The History of Mills Prairie High School
Mill Shoals (population 235) is located in northwestern Wayne County in the far southeastern portion of Illinois. Mt. Vernon is located about 25 miles northwest of Mill Shoals. U.S. Route 45 is the main roadway through town and connects it to Interstate Highway 64 just one mile to the north. The Prairie Trunk Railroad travels through town. A branch of the Skillet Fork creek flows to the west of town. The town was platted in the mid 1850s.
Burnt Prairie (population 58) is located in southeastern Illinois in northwestern White County. In terms of town size Burnt Prairie is #1,297 out 1,313 Illinois towns. It is actually the 14th smallest incorporated town in Illinois when you consider “ties”. The main road through town is White County Highway 20. Interstate Highway 64 sits just north of Burnt Prairie and U.S. Route 45 runs just 4 miles to the west.
The history of Mills Prairie school system is in need of research. High schools were probably established in both Burnt Prairie and Mill Shoals in the late 1800s. Our guess is that the two towns agreed to merge their educational efforts in the late 1940s, possibly 1948. A high school was built midway between the two towns in a country setting.
We know that Mills Prairie High School existed at least through 1971, the last year the high school boys basketball team won a District title. We are told by the very last Mills Prairie student to receive a diploma from the school, William Winters, that Mills Prairie High School closed its doors after the 1976-77 school year.
The children of Mill Shoals and Burnt Prairie now attend school in nearby Fairfield.
The fate of the Mills Prairie High School building is a good one, as told to us by Dixi Blackford.
“My family currently owns the Mills Prairie High School building. My husband, Rod Blackford, still has many of the yearly class pictures still framed. Until a few months ago we also had many trophies but the school was vandalized and all metal, including trophies and plumbing, were stolen.
Rod’s grandmother was on the school board to build the school and can get much information for your web page. His father, Kenneth Blackford, attended school here and purchased it around 1987-88. We are currently remodeling the school to live in and also open up an organic grocery store and restaurant. The school has been used by our family for flea markets, antique store, restaurant, political rallies and dances.”
Mills Prairie High School Quick Facts
Year opened: 1948?
Year closed: 1977
Consolidated to: Fairfield High School
Mills Prairie HS team nickname: the “Panthers”
MPHS team colors: Blue & Gold
School Fight Song: “We’re Loyal to You, Mills Prairie”
We’re loyal to you, Mills Prairie High.
We’re gold and we’re blue, Mills Prairie High.
We’ll back you to stand against the best in the land
For we know that you can, Mills Prairie High.
So crack out that ball, Mills Prairie High.
We’re backing you all, Mills Prairie High.
Our team is our fame protector. On, boys,
For we expect a victory from you, Mills Prairie High!