Grafton (population 609) is located in far southwestern Illinois about 20 miles northwest of St. Louis, Missouri. Grafton sits on the banks of the Mississippi River where the Mississippi River and Illinois River meet. The southern Jersey County town is intersected by the Illinois Routes 100 and Route 3. Grafton was founded in 1832 by James Mason. It reached an estimated population of 10,000 in 1850 (probably due to its convenient waterway location) before slowly decreasing to the steady 600+ population it enjoys today. For a great historic view of Grafton check out http://www.greatriverroad.com/Cities/Grafton/graftonCover.htm .
A history of the Grafton school system is provided below:
Grafton High School
History Of Grafton Schools
A log cabin was Grafton’s first school. Mr. Brock was the teacher and he taught all grades in the one room school.
Following this was the 24 ft. square dwelling of the Lewis Johnson family, located in the grove. Again all grades and ages were taught. In 1838 a frame school building was erected. Still all students shared this building. This building was 18 x 24.
In 1858, a stone building, costing $4,500 was erected. One night in 1870, this school was destroyed by fire. All library and school books were destroyed. In 1874 contractor M. J. Smith was given a contract to build a new school. It was to be made of native stone, costing $15,000. It consisted of a large basement room for children to play in on rainy days with restrooms. The first floor consisted of two rooms and the principal’s office. The second floor had two classrooms. The principal at this time was Mr. John W. C. Jones, and four teachers were employed. There were 225 scholars enrolled and the yearly maintenance cost was $2,000 a year. An 800 pound brass bell stood in the bell tower of this grand old rock building. The inscription was “Buckeye Bell Foundry, Cincinnati 1851”. This bell is now (1980s) located in front of the present school. A rope hung from the tower to the basement and many children ran to ring the bell each time to start school. When the bell rang recess was over. In 1925 a brick building was built for the primary grades, and a band room was added. School pictures were taken on the front steps of this building.
The gymnasium was also built in 1925. Two classrooms behind the stage served as dressing rooms and later as classrooms. Many plays and graduation have taken place on the stage. One well remembered play was “The Womenless Wedding”. The men in town dressed as women, Mrs. Margaret Keller helped put this play on and many of us will never forget how Mrs. Keller sang her song “The Cutest Little Dingey In The Navy.” At this time the children graduated from the 8th grade and again from the third year of high school. We had to go to .Jerseyville for our fourth year and we had to get our own transportation. Mr. P.P. Downey was our principal, one of the best. From the top floor of the old school was a metal round tube fire escape. The children loved to climb up and slide down. When you got sent to Mr. Downey’s office you got a good talking to and a piece of candy.
Mr. “Duke” Erwin
Mr. Duke Erwin was our janitor and maintenance man. Behind the old school building was the furnace room. Mr. Erwin kept the old furnace going and all the teachers visited him and had their smoke during recess and at noon. There was no dismissal of school because of snow. The country boys rode their horses in and tied them out above the gym.
Reading, writing, and arithmetic were our main courses; history and sports were extra.
The big rock school was torn down in 1967 and everyone hated to see it go. The new school was built in 1969 at present location. We now have a new primary building, the main building was constructed in 1956, with eight classrooms and office. The cafeteria and kitchen are located in the basement. At the present time (1980s), Mr. Paul Van Brown is the principal. Mr. Brown is a local boy who attended school and is a native of Grafton.
In 1952 the high school was moved to Jerseyville. In 1971 the 7th and 8th grades were taken to Jerseyville.
Our students board a school bus and ride the 18 miles each way to Jerseyville. The good old days of high school in Grafton are no more. “Education is priceless, you get out what you put into it.
Written by Luella Sutton”
The town of Grafton still hosts a grade school in town as part of the Jerseyville School District, though it has been moved to Grafton Hills.
Grafton High School Quick Facts
Year HS classes opened: 1898
Year closed: 1953
Consolidated to: Jerseyville School District
School nickname: “Dynamiters”
School colors: Black & White
School Fight Song: “We’re Loyal to You Grafton High”
We’re loyal to you – Grafton High
To the Black and the White – Grafton High
We’ll back you to stand ‘gainst the best in the land
For we know you have sand – Grafton High – RAH! RAH!
So crack out the ball – Grafton High
We’re backing you all – Grafton High
Our team is our fame protector
On boys – for we expect victory from you – Grafton High
Che-he! Che-ha! Che-ha-ha-ha!
Che-he! Che-ha! Che-ha-ha-ha!
Grafton High School offered boys basketball for sure. Baseball and track & field may have also been offered by the school. We are searching for the school nickname, colors, fight song, coach’s names, and team records of the many great teams that walked the halls of GHS. If you have this information please send it along so we may share it with others.
1935-36 District Champions
1947-48 District Champions
1951-52 District Champions
1952-53 District Champions
Grafton Class of 1913
Grafton Baseball Team of 1909
The following information was provided by former resident and grade school student Greg Watson:
“My Dad was a graduate of Grafton High School in 1946. Grafton was 3-year high school. The few kids who wanted a 4-year diploma finished their education at either Jerseyville or Alton. The rock building pictured (as I recall) was built in 1874 from stone quarried locally. When my Dad was in school (1935-1946) the rock building was 4th-8th grade. High school was in the basement of the gym building (built in 1926). Grades 1-3 were in the one story building to the right of the rock building.
I attended school at Grafton 1968-1975. The building set was different. The gym was still there (it just burned last fall). The rock building and small building had been demolished in 1968 to make way for a modern 5 classroom building with a library. There had been another building built in 1956 that housed K-6. This entire campus has now been demolished and the school (K-5) moved out of Grafton (where it was landlocked during flooding on the Mississippi River) and on to higher ground. Condominiums are being built in its place. All that survives of the old school is the big brass bell that is waiting to be dedicated in front of the new school at Grafton Hills.
“Prof” Downey was the Principal in the 1930s and 1940s. An avid basketball coach and history teacher, he was originally from Arkansas. He had seen a boy killed playing football growing up, so he would not permit it at Grafton. The primary sport at Grafton was basketball. The movie “Hoosiers” reminds me of how it used to be. Life would shut down on Friday night when those boys would play basketball. The championship team (I believe they won District that year) in 1945 dispersed to Alton and Jerseyville in 1946 and, I believe, made them very competitive as well. My Dad, Clark Watson, was the salutatorian out of 8th grade (1943) and the valedictorian of his High School in 1946. He recalls listening to the President address Congress over the intercom on Monday Dec. 8, 1941. He talks about the mountain of scrap metal they gathered that filled the playground for the war. He tells of going to school in bib overalls, just like all the other kids in the depression, with “patches on patches”, but pointing out “they were clean”. They had stationary iron and wood desks with ink wells and they prayed and said the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of the day and no one thought twice about it. Before they moved to town he spent first grade walking five miles to school down a hill, through a valley in the creek bed across the flat rocks and in the snow of winter (but it was only uphill one way – home).
As far as the mention of haunted Grafton. I grew up there (leaving in 1985 for the Air Force). I spent a lot of time studying the history, and all those stories are news to me. There was a lot of violence in town around the time of the Civil War and just after. Bandits from Missouri would frequent the River House, a notorious saloon at the west end of town. Horse thieves were hung or shot in the hills surrounding town. Saturday night brawls in the downtown (which once sported 26 saloons) among Irish quarrymen sometimes turned deadly.”
From Carol “Main” Walsh:
“I attended Grafton School in the 40’s,I don’t recall ever having any snow days or even High water days off from school.I can remember a terrible ice storm when a lot of us from the west end of town ice skated to school with ours shoes in our pockets.When the water crossed the road and side walks my Dad Hine Carey and Frank Watson took turns taking us to school in a boat from our end of town.Our lunch room was the biology class room and we ate our sack lunches in the room with all sorts of pickled frogs and bugs,it didn’t bother us a bit.Ross DeSherlia brought a juke box to school and put in in the gym.The jitterbug was the thing then and we sure loved our lunch time dancing in the gym.I think every one of us loved Duke the janitor and bus driver.He was so very special.I’m 72 now and still remember every one of my teachers.I can attribute many things that I love and learned to do well to each and everyone of them.I was so sorry to see the old school go.I felt it could have had a elevator put in and have been converted to a Grafton Historical Society.”
This old, historic town once had a total of 26 saloons! It was a hardy place for the men who worked the nearby rock quarries to come and loosen up after a hard week’s work. It is also said to have been visited by the Jesse James gang a time or two.
Rumors persist also that Grafton has several areas of supernatural happenings. The newly refurbished Reubel Hotel has a little girl named Abigail whom many visitors have sighted and even spoken with. A wooded area on the outskirts of town is said to be filled with occassional screams of agony due to ghastly deeds of the past.
If you have any more information you can share regarding Grafton High School please write and share it with us. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to us via real mail at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il. 60631
Listing Of All Graduates Of Grafton High School 1898-1952