NOTE: An earlier version of this article misstated the coordinating organization for the carnival and vendor booths. A corrected version appears below. We regret the error.
DELPHI — In the mid-1880s, there were upwards of 100 schoolhouses dotting the Carroll County landscape.
Today about 20 of the one-room variety remain in various states of repair. They’ll be the focus of a special presentation tonight during the county’s 158th Old Settlers Festival, the oldest of its kind in the state.
Bonnie Maxwell, president of Heartland Heritage Inc. and local historian, said some of the 20-something one-room schoolhouses left are private residences, but a couple have been restored and allow a peek into the world of children’s education from about 1870 to 1890.
“Carroll County has an unusual number of these buildings,” said Maxwell, who’ll cover the buildings’ history at a 7 p.m. presentation today expected to last about 40 minutes.
In the rural areas, one-room schools were built near enough to farm residences so children could walk to school. In the county’s towns, some schools had two to six rooms with multiple grades in each room.
“I’ve been doing research on the schools for a number of years,” Maxwell said. “Most of it was spurred by interest instilled in me by my grandmother when I was a little kid.” Her grandmother, explained Maxwell, taught in a one-room schoolhouse, and before Maxwell started attending one of the consolidated schools in the area, she learned from her grandmother using a slate and a piece of chalk.
The presentation will take place in the former Delphi United Methodist Church building half a block from the Carroll County Courthouse in downtown Delphi.
The festival will include a carnival and several vendors as usual, coordinated by the Delphi Chamber of Commerce. On Saturday afternoon, the hour-long Old Settlers Meeting will recognize the Fouts family for its contributions to developing soybean agriculture in the area.
The Fouts family will receive this year’s Heritage Award for its role in raising the funds to move the family’s former residence, a log cabin located until recently in France Park, to the canal park in Delphi. The residence is now restored and open periodically for tours or programs.
It’s significant, said Maxwell, because of the family’s longtime presence and influence in the county.
Three Fouts brothers — the sons of Solomon Fouts — were the first to start growing soybeans in the area, she explained. They also developed a machine to separate the soybeans from their hulls in order to use the beans for seeds.
“We take soybeans for granted, but it wasn’t always that way,” noted local historian Mark Smith, coordinator for the Carroll County Historical Society Museum in the county courthouse. “The big thing about soybeans is, soybeans put nitrogen back into the soil. Corn takes it out and you replenish it with soybeans.”
The Fouts family legacy may even make it into a Smithsonian Institution exhibit on the development and mechanization of agriculture, Maxwell added.
“Two or three years ago the Smithsonian Institution called,” she said. “They heard about the Fouts family and soybeans.”
The institution asked the family to document their innovations for inclusion in the exhibit, “American Enterprise” scheduled to open May 2015.
“We thought that it was pretty cool that the Smithsonian would reach out to Carroll County,” Maxwell said.
The Old Settlers meeting will start with registration at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Canal Interpretive Center located in Canal Park on North Washington Street. The meeting, which should last about an hour, will start at 1:30 p.m.
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.
If you go: • WHAT: 158th Old Settlers meeting • WHEN: Registration at 1 p.m. Saturday followed by the meeting at 1:30 p.m. • WHERE: Canal Interpretive Center, Canal Park on North Washington Street in Delphi • WHY: Learn about the Fouts family's contributions to soybean cultivation in Carroll County • INFO: For more information, call Teresa Maxwell at 765-564-3852 If you go: WHAT: "Carroll County One-Room Schools" presentation WHEN: 7 p.m. today at the former Delphi United Methodist Church building, corner of Union and Monroe streets in Delphi INFO: For more information, visit www.delphipreservationsociety.org or email email@example.com