Hamilton County- Wayne Township
As of 2022, I count four remaining schoolhouses in Wayne Township, along with the remains of a fifth.
The sites of Wayne Township’s first schools are mysterious, as two historic accounts differ on their placement and dates of operation. Helm’s history of Hamilton County, for starters, states that the first Wayne township school was started in a log cabin on Philip Carr’s farm during the winter of 1832-1833. It was taught by a Mr. Myers as a subscription school (Helm, 1880).
Haines’ history indicates that the first school was a subscription school held during the summer months on the farm of Charles Zeis, taught by Mary Finch. The second school, according to Haines, was in a cabin north of Bethel Church, taught by a Rebecca Finch until the structure burned down during its second term (Haines, 1915).
Haines believed that Wayne County’s first school conducted under a winter term was in a building erected by David Osborn on his farm, taught by Henry Scarce and, later, Theodore Gilleland and Thomas Scragg (Haines).
Whatever the case may have been, the early schools of Wayne Township were basic structures, simply built and generally 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).
Early schools were so simple largely due to a lack of money- Wayne Township has always been relatively rural, and, beyond Clarksville and Durbin, has never had a thriving center of economy to support a tax base. As first established, 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 (Helm, 1881). Generally, these revenues were insufficient to finance a township’s schools for more than two or three months at a time. Sometimes, classes were taught months in advance leaving teachers waiting for their wages.
The era of subscription schoolhouses ended in theory 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 finally available, officials began converting the existing log schools into frame ones, simultaneously improving courses of study, hiring teachers that were more qualified, and erecting new buildings when possible.
In 1854, public schools were erected at Districts 1 and 2 under trustees Dr. P.P. Whitesell, Abraham Nicholson, Thomas Richardson, Jacob Crull, and Jesse Fisher. By 1859, Wayne Township was home to eleven schoolhouses, a number that rose to thirteen by 1880 (Helm).
These schools included those in settlements like Clarksville, which was laid out in 1849 and featured an early schoolhouse probably known as Swamp College (Events, 1935) west of town that originally operated under the subscription model. The first schoolhouse in Clarksville proper was built in 1867 and initially operated under the subscription model (Haines, 1880) until declining enrollment forced it to revert to the status of a typical, common school.
Meanwhile, the town of Durbin was laid out in 1888 by S.B. Castor. Soon after its founding, the Wayne Township District 5 school sprung up in its southern reaches (Haines). The settlement quickly became Wayne Township’s commercial center.
Many, but not all, of the schools developed colloquial names aside from their district number. District 1, for example, was known as Willow Pond; while District 2 was called North Center due to its location, as well as Tick Ridge. The District 6 school was called Stevens based on the name of the landowners who deeded their property for the schoolhouse, and District 12 was known as the Fairview school.
The 1890s seem to have seen a building boom in Wayne Township. Among the structures erected that decade were a new District 9 schoolhouse at Bethel in 1891 (50, 1941) and a new Tick Ridge schoolhouse in 1892 (The Original, 1982). In 1898, a new, two-room school at Clarksville was constructed (Crow, 2010).
Evidently, the District 10 schoolhouse had been shuttered by the time a registry of township school teachers was published in 1891 (List, 1891). Ahead of the 1904-05 school year, though, the schools of districts 2, 5, and 8 were considered consolidated (Hamilton, 1904). The District 12: Fairview schoolhouse closed after the 1909-10 school year (Hamilton, 1909).
Wayne Township’s District 3 and 4 schoolhouses closed at the end of the 1915-16 school year (Hamilton, 1915). The District 9: Bethel schoolhouse closed after the 1917-18 school year, likely sending its students 1.7 miles east to Clarksville (Hamilton, 1917). Five years later, the District 6: Stevens school was next to close, after the 1922-1923 term (Hamilton, 1922).
In 1930, a modern, $45,000 (School, 1930) school was built at Durbin using bricks from the original schoolhouse (La Vigne, 1990). Its construction led to the closure of the remaining Districts 1, 2, 5, and 8 schoolhouses that year, and blackboards from several of the abandoned buildings were sold to Noblesville’s city schools (Meeting, 1930). The buildings themselves were sold at auction in 1940 (Notice, 1940).
1957 saw work begin on an addition to the Durbin school that increased the school’s size to six rooms and remodeled the auditorium, kitchen, and restrooms (Bids, 1957). As Wayne Township did not operate a high school, pupils of that age range chose to transfer to Lapel, Noblesville, Fortville, or Walnut Grove in order to graduate (La Vigne).
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 (Delaware, 1959). Five years later, the Wayne Township Consolidated School System merged with those of Delaware and Fall Creek Townships to form 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.
In 1978, Hamilton Southeastern contracted with architects Wright, Porteous & Lowe to build a 400-student elementary adjacent to the 1930 structure in Durbin, along with a larger schoolhouse at Cumberland Road north of 131st Street (Costigan, 1978). The school was abandoned in 1980 after the $2.5 million school was completed two years later. The old building was finally demolished in 1990.
Today, Hamilton Southeastern operates the modern Durbin Elementary as Wayne Township’s only open school. The old Willow Pond, District 7, Clarksville, and Fairview schools still stand, as do the bricks and cornerstone of the Tick Ridge school, albeit in a different format since the pieces of the demolished building were incorporated into a new house in 1975 (The Original). The old Stevens school, used for agricultural storage for many years after its closure, was torn down in 2016 or 2017.
Helm, T. B. (1880). With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. book, Kingman Brothers.
Haines, J.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, p. 252). 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 (pp. 268–269). 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.
Events Of Long Ago Recalled At A Reunion (1935, November 1). The Noblesville Ledger. pp. 1-5.
50 Years Ago (1941, October 7). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 4.
Crow, A. (2010, April 28). Historic Home and Structures of South Madison County. The Pendleton Times-Post. p. 8.
The Original Bricks (1982, August 23). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.
List of members of the Hamilton County Board of Education and names of teachers and their p. o. Addresses for the term of 1891-’92. Noblesville, IN.
Hamilton County Public Schools (1904). Teacher’s directory: names and addresses of officers and teachers of Hamilton County Public Schools, 1904-1905. Noblesville, IN.
Hamilton County Public Schools (1909). Teacher’s directory: names and addresses of officers and teachers of Hamilton County Public Schools, 1909-1910. Noblesville, IN.
Hamilton County Public Schools (1915). Teacher’s directory: names and addresses of officers and teachers of Hamilton County Public Schools, 1915-1916. Noblesville, IN.
Hamilton County Public Schools (1917). Teacher’s directory: names and addresses of officers and teachers of Hamilton County Public Schools, 1917-1918. Noblesville, IN.
Hamilton County Public Schools (1922). Teacher’s directory: names and addresses of officers and teachers of Hamilton County Public Schools, 1922-1923. Noblesville, IN.
School Buildings of the County (1930, September 5). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 5.
La Vigne, C. (1990, December 10). “Durbin demolition nearly finished.” The Noblesville Ledger. pp. 1-14.
Meeting of the City School Board (1930, September 25). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 6.
Notice of Sale of Township Abandoned School Properties (1940, March 18). The Noblesville Ledger. p. 5.
Bids Top Funds For Addition To Durbin School (1957, November 6). 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.
Costigan, A. (1978, October 7). “All County Schools Have New Construction” The Noblesville Ledger. p. 1.