Mt. Sterling St. Mary’s Academy H.S. “Eagles”

St. Mary’s High School 1908 – 1969
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Mt. Sterling, Illinois

The History of Mt. Sterling St. Mary High School

Mt. Sterling (population 2,070) is located in western Illinois about 30 miles east of Quincy.  It is the county seat of Brown County and is situated in the center of the county as well.  U.S. Route 24 is the main roadway through town.  Illinois Route 99 and Route 107 also travel through Mt. Sterling.  The West Creek flows by the north side of Mt. Sterling.  Though railroads had a lot to do with the town’s early growth, it does not appear ( that Mt. Sterling has a railroad traveling through it today.

According to the Illinois Trails website ( this history of Mt. Sterling was found in a book titled the “Historic Encyclopedia of Illinois” (1901):

“MOUNT STERLING, a city, the county-seat of Brown County, midway between Quincy and Jacksonville, on the Wabash Railway. It is surrounded by a rich farming country, and has extensive deposits of clay and coal. It contains six churches and four schools (two large public, and two parochial). The town is lighted by electricity and has public, water-works. Wagons, brick, tile and earthenware are manufactured here, and three weekly newspapers are published.”

It was obvious to those of the early 1900s that Mt. Sterling was a fast-growing town.  Two high schools were in place.  The public high school, Mt. Sterling High School, was established in the late 1800s.  We believe that St. Mary Catholic High School (also known as St. Mary’s Academy), was also established near the same time, in the late 1800s. St. Mary High School opened in 1908 and served Mt. Sterling and the surrounding area for over six decades.  It was in 1969 that St. Mary High School was closed.

A more detailed history of St. Mary’s Academy High School in Mt. Sterling was offered to us by Carl Orr and Phil Shadid (Excerpts taken from the Quincy nespaper “The Herald Whig” from their edition of May 25, 1969, no by-line.  Much of the Historical information came from three sources: retired teachers Florentine Cronin and Francis Langan, and James Ray.)


St. Mary’s came into existence in 1864, when a one-room school, known as “The Little Red Brick” was built.  One teacher taught all eight grades. In 1874, another room was built and a second teacher was employed. The Dominican Sisters of Springfield were invited to take charge of the school in 1883.

Instrumental in the construction of the present two-story brick building was Reverend William Hefferman, who was assigned to Mt. Sterling in 1907. Ground was broken on March 17, 1908.  Two months later, the cornerstone was laid and during the summer, men of the parish donated their services to assist contractors.  The academy was dedicated on September 20, 1908. In September of 1909 the first high school class was organized, with a 3-year course offered. That class graduated in 1912, the same year the school expanded to include a 4-year course.  The first 4-year high school class graduated in 1916.

At the time of its closing as a high school, St. Mary’s had 54 students in grades 9-12, who took classes on the second floor.  Grades K-8 occupied the first floor, with 155 students.  (In 2007, grades pre-K to 8, had 70 students.)  The peak high school enrollment was never more than 74 students.

The high school closed because the Dominican Sisters withdrew from teaching due to ever decreasing nuns in the Order. Continuing with lay teachers would have been impractical and financially prohibitive.  And because St. Mary’s had shared time with Mt. Sterling’s Brown County High School students in science, driver education and home economics, the transition to the public school would prove less traumatic.

The 59th, and last, graduation took place on June 1, 1969.  The class consisted of 6 boys and 10 girls:  Ron Lenover, John Veith, Pay Boylen, Dave Hendricks, Dan Follis, Dan Salrin, Julie Veith, Jane Salrin, Rose Marie Salrin, Patty Cronin, Peggy Cronin, Linda Koch, Chris Cameron, Frances Henninger, Janet Busen, Jeanette Langan.

Nine Dominicans served as principals during the school’s lifetime:  SISTERS Mary Sebastian, Vincent, Anaclete, Eulalia, VIctor, Norberta, Edna, Vincent de Paul, and Mary Mercita (the last principal of the high school).


We thank the school secretary of te St. Mary’s Grade School for additional information,—September 2007.”

Nice work Phil and Carl!!      

St. Mary Catholic Grade School still serves Mt. Sterling as a K – 8th grade facility.

St. Mary High School Quick Facts

Year opened as one-room school for grades  1 – 8: 1864

Year current building constructed:                         1908

Year opened as three-year high school:                 1909

Year opened as four-year high school:                   1912

Year high school portion closed:                           1969

School team nickname:                                        the “Eagles”

Team colors:                                                       Blue & Gold

School Fight Song:                                              “Cheer, Cheer for Our SMA”

                                                                                        University of Notre Dame Fight Song Tune

                                                                                                   Submitted by Phil Shadid

                                   Cheer, cheer for our SMA,
Wake up the echoes cheering her name!

Send the roaring cheers on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky!

What though the odds be great or small,
Our SMA will win over all.

While our loyal team is marching
Onward to Victory!  Rah! Rah!


St. Mary High School definitely competed in boys basketball.  However this is the only mention of St. Mary High School athletics found on the IHSA website  We are confident that baseball and track, possibly even football, were offered at one time.  School team colors and fight song are being sought.

Boys Basketball

The St. Mary High School boys basketball team won two District titles during their existence.  The titles came in bacl to back seasons in 1965 and 1966. Unfortunately this is all of the information we currently have available.  Team records and coaches names of these and other great St. Mary High School basketball teams are not available at this time.

1964-65    12 – 9           District Champions        Coach Bob Wutz

                             (Leading scorer Joe Geisler 21.6 ppg)

1965-66    10 – 12         District Champions        Coach Don Snyder

                             (Leading scorer Joe Geisler 17.1 ppg)

1966-67    11 – 12                                               Coach Robert Strange

1967-68      2 – 21                                               Coach Taylor Rensch

1968-69      3 – 18    (School’s Final Season)         Coach Phil Snowden 

Interesting Basketball Facts

From our devoted fan, Phil Shadid, and Carl Orr:

*Because of limited funds, St. Mary’s recruited student seniors from Quincy College year after year to coach the basketball team on a one-year basis.

*Last win for St. Mary’s Eagles in basketball:  Feb. 11, 1969 St. Mary’s 59, Plymouth 44 (Scoring for St. Mary’s : Dan Follis 21, Glen Ebbing 11, Ron Lenover 10, Pat Boylen 9, Bill Kleinlein 5, Andy Follis 2, Dave Hendricks 1)

*Last game played in basketball:  Feb. 25, 1969 Chapin Triopia 69, St. Mary’s 20 (Meredosia District Tourney) (Scoring for St. Mary’s : Dan Follis 5, Glenn Ebing 5, Pat Boylen 5, Ron Lenover 2, Bill Kleinlein 2, Dave Hendricks 1).

St. Mary’s High School Tidbits

**More from our good fan, Phil Shadid:

Enrollment for 1964-65: 58.  Eleven seniors graduated on June 1, 1965.

Enrollment for 1965-66: 68.  Fifteen seniors graduated on May 29, 1966.

**From Dan Cronin:

“Regarding the twin sisters in the final graduating class of Mt. Sterling Academy High School, Patricia and Peggy Cronin, thier aunt, Florentine Cronin, was in the first graduating class. Father Marley was their mother’s uncle.”

We Need Your Assistance

Help us to properly remember the history and accomplishments achieved by those who made St. Mary High School of Mt. Sterling a success for so many years.  If you have any information you would like to share please contact us via e-mail at or write to us via real mail at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago,  Il.  60631      

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