Miscellaneous Stories - High School History


History of Catlin High School

The following two articles on the history of Catlin schools appeared on pages 6-10 of The Argonaut,
the 1923 yearbook of Catlin High School.

Catlin's Old Seminary

This drawing of the Old Seminary was published in the 1923 Catlin High School yearbook, The Argonaut. The three-story building was constructed about 1850 on the site of the present Catlin Park. The building was torn down about 1895.

1890 Catlin school picture

A wall and windows of the Old Seminary in Catlin are the backdrop for this picture of Catlin school children in 1890.

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   The old three story brick school building, called the Seminary, was erected in Catlin before 1862. It was about 80 feet long and 40 feet in width. The first story was used by the Primary department and all the other grades from the Fourth Reader on occupied the second floor. The top story was built, and occupied, by the Masonic lodge. Their entrance was by a winding stairway which lead from the southeast corner of the building. The structure, which faced east, was surmounted by a large cupola where hung the bell which could be heard a11 over the village.

   A large hallway was at the front of each school-room with hook strips all around for hanging hats and coats. Each scholar had a numbered hook for his exclusive use. A huge chimney, about four feet square, ran through the center of each room. A large cannon stove furnished the heat. The stove-pipe fell down from time to time and then all had an extra recess until it could be connected up again.

   The school grounds were originally enclosed by a wood picket fence with a stile at the east side. A gravel walk edged with boulders, led up to the front doors. In the northeast corner of the grounds was the coal shed. Nearer the school house stood the wooden platform and pump the immediate scene of many a water fight.

   About one hundred maple trees were set in regular rows on the playgrounds about 1875, which greatly disgusted the boys, who wished to play ball. They soon broke off enough to make a suitable space and the games went on with little difficulty.

   About 1877, when the Brinkleys took charge of the school, a ten year course of study was arranged, and the school was divided into three departments. In 1880 the High School was organized with a two year course. Two years later the first class graduated under Philmer Jones, Principal.

   After the building had stood and done valiant service for thirty years or more, it was thought to be unsafe, and the scholars got many a holiday when there were storms or high winds. Nevertheless, the workmen who took down the old structure, said there had been no danger since its construction was so solid and substantial that it could hardly be pulled down,

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even after the corners had been cut away, and the building was finally auctioned off to J. R. Pratt for the consideration of one hundred and ten dollars. A part of the lumber and brick was used in the Fleming residence.

   Some of the teachers who taught in the old Seminary were Tillie Ross (Smith), Anna Craigmyle, Marie Campbell, Alex Craigmyle, Edwin Winter, W. H. Chamberlin, Oscar Wiley, G. W. Meeks, J. C. McCauley, Oscar Murrey, Phildmer Day, William J. Brinkley, E. C. Sargent, and W. J. Brinkley, Jr.

-Charles V. Tilton, '82.

Catlin Grade School in 1941

The Catlin Grade School in 1941 in this postcard by Gerald D. Cunningham. The old grade school faced north on the site of the current Catlin Park, bordered by Vermilion, Seminary, Davis and Lookout streets.

   The present Grade School Building was erected in 1897. It was larger and more modern. This building was made to face the north. The large tower cupola even now contains the bell which first hung in the old Seminary. Proof of Catlin's rapid growth during these years is shown by the fact that the south wing containing the First Primary and Assembly Rooms, was added in 1907.

   Since 1906 the affairs of the Catlin Public Schools have been administered by a Board of Education, consisting of a president and six members. The first officers were: John S. Olmstead, Pres., H. R. Jones, Sec., Si Sandusky, W. R. Wilson, Frank Carrigan and Joel Taylor.

   The next year, 1907, the High School Course was changed from two years to four years.

   Literary societies were organized in 1909 and were more or less successful for several years. There were two societies at this time, the Delphian and the Emanon. Everyone was required to participate, credit being given in literary and language work at the discretion of the teachers.

   In the fore part of 1910, the Catlin High School was placed on the accredited list of the James Millikin University, of Decatur, Illinois; later on the accredited list of the Illinois Wesleyan University at Bloomington, Illinois; and finally in May, 1910, it was placed on the fully accredited list of the University of Illinois.

   Equipment for a biological and physics laboratory had been supplied which was valued at $500. A splendid stuffed bird collection of our native birds was donated by Mr. N. M. Payne, an amateur collector and taxidermist of this community.

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Catlin Township High School

   In the fall of 1920 the students were excused to attend the cornerstone laying ceremony of the Catlin Township High School. A drizzling rain prevented a large crowd from attending.

High School in 1941

A second view of Catlin High School taken in 1941 by Gerald D. Cunningham for a series of postcards he published.

   When school opened in the following fall, the building was nearing completion. Although we were at some disadvantage during the first semester, because the building was unfinished, we were consoled by proud thoughts of the time when the building would be completed. The upper classmen found plenty of space in which to expand after the crowded quarters of the preceding years.

   The members of the board of education, who succeeded in obtaining our new building were: W. H Jones, Pres., J. A. Dickinson, J. J. Smoot, O. H. White, C. U. Noble, Sec., Fred Cook, J. W. McIntyre, D. V. Stansbury.

   There have been few changes within the last two years, the members at present being: W. H. Jones, Pres., O. M. Selby, Sec., D. V. Stansbury, R. E. Johnson, J. J. Smoot, J. A. Dickinson, O. H. White, Fred Cook.

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   In 1921 two literary societies were organized and the entire school divided into equal groups, the Beta Sigma Nu and the Kappa Sigma Phi. Willard Andrews was the first president of the "Betas," Lucile Nance of the "Kapps." Considerable rivalry sprung up between the two organizations in athletics as well as literary contests. It was felt that there was not enough interest shown this year so the organizations were discontinued in the fall of 1922.

   Laboratory, Library, and Vocational equipment have been added until we now consider the school well equipped for General Science, Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Manual Training and Agriculture. The Manual Training tools and benches were purchased in 1920, the machines in 1921. The Domestic Science equipment was bought when the present High School was erected.

   The Athletic department has built up a permanent track and tennis court, by work done in the spring of each of the last three years. The football field will be completed next fall.

   Mr. Orr was principal of the high school during the first term in the new building, the 1920-21 term being his fourth year as principal of the Catlin High School. It was due in part to his untiring efforts that we today have a high school second to none in the state.

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  No library was included in the original plans, but we are promised a well located room soon. At present the north room of the stage is being used for a reference and reading room. A number of books have been added this year to those we had. The books have been catalogued and are as well cared for as is possible without a paid librarian. The Library Club has been responsible for this work. With the addition of books each year, we hope to have a standard library soon.

   The Class of 1921 was the first to graduate from the new building. The succeeding classes have nothing like that to boast about, nevertheless, we are aware of the many advantages which the building affords and are proud, as is every other loyal citizen of Catlin, of our High School.

-Lena Cord '23.

Transcribed by Daun Marrs

High school students 1901-2

High school students in front of the old grade school, which also housed the high school from its construction in 1896 to 1922. The slate being held at center reads "High School 9th & 10th". This picture was probably taken during the school year of 1901-02

See also...

 Catlin High School alumni 1882-1922

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