The first graduating class from Rock Falls Township High School (the class of 1880) contained six students. These six; Elizabeth Coe, Ella E. Dickson, John B. Brown, Charles parks, Ella Dickson and Angie Adair had attended classes in the city hall building. B.F. Hendricks was the principal of the school at that time and other members of the board included; W.W. Brown, E.L. Walson and J.W. Nims. In 1878 it was decided to establish a high school in Rock Falls by adding only two years to the first eight grades.
In 1888, the high school moved from the city hall into the Merrill school building and then, in 1894 into a smaller building east of the main Merrill school building. The two buildings were connected by a fire escape on which the students traveled from building to building to classes. Sessions were held in both buildings. The Rock Falls High School was established in 1918 when i moved to the Christian Church building from the Merrill School.
The new high school building on W. 2nd St. was completed in 1920. Bonds were voted by the district for $120,000 to build the school and later a levy was made to raise the amount to $160,000, which was the approximate cost of the building. On June 24, 1916 the first board of education was elected for Rock Falls Township High School. Included among that select group of educators were F.H. Geyer, president; Dr. F.J. Scott, secretary; Lawrence Church, Joseph Geoffroy, Ross Smith, Curtis Mine and Louis Oltmans.
The faculty, which numbered five, taught first in the old Christian Church. It was composed of Charles R. Holsinger, principal; Clara Young, English; Katheryn Geiger, mathematics; Etta Downey, language and history and Frances Angell, music. On October 8, 1941, just a month before the United States was brought into the second World War, a dedication program was held in honor of the the completion of the first new addition to the high school.
The overall dimension of this new addition was 107 feet 8 inches by 162 feet. The building was two stories high, with basement. Gilbert A. Johnson, who designed the Daily Gazette building, the grandon Civic Center and several other prominent building in the area during that period was the architect.
Some 330 patrons of the school had filed a petition on March 6, 1940 with the board of education asking that an election be called to vote on the question of issuing bonds for the construction of the addition. On March 30 of the same year, voters approved aproposition to authorize the board to issue bonds in the amount of $145,000 to provide funds for the erection of an addition to the high school building. The bonds were sold to John Nuveen & Company, Chicago, at 2 3/4 per cent interest per annum, and a premium of $2,200. This was considered an exceptionally good price at the time. Lindquist Construction Company, Dixon, received the contract for a bid of $108,734. The heating contract went to Nelson Piping Co., Rockford, for $13,502; the same company getting the contract for plumbing at $6,700. The electric wiring, etc., went to Broadway Electric Company of Rockford.
The total cost of the addition, equipment, extras, etc. amounted to approximately $160,000. The construction ws fireproof throughout, with the exterior walls made of solid masonry with face bricka nd stone trim to match that of the original building. Further carrying out the fireproof construction, all interior partitions were made of fireproof materials. All floors were mad eof reinforced concrete, as were wallwearings and interior columns. The "news organ" for Rock Falls Township High School in 1941 was the Arrow, which had been in print for eight years by the time the new addition was completed. The monthly paper had repeatedly received awards from the Society of the Quill and Scroll, the second highest literary award possible for high school papers at that time.
The first paper ever to be published by students from Rock Falls high School was the Owl, published in 1923, Helen Castle was editor-in-chief; Dorothy Wilson, literary editor; Grace Johnson, joke editor; William Sowles, assistant joke editor and C.K. Wallett, cartoon editor. Velma Calligan was the news editor and Robert Brainerd, sports editor. The enrollment at Rock Falls High School in 1941 was 357 students.
The Rock Falls High School board board of education, seeing the need for additional space approved a million dollar second addition to the high school in 1953. The board employed Raymond Orput and Associates of Rockford to draw up plans for the new addition with a target date of Aug. 1954. The new addition contained 15 new classrooms in the academic wing with four additional classroom in the science wing, in addition to wood, metal, electrical and agriculture shops. There were additional band and vocal music rooms and storage areas. Individual and group band practice rooms and storage rooms for instruments and uniforms were included in the new addition. A new gymnasium was constructed to seat 3,000 people and would handle four physical education classes simultaneously. Also in the revision was a new cafeterial that could handle 350 students. The area also doubles as a study hall. The home economics department was completely remodeled and enlarged and a new entry foyer, office space, and guidance rooms included. [The Daily Gazette - July 25, 1967]
I am honored and happy to have a chance to recall the days when I attended school in Rock Falls. My first day in the Rock Falls school was about the first of April, 1876. Cassie Gassenschmidt (Mrs. Frank McFalls) and Vannie Breslauer (Mrs. Henry Fry), neighbor girls took me down. Coming from a large, crowded, impersonal school room in one of Chicago's north side schools, to the small third grade room in the city hall, the change was terrifying. When the teacher punished one of the girls near me, I was ready to quit.
Miss Lizzie Vernon was my first teacher and Professor Brodie was the last, on June 5, 1884.
My first boy acquaintance was Bob Harper, who would bring me cookies from his father's bakery on the north side of Main street, across from what is now Sowles dry goods store. Then there were the two Armstrong boys, "Daddy" and Ed, who would take me home on their sled and defend me when some of the big boys tried to take a ring from my finer. There was Clarence Kittell, son of Dr. Kittell, who had a drug store where Alex McNeil once had a hardware store, and Charlie Kern who lived next to the Methodist Church, and the Baldwin boys whose mother had a millinery store.
I recall the bell which was rung from a window and the well between the two frame school houses where we had to take turns pumping.
Of my teachers I recall Miss Sally Murphy, at one time the librarian of the Sterling library, and Miss Kittie Worrell, whom I think was a cousin of Miss Elizabeth Coe. I used to take her gingerbread baked by my grandmother.
In the eighth grade Miss Aggie McNeil, daughter of Robert McNeil, was my teacher. My special boyfriend in this grade was "Griff" Titus, the bad boy of the room.
I started high school under Prof. B.F. Hendricks. There was Anna Alpress who was always willing to help a freshman, or a "lazy C' as we were called, and Phillip Smith, ready with an answer to a difficult problem.
Our class members of 1884 were: George Brown, son of Burris Brown, Carl Stahl, Fred Lindsley, Frankie Price and myself. Others of the class who did not finish included Ulysses Long, who sat back of me and took great pleasure in dipping the ends of my red pigtails in his ink well. The monitors filled the ink wells from quart bottles and managed to get ink over everyone.
Tinnie Melburg (Mrs. Robert McIlmoyl) was my particular friend. The two Reynold boys from the country, Charlie and Bob, were great scholars and grand boys.
My eldest son, Lehmon, was born in 1888 and was the first child born to a graduate of the Rock Falls high school.
Class of 1890 by Mayor Feigley
The Hon. S.H. Feigley, mayor of Rock Falls in 1941, wrote an article that year for the Daily Gazette about the Rock Falls High School. His article follows. The Class of 1890 was the last one to graduate (in 1891) from the old high school building. This building was an old two-story wood structure that had been moved there years before from lots one and two, block 14, Merrill's addition to Rock Falls. It was commonly known as the "Sandhill School." Lots one and two were directly south of the present I.O.O.F. building on the south side of East Third Street. Later this building was moved to its present location, brick veneered, and is now our city hall. The present stairway to the council room was then at the north end of the building as was trod by all the graduates up to 1891, as the high school was the upper floor of this building. In 1897 a new two-story school building was constructed, consisting of eight rooms. The high school was the upper northwest room. The principal's office was in the north end of the upper hall. The school library was also in Mr. Maxwell's office. I well remember this fact because in my last year for deportment not up to schedule for the first month (Sept. 1890) I was relegated to Mr. Maxwell's office, where I spent my last eight months, using the long table in front of the bookcase as my desk, and I was also school librarian. Always the "A" class, the class next to graduate, recited in the principal's office.
The class of 1891 had eight members: Lida Wagley, Lucy Shirley, Ella Allison, Matilda Lind, Alice Winters, Robert B. McNeil, Earl Isherwood, and myself. Miss Wagley afterwards married Rollin B. Woods. Both Mr. Wood and his wife passed on some years ago. Miss Shirley married a William Terry. They moved to Chicago where Mr. Terry worked for the Chicago street car system. Mrs. Terry passed on a number of years ago. Ella Allison married a Mr. Brown. Mrs. Brown, after becoming a widow, taught for years and passed on not long ago. Matilda Lind married a Will Newton. Both Mr. and Mrs. Newton died a number of years ago.
Alice Winters married Robert McNeil (May 3, 1893). They were childhood sweethearts. Mrs. McNeil passed on some years ago in Canada. Mr. McNeil is now living in Spokane Wash. Earl Isherwood was originally of the class of 1890, but when Mr. Rosebrook became Rock Falls postmaster, Mr. Isherwood left the school and worked in the postoffice. At the instigation of Professor Maxwell, Mr. Isherwood studied, passed his final examinations, and graduated with us in 1891. Mr. Isherwood was in the railway postal service for years. He married Miss Pearl Capp of Sterling (December 23, 1896). Mr. and Mrs. Isherwood are both living in Sterling.
Will Long, mayor of Sterling at the time of his death, was a member of the class of 1891 but some months before graduation he left school and went with the C.B. & Q. railroad. Samuel H. Feigley married Grace Loomis in 1899. Mrs. Feigley passed on December 1937. Dora Irene Burdick was a member of the 1891 class, but for some cause now forgotten, she did not graduate in 1892. Miss Burdick married John Dow, and both Mr. and Mrs. Dow are now living in San Francisco. Of the group which graduated, class of 1891, only three are still living - Mr. Isherwood, Mr. McNeil and myself. [From the Dailey Gasette July 25, 1967]
Class Rosters and Pictures
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1880
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1884
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1890
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Classes of 1898-1901
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1929
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1931
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Freshman Class in 1931-1932
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1932
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1933
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1935
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1948
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1957
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1958
ROCK FALLS HIGH SCHOOL Class of 1955 - 50th Reunion
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