Benld (population 1,541) is located in southwestern Illinois about 20 miles northeast of Alton. It is situated in the southeastern corner of Macoupin County. Illinois Route 138 intersects with Illinois Route 4 on the west side of the town. A branch of the Cahokia Creek flows through the center of town. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad lays tracks through town as well.
The history of the town of Benld and its unique name are in need of research. We understand that Benld was named after Ben L Dorsey whose family settled and owned a number of coal mines in the community when it was first settled. The following history information of Benld was copied from an Illinois House Resolution from 2004 congratulating Benld on its 100th Anniversary:
” …In 1835 brothers Elias M. and Ben L Dorsey received a land grant of at least 13,000 acres; Ben deeded his portion to Elias; Elias fathered 13 children; one named Benjamin L. Dorsey II after his uncle; Elias deeded 1,000 acres of land to each of the 13 children; Benjamin L. Dorsey II was deeded the ground south of the Northwestern Railroad and east of what is now known as Illinois Route 4; and
….In 1886, coal was discovered on their property; the Dorsey family continued to carry on coal transactions; one of the most active in the coal business was Benjamin L. Dorsey, Jr., who was an heir to Ben L. Dorsey II; Mrs. Ethel Clarkson, grandchild gave the ground in honor of her grandfather; thus the town received its unusual name of Benld; Ben comes from his first name, L. from his middle initial, and D from the first letter of his last name; and
….In 1904 Benld became a village and has grown to be a city; Benld will celebrate its centennial from September 04 to September 06, 2004;” .
The history of its former high school is in need of research. We do know that Benld had a high school for their children which was probably established in the late 1800s to early 1900s. According a web page on the Gillespie High School website (http://www.gillespie.macoupin.k12.il.us/) the towns of Gillespie (located 1 mile north of Benld) and Benld agreed to merge their districts “in the early 1960s”. Benld High School was closed and the children of Benld began attending Gillespie High School for their secondary school education.
The above pictured building served as the junior high and 9th grade attendance center from the merger until 1993. From 1993 until 2002 it was used as a part of the Benld Elementary School. The building was demolished in 2002 to make way for the new Benld Elementary School building.
Benld Township High School Quick Facts
Year opened: late 1800s/early 1900s
Year closed: 1961
Consolidated to: Gillespie High School
Benld Township HS team nickname: the “Indians”
BTHS team colors: Blue & White
School Fight Song: “We’re Loyal to You Benld High”
We’re loyal to you Benld High
We’re blue and white, Benld High
We’ll back you to stand
‘Gainst the best in the land
For we know you have sand, Benld High
So crack out the ball, Benld High
We’re backing you all, Benld High
Our team is our fame protector:
On! Boys for we expect a
Victory from you Benld High!
The boys sports of baseball, basketball, and track all earned a measure of success in IHSA competition (www.ihsa.org). Football was also offered at Benld High. School team records, and coach’s names are all items we are searching for. Benld was a member of the South Central Conference from 1935-1960.
The Benld High School diamond men earned a total of three District titles. All three titles came in back to back to back seasons in the mid 1940s. Unfortunately this is currently the only information on Benld High School baseball success that we have available.
1944-45 District Champions
1945-46 District Champions
1946-47 District Champions
Benld Basketball Team – 1949-50
Photo submitted by Donald Audi
Basketball was the main sport at Benld High School in the 1940s and 1950s. A total of four Regional titles and six District titles were cause for many an exciting winter night in Benld. Again, unfortunately, team records and coach’s names of these and other great Benld High basketball teams are not currently available.
The team of 1949-50 is pictured to the right. Members of this team included:
from left to right: Darwin Griva, Donald Audi, Jack Tarter, Sam Anderson, Jack Contratto, Coach Adolph “Chief” Tenikat, Bernie Verna, Jim Tillis, Danny Polonius, Steve Maizel and Bob Kepler
Several scores involving Benld High School participating in the IHSA State Tournament can be viewed on a web site titled “Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores.” The link to this web site is https://sites.google.com/site/xtmi2000/ . Scores found that are from championship seasons involving Benld High School are reprinted below.
1918-19 Macoupin County Tourney Champs Coach Wm. E. Rutherford
1935-36 Macoupin County Tourney Champs Coach Glenn Hastings
1936-37 Litchfield Regional Champions Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Mt. Olive 21-15
Semi-final Beat Litchfield 27-19
Title Game Beat Hillsboro 20 – 17
Belleville Sectional Tournament
1st Rd lost to Wood River24-19
Collinsville beat Wood River in title game
Collinsville placed 3rd in IHSA State Tournament
1938-39 Macoupin County Tourney Champs Coach John Rosetti
1941-42 Gillespie Regional Champions Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Medora 43-19
Semi-final Beat Gillespie 37-19
Title Game Beat Litchfield 35-32
Taylorville Sectional Tournament
1st Rd Beat Springfield Lanphier 38-30
Semi-final lost to Decatur 40-21
Decatur beat Taylorville in title game
Decatur lost in Elite 8 Rd of Tournament
1945-46 Gillespie Regional Champions Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Carlinville 66-29
Semi-final Beat Mt. Olive 38-35
Title Game Beat Gillespie 34-33
Hillsboro Sectional Runner-Up
1st Rd Beat Teutopolis 38-36
Title Game lost to Pana 49-38
Pana lost in Sweet 16 Rd of Tournament
1947-48 Brighton District Champions Coach’s name & record needed
Semi-final Beat Palmyra 38-32
Title Game Beat Brighton 46-28
Gillespie Regional Tournament
1st Rd Beat Litchfield 52-29
Semi-final lost to Hillsboro 49-28
Hillsboro beat Gillespie in title game
Hillsboro lost in Sweet 16 Round
1948-49 Medora District Champions Coach’s name & record needed
Semi-final Beat Medora 61-25
Title Game Beat Shipman 68-37
Hillsboro Regional Tournament
1st Rd lost to Gillespie 57-44
Hillsboro beat Gillespie in title game
Hillsboro placed 2ND in IHSA State Tournament
1949-50 25 – 6 Brighton District ChampionsCoach Adolph “Chief” Tenikat
South Central Conference Champs
Macoupin County Tourney Champs
Semi-final Beat Brighton 80-36
Title Game Beat Shipman 71-45
Gillespie Regional Champions
1st Rd Beat Litchfield 56-40
Semi-final Beat Hillsboro 41-38
Title Game Beat Mt. Olive 42-40
Centralia Sectional Runner-Up
Semi-Final Beat Sparta 44-37
BENLD (44): Tartar 11, Anderson 9, Audi 8, Tillas 6, Contralto 5, Derna 5.
The Benld thinclads also got into the IHSA competition winning business with three District titles of its own! All three titles came in back to back to back seasons in the early 1940s! In addition FIVE individuals and one relay team won medals at the IHSA State Meet.
1927-28 ?? Novotny 120 Yard Hurdles 5TH Place
1935-36 ?? Gorino Discus 4TH Place
1938-39 Louis Grabner Javelin 4TH Place
1940-41 Team Won the District Championship
Individual State Medalists
John Lukachik Shot Put 5TH Place
RELAY TEAMS 880 Yard Relay 3TH Place
1941-42 Team Won the DIstrict Championship
Individual State Medalist
Mike Balen Shot Put 3RD Place
1942-43 Team Won the District Championship
1950 South Central Conference Champs
Courtesy of Darwin Griva
Benld Township High School’s Indians competed in football as well. We don’t have all of the season records, but the photo to the right was sent to us by Darwin Griva. It is a photo of the South Central Conference Champions of 1950-51. The team was coached by future Illinois Hall of Famer Adolph “Chief” Tenikat. Coach went on to coach at Gillespie High School. This team finished the season at 6 – 1 – 2 with the loss coming in the first game of the season. All-Conference members from this team included Econe, Keppler, Verna, Anderson, and Griva. Econe was also named to the First Team Little All-State Team and Keppler earned Fourth Team Little All-State Honors!
1945 5-3-1 South Central Conference Champs Coach Adolph Tennikat
1946 8-1 South Central Conference Champs Coach Adolph Tennikat
1947 5-4 2nd place South Central Conference Coach Adolph Tennikat
1949 5-4 2nd place South Central Conference Coach Adolph Tennikat
1950 6-1-2 South Central Conference Champs Coach Adolph Tennikat
1960 4-3-1 Last team, 3rd place South Central Conference. Coach Auggie Dicenso
Last game was a 21-0 win over Gillespie, the school they would consolidate with the next year.
**From Ted Chura:
“1. As told to me by me dad who was a sub: My dad graduated in 1925. That year the senior class had extra money in its Treasury. They sponsored the football team to go to Chicago and play the Chicago city champions. Everyone thought for sure that we were going to win. The coach took them out to see Rudolph Valentino. They stayed at the Drake Hotel and changed clothes in a city park where the game was played. They got one player to come back to school and join the team because he was still eligible even though he was now 20 years old. The girls tutored him. He kicked a field goal on the kick off and that was the only points we made. I was told the coach had everyone tape their fists. They threw rocks at the ref. They were so mad that they lost by only a few points that they stole some of the other guy’s clothes from the Park dressing room. Joe Saracco, who later became Superintendent of the grade school, was the quarter back and had been knocked unconscious. They carried him through the lobby of the Drake Hotel, all still in uniform. My dad said they put lineament all over his body and must have ruined the mattress.
When I was a freshman in 1952 I remember reading a blurb in the St. Louis Post Dispatch that said, “everyone remembers when Benld had its gridiron.”
Joe Saracco was my basketball coach in grade school. I set an unofficial record that year. I fouled out in the first 5 minutes. Don’t know why he left me in.
2. There used to be huge pictures of each class in the second floor hallway attesting to the excellence in typing and shorthand in the 1940s. What ever happened to all those pictures?
3. During the 1952-1953 basketball season I remember seeing Sam Anderson sink a two handed set shot from the center court line right when the buzzer was sounding the end of the fist half and again at the end of the game.
4. Don’t remember which years but the Benld High School band won the Governor’s trophy 3 years in a row at the State Fair. The high school band included many grade school players and many in my class joined the high school band for the first time when we were in fourth grade. The high school only had 104 students but with grade school students playing in the high school band it was a 70 piece marching band.
5. You can visit the Dorsey family cemetery plot fenced in at the cul-de-sac in the Benld Cemetery.
6. Superior Coal Company had four mines in the area numbered 1 through 4. However, “Mine No. 5” was the still in the woods behind the cemetery during prohibition.
7. Freshman initiation had a long tradition. It started with football practice before the school year began and lasted all year for the boys. All freshmen were expected to go out for football. The practice finally ended around 1953 after things had gotten a little out of hand.
8. Benld had a very good educational system and about half the class went on to college with many distinguishing themselves.
Because the mines were shutting down and they went to division of work, my family moved to St. Louis where I finished my last two years of high school.”
If You Have Information to Share…
…regarding the many successes and accomplishments of Benld Township High School please write to us at the address provided. We are especially anxious to share photos of the old high school building and great teams, coaches, and other accomplishments of BTHS. Photos and information can be e-mailed to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can write to us at: