The History of New Milford High School
New Milford, population 550, is located along IL 251 (formerly US 51) south of the great northern Illinois city of Rockford. According to the Rockford website address of http://www.rockfordillinois.com/chron.htm, New Milford was settled in 1835. It continued as an independent township in Winnebago County until May 1, 1916 when it was decided to consolidate Rockford and New Milford townships.
The first school opened in 1850 as a stone structure. In April of 1914, country schools consolidated to form New Milford Community District 123. Sixteen high school students enrolled at New Milford High School that year. The history of high school education at the New Milford School best tells that it was doomed from the start.
Camp Grant was a U.S. Military Base located west of New Milford. When the Great War (World War I) broke out, the Federal acquisition of Camp Grant cut New Milford’s tax revenue and eventually forced the school to educate Camp Grant’s children. The school had a four-year high school curriculum until 1919, when it was reduced to three years. At one time it was even thought that the Camp would overrun the town and dissolve it. The financial difficulties carried on as a fire would destroy the building in 1936. After being relocated at the Camp for 1936-37, a new school was built. The camp permanently closed at the end of World War II.
From 1919 to 1940, students attended their fourth year of high school at Rockford High School. After 1940, students attended Rockford East High School.
New Milford was featured in a 1920 Illinois schools journal. The following facts about the school were furnished:
No. of districts consolidated: 3
Square miles: 4
Assessed valuation: $280,000
Cost of house: $8,000
Annual tax levy: $6,380
Tax rate: 1.71
Annual tax levy before: $1,530
Teachers now: 4
Teachers before: 3
Enrollment now: 90
Enrollment before: 63
Enrollment in grade school: 73
Enrollment in high school: 18
No. studying agriculture: 8
Aid from vocational fund: No
Public conveyance: No
Years of high school course: 3
Months in year: 9
Principal J.N. Donges commented on the school:
“Just now the district is working under a great burden which has necessiated some changes in the system. In 1917 an army cantonment was built near the district and gradually extended its territory into now over one-half of the consolidated district has been bought by the United States Government. There seems to be no law requiring the Government to share the indebtness of the part bought and as a result the payment of the entire bond has been thrown upon the remaining part of the district. This has made a cut in expenses necessary and the high school course has been cut to a three-year recognized instead of a four year as was the case before.
The taking away of the advantages of a four year high school in this community after once having had them has brought the people to realize more fully that ever before just what consolidation means to the small country community. Efforts are being made now to bring more outlying districts into the consolidation and thus to make it possible to build up to a four-year high school again. This will no doubt be accomplished at no far distant date and the citizens of this community look forward to the realization of that aim with real interest.”
Not too long after Camp Grant closed, the New Milford high-school-aged students were sent to Rockford East High School to continue their education after the eighth grade. New Milford students who are high school aged now attend Thomas Jefferson High School within the Rockford city limits.
The 1937 building is still standing. Located west of town on New Milford School Road, it served as part of Rockford Public School District 205 as an elementary school but will be closed as a school after the 2011-12 school year.
From Roberta VanBriesen:
“New Milford grade school is being closed. This building was also the high school. New Milford was one of the best performing schools in the Rockford school district.”
New Milford High School Quick Facts:
Year opened: 1914
Year closed: late 1940s
Consolidated to: Rockford School District