Grand Tower Community High School “Indians”

Grand Tower Community High School 1929-52
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Courtesy of Aldeane & Tom Norton
Grand Tower High School 1929 – 1952
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The History of Grand Tower High School

Grand Tower (population 624) is located in far southwestern Illinois in the southwestern portion of Jackson County. The town was settled in the mid-1800’s on the banks of the Mississippi River. It is named after a small Island on the Mississippi where it is located. The rock was called Tower Rock. Illinois Route 3 passes by the eastern edge of town. The Missouri Pacific Railroad also passes by the east edge of town. A town of note in the area is Carbondale, located 20 miles northeast of Grand Tower.

Two websites we found give an excellent and interesting history of the town. Grand Tower was a bustling city early in its existence. At one time, the town reached a peak of 4,000 residents. Factories and river traffic kept Grand Tower hopping with tourists and growing families. As time went on, the factories closed and residents sought work elsewhere.

For some short, great reading on Grand tower’s history you should visit the web address of According to the site, Grand Tower has the Mississippi River on its west side and the Shawnee National Forest on its other three sides. If you like ghost stories, check out .

Another excellent webpage, from which the photos on this page were taken, is located at .  Unfortunately, as told in an article sent to us by our good friend Mark Jurenga, Grand Tower’s illustrious history might be in jeopardy.  The mighty Mississippi River may claim this town for good.,8599,1816756,00.html?xid=feed-yahoo-full-nation

It is probable that Grand Tower had a high school in place by the early 1900’s. Grand Tower High School served the students until 1952, when it joined Wolf Lake and McClure High Schools when the Shawnee School District was developed. The high school for the new district was located in Wolf Lake (also on this site).

Grand Tower High School Building
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Submitted by Robin Coulter

The fate of the original Grand Tower High School building (built in 1929) is a sad one, having been destroyed by fire in 1979.

Grand Tower High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                                        late 1800’s

Year closed:                                         1952

Consolidated to:                                   Shawnee School District (Wolf Lake)

Grand Tower HS team nickname:        Indians

GTHS team colors:                               Black & White

GTHS School Fight Song:                    We’re Loyal to You, Grand Tower High

(sung to the tune of the University of Illinois fight song)

                                    We’re loyal to you, Grand Tower High

                                    We’re loyal to you, Grand Tower High.

                                    We’ll back you to stand, ‘gainst the best in the land,

                                    For we know you have sand Grand Tower High!

                                    Rah! Rah!

                                    So crack out that ball, Grand Tower High.

                                    We’re backing you all, Grand Tower High.

                                    Our team is our fame protector,

                                    On boys for we expect a

                                    Victory from you Grand Tower High!


Grand Tower competed in athletics in spite of its remote location. The boys basketball program had some nice seasons. We believe that baseball and track were also offered. More information about coaches’ names and team records are being sought.

Boys’ Basketball

The Grand Tower boys stood tall in the 1949-50 season winning the District title for their area. Coach Tommy Dunn guided this team to its only district title before the Shawnee consolidation, as evidenced by an account written below by three people who were close to the action at Grand Tower at the time. Records and names of coaches from other great GTHS teams are needed.

We have located some postseason scores of Grand Tower High School basketball teams on a website titled “Illinois Postseason Basketbal Scores.” These scores are listed below as well.

Grand Tower HS Basketball Team of 1930
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Courtesy of Charles C. Hines

1933-34                DuQuoin District Tournament                          Coach’s name & record needed.

                               1st Rd. – Beat Percy 36-13

                               2nd Rd. Lost to Murphysboro 37-26

Murphysboro lost in semi-final round.

1934-35 Record & coach’s name needed.

1935-36                Steeleville District Tournament                        Coach’s name & record needed.

                               1st Rd. – Beat Ava 38-14

2nd Rd. – Lost to Wolf Lake 48-18

Wolf Lake lost in 1st Rd. of Regional

1936-37 & 1937-38  Records & coaches names needed.

1938-39                Anna Regional Tournament                              Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd. Lost to Carbondale 39-16

Carbondale won District tourney.

Carbondale lost in Sectional title game

1939-40 through 1945-46  Records & coaches names needed.

1946-47               Vergennes District Tournament                         Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd. Lost to Ava 52-48

Ava lost in semi-final round.

1947-48                Hurst District Tournament                                  Coach’s name & record needed.

 1st Rd. Beat Ava 67-42

                               2nd Rd. Lost to Hurst-Bush 74-46

Hurst-Bush won District title.

Hurst-Bush lost in Regional semi-final.

1948-49  29- 3     Western Egyptian Conference Champs   Coach H.O. Dickerson

                               Vergennes District Tournament – 2nd Place!

1st Rd. Beat Steeleville 38-35

Title Game – Lost to Hurst-Bush 49-43

Hurst-Bush lost in 1st Rd. of Regional.

1949-50  30- 3     District Champions                                        Coach Tommy Dunn

                               Steeleville District Tournament

                               1st Rd. Beat Steeleville 39-21

                               Title Game – Beat Coulterville 93-34

                               Pinckneyville Regional Tournament

                               1st. Rd. Beat Chester 54-45

Semi-final – Lost to Sparta 43-40

Sparta won Regional Tournament

Sparta lost 1st Rd. of Sectional

1950-51                Hurst District Tournament                                 Coach’s name & record needed.

1st Rd. Lost to Carbondale Attucks 83-60

Attucks lost in title game.

1951-52                Hurst District Tournament                                 Coach’s name & record needed.

                               1st Rd. Lost to Gorham 97-41

Gorham lost in title game.

This the extent of the Grand Tower High School scores we could locate on the Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores website. The article below is written in memory of the 1949-50 District Championship Team!

       BASKETBALL -What a Ride!!

written by Aldeane Gollon Wills (Mrs. Gene Wills)

edited by Charles Hines and Charles Dickson

photo below provided by Aldeane (Wills) Norton

Grand Tower High School Athletes 1949-50
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Charles C. Hines, Jack Milster, Charles Dickson, Gene Wills, Bill (Stacey) Wills

Five boys left a legacy in Grand Tower Community High School basketball program in 1948-1950 that was unequaled with previous teams. It brought an end to the Grand Tower school district and was  the first year of Shawnee Consolidated School District with two towns south–Wolf Lake and McClure. Charles Dickson, Charles Hines, Jack Milster, Bill Wills (Gene’s nephew), and Gene Wills,  were the nucleus that formed in grade school coached by Claude Jarrett. In grade school they  won the Egyptian Junior Athletic conference, losing only one game.

Their high school coach, Holly C. Marchildon, had them as second team players as freshmen but he often inserted them into first team play. Gene Wills was center his freshman year and was a good defensive player.  As sophomores they won the 28th Annual Freshman Sophomore Tournament at Sparta. As a sophomore Dale Clemens was being inserted into the line-up because of his uncanny ability to reach in and get hold of the ball and to stop a dribble. Dale was a starter and a captain his senior year.

As juniors the team had a new coach, H. O. Dickerson, for a year. They won 29 games and lost only 3.  In tournament play the team won the Grand Chain Christmas Basketball Tournament, the Western Egyptian High School Conference Basketball championship and took second in the Grand Tower Invitational Basketball Tournament losing to Trico Consolidated High School after having beaten them in regular season play.  Their other two losses were to Gorham, nearby archrival, and Hurst-Bush in the State district tournament.

Continuing in basketball for the 1949-’50 school year, the Grand Tower Indians had a new coach in Tommy Dunn who moved from Mounds High School.  What made it even more exciting was that his brother, Benny Dunn, was the coach of Gorham. The Dunn brothers were both known in the area as excellent coaches. We knew Tommy Dunn could do a lot with these coachable boys.

The team won second in its own invitational tournament when Benny and his Gorham Mustangs beat the Grand Tower Indians.You might say they were getting revenge after having been previously beaten on their home floor 43-33.

However, that did not deter the fans from packing the gym.  There was standing room only in the entrances to the gym, down both stairways, the stage was packed so that in the yearbooks it appears they are on bleachers, and as Charles Dickson said it was difficult to take the ball out of bounds because people were lined up around the gym floor.  Charles “Gardy” Gardiner was perhaps the #1 fan and even treated the boys to fine dining at Tom’s Place near DeSoto.  Mary and Wesley Dickson had several big dinners in their home for the boys assisted by Arthur and Tessie Clemens and others.

Momentum picks up and the team received and accepted an invitation to appear in a two-game benefit basketball show for the annual March of Dimes drive Saturday, Feb.4, in Mayfield, Kentucky, high school gym. It was Grand Tower’s longest trip in basketball history and played before the largest crowd ever to witness the Indians in action with an estimated 3500 in the stands  Grand Tower played Sedalia, which was rated No. 4 in Kentucky State basketball,  and got off to an 11-5 lead and kept the lead throughout but it narrowed to 42-40 with fifty seconds left to play. Sedalia got the ball out of bounds but a player traveled.  We got the ball and Gene Wills was fouled; he made the free throw making it 43-40.  We held the ball  and controlled it for the remainder of the game.

The Dunn brothers’ rivalry was tested again when Gorham returned to Grand Tower for a 52-27 victory.  This was the second loss for Grand tower. They advanced farther than any previous cage squad by winning the Steeleville District tournament and defeating Chester in the first round of the Pinckneyville regional.  The team lost a hard fought second round bout to Sparta, the eventual tournament winner.

We don’t want to negate the importance of supporting players. However, for fear of missing someone, we  will not attempt to name them but they played an important part, too.  (Thanks to Aldeane Gollon Wills,  Charles Hines, & Charles Dickson!!)

Boys Baseball

The Grand Tower High School baseball program was a solid program as well.  The following information was submitted by  Charles C. Hines, Mrs. Aldeane Wills, and Mr. Charles Dickson

Baseball – From Strike-Outs to Home Runs

In 1946-1947 baseball, under Coach Holly C. Marchildon, Grand Tower competed in conference which included, Ava, Gorham, Olive Branch, Thebes, Vergennes and Wolf Lake.

In baseball, Grand Tower competed in Fall and Spring Season.

In the Fall Season of 1946-1947, the pitching staff was headed by Gene Wills as freshman and Jack Milster as relief pitcher. The 1947 schedule ended with Grand Tower in 5th in conference, with 8 losses and 2 wins which, included being defeated by Gorham with Bill Schimpf pitching a no hitter against Grand Tower.

The 1946-1947 team was Donald “D.A.” Godair heading the batting order and playing first base.

Jack Milster divided his time between playing on second base and pitching.

Charles “C.D.” Roberts took over third base.

Oral “Mack” Norton was at shortstop.

Robert “Pickle” Nation divided center field along with Dale Clemens.

Lowell Dean Ellet handled left field very nicely.

Jim “Hatchet” Ellet took over second base in the absence of Jack Milster.

Ray “Salty” Nelson and Henry Burdick were the catching staff.

The substitutes for the baseball team were Charles “Dickey” Dickson, Stacey “Bill” Wills, Charles “Chuck” Hines, Joe Burke, and Clifford Derossett.

The Indians had a schedule of ten games.

In 1946-1947 Gorham won the Western Egyptian High School Baseball Conference with Grand Tower finishing 5th.

The 1947-1948 Season went as follows:

Jack Milster, lead off man for the Indians and playing shortstop, was known for getting base on balls, his consistent hitting, and making only one error all season.

Charles Dickson, batting second and playing third base, was known for his ability to bunt and put men around and covering third like a wet blanket.

Lowell D. Ellet, batting third and playing first, was known for consistent hitting and fielding while playing first without an error and hitting over .300.

Gene Wills, batting fourth, pitching and playing center field, was known for his long ball hits and well pitched games.

Bill Wills, batting fifth and playing left field, with consistent hitting well over .300. Bill’s rifle arm kept men from taking extra bases on him.

Dale Clemens, batting sixth and playing right field, had a very successful year as a base runner and right fielder.

Chuck Hines, batting seventh and playing second, was a very nice hitter and always making an outstanding catch around second.

Henry Burdick, batting eighth, and doing the Indians receiving and handling the pitchers in true major league fashion, and also a long-ball hitter.

Robert Nation, also a great pitcher for the Indians with a three wins and no losses.

Edward Hudson, batting ninth and playing center field like a charm.

The Indians have prospects in Toby Nelson as catcher, Jim Keith at first base and Dale Dillow as infielder and Bill Grammer as outfielder; and all are Freshman and have a great future to look forward to.


Grand Tower 3  Cobden  1   Off to a good start

Grand Tower 2   Alto Pass  0  Keep up the good work

Grand Tower 0   Ava   3  We were due

Grand Tower 21  McClure  6  Good batting average

Grand Tower 3   Wolf Lake  1  Still going

Grand Tower 5   Gorham  0  Good practice

Grand Tower 20  Vergennes  2  Better batting average

Grand Tower 0   Campbell Hill 3  They were lucky

Grand Tower 0   Gorham  3  Good-bye trophy

During the Spring Season of the Western Egyptian High School Baseball Conference, Grand Tower had a loss to Ava but beat Gorham and needed to win at Campbell Hill to win the conference. After being upset by Campbell Hill, Gorham and Grand Tower finished with identical records. A playoff game was played to decide the conference championship which, Gorham won beating Grand Tower 3-0 with Gorham finishing 1st in conference and Grand Tower 2nd.

The 1948-1949 Season was coached by H.O.Dickerson and the team included the following: sophomore Ray Barrett, junior Oscar Bishop, senior Dale Clemens, junior Charles Dickson, sophomore Dale Dillow, junior Jim Ellet, freshman Frankie Wayne Glodo, junior Charles Hines, freshman Mark Hughes, junior Jack Milster, senior Robert Nation, sophomore Toby Nelson, junior Gene Parker, sophomore Byron Penrod, senior Edgar Allen Poe, junior Gene Wills, and junior Bill Wills.

Prior to the baseball season beginning, Ava and Campbell Hill consolidated high schools and were added to the conference competing as Trico.

The schedule was as follows:

Grand Tower 27  McClure  16

Grand Tower 7   Murphysboro 4

Grand Tower 8   Trico   2

Grand Tower 2  Thebes  4

Grand Tower 20   Vergennes  3

Grand Tower 21   McClure  4

Grand Tower 2  Wolf Lake  0

Grand Tower 1   Gorham  6

Grand Tower 6   Wolf Lake  5

Grand Tower 7  Royalton   5

Grand Tower 8   Trico   4

Grand Tower 7   Vergennes  0

Grand Tower 5  Gorham  4

Grand Tower 0   Gorham  5

The 1949-1950 Season was coached by Tommy Dunn, whose brother, Benny Dunn, coached at Gorham.

Grand Tower had a successful season winning the Western Egyptian High School Conference. The team included the following: seniors, Charles DicksonCharles HinesJack MilsterBill Wills, and Gene Wills; juniors, Bill Grammer, Jim Keith, Toby Nelson, and Byron Penrod; sophomores, Lester Smith and Frankie Wayne Glodo.

The Grand Tower Indians had a wonderful baseball season winning seven and losing only one. Coach Tommy Dunn was at the head of the Indians for the year. He did a wonderful job of coaching his boys. The highlight of the season was a six to three victory over Gorham. Gorham had beaten us earlier in the season five to nothing. It was a sweet revenge for the Indians who are friendly rivals of the Mustang team from Gorham. Dickson led the Indians at bat. He had two doubles out of four trips to the plate.

Bill Grammer and Stacy Wills led the hit parade for the Indians for the season with thirteen hits each.

The conference games and the scores for the season are as follows:

Grand Tower 10  Wolf Lake  3

Grand Tower 4   Vergennes  3

Grand Tower 8   Tamms   1

Grand Tower 0  Gorham  4

Grand Tower 8   Trico   0

Grand Tower 4   Wolf Lake  0

Grand Tower 18  Tamms   2

Grand Tower 6  Gorham  3

Baseball Season came to an end when Murphysboro’s 1950 baseball team, the first diamond outfit of the Murphysboro School since 1940, turned in its best performance of the year at Carbondale to defeat Grand Tower 2-0 in the Championship game of the Carbondale District Tournament. Grand Tower had never won a baseball district tournament game before.

Murphysboro plays Royalton, the winner at Johnston City, for the right to advance to the DuQuoin Regional.

It was Teddy Koenigsmark, lanky right-hander of the Murphysboro pitching staff, who led the way to the decision with a superb three-hit performance. Koenigsmark retired the strong Grand Tower line-up in order in four of the seven innings, and did not allow more than one hit in any inning.

Gene Wills, Grand Tower right-hander, also tossed a three hit decision, but lost out in the final accounting on a home run by Dick Copin and on unearned Murphy run that came in following a wild throw.

Following the end of the High School’s Baseball Season, Jack Milster and Stacey Bill Wills signed a professional baseball contract with the St. Louis Browns and Charles Hines played two years for Abe Martin at SIU.

Letter Abe Martin wrote to Charles Hines



July 18, 1950

Mr. Charles Hines

Grand Tower


Dear Charles:

Benny Dunn has informed me that you plan to enroll here at Southern this fall, and I wish to take this opportunity to let you know that I am looking forward with pleasure to having you on my baseball team next spring.

As you probably know we had a very good club this year. We won second in our conference and defeated four teams that won championships in other conferences. I saw Grand Tower play and I have high regard for your ability.

If I can be of any help to you in finding a room and in getting located, please feel free to call on me at any time.

Sincerely yours,

Glenn “Abe” Martin

Athletic Director


Stacey “Bill” Wills and Jack Milster, two 18-year-old Grand Tower high school graduates, will be on their way to the Class D Baxley, Ga., farm club of the St. Louis Browns.

The youths signed contracts with the Browns in St. Louis after a tryout held before the Brown baseball game with the Red Sox’s.

Wills, a left-hander both at bat and in the field, is an outfielder. Milster is a shortstop by trade, though he stepped out of character once to pitch a no-hit, 1-0 victory over Murphysboro.

Wills, perhaps is the more promising of the two players. He’s 5-10, a solid 180 pounds and packs a mean wallop. He got seven hits in 11 trips during the Carbondale district tournament, four of the hits being triples.

At Sportsman’s Park, Wills hit two balls out of the lot. One hit the light supports atop the pavilion and the other reached the pavilion roof.

Milster also socked one to deep center field. Milster throws and bats right-handed. He is perhaps too small to make the grade as a pitcher, packing only 160 pounds on his six-foot frame.

No information was available as to whether the boys received bonuses to sign with the Browns. It was doubted, however, that they approached the $6,000 figure which makes a player a bonus player.

Wills and Milster were at home packing for the trip while their junior and senior teammates saw the Browns play the Red Sox as guests of Principal William O. Fisher and Coach Tommy Dunn.

Gene Wills, Charles Dickson and Charles Hines were the seniors and Bill Grammer, Toby Nelson and Jim Keith the juniors. They missed the school prom during the baseball tournament and got the extra reward of seeing the Browns play.


Starting with the summer of 1947 Grand Tower competed in the Trico League which was limited to teenagers.

Also in the Trico League were the following (all a lot larger than Grand Tower): Carbondale, Murphysboro, Steeleville, West Frankfort, Dowell, Pinckneyville, and DuQuoin.

In a 1949 league game, playing Dowell at Grand Tower, the game was stopped in the 3rd inning with Dowell leading 5-0, because Dowell was objecting to the umpires’ decisions. The league officials rescheduled the baseball game at Murphysboro Riverside Park, neutral field. This was an inspirational game for Grand Tower who needed to win in order to place 1st in Trico Conference. Grand Tower scored 15 runs holding Dowell at 5 to win 1st place in the Trico League.

Harry “Cap” Hines was sponsor of the Grand Tower team, died the morning after the Dowell game, at age 62, from a heart attack. Those who know and follow teenage baseball know that the term, “sponsor,” means the fella who buys the balls and bats….the fella who furnishes transportation to out of town games….the fella who often has to dip down into his own funds to buy a glove, or some other bit of equipment, for one of the players. “Cap” didn’t mind….he loved doing it. His was a natural love for sports, and baseball in particular. But above all, he loved the boys who were playing for him.

The money he put into the team in his two years’ sponsorship was marked off as an investment in youth. His countless hours of time spent with the team were also invested, invested with the certainty of financial loss. The money didn’t worry “Cap,” for he was a wealthy man. The time didn’t worry him either, for though his business world was heavy with responsibility, including active management of two large farms, he never allowed the business world to rule his life.

Sports were his hobbies, particularly baseball as played by the Grand Tower Indians, and he was playing the game for a full nine innings.


The youth, growing up in Grand Tower in the 1940’s and 1950’s did not have some of the advantages of growing up in a larger city where municipal pools and other park facilities are offered during the summer.

The youth of Grand Tower spent their time playing Indian Ball which, was played in an open field between the marks and each team was allowed three outs.

Another game played by the youth of Grand Tower was Cork Ball. A Cork Ball was like a miniature baseball and took a special bat. All of those things required money and trips to the sporting goods store for the equipment. Jack Milster, during summertime visits to St. Louis, played Cork Ball and was familiar with the rules of the game. He suggested that instead of using Cork Balls and, the special bat required, the game could be played with bottle-caps and a broom stick. The game was played with rules similar to Cork Ball. There was a pitcher, catcher and one out-fielder. The pitcher would throw to the batter and if the batter swung at the cap and missed with the catcher catching the cap, it was an out. If the hitter made contact with the bottle-cap, it was a base hit. Hitting the moving and curving bottle-cap with a broom stick required special timing and special eye contact. There was always a game played after collecting bottle-caps from nearby vendors, and the game was played in an alley


While playing baseball in the summertime, the baseball diamond was located with a hill and pasture behind home plate. Frequent foul balls to the pasture stopped the game until the ball was found.

Robb Roy Goetz had a bird dog, Sport, who was used to locate the lost balls. Sport, through his own training, was able to detect a solid hit from a foul ball. Sport would be on the field and would not pay any attention unless there was a foul tip and he would immediately follow, locate, and retrieve the foul ball. It is difficult to say how much money that Sport saved both the High School and Trico League teams in the balls that he found.

Coach Tommy Dunn was so impressed with Sport’s ability that he suggested a St. Louis newspaper should do a feature story.

Francis Wells – GTHS’ “Mr. Basketball”
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Talented athlete

In addition to the players mentioned above with regard to the 1950 district winner, it has been brought to our attention that Francis Wells (class of 1945) was also a fine athlete. Wells was known as “Mr. Basketball” and excelled at all sports, according to Aldeane Gollon Wills.

If You Have Any Further Information

Please forward any further information to us regarding the history and accomplishments of Grand Tower High School, especially a photo of the school building, to You can also write to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.  60631

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