School Days at Boxley

Driving through Boxley today you’d never know it was once THE town in Adams Township.

The railroad changed all that.

Just as Shielville began to disappear after tracks were laid to neighboring Buena Vista (Atlanta,) Boxley — or Boxleytown, as it was known in its early days —  started to decline after the railroad bypassed it in favor of Sheridan.

The big difference between Shielville and Boxley is that Boxley still exists. You won’t find much there except a handful of homes, but it does exist.

I’m not entirely sure what kept Boxley going, but I suspect the school may have had something to do with it.

The first of Boxley’s schools was a log building on the southwest side of town.  Unfortunately, no one seems to know when it was built, or exactly when it was replaced by the frame school a few years later.

The frame schoolhouse was located on the north side of town in an area one alumnus described as being where “the rank buttonwood nodded in the wind and the big frog bellered unscarred.”

Because Boxley took in all the Adams Township students who didn’t attend school in Sheridan (plus a few from Tipton County, if one source can be trusted,) it wasn’t too long before more room was needed. A brick addition was attached to the east end of the frame building in 1889.

In 1904, the frame portion of the school on the west side was torn down and replaced by another brick structure.

During its first years, the school only housed lower grades, then in 1897 two years of high school courses were added. The high school classes were so successful, it was decided to offer the additional two years as well.

Boxley High School’s first graduates — all nine of them — received their diplomas in 1900.

Throughout its history, the schoolhouse lacked a lunchroom (students either walked home for lunch or ate at their desks) and restrooms (there were two outhouses — one for boys and one for girls) but since this is Indiana, you know they eventually got a gymnasium.

Construction on Boxley’s gymnasium/auditorium/laboratory addition began in early 1925. It was delayed when the money the citizens of Boxley had collected to pay for it ran low, but Adams Township stepped in to finish the project.

The new gym was finally dedicated in October, 1926.

That made life easier for the boys’ basketball team. Prior to the gym’s construction, they’d had to rent a hall in Sheridan and travel five miles to get to practice.

(Boxley also had a girls’ team, at least in 1913, because I’ve seen a team photo. One of my great-aunts played on the team.)

It wasn’t basketball that was Boxley’s claim to fame, however, but rather the 1902 football team. Leaning heavily on the guidance of “King Joe” Kercheval, a former Purdue football standout, the Boxley boys won the county championship that year.

This was such a big deal that the players gathered together to celebrate their victory 30 years later and continued to hold similar reunions until the 51st anniversary in 1953.

After Sheridan’s new school opened in 1932, Boxley’s high school students were sent there instead and the Boxley school building once again became a grade school. That lasted until 1948 when the building closed permanently.

Two years later, the community of Boxley bought the old schoolhouse, then in 1957 the building was sold again, this time to the Boxley Methodist Church which sat next door. The church demolished the school to use the area for parking.

Today, all that’s left of Boxley’s school are a couple of cornerstones that serve as a monument marking the school’s location, the cement base of the gymnasium and some fond memories.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at [email protected]