Madison County- Stony Creek Township
As of 2021, I count three remaining schoolhouses in Stony Creek Township.
The first school in Stony Creek Township was built in 1835 near Stony Creek itself, just southeast of the community now known as Fishersburg (Forkner & Dyson, 1897) close to the modern-day site of Lapel’s water treatment plant. This was a one-room, wooden structure (Lapel, n.d.). Laid out in 1837 -nearly forty years prior to Lapel’s founding- Fishersburg was the first significant community to be laid out in Stony Creek Township.
Other schoolhouses sprung up as Stony Creek Township became more populated. 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, officials around Stony Creek Township 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, a new building that served the Lapel area was located on the Studley farm (Lapel), That year, Stony Creek Township was home to nine schoolhouses, valued at $4,400 (Harden, 1874). These schoolhouses had names like District 1: Fishersburg- relocated northwest of the community on what’s now Indiana State Road 32, District 2: White- the former Studley schoolhouse, District 3: Huffman, District 4: Bootjack, District 5: Luten, District 6: Epworth- named after the community of Epworth’s Crossing, District 7: Tennessee, District 8: Huntzinger/Huntsinger/Hontzinger, and District 9: Schuyler. Two years later, the town of Lapel was founded, named after its layout purportedly resembled a coat lapel (Jackson, 2010). A two-room structure was built to the northwest of the Studley/White schoolhouse in 1890.
The school at Lapel had outlived its usefulness after only nine years in operation, so an eight-room structure was erected at the southwest corner of School Street and West 13th Street in 1899 (Lapel). Likely due to its proximity to the town, the District 9: Schuyler schoolhouse closed sometime prior to 1901 (American, 1901).
In 1912, an addition that consisted of a gymnasium and six classrooms was completed for $12,800 (New, 1912) at a time that Stony Creek Township retained two-fifths interest in the schoolhouse. As a result of the expansion, the schoolhouse at Fishersburg -only about half of a mile northwest- was discontinued and demolished (Lapel).
In 1916, a school housing grades 1-4 and 5-8 in separate rooms was erected at Epworth Crossing (Jackson, 2020). It’s likely that the students of the District 7: Tennessee school -two miles south and destroyed in a fire (Five, 1927)- were sent to Epworth at this time.
1924 brought even more work to the Lapel school, when the 1912 gymnasium was turned into a space for manual training and domestic science and a new gymnasium, assembly hall, and set of classrooms were constructed to the building’s rear. These additions enabled Stony Creek Township to close the District 3: Huffman, District 4: Bootjack, District 5: Luten, and District 8: Huntzinger schoolhouses (Five). This arrangement left Epworth -District 6- as the last township schoolhouse outside of Lapel. Nevertheless, Epworth didn’t last much longer as by 1942 it had closed for good (Rural, 1942).
Despite its additions and expansions, the school at Lapel was again showing its age as it reached and exceeded fifty years in existence. On March 24, 1953, a holding company under the joint control of Lapel and Stony Creek township (Bids, 1953) accepted bids for the construction of a “combination edifice (New, 1953)” serving grades 1-12.
Completed at a cost of $700,000, the twenty-two classroom school on the southeastern side of town near where the old Studley/White school once stood was dedicated on September 17th, 1954 in a ceremony held in the building’s 2,800-person capacity gymnasium (Lapel, 1953). 634 pupils from across Stony Creek Township enrolled for class for its first day (New, 1954).
The old Lapel High School was quickly purchased by Merwyn and Basil Fisher, who demolished the 1899 structure and converted the 1924 addition into a furniture store by adding columns, a large porch, and a cupola to the structure in 1957 (Humphrey, 1996). Two years later, 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).
It took five years, but by 1964, a new school district was proposed, comprising Stony Creek Township, Jackson Township, most of Lafayette Township, and the majority of Pipe Creek Township aside from Elwood (West, 1964). The West Central Community School Corporation officially formed in 1972, operating the consolidated school at Lapel along with the 1959 Frankton High School and its predecessor, repurposed into an elementary school.
The school at Lapel was enlarged several times over the years, first with a ten-room elementary section followed by an athletic annex in 1975 and a band room and kindergarten facilities in 1976. Six more elementary classrooms followed in 1979, and a large remodeling project completed in 1988 allowed the elementary to become its own separate school (Lapel). In 1999, the West Central Community School Corporation changed its name to Frankton-Lapel Community Schools.
Five years later, Frankton-Lapel’s board approved a $34 million project to build a new high school northeast of Lapel on Indiana State Road 32, renovate and repurpose the 1954 structure into an Elementary and Middle school, and remodel Frankton Junior-Senior High School (New, 2004). Following a groundbreaking ceremony in October, 2005, Lapel’s new high school opened to students on January 8, 2008. Later that year, the 1924 portion of Lapel’s first high school became home to the Daybreak Community Church.
Today, Madison County’s Frankton-Lapel Community Schools operates a modern elementary in Frankton; the Lapel Elementary and Middle School in the former 1950s/1988-era Stony Creek Township High School, a Junior/Senior High School at the 1959/1987 Pipe Creek Township School, and the 2008 Lapel High School. The 1955 Jackson Township Consolidated School serves as Frankton-Lapel’s administrative offices.
Forkner, J. & Dyson, B. (1897). Historical Sketches and Reminiscences of Madison County, Indiana. book. Anderson, IN.
LHS History (n.d.). Lapel High School. Frankston-Lapel Community Schools. Retrieved December 23, 2021 from https://flcs.k12.in.us/schools/lapel_high_school/student_life/lhs_history.
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.
Indiana Constitution. (1851), art. 8, sec. 1.
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.
Jackson, S.T. (2010, October 2). In History: Lapel took name from its shape. The Anderson Herald Bulletin. Retrieved December 23, 2021 from https://www.heraldbulletin.com/community/in-history-lapel-took-name-from-its-shape/article_16c0b6c6-2601-5c68-830f-e78bfea456e4.html.
(1901). Stony Creek Township. An atlas of Madison County, Indiana. map, Cleveland, OH; American Atlas Company.
New School At Lapel (1912, May 25). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 8.
Jackson, S.T. (2020, June 22). Stony Creek was last of county’s 14 townships to organize. The Anderson Herald Bulletin. Retrieved December 21, 2021 from https://www.heraldbulletin.com/opinion/stephen-t-jackson-column-stony-creek-was-last-of-countys-14-townships-to-organize/article_11600860-ac15-11ea-94f0-539fdc0f4a2e.html
Rural Pupils Are Enrolled For New Term (1942, September 11). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Bids Accepted for New Lapel School (1953, March 24). The Indianapolis News. p. 5.
New Lapel School (1953, January 31). The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 4.
Lapel Dedication (1954, September 18). The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 3.
Lapel Gym Progressing (1953, November 10). The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 14.
New Lapel School Opened (1954, September 4). The Anderson Herald. p. 2.
Humphrey, D. (1996, July 3). Since ’41, the gym’s turned into furniture. The Indianapolis Star. p. 73.
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.
West-Central Reorganization Plan Is Issue (1965, June 20). The Anderson Herald. p. 1.
New high school planned in Lapel (2004, October 30). The Evansville Courier and Press. p. 10.