|Braceville High School Building – early 1900s|
|Submitted by Gerry Halpin as found at http://www.coalcity.lib.il.us/coalmining/index.html|
The History of Braceville High School
Braceville (population 792) is a village in Braceville Township in Grundy County . Braceville is located 4 miles northeast of Gardner and 5 miles southwest of Braidwood. Illinois Route 53 and the Southern Pacific Railroad run diagonally through town, with most of the town lying to the north and west of this corridor.
Most of the information on Braceville and Braceville High School is from the Coal City Library website (www.coalcity.lib.il.us ) and from Jim Ridings’ excellent new book “Cardiff: Ghost Town on the Prairie (Volume 2)”.
Braceville is a coal mining town. The village was laid out by Nathaniel Cotton in 1861, around the time that small-scale mining began in the area. Around 1880, large-scale mining began, financed by the Chicago , Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. Their coal company eventually opened six shaft mines in and near Braceville. The village boomed, reaching an estimated population of over 3,000 in the early 1900’s. Many of these residents were of Italian and Eastern European descent. In 1910, a protracted miner’s strike closed the area mines. When the strike ended, the company decided not to reopen the Braceville mines. Braceville began to decline, with many houses moved to other area towns. In later years, strip mining of coal was done south of Braceville; this area of strip mine lakes is now the Mazon-Braidwood Wildlife Area, and a cooling lake for the nearly Braidwood Nuclear Power Plant.
Braceville supported a two-year high school during the coal boom years. The village had two large wooden school buildings, one of which was the four-room high school (these buildings were razed many years ago). It seems likely that Braceville High School started around 1895 and was closed by the early 1920’s. Commencement programs from the early 1900’s on the Coal City website show that a tenth grade “graduation” was held, with valedictorians and salutatorians named.
A tragic accident described in the Ridings book serves as an example of the difficulties faced by the residents of the mining towns. Charles Vignery “graduated” from Braceville High at age 15 as the salutatorian of the class of 1909. His father (a Belgian immigrant who had worked in the Braceville mines) had died two years earlier. Charles followed a brother and two sisters to the coal town of Cardiff , in Round Grove Township , Livingston County . On February 11, 1910, Charles was crushed between two mining cars while working at the Cardiff mine. He died later that day at the home of his sister, at the age of 16.
Braceville today maintains its own grade school district (CCSD No. 75) for grades K-8. Braceville High School students attend Gardner-South Wilmington High School, as they have since the 1920’s.
|Braceville High School Quick Facts
Year opened: 1895
Year closed: 1920s
Consolidated to: Gardner-South Wilmington High School
(Unknown if Sports Offered, 2-year HS only)
Athletics and Extra-Curricular Activities
We are curious if Braceville High School competed in boys basketball. It is quite possible that baseball and track may have been part of the athletic program as well. Currently we do not have any team records or coach’s names to share with you on this page.
We are also certain that, like many small schools, the folks of Braceville valued a good, well-rounded education for their children..We are curious as well if band, chorus, and several club activites were offered to the children who attended Braceville High. If you have any of this information to share with us, please follow the directions below.
Our sincere gratitude goes out to Gerry Halpin, a long-time contributor to the Glory Days website, who completed the entire history section of this page. Gerry found this gem on the Coal City library website at the web address of http://www.coalcity.lib.il.us/coalmining/index.html. Thank you Gerry, nicely done!
We Need Your Assistance…
…in researching the history and accomplishments attained by the Braceville residents and their former high school. If you have any photos or any information you would like to see added to this page, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send items to us via real mail at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il. 60631