Delaware County- Monroe Township

As of 2021, I count four remaining schoolhouses in Monroe Township.

District 1: Carmichael
District 3: Corinth
District 6: Lenox
District 7: Macedonia

Historic Overview

William Abrams taught the first school in Monroe Township in a log cabin on Robert Gibson’s farm near the modern intersection of Macedonia Pike and East County Road 550-S during the winter of 1830-31. In 1833, an abandoned cabin on the land of Samuel Heaton in the area of today’s Walnut Street between Fuson Road and the IN-67 bypass was home to a schoolhouse taught by a Mr. Corneel. As with many places, schools in Monroe Township were held in whatever abandoned cabin could be found until a purpose-built schoolhouse was constructed on Peter Olum’s farm in 1838 (Helm, 1881). 

Monroe Township’s earliest schools were of simple construction, 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). 

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). However, Monroe Township was progressive in comparison to its peers: In 1850, the schoolhouse on Olum’s farm became the site of a vote to establish a tax to fund a township-wide system of free schools. The measure was passed by two votes in a manner that headed off a state constitutional amendment that provided for public common schools two years later (Natali, 2007).

The new tax allowed the township to establish school districts, and it appears as though the new schoolhouse was built at District 3 in 1853 after Solomon Clevenger was paid $12.97 to do so (Helm). Though five schoolhouses existed already, Clevenger’s sixth was the first that wasn’t a hewed-log building. More frame structures followed suit, including two built at District 1 and District 5 in 1854 by Lewis Rees and Daniel Courtney, respectively. In 1856, Daniel Courtney was paid $725 to erect three schoolhouses, but the districts they were constructed in is unknown (Helm). Three years later, the Corinth Church was organized at the McKinney schoolhouse, a mile south of its current location (Greene, 1959).

The town of Cowan -originally McCowan’s station- was established in 1869 when the Big Four railroad was extended to its location. Named after early booster Charles McCowan (Baker, 1995), the village quickly became Monroe Township’s largest community. McCowan donated funds to establish a community building intended to hold church services on the first floor and school sessions on the second. According to Helm, the structure, called Union Chapel, was completed in 1881. The school stood at the northeast corner of Colfax Street and the now-nonexistent Bowslog Street, southeast of Cowan’s old Odd Fellows’ lodge, which still stands (Griffing, 1887).

Fewer than two miles south of Cowan, another community called Pleasant Hill sprung up around the same railroad after John Holsinger established it in 1873. Around 1880, the town changed its name to Oakville (Penticuff, 1996). 

A shared school between Monroe and Salem townships existed in the 1870s on the land of A.W. Ross that could have been labeled as Salem Township’s District 10 school in 1874. It was known as Sharp Top, and appears to have closed by 1881 (Greene, 1946).

In 1881, Helm listed nine extant schools in Monroe Township: District 1- Carmichael, District 2- West, District 3- Corinth, District 4-McKimmey, District 5- Cowan, District 6-Lenox, District 7- Macedonia, District 8- McLain, and District 9- Bowers. Ten districts are visible on an 1887 plat map of Monroe Township (Griffing).

A tornado smacked Oakville back to the stone age in 1884, but the town was quick to recover and, in the early 1890s, erected a three-room school immediately west of the present-day First Brethren Church  that served a newly-established District 11 (Hillman, 1989). It seems as though McCowan’s schoolhouse had closed by 1902, as it was listed as the “old school house” there in an article advertising Republican precinct meetings (Places, 1902). Another one, three stories with a belfry, was built in 1897.

The first school to consolidate in Monroe Township was District 6, which sent its students to Cowan in 1902. The following year, students from District 8 and 10 -a joint district between Center and Monroe townships- were sent to Cowan as well. After a law was passed in 1907 that obliged a township trustee to close any schoolhouse when its average attendance dropped below twelve pupils, students from District 2 were sent to Cowan. The following year, students at District 4 followed suit after the schoolhouse closed (Kemper). 

The District 3 school at Corinth closed after the 1912-13 school year, and in 1915, a new, $25,000 Cowan schoolhouse opened (Suits, 1915) with a commissioned high school (New, 1915).  By 1918, the Oakville school had been renumbered to take up District 8. It and the District 7 school at Macedonia served students from grades 1-8 while Cowan’s served grades up through 12 (Delaware, 1919). The Macedonia school closed after the 1921-22 school year, and Oakville reverted back to being known as District 11 before it too closed after the 1924-25 year. By that point, all of Monroe Township’s students attended classes at Cowan. Like many township schools did, Cowan’s 1914 building received an addition consisting of a new gymnasium, assembly room, and several classrooms that year. 

The current Cowan Jr./Sr. High School began as an addition to the 1914 structure and was connected to it via a hallway. As built, the $591,000 school contained thirty-two rooms, of which 14 were classrooms including an industrial arts shop and home economics facility. The large gymnasium provided seating for 1,716 spectators via permanent seating, though portable bleachers increased the gym’s capacity to more than 2,500 (Blosser, 1958). A north wing built to house elementary students was constructed in 1969. 

In 1976, a 600-student Cowan Elementary School was completed at a total cost of $2.3 million (New, 1976). The 1914 structure was razed the following year (Alumni, 1999). In 1994, a $5 million project to modernize the high school and add a library, cafeteria, band room, and new offices was completed (Cowan, 1994) after an ambitious, $7.7 million plan that included a new auditorium and swimming pool was rejected (Davies, 1993). In 2005, a $7 million project that included a new, three-court auxiliary gym and central office on the site of the 1914 school and attached to the high school via a similar hallway was completed (Cowan’s, 2005). 

Today the Cowan Community School District operates two facilities in Monroe Township- the 1958 Cowan Jr./Sr. High School and the 1976 Cowan Elementary.

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.

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.

Greene, D. (1959, September 15). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 6.

Baker, R. (1995). From Needmore to Prosperity: Hoosier Place Names in Folklore and History. (p. 104). book, Indiana University Press. 

Penticuff, D. (1996, October 28). Oakville life centers on elevator. The Muncie Star Press. p. 19.

Greene, D. (1946, March 22). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 6.

Hillman, R. (1989, April 24). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.

Places Where the Precinct Meetings Will be Held. (1902, January 9). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 4.

Suits Filed Involve Building of Cowan H.S. (1915, October 14). The Muncie Press. p. 8.

New Cowan School Open. (1915, January 12). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 6.

Delaware County Public Schools. (1918). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1918-1919. Muncie, IN. 

Blosser, D. (158, November 15). Open House to Be Held Sunday for New Cowan School Addition. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 12.

New Elementary School Is Dedicated at Cowan. (1976, May 17). The Muncie Star. p. 12.

Gibson, R. (1999, June 25). Alumni prepare to commemorate 100 years of Cowan High School. The Muncie Star Press. p. 7.

Cowan High School renovation about a week behind schedule. (1994, September 8). The Muncie Star Press. p. 7.

Davies, T. (1993, January 28). Public opinion split on Cowan school renovation. The Muncie Star. p. 6.

Cowan’s new gym open house Sunday. (2005, November 7). The Muncie Star Press. p. 4.