While organizing the Clayton-Liberty Township Library’s archives in 2004, we found ephemera from many of the former schools that existed here.
One “souvenir” program mentioned the students and teacher at “Buffalo District School No. 9” for the term 1900-01. Patrons were asked about this school, but not even our revered former librarian seemed to know its location. One day a patron handed us a copy of the 1878 Atlas of Hendricks County, and said “There’s your Buffalo School.”
Sure enough, the Liberty Township map showed 13 schools. (Liberty Township, with 13 schools, had more than any other township and is the largest in area: 48 square miles). In the middle of the township, on County Road 800 South between 0 Road and State Road 39, was Buffalo School No. 9.
Why the name? Investigation revealed stories that W. R. Rushton, who owned the land on which the school stood, had buffalo on his acreage, and the school was named for the herd. Some still refer to this stretch of C.R. 800 South as the Buffalo Road.
Locating this building, bulldozed in the 1960s, piqued our interest in the other schools that have existed in Liberty Township. Another patron appeared one day with a modern map of the township showing the locations of all schools to have existed — 29 in all.
Two long-time residents had, some years ago, put their heads together and located all 29 schools and their names! From this map a display was made showing photos of buildings, students, and paragraphs about each school. In some cases, only a legal description of land deeded from an owner to a trustee exists; it does not mean a school was actually built on the land. Six different buildings housed students in the Hazelwood area over the years.
A story about an early school in the township states that William Columbus Mitchell of Clayton started a subscription school (yesterday’s version of a private school) in a log building on County Road 400 South, just west of S.R. 39. Mitchell taught there until the outbreak of the Civil War, at which time he and his male students enlisted, closing the school. After the war, Mitchell returned and reopened the school for a time. He is buried in Clayton East Cemetery, and the land on which the school stood remains in the Mitchell family.
The first high school in Liberty Township (c. 1898) was in a large Romanesque building at Cartersburg. Students desiring education above the eighth grade were taught in this building. After a few years it was noted that most of the students coming to Cartersburg lived in Clayton, so it was decided to take the mountain to Mohamed and move the high school to Clayton, where it remained until the consolidation of Clayton, Amo, and Stilesville in 1964.
The one-room schools in the township slowly faded away, leaving only the larger buildings in Belleville, Hazelwood, Cartersburg, and Clayton. Belleville, Hazelwood and Cartersburg educated students to eighth grade, then they matriculated to Clayton for high school.
Only two one-room schools still stand in the township: Center Valley No. 12 on S.R. 39, just north of the I-70 interchange, and Scott No. 10 on C.R. 100 W., south of C.R. 750 S.
Even the large buildings in Cartersburg, Belleville and Clayton are gone; Mill Creek East Elementary is on the site of the former Clayton school.
Clayton-Liberty Township Library has a number of archival materials about its township schools, and memoirs of several former students telling of their days in those buildings. They make good reading.
— Ann Cummings is staff archivist for the Clayton-Liberty Township Public Library.