The History of Garden Plain High School
Garden Plain (sometimes historically referred to as “Garden Plain Corners”) is located in Whiteside County in Northwest Illinois. The small, unincorporated town of about 100 residents is accessible by an east-west county artery road (Garden Plain Road) by either U.S. Route 30 from Morrison or Illinois Route 84 near Albany. Sand Road is the main north-south road through town. For many years, the Illinois Grand Trunk Railroad (and later the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy) ran a short line through the northeast corner of town. This line was removed by the 1960s.
According to the book “Place Names of Illinois” by Edward Callary Garden Plain had a post office established in 1846. The town was named for its rich soil and prosperous crop growth. The name was given to the town and township by Colonel Samuel Kilgore.
Like many small communities which dotted the Whiteside County landscape, Garden Plain once had its own school system. After early buildings were used, a 2-story structure on the north-south street was constructed in 1907. This building (pictured above) was used in an educational capacity until a 1952 consolidation of Garden Plain Township country schools was voted upon.
From 1952 until the early 1980s, students attended the Garden Plain consolidated school building located on the east-west street. The school bell from the 1907 building was later removed and is currently displayed in front of the newer building. The independent school system ceased in the 1960s, when it became part of the River Bend School district, based in Fulton.
The 1907 building has been converted into a private residence, while the 1952 building is in use as the Garden Plain Township Building.
Students attending school in Garden Plain went at least as far as the 8th grade, however, there is evidence that the school system offered a high school curriculum. The following excerpt comes from a brief overview of Garden Plain in a history book about Albany titled “Trailways to Albany 2000” by Helen M. Hanson, a town historian and a newspaper writer for the Clinton (Ia.) Herald:
“The first school at Garden Plain Corners burned, and it was replaced with a two-story structure in 1869. It provided a high school education for many years, as well as elementary education. Just when the high school classes were discontinued is not known.”
It is likely that the high school curriculum did not exceed 3 years, as students were sent to Fulton, or perhaps Albany, to complete additional high school courses. One newspaper article written in 1889 states that the village of Garden Plain was contemplating the creation of a high school. Two obituaries from 1952 list the deceased person attending Garden Plain High School. (see below)
Many popular county histories do not mention an extensive history of the school system, and perhaps there is hope that letters of correspondence and/or written personal essays can shed more light on the history of the school system – and in particular those of high school days.
Garden Plain High School Quick Facts
Year high school started: 1890s
Year HS closed: early 1900s
Township school consolidation: 1952
School closed completely: 1980s
Consolidated to: Fulton River Bend School District