History of the Knightstown Schools

The following is the result of research by Mr. Robert L. Myers who had a long and distinguished tenure as Teacher, Principal and Superindendent of Schools at Knightstown from 1955 until 1974.We are very grateful to Bob for sharing his work with us. Bob Myers
Bob Myers in 1958

Knightstown has always been on the front line of education and the pioneers were fully alive to the advantage of giving their youngsters as much book knowledge as it was possible to procure at that time. Of course the first school-houses were built of logs, and of the rudest description, with floors and benches of split puncheons, stick chimneys, and huge open fireplaces. Glass was too expensive for windows and greased paper panes were used as a subsitute. The writing desks were boards arranged around the walls supported by pegs driven into the holes bored into the logs.

The qualifications for teaching were nominally confined to reading, writing and arithemtic, some religon and sufficient physical force to quell the biggest bully among the scholars. Yet, taken altogether, they worked with a will and made the most of their few talents. Indeed some of the abelest men which Indiana has produced derived their basic education in these primitive temples of knowledge.

I want to share share a bit of interest that I found searching for this information. A description of student’s desks was found in reference to the ones constructed in the 1830’s and 1840’s.

“Sometimes they were of one long wooden bench of solid wood, carved from a log. Wooden pegs were used to fasten to the wall or on supports. They were built to serve more than one pupil and they might extend across a room or around the outside walls. The seats were separated by a board used to keep girls and boys apart. Knives were a common possession of young men at the time and the furniture was frequently well carved into and notched, and named by initials of students — often romantically and carved in pairs with the inevitable slope of a heart around them.”

Little did our forefathers know that they established a tradition that still continues and even to the extent to see the limited vocabulary of some there-on engraved. If you visited the top or third floor of the 1876 academy building you might have observed a similar but more modern continuance of that tradition. Some of us remember the thrill it was, during the later portion of our senior year when we were permitted to go up the stairway and scribe thereon.

Back to history: As early as 1826, Miss Cary, a daughter of the founder of the town, taught in a school at West Liberty. Records show that she was probably the first lady teacher in Henry County. She afterwards taught in Knightstown. From 1829 to 1832 Dr. Hiatt and Mrs. Willits also taught school in private houses. In 1832 the first school was erected on the corner of Jefferson and Jackson streets. Asa Heaton was the builder, and the structure was of frame, 16 x 20 feet. Henry Carroll taught the first term. The school house was also used as a community center, serving as a town hall, and for election purposes.

Other learning places did exist in the area. They were known at that time as “seminaries” and were usually taught by a minister or a member of the congregation and were selective on who could attend.

The community felt a need for all children to be educated and a stock company was formed in 1836. This resulted in the knightstown Academy being built on the corner of Brown and Front Streets. This building later became the residence of the well known Capt. Valentine Steiner. The town of Knightstown was not incorporated until January 2nd, 1837.

Knightstown Academy of 1858

The 1858 Academy Building(This must have been hand colored.)

In 1850 a two story frame building replaced the 1836 school. In 1858 a second Academy was opened in Knightstown.

The Citizens of Knightstown have just completed the erection of a very large and elegantly arranged school ediface. One which reflects credit upon their liberality, and honor upon the community. Located in the northern portion of town, made of the best material, designed and constructed with the special reference to the health, comfort, and edification of both pupil and teacher, and fully competent to accomodate 400 scholars. Cost $8,500.

The school was first Superintended by William Haughton, who was assisted by five competent teachers. Two of which were “Eastern ladies”. A course of education consisting of languages, science, both moral and natural, and the higher branches of mathematics.

The 1858 Academy building served the educational needs of the community until the mid 1870’s. In 1872 John I. Morrison moved to Knightstown. Mr. Morrison was instrumental in writing into the Constitution of Indiana provisions which would guarantee all children a common school education. Mr. morrison had collaborated with other nationally recognized educators, such as Horace Mann of Massachusetts and W.E. McGuffy of Ohio. He soon became a member of the local school board. He was most influential in developing an interest in the construction of an unusual school building. It was at his suggestion that the turrets were surmounted by a large metal decorative globe and telescope. These have become a landmark for travelers on the National Road, even today. This building served well the educational needs of many students for many years and there have been a number of renowned persons come forth starting with the knowledge they gained within its walls as a basic beginning. Many great, dedicated, and influential educators have spent countless hours helping to stimulate and feed inquisitive minds.

Knightstown Academy about 1890

The Globe and Telescope Building in about 1890.

The Knightstown Academy has changed little in appearance since its errection over a hundred years ago. It is a three story structure with classic symmetry. The slate covered mansard roof features ornamental dormer windows and twin turrets which support the globe and telescope. The building was started in 1876 and the first class was graduated in in 1877.

On each side of the front door are companion stairways which are largely self supporting and rise to the third floor. The full basement has walls three feet in thickness. The third floor has not been used for classrooms since 1887. At that time a two story wing, also brick, was added to the rear of the building.

In 1920 an exceedingly important decision was made by the Board of Education. L.E. Rogers was hired as Superintendent. A most wise decision, as in his 39 years, he touched the lives of many of us. A plaque is mounted in his honor and states so simply his great value:

In memory of our efficient and respected school administrator whose good humor, wise councel, and understanding enriched the minds and hearts of all who knew him.”

L.E. Rogers

L.E. Rogers
Superintendent of Schools 1920-1959

He brought forth many needed changes to our schools. One was a six year high school. Another was hot lunches served at the school. Basketball was being played at Bell’s Hall and in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. He called a meeting in 1920 to gain community support for a new gymnasium and $9,000 was raised.

Time moves rapidly and changes result. Major reorganization took place in 1956. The Greensboro Twp. Schools were joined with the Knightstown and Wayne Twp. Schools. As a result of this change the Lower Elementary Building was erected on the east side of Adams Street. This building was opened in 1957 and the Southwestern Consolidated Schools had taken one step toward the completion of a plan. Elementary Schools still operated in Raysville, Central, Greensboro and Kennard. It was at this time the Falcons and Leopard Cats became the Knightstown Panthers. As a result of this consolidation space was available and the elementary schools at Raysville, Central and Greensboro were closed.

KHS Building 1966 KHS Building 1966

Knightstown High School from 1966 until 2004
Photos copyright: Wayne Kelly

This necessatated the need for a new and modern high school building. A holding company was formed and a new High School building was occupied on April 5th, 1966. This gave the opportunity for further reorganization. The trustee and advisory board of Ripley Township met with the school board of the Beard corporation. A plan was proposed for consolidation, however several litigation suits folled. In the fall of 1972 the plan was finalized by the Indiana court of Appeals and the Ripley Twp Schools joined the Beard Schools. In the fall of 1973 the students of Carthage joined the students of Knightstown High School.

On April 3rd, 1974 a devastating and frightening thing took place. The school corporation was hit by a tornado that destroyed the Kennard elementary building whill school was in session. By the grace of God, no one was injured. Minds went to work and formulated and built a new building on approximately the same site. Since that time two new elementary buildings have been built and current plans call for consideration to remodel or build for the Junior and/or Senior High Schools. The school corporation is now in a status of groth in students and assessed valuation.

In conclusion, I can only come to one thought: Many many years ago a noted and renouned philosopher wrote, “The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on”…..

November 1998

Robert L. Myers

The Latest Knightstown HS

The Latest Knightstown High School c2004.

The Latest Knightstown HS

This is how it should look…

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You must be logged in to post a comment.