As of 2021, I count 33at least 30 schoolhouses (or what’s left of them) remaining in Randolph County, Indiana.
This page will be updated. The assistance of Randolph County Historian Dr. Greg Hinshaw was invaluable in compiling the information I’ve researched.
The first schoolhouse in Randolph County was in Greensfork Township, at Arba, in a meetinghouse that was completed as early as 1815 and stood on a hill in what’s now the Arba Cemetery (Bloom, 1878). The school had no fireplace or chimney, and was heated by moving hot coals from a fire built outside to the center of the floor. Like the schoolhouse at Arba, many of Randolph County’s earliest educational establishments were organized by the Society of Friends, otherwise known as the Quakers.
West River Township’s first school was held in a 14×18 foot cabin in 1816 or 1817. The floor of the cabin -located near David Moore’s property- was made of puncheon logs, as was the door, and the schoolhouse’s benches were built of split poles with angled legs (Tucker, 1882).
The first school in Wayne Township was likely taught by Mariam Hill in the Jericho Friends Meetinghouse in 1822 or 1823, and an early school in Ward Township, at Deerfield, went into operation during the winter of 1824-25, though it was referred to as “an imitation of a school with a teacher that could not spell and didn’t know arithmetic (Thomas, 1976).
The first school in Stoney Creek Township was conducted by Moses Hodson in 1826 to no more than twenty students. In White River Township, a school may have been at Winchester, where a log structure was erected at what’s now the corner of East Washington and South East streets in 1830 (Tucker).
The first schoolhouse in Nettle Creek Township was built in 1833, and classes were taught that winter by a Mr. Evans, while Green Township’s earliest schoolhouse was probably the one established at Fairview as early as the winter of 1837-1838 (Tucker).
Washington Township’s first schoolhouse may have come into operation was located or even when, exactly, it came into operation in 1837, in a ramshackle old cabin, missing a chimney, in a field somewhere in Washington Township (Tucker, 1882). Sometime prior to 1840, a cabin near Ridgeville served as a schoolhouse, with George Shoemaker as a teacher. A log school located at the southeast corner of what’s now North County Road 500-West and West County Road 500-North was probably a contemporary (Hinshaw, 2008).
The earliest community in Jackson Township seems to have been Mount Holly, which was recorded on May 23, 1840. Though it grew no larger than an outpost with a single blacksmith shop, the settlement -which was situated around the intersection of East County Road 500-North and North County Road 700-East- was at least also home to a schoolhouse (Tucker). Finally, one of the earliest schoolhouses in Monroe Township was built in 1848 at the site of what later became the town of Parker, now known as Parker City (Hinshaw, 2008). Others has been established nearby in Delaware County.
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, Adams 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.
In addition to frame schoolhouses, by the end of the Civil War Randolph County was home to thirteen brick schoolhouses. This number increased to a total of 134 schoolhouses thirty years later, sixty-six of which were brick (Hinshaw). This apex would soon be reversed by Lee L. Driver, the principal of Winchester High School before he rose to the position of County School Superintendent in 1907 (Leiker, 2009) at a time where there were only four consolidated schools under township control. Driver would later come to be known as “the father of rural consolidation (Dr., 1960) ” due to his efforts at modernizing Randolph County’s schools.
A large, consolidated Greensfork Township school at Spartanburg -opened in 1908- was the first new schoolhouse to open under Driver’s efforts (Knight, 1964). The next school, though, Lincoln, received worldwide attention. Located between Winchester and Farmland outside any municipal bounds, the consolidated establishment served the pupils of White River Township’s rural west side and was widely considered a folly at first. Over several years, though, Driver’s insight proved widely popular, as Randolph County’s schools became the topic of the Boston Journal of Education and Driver was asked to speak on the “Value of Consolidation” in lands as far away as Canada, England, and Germany (Thomas, 1972). The community’s pride in the story of the Lincoln School is still evident today, with many believing -possibly erroneously- that it was the first consolidated school in the United States, or at least the first rural consolidation (Thomas).
Consolidated schools for Monroe, Green, and Jackson townships followed in 1909 and 1910, while a school known as Jefferson was finished in 1911 for the western portion of Ward Township (Public, 2018). Another school in White River Township -McKinley- was built two miles east of Winchester in 1911, along with a new school at Modoc. Consolidated schools at Huntsville, Wayne Township, and Stoney Creek Township followed in 1912 and 1916 (School, 1915). After the completion of Stoney Creek, Randolph was the first county in the state to have a consolidated high school in every township (Issue, 1911). Additional consolidated schools serving students from grades 1-8 were completed at Beech Grove, Wilson, Witter, Bloomingport, and Carlos in the intervening years, but most had closed by the late 1920s as Randolph County’s schools consolidated further.
Yet another wave of school consolidation occurred in Randolph County beginning with unsuccessful attempts at combining school districts that occurred as early as the 1940s. In 1950, the residents of Nettle Creek and West River townships petitioned to consolidate together. By the following year, both townships ceased to exist and, in their place, Union Township was formed. The Nettle Creek and West River township schools combined the following year (Hinshaw).
Six years later, the schools of Green, Monroe, and Stoney Creek consolidated to form the Monroe Central Consolidated School Corporation (Plan, 1956). The following year, an $800,000 Union school was dedicated in Modoc (Modoc, 1957) while the consolidation of the schools of Wayne Township and Union City combined, along with the schools of Jackson and Ward townships the same year.
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, White River Township and Winchester finally consolidated the following year, forming the Metropolitan School District of Winchester-White River Township (Petition, 1959). The White River Township High School built in 1956-57 became known as Lee L. Driver Junior High School.
1962 saw Franklin, Ward, and White River townships further consolidate into the Randolph Central School Corporation (School, 1962). The following year, Union schools consolidated with Stoney Creek Township in Henry County (Hinshaw). In January, 1964, Greensfork and Washington Township finally combined in order to create the Randolph Southern district (Spartanburg, 1964)
Today, students of Randolph County go to Union; Monroe Central High School, which was first built in 1963 but was demolished by a tornado in 1974 (Luzzader, 1974); Randolph Southern High School built in 1974 at Lynn; the 1969 Winchester Community High School that serves the pupils of Randolph Central; and the Union City Community High School in Union City, which serves students of Randolph Eastern.
Of all of Randolph County’s old consolidated schools, only Jefferson -near Deerfield- still remains. Today, only 33 of Randolph County’s 134 schoolhouses remain.
Bloom, L. (1978, July 22). Highest elevation in state not Arba’s only high point. The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 3.
Tucker, E. (1882). History of Randolph County, Indiana. book. Chicago, IL; A.L. Kingman.
Thomas, L. (1976, February 1). On the Mississinewa. The Muncie Star. pp. D1-D2.
Hinshaw, G. (2008). A History of Education in Randolph County, Indiana. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
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.
Leiker, J. (2009, February 24). Marker honors Randolph education icon. The Muncie Star. p. 3.
Dr. Lee Driver, Retired Educator, Dies In Florida (1960, October 23). The Richmond Palladium-Item and Sun-Telegram. p. 19.
Knight, M. (1964, May 5). Final Commencement May 22 At Spartanburg High School. The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 7.
Thomas, L. (1972, January 30). 1st Consolidated School Being Razed, a Victim of the Plan It Inaugurated. The Muncie Star. p. 21.
Public Education in Randolph County, Indiana. 2018. Sharing history for 68 years in Randolph County, Indiana. Randolph County Historical Society and Museum. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from https://rchsmuseum.org/schools.
School Opens After Two Years of Strife (1915, September 14). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 8.
Issue Certificates (1911, October 4). The Winchester Herald.
Plan Survey to Determine School Site (1956, August 31). The Muncie Star. p. 16.
Modoc Arranges Union Township School Dedication (1957, October 31). The Muncie Star. p. 19.
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.
Petition Filed for School at Winchester (1959, April 16). The Muncie Star. p. 28.
School Board Voting Scheduled June 28 (1962, May 12). The Muncie Star. p. 22.
Spartanburg, Lynn Pupils To Pick Nickname, Colors (1964, March 12). The Richmond Palladium Item and Sun-Telegram. p. 22.
Luzadder, D. (1974, April 4). Twister Demolishes Monroe Central. The Muncie Star. p. 1.
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