Delaware County- Salem Township
As of 2021, I count six remaining schoolhouses in Salem Township.
The first schools in Salem Township were established earlier than many others in surrounding townships. The earliest we know of was on the farm of David Van Matre, which was in progress during the winter of 1828-29 near the present-day corner of South County Road 700-W and the Henry County line, southwest of the Cross Roads community (Helm, 1881). According to Helm, Elza B. Watkins was the first teacher.
In 1830, John Van Matre built a log school on his farm nearby. With classes taught by James Perdieu, this was the first purpose-built schoolhouse in the township, and it was followed by a school taught by Reverend Abner Perdieu in an abandoned cabin donated by James Jones. This later became known as the original District 1, White Oak schoolhouse (Kingman, 1874). Another schoolhouse with some provenance was erected in 1833-34 on Henry Miller’s land, a site which later became home to Salem Township’s District 7 Center school (Kemper, 1908). Daleville, the township’s largest community, was settled during the 1820s and platted in 1838. As the community grew, a frame schoolhouse was erected near the center of town.
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). Probably typical of its peers, the White Oak school featured a large, portable blackboard positioned over a foot-tall platform where the teacher stood. Benches were arranged around the side walls (Tuttle, 1933).
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. Schools were forced to return to the subscription system yearly once the coffers ran dry (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, Salem Township officials converted their extant subscription schools into free ones, simultaneously improving courses of study and hiring teachers that were more qualified.
In 1870, a new Walnut Grove school east of Daleville was completed, followed by a brick Warner schoolhouse that was erected in 1875. The next year saw the completion of a new White Oak school that replaced the previous log structure there, and the Moffett schoolhouse was constructed in 1880 (Delaware, 2021a) around the time that a township-wide redistricting changed the classifications and locations of several schoolhouses.
In 1881, Helm relates that the township operated twelve schoolhouses. These were District 1- White Oak; District 2- Pike’s Peak; District 3- Goodpasture’s; District 4- Daleville “Upper;” District 5- Daleville “Lower;” District 6- Walnut Grove; District 7- Center; District 8- Moffett’s; District 9- Davis; District 10- Cross Roads; District 11- Mt. Healthy; and District 12- Warner. At the time, Cross Roads, Daleville, and Mt. Healthy were wooden structures.
1891 was a year of substantial change for Salem Township’s schools. The schoolhouse at Cross Roads was graded (Helm), a new, brick building at Mt. Healthy was completed (Delaware, 2021b), and a substantial, two-story brick schoolhouse with an impressive steeple was built in the heart of Daleville adjacent to the earlier frame school (Another, 2013).
Despite the banner year for school improvements, 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 and a Salem Township resident- 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 it didn’t take Salem Township long to follow suit. In 1900, the Mt. Healthy school became the first to close, sending its students to Cross Roads. The following year, the unusually-named Pike’s Peak school closed as well, with some of its students attending the decade-old, four-room building at Daleville.
Salem Township’s schools did not consolidate in an orderly manner. In 1903, the Pike’s Peak school -apparently named after a family moving from Virginia to that mountain in Colorado camped overnight nearby- reopened. To take its place, the Davis schoolhouse closed to consolidate into Cross Roads that same year (Helm), and the Center school shut down as well, sending students to Daleville and Cross Roads in equal amounts. In 1904, the District 8 Moffett’s school closed in order to send its students to Cross Roads, and the Center school reopened in 1905, taking in the former Moffett’s students from Cross Roads.
A new law passed during the spring of 1907 necessitated that any school with fewer than twelve students be consolidated and that was the end of the Warner school. Its students were sent to Daleville (Kemper), where a two-story brick schoolhouse was completed in 1911 at the whopping cost of $20,000 (New, 1910).
The completion of the new Daleville school caused problems in Cross Roads, where the high school employed three teachers. Deciding that one high school in the area was enough, though, the township trustee cut one of the teacher’s from Cross Roads. In response to local protest, Superintendent Van Matre filled the vacancy by advancing one of the grade-school teachers there to teach the upper grades (Auditor, 1910).
1912, 1914, and 1915 saw the permanent end of the Pike’s Peak, Walnut Grove, and Center buildings (Delaware, 1915), which all consolidated into Daleville. The White Oak school closed in 1919, and the closure of the Cross Roads schoolhouse the following year meant that the students of Salem Township were finally unified under one roof. A large addition, including a gymnasium, was added to the rear of the Daleville school in 1921 (Students, 1921).
The Cross Roads schoolhouse survived as a polling place for several years after its closure (Where, 1922) before it was demolished in the 1930s by George Kilmer, who used its timbers to build the Land O’ Nod restaurant and inn next to his Kilmer Car and Tractor Company on US-35 southeast of Mt. Pleasant (Good, Good, & Kendall, 2019). That building can still be seen today.
There’s no record as to what became of the old Pike’s Peak school, but it appears to have been demolished prior to the 1940s (Auditor’s, n.d.). In 1947 -forty-four years after it was shuttered- the former Davis schoolhouse -then on the James Landess farm- blew over in a freak windstorm (Old, 1947).
In 1954, Salem Township completed a new Daleville Junior and Senior High School for $545,000. Intended to be used for the upper six grades with its predecessor retained as an elementary school, the building originally featured twenty classrooms a cafeteria, areas for industrial arts and home economics, and a gymnasium that sat 1,800 spectators (New, 1954). A $1.2 million Daleville Elementary School just south of the high school was finished In 1972, resulting in the closure of the 1911 structure (New, 1971).
The ruins of the Goodpasture school appear on aerial photography as recently as 1979, but any extant record of the building has since been removed (Aerial, 1979). Though the 1911 Daleville school was razed in the 1980s, its successors still stand as intended, continuing to serve students despite several additions.
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.
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.
Tuttle, W. (1933).“Memories of White Oak School Days.” pamphlet. Scott Printing 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.
Delaware County Office of Information & GIS Services. (2021). Parcel ID: 1412153016000. Delaware County, Indiana Assessor. map, Muncie, IN.
Delaware County Office of Information & GIS Services. (2021). Parcel ID: 1417376001000. Delaware County, Indiana Assessor. map, Muncie, IN.
Another view of the 1891 school building, Daleville, Indiana. Word has it that the frame building was the Daleville School building the brick one replaced. (2013, June 11). Post. Daleville, Indiana History. Facebook group, Daleville, IN.
Delaware County Public Schools. (1915). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1915-1916. Muncie, IN.
New Daleville School. (1910, June 25). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 3.
Auditor will name trustee. (1910, December 27). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 2.
Students Go With Team. (1921, November 5). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 10.
Where You Will Vote Tomorrow. (1922, November 6). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 3.
Good, R., Good, K., & Kendall, B. (2019, September 16). “Remember When- Perry Township”. personal.
Auditor’s Section Plats 1940s: 33 (2021). Delaware County Office of Information & GIS Services. map, Muncie, IN.
Old Schoolhouse Blown Down. (1947, January 31). The Muncie Evening Press. P. 1.
New Daleville School Nears Completion. (1954, August 17). The Muncie Star. p. 1.
New Daleville Elementary School. (1971, March 18). The Muncie Evening Press. pp. 1-3.
Aerial_photo_reference_grid_1979: 34. (1979). photograph, Muncie.