Randolph County- Washington Township
As of 2022, I count one remaining schoolhouse in Washington Township.
Where the earliest schoolhouse in Washington Township was located or even when, exactly, it came into operation is uncertain, though Ebenezer Tucker relates that one retired Randolph County teacher advised him that he taught his first school in 1837, in a ramshackle old cabin, missing a chimney, in a field somewhere in Washington Township (Tucker, 1882).
Like the rest of the schoolhouses in East-Central Indiana, Washington 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.
It seems to have taken until the late 1850s for funds to build up and trickle down in order to enable the construction of new schoolhouses. In 1855, Nathan Hinshaw deeded a lot on East Church Street at Lynn for the construction of a District 7 school, and a school known as Kennedy’s Corner or Canada’s corner was established at District 13 in 1858 (Hinshaw). A school at District 2 evidently predated the Civil War, when it burned and was replaced, and others followed throughout the 1860s including the District 3 schoolhouse, deeded by John Hunt in 1862, the District 10 school which was standing as early as 1865 (Warner, 1865), and the property for District 11 was secured in 1868 (Hinshaw).
By 1874, Washington Township operated 16 common schoolhouses (Griffing, 1874). These were District 1, Fudge; District 2, Beech Grove; District 3, Rockhill; District 4, Vinegar Hill; District 5: Brumfield’s or North Bales; District 6, Jackson; District 7, Lynn; District 8, South Bales; District 9, Swamp Valley; District 10, Johnson; District 11, Ozbun; District 12, Bloomingport or Bloomingsport; District 13, Kennedy’s -or Canada’s- Corner; District 14, Cherry Grove; and District 14, Pomfrey. District 16 was located just northeast of Snow Hill Station and known as the Shiloh school, or the “Colored School (Kingman),” and operated in the Shiloh African Methodist Episcopal Church (Hinshaw).
That year, Washington Township built a two-room school on Sherman Street (Lynn, 1885). In 1879, a new school at Bloomingport was erected, and in 1880 the District 1 school burned down. A brick replacement was finished the following year (Hinshaw).
In the southwestern portion of the township, a post office called Carlos City sprung up when the New York Central railroad was extended to connect Lynn with the Henry County community of Shirley (Pitts, 1997). The name of the District 13 schoolhouse changed to reflect its proximity to the new community, and a larger schoolhouse was built in 1886 under a partnership with West River Township (Commencement, 1892), the year after the school at Lynn was added to.
As with many other townships, Washington consolidated its schools in fits and starts. The first to close was the District 16: Shiloh school for African-Americans, which was shuttered sometime before 1895, though it appears that the Cherry Grove School, District 14, closed at the same time (Hinshaw). Districts 4 and 10 -Vinegar Hill and Johnson, respectively- closed seven years later in order for their students to attend classes at Lynn (Hinshaw), where a large, new building had been completed under the control of Washington Township.
It appears as though the District 15: Pomfrey schoolhouse was next to close, in 1908, when its students were likely sent to Carlos, as that community became known in 1895 (Forte, n.d.). The schools of Districts 1, 3, and 5 closed in 1912, when their pupils were sent to a new Beech Grove consolidated school a mile south of the former District 2 (Hinshaw). At a cost of $15,000, the building became home to a student body of 125 and used six school hacks to transport them all to the modern structure (Beech, 1913). The students of the District 6: Jackson began attending Beech Grove the following year.
Though plans to expand the District 12 schoolhouse at Bloomingport were put into place in 1915, township officials instead condemned it, choosing to build a larger school that could accommodate the students from districts 8, 9, 11, 12, and 14 (School, 1917).
Four years later, a new high school at Carlos was built at a cost of $36,000 (Carlos, 1920), but the following year, the Beech Grove consolidated school was destroyed in a massive fire (Beech, 1922).
After the fire at Beech Grove in 1922, only three schools remained in Washington Township- Bloomingport, Carlos, and Lynn. Bloomingport was the first to close for good, when its students were sent to Lynn 4.5 miles northeast, in 1930 (Winchester, 1930). The Carlos school closed three years later, and the 1902 school building at Lynn -remodeled and expanded in 1901- became the Washington Township Consolidated School.
The Washington Township School at Lynn received a new gymnasium in 1934, and a larger, modern wing twenty years later (Haney, 1986).
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, the school townships of Greensfork, Washington, and Union planned to consolidate into a new district called Randolph Southern in May, 1962 (Four, 1961). The process failed, as did another attempt the following November. In 1964, Washington and Greensfork Townships were finally successful in forming a new district called Randolph Southern School Corporation (Hinshaw), the last in Randolph County to form.
The creation of the new school district saw the upper four grades of the Greensfork Township school at Spartanburg transfer to Lynn at the start of the 1964-65 school year. In exchange, seventh- and eighth-graders at Lynn transferred to Spartanburg (Spartanburg, 1964).
Construction of a new, $3.8 million Randolph Southern Junior-Senior High School in Lynn began in April, 1974. When it opened midway through the 1975-76 school year, it took over housing grades 7-12 from its predecessor in Lynn, and the school at Spartanburg was closed (Peters, 1975).
Disaster struck the district in 1986 when the old Lynn school -by then called Randolph Southern Elementary- was destroyed in a tornado that blew the roof off and ruined the third floor of the building’s 1901 section that housed the library and computers. A falling tree destroyed the school’s gym, which had been built in 1934 (Haney).
After the building was destroyed, students finished the school year in the high school gym. From 1986 through 1991, elementary-age pupils were taught in modular classrooms. A proper elementary school costing $6.6 million took two years complete and was opened on February 15, 1991. Much of the school’s funding came from $1.4 million in federal aid, along with $1 million from an insurance payout (Rendfeld, 1991). The building’s two interior hallways were made of concrete blocks surrounding steel beams in order to help guard against another tornado, and the elementary -attached to the west side of the Junior-Senior High School- featured a circular design of classrooms grouped by age that formed a ring around shared spaces like the library, computer lab, art room, and bathrooms (Lykins, 1991).
Today, only the Randolph Southern Elementary and Randolph Souther Junior-Senior High School operate as functional schools in Washington Township, and only the District 12: Bloomingport building remains amongst all sixteen of the township’s one-room schools. We know that the District 2 school that served prior to the consolidated version a mile south of its location was moved and used as a barn, and that the District 3 school was still standing as of 1961 (Hinshaw). The District 4 school, Vinegar Hill, was demolished in 1976, and the old North Bales School was used as a storage building on a farm prior to its own destruction. The consolidated school at Bloomingport remained standing for quite some time after it closed- it was used by a religious organization that called the building the Bible Deliverance Temple in 1962 (Brantley, 1962).
The old District 6 school collapsed around 1990, roughly the same period that the District 9: Swamp Valley school was razed. The abandoned school at Carlos, built in 1921, was still standing as of the 1980s (Hinshaw).
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.
Hinshaw, G. (2008). A History of Education in Randolph County, Indiana. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
Warner, C.S (1865). 1865 Wall-Map of Randolph County. C.A.O. McClellan & C.S. Warner. Waterloo, Indiana. map.
Griffing, B. N. (1874). Stony Creek Township. An atlas of Randolph County, Indiana . map, Philadelphia, PA; Griffing, Gordon, & Company.
Lynn Items (1885, September 28). The Winchester Journal.
Pitts, E. (1997, March 31). Local residents good sports about extra ’s’. The Muncie Star Pres. p. B1.
Commencement at Carlos City (1892, May 25). The Winchester Journal.
Forte, J. (n.d.). United Stated and Worldwide Postal History. Web. Retrieved February 22, 2022 from https://www.postalhistory.com/postoffices.asp?task=display&state=IN&county=Randolph.
Beech Grove School, Randolph County (1913, January 9). The Muncie Star. p. 10.
School Contract Awarded (1917, June 18). The Muncie Press. p. 2.
Carlos School Will Not Be Built Now (1920, July 1). The Winchester Democrat.
Beech Grove School Destroyed By Fire; Children All Safe (1922, October 19). The Richmond Palladium. p. 1.
Winchester Is Dried Up (1930, September 6). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 7.
Haney, N. (1986, March 11). Twister Destroys Grade School. The Muncie Star. p. 1.
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.
Four-Unit Setup OK’d for Randolph (1961, October 6). The Muncie Star. p. 26.
Spartanburg, Lynn Pupils To Pick Nickname, Colors (1964, March 12). The Richmond Palladium Item and Sun-Telegram. p. 22.
Peters, K. (1975, December 12). Only Finishing Touches Remain For New Randolph South School. The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 33.
Rendfeld, R. (1991, February 16). Cold Weather Doesn’t Stop Move Into Randolph Southern School. The Muncie Star. p. 2.
Lykins, K. (1991, February 24). Randolph Southern Elementary kids, teachers like new scenery. The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 3.
Brantley, B. (1962, February 4). Store at Bloomingsport- Survivor of By-Gone Age.