Kell High School

Kell Grade School – Former Kell High School Bldg.
A brick building with a car parked in front of it

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Photo Courtesy of Jamie Driskill
Kell Sch. Entrance -“Kell School District No. 166”
A brick building with a car parked in front of it

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Photo taken Feb, 2007 by Jamie Driskill

The History of Kell High School

Kell (population 231) is located in far south-central Illinois in the south-cental portion of Marion County. Kell sits about 8 miles north of Mt. Vernon and 8 miles east and a little south of Centralia.  County Highways 30 (Kell Road) and 35 intersect at Kell.  Illinois Route 161 passes by two miles to the north of town Connecting it to Interstate Highway 57 just three miles to the west.  Illinois Route 37 passes by Kell two miles to the west as well.  The Union Pacific Railroad line runs tracks through town and was likely instrumental in the town’s early growth and development.

A nice history of the town of Kell can be found on the Wikipedia web address of  According to Wikipedia:

“The first settler near Kell was Hiram Milburn, who arrived around 1836. Around 1854, he sold out, and founded Dix, Illinois.

Elizabeth Kell (ca. 1890 to ca. 1980) grew up in Kell. She taught school in Mt. Vernon through the 1950s, and was not much given to humor. She claimed that Kell had no name before the railroad came through. She was with her brothers watching workmen paint the new train station. They asked what the children’s names were. Upon finding out the children were all named Kell, they painted “Kell” on the sign, and the town had been Kell ever since.”

An excellent tribute to the history of the Kell School system and Kell High School was provided to us through research conducted by Jamie Driskill. The research is from an article titled “Kell Schools” written by Virginia Wilkins.  The article, in summary, states as follows:

The first Kell School was established in town in 1894.  It was originally a country school known as Old Hickory School.  The entire building was moved to town and received an addtional room for the influx of students.  The village at that time was named Little Ridge.  However, the Kell family was well known in the area so the school was named Kell School.

This original building served as Kell School until it was replaced by a frame building in 1920.  The frame building served the school district through 1934 when a new brick structure (pictured at the top of this page) was built.  This structure serves as the Kell Gade School building (with a few addtions) to this day.  The original Old Hickory School building has stood the test of time, believed to be functoning as a family home even today.

Kell School District established a high school in 1925.  The high school was originally established in the old Hickory Hill School building which had been replaced as a school just 5 years earlier.  The high school enrollment increased and quickly out-grew the old building.  A new location was sought and landed in the John Caldwell Store building in the center of Kell.  The building was remodeled to include two classrooms and a library.  Further increases in enrollment led to an additional classroom being rented from the Kell State Bank.  A gymnasium was made when townspeople converted a wagon and buggy shop owned by Henry Moehlman into a gymnasium.

Kell Grade School Front 2015
A picture containing text, grass, sky, outdoor

Description automatically generated
Left Click on Photo for Larger View
Kell Grad School Rear View 2015
A picture containing grass, outdoor

Description automatically generated

A new, brick school building was built to house Kell High School in 1934.  The structure was a two-room facility with a gymnasium. Kell High School began as a two-year high school in the fall of 1925.  The fall of 1926 saw the addition of a third-year of high school offered.  The three-year high school in Kell operated for twenty years.  The school was absorbed into the Salem High School District in 1945.

The former Kell High School building, pictured on this page (photos by Jamie Driskill), still serves as the Kell Grade School building.

Kell High School Quick Facts

Year opened as 2-year HS:       1925

Year 3rd year added:                1926

Year Kell HS closed:                1945

Consolidated to:                       Salem High School

Kell HS team nickname:            unavailable

Kell HS team colors:                 unavailable

School Fight Song:                   unavailable

Kell High School Bldg. – now Kell Grade School
A picture containing building, outdoor, brick

Description automatically generated
Courtesy of Jamie Driskill


We know that Kell High School offered boys basketball, competing with other schools in the area and in the IHSA State Tournament.  We believe it is possible that track and baseball were also a part of the sports program at Kell High.  School team nicknmae, uniform colors, fight song, coach’s names, team records, and other items would be a welcome addition to the Kell High School page.

Boys Basketball

We know that the first game played in Moehlman’s wagon and buggy shop building resulted in a loss for the hometown boys. Wealso located some scores from the IHSA State Tournament involving Kell High School on a website titled “Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores.” These scores are p[osted below.

Season records and coaches’ names are needed for all Kell High School baskertball seasons.  If you have any information to share on the Kell High School basketball program, please do not hesitate to send us a note.

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

1st Rd Lost to Nashville 24-22

Nashville lost in 2nd Rd.

1934-35                Ashley District Tournament                      Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Lost to Carlyle 40-29

Carlyle lost in semi-final round.

1935-36                Wayne City District Tournament              Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Lost to Wayne City 32-16

Wayne City lost lost in 2nd Rd.

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

1937-38  Post season scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

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

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

1940-41  Post season scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

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

1942-43  Post season scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

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

1944-45  Post season scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1944-45 was the last year that Kell High School was open.

Extra-Curricular Activities

We can imagine that the kids from Kell had a very active time at Kell High School.  Dances, chorus, band, plays, and clubs were all likely a part of the KHS experience.

Principals of Kell High School

1926-32    Thelma Farthing

1932-33    Mary Peace, Clyde Smith

1933-34    Mary Peace, J.J. Dean

1934-35    Mary Peace, Willard Campbell

1936-38    Mary Peace

1938-40    Polly Peterson

1940-42    Lulu Jean Morton

1942-43    Mr. Hemphill (1/2 semester)

1942-43    William (Bill) J. Purdue & Joyce Purdue

1943-45    Nelly Jo Soger

Teachers of Kell High School

1925-26    Kenneth Blair

1926-27    Kenneth Blair

1927-33    J. Alfred Purdue

1933-35    Clyde Smith

1935-36    Willard Campbell

1936-38    W.L. Robinson

1938-44    Earl Purdue

1944-45    Donald Copple

Seeking Further Information

If you have any information regarding the former Kell High School system please contact us via e-mail at  You may write to us via U.S. Postal Service at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago,  Il.  60631

Kell Village Hall 2015
A picture containing grass, outdoor, tree, sky

Description automatically generated

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: