The Lincoln School For Colored Children

EDITOR’S NOTE: In 1881 Crawfordsville School Trustees ordered a school be built at the southwest corner of Spring and North Walnut Streets to serve black students in grades 1-8. Once graduated, the students attended the integrated Crawfordsville High School. This site accommodated the vast majority of black families living in Crawfordsville’s north end. Trustees purchased the lot in September 1881 for $2,000. On Dec. 3, 1881, Hinckley and Norris won the contract to build the building for $6,400. The architects designed a plain two-story red brick structure with playgrounds for all the black children who resided in that area. Lincoln School officially opened in September 1882 with 42 students. When the black population moved to the east end to work in the factories, Linclon Building 1 was renovated into Horace Mann, and Linclon Build 2 was opened on East Wabash Avenue. That building became Lincoln Rec Center and was demolished in 1981. This project began as a project historical research project to honor all those individuals who went to school in separate and unequal facilities as the law dictated.

Frances Pricilla Wooden


Frances Wooden was born on 1 March 1914 to Elijah and Francis Wooden. Elijah worked at MidStates Wire Mill and was a building caretaker for the Strand Theater. Fannie, an accomplished pianist, ran the kitchen at the Phi Gamma Delta House at Wabash College. Frances was stricken with polio at aged four, damaging her right leg and requiring her to walk with a crutch. The family lived at 307 Beech Street.

Fannie taught Frances to read using the Bible. Francis once said, “I have faith in the man who actually put us on this Earth. And if it wasn’t for him, a lot of times, I don’t think the Woodens would have made it. Prayer. I believe in prayer.”

Frances remembered segregated schools as she attended Lincoln School for Colored Children, learning reading, writing, and arithmetic from her first teacher, Clara Freeze. Her next teacher Dr. Robert Anthony, “looked more Indian, limped, had copper-colored skin, and was heavyset. Teachers demanded respect; punishment such as spanking or standing in a corner would occur”. She learned to dance, jump rope with her crutch, and play most games because “I had a choice. I can sit around and feel sorry for myself, or I could just get out there with the rest of them.” Frances chose to walk to school every day but walked on the top of her foot, where the shoelaces are. Eventually, the Crawford family paid to have her foot straightened. Frances graduated from Lincoln to attend Crawfordsville High School, where she struggled to climb the steps to her top-floor homeroom classroom. She participated in the Sunshine Girl Club and chorus before graduating in 1935. She loved music and shared that with all people that she met. Frances sang in the choir during her high school graduation, which included about 135 students; only three were Black girls.

After Frances had graduated from high school, she searched for a career that was limited because of her polio. She was hired to work on the Tuttle Elementary School playgrounds, teaching handicrafts and helping tell stories that always drew a crowd of Black and White children. When Frances was about 19, Nina Jones of the Welfare Department offered Frances a job at the YMCA supervising children from approximately two in the afternoon until nine or ten at night. But, there was a catch; Frances had to learn to crochet if she wanted the job. Over time, she developed programs for teenagers and senior citizens. Frances thanked her mother for her love of working with children. She loved the kids, and they knew it. She was tough, but she had to be when she disciplined them if talking failed. They respected her for it. She always reminded them that she’d be fair with them if they were fair with her.

When asked about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Frances said, “he was trying to get the White man to see that we weren’t like we were when they first brought the Blacks to the United States, that we were not something that had to bow down to them and be their slaves and all of that, that we were put here as people, just like the Whites. We wanted to be treated just like the Whites and serve God.”

Retiring on 30 December 1982, she had worked with children for over 35 years. Community member John Bowerman stated, “the greatness and strengths of any community are determined by the moral attributes of those live and work in our community. Unsung heroes transform the lives of the youth. In Crawfordsville, Frances was one of those heroes, and her life became a profile of inspiration over time.”

Mayor Glenn Knecht designated 7 June 1985 as Frances Wooden Day, appropriately held at the Northside Recreation Center, where she spent many years with her beloved children. Many of the children with whom she worked attended the ceremony and sent letters thanking her for all she did for them. They remembered she was tough yet softhearted. She helped poor kids get materials for crafts. Governor Robert Orr recognized her with a Special Appreciation Award for her years of dedicated, faithful, and honored services performed as a public employee.

Frances died on 20 January 1987. The Frances Wooden Park on North Grant Street is named in her honor.