Center Township’s Whitely schoolhouse in Delaware County

Center Township’s Whitely schoolhouse is better known as a civil rights icon than it ever was as a school. The building’s history dates to 1833 when the federal government granted James Howell the property that it later stood on. Nearly sixty years later, the Whitely Land Company awarded the Center School Township a block to erect a schoolhouse1.

Photo taken April 29, 2021.

The rural townships in Delaware County began consolidating schoolhouses in the late 1890s. In 1901, Center Township officials combined the District 11 Boyceton school -a structure the township didn’t own that had become unsuitable for school purposes- with the bigger Whitley school2. By 1903, more students went to Whitely than any school outside of Muncie in Center Township3!

Kids kept coming to District 14. To provide enough space, Center Township opened a larger school called Longfellow in 1905. It sat three blocks west of the old schoolhouse4, and around forty pupils from Center Township’s District 1 schoolhouse, known as Priest College, were sent to the new building the year it opened. A handful of students who started at a schoolhouse jointly operated by Center and Hamilton Townships soon joined them5.

Muncie absorbed Whitely in 1919, and Longfellow became a city school6. Nine years later, the Shaffer Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church purchased the abandoned District 14 schoolhouse from the Muncie Community School Board for $3,5007 to serve African American congregants in the Whitely neighborhood8. In 1930, the bodies of two lynched African-American men were brought to the church to be embalmed by its pastor, J.E. Johnson.

Today, a historical marker in the churchyard recognizes the building’s importance as a monument to civil rights. Over the years, Shaffer Chapel has altered and improved its sanctuary, Center Township’s old District 14 school. The building was restored in 2011.

Sources Cited
1 Whitely, Indiana. Our Churches Are Our Community (2016). Jacket Copy Creative. . Retrieved September 2, 2021.
2 The consolidating of Delaware County schools progresses. (1903, June 28). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 9.
3 Center Township school census outside Muncie. (1903, May 15). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 2.
4 School is opened. (1905, October 9). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 6.
5 Kemper, G. W. H. (1908). A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County, Indiana, Volume 1 (Vol. 1, p. 252). book, Lewis Publishing Company.
6 Delaware County Public Schools. (1919). School directory, Delaware County public schools, Delaware County, Indiana 1919-1920. Muncie, IN. 
7 Satterfield, Ed. (1992, September 6). African Americans have long history in religious community. The Muncie Star. p. 5D.
8 Goodall and Mitchell, A History of Negroes in Muncie. p. 11. 

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