A Brief History of Education in Elkhart


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1831 to 1891

Education began in Elkhart almost as soon as the community was settled in 1831. Nehemiah Broderick was the first teacher in Elkhart and taught class in a log school house near the St. Joe River. The first schoolhouse in Elkhart was erected in 1836, a "Log Cabin School" was built on East Washington Street near the banks of the Elkhart River. Many other schools were built in later years, 1838, 1841, 1844 and 1851. All of these wooden structure burned down to the ground.

In 1868 it was decided that a four-story brick building that would contain all the grades and all the students of Elkhart be constructed at the corner of Second and High Streets. The cost at time time was $45,000! It was also decided at the same time to begin offering a high school program. The first class to graduate from Elkhart High School occurred June 13, 1873.


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1892 to 1910

In 1892 the schoolboard opened a new high school building on property donated by Mr. Samuel E. Strong. The total cost of two-story Indiana Limestone building was $35,683.03. 


 The rapid growth of the community again threatened to overflow school facilities. In 1908, a "new" Central school was complete on the corner of Third and High Streets, containing 24 rooms and costing $81,153. This Central building, not to be confused with "old" Central that had been built in 1868 on the other corner, Second and High Streets, was first used for grades one through eight. In 1911, however, grades one through six were moved to the former high school which had been renamed "Samuel Strong" by the school board. Then in 1919, Central School became officially a junior high school and continued as such until 1952 when the last students in grades seven through nine were transfered to the new North Side Junior High School on Lawrence Street.


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1911 to 1972

Although the "new" Central school provided adequate space for the elementary grades, the high school on Vistula and Lexington had become overcrowed and the community decided to build a high school that would allow for growth for some time in the future. The result was a building, built and 1910 and opened in 1911, that served Elkhart High School students for 60 years. The "splendid" new high school building was built to match the Central School building, creating a unified whole stretching along the entire block on High Street between Second and Third Streets. Central School and and High School were connected by passageways on all three floors so that people moving into the community later rarely suspected that they were two buildings constructed at different times. Former Superintendent Joe Rice remembered that a common wall was not used, but two separate walls were constructed making the wall between Central and the High School three feet-eight inches thick. The new High School built in 1910 and opened in 1911, cost $142, 558.



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Built in 1965 and opened in 1966 the "new" Elkhart High School moved to a new address, 420 Goshen Avenue.


More later!



Rice Field Stadium1939

"On October 20, 1923 - one of the finest athlectic fields in the middle west, named after the late James Addison Rice, who had donated 94 acres of ground to the city to be used for a park or similar purposes, was dedicated in an E.H.S. football victory over Rensselaer High School, and with other ceremonies.

Through a petition from the school board about twelve acres of the land given to the city were obtained from the new Rice Park project located in a setting of natural beauty framed by the winding Elkhart river and including space for many activities.

An original permanenet stand and temporary bleachers accommodated a total of about 2,400 fans for the model gridiron, not a great number but a great improvement over the pre-Rice field days of E.H.S. games played at the old Diving Park and other locations. Considerable detail was given to the construction of the well sodded playing field, and to the fast cinder track built on Big Ten college specifications, in supervision by school board members, school and athletic officials, and prominent alumni.

Following the state championship season of 1924, an alumni campaign, with student, fan, and athletic support, raised $16,000 for the construction of the brick, fire-proof, two-story fieldhouse described as "a combination of beauty, service, and convenience, and a fitting complement for the splendid athletic field." The fieldhouse was dedicated Sept. 26, 1925, in a ceremony followed by a dedication game victory over Logansport.

The introduction of night football in 1933 was dedicated with another E.H.S. victory, over Mount Carmel, Chicago prep champion, the evening of Sept.16, marking a decade of play at Rice Field.

Presidential approval of the $120,00 W.P.A. project was obtained Nov. 21, 1938, and work began alomost immediately.

28 rows of seats in the eight sections will provide space for about 6,500 fans, placing the total capacity for the two stands at 10,500.

In all, the Board of Education has spared no detail in adding a model staduim to the model field that has often been described as the finest prep athletic plant in Indiana and the Midwest"...from the 1939 Rice Field Souvenir Program

The present Rice Field, stadium, lights, and fieldhouse were updated and expanded in the early 1990's.



Joe Carol Rice, Superintendent 1949 to 1967 

Joe Carol Rice was born on New Year's Day in the second year of a new century. From the beginning he marched not only to a different drummer, but also to a different school bell.

His parents were both county teachers. They taught wherever there was a room for them to gather a few students. Young Joe learned early how to read and write and gained the ambition to continue questioning and acquiring knowledge.

His childhood hometown, Rising Sun, was a peaceful village on the southeast edge of Indiana - the state where he lived his entire life. He would describe his town's location by saying it was, "right accross the river from Rabbit Hash, Kentucky."

Joe went to a one room schoolhouse near Rising Sun. He didn't step foot into a schoolhouse until he was ready for the fourth grade. Then, making his own time line, he skipped from fourth to sixth grade, then to eighth, then directly into high school.

He played basketball while attending the small, country school, transporting himself in the family's pony-drawn buggy.

Upon graduating in 1919 he took a single test to see is he could qualify to be a teacher. He was hired at the young age of 17 to teach, in the same school he had grown up in, for $400.00 a year. The pay for his two-year job included being the school's janitor, before and after school student programmer (babysitter), and superintendent.

He subsidized his professional earnings by boxing and playing semi-professional basketball with the old Cincinnati Celts. He earned the heavy-weight, amateur boxing title of Ohio one summer. He reported to have also played football and a good game of chess.

Between 1923 and 1949 Mr. Rice continued his education during the summers while working in different school systems as teacher, principal, and/or superintendent.

He finished his education at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he played with Birch Bayh, Sr., as his coach. He earned a B.A. and then earned his Master of Science from I.U. in 1936.



Mr. "B"

The original drawing of the Elkhart High School/Central High School "Blue Blazers" logo hangs proudly in the schools' athletic office. For some 30 odd years, it was stored among Ruth Ann Kell's mementos of her years at EHS. Mrs. Kell, EHS of '54, lives in El Cerritto, Calif. She recently returned the drawing while visiting her parents. The late Howard James, head of the EHS art department, drew the sketch during the 1953-54 basketball season. Mrs. Kell was an art student and colored in James' "Mr. B" drawing. According to legend, James wasn't excited about making the drawing. "he designed the ugliest thing he could think of," said Bob Slaughter, former activities director at Central. "He was going to throw it away and she kept it". Before Mrs. Kell took it, the drawing was used to make a plywood cutout to place in the center circle of the North Side gym during the EHS pre-game warmup for the 1954 sectional. The team advanced to the state finals but lost to Muncie Central in the afternoon game. (Muncie went on to lose to Milan in one of the greatest upsets in tournament history.) Slaughter said James was asked to draw a school mascot because EHS fans were impressed with the Munice "Bearcat" logo during the regular season. Elkhart fans "decided they wanted some kind of mascot." In time, the little guy on the lighting bolt became known as "Mr. B" after Max Bell, who became the EHS basketball coach in the fall of 1954. Long before EHS had "Blue Blazers" as its nickname, it was call the "Blue Avalanche". The history is a bit hazy, but Slaughter said that the term "Blue Blazers" was coined in the late 1920s by an EHS graduate who was an advertising executive in New York. "The nickname struck," Slaughter said. Apparently it took a little while for "Mr. B" to gain similar popularity. "They had no idea it would be around 30 years later and would become such a tradition," he said. (The Elkhart Truth, Feb. 18, 1983) Mr. B is now listed with the U.S. Patent Office as a registered trademark (1987).