What’s left of Monroe Township’s Tennessee schoolhouse in Madison County

Monroe Township’s District 3 schoolhouse, commonly known as Tennessee, was visible on an 1880 plat map. It stood at the southwestern corner of the Lamar family’s seventy-eight acres a mile west of Gilman, or two miles south and four miles east of Alexandria1.  Gilman was a tiny hamlet with no schoolhouse of its own, so the Tennessee school served the kids who lived there.

Photo taken December 5, 2021.

The history of the Tennessee schoolhouse is one marred by fires. In 1922, teacher Erma Wright noticed an enormous plume of smoke rising from the rear of the building as she approached it for the day. Officials determined that an overheated stove caused the fire, which penetrated the building’s attic. Thankfully, locals formed a bucket brigade and the building was saved2.

Around 1930, Monroe Township’s District 4 schoolhouse, known as Hall Corner, was closed after its enrollment declined. Its students were sent to the Tennessee building, which logged its largest enrollment -35 pupils- the following year thanks to the kids that Sanford Hicks drove in from the area around District 43

The steps up to the old Tennessee schoolhouse, as seen on December 29, 2019.

Unfortunately, the Tennessee schoolhouse didn’t last much longer than that. It was destroyed by a second fire two-and-a-half months before the 1932-33 school term was scheduled to end! Officials contemplated dispersing Tennessee’s forty-one students across Monroe Township’s Manring, Spiceland, and Vermillion schools, but they eventually decided to reopen the Hall Corner building instead4. At the end of the day, thirty pupils wound up being conveyed back to Hall Corner, while eleven left to attend to Vermillion schoolhouse. New desks and other furniture that replaced what was lost in the fire were donated by other local institutions5 .

The Tennessee school’s youngest students graduated eighth grade from the consolidated Cunningham School, which opened in 1938 two miles north and two miles west of the Tennessee school6. Today, a stairway and foundation are all that serve to remind us of the place.

Sources Cited
1 Kingman Brothers. (1880). History of Madison County, Indiana with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches. Chicago, IL.
2 Tennessee School Has Narrow Escape From Destruction By Fire (1922, February 16). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1
3 Has Large Enrollment (1931, September 11). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
4 Advisory Board Meets to Make School Plans (1933, February 10). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
5 City Schools Donate Seats and Furniture (1933, February 13). The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.
6 Holtsclaw, S. (2006, May 17). After 68 years, Cunningham Elementary School says goodbye to Alexandria. The Alexandria Times-Tribune. p. 1.

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