Randolph County- Nettle Creek Township
As of 2022, I count one remaining schoolhouses in Nettle Creek Township. Nettle Creek and West River townships combined to form Union Township in 1951.
The history of Nettle Creek Township’s schoolhouses is intertwined with that of neighboring West River Township’s since the two combined to form Union Township in 1951.
The first schoolhouse in Nettle Creek Township was built in 1833, and classes were taught that winter by a Mr. Evans. Cornelius Murray and his sister conducted the next schoolhouse (Tucker, 1882), but it’s unclear as to where, specifically, either establishment was located.
What is clear, though, is what types of schools these were. Nettle Creek Township’s schools 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.
The school at Losantville, originally District 7, appears to have been one of the first in Randolph County to have been built by township funds- it was built in 1859 (Hinshaw). By 1865, Nettle Creek Township was home to nine schoolhouse (Warner, 1865). Over time, many were given colloquial names based on their locations or the names of the farmers who deeded their land. District 1 was known by several names, including Hunt’s, Barrax Corner, and Goodview (Hinshaw), while District 2 was called Lindsey. District 4 was called Concord, and District 7 at Losantville was renumbered to District 6. District 7 was certainly called Routh and possibly known as Diamond Hill (Hinshaw), and the brand-new school at District 9 was known to locals by the name of Snodgrass or Burrough’s. District 9 -a building eventually built in conjunction with neighboring West River Township, was called Modoc after the community it served, and District 10 was known as Wood or Isaac Wood after its landowner. It seems as though Districts 3, 5, and 8 were known only by number.
Of particular interest is the District 10 schoolhouse, which, after 1868, was situated on land owned by Isaac Wood, a free African-American who came to Randolph County in 1837. Eventually, Wood assembled 385 acres of productive farmland, and the schoolhouse was relaunched to serve African-American pupils (Tucker).
As with every township in East-Central Indiana, changes occurred. By 1882, the District 7 schoolhouse was moved into Losantville proper, and the District 9 schoolhouse was replaced in 1882. On the other hand, the District 3 school was discontinued around this time, the first schoolhouse to fall victim to Nettle Creek Township’s eventual consolidation.
In 1888, Losantville became home to a two-room graded school. Two years later, Nettle Creek and neighboring West River townships joined forces to construct a new, two-story District 9 school at Modoc, where a post office had been in operation since 1883 (Forte, n.d.). Despite the new structures, consolidation came quickly for Nettle Creek Township: The Lindsey school burned in 1894, though it was quickly replaced (Hinshaw). The District 9: Snodgrass or Burrough’s school closed after the 1896-97 school year, and the Concord School at District 4 closed before the 1901-02 session. Isaac Wood’s schoolhouse -District 10- was closed in 1903, just two years before a larger schoolhouse at Losantville was first erected.
The year 1911 saw the District 2 schoolhouse close, while a new, consolidated school at Modoc to serve residents of both Nettle Creek and West River Township was erected (Razing, 1958). Though a new school for District 1 had been built in 1908, by 1916 it was closed as well, followed by the schoolhouse at Disrict 7 two years later. The final one-room schoolhouse to close was District 5, which shuttered in 1920 (Hinshaw).
Nettle Creek Township operated the consolidated school at Losantville and the jointly-operated school at Modoc for years before local officials first discussed consolidating the schools at Modoc, Losantville, and Huntsville as early as 1945, and four years later citizens from both Nettle Creek and West River Township petitioned to consolidate the two townships, a request that was granted in 1950. Effective January 1, 1951, both townships ceased to exist and, in their place, Union Township was formed. The Nettle Creek and West River township schools consolidated the following year (Hinshaw, 2022).
Initially, the township’s plan had been for the students of Union Township to attend high school at Modoc and go to elementary classes at Huntsville and Losantville (School, 1952). Unfortunately, using the old buildings led to overcrowded and inadequate arrangements, and a new school -estimated at $500,000- was too much for the township to afford. Several plans were proposed, including adding a steel addition to the Modoc school for $25,000 until proper facilities could be secured, but none came to fruition (School Plan, 1952). Instead, the 1911 Modoc school was used for students from grades 1-12, while the building at Losantville became known as the West Union Elementary School and the old high school at Huntsville transitioned to become East Union Elementary (Razing, 1958).
In 1955, plans were approved to build a new consolidated school a mile east of Modoc. Featuring 61 rooms intended to serve 6-700 students, the building was designed in the shape of a squat letter T, with a 3,000-person gymnasium/auditorium capping a single, lengthy wing measuring 666 feet with space for the corporation’s elementary students to the east and its high school students to the west. Fire- and tornado-proof, the school’s largest spaces could be separated from the rest of the building for public use (Will, 1955). The $800,000 building (Build, 1956) was dedicated two years later in a ceremony attended by Wilbur Young, the state superintendent of public instruction (Modoc, 1957).
That year, Union Township sold the old Losantville, Modoc, and Huntsville schools at auction (Public, 1957). All were demolished the following year (Razing).
Despite the massive size of the new Union Township School, officials quickly deemed that it was too small. In 1962, a detached, $87,000 structure measuring 93×99 feet was built to house two classrooms, two industrial arts shops, two offices, and storage rooms (School, 1962). By 1968, enrollment had ballooned to 985 students and a larger addition, costing $930,000, was added to the southeast side of the school that included a music suite, cafetorium, new kitchen, elementary- and high-school libraries, a health center, twelve classrooms, and two kindergarten rooms. Grades 1-4 were shuffled to the new addition, while junior-high students moved from the high school area to the former elementary wing (Contract, 1968).
In 1963, the district consolidate further with Henry County’s Stoney Creek Township. In modern times, the school, known as Union Jr./Sr. High School today, remains largely the same. With an enrollment of around 127 in grades 9-12, it is one of the sixteen smallest high schools -parochial, private, or otherwise- in the state (IHSAA, 2016).
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.
Forte, J. (n.d.). United Stated and Worldwide Postal History. Web. Retrieved March 3, 2022 from https://www.postalhistory.com/postoffices.asp?task=display&state=IN&county=Randolph&searchtext=&pagenum=2.
Razing Old School Building at Modoc (1958, September 15). The Muncie Star. p. 3.
School Appeal in Randolph Sent to State (1952, July 14). The Muncie Star. p. 12.
School Plan Hearing Set at Winchester (1952, July 19). The Muncie Star. p. 4.
Will Open Bids Tomorrow On New Modoc School (1955, October 11). The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 8.
Build $800,000 school (1956, August 29). The Richmond Palladium-Item. P. 10.
Modoc Arranges Union Township School Dedication (1957, October 31). The Muncie Star. p. 19.
School Addition Will Be Ready In 1962 (1962, September 30). The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 32.
Contract Is Let For Modoc School Addition (1968, April 4). The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 19.
IHSAA Member School Enrollments for 2015-16 and 2016-17 (2016). IHSAA. Indianapolis. Web. Retrieved March 3, 2022 from https://www.ihsaa.org/Portals/0/ihsaa/documents/quick%20resources/Enrollments%2014151617.pdf.