Going swimming is fun! It’s a great way for kids to meet new friends, develop coordination, or just splash around for a while as I tended to do. For forty years starting in the 1930s, tons of kids went to the old Maxville Swimming Pool, which sits about seven miles east of Crystal Pool in Randolph County. I’ll try to resist taking a deep dive today, since spring-boarding into it in 2023 would be a tricky proposition. The place hasn’t operated in forty-five years.
The town of Maxville was laid out in 1832, about a century before the concrete pool came along1. The community sits atop a hundred-acre tract of glacial drift near the White River, which made it the perfect spot to operate a limestone quarry since at least the 1880s2. By the early 1900s, the Maxville Stone Quarry used a three-person steam shovel to remove gravel: one worker fired the boiler, another ran the boom, and the third operated the bucket. A nearby church was moved east of the quarry and renovated into a house where the pit manager lived3. The current Maxville Christian Church -originally home to a Methodist Episcopal congregation- was built in 1914 and is the area’s most prominent feature.
That said, gravel pits are dangerous places to work. In 1907, Samuel Bollinger, the quarry engineer, was oiling a centrifugal pump used to drain the pit when he slipped from the thirty-foot derrick he was standing on and grabbed for a belt as he fell. The pump’s motor was running, and Bollinger’s arm got caught in a pulley. Bollinger spent five hours suspended by his crushed arm until he was found and rescued4.
Bodkin Brothers and Watson and Son of Farmland ran the quarry until 1913 when they traded it to Clint Parker for a 367-acre farm ten miles west of Martinsville. The gravel pit remained in operation, resuming production for road contracts that April through the use of a crusher that ran with the force of fifty men5.
In its earliest days, the gravel quarry sat on the old Hub Highway, a road planned by the Hoosier State Automobile Association that connected Chillicothe, Ohio to Lafayette, Indiana. Later, Maxville Road was designated as part of Indiana State Road 37. A new State Road, 28, bypassed Maxville to the south when it was completed in 19286 but passed right by the quarry. Later, the highway was given its current designation as State Road 32 and the pit’s location next to a busy state road proved important in 1979, when a twenty-year-old driver was forced off of it, crashed through the quarry fence, and landed inside before escaping from his open sunroof7.
Holes dug past the water table eventually flood. In Maxville’s case, the water oozing into the pit came from a spring more than a mile out of town! The mounting cost of pumping the water out overtook profits gleaned from extracting stone in the first place, so the operation was abandoned8.
As seems to be a common trope about old stone quarries, locals spread the word that a locomotive and railcars sat at the bottom of the pit9, a strange rumor to propagate since the only adjacent rail line was the Union Traction Company’s interurban from Muncie to Union City. Nevertheless, the story was partially true: water seeped into the quarry so quickly that its owners couldn’t retrieve a small engine and cars used to extract its gravel. Those vehicles, the remains of a wooden shed, and everything else used to remove and crush limestone from the pit remain deep underwater today10.
Locals frequently swam in the quarry after it closed, sometimes to their peril: in 1935, sixteen-year-old Charles Hitchcock was injured when someone pushed him off a diving board and he plunged twenty-five feet into a rock outcropping11. The earliest mentions of an actual swimming pool date from the following year, when the Queen Esther Circle held a picnic there.
Despite its initial popularity, the pool sat idle for several years before Harry Hartley purchased it in 1946. Hartley and his wife reopened the place, which became known by some as Hartley Pool12. The couple added a refreshment stand and a barrel-vaulted bathhouse, living in an apartment on the bathhouse’s second floor. It was under the Hartleys’ ownership that swimming and boating in the old quarry was formally discontinued13.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck the pool on January 9, 1959, when Ralph Oxley, Jr., a sixteen-year-old sophomore at Union High School in Modoc, drowned while swimming with his younger brother and about a dozen others. Harry Hartley was acting lifeguard when Oxley was found in six feet of water, presumed to have drowned. Later examinations revealed that his neck had been broken as well14.
For five hours in 1961, it appeared as if another death had occurred at the site when two rescue units and fifteen divers searched the quarry in response to a suicide note found nearby in the presumptive victim’s car. Eventually, the man was spotted walking on State Road 32 towards Indianapolis, and the search was called off15.
By 1966, the Maxville Swimming Pool was open on summer weekdays from Noon to 10 o’clock and on Sundays from 1 to 1016. Groups like Girl Scout troops, the Farmland American Legion, Farmland’s Best Yette 4-H club, and the Parker Teen Club held parties and picnics at the pool over the years. In 1974, students from Monroe Central Junior/Senior High School threw a swimming party after they cleaned and salvaged bricks from their school, which had been destroyed by a tornado17.
It may not be apparent from the photos I took, but the Maxville Swimming Pool was rudimentary in design: it was filled with water from the quarry and drained by an overflow that connected the pool with the White River about a thousand feet northwest. In 1976, the pool’s then-owner, Tim McGuire, was forced to shutter it after that simple filtration system didn’t meet the state Board of Health’s requirements18. It appears as if the Maxville Swimming Pool never operated publicly again19.
The old Maxville Swimming Pool is invisible from State Road 32 and County Road 675-West; a fence blocks it from interlopers and passersby, which is why I had to deploy my drone to take photos of it. Aside from going to church or attending a funeral, there’s little reason to head to Maxville today. As hard as it is to believe now, though, the pool drew flocks of people to the sleepy hamlet for more than forty years.
1 Tucker, E. (1882). History of Randolph County, Indiana. A.L.Kingman [Chicago]. Book.
2 (See footnote 1).
3 Album of Yesteryear (1982, September 19). The Muncie Star. p. 30.
4 Hung High In Air Suspended By Arm (1907, June 1). The Richmond Palladium. p. 1.
5 Maxville Quarry Is Sold (1913, April 18). The Muncie Star. p. 15.
6 Hats Now Part Of Roadbed (1928, November 3). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 8.
7 Man Escapes Through Sunroof of Auto (1979, December 8). The Muncie Star. p. 2.
8 Greene, D. (1952, September 24). Seen and Heard in Our Neighborhood. The Muncie Star. p. 6.
9 (See footnote 7)
10 (See footnote 7)
11 Approve Funds For Townships (1935, August 7). The Muncie Star. p. 3.
12 Mauzy, R. (1947, May 12). McFadden Says. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 7.
13 (See footnote 7).
14 Randolph County Youth Dies in Maxville Pool (1959, July 10). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 12.
15 Quarry Search Near Winchester Needless Effort (1961, September 6). The Muncie Star. p. 11.
16 Maxville Swimming Pool (1955, June 28). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 15.
17 Students to Clean Bricks (1974, August 15). The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 23.
18 Stone, M.A. (1977, May 24). Pool Opening Doubted. The Muncie Star. p. 18.
19 Maxville’s Pool Won’t Be Opened (1977, June 30). The Muncie Star. p. 21.
2 thoughts on “Resisting a deep dive into Randolph County’s Maxville Swimming Pool”
I had never heard of this. I find it interesting how some old quarries become lake’s surrounded by expensive homes and others become abandoned hazards. But I guess that’s the difference between the north side of Indianapolis and Maxville.
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Even the difference between parts of Muncie and Maxville!
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