Fairbury High School “Tartars”

Fairbury High School
A large building with a lawn in front of it

Description automatically generated with low confidence
Fairbury, Illinois

                                    The History of Fairbury High School

Fairbury (population 3,968) is located in east-central Illiinois. The city is located on U.S. Route 24, about 4 miles west of Illinois Route 47 in the southeastern portion of Livingston County. Fairbury is located about 30 miles on a straight line northeast of Bloomington. The Toledo, Peoria, & Western Railroad runs through town, while the Indian Creek flows to the south and east. Fairbury was established in 1857 by Octave Chanute.

The history of education in Fairbury is long and storied, and will quite likely be succeeding for many more years. It is believed that the Fairbury school system was established in 1835 when a school was opened in Indian Grove Township and later in the village in 1860. That site would also be the same for another school building, Izaak Walton School, which would later become Fairbury High School.

The high school was established in 1880 at a cost of $20,000. Land was donated for a new building in 1913 by Ella Beach Lewis, who was the daughter of Dr. Lorenzo Beach. The Beach family received a land grant in October 1854 for his services in Seminole Indian War, and the land was in their family for more than a century.

Followed a 1914 vote that approved a $60,000 bond to build a new school, the school was erected. The voters approved a $350,000 expansion in 1949 (at which time a community school district was approved), and another $250,000 expansion for a 2,400 seat gymnasium in 1951. During this time, Ella Beach Lewis’ daughter, Alma Lewis James, donated land for the athletic fields that bear the family’s name (Lewis Field) in 1948, and an additional 10 acres was sold to the school board in 1955.

Fairbury High School stood on its own for about six decades. It was in 1951 that Fairbury High School joined forces with a neighbor to the south, Cropsey High School (also on this site), to form the Fairbury-Cropsey school district. This arrangement lasted for 34 years until 1985 when a new school district was formed to welcome in other high schools in the consolidation effort. In 1985, the Prairie Central School District was formed, officially ending the Fairbury-Cropsey School District.

It is thought the original Fairbury High School building was destroyed in favor of a new building for the bigger Prairie Central consolidation effort. Fairbury is still home to the Prairie Central School District, hosting the high school and a grammar school in town.

Fairbury High School Quick Facts

Year Fairbury HS opened:                    1880

Year Fairbury HS closed:                      1951

Consolidated to:                                     Fairbury-Cropsey High School

Fairbury HS nickname:                         “Tartars”

Fairbury HS colors:                                Green & Gold

Fairbury HS Fight Song:                        unavailable

Old Fairbury High School & Izaak Walton School
A large building with trees in front of it

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
1895-1965–Bell weighed 1,200 pounds

Fairbury High School faired quite well in the boys sports of basketball, baseball, and track & field. Fairbury High was one of the charter members of the Mid State Conference, which was established in 1949. Fairbury student Margaret Cummins, was given credit for submitting the name for the new conference.

After it’s consolidation with Cropsey, Fairbury-Cropsey won the Mid-State Conference’s sportsmanship award in the 1956-57 school year. The individual accomplishments and best seasons of the kids of Fairbury High as could be researched on the IHSA web site (www.ihsa.org) are listed below.  A blog site also serves as an historical reminder of Fairbury’s athletic history, courtesy of Jim Munz (www.rememberthetartars.blogspot.com).

Boys Baseball

The Fairbury boys baseball team won a total of three District titles. Included was one excellent season in 1939-40 which resulted in a trip to the state playoffs. This was the first state playoffs in Baseball for Illinois! The team record and coach’s name of this team is listed. Unfortunately, the team record and coach’s names of the other two District titlists are not listed.

1936-37               First Season of Baseball                    Coach’s name needed

1937-38    8- 1                                                                   Coach unknown

1939-40  18- 2    District Champions                           Coach Burdell Smith

                                Qualified for State Tournament

1941-42                District Champions

1942-43                District Champions

1950-51    6- 3     Mid-State Conf. Champions (6-0)  Coach Bob Hainline


Boys Basketball

The Fairbury High School boys had some excellent success on the hardwood as well. The team won two District titles and three Regional titles and also put together a string of four nice seasons before the school was joined by Cropsey. The information as listed on the IHSA web site is listed below, and we invite anyone who has more details about these and other early Tartar teams to contact us.

1920-21                IHSA District Champions                Coach Ned Whitesell

                             District Scores Needed

                             IHSA State Tourney – Preliminary Round

Lost to Collinsville 21-15

Collinsville lost to Batavia in Elite 8 Round

1921-22                Fairbury District Tournament             Coach Ned Whitesell

                             1st Rd Beat Paxson 27-9

                             2nd Rd Beat Saunemin 46-19

Semi-final lost to Pontiac 27-24

Pontiac lost to Forrest in title game

Forrest lost to Galesburg in Sectional

1922-23        Postseason scores and record needed.    Coach Ned Whitesell

1923-24                Livingston Co. Tourney Champs       Coach Ned Whitesell

                     Postseason scores and record needed.

1924-25  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.






1930-31                Livingston Co. Tourney Champs       Coach’s name & record needed

Postseason scores needed

1931-32                IHSA District Champions                Coach’s name & record needed

District Scores Needed

                             Danville Sectional Runner-Up

                             1st Rd Beat Bradley 30-20

                             Semi-final Beat Fairmount 31-15

                             Title game lost to Rantoul 15-14

Rantoul lost to Lawrenceville in Elite 8 game

RANTOUL (15): McCulloch 7, Rasmussen 4, Willard 2, Zander 2.

FAIRBURY (14): Hartman 5, King 4, Henderson 3, Bedell 2.

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

1st Rd Beat Forrest 48-12

                             2nd Rd beat Flanagan 41-23

                             Semi-final lost to Pontiac 35-20

Pontiac beat Morris in title game

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

1st Rd Beat Saunemin 45-14

                             2nd Rd Beat Cornell 23-19

                             Semi-final lost to Mazon 26-23

Mazon lost to Dwight in title game

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

1st Rd Won – Score needed

                             2nd Rd Beat Reddick 29-26

                             Semi-final lost to Gardner 19-15

Gardner beat Cullom in title game

1935-36                Gibson City Regional Tournament    Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Beat Thawville 35-18

                             Semi-final lost to Paxton 24-20

Paxton beat Strawn in title game

1936-37                Dwight Regional Runner-Up           Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Beat Gardner 36-24

                             Semi-final Beat Kempton 37-25

Title game lost to Dwight 31-20


1937-38                Chenoa Regional Champions         Coach’s name & record needed

                             Early Round Scores Needed

                             Title Game Beat Normal U-High 30-28

                             Pontiac Sectional Tournament

                             1st Rd lost to Toluca 42-29

Toluca lost to Braidwood in semi-final

Braidwood beat Streator in title game

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

1st Rd Beat Gridley 19-13

Semi-final lost to Bloomington 24-22

Bloomington beat Normal U-High in title game

Bloomington lost in Sectional

1939-40                Chenoa Regional Runner-Up          Coach’s name & record needed

Early Round Scores Needed 

                             Title game lost to Normal  35-27

Normal lost in Sectional

1940-41  Postseason scores, records, and coach’s name needed.

1941-42                Chenoa Regional Tournament           Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Beat Forrest 36-22

Semi-final lost to Normal U-High 31-29

Normal U-High lost to Normal HS in title game

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

1st Rd Beat Lexington 46-24

Semi-final lost to Normal32-24

Normal beat Gridley in title game


1943-44                Chenoa Regional Champions          Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Beat Gridley 33-26

                             Semi-final Beat Normal U-High 39-33

                             Title Game Beat Bloomington Trinity 32-21

                             Ottawa Sectional Tournament

                             Semi-final lost to Marseilles 33-30

MARSEILLES (33): R. Coates 15, D. Coates 6, Seaborn 6, Gage 4, Smith 2.

FAIRBURY (30): Wilkin 12, Beckley 9, Dameron 5, Haase 3, Woodward 1.

Marseilles beat Peru St. Bede in title game

                             Marseilles lost to Anna-Jonesboro in Sweet 16 Rd.


1944-45   26-  5   Corn Belt Conference Co-Champs   Coach’s name & record needed

Ranked as high as 13th in State during season

                            Bob Ziegenhorn, Dale Dameron, Sam Runyon,

                            Ralph Knopp and Bill Wilken were the starting five.

Lexington Regional Tournament

1st Rd Beat Chenoa 51-20

Semi-final lost to Gridley 38-37

(Gridley hit half court shot at the buzzer for the upset)

Normal U-High beat Gridley in title game


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

1st Rd lost to Normal HS 53-32

Normal lost to Normal U-High in title game

1946-47                Lexington Regional Tournament          Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Chenoa 55-35

Chenoa beat Normal U-High in title game

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

1st Rd lost to Chenoa 73-55

Chenoa lost to Normal in title game

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

1st Rd lost to Normal 48-31

Chenoa beat Normal in title game

1949-50                Lexington Regional Tournament          Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Normal U-High 70-41

Normal U-High lost to Lexington in title game

1950-51   16-11    Fairbury Regional Tournament            Coach Bob Hainline

1st Rd lost to Normal 75-41

Lexington beat Normal in title game

Boys Track & Field

The Fairbury boys could run, jump, and throw as well. The FHS thinclads won one District Championship and brought home six individual medals from the State Track Meet! 

1904-05     James B. Walker          Shot Put                             3rd Place

                                                              Standing Broad Jump     2nd Place

1905-06     Harlen B. Bedell             Hammer Throw               3rd Place

1925-26     Dean Carter                    1 Mile Run                         5th Place

1930-31     J. Clifford Henderson   220 Yard Hurdles            2nd Place

1931-32     J. Clifford Henderson   120 Yard Hurdles            5th Place 

1931-32     Team Won District Championship


The Faibury High School Tartars won one conference championship before merging with Cropsey. In its final season, the 1950 team was perfect at 9-0 to take the Mid-State Conference title. While it was a member of the Mid-State as either Fairbury or Fairbury-Cropsey, the Tartars sported a conference record of 40-12-2 (.769 winning percentage) from 1949-56!! The better FHS seasons are listed below.

1950-51    9-0       Mid-State Conf. Champs (6-0)       Coach Bob Hainline


from Tom Carter:

“Your basketball records for the 1944-45 Fairbury Township high school Tartars is missing from your records. That team compiled the best record in school history, 26 wins, 5 losses. At one point in the season the team was ranked 13th in the state of Illinois by the Associated Press, which at that time included Chicago schools in the rankings.

“The team tied for first place in the Corn Belt Conference with a 10-2 record. Disaster overtook the team in the regional tournament when they lost 38-37 to Gridley on a last-second shot from center court.

Bob Ziegenhorn, Dale Dameron, Sam Runyon, Ralph Knopp and Bill Wilken were the starting five. All the above taken from the 1945 school yearbook, The Crier. The figures there-in were supplied by me as kept through the season.”

Need More Information

If you have ANY further information to offer regarding the many accomplishments and achievements made by the students and townspeople of Fairbury and its original High School, please share it with us. School fight song as well as other non-athletic related items are being sought. Photos of teams and prominent individuals tied to Fairbury High’s history would especially be welcome. These items can be e-mailed to us at dr.veeman@gmail.com or real-mailed to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva

Chicago,  Il.  60631

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: