The History of Onarga High School
Onarga (population 1,438) is located in upper eastern Illinois in west-central Iroquois County. U.S. Route 45 cuts nicely through Onarga and meets up with Illinois Route 54. Interstate Highway 57 lies to the west of town and has exit ramps leading to Route 54. The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad lays some tracks through Onarga as well. Onarga lies about 30 miles southwest of Kankakee. Onarga was being settled in the early 1800’s and became incorporated as a town in llinois in 1853. In the early 1860’s, Onarga had a population of 273.
The history of the educational opportunities for the kids of Onarga is long and very storied. The first school building was a wooden structure construted in 1858. The growing town realized the need for a larger structure and constructed a brick school building in 1867. The growing student population forced the addition of rooms to the building in 1872. This original building served Onarga for many years until its replacement by a newer building in the 1920’s (pictured above).
The original building of 1867 (listed at the very top of the page) still survives in Onarga and is used as a private residence. According to class of 1968 Onarga graduate Gloria Scott, this building used for a grade school (grades one thru five) after the high school moved out in the 1920’s, which remained that way until the 1980’s
Onarga residents supported their own high school until the early 1980’s, when in 1983, the residents of Onarga, Gilman, and Danforth agreed to pool their resources. Their consolidation effort led to the creation of the Iroquois West School District. The high school for the new school district was located in Gilman.
The Onarga school building from the 1920’s (pictured at the top of the page) is now used as a junior high school for the Iroquois West School District.
Onarga High School Quick Facts
Year 1st school opened: 1858
Year 1st brick bldg. built: 1867
Year 2nd brick bldg. built: 1920’s
Year HS closed: 1983
Onarga HS nickname: Indians
Onarga HS colors: Maroon & White
School Fight Song: “On Onarga” (sung to the tune of “On Wisconsin”)