(Altona) Walnut Grove High School “Vikings”

Altona Walnut Grove Township High School
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Courtesy of Dorothy Thomson

The History of Walnut Grove Township High School

Altona (population 570) is a village located in upper-western Illinois in the north-central portion of Knox County. The main roadway leading to and from town is U.S. Route 34. The town sits along the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad tracks, which was a prime factor in the village’s early growth. Altona is situated about 15 miles northeast of Galesburg. Altona was first settled as La Pier in 1834 and later changed to Reno in 1863. The name was changed for good to Altona in the late 1860s in honor or Altona, N.Y. which was named after Altona, Germany.

The history of education in Altona is long and storied. The following information is found in a document at the Ransom Library. It has been summarized as follows.

The first school buiding in the town of Altona was built in 1863. The school housed grades 1-8 and supported a three-year high school course. The first graduating class of Altona High School was the class of 1874. The class consisted of three graduates, Emmerson Shade, Nellie Colburn, and Fannie Hillerby. The three-year Altona High School continued through 1915, with the largest classes to graduate consisting of eleven students.

A four-year high school course of study began in 1916. Being newly established, there were no graduates that particular year. A new brick school building was built in 1916 to accommodate the new agenda. It was also voted at that time to become a school for the entire township in which Altona was located. The name of the new high school district would become the Walnut Grove Township High School District. A new grade school building for the district was erected in 1917. The grade school was named after its biggest donor, Mary Riner Kufus.

Walnut Grove Township High School would flourish for several years to come.  Classes of 25 students in 1931 and 23 students in 1937 were the school’s biggest in enrollment. In 1931, the school added a gymnasium to the grounds. The district established a bus system in 1946.

Talks began in 1945 regarding the potential consolidation of several school districts in Knox County. Ultimately the suggestion was made to consolidate the high schools of RioOneidaVictoria, and Altona. After a couple of years of planning the school boards of the four school districts put the suggestion on a ballot for the voters to decide. The vote was held in the spring of 1948. All districts agreed to establish one combined school district to be effective beginning with the 1948-49 school year. The Altona Walnut Grove High School class of 1948 would be the last to graduate from the school.

Altona School Cornerstone
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Photo by Roberta VanBriesen
Altona School Bldg Entrance 2012
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Photo by Roberta VanBriesen

The Altona High School building was active as part of the ROWVA school system and was utilized as the ROWVA East Grade School through 2013. As Sharon Karpinski tells us, this changed in a sad way for the residents of Altona:

“Altona High School (Walnut Grove Township High School) building is no longer utilized as a school. The ROWVA district is consolidating all its facilities to Oneida, building a new elementary school in the process.  Very sad since the Altona building is in excellent repair.”

Altona Walnut Grove Township High School “Quick Facts”

Altona School Rear View
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Photo by Roberta VanBriesen

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Altona School Inscription “TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL”
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Photo by Roberta VanBriesen

Year High School Opened:  late 1910’s

Year High School Closed:   1948

School nickname:               the “Vikings”

School colors:                     Maroon & White

School Building Today:       ROWVA East Grade School

School Fight Song:            “Altona High School Fight Song”

Altona Walnut Grove HS District Champions 1944-45
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R. Olson, N.S. Johnson, F. Nelson, G. Johnson, R. Rylander


Through most of the 1930’s and 1940’s, Basketball was the premier sports at Altona Walnut Grove Township High School, like other high schools in it’s day The Vikings won five district championships in ten years, including three years in a row.

Boys Basketball

The following excerpt is copied word for word from an article found in the Ransom Library. As you will read, the Altona Walnut Grove High School boys could play with anybody!

“Altona had for years been known for a fine basketball team. The 1943-44 and 1944-45 basketball teams were two of the finest in the history of Altona High School sports. The 1943-44 team compiled a 26-3 won/lost record. The team won the District Tourney and defeated Galesburg Corpus Christi and Monmouth high schools in the Regional Tournament before losing to a Champaign-bound Galesburg High team in the Championship game.

The 1944-45 team compiled a 23-6 record, won the District Tourney, and defeated Victoria and Galesburg Corpus Christi in the Regional Tourney before losing to state-ranked Galesburg High School in the championship game.

The 1942-43 team had a fine 18-5 record and also won the District Championship before losing to Princeville in the Galesburg Regional.

The coach of most of the fine teams in the 1930’s and 1940’s was Jack Kelly.  Wallace Davis coached the 1944-45 team.”


1918-19              Galesburg District Tournament                Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Carthage 40-19

2nd Rd Beat Abingdon 32-16

Semi-final lost to Rock Island 30-21

Rock Island Beat Galesburg in title game


1919-20             Galesburg District Tournament                Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Wethersfield 39-15

2nd Rd lost to Elmwood 36-5

Galesburg beat Rock Island in title game.


1920-21            Galesburg District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Wyoming 28-21

Galesburg beat Wyoming in title game.


1921-22            Galesburg District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Gilson 20-17

Galesburg beat Williamsfield in title game.                        Coach’s name & record needed.


1931-32               Galesburg District Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Victoria 12-10

2nd Rd lost to Rio 25-14

Galesburg Beat Abingdon in title game.


1932-33              Galva District Tournament                      Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Galva 32-24

Alpha beat Geneseo in title game.


1933-34              Galesburg District Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Little York 38-15

2nd Rd lost to Galesburg 47-19

Galesburg beat Knoxville in title game.


1934-35              Galesburg District Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Oneida 24-21

2nd Rd lost to Knoxville 19-14

Galesburg beat Knoxville in title game.


1935-36              Galesburg District Champions               Coach Jack Kelly 

1st Rd Beat Gilson 54-18

Semi-Final Beat Victoria 31-13

Title Game Beat Avon 20-18

Galesburg Regional Tournament Qualifier

1st Rd Beat Maquon 27-21

Semi-Final lost to Abingdon 22-21

Galesburg beat Abingdon in title game.


 1936-37             Knox Co. Tourney Champs                      Coach Jack Kelly

(Did participate in District Tournament)

Galesburg Regional Tournament

1st Rd lost to Knoxville 17-16

Galesburg beat Knoxville in title game.


1937-38              Maquon District Champions                    Coach Jack Kelly

1st Rd Beat Wataga 28-26 (O/T)

Semi-Final Beat Oneida 38-28

Title Game Beat Victoria 22-19

Galesburg Regional Tournament Qualifier

Altona scores needed.

Galesburg beat Knoxville in title game.


1938-39              Maquon District Tournament                  Coach Jack Kelly. 

Semi-Final lost to Yates City 27-23

Victoria beat Yates City in title game.


1939-40     Postseason Scores & Record Needed.              Coach Jack Kelly.


1940-41              Oneida District Tournament                    Coach Jack Kelly

1st Rd Beat Wataga 27-22

Semi-Final lost to Oneida 36-32

Maquon beat Oneida in title game.


1941-42       Postseason Scores & Record Needed.            Coach Jack Kelly.    


1942-43  18 – 5  Oneida District Champions                     Coach Jack Kelly.

1st Rd Beat LaFayette 54-23

Semi-Final Beat Maquon 49-36.

Title Game Beat Oneida 31-30

Galesburg Regional Tournament Qualifier.

1st Rd lost to Princeville 37-35

Galesburg Beat Knoxville in title game.


1943-44  26 – 3  Oneida District Champions                    Coach Jack Kelly.

Early Round Scores Needed.

Title Game Beat Victoria 44-30

Galesburg Regional Tournament Runner-Up.

1st Rd Beat Corpus Christi 44-38

Semi-Final Beat Monmouth 42-29

Title Game lost to Galesburg 49-29


1944-45  23 – 6  Oneida District Champions                    Coach Wallace Davis

1st Rd Beat LaFayette 40-25

Semi-Final Beat Wataga 43-37

Title Game Beat Woodhull 42-40

Galesburg Regional Tournament Qualifier

1st Rd Beat Victoria 40-35

Semi-Final Beat Corpus Christi 41-40

Title Game lost to Galesburg 81-33

(Galesburg lost in Elite 8 Round to eventual State Champ Decatur in O/T)


1945-46              Oneida District Runner-Up                   Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Maquon 37-24

Semi-Final Beat Wataga 60-26

Title Game lost to Oneida 58-36.


1946-47              Oneida District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Victoria 38-32

Semi-Final lost to Oneida 55-29

Oneida beat Woodhull in title game.


1947-48              Oneida District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat LaFayette 50-30

*Semi-Final lost to Oneida 57-50

Oneida beat Wataga in titloe game.


*Final boys varsity basketball game for Altona High School “Vikings.”


**A January 10, 1930 game pitting Altona and Toulon went into two overtimes because the defenses of the teams were both very impressive. The final score? Altona 5 – Toulon 4. The nine points scored in the game is ranked 15th in fewest points scored in a game in the state of Illinois.


Track & Field

Altona Walnut Grove Township HS also had a Track and Field program that was well known in the school’s early days. In the 1918-19 school year, AHS placed fifth and placed seventh in 1919-20. A student named MEYER was a real stud for Altona for these two seasons He was a four time gold medal winner winning the Discus and Shotput events in consecutive years. His accomplishments are listed below,


1919      Elder Meyer (possibly Myers)        Shot Put          1st

                                                                     Discus              1st

              1919 Final ‘B’ Meet Standings

1  Chicago (University)                 19

2  Georgetown                             16

3  Lockport (Twp.)                        15

4  Atwood                                   12

5  Edwardsville (H.S.)                   10

5  ALTONA HIGH SCHOOL         10

7  Auburn                                      9

8  Elmwood                                   8

9  El Paso                                     7

9  Olney (H.S.)                               7

9  Delavan                                      7

1920      Elder Meyer (possibly Myers)        Shot Put          1st

                                                                      Discus              1st

              1920-21 Final ‘B’ Meet Standings    

1  Marion (H.S.)                        15½

2  Hinsdale (Twp.)                     15

3  Carrollton                              13

4  Carlinville                               12

4  El Paso                                 12

6  Elmwood                               10½


8  Girard                                     9 1/5

9  Auburn                                    7½

10  Virginia                                    7 1/5


From Dorothy Thomson (Class of 1948):


“Altona High School was located on Route 34 in Altona.  It was originally called Walnut Grove Township High School.  It was built in 1916 and a 3 story addition, consisting of a gym and additional classrooms, was added in 1931.  The 1948 Class was the last to  graduate there.  After that, it was consolidated with Rio,  Oneida, and Victoria, and called ROVA, located in Oneida, IL.  Later, Wataga joined them and the name changed to ROWVA.  The Altona school building now houses 5th and 6th graders of the district and is known as ROWVA East, so it is still being put to good use.

Altona was known for their athletics, winning many awards, especially in basketball.  Team colors were maroon and white and the team was called the “Vikings”.  Football was not common in small schools, – it was mostly basketball, baseball, and track.   We also had a well rounded schedule of classes available, such as English, Math, Physics, General Science, Biology, Commercial subjects, (Typing, Shorthand, Bookkeeping) Social Studies, etc and also Band and Chorus.  We had F.F.A. and F.H.A. (Future Farmers and Future Homemakers of America) which previously were called “Ag” and “Home Ec”. A “hot cup lunch”  (soup) was started as a project of the F.H.A. girls.  They prepared and served the lunch and washed the dishes.  We never had the lunch program of today.

Principal William A. Pyle
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Sometime during the 1946-47 school year, if memory serves me right, our first school bus was purchased and used for the two routes, one going east and south, the other, west and north.  Students had study halll time either an hour before classes started, or after school, depending on your route.  Later a second bus was purchased and that made for a much better schedule!

We were blessed with very good teachers and a Principal that was very well liked and respected, even though the kids could not pull stunts on him!  He was always ahead of the game!  Invariably, stories of those “ruined pranks” makes for entertainment at our Alumni Banquets which are still held every year in May.  He also kept in touch with all past teachers, so if we ever wanted an address for one, we could contact him and obtain it.  The Banquet attendance has dropped now due to our ages, but until a few years ago, we averaged around 100.

-From a “1948” graduate.”

Seeking Further Information

Including the school colors or great teams you would like to share, and expecially a photo of the school building, please complete a School Submission Form, a Guest Commentary Form, contact us via e-mail at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net, or write us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il. 60631

Altona High School Building
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Altona, Illinois

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