Hillsdale High School “Pirates”

Hillsdale High School Building 2013
Submitted by Dean Bentley
Hillsdale Community High School Front
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The History of the Hillsdale High School “Purple Pirates”

Located on the far eastern edge of Rock Island County, Hillsdale (population 588) sits just north of the Rock River along former Ill. Route 2. The BN&SF Railroad goes through the town. In fact the town sits at the intersection of County Road 2 and former Illinois Route 2 eighteen miles northeast of East Moline.

Hillsdale was founded in 1870 by James Hill and was first known as Hill’s Station. The name was changed to Hillsdale in 1871.

Hillsdale enjoyed many great years of hosting their own high school. In 1956 the residents took part in a consolidation effort with the neighboring towns and school districts of Cordova and Port Byron.  Hillsdale High School was deactivated and the new school district known as “Riverdale” was born.  The children of Hillsdale now attend high school in a building on the outskirts of nearby Port Byron.  The web address for the Riverdale School District is http://www.riroe.k12.il.us/riroe/riverdale/ .

Hillsdale HS Bldg Inscription 2015
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Photo by Bill Alber 
Hillsdale HS Building 2015
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Photo by Bill Alber 

The Hillsdale High School building still stands along County Road 2 and was, up until the early 2000s, used privately as a company called Toppert Jetting. The building now sits vacant and is falling into a state of disrepair.

Bill Alper tells us:

“The old High School in Hillsdale is still standing,but it is in teardown condition. It has been abandoned and while the school looks OK from the road, though a closer inspection shows the roof has collapsed. Attached (bottom of page) are a few photos of Hillsdale High School today (September 2015).”

Hillsdale High School Quick Facts

Year opened:            1921

Year closed:             1956

School nickname:     “Purple Pirates”

School colors:           Purple & White

School Fight Song:  unavailable


Hillsdale High School competed in the old Two Rivers Conference with other member schools of Tampico, Lyndon, Mineral, Annawan, Atkinson, Prophetstown, Erie, Cordova, and Port Byron.  This was a conference with a history of great competition in the 1950s and 1960s.  Baseball, Basketball, 8-Man Football, and Track & Field were offered to the member schools.  The “Purple Pirates” won one District title in Boy’s Basketball and had one male athlete excel in Track.  We are seeking information on some of the other great Hillsdale teams, athletes, and coaches.

Hillsdale High School Gymnasium 2013
Submitted by Dean Bentley


The Hillsdale High School “Pirates” had some nice seasons on the hardwood court. Season records and coaches’ names are needed for nearly every season however. We did locate some scores invloving Hillsdale High School in the IHSA Tournament on a website titled :Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores.” These scores and the location of that particular year’s District or Regional tourney are listed below.

1921-22                       Moline District Tournament                Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Thomson 20-14

1933-34                       Rock Island District Tournament      Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Port Byron 23-22

Port Byron lost in 2nd Rd.

1934-35                       Morrison District Semi-finalist           Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Beat Chadwick 25-19

                                      2nd Rd Beat Savanna 17-14

                                      Semi-final Rd lost to Fulton 19-15

Fulton lost to Morrison in title game

1935-36                       Moline Regional Semi-finalist           Coach’s name & record needed

(Hillsdale did not compete in District)

1st Rd Beat Orion 41-14

                                      Semi-final lost to Moline 27-22

Moline lost to East-Molne in title game.

1936-37  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1837-38  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1938-39  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1939-40  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1940-41      7 – 20       Orion District Tournament                     Coach’s name needed

1st Rd Beat Coal Valley 39-18

                                    Semi-final lost to Cambridge 47-13

Cambridge lost to Orion in title game

1941-42  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1942-43                      Orion District Tournament                    Season record coach’s name needed.

1st Rd lost to Coal Valley 33-27

Orion beat Coal Valley in title game

1943-44  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1944-45                       Erie District Semi-finalist                      Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Beat Tampico 30-24

Semi-final lost to Erie 50-30

Erie beat Coal Valley in title game.

1945-46                       Orion District Tournament                    Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Moline St. Mary 41-39

(Other St. Mary scores unavailable)

1946-47                       Erie District Semi-finalist                      Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Beat Cordova 47-36

Semi-final lost to Erie 58-30

Erie won District title over Orion

1947-48                       Orion District Semi-finalist                   Coach’s name & record needed

Semi-final lost to Orion 40-36

Orion beat Erie for title.

1948-49                       Orion District Tournament                    Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Coal Valley 30-23

Coal Valley lost title game to Alwood

1949-50                       Coal Valley District Semi-finalist          Coach’s name & record needed

(Team placed 2nd in 2-Rivers Conf Tourn.)

Semi-final lost to Coal Valley 54-40

Coal Valley beat Port Byron in title game


1950-51                       Hillsdale District Champions!           Coach’s name & record needed

Semi-final Beat Cordova 87-69

                                      Title Game Beat Coal Valley 49-41

                                      Rock Island Regional Tourney

                                      1st Rd lost to Rock Island Alleman 66-44

Alleman lost in semi-final to Moline

1951-52  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1952-53                       Lyndon District Runner-Up               Coach’s name & record needed

                                    Semi-final Rd Beat Lyndon 59-58

Title Game lost to Port Byron 41-36

1953-54                       Hillsdale Hosted District Tourney         Coach’s name & record needed

Hillsdale scores needed

Port Byron beat Lyndon in title game

1954-55  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1955-56                       East Moline Regional Tournament     Coach’s name & record needed

(District scores unavailable)

**1st Rd lost to Moline 128-51

**Probably the final game as the Hillsdale High School “Pirates”. Became part of the Riverdale School District in 1956.

***Right around the construction of the new high school building in nearby Erie, the Erie Cardinal Basketball team may have had a temporary home in the Hillsdale High School Gymnasium, this is only something that the writer of this page has heard about. If it is so, Basketball had it’s second wind here in Hillsdale.


For many years, Hillsdale competed in Track and Field in the Two Rivers Conference. One person was quite a star for the Pirates in the 1930s. Kenneth Nelson participated in different events while a trackster, but really stood out in the Long Jump, where he recieved State accolades, including a State Championship!

1935-36      Kenneth Nelson     Long Jump       2nd Place!

1936-37      Kenneth Nelson     Long Jump       State Champion!


The football program at Hillsdale High had a short life.  Many of the games were  competed in a 8-man team format.

1950      N.R.A.      Two Rivers 3rd place (3-2)      Coach’s name unavailable

1954*     4 – 3                                                            Coach Bob Hoese

*Thanks to Tom Sikorski

Hillsdale last fielded a football team in 1955.



From Jerry L. Hahn:

“I attended first through 11 grades at Hillsdale elementary and high schools in Hillsdale. At the end of my junior year (55-56) we consolidated into Riverdale and attended grade 12 (1st. graduation class)in Port Byron. Looking at the website info now available for Hillsdale High School I may be able to add some info of interest. As an athletic manager for my three years at Hillsdale High School I can vouch for the “6 man football” played during that 3 years. I also traveled to all but a couple of the football and basketball games played by Hillsdale teams during that three years and remember well visiting the various Two-Rivers Conference schools, most of which are now extinct.”


As always we are hopeful a fanatic or history buff of the Hillsdale area will share some information with us regarding the successes of Hillsdale High School and its students. We especially enjoy photos of the school and better teams.  If you would like to share this information with us please complete a Guest Commentary Form, or you may write us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net or via USPS at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago,  Il.    60631

Hillsdale Gymnasium
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“Home of the Purple Pirates”
Hillsdale High School Building Side View
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Submitted by Dean Bentley
Hillsdale HS Girls Bathroom 2015
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Photo by Bill Alber
Hillsdale High School Entry 2015
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Photo by Bill Alber

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