Randolph County- West River Township
As of 2022, I count three remaining schoolhouses in West River Township. West River and Nettle Creek townships combined to form Union Township in 1951.
District 2: Buena Vista
District 5: Huntsville
District 11: Catey’s
The first school in West River Township was held in a 14×18 foot cabin in 1816 or 1817. The floor of the cabin -located near David Moore’s property- was made of puncheon logs, as was the door, and the schoolhouse’s benches were built of split poles with angled legs (Tucker, 1882).
West River 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.
By 1865, West River Township was home to twelve schoolhouses (Warner, 1865). As with those of surrounding areas, the schools took on common names in addition to their district number that often referenced nearby landowners who deeded their property to the township or their locations. District 1 was known as Harris, while District 2 was named Buena Vista after the village it served. District 3 was called Oren’s or Botkin, and the District 4 school was given the name Ashland. District 5 was known as Huntsville due to the community it stood in, and District 6 was known as Bronson. District 7 was called Hardscrabble -an antiquated word denoting hardship and struggle- and District 8 was known as College Corner, a common designation for rural schoolhouses, often called colleges, that were situated at a crossroads. West River Township’s District 9 school was first called Salem due to its location just north of the Salem Cemetery, and District 10 was called Braden or Concord given its proximity to the Concord Methodist Episcopal Church (Hinshaw, 2008). District 11 -possibly first known as District 3- eventually became known as Catey’s school due to its location on the land of William Catey (Warner), and District 12, situated between Huntsville and Buena Vista, was alternately called Pleasant Ridge and Shears (Hinshaw).
In 1882, 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).
Located in the southwestern portion of West River Township on its border with Washington Township, the community -later called Carlos- received a two-room building built by both townships that was finished in 1886 and given the designation of West River Township’s District 13.
A three-room, frame, District 9 school built with the cooperation of Nettle Creek Township was built at Modoc in 1890, supplanting the old Salem school which was eventually sold to the cemetery thirteen years later (Hinshaw). Over time, Huntsville emerged as West River Township’s center of population. After a period of time under the town’s control, the one-room there school operated as West River Township’s District 5 until 1894, when a larger, three-room schoolhouse was built north of Huntsville at the southwest corner of South County Road 500-West and West County Road 600-South. The districts 6 and 12 schoolhouses consolidated into it upon its completion, while the District 7 school was shut down the following year (Hinshaw).
Other schoolhouses began to consolidate as well. The District 2 school at Buena Vista closed in 1906, and the year 1911 saw the construction of a large, brick schoolhouse at Modoc, which absorbed the students of districts 8, 9, and 10 (Razing, 1958).
Meanwhile, the three-room school at Huntsville was either replaced (Hinshaw) or expanded (Barrett, 1977) in 1911 to become a four-room brick building. This enabled districts 1 and 4 to close and send their students into Huntsville. The last of West River Township’s one-room schools -District 3: Botkin- was shuttered in 1917 (Hinshaw). A wing including a small gymnasium was added to the Huntsville school in 1921 (Barrett).
West River Township operated the consolidated school at Huntsville and the jointly-operated schools at Modoc and Carlos for years before the school at Carlos, District 13, closed in 1933. 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.
Warner, C.S (1865). 1865 Wall-Map of Randolph County. C.A.O. McClellan & C.S. Warner. Waterloo, Indiana. map.
Hinshaw, G. (2008). A History of Education in Randolph County, Indiana. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
Pitts, E. (1997, March 31). Local residents good sports about extra ’s’. The Muncie Star Pres. p. B1.
Razing Old School Building at Modoc (1958, September 15). The Muncie Star. p. 3.
Barrett, M. C. (1977, April 10). Town of Distinction. The Muncie Star. p. 35.
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.