Randolph County- Franklin Township
As of 2022, I count 0 remaining schoolhouses in Franklin Township.
The first school conducted in Franklin Township was likely held in a cabin near Ridgeville, which came into service at some point prior to 1840 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), and its likely that others followed. Early schools such as these were basic structures, simply built and 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- Green Township has always been relatively rural, and, beyond Fairview, has never had a thriving center of economy to support a tax base. 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). Generally, these revenues were insufficient to finance a township’s schools for more than two or three months at a time. Sometimes, classes were taught months in advance leaving teachers waiting for their wages.
The era of subscription schoolhouses ended in theory 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 finally available, officials began converting the existing log schools into frame ones, simultaneously improving courses of study, hiring teachers that were more qualified, and erecting new buildings when possible.
Funds for new schoolhouses trickled down to Franklin Township by the 1860s. In 1860, a new schoolhouse was built at Ridgeville on Race Street, and it’s unclear whether or not that building still exists today (Sommers, 2016). In 1862, the township purchased a lot from Alex Miller and erected a District 2 schoolhouse, known as Day’s Creek or Nicholson. A District 3 school, called Smithson and later Mosier, was built in 1863, and a second schoolhouse, known as Walker or Olive Branch, was built at the corner of 500-N and 500-W was erected in 1863 as a frame building (Hinshaw).
Though it wasn’t a schoolhouse under town or township purview, a history of Franklin Township’s schools would be incomplete without mention of the Ridgeville College -initially a project of the Free Will Baptist Church- which opened in 1869 in the town’s Methodist Episcopal Church before a $40,000 structure on North College Street was completed three years later. As originally built, the institution was three stories with a full basement, a prominent cupola, and a tower on each of the building’s corners (Spurgeon, 1996). Though Ridgeville was chosen as the site of the college due to its location on a main line of the railroad that connected Columbus and Chicago (Spurgeon), changing populations and the rise of other institutions of higher learning forced it to close in 1901 after a decade under the custody of the Congregational church. The following year, the building became home to the Lay Broom and Brush Company, but the old college was torn down thirty years later due to its advancing age. Today, a reminder of the institution, the bell from the college’s belfry, stands outside of Ridgeville’s City Building (Hillman, 1989).
By 1874, Franklin Township was home to seven schoolhouses (Griffing, 1874) through some rearrangements as the original District 1 school at Ridgeville had reverted to that town’s control in 1873 and was no longer part of the township system. South of Ridgeville, a new District 1 school, known as Riverside and later Baker, was erected in 1871. In addition to the District 2: Days Creek/Nicholson, District 3: Mosier, and District 6: Olive Branch schoolhouses that had already been established, a District 4 school known as Walnut Corner was soon built, as was a schoolhouse for District 5, known amongst its patrons as Bear Creek or Huffman Corner.
The Ridgeville school was destroyed by fire in 1892 and a new structure was hastily erected (Caswell, 1916). Aside from that town, only a few communities have ever existed in Franklin Township, none of which have stood the test of time. A community called Carlisle, south of the Mississinewa, was served in a de-facto manner by the Riverside school but ceased to exist long ago (Tucker, 1882). The same fate befell Olive Branch- a burgh that served as the site of the District 6 schoolhouse and consisted, at its peak, of two stores, several houses, and a lodge (Tucker). Because of this, school consolidation naturally occurred around Ridgeville.
The District 1: Riverside or Baker schoolhouse was closed in 1908 in order for its students to attend classes at Ridgeville. Eight years later, the Walnut Corner schoolhouse, District 4, was shuttered as well, followed by the District 3: Mosier school in 1920.
Though town officials had attempted to erect a new high school the year before (Grand, 1921), in 1922 the extant schoolhouse at Ridgeville was condemned by the state fire marshal due to an ineffective heating plant, precarious wiring, and an overall condition that led the building to be “liable to collapse under any extra strain (Ridgeville, 1922).” Students were temporarily moved to the town hall while funds were set aside for the construction of a new building.
After a year of construction, a three-story Franklin Township Consolidated School at Ridgeville, costing $70,000, was dedicated on January 2, 1923. L.N.Hines, the president of the Indiana State Normal School, addressed the congregants (Exercises, 1923). The building’s dedication led to the closure of the remainder of Franklin Township’s one-room schoolhouses, though the patrons of the District 6: Olive Branch school put up an unsuccessful fight to keep it open (Olive, 1923).
In 1957, an attempt to consolidate Franklin, Jackson, and Ward townships under the name of the Tri-School Corporation of Randolph County failed, as did an attempt to combine the Ward-Jackson and Franklin township school systems into an organization called the Tri-School Corporation in the winter of 1958 (Hinshaw).
The following 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). As a result, White River Township -including the city of Winchester- consolidated with Franklin and Ward townships to form the Randolph Central School Corporation in 1962 (Knight, 1962).
The consolidation of the three townships forced the school at Ridgeville to become an elementary school, which it served as for nineteen years until a new, $2.5 million Deerfield Elementary School opened in the fall of 1982 (Public, 2018). That September, the Randolph Central school board voted to demolish the structure (Curless, 1982).
Today, there are no one-room schoolhouses still standing in Franklin Township.
After its closure, the District 3: Mosier school was converted into a barn and demolished at some point during the 1960s. The Olive Branch schoolhouse at District 6 was apparently moved a half mile south of its original location for use as a farm building after its closure, but collapsed in the late 1990s. Though it had been used as a house for many years, the old District 1: Riverside or Baker school was demolished in the 1990s as well (Hinshaw).
Perhaps most intriguing is what became of the District 4: Huffman Corner or Bear Creek schoolhouse. The building was dismantled, moved, and partly-reconstructed as a barn in 1936 while the remaining structure -mostly its basement- was used as a house (Hinshaw). In 1959, a new house was erected on top of the basement (Randolph, 2022). Today, the partially-visible basement appears to be a match for that portion of the schoolhouse as depicted in 1919 (Addington, n.d.).
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.
Sommers, G. (2016, February 7). Franklin Township, Ridgeville School [Image attached]. [Group post]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/RandolphCoIndianaCapturingthePresentTime/photos/a.484689755044077/484690125044040.
Spurgeon, W. (1996, June 3). Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star Press. p. 5.
Hillman, R. (1989, April 4). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
Caswell, O. (1916, October 20). The Coming Week in Indiana History. The Boonville Standard. p. 1.
Grand and Petit Jurors Drawn At Winchester (1921, April 28). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 7.
Ridgeville School Condemned, Closed; Will Use Town Hall (1922, April 15). Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram. P. 5.
Exercises of Ridgeville School Dedication To Be Held January 2 (1923, December 31). The Indianapolis News. p. 9.
Olive Branch (1923, May 4). The Ridgeville News. p. 1.
Knight, M. (1962, April 15). Randolph County Voters Will Decide New School Districts In May Balloting. The Richmond Palladium-Item and Sun-Telegram. p. 25.
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.
Curless, K. (1982, September 29). Randolph Central to raze 2 schools. The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. A3.
Randolph County Office of Information & GIS Services. (2022). Parcel ID: 68-05-35-100-016.000-001. Randolph County, Indiana Assessor. map, Winchester, IN.
Addington, G. C. (n.d.). The Huffman Corner schoolhouse as seen in 1919. Retrieved February 15, 2022.