Madison County- Van Buren Township

As of 2021, I count one remaining schoolhouse in Jackson Township.

District 2: White Hall

Historic Overview

According to Kingman, Van Buren Township’s first school was located about a mile and a half north of Summitville (Kingman, 1880). George Doyle was the first teacher (Forkner, 1914). The record is unclear, but it’s likely that other schoolhouses in the area followed in short order, of simple designs often 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.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).

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, Hamilton Township officials converted their extant subscription schools into free ones, simultaneously improving courses of study and hiring teachers that were more qualified. 

The erection of more substantially schoolhouses also accompanied the passage of The School Law, with frame schools replacing their log predecessors. Summitville was first laid out in 1867 and a frame schoolhouse was built on its north side, later used by the local Christian Church (Denney, 1974). By 1874, there were six schoolhouses in Van Buren Township, valued at a total of $2,550). In time, these were given common names. District 1 was called Creamer due to its location on the Creamer family farm. District 2 was White Hall, District 3 was Summitville, District 4 was Zedekar, District 5 was Dagen or Dageon, and District 6 was Allen (Dead, 1967). In 1880, a new, brick schoolhouse at Summitville was finished on Church Street at the present-day site of the Ralph E. Hazelbacker Library (Sanborn, 1893). For nearly all of its existence, the Summitville school was administered independently from the rest in Van Buren Township (Summitville, 1921).

In 1894, a substantial brick structure with a belfry was built as the Oak Grove school at the east side of Summitville. By 1901, several of the older schools had been replaced, including the Creamer School, which was overtaken by a new District 1 school called Harmony in the far-northeastern corner of the township. A new District 7 schoolhouse was erected on Joyner Road, and a District 8 schoolhouse alternatively called North Summitville, Cowgill, and Old Wrinkle was constructed on what’s now East Redding Road. The name “Wrinkle” came from an old name for Summitville in reference to its small size (Jackson, 2019).

In 1909, plans were formed to consolidate all of Van Buren Township’s schools into Summitville (May, 1909), but this didn’t happen- by 1912, the township was home to twelve schoolhouses aside from Oak Grove, and the buildings were valued at $10,000 (Forkner).

Consolidation was not far off, though, as only four schoolhouse -Dagen, Zedekar, North Summitville, and Harmony- were in operation in 1921 (Summitville), the year a four-room school annex was constructed at Oak Grove (Plans, 1921). In 1922, the Dagen school was destroyed by a tornado that also wiped out the Monroe Township schoolhouses at Mt. Pisgah and Orestes (Two, 1927). A year later, the District 1: Harmony schoolhouse was the last to consolidate to Oak Grove (Last, 1923).

1938 brought the addition of a gymnasium/auditorium, vocational classrooms, and locker rooms to the rear of the Oak Grove school (Build, 1938). In 1960, a two-story high school wing extending the school to the west was completed (Summitville, 1961), and the school itself -minus the 1938 gymnasium and new addition- was razed completely in 1963. A one-story elementary school wing took its place shortly afterwards.

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). As a result, Van Buren, Boone, and most of Duck Creek Townships in Madison County combined with Fairmount, Liberty, and Green Townships to form the Metropolitan School District of Madison-Grant Counties, today known as Madison-Grant United School Corporation. In 1969, the present Madison-Grant High School was completed five miles northwest of Summitville, and the school began instructing students up to eighth grade only.

The lintel of the 1894 Oak Grove School at Summitville is preserved in front of the modern elementary. Photo taken August 14, 2021. From the author’s collection.

A new Madison-Grant Junior High School adjacent to the high school was completed in 1986, at which point the Summitville Middle School became an elementary. Today, it retains that status as one of two operated by Madison-Grant along with Park Elementary School in Fairmount.

Today, the lintel of the 1894 Oak Grove School stands near its former site in front of Summitville Elementary School. The only one-room schoolhouse still standing in Van Buren Township, District 2: White Hall, is now apparently used for farm storage.


Kingman Brothers. (1880). History of Madison County, Indiana with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches. Chicago, IL.

Forkner, J. (1914). History of Madison County Indiana. A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, Its People and Its Principal Interests, Volume 1. book, The Lewis Publishing Company. Chicago, IL.

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.

Denney, S. (1974, August 8). Summitville’s a down-home town. The Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 30.

Dead Dog, Frog Pond? They’re School Names (1967, September 9). The Anderson Daily Bulletin, p. 4.
Sanborn Map Company. (1892). Summitville. Insurance Maps of Muncie Indiana. map, New York, NY; Sanborn Map Company.

Summitville News (1921, April 8). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 4.

Jackson, S.T. (2019, November 4). Summitville was also known as ‘Wrinkle’ and ‘Skipperville’. The Anderson Herald-Bulletin. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from

May Combine Schools. (1909, July 15). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 4.

Two Old Schools to Join In A Reunion (1927, October 11). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.

Last District School in Township CLosec. (1923, August 15). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.

Plans Ready for Four Room School Annex (1921, December 23). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 6.

Build Addition Present School. (1938, August 16). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.

Summitville Plans Open House. (1961, January 26). The Alexandria Times Tribune. p. 11.

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.