Woodford County, Illinois Genealogy Trails
Roanoke Schools

taken from "Roanoke Centennial History"

From Woodford County History, 1878

This township has not been behind in the attention given to the education of the youth. Though the facilities for obtaining an education in the early times of the county were meager, and in this locality especially so, and many of the fathers of later years had been deprived of the privilege of a common school education, yet they fully realized their loss, and were determined that the future generations should enjoy its benefits. Accordingly, at a very early day, when the number of inhabitants about the Grove had increased to a few dozen, they at once set about to put in operation the means whereby this desirable end might be accomplished.

The first public school was opened in 1855, in a little shanty, located on Section 14. There were less than a score of boys and girls altogether. Some had books and some had none; and the variety of books brought was as great as the number of children who brought them. Some of the children had been taught a little at home; a few had recently moved into the neighborhood, from more thickly settled places, and had received some school instruction there, and some of the older ones had ridden on horseback to schools in other portions of the county; but by far the greater number were totally ignorant of books or school. The school, however, was a pronounced success; and many of the middle-aged men and women, who still reside in the neighborhood, look back to the first days spent in the Bunch School as among the happiest of their lives. The Bunch School still exists, though the old cabin has given place to the more pretentious edifice.

From this small beginning, the educational interests developed with the other improvements, until we now find nine good school houses, and a school population of five hundred between the ages of six and 21. The expenses of running the Bunch that year did not exceed a hundred dollars; now seven thousand dollars per year were collected and paid out on account of the schools. The value of school property, including township fund, is but little less than $15,000.

Gideon Jeter was the first treasurer. He held the office four years. D. T. Fauber is the present treasurer, and has held the office continuously since his first appointment in 1862, until 1878.


The first recorded school was located near the Christian Gish farm, one mile north and some east of Roanoke. The school was also used for a church. A daughter of Christian Gish, Mary Ellen (should read Elizabeth?), taught in this school (1855) before her marriage to John McCauley.

The Bunch School, named because of the bunch of trees in which it was located, was first near the "Angling Bridge: in the southeast part of Roanoke, then moved three-fourths miles east of Roanoke on the north side of the road on the Ben Kindig farm. It was later moved east across the creek on the south side of the road. Children from the east side of Main Street in Roanoke, and a two mile square area in the country, came to this school. Thought to have been in operation since 1855, the first recorded date is September 4, 1890, with E. N. Wheelwright as teacher. There were 30 pupils enrolled and their ages ranged from five to 16. School attendance was low because the need for children helping at home, bad weather, and sickness. Some of the teachers at the Bunch School were: 1890's E. N. Wheelwright; 1901, Clara Rowan; 1902, Ernest Reed; 1903, Ethel Childress; 1904, Viola Kindig; 1905, Mary Schluch; 1906-07-08, Pearl Switzer; and the last year 1909, Iva L. Kindig.

At this time the subjects taught were: reading, writing, arithmetic, physiology, history, spelling, language, geography, and slate work. Five, ten and fifteen-minute periods were scheduled for study and recitation periods. Many of the teachers lived in the homes of the pupils. They were paid about $25 or $30 a month and were given room and board where they stayed.

The Bunch School remained in existence until 1909, then all Bunch children plus those from the school one and one-half miles west of town across from Ed Blunier's went into town in 1910 to Roanoke Grade School.

Another early school was taught by Miss Cinthia Fisher, just east of E. R. Marshall's farm in 1856.

There was another school run by Mr. and Mrs. Sam Schullenburger located where the Roanoke Bank stand now (downtown). Miss Mary Woods was the teacher. The school served a dual purpose, that of a school during the day and a boarding house by night. Sam Schullenburger, as well, was the first Mayor of Roanoke.

By 1862, when the first trustees were elected, there were nine good school houses in Roanoke Township. A grade school was established in town and located on the corner of Ann and Franklin Streets, about 1879. In 1913, there was a German Lutheran School on the corner of East Ann and State Street. The Belsley School was moved to town and is now part of Red Martino's house. Schertz School was located one mile west and two miles south, the Zion School was two miles north and one mile east, and was later known as Brown School and still later as Woltzen School. East Harmony was two miles north and three miles west, Foerter School was located one mile west of Roanoke, and the Jeter School was north of Roanoke, two miles and one mile west, later known as

Schirer School


Roanoke Township District School No. 76

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 Church basement.

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 use.

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 Mueser.

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 program.

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 lives

This school building looks much like the Roanoke Township District School No. 76

Roanoke Victory High School, built in 1920

Roanoke School 1911-12

First Primary, Miss Louise Miller, Teacher

Roanoke School

1911-12, Third grade

Roanoke High Students, April 1912

Back row - second from left is William Cox, custodian

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 Trustees elected.

1884 - German teacher, Professor George Adler, operated private school three miles south west of town for small population January, 1894.

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 month.

1891 - 150 pupils

1893 - Built on tow more rooms. A county school was brought in for youngsters. State board said all children must be vaccinated.

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 1909.

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 Zimmerman.

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 dismissed early.

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 night.

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 1911.

1914 - Program at school interrupted by burning down of ABC factory.

1915 - First high school board organized.

1916 - First high school voted in. Estimated coast $45,000.

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, English.

1922 - Airplane landed one-hale mile from high school - over noon hour - rare event. Took people up for 15 minute rides.

1925 - Bell on top of grade school purchased by Joseph Reiff.

1930 - In mid 30's a bond issue voted for an addition to high school.

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 Benson.

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 gym.

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 acres.

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 College).

1967 - High School student foreign exchange program instituted. Jean Gingrich was the first to be sent abroad - to Colombia.

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.

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