Randolph County- Ward Township
As of 2022, I count four remaining schoolhouses in Ward Township.
District 2: Narvoo/Nauvoo
District 5: Jackson
District 6: Weimer
District 11: Shakerag
The first school in Randolph County was the Randolph County Seminary, which opened in West Franklin Street in Winchester in 1842. The earliest schools in Ward Township 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).
An early school 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 at Saratoga, a log building of this description, was built in 1848 at the northwest corner of Main and Evans streets (Thomas, 1975). A log school at District 8 near Clear Creek was built around the same year (Hinshaw, 2008).
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.
A new, two-story school at Saratoga was built in 1863, and original structure was moved across the street and remodeled into a dwelling (Thomas, 1969), though it’s not clear if either building still stands. Elsewhere in the township, the original District 9 school was built shortly after its land was purchased from Thomas Clark in 1863 (Hinshaw), and the first District 11 school was erected at the burgh of Goodfield in 1868 after Benjamin Clevenger deeded its land (Hinshaw). Other schoolhouses sprung up as well, including one at Randolph Station that opened around 1871 (Hinshaw) along with Saratoga’s third, which was built in 1876.
By 1882, Ward Township was home to eleven schoolhouses. District 1, near the northeastern corner of the township, had no common name, though District 2 was called Nauvoo or Narvoo, a corruption of a Hebrew word that means “a place of rest or beauty (Leonard, 1992).” The District 3 schoolhouse was called Saint Jink’s (School, 1903), and District 4 was called Rabbit Ridge. The schools of Districts 5 and 6 were called Jackson and Weimer, respectively, after the families who owned the land on which they sat, while Saratoga’s school was District 7 and District 8 took its colloquial name from Clear Creek, which flowed just south of the structure. The District 9 schoolhouse, Clark, took its name from its original landowner, while District 10, Deerfield, was named after the community it served.
District 11, Shakerag, probably has the most unusual name of any in Ward Township. The burgh it served -Goodfield- was renamed at some point in reference to a farmer’s wife who commonly shook a white rag to signal the men to come home for dinner at the end of a day (Cupp, 1986). District 12, which doesn’t appear on atlases published in 1874 or 1882, was called Randolph Station.
In 1893, a new school was built at Deerfield north of the Methodist Episcopal Church (Hinshaw). Five years later, a two-story, four-room structure was erected at Saratoga in the block bounded by Pearl, Barber, and Division streets after the previous building’s lack of space necessitated the township to send high school students to a room rented from the International Order of Odd Fellows (Thomas, 1975).
Ward Township began to consolidate its schoolhouses in 1908 when the District 4: Rabbit Ridge school closed, probably to send its students to District 12 at Randolph Station. Two years later, a consolidated school just south of Deerfield, called Jefferson, was opened (Public, 2018), allowing the western half of the township to consolidate. The District 2: Narvoo school closed that year, as did the schools at Deerfield and Randolph Station (Hinshaw). The District 5: Jackson school closed in 1911, and its students were split between Jefferson and Saratoga.
The next school to consolidate was District 6, Weimer, which shuttered in 1914. District 8: Clear Creek, closed down the following year, and students from both were sent to Saratoga (Hinshaw). The Saint Jink school -which burned in 1896 but was rebuilt- also shut down in 1915 or 1916, but its students were likely sent to Jefferson.
Students of the District 11: Shakerag school were disbursed to Jefferson and Saratoga in 1918, and the District 9: Clark school closed the following year although it’s unclear where its students were sent. The final schoolhouse in Ward Township to close was District 1, which closed halfway through the 1922-23 school year. Its students were sent to Saratoga (Hinshaw).
A new Saratoga school, erected on the site of the 1898 structure, was dedicated in 1927. E.J. Llewelyn, superintendent of New Castle’s city schools, O.H. Friest, and R.E. Warner -Randolph County’s school superintendent- were featured speakers at the ceremony (School, 1927).
Over time, most of the township’s unused schoolhouses were destroyed. After the township sold it in 1911, the Deerfield school -originally converted to a grocery but later used as a garage- was lost to fire, for example, in 1936 (Hinshaw).
In 1955, Jefferson High School students were sent to classes at Saratoga and that school took the name of Ward High School. Elementary students followed three years later, and the Jefferson School closed. Two years later, the schools of Ward and Jackson townships consolidated into a single district (Hinshaw).
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, Franklin, Ward, and the Metropolitan School District of Winchester-White River Township in Randolph County merged to form the Randolph Central School Corporation in 1962 (Randolph, 1962). That year, the upper-graded students of Ward Township were sent to Driver High School and Driver Junior High School in Winchester (Public).
A new Deerfield Elementary School was completed in 1982 as a consolidation of old elementariness at Saratoga and Ridgeville, both properties of the Randolph Central School Corporation (Haney, 1982). A year later, after the school district paid $18,400 to demolish the former Saratoga/Ward Elementary building, its site was sold to a Muncie real estate company for $6,500 (Haney, 1983). Today, the modern Deerfield Elementary School is the only educational institution operated in Ward Township.
The Rabbit Ridge school was torn down between 2010 and 2013 (Google, 2013), and the extremely-dilapidated Clark schoolhouse was demolished in 2018 (Sommer, 2018), though its bricks and foundation stones were used in the rehabilitation of the District 5: Jackson schoolhouse, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, District 5 is one of Ward Township’s four extant schoolhouses -along with Districts 2, 6, and 11, and the 1910 consolidated Jefferson School, now a home.
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.
Thomas, L. (1976, February 1). On the Mississinewa. The Muncie Star. pp. D1-D2.
Thomas, L. (1975, June 22). Saratoga Plans 4-Day Centennial Celebration. The Muncie Star. p. 37.
Hinshaw, G. (2008). A History of Education in Randolph County, Indiana. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
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.
Thomas, L. (1969, June 29). Saratoga Settled Before Civil War. The Muncie Star. p. 10.
Leonard, G.M. (1992). Encylopedia of Mormonism. New York, NY. Macmillan Publishing Company.
School Mistress Attacked By Tramp (1903, June 3). The Muncie Star. p. 6.
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 At Saratoga Will Be Dedicated (1927, February 9). The Muncie Star. p. 8.
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.
Randolph Voters Elect School Board Members (1962, June 30). The Muncie Star. p. 11.
Haney, N. (1982, October 13). 38 Apply for Randolph Central Job. The Muncie Star. p. 3.
Haney, N. (1983, June 11). Randolph Central Sells Old School Lots. The Muncie Star. p. 2.
Google (2013, September 25). [Google Earth Pro historical satellite image of Rabbit Ridge School site]. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from Google Earth Pro.
Sommer, G. (2016, October 29). Here is some of the work that was done by the crew from Midwest Maintenance Company out of Piqua Ohio [Image attached]. [Status update]. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10209622182248183&set=pcb.1134659476621669.