The History of Gibson City / Drummer Township High School
Gibson City (population 3,373) is located in eastern Illinois about 35 miles east of Bloomington and 30 miles north of Champaign. This places Gibson City in southwestern Ford County. The town website, www.gibsoncityillinois.com , calls Gibson City “The BIGGEST LITTLE CITY of Ford County.” Gibson City is a haven for travel. The Illinois Routes of 47, 54, and 9 all travel to and from Gibson City. Two railroad lines, the Norfolk & Western and the Illinois Central Gulf, have lines that cross in town. Drummer Creek flows on the west side which includes a pond and a lake as well.
The following “History of Gibson City Schools” was written by Tom Benefiel. It is the most thorough and well-written history of any school on the site. Great job Tom!
THE HISTORY OF GIBSON CITY SCHOOLS
by Tom Benefiel
The history of the Drummer Township schools and Gibson City schools is as old as the township itself. Drummer Township was the second to organize in Ford County and takes its name from a small grove of trees named after a hunting dog, “Drummer.” “Drummer” got his name because he was so good at “drumming up game.”.
Jonathan B. Lott bought 240 acres of land in 1869 in Section Eleven of the township. He married Margaret Stevens Lott in 1870. The original town of Gibson (named after Mrs. Lott’s maiden name) was platted by Lott and his brother, James, and initially listed 12 city blocks officially in 1870.
The town was incorporated on June 10th, 1872, and Mr. Lott helped the young village to get three railroads to run through town. Soon after, the city of Gibson became Gibson City. “City” was added to the town’s official title because there was post office confusion between Gibson and Gilson, IL. One of the widest streets in Gibson City is named Lott Boulevard in Jonathan’s honor.
The first school in Gibson City was located on Drummer Creek, two miles northwest of town. The Drummer Grove school district was formed before the City of Gibson in 1866. In 1872, the district disbanded the Drummer Creek school and used Union Hall on Sangamon Avenue in Gibson City for classes.
A school was built for $10,000 and opened on December 4th, 1874, at the northeast corner of Melvin and Third Streets. The school grounds took up half a block. As Gibson City grew, Third Street became Ninth Street. Eventually, the address where there was an active school on that block for over a century was 200 N. Melvin Street. The first high school class met on the upper floor of this building in 1876 and graduated a class of four students in 1880.
A small building was added to the grounds in 1882 and a larger addition was built in 1888. These structures were destroyed in a fire on January 10th, 1912. The bell that was in the tower at the school was fished out of the ashes and today is on a stand next to the entrance of the unit office on 17th Street.
A new grade school was built that year for $50,000 on the same site where the building still stands today. However, the current-day building never housed high school students, being a kindergarten through 8th grade facility until 1955. The 1912 Gibson City Grade School was closed at the end of the 1984-85 school year. It sat abandoned to vandals and pigeons until 1994 when a local developer bought the building and converted it into low-income senior citizen housing that thrives today.
The Drummer Township School District was officially formed in 1911. Fortunately for the school district, the new Drummer Township High School building was dedicated on October 27th, 1911 before the winter, 1912, elementary school fire. This school was located on the south-east corner of Church and 16th Streets and was built for $65,000. Initially, the 9th through 12th grade High School housed 120 students.
As with many smaller schools after World War II, thirteen rural schools in and around Gibson City held elections to form the Gibson City Community Unit School District #1 on July 3rd, 1948. With consolidation came the need for more facilities with the building of class rooms, and a shop north of the old Drummer Township High School building, now known as the Gibson City High School.
In October, 1955, a brand new Gibson City High School building was opened across Church Street to the west of the old Drummer High building on the grounds of the athletic field. Built to handle up to 550 students, initial enrollment was 296 students with a high enrollment in 1975 of just under 500.
The athletic field was moved just west of the new high school across Sangamon Avenue where it is still in use today. The former high school was converted into the Gibson City Junior High School, housing 5th through 8th grades. At this time the Melvin Street facility became a kindergarten through 4th grade building.
An addition to the south end of GCHS was completed in 1964 and included a separate shops building directly west of the school. At the same time, unit offices were moved from the high school building to the north end of the GCJHS building where the shops used to be housed.
At the end of the 1965-66 school year, the Foosland Grade School was closed and students were enrolled at the Gibson City Grade School. After the 1969-70 year, the Elliott Grade School was converted to a special education building until closing in the early 1980s. The Foosland school has been since torn down, after having been on the east side of town, empty and abandoned. The Elliott school became the Elliott Community Center until storm damage in the 1990’s was too costly to repair and the building razed.
In 1974, stress cracks were found in the attic of the junior high building due to outer walls bowing outward, causing floors to seperate from the outer shell, thus making the building unstable. A new Gibson City Middle School housing 5th through 8th grade was built just south from the old school. A block of 16th street between Church Street and Lott Boulevard was closed for the new building.
The old Drummer High School building was razed that same year. The original gymnasium and girls’ locker room are still in use today. After the old Drummer High building was demolished, a cafeteria was built to service the middle school on the “footprint” of the old school. High schoolers now had to walk across the street for lunch, for the old high school cafeteria was converted into a study hall. This room was converted into the current-day high school library in 1985.
During the summer of 1984, Gibson City High School had over 75-percent of original single-pane, energy-wasting windows removed from the facility’s facade. New exterior walls were constructed where windows were removed, some new windows were added, the roof was repaired, and the renovation was finished after the start of school in October, 1984.
With the aforementioned closing of the Gibson City Grade School, the Gibson City Middle School became the kindergarten through 6th grade facility at the start of the 1985-86 school term, while the 7th and 8th grades were moved across Church Street into the Gibson City High School. The middle school was now known as Gibson City Elementary, while the old high school was now the Gibson City Junior-Senior High School.
Decided by the residents of Gibson City, Melvin, and Sibley in 1992, the Gibson City and Melvin-Sibley districts merged to form the current-day Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Unit School District #5 in 1993. Gibson City High School, the school colors of maroon and white, the mascot “Greyhounds,” and the Drummer yearbook named after the old hunting dog, “Drummer,” from Drummer Grove all those years ago, ceased to exist at the end of the 1992-93 school year. This gave way to “progress” – pedestrian colors of red and black, a Falcon bird for a mascot, the new high school annual called the “Falconer” (how original), and the GCMS moniker.
Old Gibson City district facilities still live on in use today. The Junior-Senior High School became the new GCMS High School, the GC Elementary School became the GCMS Elementary School, and a new GCMS Middle School was built north of 19th Street in 2002. Mentioned before, elementary students still enjoy playing in the old Drummer High School gym.
Gibson City HS Enrollments
THE GREYHOUND FESTIVAL
For information about the Drummer/GCHS Greyhound Festival, honoring all ‘Greyhounds’, please go to : www.greyhoundfestival.com
Gibson CIty / Drummer Township High School Quick Facts
Year opened as Drummer Township HS: 1874
Year named Gibson City HS: 1955
Year Consolidated with Melvin-Sibley HS: 1993
HS Building today: Gibson City Melvin-Sibley High School
Gibson City School Colors: Maroon & White
School Nickname: the “Greyhounds”
School Fight Song: Gibson Loyalty
Click below for tune