Finding Madison County’s old King schoolhouse

This is what remains of Madison County’s Pipe Creek Township: District 8 schoolhouse, colloquially known as King’s. There’s not much to be seen of it today, but it’s there under the all the brush and bramble. I’ve found and taken photos of nearly two hundred one-room schoolhouses over the past couple of years, and my process for finding them starts rather simply: I locate a plat map from the late 1800s and compare it to recent satellite images from Google Maps. I get some coordinates and go take a picture. Sometimes it’s not that simple, but in this case, pictures be damned, it pretty much was.

The remains of Pipe Creek Township’s District 8 schoolhouse are hidden underneath all of this crap. I’m sure of it!

In the case of Madison County, I knew of about ten schoolhouses offhand before I started my project to catalog them all. I consulted with the Madison County Historian, Steve Jackson, who helped me catch some I’d missed after I went out on an initial trip. The District 8 school was not one Steve had advised was still standing, but Google Maps made me raise an eyebrow once I’d begun my own research.

The old school once stood, and now sits, in the trees labeled 3487.

The schoolhouse was/is at the corner of County Roads 900-N and 350-W just northeast of Frankton. Google Maps displays a clump of trees with an address superimposed over it. The clump of trees is a dead-giveaway that at least this was once a site of an old building of some sort, but my 1891 plat map of the county shows the schoolhouse stood right at this very spot. Old schoolhouses had old trees, right? Oftentimes, it’s really that simple.

A 1998 image of the schoolhouse, courtesy the U.S. Geological Survey.

Google Earth Pro is a useful tool to see what was in a place over the past fifteen or twenty years before the archival imagery gets too muddled to read. Several times, the app has confirmed for me that an old schoolhouse has met its match. Some of its early satellite imagery is poor, but it’s good enough to get a good reading on things- for example, The U.S. Geological Survey, whose imagery was included in Google Earth, took this picture of the District 8 schoolhouse on April 10, 1998.

The schoolhouse appears to follow the t-shaped layout common to those built in the 1890s, with a central entrance projection framed by two cloakrooms that feeds into a larger classroom.

The above image was taken in 2003, but it’s too blurry to determine whether the building was standing or if it had been reduced to a foundation. By 2005, though, the schoolhouse had clearly been demolished or, more likely, fallen in on itself since many of these were later used as barns out of opportunity.

Here’s Google Earth Pro’s 2005 image of the structure. It seems pretty clear that it’d collapsed.

2012 and 2014 images hint at the old school still at its original site, albeit collapsed. Straight lines in nature are never random, and some are clearly visible within the brush that’s beginning to grow, as well as a north-facing gable, triangular, that’s clearly evident.

This image is from 2014. The ruins of the schoolhouse are mostly obscured by foliage.

The most recent imagery taken in my version of Google Earth Pro, on September 25, 2019, shows none of this aside from a clump of trees. This is what I encountered last April when I took a picture, but I went back today and found more. The collapsed roof is there, amidst the brush, and I imagine that much more is still extant. I’ve circled one of its cross-members in the photo.

Let’s look at the first photo again. It seems like there’s visible timber in that mess of plants; I’ve circled it in purple, of all colors. Also, there’s got to be something for that gate to be piled up on top of.

At any rate, this is what’s left of Madison County’s Pipe Creek Township District 8: King’s school. I would never have located this building had it not been for Google Earth, and I suspect many others wouldn’t have either! I don’t think the old King’s schoolhouse would be a stop on any history tour, but for an obsessive completionist like me it’s just another piece in the puzzle; another place to add to my collection.

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