|Gorham High School|
|Courtesy of Meryl Lindsey|
|Gorham High School Memorial Stone – 2008|
|Submitted by Meryl Lindsey (left click on photo for enlarged version)|
The History of Gorham High School
Gorham (population 256) is located in far southwestern Illinois about 15 miles west of Carbondale (as the crow flies). The town was platted in east-central Jackson County. Illinois Route 3 runs past the east edge of town. The Missouri Pacific Railroad line passes through Gorham. The mighty Mississippi River has a sharp bend just two and a half miles southwest of Gorham.
The history of the town is not currently available. One part of the town’s history is quite tragic, however. On March 18, 1925 one of the worst tornado disasters in United States history occured. A massive tornado ripped through several towns in Missouri, southern Illinois, and Indiana. The tornado in fact cut right through the heart of Gorham. Some facts on its devistation are found below from the website address http://www.carolyar.com/Illinois/Misc/Tornado.htm:
“In Illinois, the devastation was at its worst. At Gorham, 37 people died as virtually all of the town was destroyed. Over half of the town’s population was either killed or injured. Seven of the deaths were at the school. At Murphysboro, there was the largest death toll, within a single city, in US history. The 234 deaths included at least 25 in three different schools. All of these schools were brick and stone structures, built with little or no reinforcement, and students were crushed under falling walls.”
Imagine having to pick yourself up and re-build an entire town after burying several of your family and friends within a few days of the tragedy. But re-build they did, including a new high school for the town’s children.
|Gorham HS Cornerstone|
|Courtesy of James Horaz|
Gorham High School was probably started in the late 1800s to early 1900s. It served the town for several years. We believe the name was changed from simply “Gorham High School” to “Gorham Mississippi Valley High School” in the late 1940s to accomodate the many country schools and small town schools who then who sent their children to school in Gorham. Gorham Mississippi Valley HS continued its proud service to the community through the early 1990s. Dwindling enrollment and finances caught up to the school which celebrated its final graduation in 1991. After this year the kids were sent to nearby Murphysboro to continue their education.
|Gorham HS Memorial – 2010|
|Submitted by James Horaz|
|Gorham School Memorial Park|
|Submitted by Meryl Lindsey|
The Gorham High School building pictured at the top of this page (courtesy of Meryl Lindsey) has been demolished after sitting vacant for 15 years. A very nice memorial to the former school building and school district was erected in its place.
An article regarding the demolition of the Gorham HS building pictured above was written on November 02, 2006 in the Southern Illinoisian Newspaper and can be viewed at:
The article is re-printed in its entirety at the bottom of this page.
Gorham Mississippi Valley High School Quick Facts
Year opened: early 1900s
Year closed: 1991
Last graduating class: 12 students
Consolidated to: Murphysboro High School
Gorham HS team nickname: the “Mustangs”
GHS team colors: Maroon & Gold
School Fight Song: “Hoorah for Gorham High School”
Hoorah for Gorham High School,
Loyal and true.
We’ll fight for victory,
And stand back of you!
Always in the conflict,
We will come through.
Proud and victorious
Our best for you!
The Gorham High School Mustangs were successful on many levels and in many different sports (www.ihsa.org). Baseball, basketball, and track were offered to the boys and we believe basketball, volleyball, and track were offered to the ladies. Unfortunately there is VERY little information on sports successes that took place at Gorham High on the IHSA website.. There is actually no mention of the GHS ladies athletic program in any sport listed on the site. If you have any information regarding the many great teams of Gorham High please write to us.
The Gorham boys had many great seasons on the baseball diamond. FIVE District Championships and one Regional Championship were earned by the boys of Gorham High. The efforts of the GMVHS boys also included two Sectional Championships and two trips to the Elite 8 of Illinois High School baseball…when it was just a one-class system!! THese excellent efforts are recorded below as found on the IHSA website.
1941-42 District Champions
1944-45 District Champions
1945-46 17 – 2 Final 4 Finalists!! Coach Tom Dunn
Elite 8 Finalist
Beat Galesburg HS 5 – 4 (9 innings)
Final 4 Finalist
Lost to Chicago Kelly 10 – 0
Kelly finished 2nd
1951-52 17 – 3 Final 4 Finalists!! Coach Ben Dunn
Elite 8 Finalist
Beat Pekin 2 – 1
Final 4 Finalist
Lost to Quincy Notre Dame 4 – 0
Notre Dame finished 2nd
The Gorham HS Mustangs were a triple threat in the mid-1960s winning three DIstrict titles in a row! Unfortunately the coaches names and team records of these and other great Gorham HS teams are not currently available.
1964-65 District Champions
1965-66 District Champions
1966-67 District Champions
**From former resident and Gorhan HS alumnus Meryl Lindsey, who also supplied the photos for this page:
“I remember the total school enrollment in 1958 when I graduated was about 150 students. Our Superintendent was E.B. “Ben” Dunn. Ben was a POW in WWII and was put to work building the famous “Bridge over the River Quai” (sp). He wrote a book called “Bamboo Express”, which is now very rare and hard to find. Our baseball team provided several fine baseball players in the minors and major leagues. Gary Geiger played for the Cardinals and Indians and Boston, I believe.
We had some really good baseball teams. Basketball usually didn’t go too far past a regional, but our Grade School did in fact win a State Championship in the 1970’s. Jerry Qualls was our Coach for many years, until leaving for Goreville where he stayed until retirement. He, too, spent some time in the minor leagues.”
**From Melissa Holt (GHS Class of 1966):
“I have heard that Mr. Hoffer and gang buried a time capsule, probably around home base or the pitchers mound, on the baseball field. My sister, Elaine Reames Curativo, remembers hearing of this. I wonder if anyone can verify that information.
My former name was Melissa Janean Reames. I am a sister to Ronnie David Reames, Leandra Lou Reames, Priscilla Bea Reames Pride, Cindy Vonceil Reames Godwin and Stephen and Stanley Reames. (the latter two did not graduate from Gorham). Several of my nieces and nephews graduated from there. Anyway, thought you all might be interested in that time capsule as you continue with the history.
I also heard this story once/cannot remember the source, however: The reason there was never a football team at Gorham: The religious people of the town believed it a sinful pursuit and prayed against it. The team uniforms and equipment that was coming by train never made it – there was a wreck. Don’t know if this is truth or myth, but thought I would throw it your way. Your website is looking good.”
**From former teacher Rick Dunn:
“I have long ago lost contact with Gorham, Illinois; but I have thought often about my first year in public education there. A new teacher, I was the band and music teacher during the 1973-74 school year. It was my favorite year ever; even though I taught band and choir several more years, then serving 18 years as a school principal. Gorham High School was what school needs to be, again. A home for a community to live, learn, and celebrate the growth of their children; where everyone knows and helps one another. Retired from education, but still busy, memories of that great year remain; sadness and happy moments combined!”
Special Thank You…
…To Meryl Lindsey for provideing much of the information for this page!
The Southern Illinoisian Newspaper Article
An Eyesore No More
BY KRISTEN CATES, THE SOUTHERN
GORHAM – For 15 years, the old Gorham High School has sat vacant, an eyesore in the small Jackson County community.
But soon, all that will be left is rubble and memories of a school that once produced a powerhouse baseball team, the Mustangs.
Already, there is a huge gap between what was the gymnasium and the elementary school portion of the building. Demolition began four weeks ago.
“It was in real, real bad shape,” Mayor Bob Taylor said. “It was dangerous.”
Ken Verseman, a Gorham alumnus and village board member, said the village has been trying for at least 10 years to tear the building down, but never could quite get all the funding and ducks in a row.
When the school shut down in 1991 and the district consolidated with Murphysboro and Trico school districts (there were only 14 students who graduated the last year the school was open), Verseman said a man bought the building but failed to pay the taxes.
The village of Gorham acquired the old school by 1995, but already children and vandals had gotten inside the building, built in the early 1920s, and started to tear things apart.
“It was a hazard,” he said. “It was a wonder it hadn’t burnt down.”
The roof was leaking, the floor in the gymnasium was rotting and it was only a matter of time before a serious accident happened, Taylor said.
And there was asbestos to remove, said Kevin Turner, project manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency out of Marion.
He said the agency learned of the problem in the spring of 2005.
Former mayor Bud Stone had started to demolish the building on his own, but in doing so caused some of the capsulated asbestos to be released, Turner said.
Before any demolition could be done, the asbestos had to be abated and then, just four weeks ago, crews began to tear down the old building.
Already $200,000 to $225,000 has been spent on the project (not all the bills are in yet), Turner said. However, the gymnasium still needs to be demolished and crews will have to work on saving the portion of the building the village wants to use for its fire department and a community center.
Turner said the federal EPA didn’t run out of money, the project just got caught between fiscal years. He anticipates having the demolition complete before Christmas.
“All the asbestos is gone,” he said.
He estimated the project will cost somewhere between $400,000 and $450,000 by the time it is complete.
Verseman graduated from Gorham High School in 1950 and remembers baseball greats like Bob Heins and Gary Geiger, who went on to have major league success.
“It was a small, friendly school,” he said.
His friend, Urban Butler, graduated the year before. There were good memories, but little sadness in seeing the school collapse.
“If the vandals hadn’t gotten a hold of (the building), it would have been all right,” Butler said.
Taylor said it would have been pointless to try and restore the old building.
“To try and do something like that, you could build a new building cheaper,” he said.
Instead, Verseman said the Gorham Improvement Committee intends to turn the vacant lot into a park with a feature that pays homage to its claim to fame – a baseball diamond.
|Need Your Assistance
If you have any information to share regarding the history of Gorham and its high school please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to us via real mail at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
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