In 1881, a schoolhouse sat just east of where the Redkey and Camden Pike intersected with the Portland and Blaine Pike on the land of William Shields1. Six years later, an atlas labeled the school as District 62.
Today, that intersection is where Indiana State Road 1 crosses County Road 200-South between Redkey and Pennville. Believe it or not, the area surrounding the schoolhouse was once a community known as Oak Grove. Although it was never platted, the neighborhood once featured the school, a Methodist Episcopal Church, and even a post office from 1896 to 19023. By my estimation, the Oak Grove area consists of about thirteen homes, the church, and the old schoolhouse today.
The extant Romanesque Revival4 schoolhouse was built in 1913 during George G. Philebaum’s tenure as the trustee of Knox Township. The building featured a large classroom, along with two smaller alcoves used as a cloakroom and a home economics area where girls practiced sewing. The structure sat on a full basement that was used for recess in bad weather with a corner coal room. The building’s most prominent feature -its tower- housed a clap bell that students competed against each other for the chance to ring5. Jasper Reynolds was its first teacher at the brick schoolhouse6.
The majority of Knox Township’s schoolhouses followed a T-shaped plan where an entry vestibule led to a larger classroom. A road contractor from Blackford County named Marion Creek was responsible for erecting those identical schoolhouses, and he was known to cut corners as he built them7.It’s unclear if he was responsible for the design of the Oak Grove schoolhouse8, but he was certainly uninvolved in building the nearby Goodwill schoolhouse, which was completed two years later and shares many of its architectural characteristics with Oak Grove.
A lawsuit brought before Jay County Circuit Court Judge R.D. Wheat compelled the area’s remaining rural schoolhouse to close after the 1939-40 school year9. Frank E. Cline was Oak Grove’s final teacher, and its students were sent to Pennville for the 1940-41 term10.
The schoolhouse was used as a corn crib in the years after it closed11. In 1968, the 160-acre William Smith farm on which it sat was proposed to become the site of one of two new Jay County high schools12. Ultimately, though, the Jay County School Corporation chose to erect a single building southwest of Portland, which was completed in 1975.
When I first visited the schoolhouse in 2010 about a decade after the first time I saw it, the northwest side of the building’s roof was still standing, as was a concrete stairway that led to its entrance. Today, the striking building is abandoned and in ruins.
1 Historical hand-atlas, illustrated (1881). H.H. Hardesty. Chicago. Atlas.
2 Atlas of Jay County, Indiana (1887). Griffing, Gordon & Company [Philadelphia]. Map.
3 Award of Contract (1902, April 10). The Indianapolis Journal. p. 5.
4 Smith, L. (1985, August 18). Red Brick School Houses Have Historic Value. The Muncie Star. p. 3.
5 Hillman, R. (1992, July 31). Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 4.
6 Dunkirk (1913, April 12). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 7.
7 Lucky Auto Accident (1913, October 14). The Muncie Star. p. 7.
8 Shepherd, S. (1970, May 31). Bells No Longer Summon Children to Rural Schools. The Muncie Star. p. 29.
9 (See footnote 8).
10 Mrs. Jane Watkins Dies At Portland (1939, April 8). The Muncie Star. p. 11.
11 Smith, R. Remembering Portland, Indiana (2023, January 5). In 1964 my parents bought the 160 acres this school house is located on. The original house and barns have [Comment]. Facebook. Retrieved January 5, 2023.
12 Much Left to Do Before Jay County Starts Using Two New High Schools (1968, May 24). The Muncie Star. p . 7.
3 thoughts on “Knox Township’s Oak Grove schoolhouse in Jay County”
I remember it well. Drove by it every day on my way to Bluffton. Even stopped one day a took a picture. Thank you for your interesting articles
That tower is impressive!
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Very much unlike most of its peers!
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