Randolph County- Monroe Township
As of 2022, I count three remaining schoolhouses in Monroe Township.
In his 1882 history of Randolph County, Ebenezer Tucker advised that the first schoolhouse in the southwestern portion of Monroe Township had already been discussed in the account of Thomas Wallace and went no further. The first schoolhouse near the northwestern portion, though, was in Delaware County, though the first one in that part of Monroe Township proper was taught by an “old Mr. Flood,” the brother of the Reverend Jonathan Flood (Tucker, 1882).
One of the earliest schoolhouses in the township was built in 1848 at the site of what later became the town of Parker, now known as Parker City (Hinshaw, 2008). It and its peers were 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- 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. One of the earliest we can definitively pinpoint was a District 9 school south of Farmland, which was built in 1856 (Hinshaw).
The schoolhouses of Monroe Township were renumbered perhaps more than any other township in Randolph County- or any in East Central Indiana, for that matter. Nevertheless, a new schoolhouse at Parker was built in 1860. Five years later, schoolhouses existed at District 2, northeast of what’s now the Hickory Hills Golf Club in Section 36 (Hinshaw), District 3 a half-mile north of the gold club on the present-day North County Road 1000-West, and likely elsewhere. In 1869, the township built a five-room schoolhouse on East Henry Street in Farmland at a cost of $12,000 and the old school at Farmland was purchased by the Christian Church.
By 1874, Monroe Township was home to ten schools. In addition to those already mentioned, they were District 1: Connor or Sixty, District 4: Oak Grove, District 6: Hill, District 7: Shaw, and District 8: Lewis. Another schoolhouse, originally District 3, was built between 1865 and 1874 and was renumbered to District 9 after the town of Farmland took control of the schoolhouse there (Hinshaw).
In 1875, a new, two-story school was built by Monroe Township at Parker City. During the same year, David Morris deeded land for a new District 2 schoolhouse west of the Rehobeth United Methodist Church. In 1878, a brick schoolhouse was built as a replacement for the frame structure serving District 4, commonly known as Oak Grove (Oak, 1878). Two years later, a farmer named Washington Cortner deeded property for the erection of a new District 3 schoolhouse, known alternately as Hickory Grove and Connor.
The 1880s saw several upgrades to the older frame schoolhouses of Monroe Township, such as District 7 and District 8. The township built a fourth school called the “Primary Building (Local, 1888)” at Parker in 1888 to serve its younger students congruently with the larger building there (Hinshaw). At some point prior to 1889, the District 9 school -equidistant between Farmland and Parker- was closed, likely to split its pupils between the two larger schools. Aside from a brief period in the 1870s when the District 2: Hickory Grove/Connor school was closed, the closure of District 9 represented the first permanent attempt at schoolhouse consolidation in the county.
Meanwhile, the 1869 schoolhouse at Farmland was enlarged in 1890, followed by the school at Parker, first in 1895 and later in 1903 (Half, 1910). Six years later, massive building projects -$34,000 and $36,000 each, commenced at Farmland and Parker City, respectively (New, 1910). The buildings were nearly identical: three stories tall with domes that reached 80 feet high, each was heated by a steam blast system, wired for electricity, and protected against fire through pneumatic water pressure (New, 1909). The new schoolhouse at Farmland opened in 1909, while its counterpart in Parker opened to students the following year.
Construction of both buildings led to a consolidation of Monroe Township’s one-room schools. The District 5: Oak Grove school shuttered in 1909, and the District 3: Rehobeth schoolhouse closed the following year, along with District 6: Hill. The District 2: Hickory Grove school was a temporary holdout, closing in 1913 and first sending its students to the District 1: Connor/Sixty school, before that schoolhouse closed in 1916, its pupils sent to attend classes at Farmland. The District 7: Shaw and District 8: Lewis schools closed the same year, leaving all of Monroe Township’s students to attend school at Parker and Farmland (Hinshaw).
In 1955, a plan to combine the schools of Farmland, Parker City, Green Township, and Stoney Creek Township under the name of the Lee Driver Consolidated School Corporation failed (Hinshaw), but an effort to merge the school districts of Green, Monroe, and Stony Creek townships under the name of the Monroe Central Consolidated School Corporation passed in 1956 (Plan, 1956). Despite the consolidation, each high school operated normally for the first year, as the merger was not completed in time to make other arrangements.
Grades 7-12 of the Stoney Creek school transferred to Farmland during the fall of 1958. In 1959, the Green Township School transferred its high school students to Parker City along with a fire escape that would no longer be used (72-Cent, 1958). The Green Township school continued to serve students from grades 1-6 until the the start of the 1961 school term (Public, 2018), while Stoney Creek served through 1963 (Public, 2018). Two years later, a new Monroe Central High School was erected on Indiana State Road 32 between Parker City and Farmland (John, 1963).
The buildings at Parker and Farmland continued as elementary schools unencumbered until tragedy struck in 1974 when the eleven-year-old Monroe Central Junior-Senior High School was destroyed in a tornado twenty minutes after its pupils had been dismissed for the day (Luzadder, 1974). The 1910 school at Parker was pressed into use as the corporation’s only elementary school for the remainder of the year, with its own students attending classes in the morning and Farmland’s elementary-age pupils attending in the afternoon. Meanwhile, students from grades 7-12 went to the 1909 school at Farmland, as well as rooms in two nearby churches used for overflow (Public).
By the start of the 1974-75 school year, federal funds provided fifteen portable classrooms that were used by the students of Farmland’s elementary along with junior-high school students across the school district (Bales, 1974). Parker’s school reverted back to becoming an elementary, and students from grades 9-12 attended class at Farmland.
Monroe Central’s school situation reverted to normal in 1978 when a new, 114,358 square-foot high school -40% larger than its predecessor- was dedicated in October, 1978. Completed at a cost of $2.25 million, the school’s unadorned front featuring loading docks and minimal orientation immediately gave rise to rumors that its blueprints had been read upside-down. In reality, the school was designed to use a parking lot salvaged from the tornado that led directly to a 2,250-seat gymnasium, cafeteria/auditorium, and principal’s office (Haney, 1978).
A new Monroe Central Elementary School adjacent to the Junior-Senior High School was completed in time for the start of the 1983-84 school year, leading to the closure of the old schools at Parker and Farmland (More, 1983). Both were demolished shortly afterwards.
Today, the only schoolhouses left standing in Monroe Township are the District 1: Connor/Sixty school, District 5’s Primary Building, and the first District 9 schoolhouse at Farmland. The latter two are homes while the Connor schoolhouse is a toolshed, though unlikely to be identified as an old school given its present appearance.
Tucker, E. (1882). History of Randolph County, Indiana. book. Chicago, IL; A.L. Kingman.
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.
Oak Grove Items (July 17, 1878). The Winchester Journal.
Half a Century’s Advance in Parker City’s Schoolhouses (1910, October 7). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 6.
New Commission Comes (1910, February 17). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 6.
New Farmland School Opens Monday (1909, October 3). The Muncie Sunday Star. p. 6.
Plan Survey to Determine School Site (1956, August 31). The Muncie Star. p. 16.
72-Cent Tax Rate Increase Set for Monroe District. (1958, August 6). The Muncie Star Press. p. 2.
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.
John Wright Will Head New School (1963, June 12). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 22.
Luzadder, D. (1974, April 4). Twister Demolishes Monroe Central. The Muncie Star. p. 1.
Bales, G. (1974, September 13). Adminstrators, Teachers Give Big OK to Farmland’s Portable Classrooms. The Muncie Star. P. 1.
Haney, N. (1978, October 15). Long Wait Over. The Muncie Star. p. 37.
More back-to-school schedules listed (1983, August 18). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 2.