Burnside High School “Little Giants”

Burnside High School Building – 2012
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Submitted by Roberta VanBriesen
Burnside High School Bell Tower – 2012
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Photo by Roberta VanBriesen

The History of Burnside High School


Burnside (population approximately 125) is located in upper-western Illinois in the north-central portion of Hancock County.  The town is situated about 20 miles west and a little north of Macomb.  County Highway 18 is the main roadway to and from Burnside and connects the town to Illinois Route 94 just two miles to the west.  The Keokuk Junction Railroad travels through Burnside.  Burnside is about 3 blocks long and 3 blocks wide.  Carthage, the Hancock County Seat, sits just six miles to the south of Burnside.

Burnside was platted in 1868 by a man named J.B. McMillan. The town is named after Ambrose E. Burnside. a General in the Civil War for the Union. The post office in Burnside was also established in 1868.

The history of the former school system is in need of research. We believe that Burnside may have had a school in place by the late 1800s.  A high school program may have been set up in the late 1800s as well, possibly not until the early 1900s though.  Burnside High School served the residents of the town and the surrounding farm kids for several years.

It was in 1944 that Burnside High School closed her doors. The kids of Burnside then, and to this day still do, attend high school in Carthage.  The fate of the original Burnside High School building appears that it is standing tall today!

Burnside Post Office (Closed) 2012)
A small white house

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Submitted by Roberta VanBriesen
Burnside Community Center 2012
A sign in front of a building

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(Former GS Gym) Photo by Roberta VanBriesen

From Tom Allen:


“My mother, Enid (Martin) Allen, is a Burnside native and graduated from the three-year high school in 1944 (because she was college-bound she had to travel to Carthage to complete her fourth year). Carthage Hancock Central used the school building as a grade school building for students in the Burnside area for many years after that.  The grade school classes of 1982 were the last to attend the school but I’m not sure what grades attended there.

The school is owned by the Burnside community and has been used as a community center since it closed.”

Burnside High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                          late 1800s / early 1900s

Year closed:                            1944

Consolidated to:                      Carthage Hancock Central High School

Burnside HS team nickname:   “Little Giants” or “Little Green Giants”

Burnside HS team colors:        Green & White

School Fight Song:                  (BHS did not have a school fight song.)


We know that Burnside High School offered boys basketball, competing with several of the schools in its area on a yearly basis.  It is likely that baseball and track were also offered at the school.  We are in need of the team nickname, team colors, and school fight song.  Also needed are team records, accomplishments, and coach’s names for Burnside High School

Boys Basketball

Burnside High School’s basketball teams of the mid-1930s let the folks of the area hold their heads high.  These teams won two District and one Regional Championship as well as a Hancock County Tournament Championship!

The following article was sent to us by Jenny Logan from a book titled “Hancock County History” as found in the Carthage library.  The article is found on page 451 and is reprinted in its entirety.  It is a FASCINATING account of a truly incredible story regarding the basketball feats of a very small town in a unique time of Illinois history.

“Little Giants Basketball Team”

Most publicized feature of the Burnside School system, and something no one will ever forget who lived in the town in the 1930’s, was the Little Giants basketball team.  Ralph L. Vass, Pilot Grove Township Supervisor and Chairman of the County History sub-committee, was a member of this Little Giants squad in the years of 1935, 1936, and 1937.  He has written the following about it.

“This team, especially through the three years of 1936, 1937, and 1938, litterally became the wonder of the state of Illinois high school basketball.  Burnside, a three-year high school, with an enrollment of between 30 and 35 through this period, with about 15 boys, without a gymnasium and forced to play all games away from home with the crowd against them, with no place to practice but an outdoor court usable only a few weeks in the early fall, built a basketball machine which ran rough-shod over all the four-year high schools of the county, and even the larger ones outside.

WIth a 20 and 1 record in 1937, Burnside won the Regional and was eliminated in the Sectional at Galesburg by a free throw in two overtimes. Knoxville was played in this game. In 1938, with a 29 to 0 record, Burnside lost to Augusta by a few points in the Regional at Carthage. High point of the 1938 season was when they beat Macomb 30 to 6, holding them scoreless the first 22 minutes of the game.  Chicago papers gave the Little Giants space comparable to that accorded the University of Illinois five.

The gentlemen of the press generally considered Donald Cox, son of Coach Irwin Cox, star of the team. He was the nephew of Forrest “Shorty” Loudin, a Carthage College football coach of World War I days. “Shorty” was incapacitated by wounds received while serving in the A.E.F. on the Western Front in France in that war and was an invalid in the Cox home in Burnside at the time of his death, about the time Donald became a Little Giants basketball star.

World War II came on right after the era of this Little Giants team, and Donald became an Army man and made the Army his career for the remaining thirty years of his life, dying just a year or so before the writing of this county history.  So he virtually replaced his uncle, Shorty Loudin, as a prominent athlete of this county and as an Army man.  Irwin Cox, Donald’s father, was a Carthage College graduate, Class of 1924, He coached five years at New Haven, Missouri, before coming to Burnside in the fall of 1929.

Another star player of the Little Giants was Tom Hull, one of the sons of Fred P. Hull, who wrote the 1959 History of Burnside.  He later played on the University of Illinois baseball team as an undergraduate in that university.  He is now a Springfield, Illinois, insurance executive.”

The several rural schools of the township (Pilot Township) where students learned at least to read and write through the 150 years to the present era of hauling youngsters in yellow buses to town when grade schools have all been discontinued now.  The buildings have been sold and torn down or put to other uses. But the familiar names of districts still remain in the people’s thinking to identify rural parts of the township.”

Upon sending this article about this amazing team in western Illinois, Jenny Logan offered the following story.  Tom Hull told Jenny that a player on one of these incredible teams was once asked how the Burnside team could play so well when the boys had to practice outside.  The player replied that it was easier playing in an indoor gym because there was no wind in there!

Scores fro games involving Burnside High School were located on a website titled “Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores.” These scores are posted below.

1935-36                 Carthage District Champions         Coach Irwin Cox

                              1st Rd Beat LaHarpe 45-22

                              Title Game Beat Bowen 38-23

                              Carthage Regional Tournament

                              1st Rd Beat Hamilton 17-15

                              Semi-final lost to Carthage 22-17

Carthage lost to Colchester in title game

1936-37  20 – 1      Carthage Regional Champions      Coach Irwin Cox

   1st Rd Beat Bowen 46-12

                              Semi-final Beat Plymouth 38-6

                              Title Game Beat Hamilton 29-19

                              Galesburg Sectional Tournament

                              1st Rd lost to Knoxville 26-24 (2 O/Ts)

Knoxville lost to Dunlap in semi-final

Dunlap lost to Galesburg in title game

1937-38  29- 2       Plymouth District Champions        Coach Irwin Cox  

                              Hancock County Tourn. Champs

                              Undefeated Regular Season

                              Plymouth District Title Game

                              Beat Bowen 31-22

                              Carthage Regional Tourney Runner-Up 

                              Title Game lost to Augusta 29-18

(Top 2 advance to Sectional)

Canton Sectional Tournament

1st Rd lost to Macomb 29-26

Macomb lost to Galesburg in Semi-final

Galesburg beat Canton in title game.



**From Enid (Martin) Allen (Class of 1944)

As conveyed by Enid’s son, Tom Allen:

  • “Enid’s class (1944) was the last to graduate from Burnside high.  There were 20 students in the entire 3-year high school her senior year.  Most of the students probably went to Carthage, but some might have gone to Ferris or Colusa depending on when those schools closed.
  • The school colors were green and white; the basketball team was commonly referred to the “Little Green Giants” due ot the color of their uniforms, although officially they were the “Little Giants.”
  • Although the basketball team primarily practiced outside, they occasionally practiced at the Colusa High School gym in bad weather.
  • During the basketball team’s best years, somebody could have walked away with the town of Burnside on game nights because everybody went to the games.
  • Enid doesn’t believe that Burnside ever had a track team, and doesn’t think they had an officially sanctioned baseball team although they might have played a few games against Ferris and Colusa.  They didn’t have a basketball team by the time she graduated; she wasn’t sure when they stopped, but remembered her older brother Richard playing.  He graduated in 1941 so they at least had basketball through his freshman year of 1938-’39.
  • There was no school band, and therefor no school fight song.

Hopefully some of this is of interest!”

Looking for More Info

We are hopeful and area enthusiast can “fill in the blanks” regarding the Burnside High School successes and history.  We are always in need of photos of the old school building and great teams.  If you wish to help us out please complete a School Submission Form or Guest Commentary Form.  You may also e-mail us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net or write us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.    60631

Burnside Community Park 2012
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Photo by Roberta VanBriesen
Burnside School Entrance 2012
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Courtesy of Roberta VanBriesen
Burnside High School Building Rear 2012
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Courtesy of Roberta VanBriesen

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