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Township Educational History

Did you know that Decatur Township had a school as early as the 1870s?  The school building (Valley Mills) was located southeast of Highway 67 at Valley Mills behind the home of Augie Fuchs and the now vacant Dairy Queen.  The town of Valley Mills was established in 1856, so it was some time before the school was constructed. 


The earliest records of the school start in the 1890s, some twenty years after the school was built.  The graduating class of 1890 consisted of only eight people.  Records kept through 1932 gives names of graduates, with the exception of approximately tens years, where information is missing. 


Photographs and drawings indicate the building as constructed of brick and appears to be in two or three rooms with a bell tower above the entrance.    The building in the photograph is of the school preceding the brick building that burned to the ground on Halloween night, 1932; rumors have it that remnants of the foundation still remain amongst the trees and brush. 


That was described in the Grade School chapter of Elden Mills' Between Thee and Me. p52:

"The school house at the Valley. a mid-nineteenth century wooden building had three rooms. One of them crammed with the accumulated detritus of twenty years past, was locked at all times. Each of the other two rooms housed half the school, four grades each..
Elden Mills also writes that his father, Thornton Mills, served two terms of four years each as Decatur Township Trustee ," hiring all teachers and handling the finances (indeed all details) of the schools in two communities," Between Thee and Me. p23. I believe the two communities were West Newton and Valley Mills. These were the days when the township trustee managed the schools. lbm

" In 1907 father, as Trustee, authorized the building of the new school house at the Valley. It was a two-story brick building, two classrooms downstairs, one for the first and second grades and one for the third and fourth. Upstairs was the big assembly hall divided in the center with movable partitions , that allowed the back half to be used for classrooms. ...He produced a good building with space for a growing population of children, and probable expansion into a high school that would use the same facilities, which did occur two years later." Ibid p 54


We talked with Alice Milhous Emmert, who was a student at that time.  Her memory of that year is amazing.  The gym that was located across Thompson Road from the damaged school building was altered to accommodate the needs of the student population. 


The stage was divided into 4 sections for the home economics room, eight grade and seventh grade classes, and the cafeteria.  The gym floor was divided into four sections to accommodate grades three through six.  There were two Quonset hut type buildings erected nearby for grades one and two.  The high school students were relocated to West Newton and graduated from there.  This arrangement continued for two years.  The teachers taught at Valley Mills for part of the day and then went to West Newton for the other half of the day. 


During this time the school on High School Road  (the old high school) was constructed and the students were then moved into the building.  It's memories like Alice's, and her willingness to share with others, that help us better understand our township history.  It is amazing what a *glance into the past* will tell us.


At that time, students were transferred to West Newton.    The last graduating class was in 1932 - this class had 16 graduates. 


From the period of record (1890-1932) several families remain in the area and their descendants still attend "our school."


Information regarding township schooling prior to 1870 remains unknown, unless there is someone out there in this growing community that can offer us a "glance into the past" of Decatur Township Schools. 


If you have any pictures, school papers, letters, notes in old books, drawings, etc that you could share with us, please contact the Alumni Association.  We are interested in doing more collection of the Township’s history.  We have the equipment to copy items in my home, so they will never leave you.  I know how valuable this type of material can be to each individual.  Contact Margaret Jane Tutewiler-Cox, class of 1947 at 317.856.6677.


     Valley Mills Teachers from the 1920s

     Old Valley Mills School - at right in the middle row is Rhea Strode -
     front is Bernice Dorrell. Back row at left is Jim Jay. Left front is Nettie Horton.


     West Newton High School Class of 1896. 
     Seated:  Brant Downey (teacher), Ella Henley. Clara Hodson. Effie Card 
     Standing:  Emma Robinson, Levant Dickerson, Katherine Mendenhall, Albert Brown (teacher)


     Bethel schoolhouse about 1906.
     The teacher is Mister Card. Helen Strode is in the front left.
     Bethel was located along High School Road near the airport (near current Fed Ex facility).



Sulgrove, History of Indianapolis and Marion County—Villages of Decatur Township[1]

West Newton
The most important village in Decatur Township is West Newton, which was laid out by Christopher Furnas , in April 1851. Its location is in the south half of the Township, south of the Vincennes Railroad. It has two churches ( Friends and Methodist), a fine two-story school house, a graded school, two physicians, a post office, two general stores, two blacksmiths, one wagon maker shop, one undertaker shop, one saw-mill and West Newton Station on the Vincennes line.

Also West Newton Lodge #452 was chartered 27 May 1873.

Valley Mills
Valley Mills Village, previously Fremont and Northport , was laid out as Fremont by Joe Sanders in 1856 and laid out and platted under the name of Northport 21 March 1839, is located a little south of the center of the township on the Vincennes Railroad. It has a Friends Meeting house, one commodious school house of four rooms, a graded school, post office, one physician, one general store, one grocery, a wagon makers shop , a saw mill, and railroad station.

Spring Valley
The Village of Spring Valley was laid out on the northwest quarter of Section 10. townshjp15, range 3 by Stephen Ward in 1848. ( plat recorded January 4th of that year) Quite an extensive store was opened, with a full stock of goods, a building was erected for a hotel, a blacksmith shop and a wagon makers shop were started. Several dwellings were built and occupied. A physician located there and a post office was established. The town flourished well for a time, but the rivalry of Fremont and West Newton caused it to decline. Finally the place was abandoned by all who had any interest in its prosperity or existence. The buildings were dismantled and the material moved to other places. Spring Valley was left with its name but not enough of the marks of a town to ;lead a stranger to suspect that one had ever been there. A public school house is still there, but there has been no Post office or post master for Spring Valley for several years.

NOTE: Location of the remaining school house which for many years has been a residence:. Southport Road comes west off the White River bridge and joins Mann Road going south. The third house south of this point on the east side of Mann is the old Spring Valley school building. lbm

Later the area was called Antrim for the Antrim family, Baptists, who came from Ohio, and lived among the Quakers for a time and returned to Ohio. They gave the land for the Mt Pleasant Baptist Church and cemetery on Mills Road. They brought the Ice cream business to Indianapolis. George and Wesley were in that first West Newton high school graduating class in 1990. They were writers. In my work room there is more about them. Lbm

Camby came a little later.
See below: Don Carlos and Mary Alice Morgan: Founders of Camby, Indiana, by Mary Ellen Rand Rink

[1]Sulgrove, B.R. History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana. , Philadelphia, L. H. Everts and.Co. 1884.


Don Carlos and Mary Alice Morgan
Founders of Camby, Indiana

Mary Ellen Rand Rink

My grandparents, Don Carlos and Mary Alice (Maidie) Morgan
came to the southwest corner of Marion County in the 1880’s. They
were newlyweds starting to build their lives, and, as it happened, also
built a town. They bought land, on which was a log cabin, and
opened a grocery store. Like many merchants of the time, they lived
in one room while the store was in the other.

When Grandfather Morgan learned that the Pennsylvania
Railroad was planning a line from Indianapolis to Vincennes he
offered to give them the land if they would come across his property.
He could see that a railroad would mean a lot to the area. The
railroad was built about 1890 and Grandfather Morgan became the
station agent.

Since the spot had no name and West Newton was the nearest
town, it began as West Newton Station. However, in 1895 they
succeeded in getting a post office. The government said they must
have a name of their own for the post office. Many people said it
should be Morgantown or Carlos after my grandfather. He wanted
a name that would be different from any other town in the world. He
poured over maps for a long time and found the word “Cambi” on a
South American map. He liked the sound and found it on no other
map—so the town was christened “Camby”. He felt the “Y” made a
better ending than “I”

Maidie Morgan became the postmistress in 1890 and retired in
1940. It was the longest record of service for a postal employee in
Indiana and longest for a woman in the nation.

With the coming of the railroad and post office Camby became
a boom town. The interurban line was put in beside the railroad line
and in 1909 Carl Morgan decided his home and railroad station could
no longer contain a busy store and post office. He built a large store
building across the tracks from the station. This building contained a
large grocery, the post office, ticket sales for the interurban, a large
scale on which the farmers could weigh their wagons of tomatoes,
wheat, and corn, as well as a coal yard where they could buy and
weigh coal. It was a busy place. Small freight could be sent to
Indianapolis on the interurban, and farmers brought cans of milk that
were taken by interurban to Indianapolis. Grandmother continued to
work as the postmistress and grandfather as station agent. By this
time their son, Earl Morgan, was old enough to help run the grocery.

John Routon, who owned a large farm here had opened a
second coal yard and a hardware store. There was also a blacksmith
shop. So, because of the railroad and interurban Camby became a
busy center. Passenger trains ran frequently. They contained the
mail car on which we received mail twice a day. Also small freight
was carried in the baggage car. Freight trains carried coal and farm
products as well as delivering any and all things the farmers in the
area purchased. There were always crowds of people waiting for
the trains. At harvest time wagons would be lined up for blocks
waiting to weigh and load their grain or tomatoes. They enjoyed
the chance to visit with their neighboring farmers, loaf at the grocery
store, and go to the blacksmith shop.

As a result of the ease of transportation and the advent of
electricity to Camby the town began to grow and many new homes
were built. Williams Sanders built a large saw mill. Now, with good
highways and trucking Camby has settled back to a residential
suburb of Indianapolis. There are only a few here who remember its
busier days.

SOURCE: from Jean Rink Bane and Steve Rink June 22,
2009 at the Decatur Township office.

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