As of 2021, I count 45 schoolhouses (or what’s left of them) remaining in Madison County, Indiana.
This may change as I continue to learn more about the county school systems. The assistance of Madison County Historian Stephen T. Jackson was invaluable in compiling the information I’ve researched.
Though Fall Creek was the first township was the first in Madison County to be settled, the location of its first schoolhouse -or even the year it was constructed- is unknown, although the first iteration of the Spring Valley Meetinghouse on Indiana State Road 38 served as a school for several years after its construction in 1836 (Pitts, 2017).
The first schoolhouse in Adams Township was built in 1824, in Section 19 between today’s US-36 and US-38, west of South County Road 100-East (Forkner & Dyson, 1897). Five years later, Union Township’s first school was established “not far from Chesterfield (Kingman, 1880),” the same year the first schoolhouse in Green Township was established on the farm of James Jones (Forkner & Dyson).
Richland Township’s first school was established in 1831 on the farm of Harrison Canady (Harden, 1874), followed by a school in Pipe Creek township established on the Jacob Sigler farm in 1836 and Monroe Township’s first schoolhouse -in Alexandria- the following year (Forkner, 1897).
We know that the first schools of Lafayette and Duck Creek townships were built in 1840 on the Patrick Ryan farm (Forkner & Dyson) and in 1841 on the farm of a Mrs. Knotts (Kingman), but little information is available regarding the first schoolhouses of Madison County’s remaining townships. A log cabin on the Daniel Wise farm served as the first school in Jackson Township (Perkinsville, 1954), but the year of its establishment is a mystery. Similarly, Kingman related that Van Buren Township’s first school was located a mile and a half north of Summitville (1880), but we are left guessing as to the year. The same goes for Boone Township, where the first school was a log structure established at some point near the later District 7 schoolhouse on North County Road 100-West across from the Union Chapel Community Church (Forkner).
Schools such as these were simple designs, 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).
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).
This all changed 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 Madison County converted their extant subscription schools into free ones, simultaneously districting the township, improving courses of study and hiring teachers that were more qualified. Importantly, they also began to replace the old log schoolhouses with newer, more substantial frame and brick structures. Over time, centers of population began erecting larger schoolhouses like the Pendleton Academy built in 1864 and a two-story, brick building at Walnut Grove built in 1883 (Fox, n.d.). With several exceptions including Markleville, large schools built closer to the turn of the century were often operated by the towns they were built in rather than the township system.
Unlike neighboring Delaware County, which began consolidating schoolhouses as early as 1897 at the direction of a progressive superintendent of schools (Kemper), Madison County’s school consolidation efforts were much slower, even as a 1907 law that compelled the closure of any school with fewer than twelve students (Kemper). Van Buren Township was the first to completely consolidate: In 1923 students from its lone remaining one-room schoolhouse were sent to Oak Grove, the large school at Summitville (Last, 1923).
Consolidation in Monroe Township began the same year, with the construction of a consolidated elementary school at Orestes (Buy, 1922). In Adams Township, the 1924 expansion of the Markleville school (Bock, 1969) and construction of the Fall Creek Heights grade school four years later allowed for the closure of its remaining one-room schools.
The majority of Stony Creek Township’s one-room schoolhouses were closed in 1924 when the school at Lapel was substantially added to.
In 1929, Lafayette Township erected a six-room school called Leach, which absorbed the students of the township’s seven remaining one-room structures, though a schoolhouse at Linwood lasted through the 1956-57 school year.
The last two one-room schools in Green Township closed in 1930, sending their students to a newly-built Center School (Crowe, 2015) as its other schoolhouses had already consolidated into a building at Ingalls which had been erected in 1915. Nearby, the two remaining independent schoolhouses of Fall Creek Township closed the following year when, after a legal dispute, their students were sent to the consolidated school at Pendleton (Huntsville, 1931).
In 1938, students from eleven one-room schoolhouses at the eastern side of Monroe Township were sent to a new elementary school named after William Cunningham (Holtsclaw, 2006). Around the same time, the last rural school in Stony Creek Township, located at Epworth Corner, closed for good (Rural, 1942), and in 1941 Pipe Creek Township’s lone remaining one-room schoolhouse consolidated into the larger school at Frankton (Pipecreek, 1941).
In Monroe Township, a final holdout -the school at Innisdale- was condemned in 1947 and its students were sent to Orestes (Treesh, 1947).
Amazingly, three townships operated one-room schoolhouses into the 1940s and 1950s. In Richland Township, the 1950 construction of a six-room school at College Corner led to the closure of that township’s remaining one-room schools. Five years later, the $765,000, twenty-eight room Highland High School was completed in order to absorb the upper grades from both Richland Township and Union Township (New, 1955), which had already consolidated around smaller schools at Valley Grove and Chesterfield.
Boone and Duck Creek townships still operated one-room schools until 1951, when a $150,000, six-room structure with a gymnasium and cafeteria called the Duck Creek-Boone Township Consolidated Grade School was completed (New, 1949). Finally, old schoolhouses at Perkinsville and Hamilton in Jackson Township closed in 1955 upon the completion of an eight-classroom consolidated elementary school (Public, 1955).
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). This compelled the remainder of Madison County’s township school districts to unite in one final wave of consolidation. Van Buren, Boone, and most of Duck Creek townships in Madison County combined with Fairmount, Liberty, and Green Townships of Grant County to form the Metropolitan School District of Madison-Grant Counties, today known as Madison-Grant United School Corporation.
In 1960, a new Monroe Township Consolidated High School was erected that brought the area’s high school students under a single roof.
The school townships of Green, Fall Creek, and Adams merged to create South Madison Community Schools in 1965 (Wynant & Marsh, 1969). A new school, Pendleton Heights, was completed in 1969 at the junction of Indiana State Roads 38 and 67, and the high schools at Pendleton and Markleville were converted to middle schools.
In 1971, the schools of Union and Richland townships merged into the Anderson Community School Corporation. The following year, the West Central School District -combining Jackson, Lafayette, and Stony Creek Townships with part of Pipe Creek Township (Frankton’s metro district)- was established (20 Candidates, 1972). The remainder of Pipe Creek Township’s students were sent to an established Elwood Community School Corporation.
In 1999, the West Central Community School Corporation changed its name to Frankton-Lapel Community Schools. Today, Anderson Community Schools, Frankton-Lapel, Elwood Community, South Madison, Alexandria Community, and Madison-Grant operate school districts within Madison County. Forty-four one- and two-room schoolhouses still stand in the area.
Pitts, V. (2017, June 18). HISTORY: Few changes at Quaker meeting. The Herald Bulletin. Retrieved December 29, 2021 from https://www.heraldbulletin.com/community/history-few-changes-at-quaker-meeting/article_82bc5118-ba10-5906-973a-36ac782a9e2e.html.
Forkner, J. & Dyson, B. (1914). Historical Sketches and Reminiscences of Madison County, Indiana. book. Anderson, IN.
Kingman Brothers. (1880). History of Madison County, Indiana with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches. Chicago, IL.
Forkner, J.(1897). Historical Sketches and Reminiscences of Madison County, Indiana. book. Anderson, IN.
Perkinsville School To Be Used For Last Year (1954, September 1). The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 19.
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.
Fox, J. (n.d.). Adams Township Had 10 Schools. Madison County Historical Society. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from http://www.andersonmchs.com/adams-township-schools.php.
Last District School in Township Closed. (1923, August 15). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Buy Three Acres Of Land For New Orestes School (1922, August 19). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Bock, G. (1969, June 3). This is Year of Last Good Bye for Markleville H.S.. Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 4.
Crowe, R. (2015, April 16). One teacher looms large in Center School history. The Greenfield Daily Reporter. p. 20.
Huntsville School is Vacant This Year (1931, September 16). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 4.
Rural Pupils Are Enrolled For New Term (1942, September 11). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Holtsclaw, S. (2006, May 17). After 68 years, Cunningham Elementary School says goodbye to Alexandria.” The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Treesh New Cunningham Principal (1947, August 27). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
Pipecreek Schools Re-Open Today (1941, September 8). The Elwood Call-Leader. p. 6.
New Highland School Open House To Be Held Today (1955, August 28). The Anderson Herald. p. 20.
New School For Duck Creek And Boone Townships. (1949, September 7). The Elwood Call-Leader. p. 1.
Public Sale of Real Estate and Personal Property. (1955, May 18). The Anderson Herald. p. 14.
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
Wyant, M. & Marsh, J. (1969 August 8). A Teacher’s Dream Turns Into Reality. The Anderson Daily bulletin. p. 8.
20 Candidates Running for West Central Board. (1972, April 24). The Elwood Call-Leader. p. 1.
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