Cowden High School “Hornets”

Cowden School Building
A building with trees in front of it

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Photo Taken in 1915
Original Cowden High School
A house with trees around it

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The History of Cowden High School

Cowden (population 612) is located in southeastern Illinois about 20 miles northwest of Effingham.  The town was platted in south-central Shelby County in 1872.  The town is settled in Dry Point Township and is named after one of its original foumders, H.M. Cowden.  Illinois Route 126 is the main roadway to and from Cowden.  The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line travels north and south through town and the Norfolk & Western Railroad travels east and west through town.

The school system was begun shortly after the town of Cowden’s inception.  A high school was probably in place for the older children by the late 1800s.  Cowden High School served the town and its children for several decades.  It was the late 1960s to early 1970s that the school districts of Cowden and nearby Herrick began consolidation talks.  The talks resulted in the formation of the Cowden-Herrick School District in the spring of 1971.

The high school for the new district was (and still is) located in Cowden.  It is not known if the original Cowden High School building is the one that is being used.

Cowden High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                             late 1800s

Year closed:                              1971

Consolidated to:                         Cowden-Herrick High School

Cowden HS Team nickname:       the “Hornets”

Team colors:                              Blue & Gold

School Fight Song:                     unavailable


Cowden High School had a measure of IHSA success ( in the sports of baseball and basketball.  It is probable that track and possibly football were offered as well.  School team nickname, school colors, fight song, and conference affiliation are also being sought.  As you can see below, we are missing a lot of information on coaches, team records, and great players as well.

This bit of information was offered by former CHS teacher David Hughes:

“I was a teacher at Cowden after WWII, in 1945-46.  I believe they played in a conference named National Trail, playing such schools as Altamont, St. Elmo, Brownstown and others. Three of the varsity basketball players played in my band.”

Thank you to Mr. Hughes for this bit of excellent information!

Boys Baseball

The Cowden High boys baseball team won a District title during the 1950-51 school year.  Unfortunately the coach’s names and team record of this and other great Cowden High School baseball teams are not currently available.

1950-51                District Champions

Boys Basketball

The Cowden High School boys basketball team won a total of four District titles. They also made a trip into the land of the “big boys” when the team of 1951-52 won their Regional and earned the right to play in the Sectional.  Again, this is the only information we currently have available.  We are hopeful an area fan can fill in the details of these and other great Cowden High School hardwood court teams.

We did receive this bit of fascinating information about the boys of 1951-52 from our good friend Brian Hoxsey:

“The Hornets started their post season run with a hard fought 58-55 first round win over Brownstown High School in the Vandalia Regional.  They then had little trouble defeating St. Elmo High School in thier next game, a 51-30 triumph to move then to the regional title game against nearby Ramsey High School.  Cowden captured the title by running by Ramsey 64-31, thus advancing them to the Taylorville Sectional.

The first sectional test for the Hornets would be against favored Gillespie High School.  Cowden pulled off a 52-47 upset to pit them against 27-1 and sectional host Taylorville High School, who were led by all-stater Bill “Taylorville Flash” Ridley.  Ridley, who went on to star at the University of Illinois, poured in 25 points to help Taylorville end Cowden’s season and magical run with a 77-50 win.  Taylorville eventually fell in the state quarter-finals.

Taylorville (77) – Ridley 25, Campbell 18, Corso 10, Ziskoski 9, Hayes 5, Bingham 5, Martin 2, Hauser 2, Williams 1.

Cowden (50) – T. Moore 13, De. Moore 12, Da. Moore 10, Showalter 8, King 3, Cosart 2, Holley 2.”

Great job Brian!

1930-31              District Champions
1937-38              District Champions
1946-47              District Champions
1951-52              Regional Champions

                          Sectional Finalist
1961-62              District Champions

                          St. Elmo Holiday Tourney Champs

Need Your Assistance

If you have any further information regarding the many successes attained at Cowden High School before its merger with nearby Herrick, please write to us via e-mail at   You can also write to us via real mail at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.  60631

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