as an elementary building, were greater than $2 million (Smikel, 1966).

The Harrison Township School soldiered on, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2000 (Gibson) and serving elementary students until 2004, when it was closed. It was demolished shortly after, though the site is still used for Wes-Del athletic events. Today, the Harrison-Washington Community School District, now known as Wes-Del Community Schools, operates the Wes-Del Middle/High School in the 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, Indiana. (1840 February 6). Deed Book 4. p. 603.

Kingman Brothers. (1874). Map of Delaware County, Indiana. 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.

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.

Mt. Olive Community Church. (n.d.). The History and Heritage of Mt Olive Church. Mt Olive Community Church. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from 

Harris, B. (1995, July 23). A celebration of faith. The Muncie Star. p. B1.

Delaware County, Indiana. (1876 August 19). Deed Book 41. p. 410.

Delaware County, Indiana. (1880, July 19). Deed Book 46. p. 475.

Our County Schools and Matters of Interest Concerning Them. (1884, March 20). The Muncie Morning News. p. 3.

Spurgeon, B. (1995, May 25). Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. P. 4.

Black, E. (1917, June 8). Sketch and Views of Delaware County Schools. The Muncie Press. p. 6.

Delaware County Public Schools. (1914). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1914-1915. Muncie, IN. 

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

Greene, D. (1977, January 18). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.

Delaware County Public Schools. (1915). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1915-1916. Muncie, IN. 
Delaware County Public Schools. (1918). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1918-1919. Muncie, IN. 
Album of Yesteryear (1976, January 22). The Muncie Star. p. C-8.

Denny, L.W. (1925, June 5). New School To Be Real Center. The Muncie Morning Star. p. 12.

Gibson, R. (2000, April 23). Harrison School Celebrates 75 Years. The Muncie Star Press. p. 1B.

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

Smikel, F. (1966, August 25). Wes-Del Is Ready to Greet 540. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 6.