Abandoned one room schoolhouse in Indiana

Barber School - Polk Township District No. 2 Schoolhouse, Walkerton Indiana
Date added: August 04, 2022 Categories: Indiana School
Looking northeast at school from road intersection (2011)

In 1840 Marshall County had forty school-age children, twenty-five of whom attended subscription schools. There were only three schoolhouses in the county at that time. In 1848 the State of Indiana allowed voters to decide if education should be made available free to the public. Marshall County residents voted 619 in favor and 86 against. The state constitution was amended to include Article VIII providing for tax dollars to be used for the free education of the public's children. After its adoption rural schools began to develop rapidly in Marshall County, keeping pace with the settlement of the area. By 1858 the number of schoolhouses had grown from 3 in 1840 to 69. In 1862 there were 84 schools, in 1868 there were 116 schools, and by 1879 there were 132. The total enumeration had grown from 3,880 students in 1856 to 8,386 in 1879. Districts schools were typically positioned to allow students to not need to walk any further than about one mile, and they were frequently on land donated by a farming family under the condition the land would revert back to the family if there was no longer school conducted on the land.

An 1850 map of the school district lines in Polk Township shows a total of nine districts. In 1852 Stephen Butler conveyed a piece of land in the northwest corner of section 33 for use as a school site in District No. 2, Polk Township. Butler included a provision that the building could be used by Methodists, United Brethren, Baptists, "Camelites" (sp), Presbyterians, Universalists, and religious uses, and should it ever stop being used for school purposes it would revert back to him. Other records state that the first schoolhouse, made of logs, was constructed on the Joshua Barber farm in the 1850s. It was located near the center of Section 33 at its northern boundary (on the southeast corner of present U.S 6 and Sage Road). This may be the same building. In 1864 the trustee ordered the construction of a new frame building which remained in the same general location on the Barber farm. The "Barber School" remained at this location until the new school was constructed southwest of it in 1901. The prior schoolhouses are no longer extant. The frame building was listed as District No. 2 Schoolhouse on an 1880 plat of the township and located on the Albert Barber farm. The building also appears at this location in the 1872 and 1876 plats; it was also used as a church and community hall for debates, literary purposes, and spelling bees. By 1880 Polk Township had developed ten district schools with a total value of $3,300. The number of school districts increased to twelve by 1887, then back to ten just prior to school consolidation. Statistics from 1880 show there were 490 students enrolled in the district schools of Polk Township. The Barber School hosted the first grade school commencement in 1887. It was coordinated by township trustee Myron Chase and cost $2.00 to conduct. Joshua Barber became a school teacher in the township system of schools.

The Walkerton Independent stated in 1901 that (Polk Township) Trustee (Edwin R.) Monroe was contemplating building a new school house in the Barber settlement on Wesley Ruple's farm near his residence, with the patron's consent. Plans for the new building moved forward and Monroe revealed the bids taken to the Walkerton Independent. Frank Bennett received the contract for carpentry work for $114.50. Laying of brick was awarded to H. P. Mead at $6.50 per cord and stone masonry and plastering were awarded to Joe Burnside for $3 per cord (stone) and 7 cents per Square yard (plaster). Two bids for building the school completely were rejected; they were for the sums of $1,390 and $1,196. The new building was completed about five weeks into the new school year with classes commencing on November 11, 1901.

The new District No. 2 school retained the Barber name but was located at the northeast corner of Tamarack and 2A Roads, southwest of the former location; the old school was sold at public auction to Sanford Sheaks for $41.00. The new school appears on the 1908 and 1922 plats of Polk Township. A photograph from about 1908-1910 shows 27 students gathered outside the school with their teacher, Home Burke. A photo from 1920 shows 17 students gathered in front of the building with their teacher, Carl Ketchum.

The desire to have modern utilities for school facilities, such as gas and electric, led to the establishment of consolidated schools in population centers. There was also an increased desire to provide higher grades than what was offered in the rural district schools. This was true in Polk Township where the first high school was located in Tyner in 1899, with the first graduating class, with 10 graduates, occurring in 1902. The Tyner School had expansions in 1912 and 1928 to accommodate consolidation. A school was also constructed in Teegarden in 1915 to accommodate the closure of District Schools #1 through #4, which included the Barber School, though evidence suggests the Barber School continued to be used into the early 1920s. The new Teegarden School burned in 1924 and it was replaced with a grade school only in 1925. Upper grades were offered at the Tyner and Walkerton Schools. After the use of the Barber School ceased for education, evidence suggests that the building was used for storage of grain or other agricultural purposes by the farmer who reclaimed ownership.

Township History

Polk Township is located in the northeast corner of Marshall County and was part of an original northern tier township established when Marshall County was organized by the state in 1836. Polk formed from North Township and was officially organized on the day James K. Polk was inaugurated President on March 4, 1845, from which the name was derived. Tyner, which was platted ten years later, became the "seat of justice" for the township. A few other small plats were created, but the only other community that became a viable town was Teegarden which was platted in 1873 in anticipation of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad across the northern part of the township. The terrain of Polk Township included vast areas of marsh and an important waterway named Pine Creek, a tributary to the Kankakee River. On the creek was established the first sawmill in Marshall County, by A. C. Knott in 1848; John Baugher constructed a second sawmill nearby in 1888. The Knott dam site served as the only bridge across the creek for many years. Pine Creek has fingers across much of the township and was dredged in 1909, draining much of the wetlands allowing for more settlement and crop production shortly after the time the District No. 2 Schoolhouse was constructed.

Polk Township has remained rural and the communities of Tyner and Teegarden, without the advantage of highways, never grew beyond their original railroad-era boundaries. The nearest large community is Walkerton in St. Joseph County, followed by Plymouth, the county seat of Marshall County.

Barber Family

The Barber Family, the name associated with the school, came to Polk Township in 1847, just two years after its incorporation. Joshua T. Barber was born March 26, 1810 in Washington County, New York where later he married Mary O'Dell. They moved with their first four children to Marshall County via the Erie Canal, then overland through Ohio. He filed his land claim in Section 33 of Polk Township in 1848. The name is also spelled Barbour and Barbur in some records. The four children who accompanied them on the move were Charles (Leonora Strom), John (Emily Myers), Ann Eliza (Izaak Sheeks), and Albert (Sarah Reynolds). Three additional children were born to Joshua and Mary in Marshall County; they were Julia Catherine (Davis), and twins Delia (Carder), and Daniel (Mary Martin). The Barber homestead was located on Sage Road, south of present U.S. 6.

The area they settled became known as the "Barber Neighborhood" and a family cemetery and a Brethren church were established on 2A Road, just south of the original Barber School location and just east of the current District No. 2 Schoolhouse. The condition of the Barber Neighborhood in 1858 was described as almost a wilderness, with no drainage, and no established roads or railroads, and the settlers had to raise their crops among stumps. The Barber Cemetery was established in 1870 for the use of farming families; the first interment was Macelia Ramsbey, a child who died in 1867. The church was known as the Barber Evangelical United Brethren Church; it was constructed in 1878 and was closed in 1923. The church is no longer extant, but the Barber Cemetery remains an active burial ground. Joshua Barber died in 1874 and Mary died in 1878; both are buried at the family cemetery. Over a dozen members of the Barber family are buried in the cemetery spanning several generations including several of Joshua's children.