Delaware County- Perry Township
As of 2021, I count five remaining schoolhouses in Perry Township.
Perry Township was home to Delaware County’s first schoolhouse. In 1827, a school was built on Aaron Richardson’s land east of the community of New Burlington (Kemper, 1911). A large stone marks its place today despite being far from the original structure, which was located “in a trackless [sic] forest one half mile west” of the marker (Daughters, 1927). The building was basic, 20 feet square and built of chinked round logs (Greicus, 1948). Inside, puncheon benches were set up around the sides of the building facing a fireplace that spanned the length of the structure.
The first schoolhouse, like many of its peers, did not have windows. Instead, greased paper admitted light through a narrow slit in the wall where a log had been cut away. This school was left standing for years after others replaced it and was demolished to make room for the residence of Samuel Weidner when he bought the tract of land it was located on (Helm, 1881). Legend has it that Indian Jim, the last of the Delaware tribe in this area, hewed the building’s walnut logs with a broad-axe (White, 1932). This is disputable, though a Native American named James Musco commonly known by that moniker did live in Perry Township until his death in 1873 (McBride, 2000).
No one really knows who first taught at the first school. It seems to be either William Rowe or Aaron Richardson (Helm). What is known, though, is that another schoolhouse was constructed on what was then known as the Stouder farm (Helm) in 1828 or 1829. Shortly after, schoolhouses were erected around the township. A schoolhouse on the land of William Felton, for example, was erected at Mt. Pleasant in 1839 (Delaware, 1839). Others followed.
The 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).
That arrangement 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.
Perry Township established school districts shortly after the new constitution passed, and the first schoolhouse to be built under its provisions was at District 4 on the Lewis Rees farm (Helm). Later numbered as District 3, a brick structure seems to have replaced it in 1859 (Delaware, 2021). In 1857, the schoolhouse at Mt. Pleasant was replaced by a larger structure (Shideler & Teal, 2019).
In 1875, Albro G. Gates granted a portion of his land to Perry Township in order to build a school close to the center of the township (Delaware, 1875). The following year, Joseph Hewitt deeded a chunk of his land to Perry Township for the purpose of building a schoolhouse at District 6 at an area that had previously been unserved (Delaware, 1876a) and John Lindsey granted land for a brick schoolhouse on what’s now the northeast corner of East County Road 575-South and South County Road 800-East (Delaware, 1876b) to replace an older building two miles to the southwest (Kingman, 1874).
Helm reported twelve schools, all of them brick, in his 1881 history. Amongst them were the District 4: Burlington school, the District 5: Mt. Pleasant school, and the District 9: Center schoolhouse. The rest seem not to have had colloquial names; it’s possible that they were simply referred to by their district number or by the name of the original landowner.
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 when, as an experiment, the seven pupils of the District 7 school sent its students to District 8 with no expansion of teaching staff or facilities. The following year, a high school was established at the store building in New Burlington, then Perry Township’s largest community. Unfortunately, the arrangement was not satisfactory for residents of Mt. Pleasant two miles to the south, so a frame addition with an open belfry was made to the Center schoolhouse to allow for the instruction of grades 9-11 (Ball State, 2019). When the students from districts 2, 6, 7, and 8 petitioned the trustee to allow for their consolidation into District 9 in 1902, the high school room was partitioned in half creating, a unique three-room schoolhouse (Kemper).
In 1903, Districts 2 and 6 withdrew their consolidation efforts and were re-established before combining with District 9 the following year. Districts 3 and 4 consolidated into the Center schoolhouse in 1905, and District 1 followed suit in 1906 (Kemper).
A new District 9 school known, like its predecessor, as Center School, was also completed in 1906. With four rooms, an auditorium, and four teachers, the school offered eleven grades. During its first year, one student graduated and, in 1916, Center added a twelfth grade in order to offer a full course of accredited high school classes (Spath, 2006).
The Mt. Pleasant school, renumbered to District 6, closed for good after the 1920-21 school year. That year, a two-story, brick addition consisting of an auditorium/gymnasium, high school assembly room, library, bathrooms, and two classrooms was completed at the north side of the building (Notice, 1921). In 1949, a 2,500 square-foot concrete block building that housed agricultural and farm shop classes was completed to the east of the schoolhouse. That year, ninety entries in the Delaware County 4-H Corn and Small Grain Show exhibited in the structure (4-H, 1949).
Center was always a small school- its largest graduating class was in 1937, when thirty students got their diplomas (Spath). 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 that met both minimum requirements were Muncie Community Schools and Yorktown (Delaware, 1959). As a result, the Center school merged with Liberty Township’s Selma High School in 1964.
In 1965, a 35-acre plot near the Liberty Township community of Smithfield was chosen as the new site for a Liberty-Perry consolidated high school. The new high school, called Wapahani, opened in 1967 and the Center School was razed later that year (Farrell, 1967).
Despite its demolition, the Center school still stands today, albeit the one built in 1875 across the road from the one people still remember. After the 1906 structure opened, the frame high school addition was removed from the old one-room schoolhouse in order to convert it to a home for the school’s janitor (Ball State). Today, it’s still a home, and the 1949 agricultural building and some concrete still sit across the street on the site of its successor.
Perry Township’s District 3 schoolhouse was demolished in the spring of 2022.
White, C. (1932, August 1). Discover Descendents of Pioneer Settlers. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 3.
McBride, M. (2000, January 31). Muncie’s last Indiana wouldn’t leave. The Muncie Star Press. p. B1.
Daughters of the American Revolution, Paul Revere Chapter (1927). The First School House in Delaware County. Muncie, Indiana.
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
Greicus, A. (1948, April 14). County’s First Schoolhouse Built in 1827. The Muncie Star. p. D1.
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. (1839, May 18). Deed Book 4. p. 177.
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.
Delaware County Office of Information & GIS Services. (2021). Parcel ID: 1232300005000. Delaware County, Indiana Assessor. map, Muncie, IN.
Shideler, T., & Teal, K. (2019, July 17). Lost Selma. Facebook.
Delaware County, Indiana. (1876, October 28). Deed Book 39. p. 611.
Delaware County, Indiana. (1876, June 5). Deed Book 39. p. 288.
Delaware County, Indiana. (1876 April 13). Deed Book 40. p. 486.
Kingman Brothers. (1874). Map of Delaware County, Indiana. Chicago, IL.
Ball State University Libraries. (2019). Center School students and faculty. Ball State Digital Media Repository. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from https://dmr.bsu.edu/digital/collection/CtrSchl/id/3238/rec/65.
Notice of Letting Contracts for Construction of Additions to School House and For a Heating and Plumbing System for Same. (1921, January 11). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 7.
4-H Small Grain Show Held. (1949, December 21). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 2.
Spath, C. (2006, February 4). Past times. The Muncie Star Press. p. 3C.
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. (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.