Madison County- Fall Creek Township
As of 2021, I count three remaining schoolhouses in Fall Creek Township, along with the remains of one that was demolished shortly before I went to it.
Fall Creek was the first township settled in Madison County, but no one is sure of where, exactly, the first schoolhouse was located or when it was built. It appears as though a variety of simple schools were built and utilized during the township’s earliest days (Forkner, 1914).
These early schools were simply built, 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. 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).
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, Fall Creek Township officials presumably began converting the existing log schools into frame ones in 1854 (Kingman), simultaneously improving courses of study, hiring teachers that were more qualified, and erecting new buildings when money was available.
By 1874, the township was home to fourteen schoolhouses valued at a total of $8,000 including their grounds (Harden, 1874). Unfortunately, most of the common names of these schoolhouses seem lost to time aside from several named after their locations -like District 11: Mendon, District 3: Spring Valley, and District 7: Huntsville- and two known by the names of the farmers who deeded their land; District 5: Lukens, and District 13: Gregory (American, 1901).
By 1897, the township was home to eleven schoolhouses outside of Pendleton, which separately operated two school buildings- a two-story brick structure built in 1864 as the Pendleton Academy, along with a large, two-and-a-half-story building (Sanborn, 1908) erected at the southeastern corner of South East and East High Streets in 1895 (Forkner & Dyson, 1897).
Of the first frame schoolhouses constructed under the provisions of the law, only one was in use as late as 1880. In 1876, the township’s first two brick schoolhouses -in District 5 and District 1- were built, followed in rapid succession by several more (Forkner). A second District 5 school was built in 1889, and a new District 11 school at Mendon was erected six years later. 1898 saw the construction of a new brick schoolhouse for District 12, and an enlarged District 3 structure at Spring Valley was finished in 1902 (Jackson, 2021).
Despite the spate of new construction, it was shortly after the turn of the century that the schools of Fall Creek Township began to contract in consolidation. Most did so prior to 1906, when the Gregory schoolhouse was abandoned and the Lukens school consolidated into Spring Valley (Elwood, 1906). The following year, the township trustee contracted with Pendleton to send the remainder of the township’s rural students to the town’s consolidated school in an agreement that closed Districts 10, 11, and 12 (More, 1907). Evidently, a lack of due diligence on the township’s part was uncovered more than two decades later when the township trustee realized that District 3: Spring Valley and the District 7 school at Huntsville were still operating under township jurisdiction. In 1927, the matter was taken to court (School, 1927). The conflict was settled two years later upon the election of a new trustee of Fall Creek Township (Controversy, 1929).
The Pendleton school received an east-facing addition of a new gymnasium and assembly hall in 1914 (Final, 2011). In 1927, the District 3: Spring Valley school closed down when its students were sent to Pendleton, but it reopened a year later as result of a petition circulated around the district (Will, 1928). It closed again shortly after, as did the school at Huntsville, which was shuttered in 1931 and whose seven students were sent down the road to attend classes at Pendleton (Huntsville, 1931).
In 1937, a new, three-story Pendleton-Fall Creek Township High School designed by architect Ernest R. Watkins of Anderson and built using Public Works Administration Funds was dedicated south of the old high school (Final). Featuring 43,250 square feet of space and a 686-seat auditorium, the new school was accompanied by a large, detached gymnasium with a wide, gambrel roof (Dedicate, 1937). Later that year, the old high school -by that point known as the North Building- was remodeled to hold elementary classes grades 1-6 (Remodeling, 1937), creating a K-12 campus just northeast of the heart of Pendleton that served all of Fall Creek Township’s students.
This arrangement lasted for more than twenty years. In 1958, 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). As a result, the school townships of Fall Creek, Green, and Adams merged to create South Madison Community Schools in 1965 (Wynant & Marsh, 1969). A new school serving the entire district, Pendleton Heights, was completed in 1969 at the junction of Indiana State Roads 38 and 67.
Upon the completion of Pendleton Heights High School, the 1936 structure became Pendleton Heights Middle School and the 1895 school became part of its campus. In 1985, an enormous project to demolish the 1895 structure, surround the gymnasium with classrooms, and add two stair towers and an elevator to the 1936 school was completed (Final). In 2009, a new Pendleton Heights Middle School was built northeast of the high school at the corner of Indiana State Route 38 and South County Road 300-West (Griffin, 2008). The completion of the new school led the 1985 addition to the gymnasium to become Pendleton Elementary Intermediate School; the 1936 high school was vacated.
Despite a study by Ratio Architects that determined the 1936 High School to be structurally sound, it was demolished in 2014 after the school board unanimously voted to raze it in 2012 (Hirsch, 2014). As of this writing, the old building is still visible on Google Street View, but its location has been turned into a parking loop and an expanded area for the cafeteria of Pendleton Elementary’s Intermediate School. A double-arch, erected in 1985 to pay tribute to the North Building as part of the 1985 project to refit the campus still stands just north of the site, as does the 1937 gym, now encased within classrooms on all sides.
Today, one-room schoolhouses still exist at District 3, District 5, and District 12, while the District 11 schoolhouse at Mendon was demolished during the summer of 2021. The South Madison Community School Corporation operates four schools within the township: Pendleton Elementary’s Primary Building, Pendleton Elementary’s Intermediate Building, Pendleton Heights Middle School, and Pendleton Heights High School.
Forkner, J. (1914). Historical Sketches and Reminiscences of Madison County, Indiana. book. Anderson, IN.
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). 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.
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.
Harden, S. (1874). History of Madison County, Indiana, from 1820 to 1874. book. Markleville, IN.
(1908) Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Pendleton, Madison County, Indiana. Sanborn Map Company. map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.
Forkner, J. & Dyson, B. (1897). Historical Sketches and Reminiscences of Madison County, Indiana. book. Anderson, IN.
(1901). Fall Creek Township. An atlas of Madison County, Indiana. map, Cleveland, OH; American Atlas Company.
Jackson, S. T. (2021, February 8). Local folks risked their freedom to help runaway slaves. The Herald Bulletin. Retrieved December 25, 2021 from https://www.heraldbulletin.com/opinion/steve-jackson-column-local-folks-risked-their-freedom-to-help-runaway-slaves/article_67f3d412-6269-11eb-8702-ef001392de5d.html.
Elwood is Leading In School Enumeration As Might Have Been Anticipated (1906, May 18). The Elwood Call-Leader. p. 3.
More Schools To Be Consolidated (1907, August 23). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
School Controversy Is In Court After Peaceful Methods Failed (1927, August 18). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Controversy Is Over (1929, August 21). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Final Study 1936 Pendleton High School Reuse Study (2011, January 31). Ratio Architects. Town of Pendleton, Indiana.
Will Open School (1928, October 11). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Huntsville School is Vacant This Year (1931, September 16). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 4.
Dedicate New Gym (1937, January 11). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Remodeling Old School (1937, August 9). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 3.
Wyant, M. & Marsh, J. (1969 August 8). A Teacher’s Dream Turns Into Reality. The Anderson Daily bulletin. p. 8.
Griffin, D. (2008, August 21). Roundabout plans come full circle. The Pendleton Times-Post. p. 1.
Hirsch, S. (2014, June 11). Pendleton school demolition resumes. The Anderson Herald-Bulletin. Retrieved December 28, 2021 from https://www.heraldbulletin.com/news/local_news/pendleton-school-demolition-resumes/article_b49b5b0e-b11e-5927-8ed7-1183985a738f.html.