The History of Mechanicsburg High School
The village of Mechanicsburg, Illinois, is located on a Sangamon county road, about 14 miles east of downtown Springfield, and three miles south and east of Exit 114, Interstate 72. The population in the 2000 census was 456.
Mechanicsburg was founded in 1832 and was named by William Pickrell who surveyed and platted the lots and offered them to any “mechanic” who would build a dwelling on the lot. A mechanic in those days probably referred to a blacksmith or someone who could repair wagons (a wheelwright).
A series of private schools were occupied beginning in 1836 until 1862. The last private school was sold at auction and became the property of the Mechanicsburg school district in 1862. Grades 1 through 8 were taught from that time and in 1887 a 3-year high school course was offered. The current building (sold to private individuals and is still used as an apartment house in 2007) was constructed in 1899. High school students remained in the building through the 1938 school year; lower grades continued until 1969.
The high schools of Mechanicsburg, Buffalo and Dawson merged in September 1937 to become the Tri-City High School District #215 (apparently the very first consolidation in Illinois history). The favorable vote to consolidate was: Mechanicsburg 26-2, Dawson 94-10, Buffalo (with Buffalo Hart and Lanesville)165-38. Mechanicsburg was always a 3-year high school, and if students wished to complete their fourth year they would have to attend either Illiopolis or Springfield High.
With the consolidation taking place in 1937, students from the three towns continued to attend school in their own building. The sports teams (basketball and baseball) played under the new name, Tri-City “Tornadoes,” with all home basketball games taking place in the Dawson gymnasium. In September 1938, the new high school and gym were completed in Buffalo and 145 high school students transferred to the 4-year school.
In 1948 the Tri-City Community Unit School District #1 was formed, which included all grade schools and saw the closing of all one-room country schoolhouses.
The principal and superintendent of the high school and district, A. Louis Oder, served in that capacity until his retirement in 1957. Mr. Oder had also been principal at Dawson, as well as coach of the first Tri-City teams. His wife, Louise Nicholson Oder, was a long-time teacher in the district.
MECHANICSBURG HIGH SCHOOL QUICK FACTS
Opened as Grade school: 1862
3-year high school began: 1887
New building constructed: 1899
Last time as stand-alone high school: May 1937
Merged to become part of Tri-City HS: Sept. 1937
HS students first attend Tri-City in Buffalo: Sept. 1938
Grade school closed: May 1969
Team nickname: unknown
School colors: Red & Blue
School song: unknown
We know that the Mechanicsburg High School boys competed in basketball. It is likely that other sports such as track nad baseball were offered as well. We are in search of the school’s team nickname, fight song, season records, and coach’s names as well as any individual accomplishments.
BASKETBALL: (compiled by Phil Shadid)
YEAR WON-LOST COACH
1926-27 4 – 15 Albert Hanes
1927-28 2 – 11 Albert Hanes
1928-29 8 – 6 Albert Hanes
1929-30 1 – 12 Albert Hanes
1930-31 4 – 9 O. D. Gabel
1931-32 4 – 12 O. D. Gabel
1932-33 3 – 12 O. D. Gabel
1933-34 16 – 5 O. D. Gabel
1934-35 Did Not Play
1935-36 Did Not Play
1936-37 2 – 11 Paul Sullivan
Researching the basketball teams showed a competitive season, 1936-37, which was also the last year Mechanicsburg existed on its own. The newspapers of the day did not always report scores of 3-year high schools, so the records for prior years are incomplete. 1936-37 was the first time in three years that Mechanicsburg fielded a team.
The 1933-34 team had an outstanding record, finishing in a tie for the Sangamon County Conference (later known as the Sangamo Conference) title with Chatham, both with 11-1 marks. Mechanicsburg won 14 of its first 15 games, losing only to Chatham during that stretch. They beat Riverton twice, routed Dawson two times, and easily defeated Buffalo twice, Loami twice, as well as three wins over Rochester, one a 51-11 victory.
Coach Gabel’s squad did not fare as well in the annual conference tournament, losing 3 out of 5 games and placing fourth (Chatham won the title). They made up for their poor showing in the tourney by beating Chatham a week later, 20-19, to tie for the conference championship. Edward Schultz, Ernest Lamkey, Larue Sauers and James Grooms led the team in scoring for the season.
However, five other players saw some action during the season (that’s 9 boys out of only 15 in the school): Goben, Fowler, Schelp, Coe, Dawley (first names not known). A loss to Farmersville in the Springfield District tournament on March 8, 1934, closed out the season. The coach used all 9 players in the game, possibly believing that it might be the last game ever played by the school.
1933-34 SANGAMON COUNTY CONFERENCE FINAL STANDINGS:
Mechanicsburg 11-1, Chatham 11-1, Riverton 7-5, Buffalo 5-7, Loami 5-7, Rochester 2-10, Dawson 1-11.
Mechanicsburg did not play basketball in the 1934-35 and 1935-36 seasons, more than likely because of being a very small school and suffering from a lack of funds. During the Great Depression money was very tight, causing administrators to look anywhere to save money; therefore, extra-curricular activities were the first to be cut.
Coach Sullivan’s 1936-37 squad was competitive but not very successful. A two season layoff probably didn’t help. They played in the Sangamo Conference, consisting of six teams, five of which were 3-year high schools. The exception was Buffalo which had 7 seniors in 1936-37. Mechanicsburg played its home games in the Dawson gym.
1936-37 SANGAMO STANDINGS, ENROLLMENTS & FATE OF 3-YR SCHOOLS:
Dawson……9-1. 34 students; merged w/M’burg & Buffalo to form Tri-City, Sept. 1937.
Riverton….9-1. 95; became 4-year school in September 1937.
Loami…….5-5. 40; consolidated with New Berlin,Sept.1948
Buffalo…..3-7. 47; consolidated with Mechanicsburg & Dawson to become Tri-City.
Mech’burg…..2-8. 31; same as Buffalo & Dawson.
Chatham…..2-8. 44; merged w/Ball Township to form Ball-Chatham district, Sept. 1948.
Mechanicsburg’s two victories occurred back-to-back during the regular season as they defeated Chatham 18-17 on Jan. 20, 1937, and then beat Buffalo 23-20 on Jan. 29. The team lost to Girard in the first game of the (Glenarm) Ball Township postseason District tournament on Feb. 25 to close out their final campaign.
Eight players saw action at some point during the season: Stanley Ketchum, Byron Turley, Robert Elliott, Ora Marshall, Virgil Leach, George Turley, Charles Pfeiffer and Robert Coe. Individual records showed Marshall and Ketchum as a 1-2 scoring punch.
Three starters for Mechanicsburg for the 1936-37 season also played on the very first Tri-City consolidated team of 1937-38: Ketchum, B. Turley and Elliott. That team, coached by Louis Oder, also had two players from Buffalo and five from Dawson. (Tri-City played its home games in the Dawson gym.) The “Tornadoes” had a 21-9 record, won the Niantic District, were runnersup in the Regional to the host school Decatur and lost their first game in the Decatur Sectional to Monticello. (The runnerup in the Regional also went to the Sectional as per IHSAA rules in place at the time.)
Coach Oder, who was bringing three groups of players together who were rivals on the court the previous year, decided that no one would have to give up their jersey number to another player. He assigned new numbers to the first Tri-City team: 68, 86, 89, 98, etc.
The Mechanicsburg boys, Robert Elliott and Stanley Ketchum saw much action for Tri-City in its first season, 1937-38, with Ketchum starting most games and Elliott the first substitute off the bench. Byron Turley also contributed.
Phil Shadid uncovered this bit of information on girls basketball at Mechanicsburg High as well as a little history of the sport from the IHSA:
“Research has discovered that Mechanicsburg High School had a girls basketball team which played in the Sangamon County Conference for at least two years. They competed against Chatham, Dawson, Riverton and Rochester girls’ teams in the 1926-27 and 1927-28 seasons. Their games would precede the boys’ games and were well attended. However, newspapers of the day did not always report game scores for the girls. The coach of the girls team was EMILY FULLENWIDER, a long-time teacher and assistant principal at Mechanicsburg. She was the only female coach in the Sangamon County Conference. Miss Fullenwider had been a very good athlete for MHS.
In the 1928 SCC tournament on March 2, they lost in the semi-finals to Riverton 18-9, and then beat Rochester for third place, 21-5. Grooms, Ostermeyer, Russell, Bell, Noel, Guernsey and Waddell (first names unknown) competed for Mechanicsburg.
In late 1927, the Illinois High School Athletic Association sent a strong letter reminding member schools that its (IHSAA) bylaws did not allow girls teams to participate in athletic events against other schools. The rule, in effect since 1908, only allowed for intramural sports for girls. Apparently the organization thought school-to-school events would prove to be “too rough and unladylike.“ Source: article by Scott Johnson of the IHSA. The rule would not be lifted until the 1970s. Mechanicsburg did not field a girls team after 1928.”
OTHER SPORTS WERE OFFERED at Mechanicsburg, but we have no further information.
Much of the information was found in microfilm records of the Springfield Illinois State Journal and Register, and the Buffalo Tri-City Register, available at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. A history of the town was found on the Village of Mechanicsburg website, as well as in the Sangamon Valley Collection of Springfield’s Lincoln Library.
EXCELLENT JOB ALSO TO PHIL SHADID!! Phil conducted the entire research for this page, including snapping the photo of the former high school building above!