The History of Coffeen High School
Coffeen (population 709) is located in southwestern Illinois in southeastern Montgomery County. Illinois Route 185 is the main road leading to and from town and takes Coffeen directly to its neighbor eight miles to the northwest, Hillsboro. A town of note in the area would be East St. Louis located approximately 40 miles to the southwest of Coffeen. The Norfolk & Western Railroad curves through the center of town and Coffeen Lake is located just to the west of town.
The community of Coffeen supported its school system for many years, probably starting in the late 1800s. This excellent bit of history on Coffeen and its school system was provided to us by Russ Sherer:
“The first building was erected somewhere around 1883 and in 1887 Coffeen High School graduated its first class of seniors 13 in all. This bldg had 8 rooms but was not wired for electricty. A “new” 2 story high school bldg (which included the grade school) was erected in 1912 at a total cost of $17,000. In 1921 under the leadership of board president Dr. O.A.Wiegreffe the basement was divided into classrooms. In 1929 a fire escape was added and in 1934 the gymnasium on the southwest side was built. In 1951 a new gym on the northeast side of the original building was added and the old gym was remodeled .(It now houses the homemaking room, shop, and art room and cafeteria for the grade school). The first class to graduate from the “new” building did so in 1913 when Laurel Elam was principal. The four graduates were Ruby Champe, Cordah Baker, Edgar Harris and Barney Donaldson Jr. Forty-three classes graduated from this building, the last one in 1955. Consolidation with the Hillsboro Community Unit district was effected in the 1955-56 school year and Coffeen High students now attend Hillsboro High School. The last graduating class had 25 members. Graduates from Coffeen High School number 641 and are scattered over some 24 states. The smallest class ever to graduate was in 1902 when Lyman E. Traylor was the only senior. The 2 story bldg was torn down approx 1958 and a new one story grade school bldg was built.One of the outstanding educators was Calvin Satterlee who spent a total of 32 years teaching, coaching and acting principal in the Coffeen school.
This info was taken from the “History of Coffeen” report gathered by a Senior class project in 1936 (my sister’s class) and updated in 1969 by an 8th grade class under the supervision of LaMoine Reeves principal of the grade school.The 1912 building was a 2 story building which housed the grade school and High school and was torn down and replaced by a new grade school building..”
Consolidation talks with its surrounding neighbors Schram City, Taylor Springs, Butler, Irving, Panama, Donnellson, and its big brother – neighbor Hillsboro began in the late 1940s / early 1950s. This became a reality in 1955 when all of the mentioned towns approved the creation of the Hillsboro Community School District with the high school based in Hillsboro. This information was found on the Hillsboro High School web page http://www.hillsboroschools.net/aboutus/demographics/demographics.htm.
The community of Coffeen still supports an elementary school for the Hillsboro School District. The original Coffeen High School building, pictured above, was razed in the late 1970s. The following historical overview of this building was provided by Gabe Osborn:
“My Grandpa was apart of the last graduating class of Coffeen High in 1955, and my Grandma was apart of the first consolidated class in Hillsboro in 1956. Currently the Old High School Building is not standing, it was torn down in the late 70’s and is now replaced with a new building which still stands today and houses K-5th grades and a Pre-K program. From the consolidation in 1955 to the demolition of the old building in the late 70’s the old building housed K-8th grades with the High School students, after 1955, attending classes in Hillsboro.”
Coffeen High School Quick Facts
Year opened: probably late 1800s
Year closed: 1955
School nickname: the “Bulldogs”
School colors: Orange & Black
School Fight Song: Two were used:
Through the 1945 season:“A Hap Time in the Old Town Tonight”
WORDS PROVIDED BY HUGH SATTERLEE
Fight boys fight for Coffeen’s got the ball,
Fight boys fight, we can win this after all.
And when the game is through
We will all shout and sing,
And there will be a hot time in Coffeen tonight.
After the 1945 season: “Coffeen Loyalty”
We’re loyal to you Coffeen High.
We’re orange and black, Coffeen High.
We’ll back you to stand
‘Gainst the best in the land
For we know you have sand, Coffeen High.
So crack out the ball, Coffeen High.
We’re backing you all, Coffeen High.
Our team is our fame protector:
On! Boys for we expect a
Victory from you Coffeen High!
Fling out that dear old flag of
Orange and Black,
Lead on your sons and daughters
Fighting for you
Like men of old, on giants.
Placing reliance, shouting defiance
Amid the broad green plains that nourish our land,
For honest Labor and for Learning we stand.
And unto thee we pledge our heart and our hand,
Dear Alma Mater, Coffeen High!