Delaware County- Liberty Township
As of 2021, I count one remaining schoolhouse in Liberty Township.
The start of formal education in Liberty Township is thanks to John Moore, who in 1831 sent his son William to go receive an education at a school in Wayne County where an uncle lived (Kemper, 1908). According to Helm, the school was closed when William arrived, so he was “compelled to trudge home through the mud, no wiser than he went (Helm, 1881).” The experience led the elder Moore to establish a schoolhouse in an abandoned cabin he purchased from Washington Downing. In 1832, Moore moved the cabin to the southern end of his land and, funded by subscriptions, opened the school that year with Samuel Collier as the first teacher (Helm). Moore’s schoolhouse was near the present-day intersection of Sciscoe Road and East County Road 200-S (Delaware, 1832).
That winter, another abandoned cabin -this time on the farm of Asahel Thornburg near Smithfield- was made into a schoolhouse taught by Anderson R. East (Kemper). Seven years later, a third schoolhouse, located in the northeastern part of the township near the Albany Road, was taught by Amos Meeks (Helm). Today, Selma-Albany Pike is better known as North County Road 650-E (Shideler & Lappin, 2021). Some have called the schoolhouse on Selma-Albany Pike the first iteration of a Selma schoolhouse (Spath, 2007), though the town wasn’t platted until 1862.
Early schoolhouses such as these tended to feature 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). The reason that the early schools were so simple, frankly, boils down to 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.
This system changed entirely 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).” Liberty Township implemented these changes ”as soon as practicable (Helm), converting all of their old subscription schools to free ones. The log and frame structures were used as free schools until enough accumulated funds made the construction of new brick schoolhouses possible.
The first brick schoolhouse in Liberty Township was District 11, built in 1862 at Knoxville on the northwest corner of the modern-day Inlow Springs Road and South County Road 575-E. District 8 (Smithfield) was built in 1864, followed by a two-story, four-room schoolhouse in Selma (District 5) that was constructed four years later. In 1870, the Truitt -later Graham- and Snow schools, Districts 9 and 10, joined the township, and District 1 -Mt. Pleasant- followed two years later. The District 6 Mud Valley schoolhouse came in 1873, followed by District 3 Maple Grove in 1875, District 7 Friedline in 1877 and District 2, Orr, in 1878. Fourteen years later, the Mt. Tabor school was built at the west side of the cemetery it took its name from (Greene, 1965). Though some schools moved away from their initial locations, their overall arrangement was more or less finalized by the mid-1880s (Griffing, 1887).
In 1897, Delaware County Superintendent of Schools Charles Van Matre 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)”. Liberty Township began consolidating its one-room schools in 1901, although the Graham School had already been abandoned some years earlier given its proximity to Selma. In 1901, Districts 10 and 4 were shuttered, their students attending Selma as well.
The following year, Districts 2 and 3 petitioned the Selma school to take on their students, and officials in Selma obliged. 1903 brought the closure of District 1, and in 1904 a three-room school costing $20,000 was completed at Selma (New, 1904), allowing for the consolidation of more one-room schoolhouses. In 1905 students from Districts 7 and 11 were sent to Selma, while Districts 6 and 8 shut down in 1906. That year, the former schoolhouses of districts 1, 2, and 3 were sold at auction, as were the grounds of number 10 on which no building stood at the time (Schools, 1906). The closure of the District 9 school in 1907 meant that all of Liberty Township’s students attended classes at Selma (Kemper).
In 1924, the Liberty Township Consolidated School at Selma received a major, $75,000 addition that featured a gymnasium/auditorium that seated 660 people as well as additional accommodations that expanded the building’s size to eighteen classrooms, with room on-site for manual training, agricultural, and domestic sciences that were “modern in every detail (Selma, 1925).”
1955 brought a new 12-room elementary school at the northeast corner of East and Muncie streets in Selma in order to alleviate congestion at the 1904 facility. Four years later, 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 that met both minimum requirements were Muncie Community Schools and Yorktown (Delaware, 1959). As a result, the school districts of Liberty and Perry townships merged in 1964, the same year that Effie Bush closed the grocery store she operated out of the old Smithfield School (Kirby, 2001).
In 1965, a 35-acre plot half a mile southeast of that schoolhouse was chosen as the new site for a Liberty-Perry consolidated high school, while 15 acres at the site of the old Knoxville schoolhouse were chosen for a new elementary to serve grades 1-6 from Perry Township (Brantley, 1965). Both schools -Wapahani High School and Perry Elementary- were completed in 1967, and the 1904 Selma High School was transformed to serve students from both townships in grades 7 and 8 (Farrell, 1967). Perry Township’s consolidated Center School was razed later that year.
A new, $3.1 million Selma Middle School at the Wapahani site was completed in 1980 and despite efforts to save the old District 5 High School for use as a community center (Ball State, 1980), the structure was demolished the same year. The 1967 Perry Elementary closed in 2010 and is now being used by a church.
Not much is known about the fate of the demolished ten schoolhouses in Liberty Township. The old Mt. Tabor school was badly damaged in a windstorm on June 16, 1912, its roof torn off and its western gable blown away (Storms, 1912). It’s likely that any trace of the Knoxville school was demolished when Prairie Creek Reservoir was constructed. The District 2 Orr schoolhouse was still standing as late as 1979 (Aerial, 1979).
Kemper, G. W. H. (1908). Education in Delaware County. In A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County, Indiana, Volume 1 (Vol. 1, pp. 96–97). 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.
Delaware County, Indiana. (1832, August 17). Deed Book 1. p. 122
Shideler, T., & Lappin, M. (2021, August 24). What road out by Smithfield/Selma is Albany Road? personal.
Spath, C. (2007, August 11). Early township residents established schools. The Muncie Star Press. p. 4D.
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.
Greene, D. (1965, January 18). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
Griffing, B. N. (1887). Mt. Pleasant Township. An atlas of Delaware County, Indiana . map, Philadelphia, PA; Griffing, Gordon, & Company.
New School for Selma. (1904, June 14). The Muncie Evening Times, p. 4.
Schools Run Smoothly (1906, September 13). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 10.
Selma School Now Complete. (1925, May 25). The Muncie Morning Star, p. 10.
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.
Kirby, K. (2001, November 5). Schoolhouse icon of community. The Muncie Star Press. pp. 1B-2B.
Brantley, B. (1965, December 22). High School Site at Smithfield Chosen. The Muncie Star. p. 1.
Farrell, J. (1967, July 25). Center School, County Landmark, to Be Razed. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 1.
Storms Hit Muncie and Vicinity. (1912, June 17). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 8.
Aerial_photo_reference_grid_1979: 34. (1979). photograph, Muncie.