The History of Armington High School
Armington (population 368) is located on the U.S. Route 136 spur at Armington Road in southeastern Tazewell County. A nearby town of note is Bloomington located 25 miles to the northeast of Armington. The Norfolk & Western Railroad at one time ran through the center of town however does not do so anymore. A branch of the Middle Fork Creek still flows through town.
The origin of the school system established in Armington dates back to the early 1900s. With the leadership of Bert Richmond, a vote was held and it was decided to build a new township high school. The decision was made to locate the new high school building in Armington. The first class to graduate from Hittle Township High School was the class of 1906 with ten members earning their diplomas.
In 1965, the school districts of Armington, Hopedale and Minier consolidated but their high schools remained open. This arrangement lasted until 1968 when Hittle Township High School was officially deactivated and its final class graduated. The high school remained open, however, as a part of the newly formed “Trioka” school district which represented Armington, Hopedale, and Minier. In a unique arrangement, all three towns kept their high schools and grade schools open.
In the late-1960’s/early-1970’s, a talk of consolidating several school Districts in the area surfaced. This became a reality in 1972 when the school districts of Armington-Hopedale–Minier (Trioka), Atlanta, Danvers, Stanford, and McLean-Waynesville all merged to create the Olympia School District. The high school for the Olympia district was located in a country setting near Stanford.
Former Armington resident Robert Israel provided the following information regarding the fate of the once thriving Armington-Hittle Township School District:
“In the fall of 1992 for my English Composition 111 class, I collected information from a variety of sources on the history of consolidation at Hittle Township High School. Hittle Township,(Armington Illinois), was first consolidated in 1965 and formed Trioka School District. The consolidation effort included the three small towns of Armington, Minier, and Hopedale. The results of the vote to consolidate had the following results:
Armington voted 98% against consolidation with a population of 350. Minier voted 95% for consolidation with a population of 1300. Hopedale split their vote 50/50 with a population of 850.
The election officials then lumped all the votes together and the consolidation referendum was considered to have passed. Four prominent citizens from Armington, Jack Bossingham (Meat Locker Owner), Bill Bossingham (Road Commissioner), Omar Seniff (Grocery Store Owner), and Dr.Lang (Town Doctor), banded together to file a Law suit challenging the election results. The law suit claimed that each community has to vote for the measure before consolidation can take place. The people of Armington were outraged.
Armington at that time was a very wealthy community and their School District finances were always in the black. The school district’s building and grounds were in excellent condition. School conditions at the time in Minier were not as favorable. Hopedale School and grounds were in fair condition.
The Law Suit continued going up the court ladder headed for the Supreme Court of Illinois. Then in 1968 another consolidation referendum was offered to form Olympia School District 16. Some of the people of Armington viewed this as a way to get out of Trioka District. The referendum for the Olympia consolidation also failed with 92% of the voters in Armington voting against it. But once again the Election Officials lumped Armingtons votes with all the Trioka School District communities votes. This time Hopedale voted 58% for consolidating and Minier voted 95% for consolidating. Construction of Olympia High School began in the middle of a corn field in rural Stanford.
The original organizers of the Olympia District promised Armington they would never lose their Grade School. They also made forecasts about Olympia’s basketball teams being state champions in Illinois. The claims were made because Armington had two All-State Basketball players at the time( Myron Litwiller and Mark Yontz),. This was before the state had went to the A-AA divisions that separated small schools from large population schools.
Armington was eventually left out in the cold. Olympia School District closed the Armington Grade School in 1986. Olympia High School has never won any State Championships in basketball. Olympia School District officials were spending money fighting the Armington law suit and blamed Armington for many inefficiencies at the new High School. The School Administration said Armington was the reason the hallways at the school had to be made more narrow than normal.
The law suit was eventually referred to the Supreme Court of Illinois. The final ruling was that The Election officials and procedures were wrong. Each of the communities should have had to pass the referendum individually. However by this time the construction and consolidation process had went too far to be reversed. It was decided the new School District was in the best interest of the students.
I interviewed Bill and Jack Bossingham for first-hand information on the Law suit,(Mr.Seniff and Dr.Lang were decease). Bill and Jack stated all four of the law suit participants had spent their life savings protecting Armington. I did research at the Circuit Clerks office in Pekin. On microfiche I followed the Laws Suit from one court to another, appeal after appeal. The Armington Residents won every ruling until it went to the Supreme Court of Illinois.
I concluded, along with many (most) of the residents of Armington, that bigger is not always better.”
Nice report Robert.
Further information was provided by a student of Hittle High School that lived through the consolidation effort. Janet (Brandt) DuChanois graduated from high school in 1969. She attended the Hittle High School through her junior year as part of the Trioka School District. From 1966 – 1968 this school district held combined graduations of the high schools held in Armington, Hopedale, and Minier. For her senior year, it was decided that the Olympia School District would be formed. Until these facilities were ready, however, several local high schools were combined. This included the creation of the McLean-Waynesville-Armington (MWA) High School Janet officially graduated from M-W-A High School in 1969. Janet relates the following information regarding this very emotional consolidation:
“I’m from Armington, Illinois and I attended Hittle Township High School for 11 years but was caught up in the consolidation of the Olympia.school district and had to attend another school my senior year. That school was officially called McLean-Waynesville-Armington (MWA) High School.
– Although a part of the Trioka school district beginning with the 1965-66 school year,
all 3 schools retained their original names – Hittle Township High School (Armington),
Hopedale High School and Minier High School – until the consolidation into the
Olympia High School District at the beginning of the 1968-69 school year.
– The Trioka School District existed for 3 years and the reason I remember that so clearly is that each school hosted one combined graduation – 1966, 1967 and 1968. I attended them all.
– The consolidation to the Olympia district was announced in 1968, a day that I will NEVER forget. It broke my heart. The new district took immediate measures to close some high schools. Minier had to be closed due to structural problems that were exposed in a building inspection; they consolidated to form Stanford-Minier High School . They sold the Minier high school building to a private business and a good deal of it still stands today. (The towns of McLean, Waynesville, and Armington created another high school, M-W-A)
– Armington’s objections to the forming of the district and continued lawsuit worried the new district officials that the vote to form the Olympia district could be nullified. (I recall one of the conditions for pulling out of the district was that we would have to absorb 1/8 of the debt of all 8 schools that formed the district. Humorous note, we were the only school in the black when the district was formed – but yet we would be asked absorb debt we never had.)
– Our high school building became a victim of a wrecker ball so that we would have no place to resume holding classes should we be able to pull out of the district. They wouldn’t consider selling it to a private business or individual. The ag shop/bus garage and gymnasium were purchased for $1 and Armington formed a park district which still operates successfully today. The gymnasium is rented on a frequent basis for recreational activities such as basketball and volleyball. It is now the main gathering place for community events, school and family reunions, etc.
– The year Hittle Township High School closed (1967-68) it had an enrollment of 59 students. When the Olympia School District was formed, it was the largest school district in land area in the United States. With all the consolidation efforts since then, I am not sure if this is still true.
– Armington still has a lot of heart and wonderful people that are proud to call it home. But, there are still many of us who still hold a bitter grudge against those who forced us to become part of a school district we never wanted.
As I stated earlier, I have very vivid memories of all that occurred with the consolidation to the Olympia School District because I was a broken-hearted 17-year-old who lived it. And if you ask me where I went to school – my answer is Hittle Township High School.”
Thank you, Janet, for this excellent view and for sharing these facts and personal feelings.
Armington High School Quick Facts
Year opened: 1902
Year closed: 1968
School nickname: Mustangs
School colors: Purple & Gold
School Fight Song: “We’re Loyal to You Hittle High”
For music click play button below left
We’re loyal to you Hittle High
We’re purple and gold, Hittle High
We’ll back you to stand
‘Gainst the best in the land
For we know you have sand, Hittle High
So crack out the ball, Hittle High
We’re backing you all, Hittle High
Our team is our fame protector:
On boys for we expect a
Victory from you Hittle High!
Che-he, cha-ha, cha-ha-ha-ha,
Armington Hittle High,
Rah, Rah, RAH!
Fling out that dear old flag of
Purple and Gold,
Lead on your sons and daughters
Fighting for you
Like men of old, on giants.
Placing reliance, shouting defiance
Amid the broad green plains that nourish our land,
For honest Labor and for Learning we stand.
And unto thee we pledge our heart and our hand,
Dear Alma Mater, Hittle High!