Madison County- Lafayette Township
As of 2021, I count eight remaining schoolhouses in Lafayette Township.
The earliest schoolhouse in Lafayette Township was built in 1840 on what was later known as the Patrick Ryan farm, taught by John Pennisten (Forkner & Dyson, 1897). The schoolhouse was a log cabin, and others were soon built sporadically around the area.
Early schools like Lafayette Township’s first 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).
In 1844, the Florida United Methodist Church was established as a Sunday school in a log cabin, probably that first schoolhouse (Union, 1969). At some point around this time another log schoolhouse was established near the corner of what’s now West Cross Street and North Madison Avenue (Jackson, 2012).
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, Lafayette Township officials 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.
The first frame school was built at what was later established as District 7 on the same site as that first log schoolhouse in the township (Jackson, 2009). Other frame schoolhouses sprung up as well before they were supplanted by brick buildings.
The history of Lafayette Township’s schools is somewhat intertwined with the schoolhouses of Anderson Township, given their proximity. In 1871, Anderson Township’s Trustee, Samuel Myers, built a new, one-room brick school at the east side of what was then called the Florida Turnpike and is now known as Indiana Avenue about two football fields south of Township Line Road, now called Cross Street. It was designated as Anderson Township’s District 3 school, otherwise known as Mount Hope. Due to the school’s then-remote location, though, many students of Lafayette Township attended the school over the years, and the Lafayette Township Trustee even supplied two teachers (Jackson, 2012).
In 1874, a new District 7: Meade school was built, followed by District 3’s Salem schoolhouse in 1875 and the District 6: Free school built the following year. A brick school called Closser, District 9, was built in 1878; followed by District 1: Wilson in 1879, District 2: Prairie in 1880, District 8: Elm Grove in 1881, District 5: Keller in 1882, and District 4: Beech Grove erected in 1884 (Jackson). Other schoolhouses were built at District 1 (Wilson), District 2 (Prairie) and District 6 (Free).
Due to an increase in population, a tenth district was established in Section 36 of Lafayette Township at what later became North Anderson. A small building, the District 10 school didn’t last long- it soon closed, sending its students to Mount Hope, to which another room was added in 1890.
District 11 was established in 1892 at the community of Linwood- originally called Funk’s Station due to its existence as a stop on the railroad (Forkner & Dyson). In 1894, a two-room school -the largest in the township- was erected at Florida Station under the auspices of a new District 12: Originally known as Clark’s Station after the man who donated its land, Florida Station sprung up as a stop on the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, & St. Louis Railroad was established in 1856. It was given its unusual name due to its swampy nature: A man, named Tom Clark paddled his way to the area from Anderson in a canoe. The marshland, with its abundance of water lilies and dog roses, reminded Clark of the state of Florida (Jackson, 2019). That same year, The Mount Hope school in Anderson Township received a second room. In 1896, a second story was built (Jackson, 2012).
It didn’t take long for officials in Lafayette and Anderson townships to recognize that the Mount Hope school was stuffed with students and that new buildings were needed. Lafayette Township built a new District 10 school on School Street in Anderson, known as Jefferson, while 1906 saw the erection of a second Mount Hope school several blocks south of its predecessor (Jackson, 2012).
A new building serving a new District 13 that encompassed the Linwood area was erected west of that community in 1920 to replace the old District 11 schoolhouse. Nine years later, the township consolidated its upper grades into a new, six-room consolidated school known as Leach, located near the center of Lafayette Township a mile west and a quarter of a mile north of Florida Station (Leach, 1929). That year, the remaining one-room schools of Lafayette Township -Elm Grove, Prairie, Florida Station, Keller, Closser, Beech Grove, and Salem- all closed.
The Leach school was named after Esrom Leach, the Lafayette Township Trustee who’d begun the move towards consolidating the township’s schools and was killed in a car accident in 1930 (New, 1931).
The 1920 Linwood School lasted until the end of the 1956-57 school term, when its students were sent to Leach. Though the township sold the old build ing in 1960, The schoolhouse continued to stand as the Madison County Civil Defense headquarters before it was demolished between 2015 and 2016 (Google, 2016).
Both the Jefferson and Mount Hope schools closed in 1939 when the North Anderson consolidated school was built on East Vinyard Street between Poplar and Crystal Streets. It served as an elementary school until 2006.
A new Pipe Creek Township School at Frankton was built at the start of the 1959-60 school year. At a cost of $940,000, the structure held 550 senior high school students in 132 rooms including regular classrooms and home economics, vocational agricultural, industrial arts, art, and music rooms (Dedication, 1959). A new gymnasium with a 2,650-person capacity was larger than its contemporaries in Alexandria and Elwood (New, 1956). That year, 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).
Though it took five years, by 1964, the majority of Lafayette Township aside from the North Anderson area combined with Stony Creek, Jackson, and most of Pipe Creek Township outside of Elwood to create the West Central Community School Corporation (West, 1964). IN 1987 the West Central Community School Corporation turned into the Frankton-Lapel School Corporation during a complicated building project that saw similar, extensive, renovations and expansions of the corporations’ two high schools in Frankton and Lapel (Hoffman, 1987) as well as a transfer of the new buildings from the school corporation to a new building company.
Despite three additions that included a new gymnasium and cafeteria over the years, the Leach Elementary School closed at the end of the 1999-2000 school year. Its students were sent to Frankton Elementary the following year (Leach, 2000) and the Leach School was demolished shortly after.
Lafayette Township students still attend Frankton schools, while those in areas formerly covered by Anderson Township go to classes at Anderson’s Eastside Elementary. Today, eight schoolhouses -Salem, Keller, Beech Grove, Elm Grove, Meade, Closser, Florida Station, and the first Linwood School- are still standing as homes.
Forkner, J. & Dyson, B. (1897). 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.
Union Of Two Methodist Churches Set This Spring (1969, February 28). The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 3.
Jackson, S.T. (2012, January 14). Mount Hope twice served area. The Anderson Herald Bulletin. Retrieved December 17, 2021 from https://www.heraldbulletin.com/community/mount-hope-twice-served-area/article_74ff71ea-ad1f-5146-a116-d3f70b6f709e.html
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.
Jackson, S.T. (2009, November 14). In History: Township schools set by districts. The Anderson Herald Bulletin. Retrieved December 13, 2021 from https://www.heraldbulletin.com/community/in-history-township-schools-set-by-districts/article_21819f32-4eef-5e59-992e-3bad0f213a87.html.
Jackson, S.T. (2019, September 10). What’s in a Name: Lafayette only township in county named for foreign-born person. The Anderson Herald Bulletin. Retrieved December 14, 2021 from https://www.heraldbulletin.com/opinion/whats-in-a-name-lafayette-only-township-in-county-named-for-foreign-born-person/article_18713796-c8ef-11e9-a3be-436bc9542f9a.html.
Mock Attack To be Part Of CD Operation Alert, 1960 (1960, May 2). The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 1.
New Township School To Bear Leach’s Name (1931, November 6). The Alexandria Times-tribune. p. 1.
Google. (2016, June 16). [Google Maps Linwood school former location]]. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from Google Earth Pro.
Dedication Of New Frankton School Is Set (1959, October 28). The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 1.
New Frankton High School Gym To Seat 2,650 (1956, October 11). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. 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.
Leach School to be Dedicated Next Tuesday (1932, August 19). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
West Central Community Corporation (1964, October 23). The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 14.
Hoffman, F. (1987, April 17). “W-C hears update on $16 million plan.” The Elwood Call-Leader. p. 1.
Leach school closes (2000, June 9). The Elwood Call-Leader. p. 1.