|Ellsworth Community High School|
|Photo Taken 1956|
|Original Ellsworth High School building|
The History of Ellsworth High School
Ellsworth (population 271) lies in eastern McLean County in the central portion of the state. The Norfolk and Western RR runs thru the middle of the village, while a branch of the Sangamon River flows to the north. Bloomington & Normal are the closest principalities to Ellsworth of significance, located 10 miles west of town.
The village was founded in 1871 for Oliver Ellsworth, who was a blacksmith who manufactured plows along with two other prominent McLean County residents of the day, Abraham Brokaw and Lewis Bunn. The area where Ellsworth is located was inhabited as early as 1822 by John Dawson, for whom the township is named after. Dawson was a friend of the Native Americans that resided there and set up a school, tavern, and cemetery in the timbers for those who either planned to settle in the area or were just passing thru.
Education in Ellsworth began with a log schoolhouse built by Dawson in 1826. Ellsworth itself had other schoolhouses built around the township until a school was located in the village in 1871. High school classes were not offered until 1903 when ninth and tenth grades were offered in the same building with grades 1-8. A third year of high school course were offered beginning in 1905, while the fourth year classes were offered beginning in 1920 when voters approved the state’s Community High School Act of 1919. The high school opened its own facility in 1939 to ease overcrowding with grade school students in the same building.
ECHS flourished on its own until 1948 when nearby Downs and Ellsworth organized their own district as the wave of consolidations in Illinois took place. Both villages continued to operate their own schools until 1963 when the state recommended that the district consolidate all students into one high school building, thus forming the current Tri-Valley district that was first located in Ellsworth, and later relocated in Downs in 1979. The former ECHS building has been since torn down.
Ellsworth High School Quick Facts
Year opened (as a two-year school): 1903
Expanded to a three-year school: 1905
Became a four-year school: 1920
Closed as Ellsworth HS: 1963
Functions ceased in the building: 1979
Building demolished: unknown
School nickname: the “Eagles”
School colors: Purple & Gold
School song: unknown
Like the rest of McLean County, Ellsworth was high on its sports offerings. The Eagles competed in basketball, baseball, and track while competing as a member of the Tri-Valley Conference in the late 1940’s with fellow Glory Days members Anchor, Arrowsmith, Bellflower, Colfax, Cooksville, Saybrook, and Towanda. Once the Tri-Valley broke up, Ellsworth joined the Kickapoo Conference and won the loop’s basketball title in 1953-54 over teams such as Danvers, Downs, and Wapella.
The Eagles won four district titles during the final decade that the school was in existence, plus participated in the prestigeous McLean County Tournament each January. The school won a Junior Division title of the tournament in the 1920s, despite only having eight boys in the school out of an enrollment of 25 students (seven of which were on the team).
1927-28 McLean Co. Jr. Div. Tourney Champs Coach Wayne Eckley
1950-51 15-7 (good record!) Coach Loren Laub
1951-52 15-8 (good record!) Coach Loren Laub
1952-53 14-9 (good record!) Coach Loren Laub
1953-54 22-4 District Champions Coach Loren Laub
Kickapoo Conference Champions
1954-55 19-6 District Champions Coach Tom Heggerty
1955-56 20-8 (good record!) Coach Tom Heggerty
1957-58 12-11 Coach Winfield Bates
1960-61 11-13 District Champions Coach Dale Englehorn
1961-62 10-12 District Champions Coach Dale Englehorn
Ellsworth proved it belonged with the rest of the county in 1950 when it won the McLean County Fall League title, defeating McLean 4-2 in the title game. Loren Laub’s Eagles used the timely hitting of Charlie Boaz (three hits) and took advantage of fielding mistakes to capture the victory, despite 15 strikeouts by McLean’s Gene Barr.
ECHS also offered track, but there is a need to find out about the school’s success on the cinder track. We are interested in an Eagle supporter that may know about the success of Ellsworth oval thinclads.
The village also boasted its own amateur basketball team, the Ellsworth Clippers, from 1914-1944. In the beginning, most of the players came from Ellsworth, such as center-manager Wayne Van Gundy, Fred Bartsch, Lester Boaz, Claire Virgil, Denzal Burgess, Eddie Barnes, and Harold Bane. In later years, players from Bloomington-Normal that attended Illinois State Normal and Illinois Wesleyan such as Joe Baker and Russell Shirk from IWU and Dick Kavanaugh of ISNU would be its stars.
In any season, the Clippers never lost more than six games, as they won four sectionals and taking one second and a third at the state tournament. The final year was special, finishing second in the 1944 state tournament to Scott Field outside of East St. Louis by a point. All told, in the neighborhood of 100 players suited up in the orange and green of the Ellsworth Clippers.
Loren Laub—78-40 in five years of basketball before moving on to Colfax Octavia
Tom Heggerty–49-29 in only three basketball seasons
Special Thank You
Special thanks go out to Ellsworth grad Don Evans (class of 1950), along with Terri Bowlin and Paul Colba at Tri-Valley High School in Downs for sharing some of the information used in putting this page together.
We would like to find out more….
…about the history of Ellsworth Community High School and the village in general. If you have more information and photos you’d like to send us, please email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to us thru traditional mail to the following address. We would like find out more about some of the successful teams and individuals that wore the purple and gold of the Eagles.
Illinois HS Glory Days