The History of Keithsburg High School
The town of Keithsburg (population 714) is located in upper-western Illinois along the banks of the Mississippi River. For further information, Keithsburg is in the southwest corner of Mercer County, about 45 miles southwest of the Quad Cities.
The town is named after it’s founder, Robert Keith. He also donated the first-ever building for a school to the town, so long as it was used for school purposes around 1850 to 1855. As that wasn’t followed through, the building and offer were withdrawn. Another building was erected in 1856, and the main part of that was used, with an addition to it in 1882.
The two photos above were provided to us by Richard Nash:
The photo at the top of the page is of the Keithsburg High School building constructed in 1928. This building served as Keithsburg High School until 1960 when the consolidation effort into Westmer School District took place.
The photo to the above right is of the Keithsburg School building constructed in 1885. It is believed this building served as the only building for grades 1 -12 prior to the construction of the “new” building in 1928. This building continued to serve as the grade Keithsburg Grade School through 1960. It was likely toen down shortly after its closure.
Keithsburg joined in a consolidation effort of western Mercer County towns Joy, New Boston, and Eliza in the early 1960s. A new high school came of the effort and is located in nearby Joy (Westmer HS). In 2010 Wesmer High School consolidated with Aledo High School leading to the creation of the Mercer County School District. The high school classes are held in Aledo.
Amanda Gresham provided the following information on the history of Keithsburg Schools:
“The high school building or buildings were in fact demolished following the closure and consolidation to Westmer. All that remains is what to me looks like may have been part of the foundation for a gymnasium (?), the sidewalk that at one time led up to the schools front doors (shown in your website’s pictures), and the row of trees that line the front of the schoolyard (which also can be seen in your pictures). The current high school students of Keithsburg attend classes in Aledo.
The building pictured and titled the “New” Keithsburg Grade School (below), still exsists but is now the Keithsburg town hall. The grade school children attend class in New Boston.”
From Tom Wilson:
**Henry V. Porter was principal and possibly coach of Keithsburg High in (at least) the 1914-15 school year. Porter then was principal and coach at Athens (coached his basketball team to 2nd in state tourney), Mount Zion and Delevan.
He was hired as Asst. Mgr of IHSA in 1928. In 1939 he published in IHSA newsletter an essay titled “MARCH MADNESS”. in 1942 he used the phrase in a poem. He had the phrase made into a Registered Trademark…..it appears that currently through court battles both the IHSA and NCAA jointly share the trademark.”
An article confirming this information can be read at the following web address:
Keithsburg High School Quick Facts
Year opened: late 1800s?
Year closed: 1960
Consolidated to: Westmer High School (Joy)
Students Now Attend: Aledo Mercer County High School
School nickname: the “Blackhawks”
School colors: Black & Orange
School Fight Song: (To the tune of “There’s A Long, Long Trail A-Winding”)
Tune name the lyrics submitted by Stephanie Sirotnak Braucht
We will praise those grand old colors,
Salute the orange and black.
We’ll give three cheers for Keithsburg
Let them all ring back.
We are off to certain victories,
And we will take nothing less;
For that’s the truest motto
Of our dear old K.H.S.
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Keithsburg High School probably offered many sports during its existence. Very limited information was uncovered on the IHSA web site. Many schools in the area offered baseball, football, track, & basketball. Keithsburg definitely competed in basketball and track, baseball was quite possible at some point as well. Boys’ basketball brought home two IHSA District titles which are listed below.
The boys basketball program at Keithsburg High School enjoyed many successes over the years. In addition to two District titles won, the program had other seasons where they came very close to winning. Below are some scores we located on a website titled “Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores.” Season records and coach’s names are needed for all of the Keithsburg HS seasons.
1933-34 Roseville District Runner-Up Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Won – score needed
2nd Rd Beat Roseville 21-7
Semi-final beat Avon 43-31
Title Game lost to Media 30-29
1934-35 Roseville District Tournament Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Oquawka 55-7
2nd Rd lost to Monmouth 30-10
Monmouth lost to Stronghurst in semi-final
Stronghurst lost to Roseville in title game
1935-36 Reynolds District Champions Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Seaton 49-17
Semi-final won game – score needed
Title Game Beat Port Byron 26-17
Moline Regional Tournament
1st Rd lost to East Moline 58-14
East Moline beat Moline in title game
1936-37 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1937-38 Keithsburg Regional Runner-Up Coach’s name & record needed
Early Rd scores needed
Title Game lost to Oquawka 31-28
1938-39 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1939-40 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1940-41 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1941-42 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1942-43 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1943-44 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1944-45 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1945-46 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1946-47 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1947-48 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1948-49 New Boston District Tournament Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Little York 58-35
Semi-final lost to New Boston 59-41
New Boston beat New Windsor in title game
1949-50 New Windsor District Tournament Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Alwood 47-45
Semi-final lost to Viola 65-46
Viola lost to New Boston in title game
1950-51 New Boston District Tournament Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Seaton 54-46
Semi-final lost to Viola 63-53
Viola lost to New Boston in title game
1951-52 New Windsor District Tournament Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd Beat Coal Valley 62-52
Semi-final lost to Viola 61-56
Title Game score unavailable
1952-53 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1953-54 IHSA District Champions Coach’s name & record needed
District Scores Needed
Joy Regional Tournament
1st Rd lost to Aledo 43-42
Aledo lost to Winola in semi-final
Winola lost to joy in title game
1954-55 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1955-56 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1956-57 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1957-58 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
1958-59 Joy District Tournament Coach’s name & record needed
1st Rd lost to Joy 70-41
Joy beat New Boston in title game
1959-60 Joy District Tournament Coach’s name & record needed
** 1st Rd lost to Little York 78-25
Little York lost to Joy in title game
**Last game for Keithsburg High School, consolidated to Westmer High School in the summer of 1960.
From Richard Nash (Class of 1941):
“The superintendent of Keithsburg High School from 1935 through the mid-1940s was E.H. Test, who succeeded Mr. Platt. Coach for all sports at the school for that same time period was Lawrence Junchen.
Some of the memorable teachers from the late 1930s included:
1st Grade: Miss Greenwood
5th Grade: Mrs. Hamilton
6th Grade: Miss Meva Keel
7/8th Grade: Mrs. Keith Stanley
HS History: Miss Olga Reipe
HS English: Miss Opal Stephens”
From Stephanie Sirotnak Braucht:
“I graduated from grade school in Keithsburg in 1962 and attended high school at Westmer HIgh School in Joy, which was the result of the consolidation. We had moved to Keithsburg when I was 3, when my father accepted a position as principal and teacher in the grade school there. He was with Keithsburg, and then Westmer, until he died suddenly in 1968.
While the high school mascot was “The Black Hawks,” after the famous Sac-Fox warrior by that name who lived (and fought) in this area, the grade school was known as “The Tigerhawks” (which later kind of morphed into just Tigers).
I have attached a photo of my dad, Albert J. Sirotnak. As I mentioned, he was an administrator for Keithsburg (later Westmer) from 1951 until 1968.
Keithsburg Grade School Principal 1951-1960
(Consolidation took place for the 1960-61 school year)
Westmer Elementary Coordinator and Junior High Principal 1960-1967
Westmer Superintendent 1967-68
He died in the summer of 1968 of a heart attack at the age of 50.”
Seeking Further Information
We are seeking further information regarding the town of Keithsburg, its high school, and their better athletic accomplishments. We are very hopeful a resident or history buff from the area will help us out. If you have any information you would like to share please complete a School Submission Form or Guest Commentary Form, or at our e-mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org . You may also write us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva Ave.
Chicago, Il. 60631