School history, education in Morgan County through the years

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Editor’s Note: In 2022, Morgan County and the City of Martinsville will celebrate their bicentennial. This year, the Reporter-Times will be working on a series of articles to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Morgan County and Martinsville. This story is part of this series.

MORGAN COUNTY – Since the county was founded in 1822, a variety of schools have come and gone, whether due to fire, rebuilding, buying and selling of property, or simply the ubiquitous march of progress that advances education.

Here’s a look at just a few of the many schools that once covered Morgan County, now grouped into the five major districts we know today.

Mooresville Academy has welcomed generations of students.

Mooresville Friends and Schools Academy

Perhaps the most recognizable and one of the first high schools in the state of Indiana, the Mooresville Friends Academy building in Mooresville was built in 1860 and was used as a school from 1861 to 1971.

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The academy was founded by the Society of Friends, a group of Quakers who first settled in Mooresville in 1820. The Society of Friends noted that no commissioned high schools existed in or near town and took it upon herself to create a school for grades. between elementary and middle school. Many high school age students have attended a school in Richmond, Indiana, or simply have not attended.

Once built, students came from Martinsville, Brooklyn, Cloverdale, Monrovia, Center Valley, and Plainfield.

The building was originally called simply Mooresville School, and when the school filled up in 1907, a new school called Mooresville High School was built next to the Academy building.

The building of the Academy then housed the classes from the first to the eighth from 1908.

In 1936 the William and Milton Newby Memorial Elementary School was built, named after the two uncles of the school’s donor. The Academy became a home for middle school students in the district until the current high school building on Indiana Street was built in 1960. The old high school then became a middle school and the Academy was a home for students in the elementary until the Neil A Armstrong Elementary was built in 1971. The elementary school is the youngest in the district and just celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021.

The building was named to the State and National Historic Registers in 1975 and remains there today.

Wilbur and Walnut Grove School

Wilbur School, located in Gregg Township, was built in 1876 and was in use until 1947. In 1950 the property was purchased for $40 by Grafton Kivett and given to the township for community use . The Morgan County Parks Department later took it over and has maintained it since 2018. The school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

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The Wilbur School’s final graduating year was the class of 1941-42.

Another small but notable school is Walnut Grove, built in 1920. The school served Madison Township students faithfully for years, and was also the school students attended for their final exams.

Neil Armstrong Elementary in Mooresville replaced Walnut Grove.

The former Paragon School was the primary school for Paragon residents until consolidation into the Martinsville District in 1956.

Centerton and Morgantown

Centerton’s first schoolhouse was built in the early 1850s and has been rebuilt twice – once due to a fire caused by a lightning strike in 1917 and again for a fire in 1951. Centerton later became part of Martinsville MSD and is now called Centerton Elementary School.

Schools in Morgantown were first sponsored by parents in 1830 and were built of logs until about 1840 when the first frame schoolhouse was built.

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Brooklyn High School’s last class was the Class of 1902. The building burned down later that same year and students were then given the choice of going to Mooresville or Martinsville until Brooklyn entered the school district of Martinsville.

Mannan School was home to many Paragon students before becoming part of the Martinsville School District.

Other schools and districts

The Jackson-Hensley-Nineveh Schools were the result of a 1962 amalgamation, bringing together three townships on both sides of the Morgan-Johnson County line. Jackson Township, Morgan County, along with Hensley and Nineveh Townships in southern Johnson County made up the new school district, which remains in place today.

The Swearingin School, which operated in Madison Township from 1902 to 1920, was one of the first instances of racial integration when former county auditor and businessman Bill Moore visited the Mississippi and returned with an orphan boy, Corny Williams. According to a 1966 Daily Reporter report, “There was no problem, and he was accepted by the students and the community.”

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Mannan School was a one-room brick schoolhouse located atop Mannan Hill north of Paragon and was one of the first schools that served Paragon, dating back to before the 1900s.

In addition to the few schools mentioned here, Morgan County has a rich history of one- and two-room schools, as well as decades and decades of families who lived and died in the county, helping to found and develop the county as it is today. The Morgan County Library, Morgan County History Partnership, Morgan County Museum of History, and many other organizations and individuals have worked hard to preserve the county’s history, in the hope that we can reflect on how far we have come – and how far we can still go.

Contact Reporter-Times reporter Grace Phillips at [email protected] or 765-346-4815

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