Harrison Township’s Bethel schoolhouse in Delaware County

If I had to rank all of Delaware County’s one-room schoolhouses based on their architectural merits, I’d probably grant the top honors to the old Bethel schoolhouse that served Harrison Township’s District 6. The building predated the era of township-wide consolidated schools, but it was extraordinarily impressive in its day. It was so impressive, in fact, that it’s hard to believe that what’s left of the structure is even the same building.

Photo taken April 6, 2021.

What was likely the first purpose-built school in Harrison Township was located on Job Garner’s farm1 about two-fifths of a mile north of the town of Bethel on the west side of North County Road 775-W2. In 1881, the schoolhouse was known as District 6 and was taught by J. S. Muncey3The Muncie and Bethel Pike ran just south of the old school.

In 1896 the District 8: Buncum schoolhouse was briefly closed in order to consolidate with District 64. Two years later, a two-room structure was built to replace both schools on the land of Joseph A. Quick5. The new building sat a mile north of Bethel at the corner of North County Road 775-West and West County Road 500-North. 

As originally built, the schoolhouse consisted of two stories, a gabled roof, and a large belfry and spire that projected from its northeastern corner6. Unlike most one-room schoolhouses, Bethel was accredited to instruct pupils from grades 1-97. Those choosing to continue their studies attended a four-year high school in an adjacent township such as those in Gaston or Yorktown. 

The Bethel schoolhouse in its original configuration, as depicted in an old photo held at the Ball State Digital Media Repository. The date in the caption is incorrect.

The Bethel schoolhouse closed after the 1923-24 school year in order to consolidate into the new Harrison Township Consolidated School located a mile and three-quarters east. At that time, Hobart F. Black of Muncie was the principal and taught grades 5-8, while Edith K. Lewis of Alexandria taught grades 1-48

Photo taken April 5, 2021.

Shortly after the schoolhouse closed, it was remodeled into a dwelling through the removal of its belfry, peaked roof, and second story. A former student named Ruth Taylor purchased the building and lived there until her death in 19779. Subsequently, her son lived in the structure until his own death thirty-one years later. 

In 2021 the new owner of the building began to demolish the structure. It’s still standing as of this writing.

Sources Cited
1 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. book, Kingman Brothers.
2 Kingman, A.L. (1874). Map of Delaware County, Indiana : from recent & original surveys, made expressly for this map, drawn, compiled and published by A.L. Kingman and assistants. map, Chicago, IL; A.L. Kingman.
3 (See footnote 1).
4 Denny, L.W. (1925, June 5). New School To Be Real Center. The Muncie Morning Star. p. 12.
5 Delaware County Map, 1900 (2018, October 1). Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.
6 Ball State University Libraries. (2017). Bethel School. Ball State Digital Media Repository. Web. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
7 Spurgeon, W. (1995, May 25). Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. P. 4.
8 Delaware County Public Schools. (1923). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1923-1924. Muncie, IN. 
9 Services set Sunday for Ruth E. Taylor. (1977. February 11). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 6.

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