Roanoke Township District School No.
The First Commencement of the Public School was held May
16, 1896, at the Town Hall. The Second Commencement was also held at
the Town Hall, May 13, 1897. Those receiving diplomas were: Misses
Margaret Gray, Pearl Kindig, Clara Schertz, Gertrude Fischer, and
Mr. O. N. Fisher, Albert Brown, and Herman Upton. The address by the
President of Eureka College, J. H. Hardin, was entitled, "Problems
for the Twentieth Century".
In February, 1901, an article in the Roanoke Call stated a
need for a free (no tuition) township high school with a Board of
Education. When this did, in fact, come to a vote, it passed by a
majority of 89-5, to bond the district $11,000 for building a new
school. This building was completed in 1910, and is now used for
grades 4-6. This school contained the high school until 1920, when
the new school was built and Roanoke Grade School became so crowded
that some classes had to be held downtown and in the Methodist
Some early memories of the Roanoke School are the two
outdoor "privies", said to have had eight or ten holes each. Alsok,
the outside pump served everyone well with its cup tied to the pump,
until health and hygiene began to be stressed. Thus, flat paper cups
were given to each individual by the teacher. One early student
remembers that her mother always sent her lunch in a miners bucket,
and in the very cold weather there would be soup in the tray of the
bucket which the janitor would let her heat on top of the furnace.
Much to the delight of the students, school had to let out early
when there were excessive rains and the creeks were up, or if it got
so dark the pupils could not study before electricity was in
In the country schools during the month of November, there
would be two days called "Corn Days". This exhibit would include ten
ears of corn and three compositions on different subjects relating
to corn. The prize to the one room school that presented the best
exhibit was a handsome gilt-trimmed banner with oak-crossed bars,
tassels and curtain drape, size two by three feet, bearing the
inscription "Championship Corn Exhibit."
On April 20, 1901, there was an election to select six
Directors of Education, instead of the usual three. Those elected
were: President E. F. Burkholder, G. R. Swigart, Solomon Belsley, C.
H. Gish, E. L. Herbst, N. R. Moore, and Will Zimmerman. This type of
direction lasted until the first high school district was planned in
1912-1913, and the first high school Board of Education was
organized in 1915.
On June 3, 1919, six students graduated at the Opera House.
Diplomas were presented to: Misses Rose Wagner, Beulah Schertz,
Beulah Brown, Lela Schertz, Mary Paluska and Mr. Edward Zimmerman.
The weather was fit and the Madolin Orchestra from Eureka
entertained. It is interesting to note that the senior girls, under
the instruction of their teacher, made their own graduation gowns
and were all dressed alike.
On August 10, 1916, a new high school was authorized by a
vote of the people. The estimated cost of the building was $45,000.
Due to World War I and its accompanying shortages, ground was not
broken until March 21, 1917. The corner stone was laid July 4, 1919.
The speaker was Professor Roy L. Moore, County Superintendent of
Schools. A container with records and papers was placed inside the
stone. The building was open for enrollment on August 28, 1920, and
the total cost of the building was $112,000.
The first teachers for the 1920-21 year at Roanoke Victory
High School were as follows: J.. P. Scheid, Superintendent; Raymond
Yeck, manual training, athletics, physical culture, general
sciences; C. E. Campbell, agriculture; Hazel Snuff, history and
mathematics; Gladys Hanna, home economics, household arts; Ruth
Strubhar, music and French; Ruth Ambrose, physics, botany and
zoology; Nellie Moore, English.
During the mid-twenties, the Roanoke area felt the weight
of decline. The community depended on the coal mine and when the
mine began to be periodically closed and was not very prosperous
neither did the schools prosper. During this time the percentage of
eight grade graduates entering high school was low. Not only did
"hard times" cause this problem, but religious background and
national origin of the parents caused a goodly percentage of
students not to go on to high school.
During the mid-thirties, the merchants, farmers,
house-wives and laborers got together and formed the Roanoke Civic
Association, and with stimulated interest and pride in the community
the people started working together. By 1948, the town had paved
streets, water system, year round garbage collection on a tax basis,
street lighting and a new housing addition. With new prosperity, a
$1000,000 bond issue was passed for an addition for the high school.
During this period of revitalization, the community school
enrollment gradually rose.
On July 1, 1949, after a vote of the districts, the Roanoke
Township High School, Roanoke Grade School, Benson High School, and
Benson Grade School were unified into a single school district known
as the Roanoke-Benson Unit 60. Each of the individual schools
continued to operate as before consolidation. By this time the rural
one-room schools had passed out of the picture and elementary pupils
went to school in town.
Due to pressing needs for additional space another bond
issue of $283,000 was passed in 1953 to complete a needed addition
to the Roanoke High school. After many delays, the new addition was
completed in 1954. These additions included a completely equipped
home economics department, commerce department, science department,
music and band room, locker rooms and a new gymnasium. After
completion of this addition, the old gymnasium was used for
industrial arts. The balcony, stage and shower rooms became study
hall, two classrooms, a library and library office.
The school year 1956-57 was the actual consolidation of
Benson High School and Roanoke Victory High School. The Roanoke
Victory High School name changed to Roanoke-Benson High School. The
consolidation caused the seventh and eight grade pupils of Unit 60
to be transported to the Benson High School building, which now
became Roanoke-Benson Junior High. Also in 1956-57 kindergarten was
added. Sixty-one pupils were taught by Mrs. Anoyna
During the years 1959-60, enrollment surveys were studied,
site plans were developed and building needs were determined. By
November 6, 1961, a motion was passed to purchase 17 acres of land
adjacent to the high school, at a cost of $1,750 an acre. The school
campus now included a 26-acre site to be the home of a new
elementary building, track and athletic field. Sowers Elementary
School was built and ready for use in 1962. This building houses the
kindergarten and the first three grades.
Many changes were brought about in the educational system.
The National Honor Society was instituted, educational television
was installed, adult classes, college extension classes, and
veterans classes made up a part of the whole school system. In 1965,
Roanoke along with other Woodford County towns, voted to join Peoria
and Tazewell Counties in support of a Tri-County Junior College. It
was named Illinois Central College and it gave more Roanoke-Benson
area students a chance for higher education. In 1967-68, the high
school took part in the Student Foreign Exchange program. Jean
Gingrich was the first student the Roanoke area sent abroad. She
spent the summer studying in Colombia. Since that time
Roanoke-Benson has participated both in sending and in turn
receiving students in this
Roanoke Public School
Built in 1879 at Ann and Franklin Street where
Ed Hostetler lives now
The first two rooms were erected in 1879, the two rooms at
the rear were added later.
Two more rooms were added to the north still later. This
school stood on the corner two blocks west of Roanoke's uptown
square and one block north. (Joe J. School home site 1937) Daniel
Hollenback, janitor, is seen under the sign at front corner of
building. Several children are about pump near the tree. Building
was heated by coal stoves; no electric lights; narrow stairways;
outdoor toilets; brick sidewalks. (Photo by Pettigrew)
Grade school located where Ed Hostetler
This school building looks much like the
Roanoke Township District School No. 76
High School, built in 1920
Roanoke School 1911-12
First Primary, Miss Louise Miller,
1911-12, Third grade
Roanoke High Students, April 1912
Back row - second from left is William Cox,
Second grade 1914-15
Teacher - Margaret Loehr
Second grade 1915-1916
Class of 1918, Roanoke High School
1855 - First school located one mile north and some east.
(No name - also used as a church). Mary Ellen Gish taught her.
School run by Mr. and Mrs. Sam Schullenburger, first mayor of
Roanoke (located where bank is now). School during the day -
boarding house by night. Teacher was Miss Mary Woods.
1862 - Nine schools housed in Roanoke Township. First
1884 - German teacher, Professor George Adler, operated
private school three miles south west of town for small population
1885 - In town - one room, developed to two stories -
which enlarged it to six rooms. Principal W. T. Tawzer. Wages of
male teachers $51.25, wages for female teachers $37.60 a
1891 - 150 pupils
1893 - Built on tow more rooms. A county school was
brought in for youngsters. State board said all children must be
1896 - First public school class March 16, 1896.
Graduates were Margaret Gray, Pearl Kindig, Clara Schertz,
Gertrude Fisher, O. N. Fisher, Albert Brown, Herman Uptown.
Graduation was held at Town Hall.
1899 - September 4 was first recording date of Bunch
School (in operation much earlier). Ed Wheelwright teacher. Thirty
pupils - ages 5-16. Located one and one fourth mile east of
Roanoke, founded by Christian Church east side of Main Street.
Children plus two miles square area of county children attended;
their teachers - Clara Rowan, Ernest Reed, Ethel Childress, Viola
Kindig, Mary Schluck, Pearl Switzer and Iva L. Kindig - thru
1901 - Name of Bunch School acquired because of school
being located in the bunch of trees. Subjects taught: reading,
writing, arithmetic, physiology, history, spelling, language,
geography, slate work and busy work. Teachers given room and
board. Out of existence in 1910.
1910 - New School - Grad and High February 9, 1910. Free
township high school voted on and passed 89-5, $11,000 bond. Bids
read for two story, ten room school (additional space in third
floor to be used for literary room, gymnasium, or manual training
room). Never developed. Architects: B. L. Hulsebus, Peoria.
$11,000 voted in February,$9,000 in March at interest of 4 1/2%
thru 1930. 78 votes in favor. School located exactly on dividing
line of two districts one mile east and one mile west. Bunch
School sold for $365; Center School for $101. (The above school
now houses grades 4, 5, 6).
1901 (1910?) - Election of six directors of education
instead of three. They were E. F. Burkholder, G. R. Swigart,
Solomon Belsley, C. H. Gish, E. L. Herbts, N. R. Moore, and Will
1910-1920 - If a storm was coming, rooms grew dark
(before electricity) and school was dismissed early. Creek would
flood sections of town - those having to cross bridges were
1910 - Sale of school desks, stoves, took place when new
school opened on September 6, 1910. (It had been started March 21,
1910 and ready for occupancy September 6, 1910 - size 77' X 91').
Some of the ways necessities such as a new piano for the high
school were obtained; Box socials, home talent plays, pie socials,
and basket suppers (netted $13). Voting was held for prettiest
girl and ugliest boy. Proceeds were as high as $58.90 for the
1911 - Enrollment in September 290, October 303.
Basketball played in Town Hall. Dumb bell drill shown at county
institute. Indian clubs introduced. Outside "privvies" - 8-10
holers. One for girls, northeast yard, and one for boys, northwest
yard. Spell downs on Friday afternoons. No graduation held in
1914 - Program at school interrupted by burning down of
1915 - First high school board organized.
1916 - First high school voted in. Estimated coast
1917 - Ground broken for new school.
1918 - During the flu epidemic, school was dismissed and
rooms made into hospital rooms - daily deaths, all except helpers
were confined to their homes to prevent spread of flu - all forms
of activity stopped.
1919 - Cornerstone laid 11:00 a.m., July 4, 1919. Speaker
Roy L. Moore, County Superintendent of Schools. Records, papers,
etc., placed in stone.
1920-21 - Opening of Roanoke Victory High School, August
28 1920, cost of building $112,000. First teachers: Superintendent
J. P. Schied, Ray Yeck, manual training, athletics, general
science; C. E. Campbell, agriculture; Hazel Snuff, history and
math; Gladys Hanne, home economics: Ruth Strubher, music and
French; Ruth Ambrose, physics, botany, zoology; Nellie Moore,
1922 - Airplane landed one-hale mile from high school -
over noon hour - rare event. Took people up for 15 minute
1925 - Bell on top of grade school purchased by Joseph
1930 - In mid 30's a bond issue voted for an addition to
1942 - School busses purchased, April 14.
1944 - Roanoke Victory High School assembly for group
singing (This was a monthly occurrence). Professor Tilman Smith
directed the singing.
1949 - Unit 60 organized. Rural schools were absorbed by
Roanoke and Benson Grade Schools. Roanoke and Benson maintained
their own high school for present. First hot lunch program -
December 12, 1949, served 160 at Roanoke and 120 at
1953-54 - Addition to high school. Dedicated March 30,
1954, cost $283,000, home economics department, science
department, music room, locker rooms, commerce department and
1956-57 - Consolidation of Benson High School and Roanoke
Victory High School. Kindergarten begun in Roanoke - 61 pupils -
Anoyna Mueser teacher. First day September 3, 1957. Petition had
been carried by interested mothers.
1960-61 - Land purchased for new Sowers School (housing
K, 1, 2, 3) track, athletic field at cost of $1750 an acre for 26
1962 - First year of occupancy of Sowers School - new
cafeteria, dining room.
1965 - Voted to join Peoria and Tazewell Counties in
support of a Tri-County Junior College (Illinois Central
1967 - High School student foreign exchange program
instituted. Jean Gingrich was the first to be sent abroad - to
1972 - Voted for expansion of Roanoke-Benson Junior High
School in Benson and for Sowers Elementary School.
1973 - Scheduled to move into new addition in Sowers
about April 1.