Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter Aug 2003

North Manchester Schools

A presentation for Funfest -2003

On the first day of December, 1850 a little girl trudged off to school, happy because she was six years old at last and could enroll in school in North Manchester. She went to school in a log school house built on the corner of Third and Walnut and school was held for three months beginning the first of December. Records have been found showing that school was held in this little log cabin beginning in 1838, first taught by Thomas Keller. Another school was in The Pocket, and may have been taught by Quakers.

The first so called public school was in a frame school house built on West Second Street by Maurice Place and his daughter Elizabeth who were the teachers of the school. It was financed by popular subscription. It was held for a six month period and also had a shorter summer session.

A child of this early period would have worn homespun or home woven dresses made by their mothers. In summer they wore calico and went barefoot. An exceptionally large school might have had 30 pupils. They used McGuffeys readers, Pineo grammars, Websters spelling book, Mitchell geography and Rays arithmetic. Much of the learning was by singing the information in unison, such as the state capitols or the multiplication tables. Noisy classrooms! During recess the water bucket might be passed with the dipper so each child could have a drink. Special privilege to pass the bucket only if you were very good.

Parents could visit school on Fridays to keep in touch with the learning. No report cards were given but each child was examined at the end of the term. On Fridays, children read their compositions, had spelling bees or recited poems they had learned.

In 1865 a two story school house was built on the site where our library now is and many people were very unhappy that it was too far out in the country, that the town would never grow out that far and that children might be attacked by animals in the woods. Indeed there were woods between Main Street and the school and no sidewalks. Both teachers and children had to walk in the sandy streets. But this school building burned down..

When the town discovered that Chester township would not build the kind of school they wanted to replace it they finally decided to incorporate as a town and then build it themselves. That is why Manchester (as it was called then) became an incorporated town in 1875. The new building was bigger -- in fact the janitor lived in one corner of the building. It was finished in 1875 and Henry Gunder was the first principal. The pride of the new schoolhouse were the walnut banisters on the stairway. It required many patches on little trousers for the banisters to have the polish that was so noted in later days. The first formal commencement as on June l, 1882..

This school building was condemned by the state in 1922 and Central high was building on the same site. This building, too, brought controversy. Some of the people were slow to approve the addition of a high school course, thinking it would educate the youngsters beyond their needs and there would be no living with them. Why not build three small school houses for the lower grades? But Central High was built in 1922.

Then there was Manchester College. Manchester College came to No. Manchester in 1889. The town fathers made a money gift to encourage that. Then in 1894 thru some bad financial dealings it went bankrupt and the town gathered money again to encourage a buyer. By 1910 it had established a reputation as a college training teachers for the local system and many others. In 1910 the College started an elementary school in its own classroom where its students would practice teaching. It was one of the elementary schools in the No. Manchester system and was called the North Ward school.

By the early 1920s the College needed these classrooms for College classes just when more and more people were coming to that area of the town as College students or teachers. So there was pressure on the School corporation to build a school in that part of town. So in 1929 Thomas Marshall School building was built and Burr who had been the principal at North Ward school at the College became the principal at Thomas Marshall School.

Manchester College has continued to have influence in the early years of the school system by supplying teachers for the local schools and helping local citizens to understand some of the advantages of a college education.