Hamilton County- Delaware Township
As of 2022, I count one remaining schoolhouses in what was Delaware Township before Carmel and Clay Township merged in 1954.
Delaware Township’s first school was taught in a cabin on Abraham Williams’ farm during the winter of 1830. Williams and a neighbor, Joseph Eller, were the sole patrons of the school, as their children were the school’s only students. Two years later, a township school taught by a Mr. Lynch was erected, and two years after that another school was built just east of Farley Cemetery as the precursor to Delaware Township’s District 6 schoolhouse. 1838 saw another school open in a cabin on George Wise’s farm near the site of White Chapel Church. It was taught by Joseph Gore (Helm, 1880).
These early schools were simply built, generally measuring no larger than twenty by twenty feet. In fact, the first school built at what’s now Carmel -erected by Quakers in 1833- was so basic that it used a bedsheet for a door until more lumber could be obtained (Haines, 1915). 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).
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, 1881).
The era of the subscription school 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, officials in Delaware Township converted their extant subscription schools into free ones, simultaneously districting the township, improving courses of study and hiring teachers that were more qualified.
From 1837 to 1874, the city of Carmel was nothing more than a rural rail outpost known as Bethlehem. The 1833 school there, held in a meetinghouse known as Richland on the site of what’s now Carmel Cemetery, was expanded in 1835 before being replaced several years later by a new Richland School at the northwest corner of Rangeline and Smoky Row Roads. The Quakers erected a larger, frame school on the same site before a two-story, brick, Carmel Academy was completed just south of the cemetery in 1867 (Our, n.d.). The Quaker congregation leased the schoolhouse to the township, which apparently began operating it as a township school in 1869 under the name of Richland High School (Ambrogi, 2019). The school educated an average attendance of 107 students in subjects as diverse as geography, arithmetic, grammar, elocution, algebra, geometry, German, and French (70, 1939).
In 1872, a stop on the Peru & Indianapolis Railroad was platted by Salathial Fisher. It became known as Fisher’s Switch or Fisher’s Station and, soon after, a school was established in the community.
By 1877, Delaware Township was home to seven schools, including District 2, known as Heady; District 3, called Dawson’s or Hazel Valley; District 5 at Fishers Station; District 6, called Blue; District 7 at White Chapel; District 8 at East Liberty; and the Carmel Academy/Richland High School (Sixty, 1937). The following year, the trustees of Delaware and Noblesville Townships established a joint district for students who lived further than could reasonably accommodated from the Heady and Laudig schools in the two areas (The New, 1878).
A consensus about the name of the school at Carmel seems to have been established by 1882, when it was first referred to as Carmel High School (Ambrogi). Five years later, a new schoolhouse at Carmel was built on what’s now 1st Avenue Southeast just east of Rangeline Road.
The year 1900 brought the closure of the District 2 school and the opening of a District 1 school at the community of New Britton, along with a newly-established District 12 school, a frame structure known as Spannuth that was jointly-operated with Noblesville Township (Hamilton, 1900). Around this time, Delaware Township entered into a similar agreement with Clay Township regarding the operation of the school at Carmel.
The following year, a superintendent of schools for either the county or the state visited Delaware Township. He was of the opinion that the region benefitted greatly by having a graded high school at Carmel and Fishers on either side of the township, and that the arrangement could be further improved by building a graded or two-room school near centrally-located Mattsville to take the place of the District 6 and 7 schoolhouses. Furthermore, the superintendent believed that the students of District 3 could be transported by wagon to Carmel and, with an addition, send the students of Districts 1 and 8 to Fishers (Educational, 1901).
Some of this plan was actually carried out: A new, two-room District 6 schoolhouse, also called Blue, was completed in time for the 1904-05 school year, leading to the closure of the old Districts 3, 6, and 7 buildings (Teachers’, 1904). The following year, ownership of the school at Fishers was transferred from the township to the town as a new, $22,000 building with a four-story bell tower was erected (Haines), and by the start of the 1907 school year, only Districts 6, 8, and 12 -which had closed previously prior to the 1902 school year- were in operation by the township. The new, eight-room Fishers High School —complete with a manual training department and large science laboratory- was dedicated on December 4, 1908 (Fisher’s, 1908). After just two years, the District 12 school was closed again before the 1909 school year, while the old Dawson/Hazel Valley school was sold at auction the following year (Notice, 1910).
The West Liberty school, District 8, closed prior to 1915, which left the District 6: Blue schoolhouse the last in the township. It, too, closed after the 1920-21 school year (Blue, n.d.), the same year a $1.6 million brick consolidated school opened in Carmel to replace the 1887 structure there (Dedication, 1921). At Fishers, a $45,000 addition built by the N.A. Earl Company consisting of a gym, two classrooms, and an assembly room was added to the school there in 1930 (Appropriate, 1930). The Blue schoolhouse was sold at auction on May 11, 1941 (Will, 1941).
In 1954, the trustees of Clay, Delaware, and Fall Creek Townships failed to pass a referendum that would have combined all three of Hamilton County’s southernmost townships into one school district. Later that year, an effort to combine Carmel, Fishers, and the Clay Center grade school passed, leading to the creation of the Clay-Delaware Consolidated Schools of Hamilton County (Seek, 1954). The following year, the state senate passed a measure that reduced the minimum size of a township from 24 to 12 square miles, which permitted Delaware Township to be divided along the White River so that the western portion could join Clay Township.
The bill was passed to accommodate the unique situation brought by the school arrangements of Hamilton County’s southernmost townships: Delaware Township had two high schools, Fall Creek Township had no schools, and Clay Township had one grade school, though attempts were underway to construct schools in both of the latter districts (Senate, 1955). After this measure passed, the Carmel Clay consolidated school corporation was created, which removed Carmel High School from Delaware Township’s purview (Our).
The Delaware Township Advisory Board began planning an addition to the Fishers school in 1956, originally discussing a four-room expansion that also included a cafeteria and kitchen (First, 1956). Four years later, ground was broken for a larger construct that consisted of six classrooms and a multi-purpose room (Ground, 1960).
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. Five years later, the schools of Fall Creek Township consolidated with those of Delaware and Wayne Townships to become the Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation.
Initially, high-school students of the new district attended classes at Fishers. A new, $2.3 million Hamilton Southeastern High School that contained 41 classrooms, an auditorium, gymnasium, swimming pool, cafetorium, and a planetarium (Progress, 1966) was completed in 1967. The fifty-nine year-old Fishers High School was torn down the same year (Historical, 1973), though the 1960 addition was retained as Fishers Elementary School, which has since been expanded.
Southern Hamilton County experienced explosive population growth around the turn of the century. As a result, a new Fishers High School was constructed in 2003 as the first brand-new high school built in Indiana in thirty years (Fishers, 2006). Opening in phases, the first portion of the $90 million school at the southeast corner of 131st Street and Promise Road served as a freshman campus with sophomores, juniors, and seniors attending classes at Hamilton Southeastern. Though it was planned to allow enough expansion for tenth and eleventh grades to be added to the school for the 2006-07 school year with seniors attending classes in 2008 (Renze-Rhodes, 2003), all of the school’s intended students were able to occupy the building in 2007. A third wing, containing the school’s College and Career Academy, was added in 2015.
Today, the Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation and Carmel Clay Schools operate fourteen elementary, middle, junior high, intermediate, and high schools in the historical boundaries of Delaware Township, which extends east from Rangeline Road in Carmel to Cumberland Road in Fishers. The only extant schoolhouse is the old District 6: Blue school, just southwest of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, though Delaware Township’s West Liberty schoolhouse, District 8, operated for a time as a chicken dinner restaurant by Paul and Virginia Brown (Neal, 1978).
Helm, T. B. (1880). With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. book, Kingman Brothers.
Haines, John F. (1915). History of Hamilton County, Indiana: Her People, Industries and Institutions. book, B.F. Bowen & Company.
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.
Helm, T. B. (1881). History of Delaware County, Indiana: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. book, Kingman Brothers.
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.
Our Alma Mater In History (n.d.) Carmel High School Alumni Association. Retrieved July 19, 2022 from https://www.carmelhighschoolalumniassociation.com/chs-history.html.
Ambrogi, M. (2019, September 27). Carmel High School celebrating 150th anniversary this year – to everyone’s surprise. Current in Carmel. Retrieved July 19, 2022 from https://www.youarecurrent.com/2019/09/27/carmel-high-school-celebrating-150th-anniversary-this-year-to-everyones-surprise/.
70 Years Ago (1939, February 4). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 4.
Sixty Years Ago (1937, May 11). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 4.
The New Union School House (1878, June 7). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.
Hamilton County Public Schools (1900). Teacher’s directory: names and addresses of officers and teachers of Hamilton County Public Schools, 1898-1899 [and 1900-1901]. Noblesville, IN.
Educational Items (1901, December 13). The Hamilton County Ledger. p. 1.
Hamilton County Public Schools (1904). Teacher’s directory: names and addresses of officers and teachers of Hamilton County Public Schools, 1904-05. Noblesville, IN.
Hamilton County Public Schools (1909). Teacher’s directory: names and addresses of officers and teachers of Hamilton County Public Schools, 1909-10. Noblesville, IN.
Fisher’s High School (1908, December 8). The Hamilton County Ledger. p. 2.
Notice of Sale of School House and Lot (1910, September 16). The Sheridan News. p. 8.
Blue School. Carmel Clay Historical Society. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from http://www.carmelclayhistory.org/blue-school
Will Sell The Old Blue School Building (1941, March 22). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.
Dedication Exercises of Carmel School Building (1921, October 6). Pamphlet. City of Carmel images. Retrieved July 19, 2022 from https://images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/V0002/id/5818/rec/3.
Appropriate Program For New Fishers School Building (1930, March 18). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.
Seek Consolidate Clay, Delaware Schools (1954, June 4). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.
Senate Bill May Help Local Schools (1955, February 23). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.
First Step in Fishers School Addition Taken (1956, July 13). The Indianapolis News. p. 21.
Ground Broken for Fishers School Addition (1960, September 24). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.
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.
Progress Report On Construction Of New Southeastern High School (1966, October 6). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.
Historical Calendars on Sale (19783, October 10). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 13.
Fishers plans expansion for new $90M high school (2006, July 20). WTHR. Retrieved July 19, 2022 from https://www.wthr.com/article/news/fishers-plans-expansion-for-new-90m-high-school/531-089ac576-fe53-4d08-aa49-eba2f756f864.
Renze-Rhodes, L. (2003, July 29). Debut is near for Fishers High. The Indianapolis Star. p. 5.
Neal, G. (1978, June 5). West Liberty: Gone But Not Forgotten. The Noblesville Ledger. p. 4.