Madison County Historical Society


 Adams Township Had 10 Schools


In 1823, Abraham Adams was the first pioneer to settle Adams Township.  This was around the time Madison County was formed.  He built a small cabin of round logs just south of and overlooking Ovid.  

In 1824, Adams and another pioneer settler known as Manly began building a schoolhouse.  The low strong walls were round logs and clay.  On wooden hinges hung a slab door, underfoot was puncheon floor, with the clapboard roof serving as the ceiling.  Oiled paper stretched over openings in two opposite walls, letting in yellow light.  A fireplace furnished warmth.  Long wooden boards mounted on wooden posts served as both seats and desks.  The teacher's desk was a wooden block.  A long wide board painted black was attached to the wall for the students to learn sums.

By 1826, there were five families in the settlement.  Between 1827 and 1829, eight more families had arrived and settled further east, creating a need for the second schoolhouse.  This school named "The Sargent" was built 3/4 mile north of Markleville.  The logs were hewn, and the door, floor and ceiling were made of boards brought from the mill located in Ovid.

 Primitive Studies

By 1831, eight more families arrived and settled along the trail running from Ovid to Markleville.  The third schoolhouse was built two miles south of the Ovid mill and was named "The Sullivan Surbin."  As more people came to the area there was need for the "Lick", as it was named, built in 1832.  The fifth schoolhouse was built in the northeast part of the township in 1834.  In 10 years, five schoolhouses were built by the settlers.  All construction and materials were donated by those the schools served.

Schools were in session two to three months each winter.  Teachers were employed by the settlers and paid around 40 cents per day and given room and board with the families.  At that time, no course of study had been declared.  Teachers were expected to instruct in reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic, but rarely in geography or grammar and never in history.  All instruction was primitive.  Reading was conducted while standing along the wall and repeating the words of the test.  The writing class stood at a shelf and copied with a quill pen.  Arithmetic involved memorizing tables and solving problems by the rule.

In 1854, the township, in accordance with the Act of the General Assembly of 1851, was organized into 10 school districts.  A board of trustees composed of William Sloan, Jacob Fisher and William Gilmore was elected and the schools were made part of the public or free system of the state.  The five old log houses were torn down and 10 frame schools were built.  They were all built by the same contractor for an average cost of $300 each!

The new schoolhouses were much improved, painted, plastered, heated by gas stoves and with glass windows.  They were furnished with wall maps, wooden benches and desks.  The studies now included reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, geography and grammar.  Teachers were paid from public funds and hired by the board of trustees.  Jonathan Rogers, a Quaker from the Pendleton settlement, made frequent visits and introduced the singing method of teaching geography.  His teaching, it was said, brought great joy and learning to the students.

 Call to School by a Bell

All 10 schools had been removed by the late 1800s.  Four schools burned and the others were torn down due to dilapidated conditions.  Ten splendid brick structures were erected at the average cost of $1000 each.  Each school had a lawn, gravel walks, a well pump, oiled floors, white-washed walls, curtained windows and long rows of single desks.

Maps, charts, gloves, books and newspapers were provided by public funds.  About 500 pupils attended the schools during the now seventh-month term.  Children were called to class by a large metal bell, which was rung by the teacher at the beginning of the day and to call the end of lunch.

A bell used in an Adams Township school is on display at the Pendleton Historical Museum.  The Markleville School was built in 1873 and Emporia School(still standing) were two stories and had two rooms.  However, the neatest in appearance and arrangement is the Wildwood, or District 5 school.  This school was also called "Poly Walk" because the road was often muddy and poles or logs were laid on the road for children to walk on as they came to school.

Until 1860, the schools were managed by school boards;  after 1860, they were managed by trustees.  This practice remained until the late 1960s when school boards were once again elected.  An outstanding trustee was Liscum Titus.  He practiced economy with select, very competent teachers;  he rewarded them with a pay of $2.50 per day.  In 1912-13, the 10 teachers employed received $4,256 in salaries.

In 1911, a new brick school was built in Markleville.  By 1913, it had been remodeled to house all future 12 grades.  Before then, public schools only taught to grade eight.  High school was offered for the first time in 1914 but only the ninth grade.  Robert Eckert was the principal and Dr. C. B. Pendleton was the trustee. 

The first high school basketball game was played in 1916, with Markleville defeating Wilkinson 17 to 11.  Games were played in a building in Markleville with teams dodging the support poles, because the school did not have a gymnasium.  The first class to graduate high school was in 1917 with five students -- Seth Rogers, Ina Mauzy, Hazel Charman, Lucille Markle and Terril Ham.

After 11 years the first gym was constructed from 1922 to 1924.  The first yearbook was printed in 1924 and named "The Radio."  The first year for girls basketball was 1925.  Girls' basketball was later discontinued until sometime after 1970.  There were no organized girl athletic teams.  In 1930, the nickname "Arabians" was adopted and the yearbook changed to "The Arabian."

Shut Down in 1969 

After only fifteen years the old gym was demolished and construction was begun for a new gym and remodeling of classrooms.  This was a Federal Works Progress Administration project with the gym dedication held on November 16, 1940.  Markleville lost the dedication game to Pendleton, 30 to 26.

In 1960, a vocational building was constructed for home economics, shop and drafting classes.  Students were required to walk outside from one building to classes in another.  The 12 grades of school remained open until 1969.  The last graduating class of 1969 had 53 students.  The total number of graduates of Markleville High School was 1,353.

By 1970, Fall Creek Heights and Markleville(grades 1 to 8) were the only schoolhouses left in Adams Township.  The consolidation of small school systems was mandated in the late 1960s, resulting in the closing of Markleville High School.  The growth of the town of Markleville stopped when the school left.  Times and lives forever changed.

It was written that on Friday nights during basketball season, the only lights on in Markleville were in the gym.  Is bigger always better? I attended Markleville schools for 11 years, before graduating from the first class of Pendleton Heights High School.  I missed the small school where everyone knew your name.  My father, Horace W. Hays, was the last trustee of Adams Township schools during the state mandated consolidation.

  •  Schoolhouse #10 was also known as "PolyWalk School" because of the logs on the west area road around the school.  It still stands on County Road 1000 South in southern Adams Township and is owned by Jeff Seal.  The sign on it reads, "School House - No. 10 - Erected 1889 - Adams Forney Trustee".
  •  The two-story Walnut Grove schoolhouse still stands at the intersection of State Road 36 and County Road 300 East.  The sign on it reads, "A.D. 1883 - Adams TP Walnut Grove School - District No. 6 F. M. Williams Trustee - A. B.  Hopper Builder."

By Jan Fox, Pendleton Historical Museum   

The Pendleton Historical Museum is open weekends May 1 through October 30, Saturdays 9 a.m. to  1 p.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.  There is no admission charge.  The museum is in  Falls Park, one block north of State Street in downtown Pendleton, Indiana.   


 Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, P. O. Box 696, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765)683-0052|