By David Heighway
At the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, Hamilton County was a prosperous and diverse community. A natural gas boom had started in 1887 and reached its peak around 1900. New business ventures were springing up and new immigrants were moving into the area to work in the factories. Between 1890 and 1900, the overall county population went from 26,213 to 29,914 - a 14% increase. The population of Jackson Township made the astonishing jump from 4,255 to 6,620 - a 56% increase. By 1903, three railroads and an electric Interurban system served the county. A sense of optimism and advancement prevailed.
Around this time, County School Superintendent Ellis A. Hutchens announced his wish to have a photograph taken of every school in Hamilton County. In a newspaper article dated December 13, 1901, Hutchens stated "We have visited and photographed all the schools of Delaware Township and find a good attendance in every school and a good working interest.” These township school photographs, taken between 1892 and 1909, have been preserved and are stored at the Hamilton County Historical Society.
Westfield High School, here in the 1890s, was built in 1861 as Union High Academy and was the elite school of the county. A new high school was built in 1907 and the academy is now Union Bible College.
The Noblesville High School building was considered state-of-the-art when it was built in 1900. It was located on Conner Street and a gymnasium was added in the 1920s.
Noblesville High School chemistry lab – In the 1960s, the school was torn down, the gymnasium was saved, and the site turned into the Boys and Girls Club.
Atlanta High School, 1901 – A new all-grades school was built in 1916, but attendance dropped after the gas boom failed.
Fall Creek Township School #6 – The site today is Brooks School Park at the intersection of 116th St. and Brooks School Road just south of Brooks School Elementary.
Fishers Switch School, 1902 – this was replaced in 1907 by a yellow-brick all-grades school building that would become Fishers High School.
The photographs are now accessible online through a joint project of the Hamilton East Public Library, the Hamilton County Historical Society, and IUPUI. The collection, “Hamilton County in 1900 – Through a Young Person’s Lens”, also includes the photographs of Earl Brooks (1883-1968) who, as a young man, took pictures of Noblesville and the surrounding area between approximately 1897 and 1904. The images are can be found at http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/digitalscholarship/collections/HEPL.