Shoot your shot: A final lesson from Markleville High School

I spent a big chunk of 2021 researching the schoolhouses of Madison County. I started with Adams Township since my band practiced in a modular building there. Although I focused on one-room schoolhouses, I stopped to take photos of two consolidated schools there. I’m glad I did since I recently learned that most of the old Markleville High School has been torn down! I’m sad to see it go, but its destruction is a perfect example of why it’s important to shoot your shot before you miss out on an opportunity.

The Markleville school. The original portion was the shorter part barely visible at right. Photo taken August 10, 2021.

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, has a real presence in my life, and not just through trying to decide what to watch on Netflix. For years, I told myself I’d go take pictures of the 1936 Pendleton High School, which I could pass on my commute if I went a little bit out of my way. The three-story WPA building was reconfigured as a middle school in 1969 but closed after a new middle school was built forty years later. Three years after it was shuttered, South Madison Community School Corporation unanimously voted to demolish the structure. Pendleton’s Historic Preservation Commission disagreed, and I thought I had all the time in the world to go take photos of it1.

The former site of Pendleton High School, seen in 2012 and 2022. Imagery courtesy Satellite imagery courtesy Google, copyright IndianaMap Framework Data. Landsat /Copernicus, Maxar Technologies, USDA/FPAC/GEO. 

It turns out that I did not. I finally made time to drive by the historic school in 2014 and found a blacktop parking lot. The old high school had been razed after all! Although a historic WPA-era gymnasium still exists on site, it’s hard to see since Pendleton Elementary, built in 1955, was designed to wrap around it. Amateur, armchair historians can’t win them all, I guess.

The site of Fall Creek Township’s District 11 schoolhouse as it appeared on August 19, 2021.

As disheartening as it was to miss seeing Pendleton High School in person, I’ve got to give myself some credit: I have won a lot of battles against nature, backhoes, and wrecking balls as I’ve taken tons of pictures of courthouses, schools, and everything else. Unfortunately, I’ve also been burned by my tendency to procrastinate other times over the past several years. My trip to Fall Creek Township’s District 11 schoolhouse, also in Madison County, was another disappointment: although Google Maps showed a T-shaped schoolhouse on a lot next to the historic Mendon Church, I couldn’t find it when I got to town. I pulled over to the cemetery to look at the notes on my phone and then noticed the freshly-graded dirt where the school once stood. It’d been torn down so recently that the its date block was still propped up on a stone next to the construction site!

The site of Pike Township’s District 1 schoolhouse as it appeared on November 26, 2021.

I was disappointed, but I’ve never expected to find every single one-room schoolhouse ever built. I’m realistic about the prospects of hunting down buildings deaccessioned three generations ago. That said, it drives me absolutely crazy knowing that I could have seen more of them if I’d gone out or known about them sooner! As another example, Google Street View indicated that Jay County’s Pike Township District 1 schoolhouse, or at least part of it, was still standing at the southwest corner of East County Road 400-South and South County Road 300-East. Nothing was left when I made it there on November 26, 2021. Just like in Mendon, the property was fresh with new sod.

Markleville High School, as it appeared in the 1932 edition of the Markleville Arabian.

That’s what brings me to the Markleville School. Adams Township operated ten schoolhouses around the turn of the twentieth century2. A new building in Markleville was completed in 1911 and it was dramatically enlarged two years later to accommodate students in grades 1-12. The state board of health condemned six of the township’s schoolhouses in 1922, so a two-year project to expand and renovate the school at Markleville began in response. After the work finished, the larger building absorbed the students of Adams Township’s Districts 4, 6, 7, 8, and 10 schoolhouses3.

Fall Creek Heights, as it appeared in the 1932 edition of the Markleville Arabian.

Although my schoolhouse project focuses on small buildings of the one- and two-room variety, I decided to take a single photo of the Markleville school, as well as one of the consolidated Fall Creek Heights school that was completed in 1928 to serve elementary students. Its construction led to the closure of Adams Township’s smaller schoolhouses in Districts 1, 2, 3, and 54.

In 1939, the school at Markleville underwent an expensive expansion when a new gymnasium and more classrooms were added to the building’s northwest side. Later, a detached addition was constructed to the west. Along with Pendleton High School, the building was converted to a middle school in 1969 after the school townships of Green, Fall Creek, and Adams merged to create South Madison Community Schools.

The former Fall Creek Heights Elementary School as it appeared on August 10, 2021.

The schools at Fall Creek Heights and Markleville, along with the old Ingalls Elementary School in Green Township, closed after South Madison’s new East Elementary School was completed on US-36 in 1979. Today, the Fall Creek Heights and Ingalls buildings are still in use: Ingalls Elementary is now the Real Community Church of God, while Fall Creek Heights was recently purchased to become the home of American Elevator, Incorporated.

The former Ingalls Elementary School, as it appeared on December 29, 2021.

The Markleville school had a more amusing history than its peers. A year after it closed, the building was purchased by Steven Painter, a former student there who transformed it into the headquarters of Reflectix, Incorporated, a manufacturer of foil insulation5. The company expanded the building and later erected a 30,000-square-foot facility directly south of it atop the Markleville Arabians’ old baseball field.

The former site of Markleville High School, seen in 2012 and 2022. Imagery courtesy Satellite imagery courtesy Google, copyright IndianaMap Framework Data. Landsat /Copernicus, Maxar Technologies, USDA/FPAC/GEO. 

Given what I write about here, it shouldn’t be surprising that one of my hobbies is scouring Google Maps. I probably spend hundreds of hours a year doing it during my free time! I learned that the oldest portions of the Markleville school had been demolished a week or two ago when I was looking for a pair of artesian wells nearby. I errant scrolled the map up to Markleville and saw the school in Google’s updated imagery. Street View cameras weren’t driven through this part of the tiny town, so I hopped in my car to see the carnage for myself.

The Markleville school. Photo taken March 19, 2023.

Here’s what I saw when I got there, from a similar, but shallower, angle to the photo I led this post with. The brick towards the left side of the image is the corner of the large addition. The east wall of the original 1911 structure is next, followed by part of the 1939 gym. Although the Arabians once shot different kinds of shots there, the gym looks to be used for storage today. The brick walls that weren’t torn down must be load-bearing or otherwise integral to the rest of the remaining buildings. Other additions to the west of the old school are still standing but aren’t visible in my photos.

Production at Reflectix was running when I stopped by the old Markleville school in 2021. Although I’d have liked to take more photos from many different angles, I rushed by and only took a single picture of the building from my car window since I was wary about looking suspicious to the employees smoking outside.

The Markleville School, now Reflectix, Incorporated, as it appeared in 2021 and 2023.

Nevertheless, I’m glad I shot that shot. I’d been exposed to that lesson before in Pendleton, Mendon, and Rural Jay County, but it finally clicked- even though I had no idea the building was set to go the way of the dodo. You should shoot your shot too. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on opportunities like I did. Take your photos and go the extra mile. Later, you’ll be glad you had- its a lesson that’s universally-applicable! Although my inner preservationist laments the loss of historic high schools in Pendleton and Markleville, I’m glad those old schools wound up teaching me a good lesson.

Sources Cited
1 Palmer, D. (2013, February 25). Court denies request to throw out demolition decision. The Anderson Herald Bulletin. Web. Retrieved March 19, 2023.
2 Bock, G. (1970, October 29). Adams Township Had Ten School Districts. Anderson Daily Bulletin. p. 4.
3 Plat Book of Madison County Indiana (n.d.) W. W. Hixson & Co. Rockford, IL. map. Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.
4 School Terms to Close Next Week (1928, April 14). The Elwood Call-Leader. p. 1.
5 Swiatek, J. (1987, March 22). What’s thin, silvery and made in Markleville? New insulation. The Indianapolis Star. p. 127.

4 thoughts on “Shoot your shot: A final lesson from Markleville High School

  1. Good old Robert Herrick reminds us:

    “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying;
    And this same flower that smiles today
    Tomorrow will be dying …”

    And then there’s Herb Magidson’s poignant lyric, “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think / Enjoy yourself while you’re still in the pink …”

    Such works of art are typically received as sobering reminders, but there’s a celebratory aspect, too, in “doing the thing,” shooting the shot, while you have the ball. None of us know how the rest of the game is going to go.

    A lovely post! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have deep sorrow in this. My Mother was a Rector who graduated from Markleville High school over 80 years ago. I graduated from there 56 years ago. My Grandfather drove a school bus there, he was the first school bus driver in Adams TWS. well over 100 years ago. I played in that old bus that sit in his back yard many times as a child. It is sad to lose old things such as this but living beings must progress,

    Liked by 1 person

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