Campbell Hill High School “Hilltoppers”

Campbell Hill Community High School Building
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Submitted by Stephanie (Ehlers) Thornton
CHCHS Gym & Home Ec Buildings
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Submitted by Stephanie Ehlers Thornton

The History of Campbell Hill High School

Campbell Hill (population 333) is located in far southwestern illinois in the northwestern portion of Jackson County.  Illinois Route 4 is the main roadway traveling to and from Campbell Hill.  The town currently sits about 15 miles northwest of Murphysboro.  The Brushy Fork of the Pipestone Creek flows through the southeast side of town.

The history of the town of Cambell Hill and the high school that served its children was provided to us by Stephanie Ehlers Thornton, as transcribed from the book “Do You Remember Campbell Hill” written by Genevieve Dudenbostel Ruebke.

“Public School

As is to be expected, schools of some sort were here from the very beginning.  It is most probably that the “country schools” were established before the one in town.  Some of those in the nearby countryside were Barrow, Buckskull (Mount Ridge), Tangen, Union, Loy, Webb, Zion and Jones.  These were in existence for many years, even after the establishment of the public school in town.  The first in Campbell Hill was held in a small frame building on the present site of St. Luke’s Church.  The brick building erected in 1888 on Dean Street at the east edge of the village at a cost of $1,000.00 was destroyed by fire of undetermined origin on the night of February 16, 1894.  The joyful prospect of  “Goody – no more school” for the youngsters was short lived however, as about 40 children were sent to Barrow just west of town, where John Tatum was teaching, and others no doubt going to some of the other neighboring schools.

This fire was quite a blow to the new town, but no time was wasted in building a two story brick which served the community for many years.  (In fact it was still in use in 1951 when the tornado damaged it to the extent that it was torn down and replaced with the present structure).*   The building was probably completed within the year for in July 1896 the school board agreed to have the upper floor partitioned off into two rooms in order to accommodate the increase in students.  The contract for this job was let to Elyle E. Luthy for $60.00.  The High School used this entire floor, with the lower grades meeting downstairs.

The following I have copied from the ten page Catalogue of the Campbell Hill Public Schools 1898-1899 which contains Rules, Regulations and Course of Study, etc.:

“Members of the Board of Directors: Dr. Albert R. Carter, President; William Mohlenbrock, Clerk and Henry C. Tangen.  Teachers for 1897-1898: E. J. Klemme, Principal; Nora Smith, Grammar Department; Nelly G. Striger, Intermediate Department; Ella Crews, Primary Department.

Tuition – Non-resident pupils shall pay in advance the following Rates of Tuition:  Intermediate Department per month $1.00; Primary Department $1.00; Grammar Department $1.50; High School Department $2.00.

To The Public

To those pupils of other districts who are desirous of entering a school where better educational advantages are offered, we call special attention to the High School Department of our school.  The principal, Prof. E. J. Klemme, is one of the foremost teachers in the country, and with an efficient corps of teachers, we bespeak for the coming session a splendid term of school work.

Board can be had at reasonable rates in the best families in town. For further particluars address the Clerk of Board, Wm. Mlohlenbrock, or the Principal, Prof. E. J. Klemme.  School opens September 13, 1897, and continues seven months.

Text Books Used:                   Board of Directors:

American Classics                   Selected

Arithmetic                               White

Algebra                                   Brown

Botany                                    Hall

Bookkeeping                           Bryant and Stratton

Business Customs                  Goodyear

Civil Government                      Trowbridge

Composition                            Practical Works

English Classics                      Selected

Geography                              Butler

Grammar                                Harvey

General History                       Barnes

History(United States)              Eggelston

Natural Philosophy                  Steele

Physiology                              Kellog

Physical Geography                 Eclectic

Readers                                  Harper

Rhetoric                                  Lochwood

Speller                                    Harrington

Vocal Music                            Practice

Writing                                    Practice

Zoology                                   Steele

In many of these subjects the pupil can follow any textbook desired as the work is done by outlines and topics.

Outline of Course of Study

A desire for closer organization and more systematic work in our system of schools seems quite common.  This Course of Study has been arranged to meet this demand, to allow the teachers to follow the same plan of work, and to give the pupils permanent advancement.  In the presentation of these subjects the teacher can use any method which furnishes good results.  The course states only what should be taught, to the individuality of the teacher is left the how to teach the subject.  The only requirement is that he do the work well.  It is not the purpose of this outline to either retard the progress of the industrious pupil or hurry with undue advancement the pupil of moderate ability, the that each shall make material progress toward the end of better and higher education.

A drill in drawing and vocal music should be given when possible, but writing should never be omitted.  If it is possible to do so the teacher may give the lesson in drawing, writing, spelling, vocal music, and primary science to all the pupils of his department at the same time.  Subjects for composition work can be assigned as often as the grade demands.  The school year is divided into two terms, the fall, and the winter.  The fall term closing before, and the winter term beginning after, the Christmas vacation.

I do not know when competitive sports were first introduced in our school, but basketball was played through most of the twenties.  Ralph Turner, who taught and coached here at least from 1925 through 1927, was responsible for creating a number one team.  In 1928 a team consisting of Raymond Heine, Leslie White, Larry White, Harold Roberts, Junior (Leslie) Koonce, Woodrow Koonce, Paul Buescher, Arthur Schatte and Wilbur Brandhorst and coached by Jim White won nineteen and lost none of their conference games.  They played in the District Tournament held in Carbondale, Illinois on March 8, 9, and 10 beating Gorham 33-14 then Alto Pass 31-9 and Murphysboro 19-11 but lost to Carbondale 32-11.  Leslie White, who was just one of the star players, was unable to play in the last game because of the flu, which was also affecting some of the other boys, who were all of the opinion that had they had their health, they could have beaten Carbondale and gone on to the State Finals.  The team, under the coaching of Jim White, played just as they had been taught by Mr. Turner, who after leaving us made quite a name for himself as a coach in other schools.

Some of the towns that Campbell Hill “Red Birds” played at that time were:  ElkvilleCambria, Dongola, AvaWillisvillePercy, Steeleville, Chester, Baldwin and Coulterville.  At Percy the home games were scheduled to be played in October or when the weather was warmer because they had to play out of doors.  At Steeleville the games were played in a tent that had been put over a couple of dance floors, and those played in Campbell Hill were upstairs in the Knauer building on Main Street.  Many times the team had to walk to nearby towns.  The trains were used as transportation and when cars became a little more available they were utilized.  When attending the District Tournaments the team stayed in a hotel.  (Remember there were  no school buses in those days.)

The school was the center of entertainment for the community with, in addition to athletics, plays, box suppers there were all sorts of interesting activities which were attended by capacity crowds.  Even the graduation exercises were well attended, in spite of the fact that the graduates sometimes numbered from two to six or eight.  In 1934 one half of the class was unable to attend the exercises because of the mumps, but the usual speakers etc. were there for the other half which consisted of just my sister, Kathleen.  Charles Bierman was the half unable to be there.  Before the gymnasium was built all of the school activities were held in the town hall, which before the tornado was well equipped with a large stage, etc.”

From “Do You Remember Campbell Hill” by Genevieve Dudenbostel Ruebke 1978 pages 95-97, 106-107.

*That building has since been torn down and replaced with a new community center since all classes were moved to the Trico School Buildings in the late 1970s.  Even though the building is gone, the curtain, which is covered with advertisements, from the stage of the original school building still hangs in the new community center.”

We are certain that Campbell Hill had a high school in place by the late 1800s.  We know that Campbell Hill High School served the community through the late 1940s.  At that time Cambell Hill residents joined in a consolidation effort with Ava, Percy, WIlisville, Cutler, and Jacob school districts. This effort led to the creation of the Trico School District in 1948.

A new school complex was built near Campbell Hill.  The fate of the original Campbell Hill High School building was one decided by “Mother Nature”.  As Stephanie Thornton tells us:

“The original Campbell Hill High School building was damaged in the tornado of 1951 and had to be torn down.  It was replaced by a grade school building after that, which was used until the grade schools consolidated in the mid-1970s.”

Campbell Hill High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                                        late 1800s

Year closed:                                         1948

Consolidated to:                                    Trico School District (Campbell Hill)

Campbell Hill HS team nickname:           the “Hilltoppers” (“Red Devils” in the 1920s)

CHHS team colors:                                unavailable

School Fight Song:                                unavailable

Campbell Hill GS Class of 1947
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Courtesy of Stephanie Ehlers Thornton
Campbell Hill GS Class Photo
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Courtesy of Stephanie Ehlers Thornton
Campbell Hill Comm. HS Student Body 1926-27
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Photo Courtesy of Joel Russell (left click on photo for larger view)
Students in the middle photo (left click on any photo for a larger view):

Back Row:  Gladys Stricker, Maxine Lindsey, Anna Schatte (Vogt), Alver Luehr, Sylvia Wahlman Laura Buescher (Tegtmeyer)

Middle Row: Lillie Repke, Alma Koonce, Naomi Repke (Chapman), Lora Thies (Rathert), Juanita Roberts (Goforth), Helen Koonce

Sitting: Narry Walhman, Wilbur Schatte, Wilbur Brandhorst, Harold Robert


Upon checking the IHSA website ( we are for certain that basketball and track were competed in by the boys.  It is quite probable that baseball was offered as well.  Team nickname, team colors, school fight song, and better records and coach’s names are all items we are searching for.

Campbell HIll Basketball Team of 1943 or 1944
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Boys Basketball

The boys brought home two District titles from the IHSA State Tourney.  Unfortunately the coach’s names and team records of these and other great Campbell Hill High School teams are not currently available.

1936-37                     District Champions
1940-41                     District Champions

Team Members in the Photo to the right include:

Back Row:  Principal Gene Goforth ,  Lester Gerlach (21), Bob Rushing (14), Lee Theis (18), Ray Stallins (17), Bob Russell (13), Coach Campbell

Front Row:   Bobby Blette (20), Omer Dean Ehlers (12), Bill Fuhrop (19), Bob Stallins (15)

Bob Lingle added the following information on some Campbell Hill basketball greats:

Dean Ehlers (# 12 in the above photo, front row, second from left) played at Campbell Hill from 1943-46.  He scored over 2,000 points in his career.  He at least on two occassions scored over 50 points in a game.  In 1944 he a game of 54 points and then in 1946 he scored 60 in one game.  Ehlers went to Central Missouri and then played six years of professional baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He then was an assistant basketball coach at what was then called Memphis State and the head baseball coach.  Later Dean moved to James Madison University and helped them move to Division I as AD for 22 years.  He also coached basketball and cross country while there.

Another Campbell Hill resident ended up in the NBA, but I believed that he played at Trico.  Arlen Bockhorn who was Oscar Robertson’s running mate with Cincinnati Royals in the early 60s.  Bockhorn played at the University of Dayton in the mid-50s then went into the army before playing in the NBA.”

For an even more extensive look at Omer Dean Ehlers career see the article at the bottom of this page!

Boys Track & Field

One male trackster made the folks of Campbell Hill quite proud by bringing home a medal from the IHSA State Track Meet.  The first name of this athlete is being sought.

1938-39           ??  Appuhn                 High Jump                 3RD Place

Special Thanks

Our sincere gratitude goes out to Joel Russell who granted us permission to put the photos on this page from his own website. Check out some more of Joel’s excellent historical work regarding Campbell Hill and Willisville at the following web addresses:


Memories & Facts


**From Stephanie Ehlers Thornton:

“After the high school closed and the grade school was still there, our mascot was the PANDA!  Yup – the Campbell Hill ‘Pandas’!”

Need More Information

Campbell Hill High School lasted way too long not to have some incredible stories of success still available.  Great teams, school nickname, school colors, school fight song, ect., are all items of interest that should be shared.  A photo of the original high school building is especially being sought.  You can e-mail information and photos to us at  You can also write to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.   60631

****The great career of Campbell Hill High School’s own Omer Dean Ehlers as provided to us by Todd Ehlers:

“Dean Ehlers, a longtime assistant at Memphis in his first year as head coach noted, “We ran into Loyola last year and we felt we won a moral victory. We held them to just 100 points.”

HARRISONBURG – Members of Greater Madison, a James Madison University support organization, will honor O. Dean Ehlers and hear the annual State of the University address by JMU President Linwood H. Rose at the group’s fall banquet Thursday, Oct. 12.

Ehlers will receive Greater Madison’s Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his role in building a comprehensive, well-recognized athletics program at the university during his 22 years as athletics director. When Ehlers joined Madison College in 1971, the school had no athletic conference affiliation, did not award grants-in-aid for student-athletes, had few sports facilities and did not offer football.

The Greater Madison award is the latest in a long list of recognitions Ehlers has received reflecting the respect he has earned in athletics and administration. He was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame this summer and he was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame as a player.

Ehlers was president during the founding of the Colonial Athletic Association, and the conference established the Dean Ehlers Leadership Award in recognition of his career contributions. The annual award recognizes male and female basketball student-athletes who “embody the highest standards of leadership, integrity and sportsmanship through their academic and athletic achievements.”

The 1983 Dukes opened the season with a doubleheader exhibition against the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals (then-St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog and then-JMU athletics director Dean Ehlers are long-time friends) and finished with a 37-13 record. Their qualifications for an NCAA Tournament bid were widely questioned, but their regional tournament performance silenced the critics.


*1947 Chicago Daily News All State

*Led state in scoring with 920 points in 1946-47

*Broke the state single game scoring record with 54 points (vs. Grand Tower, Jan. 8, 1946).  Later, he broke his own record scoring 60 points one game (vs. Coulterville, Feb. 5, 1946) and 63 in another.

*Over 2,000 career points.  The only player ever to score over 2,000 career points in the history of Campbell Hill and later Trico H.S.

*In March of Dimes Benefit game in Aurora, Campbell Hill beat West Aurora 55-51.  Campbell Hill was chosen to play in the game because they were one of the state’s outstanding small-town squads.

*Western Egyptian Conference Champions 4 years (1944-47)

*Became a starter during freshman year.

*As a pitcher on the baseball team, he struck out 30 batters in two games


*1950 NAIB All American

*Chuck Taylor All America Honorable Mention 1950 and 1951

*First Team MCAU All Conference – 4 years

*Led nation .873 (186/213) free throw % in 1950 – Tony Lavelli of Yale (82.4%) is the only other collegian ever to hit better than 80% of his tries over a stretch of 200 attempts.

*Central College’s (now Central Methodist University) all time leading scorer for some years with 1649 points (15.7 ppg)

*Central Athlete of the Year 1951

US ARMY – Ft. Leonard Wood, MO

*Two year starter in baseball and basketball

*Basketball – All Army Runner-Ups – 1952 and 1953

*Baseball – National Baseball Congress Champions 1953 and Runner-Ups in 1952


*Brooklyn Dodgers farm system 1948-51, 1954-55

*Winter Ball (53-54) in South America


*1955-56, Marshfield Senior High, Wisconsin

Head Basketball, Asst. Football and Baseball

*1956-66, Memphis State University

Assistant Basketball, 56-62 (2nd in Nation 1956)

Head Basketball, 62-66 (record 57-43)

Head Baseball 58-62, Asst. 1957

*1971-74, James Madison University

Head Basketball 71-72 (16-7)

Head Cross Country 72, 73, 74


Memphis City Schools, Tennessee

Director of Athletics, 1966-71 (First full time director)

James Madison University

Director of Athletics, 1971-93

One of the founders of the Colonial Athletic Conference

Served on NCAA Basketball Rules Committee when they “put the dunk back

in college basketball.”

Served on the women’s NCAA Tournament Selection Committee


1985 – Central Methodist College Hall of Fame

1996 –  Inducted into Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame

1997 – Inducted in JMU Sports Hall of Fame

1997 – Colonial Athletic Conference creates the Dean Ehlers Leadership Award

2000 – Inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors Athletics Hall of Fame

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