Gardner High School “Panthers”

Gardner High School Building 1908
A building with trees in front of it

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Submitted by Richard Savage

The History of Gardner High School

Gardner (population 1,406) is located in northeastern Illinois about 20 miles west and a little north of Kankakee.  Gardner sits in the southeastern portion of Grundy County.  Interstate Highway 55, Illinois Route 53, and Illinois Route 129 all lead you to and from Gardner.  Gardner was a stop along the original U.S. Route 66 as well.  The Southern Pacific Railroad travels through Gardner parrellel to the main roadways.

Gardner was incorporated in 1867 and named after Henry A. Gardner. Coal mining and the railroad are what brought Gardner to life.  The history of the town and its school system are in need of research.  We do know that Gardner had a high school in place by the late 1890s.  Gardner Township High School served the community on a solo basis for several years. At some point the residents of Gardner and nearby (about one mile southeast) South Wilmington agreed to cooperate in their educational efforts.  It is our guess that this effort took place in the early 1920s.  We are hopeful an area resident and can help us verify this information.  The new school district was named Gardner-South Wilmington.

The high school for the district remained in Gardner and continues there today.

Gardner High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                            late 1800s

Year new bldg built:                  1920

Year consolidated:                    1920

Consolidated to:                        Gardner-South Wilmington High School

Gardner HS team nickname:      “Panthers”

Gardner HS team colors:           Orange & Black

School Fight Song:                   “On GSW”

Sung to “On Wisconsin” Tune


The Gardner High School athletic program had success in boys baseball and basketball.  We believe the boys competed in track as well. School team nickname, school colors, fight song, coach’s names, and team records are all items we are seeking.


The bounce of the ball was a friendly one to the Gardner High School boys of 1943-44.  The boys won a District title in baseball and a Regional title in basketball.  This is the only information we currently have available on the boys baseball program.  Team records and coach’s names are needed.

1943-44             District Champions

Boys Basketball

The basketball program also won some IHSA hardware.  Two District titles and two Regional titles were the highlights.  The two District titles were won when District titles were almost like today’s Sectional titles. Team records and coach’s names of these and other great Gardner High School basketball teams are needed.

1923-24         District Champions
1934-35         District Champions
1942-43         Regional Champions
1943-44         Regional Champions

More Sports Information About Gardner High School

**From Gardner-South Wilmington public address announcer Don Phillips:

“Gardner High School originally competed in Football, Basketball, Baseball and Track; all of which survived consolidation into GSW, with Basketball and Baseball surviving to the present, Track became a co-op with Dwight in the mid-90’s and football was dropped in the 50’s returning as a co-op with Dwight in the mid-90’s, part of the track agreement.  The track surrounded the baseball field, with evidence of the cinder track remaining to this day.  Football was played on the same field with the entire complex lighted until the demise of football in the 50’s.”


Seeking Your Assistance

If you have ANY further information about Gardner High School, before it was joined by South Wilmington, please share it with us.  Photos and information can be e-mailed to us at  You can write to us via real mail at:

Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il.    60631

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