Clayton High School “Red Devils”

Clayton High School Building
A large house with trees in front of it

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Photo Courtesy of Randy Kestner
Clayton High School Building 1911 – 1955
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Clayton Grade School 1956 – ??

The History of Clayton High School

Clayton (population 904) is located in western Illinois about 25 miles east-northeast of Quincy.  Clayton was platted in the east-central portion of Adams County. U.S. Route 24 is the main roadway to and from Clayton. A branch of the Walnut Fork Creek flows through the west side of town.

The history of Clayton is in need of research by a local resident. Clayton residents began an educational process for its children in 1849 with the construction of the Clayton Academy, an institute established by the First Presbyterian Church .  This facility was also used as a high school. In 1877 the building at the top of this page was erected as Clayton’s first public school building.  It was contructed at a cost of $6,500. This building served Clayton students until it was razed in 1910.  A new building was constructed and ready for service in 1911. This building can be viewed above to the right.  It served as Clayton’s high school and grade school facility.

Clayton High School continued to serve the students and residents of Clayton through the mid-1950s.  At this time a consolidation effort took place with several school districts in eastern and central Adams County.  Clayton, Camp Point, and Golden, along with several other districts (La Prairie, Coatsburg, Paloma, Columbus, Kellerville) agreed to pool their resources to create the Central School District. The high school for the new district was located at or near Camp Point.  This effort was finalized in 1955.

The fate of the 1911 Clayton High School building is not currently available. The photos of the Clayton school buildings available on this page were forwarded to us by Randy Kestner.  They were copied from a book about the town of Clayton which was written in 1968.

Clayton High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                            1877

Year closed:                             1955

Consolidated to:                       Central School District (Camp Point)

Clayton HS team nickname:      the “Red Devils”

Clayton HS team colors:           Red & Black

School Fight Song:                   unavailable


Clayton High School offered boys basketball as is evidenced on the IHSA website (  We believe that track and baseball were also offered.  If you have any information on the CHS athletic program please write to us at  Team fight song, records, coach’s names, ect. , are all being sought to make the history of Clayton High live on forever.

Boys Basketball

Clayton High School boys basketball program had a great season in 1941-42. The boys of this year won a District title and the right to play ball in the Regional with the “big boys”.  Unfortunately this is all we know of the Clayton HS basketball program.  Team records, coach’s names, and great players of this and other great CHS teams are not currently available.

1931-32                  Quincy District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Camp Point 25-18

                               2nd Rd lost to Payson 33-14

Payson Beat Mendon in title game.

1932-33                  Quincy District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Camp Point 23-19

                               2nd Rd Beat Liberty 49-22

                               Semi-Final lost to Hamilton 35-28

Quincy beat Hamilton in title game.

1933-34                  Quincy District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Golden 27-13

                               2nd Rd Beat Warsaw 26-12

                               Semi-Final lost to Quincy 45-9

Quincy beat Hamilton in title game.

1934-35                  Quincy District Tournament                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Ursa 49-13

                               2nd Rd lost to Payson 40-24

Quincy beat Camp Point in title game.

1935-36                  Quincy Regional Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Timewell 51-24

                               Semi-Final lost to Quincy 43-23

Quincy beat Payson in title game

1936-37                  Quincy Regional Tourn. Runner-Up Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat LaPrairie 58-38

                               Semi-Final Beat Camp Point 34-16

Title Game lost to Quincy 21-7

1937-38  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1938-39                  Mendon Regional Tournament             Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Golden 36-35

                               Mendon beat Quincy in title game

1939-40                  Mendon Regional Tournament             Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Quincy 66-18

                               Quincy beat Camp Point in title game

1940-41                  Mendon Regional Tournament             Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Camp Point 54-16

                               Camp Point beat in title game

1941-42                  Golden District Champions               Coach’s name & record needed

Early Round Scores Needed

                               Title Game Beat Golden 21-17

                               Quincy Regional Tournament

1st Rd lost to Camp Point 28-27

Quincy beat Quincy Notre Dame in title game

1942-43                  Mendon Regional Tournament             Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Quincy 36-12

                               Quincy beat Liberty in title game

1943-44                  Quincy Regional Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Quincy Notre Dame 55-41

                               Quincy beat Mendon in title game


1944-45                  Golden District Runner-Up                Coach’s name & record needed

Semi-Final Beat Lima 36-18

                               Title Game lost to Kinderhook 37-24

1945-46                  Quincy Regional Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Quincy 55-29

                               Quincy beat Camp Point in title game

1946-47                  Liberty Regional Tourn. Runner-Up Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Mendon 33-27

                               Semi-Final Beat Golden 37-26

Title Game lost to Quincy 51-34

1947-48                  Quincy Regional Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd Beat Lorraine 70-20

                               Semi-Final lost to Quincy ND 44-27

Quincy beat Quincy ND in title game

1948-49                  Rushville Regional Tournament           Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd lost to Beardstown 46-44

                               Rushville beat Beardstown in title game


1949-50                  Beardstown Regional Tourney             Coach Richard Rabbitt

1st Rd lost to Mt. Sterling 69-34

Rushville beat Mt. Sterling in title game

1950-51                  Rushville Regional Tourney                  Coach Richard Rabbitt

1st Rd lost to Mt. Sterling 62-45

Rushville beat Astoria in title game.

It is probable that this is the final team that played for the Clayton High School “Red Devils.” Newspaper accounts of games involving Clayton HS were no longer available after this season. From this point forward we believe the Clayton boys played as part of the Camp Point Central High School team.

1951-52                                                     Coach Richard Rabbitt

1952-53                                                     Coach Richard Rabbitt

1953-54                                                     Coach Ralph Van Ormer

1954-55                                                     Coach Ralph Van Ormer


From Bill Knight:

“Here is a little info to add for Clayton High School.  The school nickname was Red Devils and the school colors were red and black.  Richard Rabbitt was the coach in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s when two of my brothers played.  Ralph Van Ormer was coach after Coach Rabbitt in 1954 and 1955 and then retired when Central HS was built and started in 1955 in Camp Point.  I graduated from Central  in 1960.

My mother was a 1920 Clayton graduate as well as three brothers and a sister.  The school has been torn down but the community building/gym still stands, I attended the Clayton HS Alumni dinner two years ago and it was held in the old gym.”

MY MEMORIES OF THE CLAYTON SCHOOL by George H. Shank,  Feb 18, 2021

“The above seems to focus on the high school which is valid. However it does not tell the entire story of just how integral the whole school was to a small town.  After consolidation took place the building still stood and the grade school was still there.  Your web site is titled ? Illinois High School “Glory Days”.  It is a just and proper title for your site.  Make no doubt about it, the “glory” of the small towns was the high school – especially sports.  Also, the smaller the town the more important basketball was.

Why is that you ask.  A very valid question.  First of all you have to understand that we are three and four generations away from small rural farming communities.  Yes, those small town still exist but the social-economic structure of them has changed considerably.  They are no longer as dependent upon the farmer for their existence. Now then, farming is a labor intensive business. Therefore a goodly portion of your athletic pool was down on the farm harvesting in the Fall.  So, foot-ball would not be viable.  In the Spring track & field was hampered because of plowing, discing, and planting.  Therefore track and field was doable, but a smaller talent pool.  Then came Winter.  Rest assured that the farmer was still busy doing maintenance, repairs, and preparations for Spring activities. Fortunately these activities were not as labor intensive as those of

the Fall and Spring.  So, now their sons were available for sports…BASKETBALL!!!  That is why basketball was the glory sport of those

small town high schools.

I do feel quite sure that the high school did have a track and field team.  This statement might seem somewhat contradictory to the paragraph above until you consider that a track and field team would not require as many athletes as a foot-ball team.  Also, one could participate in several different events in a single meet.  My belief in a track and field team is based on the shot put balls.  When the

high schools consolidated the grade schoolers became the athlete of the individual grade school.  There was two shot put balls at the Clayton Grade School.  One was considerably heavier that the other. Junior High/Middle School balls weigh 4 kg ( 8.18 lbs).  High school balls weigh 12 lbs.

You have two pictures of the school at Clayton. All grades, 1 through 12 attended.  Even the grade school students from the school of at the Lutheran Church attended high school there.  Naturally the 1911 building is the one I started to school in.  That would be in 1952.  Grades 1 thru 4 were on the first floor. Each had their own class room.  And each had a cloak room for you coat, cap or scarf, and galoshes.  Grades 5 thru 8 were in the basement.  5 & 6 in one room and 7 & 8 in another room. Two grades in one room was not unusual at

the time, after all the baby boom did not start until after WWII.  The high school was on the second floor and consisted of 3 rooms.  Facing the building two of the rooms were on your right and the larger one was on your left.  Also, in the basement were  the bathrooms, the furnace,  and the custodian.  He was Andy Ennen and later Charlie Kindhart. The last high school class was graduated in 1955.  Although they finished high school at Clayton their diplomas read: Central

District #3.

I think, but not sure, each of the local high schools maintained their own basketball team until the consolidated school opened for the 1955-56 school year.  I do remember of attending basketball games at the Community Building in town.

Both Bill Knight and I have mentioned about the Community Hall located at 110 N. Jefferson St.  The following will be about both the High School?s usage and usage by the community in general.  It is important for people that did not experience it to understand just how important both aspects, school and community, that these buildings were to a small town, at that point in time.  I believe, but am not positive, that Clayton?s Community Building was built in 1926.  So, that leads to the question of where did the High School play basketball before that.  The answer is the Benson building ? more on that later.

To continue this portion I need to describe the building.  The ball court was between the stage and the spectators area, where the projectionist booth was located.  As for the High School they would have both practiced and played ball there.  That would be important to the school, but what about the community.  Well, people that did not have a car could still walk there and cheer for the team.

Another benefit was that of graduation.  The larger schools of today will limit the amount of tickets that you can get for graduation ceremonies.  In Clayton, the building offered plenty of seating therefore grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, and friends could attend.

Let?s not forget ?fund raising?.  I am not sure what other event this might have been associated with but I do remember this part of fund raising was out front of the community center.  You paid a small fee for the opportunity to put a hole in an old car.  It was a win-win situation for the the students.  They handed you a sledge hammer and you whacked away.  Now then, a sledge hammer will not put a hole in a car body.  A dent – yes, but not a hole.  There you go folks, no

payout, just 100% profit.

What about the school play.  Every year the high schoolers would put on a play.  With plenty of seating area on the ball court it was no problem to serve all that wanted to attend.

Well, that?s about it for the school?s usage of the of the building, but not necessarily that of the students as individuals. The following will be about other uses of the center, some of which will include students but not as a school function. They two most important functions to both the town in general and to

the graduates of the Clayton School would be that of the Lions Club’s Annual ?Pancake and Sausage Day? and of Alumni.  Before I explain about these two events you have to understand that the Lion?s Club membership would almost exclusively be that of graduates of the Clayton School.  Also, Alumni was geared for those that graduated from the school.  The school part needs to be tempered by the fact it included those that graduated from Central that were from the Clayton area.

The “Pancake and Sausage Day” was the main fund raiser of the year for the Lions Club.  It was a day long affair covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The students figure into this by the comradery of the event.  Most of the patrons would have been graduates of the High School.  So, they would get to see and talk with some of their friends that they hadn’t seen for awhile.

Alumni, a gathering of the graduates, was the social event of the year for Graduates of the schools, both Clayton and Central. Dinner was catered in the basement followed with various comments by the attendees.  That would be followed by an evening of music and dancing upstairs.  The band occupied the stage and the revelers used the ball court.  So, again the building served the students in a manner of speaking.

The structure was used in various other ways many of which benefited students on an non-school basis.  One of these would be a recital.  Every once-in-a-while a dance teacher would get up a class with preteens as her students.  After all the lessons and practices were done she would have a recital at the hall.  That is how I learned to tap dance.

Another usage was that of dances for the teenagers.  Camp Point, Clayton and Golden seem to take turns doing this.  Of course these dances were at their own community structure.  It wasn?t like the other two school were ?invading? the host?s territory.  The Rock?N?Roll era was in full swing at that time.  So, we all pretty much knew each other because we attended the consolidated high school.

Then there was the roller rink.  Yes, a roller rink using the gym floor.  By now our structure no was no longer used for basketball games.  So, the operator had plenty of room in the spectator area to store his skates.  And the kids had a place to skate.  People of all ages used the rink.  It was mostly teenagers and preteens but sometimes a few adults would be there and also some children.

There is one last usage of the site that will seem a bit odd until explained.  It served as a warehouse for Shank Canning and Fruit.  The canning part of it was that of tomatoes.  They used a #303 can and the only thing in the can was tomatoes, water, and a salt tablet.  Compare that to the ingredients on a can of tomatoes today. Anyway, it was run by Henry Shank, my grandfather and his nephew Herb Shank.  He was the husband of Helen Shank.  She was a teacher listed below.  Of course, like most produce tomatoes were a seasonal thing and had to be processed immediately.  Therefore storage of the canned product required a warehouse.  The Community building served quite well for this.  By the time the basement was needed for other usage the tomatoes would have been shipped to various grocery stores.  Since tomatoes are a seasonal thing  most of the workers in the cannery would have been women.  Back in those days most women did not have a full time job after getting married.  They were house wives and mothers picking up a few extra dollars for the household.  Also, most of them would have been graduates of the Clayton High School.

The school did not have a cafeteria when I first started. You either went home for lunch or had a lunch pail.  Shortly though a cafeteria was added to the back of the building.  Most of the time I went back to the restaurant that my mom owned for lunch.  However I did eat at the school on certain occasions.  One would be when the home economics class made chili.  The other would be when mom knew she would have a large crowd in for lunch.  This would be on the order of the bank directors meeting or when the politicians came to town. They would be the ones running for county offices.

When the new high school opened the basement crew took over the upper floor.  I was in 5th grade that year so I never had a class, other than music, in the basement.  Back then I think everybody had music class.  I did experience both 5th and 6th grade in the same classroom.  In time the larger room used by the high schoolers was divided into two class rooms and that is where the 5th grade went.  It was on the front side of the building and was ready for the 1958-59 school year.

I have mentioned about the school and the class rooms so lets get a little more specific.  This will mostly be about the grade school.  All I remember about the high school was the basic lay out as stated above.  I only remember of one teacher, Carl Clapper.  He had a skeleton in a box in the cloak room.  Surely Ralph Van Omer, the principle, would have been another teacher.  Other than that I do not know.  There is one other teacher that I am aware of as both my father (W.W. ?Bill? Shank) and my Uncle Bruce, who graduated in 1938, mentioned him.  That would be Professor Brewster.

Okay, this is the lay out after the high school moved out for school year 1955-56.  You are now facing the school:

1st Floor:

Left Front   1st Grade   Mrs Padgett

Right Front  3rd Grade  Mrs Flanigan

Left Rear    4th Grade   Mrs Clevenger

Right Rear   2nd Grade  Mrs Brillhart

2nd Floor:

Left Front   5th Grade   Mrs Stevens  (Starting in school year 1958-59).

Right Front  6th Grade   Mr. Hamilton (Previous to ?58-59 he had

taught both

5th & 6th Grades in the same room.)

Left Rear    8th Grade   Mr. Sickles (He was the Principle).

Right Rear   7th Grade   Mrs Shank (A cousin to me.  Later she taught Latin

at the  District high school).


Left Front   Music, movie room, indoor recess.

Center       Heating plant and janitor?s quarters.

Right Front  Girls bathroom.

Left Rear    Indoor recess ? unknown if any other uses.

Right Rear   Boys bathroom

School Grounds:

I am not sure of exactly how large the campus was but 2 or 3 acres would not be out of the question.  The school fronted the west side of N. Adams Street with Washington Street (now known as Maine St) being the cross street.  However,  it was not at the corner where a house fronted Washington.  The north side was bound by Green Street and the back side by a farm field.  Out in front of the school Adams Street started sloping downwards to a natural drainage of the geography of Clayton.  This meant that Green Street had cut a bank along the north edge of the school property.  In the winter kids would bring their sleds to school and use them on the bank whenever it snowed.

Again, facing the school, the left front yard had a set of bars good for doing chin ups.  Also, that is where the teeter-totters and the merry-go-round were located.  I believe that 1st and 2nd Grades took recess there.  The north front yard didn?t have much, possibly the parking lot for the teachers.  I think, beyond that, is where 3rd Grade took outside recess.   Along the south side of the building was the swing sets.  And just past them was the recess area for 4th Grade.  The other four grades used the ball field behind the building.

Home plate to  first base ran parallel to the back of he school building.  Right field ran out towards Green Street and left field went as far as the farm field.  There was not a fence around it, just the back stop.  I do not believe that there was ever a high school game played there – too many home runs because the ball would be lost in the farm field.  If the high school had a ball team they might have had  practiced there.  Any games would have to had been played at the town softball located at the Old Settler?s grounds.  But, it had a flat pitcher?s mound.   If the high school did have a ball team they might have used their opponents fields even if they were the home team for that particular game.  One other comment about high school baseball at Clayton.  I do not recall of anyone ever talking about it.

This is not to say that the field did not get used.  At recess and especially after lunch we would get up a game.  This would be after the High School moved out to Central.  Also a bunch of us kids around town would use it during the summer.  Of course there was no bases set out so a piece of paper, or a leaf, or what ever was available was used.  The game would continue until we either got tired or it degenerated to that other childhood game: “Who Can Shout The Loudest”  Hmmm!!!

In the fall it was our ?football field?.  No grid iron stripes or any thing like that, just a bunch of kids playing a pick up game. It too would last until we got tired or the shouting match started.  We did not tackle, it was either ?touch? or, if everybody had a handkerchief it would be flag football with the ?flag? hanging out of your back pocket.

In the following comment the field is only used as a reference point.  A few years after the high move out a basketball hoop was erected paralleling the Home plate/3rd base line.  Not much dribbling was done there because just plain ol’ ground is not a good surface on which to dribble a ball.  So, we mostly played HORSE.  A few years after that, on the north side (Green Street) of the cafeteria, some black top was laid and a hoop install.  That worked  quite well for our pick up games.  I would have been in high school by this time.

Back to the high school for this one.  Upstairs was where the pop machine and the candy machine was located.  Not much in the way of refreshments by today?s standards of a concession stand.  Also, a soda and a candy bar was not the healthier type of snacks that schools have today.

A couple more comments and then I will be done.  First is the ‘landing pit’ for high jump and pole vault.  It was on the north side of the building and in an area that would not be considered part of the ball field.  The padding in the pit was sawdust. This would mean that the jumper or pole vaulter would have to land on his feet at least enough to break his fall should that occur.  Fortunately the Fosbury Flop was not in vogue at the time.

Okay, where did the high schoolers play basketball?  Both Bill Knight and I have referenced the Community Hall.  So then the question indicates that there was more than one place that they played.  That would be at what I knew as the Benson building.  That is the name I knew it by in the 1950?s.  The two story building was located across the street from the south east corner of the Public Square (South St & East St).  Being a kid I never noticed that for a two story building it was rather tall.  The extra height of the second floor was where the basketball court was.  My father, W.W. ?Bill? Shank took me up there one time.  There was not much extra room for more that the ball court.  That leads me to believe that there could not have been very many spectators if any at all.  Dad was born in 1906 so, he probably started high school around 1920.  This is important because dad played basket ball when he was in school.  The time frame is important because, if memory serves me correct, the Community Building was not built until 1926.  I could be wrong on that date, but dad did play

ball in the Benson building.

I hope this contributes to your efforts to find and preserve the history of schools that are no longer there.”

Seeking More Information

We are in need of a lot of research in order to do justice to the former students, faculty, and townspeople who made Clayton High School a success for so many years.  A photo of the high school building is especially being sought.  You can e-mail items to us at  You can also write to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.        60631

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