The History of Martinsville High School


Gracelyn Teague

It was the Roaring Twenties, and the Jazz Age had swept our nation into a state of deep romanticism. The year 1921, one of the few years of prosperity before the Great Depression, held plans for Martinsville, Indiana. After much deliberation, the town was finally ready to move its students into a brand-new high school.

Prior to Martinsville High School, residents of the town had attended numerous high schools both inside and outside of the town. Mooresville Friends Academy was opened in 1861 and was known as one of the first high schools near Martinsville. Students would either travel from neighboring cities to attend this high school or just wouldn’t attend school at all. As of 1871, the only school in Martinsville was a one-roomed schoolhouse called the Wilbur School. This led to the original edition of Martinsville High School in 1872. 

The addition of the new and improved Martinsville High School in 1921 was set to allow space for the growing population. The school had previously decided to take the name  Artesians, a name that would stick until present day, because of the many rich mineral springs located in Martinsville,. Arthur B. Leible was the new high school’s very first principal. He had been a science teacher at the old location and eventually was promoted to principal. Leible was known as favorable among the students both as a principal and teacher. He was able to ensure that the school functioned smoothly during its coming years. 

John R. Wooden was an American basketball player and coach who attended MHS in the 1920s, and he is the most famous alumni to date. While attending the school, Wooden would lead the high school’s basketball team to win state championships twice and would meet his future wife, Nellie Riley. After graduating, Wooden had an extensive career in basketball and was best known for coaching the UCLA men’s basketball team. He was eventually named the best NCAA coach of all time. Wooden’s legacy still lives on in Martinsville today through the preserved gymnasium and middle school that took his name.

The Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of JFK, and the Vietnam War all made the sixties a busy time for our nation. None of this dimmed the spirit of Martinsville High School. Jim Lewis was a math teacher at Martinsville High School during the 1960s. Lewis’s wife, Helen Lewis, said, “The school was a lot different then, it was a lot smaller and less developed, but Jim said that he could really tell that the students took pride in it either way. Just visiting the school myself and interacting with the students was a pleasurable experience.” A portion of the school was added on in 1961, and this helped to maintain the growing population of students.

On June 6, 2008, heavy rainfall left 11 inches of flooding in Martinsville. Many homes and establishments in the town suffered from the damages that this flood caused, including Martinsville High School. The damages that the school suffered were extensive and costly. The construction of a new building began a year later, leading to its eventual opening in 2011. Several million dollars later, the new school was ready to open its doors to the students. 

In a way, things came full circle for the school, as most history does. Starting from nothing to thriving, to starting up all over again. But what is a great story without the high and low moments alike? If Martinsville High School has had to learn anything through its years, it’s that a school isn’t just a building or a place, a school is the students that inhabit it.