Back in 1968 I was lucky enough to be a member of the first eighth grade class in the new Noblesville Junior High School on the corner of 16th Street and Field Drive. (Today that building is Noblesville East Middle School.)
It was great being in a brand new school after having spent the previous year in a structure so old it originally opened in 1900 as the city’s high school.
There was a downside, however. The new school was so far from downtown, it was nearly out in the country. (Sob! No more heading to Clancy’s for Toppers and fries at lunch!)
I was such a wimp in those days that I remember thinking there was no way I could ever walk that far to school.
All that flitted through my mind recently as I once again read the account of Dr. Amos Palmer’s memorable school commute. It’s a tale that can be found in one of the old newspapers, as well as in Shirts’ 1901 county history.
Dr. Palmer was one of Hamilton County’s first settlers. In addition to being a physician, he taught school in Strawtown during the winters of 1822 and 1823.
At that time he was living with John Finch on a farm near Stony Creek, about four miles southeast of Noblesville. Finch was one of the original Horseshoe Prairie settlers, but had had to move his family when John Conner snatched up all the land on the prairie before the settlers could stake their own legal claims to it.
(Today, the Finch farm would be in Wayne Township, on the south side of State Road 38, north of 166th Street and west of Boden Road.)
Brave soul that he was, Dr. Palmer would leave his school in Strawtown on Friday evenings and WALK all the way to Finch’s. Then on Sunday evenings, he WALKED all the way back to Strawtown.
Now, that’s a fairly serious distance to hoof it. By my estimation, it’s around five or six miles as the crow flies and Dr. Palmer was no crow, so his actual route could well have been longer than that.
Also, keep in mind at that time this was a heavily wooded area populated by panthers, wolves and the occasional bear, AND the doctor was making his trek in the dead of winter.
One evening, Dr. Palmer left the Finch home either late in the day, or on a bright moonlit night, depending upon the account. There’s some disagreement on the timing of his departure, but what isn’t in dispute is that shortly after crossing Stony Creek, he found himself surrounded by a pack of wolves.
Luckily, he’d had the foresight to take along a large stick for protection. He used the stick to beat off one wolf, but the rest of the pack continued to attack him.
Finally, he managed to climb a small tree. He got high enough the wolves’ attempts to reach him failed, but he was stuck, unable to leave his perch. No settlers lived close enough to hear him shout for help.
It’s not clear how long he remained in that tree. However long it was, undoubtedly it would have been much longer had some hunters not come his way. The crack of a rifle and the barking of the hunters’ dogs scared the wolves off.
Once the threat was over, the doctor climbed down and resumed his journey to Strawtown. (Probably on very wobbly legs!)
Apparently, Dr. Palmer had no more run-ins with wolves because he lived to marry John Finch’s daughter, Sarah, and to serve briefly as Hamilton County Auditor in 1846.
I did notice he only walked to the Strawtown School those two years, though.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at