History of Ben Davis
Mr. Benjamin Davis, general superintendent of the Vandalia Railroad, was a man of outstanding personality. From his travels up and down the railroad, he became well known and very well liked.
This area requested and received a platform stop from the railroad. Logs had already been cut, milled and hauled to the building site when Ben Davis arrived to supervise the construction. Two days later, the platform was finished. Ben informed the people the platform had to have a name so it could be put on the time table. Several names were discussed, but none could be agreed upon. Finally, someone said "Let's call it Ben Davis," in reference to the generous railroad official. A general store and post office soon followed and the town, Ben Davis was firmly established.
But Ben Davis is most noted for the development of its school system. Residents of Ben Davis asked John McClelland township trustee, to build a school. McClelland said he would build the school if funds were supplied to buy the land.
The first high school was built at the cost of $2,500 at the corner of Emma Hanch and Forsha Free Gravel Road (now High School Road). Housing the grade school on the first floor and the high school on the second, the school opened in 1892 with 64 students and two teachers, Professor Nysewander and Professor Luce.
Twelve students were graduated in 1896 in the first commencement at Scudder's Grove.
By 1914, the little school was becoming overcrowded. The original building was torn down and a new school erected on the same site. The reason for this was because the deed required a school to be on the land or the land would revert to the descendants of the original owner.
The graduating class of 1914 was sent to Plainfield while the new school was being built. When the school opened a year later, it was one of the finest high schools in Indiana with a workshop, science lab, stage, gymnasium, auditorium, and showers.
The name of the building was Wayne Township High School, instead of Ben Davis. Mr. Ralph Chandler, assistant to the superintendent for extended services, offered and explanation for the discrepancy. "Students from different communities, such as Bridgeport, Maywood, and Flackville, might have been jealous if the name on the building was Ben Davis. So Wayne Township was put on the building to keep everyone happy."
But again the school became overcrowded. Principal Charles Vance was prompted to organize a half day where half of the students went to school in the morning and the other half went in the afternoon. Another school was built in 1935. This building was constructed by the WPA, a government agency. Since Federal money was used, the name on the building had to be that of the school corporation, hence the school was called Wayne Township High School again.
And then that old nemesis, overcrowding, crept in again. In 1965 our multimillion dollar school was opened and just in 1984, the $5.8 million addition was completed.
Each time the school was rebuilt or added onto, it was thoroughly modern. The year 1922 saw Ben Davis become the first consolidated high school in Indiana. In 1950, the enrollment for four grades was 1265, not even half as much as our present enrollment. But it was enough to make Ben Davis the largest township high school in the United States.
In just 100 years, Ben Davis has progressed from a humble beginning in a few sawed off logs to world-wide recognition. Mr. Ben Davis, if you could only see us now.