The ruins of America’s first consolidated schoolhouse, in Raleigh, Indiana

What’s left of the Washington Township Public School sits just east of Raleigh, an unincorporated community in the northeastern corner of Rush County. Local legend -and even a boulder that sits out front- proclaims the building to have been Indiana’s first consolidated school in the nation1. Fact or fiction, the building’s remains are among the most compelling schoolhouse ruins I’ve ever come across.

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Harrison Township’s Mount Olive schoolhouse in Delaware County

The early history of Harrison Township’s District 9 school is confusing: in the 1860s, two churches with the word “Olive” in their names held services at a pair of township schools. The first was Olive Chapel United Brethren Church, which used the District 2 McCreery schoolhouse before constructing a purpose-built sanctuary at the northwest corner of present-day Indiana State Route 28 and North County Road 450-W1. Several miles southeast, the Mt. Olive Methodist Protestant Church worshipped in a succession of schoolhouses before building a new church across Nebo Road in 18982

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What’s left of Center Township’s College Hill schoolhouse in Hancock County

Center Township’s District 3 schoolhouse was built in 18941, but the institution’s history goes back even further: an earlier District 3 schoolhouse sat about a third of a mile north of the present structure, abutting the Little Brandywine Creek on an acre deeded by Elisha Davis2. The school was commonly known as “College Hill” at least as early as 18823, but its name was changed -briefly- when it was relocated.

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What’s left of Licking Township’s Corn Cob schoolhouse in Blackford County

Not much is left of Licking Township’s District 3 schoolhouse, commonly known as Corn Cob. The school was one of Blackford County’s earliest to be discontinued, in 1907, under a law that compelled township trustees to shut down schools whose attendance had fallen below twelve pupils, as well as to provide transportation for all students who lived two miles from the school they were compelled to attend1. Upon the school’s closure, its students were conveyed to the District 5 school, known as Pleasant Grove2

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Old schoolhouses are hardly rare in 2022

The overwhelming majority of Indiana’s remaining schoolhouses were first known as common schools. Funded by the state and administered by the county township in which they stood, the schoolhouses were “common” insofar as the kids of a typical, common, resident -rather the offspring of a bigwig- could attend classes at one. The system -which the state first paid for in 1851- was a major change to the previous arrangement of subscription schools.

I think it’s ironic that these old-fashioned common schools are actually still so common today. I’ve located and photographed more than two hundred of them in East-Central Indiana alone!

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Wayne Township’s Fairview schoolhouse in Hamilton County

A schoolhouse has stood at the southwestern corner of what’s now Cyntheanne Road and East 156th Street since at least 1866, when a District 12 building -known as Fairview- was located on land owned by the Stanford family1. The structure was of frame construction at least as of the 1892-93 school term2, a year before one of the most dramatic and tragic accidents to occur in Hamilton County happened on its site. 

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What’s left of Richland Township’s College Corner schoolhouse in Madison County

Although Richland Township’s brick College Corner schoolhouse was erected in 18841, an older District 4 schoolhouse, likely frame, sat on the land of J.H. Chambers at the southeast corner of College Corner Road and North County Road 100-East even earlier2.

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What’s left of Licking Township’s Bailey schoolhouse in Blackford County

Licking Township’s District 1: Bailey schoolhouse burned during the 1938-39 school year in a fire that caused $8,000 in damages1. That’s $168,000 today! The school’s forty-seven students were distributed across the District 4: Carney and District 11: Guseman schoolhouses, two miles south and six-and-a-half miles southwest, respectively2

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What’s left of Harrison Township’s Goodboo schoolhouse in Blackford County

It’s said that the Harrison Township’s District 4: Goodboo schoolhouse took its unusual name from a Native American word meaning “good morning1.” More likely, it took its name from a small community that sprung up in the Godfroy Reserve, an Indian reservation named after Miami chief Francis Godfroy, who was granted land here in 1818. The settlement included homes, a church, a schoolhouse, and a trading post; it was named after an Indian who married one of Godfroy’s daughters2.

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