Delaware County- Mt. Pleasant Township
As of 2021, I count five remaining schoolhouses in Mt. Pleasant Township.
The first school in Mt. Pleasant Township was established during the summer of 1831 by David Kilgore, who held classes in an abandoned cabin on Jonathan Bentley’s farm. The following year, the township’s first purpose-built school -a hewed-log structure known as “Reed Schoolhouse” after landowner Cornelius Reed- was erected in Section 16 at the south side of the present-day West River Road half of a mile west of E. County Road 500-W. A Mr. Sargent was the first teacher there (Helm, 1881).
In 1841, the Mt. Pleasant Church was erected on a lot donated by James M. Van Matre, who specified that the building be used as both a place of worship and as the District 3 schoolhouse. The following year, Mt. Pleasant Township’s third school, “Antioch,” was built north of Yorktown with Andrew Danner serving as its first teacher. “McKinley” and Yorktown schoolhouses were built around the same time. According to Helm, John B. Brown served as the first teacher at Yorktown.
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, 1908). 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. Around 1840, revenue from the sale of public real estate was allocated to pay these subscriptions but it often wasn’t enough, with schools returning to the subscription system once the coffers ran dry (Helm).
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).” According to Helm, Mt. Pleasant Township implemented these changes in 1854 after its trustees received their part of the public fund and converted their extant schools into free ones, along with improving their courses of study and hiring teachers with higher qualifications. In 1854, a new, frame schoolhouse at Yorktown was built on a lot that founder Oliver H. Smith, set aside for that reason.
In 1871, the old Mt. Pleasant school closed when a new church was erected on land donated by P.A. Helvie. In 1884, a two-story brick schoolhouse at Yorktown was erected, and Mt. Pleasant Township was home to nine schoolhouses: District 1: Nebo, formerly McKinley; District 2: Antioch; District 3: Lincoln, previously Shepherd; District 4: Sycamore, a two-room school; District 5: Walker’s; District 6: Liberty, formerly known as Reed; District 7: Center; District 8: Yorktown; and District 9, Kilgore. An 1887 county plat map by Griffing, Gordon, & Company shows the same arrangement across the township (Griffing, 1887). In 1898, a brick, four-room school with a sixty-five foot tall belfry (Sanborn, 1902) was built at the corner of West High and South Broadway streets in Yorktown.
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, and Mt. Pleasant followed much later. The District 9 school was first to close in 1908 (Delaware, 1907), followed by the Nebo school in 1910 or 1911, which consolidated into Cammack. In 1912, a four-room, brick schoolhouse was built at the site of the wood-frame Sycamore school (History, 1956), which may have absorbed the Walker and Liberty schools which both closed the following year.
The Center schoolhouse closed in 1919 and its pupils were likely sent to Yorktown where, in 1922, the schoolhouse underwent a dramatic transformation by adding a 40×70 foot gymnasium, an assembly room, five classrooms, and offices (Bids, 1922) during a project that also covered its exterior brick with stucco and eliminated the building’s tower and hipped roof. Two years later, the one-room Lincoln school closed. Facing dwindling attendance due to its rural location, the Sycamore school closed after the 1935 school year. Cammack closed in 1936 as the final non-consolidated school in the county.
By the early 1950s, the 1898 school was overcrowded and dilapidated. In 1952, the township purchased 24.5 acres on the east edge of Yorktown at the site of an abandoned Strawboard factory (‘Strawboard Site’, 1952). However, construction of a new school proved politically contentious. In 1954, Township Trustee Ray Miller -emboldened by reports of plaster and glass falling from the ceiling- issued a statement calling the structure “a fire hazard…in danger of collapse (Yorktown, 1954).” Three days later, a Circuit Court order shut the school down for ten days. During the school’s closure, State Fire Marshall A.H. Meister examined the building, also calling it a “fire trap…like many others in Indiana” though he declined to make a judgment on the building’s overall condition (Judge’s, 1954).
Construction finally began on a consolidated Mt. Pleasant Township School in 1954, around the time the vacant Sycamore and Liberty schoolhouses were razed (History). Designed by Muncie architects Hamilton and Graham, the building was completed in 1956 and consisted of a 2,300-seat gymnasium financed by the township and educational wings with eighteen elementary classrooms, fifteen high school classrooms paid for by a holding company (Gym, 1954).
H.L. Black of the Indiana Fire Marshall’s office ordered the 1898 school demolished in March of 1956 (State, 1956), and its contents and surplus materials were auctioned off the following month. The school was torn down later that year after no proposals to purchase the building, appraised at $3,000, were made (No Offers, 1956).
Despite the 1956 school’s massive size, it soon proved too small. In 1958, four elementary classrooms were added to the building’s northeast side, followed by 16 more and a small gymnasium in 1964.
A second elementary school, Pleasant View, was completed in 1967, while the following year brought a new, $3 million Yorktown High School that included an Olympic-sized swimming pool, an auditorium, and a planetarium, features that led The Muncie Star to call the structure “truly a super-deluxe model” compared to others in the area (McKinsey, 1968). The old Center School, converted to a home and then used by the Free Will Baptist Church, was razed the following year after the congregation completed their current church building.
New libraries at Yorktown Elementary and Middle School -the 1956 high school- were added in 1972. The old Walker schoolhouse was demolished in 1975 and replaced by a modern home (Yorktown-Mt. Pleasant, n.d.)
Today, students from grades K-2 attend Pleasant View while those in grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 go to Yorktown Elementary, Middle, and High schools. Each of the structures have been substantially altered over the years. In 2021, the original high school portion of the 1956 school was demolished to make way for a new addition. The gymnasium and elementary wings still stand, as do the Cammack, Lincoln, Kilgore, and 1880 Yorktown schoolhouses.
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, pp. 237–237). 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.
Griffing, B. N. (1887). Mt. Pleasant Township. An atlas of Delaware County, Indiana . map, Philadelphia, PA; Griffing, Gordon, & Company.
Sanborn Map Company. (1902). Yorktown. Insurance Maps of Muncie Indiana. map, New York, NY; Sanborn Map Company.
Delaware County Public Schools. (1907). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1907-1908. Muncie, IN.
History of the Mount Pleasant Township School System. (1956). Delaware County Historical Alliance. p. 1.
Bids for Yorktown’s New High School Will Be Received April 1. (1922, March 20). The Muncie Evening Press, pp. 1–1.
‘Strawboard Site’ Purchased for New Yorktown School. (1952, March 2). The Muncie Star, p. 1.
Yorktown Mother Takes Children From ‘Fire Trap’. (1954, February 3). The Muncie Evening Press, p. 1.
Judge’s Decision on Yorktown School Awaits State Reports. (1954, February 12). The Muncie Star, p. 1.
Gym, High School, Elementary Buildings to Be Built at Yorktown. (1954, March 24). The Muncie Star, p. 1.
State Orders Old Yorktown School Razed. (1956, March 29). The Muncie Star, p. 5.
McKinsey, D. (1968, July 18). New Yorktown High School Nears Completion. The Muncie Star, p. 29.
Greene, D. (1969, September 26). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star, p. 4.
Yorktown-Mt. Pleasant Township Historical Alliance. (n.d.). Walker School. Yorktown, IN.