Dewmaine High School

Dewmaine High School District 51
A house with a tree in the front

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Submitted by Ronald Kirby

The History of Dewmaine High School

Dewmaine (population 0) is located in the southeastern portion of Illinois in the north-central portion of Williamson County. Dewmaine is located about 10 miles northeast of Carbondale. County Road 10 (aka Carterville-Colp Road) is the main roadway to and from Dewmaine. It connects to Illinois Route 13 just 3 miles to the south. Carterville is about 1 mile south of Dewmaine and Herrin is about 2 miles to the northwest.

A very nice history of Dewmaine is found at the web address of . The article is posted in The Southern.Com and was written by Mary Beth Roderick. In summary the article states the following:

Dewmaine was created in 1898 when mine owner Samuel Bush recruited African American miners from Sweetwater, Tennessee to relocate to an area just north of Carterville to work in one of his mines. The miners numbered about 200, and over the next two years were joined by several others. The mining camp was named Dewmaine in honor of Admiral Dewey and the battleship U.S.S. Maine.

Dewmaine grew from a mining camp to a town in two years. A post office was established in 1901. Several businesses were soon established as well. A school, two churches, and several stores were in operation. The mine was producing at full capacity and the miners were doing well financially.

The mine was prosperous for over 20 years.  However the coal began to run out and the mine was closed in 1923. Many of the residents continued to live in Dewmaine and farm. However, slowly residents began to move away. The post office closed in 1931. By the middle 1960s only one of the original houses that were part of Dewmaine was still occupied.

Dewmaine High School was established in the early 1900s, probably by 1910. Classes graduated from the school until the 1929, when the final high school ceremony was held. The principal at the school when it was closed was Professor Penn. All high school-aged children were then bused to Carbondale to attend Attucks High School or to Colp to attend Colp High School.  Dewmaine Grade School continued in operation for several more years until eventually it, too, was closed.

A wonderfula and informative article was sent to us by Ronald Kirby regarding the history of Dewmaine High School nd Grade School. It is copied and pasted below in its entirety.


April 17, 2017

My name is Ronald Kirby.  I was born and raised in Colp, Illinois.  I am the oldest grandson of the late Virginia Adkins Kirby who came to a small mining town of Dewmaine, that no longer exists, as the 2 year old daughter of Sam and Nicie Adkins in 1898 as one of about 184 coal miners during a strike by Union Miners.  The events of this Dewmaine history has been widely written and discussed.

Since there were no longer any such building that existed, there anymore, my thoughts turned to  the school where my grandmother Virginia Kirby must have gone to school.  So, I set my mind to find out.  I started by reviewing the U.S. Census records of the miners families there in 1900.The 1900 U.S. Census revealed approximately 149 colored Dewmaine miners with a total of 332 family members including 91 school-age children and 34 white total family members including 22 school-age children.  There were only 5 white coal miners and the other 4 occupied positions as fireman, mine supt., store clerk and mine boss.

It so happened that  my Aunt Armanda Kirby discovered an old photo of her school when she was a 7th grade student at Dewmaine. Jim Gentile had previously told me of his dad’s home at Colp having been built with lumber from a Dewmaine school. Jim also discovered a photo of a two-story vacant school building in Dewmaine District #31.

Armanda started grade school about 1924 at a two story grade and high school with a basement   located on the cemetery road behind the office of Dr. A.W. Springs .  Her photo of her 7th grade class identified  her teachers as Emma Allen and Etta Jackson. She remembers Don Moss who signed her report card and although the white children attended a separate one-room school West of the Carterville Highway, she remembers the white teacher as a Miss Harriett who was the daughter of Mr. Porter.  Other teachers she new who taught at Dewmaine were:  Helen Kelly, Daisy Sykes and Wardell Jones.

Dewmaine Grade School 7th Grade Class 1920s

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Submitted by Ronald Kirby Supplied by Armanda Kirby.

Discussions with others from Dewmaine determined that the two story school building was not in Dewmaine after 1930 because the Dewmaine High School was replaced by the Colp High School in October 1, 1927.  According to a photo submitted by Pat Shoffner of her dad’s graduation class from Dewmaine in 1929, this was the last class to graduate from Dewmaine high school with Josie Rafe and Professor Penn.

In 1931 Aunt Armanda started high school in Colp following her brother and sister there.  She again kept a photo of the 1931-1932 school year that showed her as a freshman with a total of 50 students divided evenly with girls and boys including the three teachers. At her age of 98, she can identify everyone in this picture without looking at it.  Most amazing, The teachers were Principal Carl Lee, teacher, Gaffney Taylor and teacher Evelyn Bower.  One of the girls was Izetta Brown Williams who two years ago spoke with me of her memories of Dewmaine.  She will be 104 in July, 2017.

Her older sister, Leona graduated from Dewmaine high school.  Leona was also born in Dewmaine.  Izetta was born and attended grade school in Clifford.  She went to the new high school in Colp when it opened in 1927.  She remembered Armanda and her sister at Colp high school.  Her friend at high school was Francis Bowen.  Her father, George Brown, had a baseball team in Clifford called salt and pepper because it had colored and Italian baseball players.  Izetta’s father was one family miner that had children attend schools in the three mining towns of Dewmaine, Clifford and Colp.

Other family members who would have attended the two-story colored school in Dewmaine were:  Thelma Phillips Rafe who said her first grade teacher in Dewmaine was Mrs. Flossie Williams. This would be about 1914.

Next comes Mrs. Viola Williams who once told a writer of Colp history that she was a student at Dewmaine high school when she met her husband Bo Williams.  This would be about 1920/1922.

A news article also shows Rev Raymond Davis as one of the first to graduate from Colp High School in 1928. Additional news articles produced by Jim Gentile revealed several articles of sports activity played by Dewmaine teams including a basketball game showing Rev Davis as a player.  Such articles include a track meet on May 4, 1925 when Dewmaine captured 2nd place at the Little Ten colored track meet played in Marion with Williams of Dewmaine the high point of the meet by capturing 1st in the 50 and 100 yard dashes.  The Dewmaine girls took 3rd place in tennis and another news article dated January 21, 1928 shows that Dewmaine High School basketball quintet edged out 12 to 7 by Carbondale Attucks.  This was the first defeat of the season suffered by the Dewmaine boys.  The Dewmaine lineup included Leftoie, Miller, Mays, Watson and Davis.

Following are students who only attended a one-room school at Dewmaine after 1930.

Starting with Homer Spears, son of Cleo and Lela Spears.  He remembers going to kindergarten in 1929-30 at a schoolhouse on the cemetery road behind the office of Dr. Springs with 4-6 steps, but not sure if it had a second floor. He was in the first grade at Colp in 1930.

Billy Underwood was in 4rd grade in Colp when his family moved to Dewmaine in 1939.  He was the son of Alonia Underwood and Lillie Underwood.  They moved into the home next to the old Post Office just across the highway from the office of Dr. Springs.  Billy recalls going to a one-room school on cemetery road behind the office of Dr. Springs where he cleaned the office for Dr. Springs.  He also recalls that at one time the school building was vacant and his father and others used it to can local grown vegetables to distribute among the neighbors.

Michael Martin, son of Johnnie Martin, and nephew of Armanda Martin Kirby, started grade school about 1947 at a different one-room school located on the West side of the highway near home of Mr. Tobe Meeks.  This school had front steps and was on one level and his teacher was Miss Wardell Jones.  Michael went to school here until it was closed about 1953 and he completed grade school in Colp and high school in Herrin.

The final student from Dewmaine I spoke to was Jackye Sivels Watson who wrote a beautiful story in 1998 of her life in Dewmaine.  According to Jackye, about 1943 she first attended school from 1-3 grades at a one-room school located near the cemetery and about 1946-1947 the colored kids were transferred to the former white school. She attended this school for 4-8 grades before going to high school for one year at Colp in 1952-53. She gave much praise to her teacher Miss Wardell Jones who said her goal was to get her students ready for anybody’s college and Jackye added that during her year in high school she and two other students of Miss Wardell Jones wrote the best compositions.  After the Dewmaine Grade School was closed, Miss Wardell Jones, according to Michael Martin took a teaching position at Harvey, Illinois.

Emmanuel Duncan, although he never attended school in Dewmaine, he recalls a vacant school, one-room building, located near the cemetery. In 1938, Attucks Grade School under the leadership of teacher Emma Carter became Colored State Champion in a Spelling Bee contest composed of Emmanuel, Sally Pete Harvey, Alfred Brewington, Lee Anna Hill and another he could not name.  They won by defeating Carbondale and Dewmaine in the finals with colored schools from Carbondale to Cairo participating.  The finals were held in Colp.  Sally kept a copy of the trophy.

Now I would like to tell of a personal story of myself and my great-grandmother Nicie Adkins.  As a young boy, my great-grandmother often visited Colp and would take me fishing as she loved to do.  We would either go to Clifford or Blairsville to fish in the big muddy river or locally in the Colp mule pond.  During our trips she used to tell me of her experience of coming to Dewmaine in 1898 by train with my grandmother then about 2 years old.  As the train neared Carterville, the conductor told the passengers to close the shades and lie on the floor to avoid the gun shots fired at the train.

She spoke of a lady who was shot and killed as she held a baby in her arms.  I never knew until reading the book Bloody Williamson that my great-grandma Adkins was speaking of a woman named Hannah Carr and the baby would have been her youngest son, Wayne Carr.  As an adult, I mentioned this in Colp in the company of the late John Porch and he commented that he was the baby but some members of his family corrected him that the lady killed was his aunt, not his mother.  His mother, Minnie Porch Payne, was the sister of Hannah Carr who was on the same train with her family including  John Porch at age 5.  I later found Wayne Carr in the 1920 Census living with his wife in the Colp area and later he was identified as a World War I veteran whose name was recently honored on a Colp Veterans Memorial with 300 area veterans. This also includes two other great nephews of Hannah Carr, Joseph Powell and Sol Griffin, Jr. who were among the 300 veterans honored.

After my review of the early schools of Blairsville and Herrin Townships without finding much written about Dewmaine or Colp schools was a disappointment until I received a number of news articles found by Jim Gentile including sports activities at Dewmaine and a church announcement dated February 5, 1954. The article related to the Mt Zion Baptist Church at Dewmaine having a special service to honor members having over 30 years of service or more.  Such members included Mary and Peter Cox, Alfonzo McKinney, Bertha Perkins and J.E. Taylor.  The names of the Cox family,  Mr. McKinney and Mr. Taylor were familiar to me from my life in Colp.  Mrs. Cox was the sister of Emma Allen Carter who was my 8th grade principal and early teacher at Dewmaine.  After confirming with Tony Taylor Collins that Mr. J.E. Taylor was her grandfather, Jerry Taylor, I knew him as a father of 2 teachers at Colp, including Grace Taylor Claybrook and Gaffney Taylor, teacher and principal at Colp High School from about 1930 until his death in 1946.  He was also my principal in high school.   Mr. J.E. Taylor was also known as the accountant for Mrs. Johanna Hatchett.   The church was organized in 1898 and Mr. Taylor was one of the original organizers.  Mr. Cox joined in 1903. The church once had 225 members.  Now that I know that such education minded people were involved with this church in early Dewmaine from the beginning in 1898, gives me a positive feeling that I have found the answer to my grandmother’s education in early Dewmaine.

There were no records when the white Dewmaine students started going to Carterville. The 1930 U.S. Census did reveal several white families living in Dewmaine including the family of Dominic Capogreco and family of Joe Brandon shown his occupation as a teamster with wife, Victory, and 4 sons and 2 daughters in the household with 4 school-age children. We did learn from the daughter of the late Bonnie Barnes, that her mother attended the 4th grade at Dewmaine about 1910 when her father was a coal miner there.  This would place the one-room white school in Dewmaine at 1910 or earlier and converted to a grade school for colored students about 1946.  According to information from Jim Gentile, Joe Macri, father of Jr  Macri was born in 1909 and during this time his father Frank Macri was working at the Dewmaine #8 coal mine and later he worked at the Colp #9 mine.  Joe Macri grew up living between Colp and Dewmaine.  His sister Rose Surbaro was born in Dewmaine in 1907 and after her marriage to Dominic Surbaro she delivered her first daughter, Angeline, in Dewmaine in 1923 and a second daughter,  Carmella, in Colp in 1925.

Before the end, I want to thank and express appreciation for all who shared their information with me.

This includes my wife, Marjorie, who under difficult circumstances, did all my typing with computer help from her Caregiver, Kaila.  Marge and I have been blessed to know Armanda most of our lives.  She became my aunt by marrying in 1939 my uncle Norvel Kirby, son of Virginia and Percy Kirby.  She is now a widow and will celebrate her 99th birthday in August with her family, Palmer, Ruby, Janice, Norvel and Scott.  She still lives in her own home with her youngest son, Scott.

I appreciate the following from Pat Shoffner.  Her father Floyd Shoffner, after graduation from Dewmaine high school in 1929, drove Professor Penn to Pontiac,  Michigan where he met and married Pat’s mother, Vergie, in the same year.  In May 1930 these newly weds would be found in Colp household of Floyd’s mother and stepfather, Ellie and John Sivels and their new grandson Floyd Shoffner Jr, John Sivels would thereafter be known for his famous John’s BBQ and secret sauce.


Today all that remains of Dewmaine is its cemetery. It is listed as a ghost town in many publications that record such things.

Dewmaine High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                     early 1900s

Year closed:                      1929

School team nickname:      unavailable

School team colors:           unavailable

School Fight Song:            unavailable


Though we have no current direct proof, we are told that Dewmaine High School competed in the Southern Illinois Conference for Colored Schools. The conference consisted of African American high schools and was established in 1919.

Pat Heston tells us participating schools included, furthest north, the St. Louis Metro East schools. These schools were: Brooklyn (Lovejoy), Edwardsville (Lincoln)East St. Louis (Lincoln)Madison (Dunbar) and Venice (Lincoln).

To the south were schools from DuQuoin (Lincoln) and Carbondale (Attucks), as well as Murphysboro (Douglass)Herrin (Colp)Dubois and Dewmaine.  Herrin Colp, as it is officially called by the IHSA, was actually not in Herrin, but in Colp.

Furthest south were Cairo (Sumner), Mound City (Lovejoy)Mounds (Douglass)Brookport (Lincoln)Metropolis (Dunbar), and Sandusky (Young).

Basketball was the main sport, but baseball and track may also have been offered. We are searching for records, coaches names, and any other information regarding Dewmaine’s participation in athletics.


We believe other activities may have been offered.  We know that Dewmaine kids were part of one of the first African American Boy Scout Troops in history.


The article cited above is a very good account of the history of Dewmaine. We are always searching for further information. If you would like to have any items or information added regarding Dewmaine High School please contact us via the following means:



IHSGD Website

6439 N. Neva Ave

Chicago, Il.  60631


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