Onarga Military Academy High School “Yellowjackets” & “Spartans”

Onarga Military Academy Buildings 2010
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Photo Taken By James Horaz
Onarga Military Academy High School
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Onarga, Illinois

The History of Onarga Military Academy High School

Onarga (population 1,438) is located in upper eastern Illinois in west-central Iroquois County. U.S. Route 45 intersects with Illinois Route 54 in Onarga.  Interstate Highway 57 lies just to the west of town and has exit ramps leading to Route 54.  The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad runs through Onarga as well.  Onarga lies about 30 miles southwest of Kankakee.  Onarga was being settled in the early 1800s and became incorporated as a town in llinois in 1853.

A phenomenal website dedicated to the Onarga Military School can be found at http://www.onargamilitaryschool.com/history.html . The Onarga Military School was officially established in 1917.  Prior to 1917 the school was known as the Grand Prairie Seminary.  The Grand Prairie Seminary was a co-educational private “preparatory” school. According to a 1950s Onarga Military School catelog found on the website address of www.cadetweb.net/pdf/onarga.pdf, there was a trend to make private schools exclusively boys or girls in the early 1910s.  The Board of Trustees met in 1917 and made the utltimate decision to make Grand Prairie Seminary an all-boys Military School.

Onarga Military Academy Sign 2010
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Courtesy of James Horaz

Onarga Military School was for boys entering fifth grade through senior year in high school.  It was a boarding school where the students lived on campus.  The tuition was quite expensive. If you wanted to send your son to Onarga Military School in the early 1950s, your base tuition would have been $1,485. With added expenses for washing his clothes ($1.60 per week), and charges for luxuries such as having a radio in his room ($.50 a week) it would cost about $1,600 a year for a child to attend OMS.  This may not seem like much until you account for inflation.  When you convert $1,600 from 1953 to 2005 the comparable cost today would be a little over $11,000 per year. However, as the catalog states, “The cost of Onarga Training is not an expense; it is a sound Investment that pays a lifetime of dividends to the boy”.

OMS was not called a “Military School” for no reason. It was run by a United State Army Brigadier General J.E. Bittinger from 1917 to 1942. There was also no doubt it was a military school judging by the daily schedule.  “Reveille” at 6:15 a.m., exercises at 6:40 a.m., and breakfast at 6:50 a.m.  The rest of the day was filled with structure  up until the playing of taps at 10:00 p.m.

The Buildings of Onarga Military Academy 2010
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Provided by James Horaz

The Onarga Military School stayed in operation until the very early 1970s.  It seems the anti-war sentiment and rising costs got the better of OMS.  The exact year is not available, but we believe Onarga Military School closed her doors in 1970.

Onarga Military School Quick Facts

Year all-boys military school established: 1917

Year school closed:                                1970?

School nickname:                                   the “Yellowjackets” (through 1961-1962);

“Spartans” (from 1962-1963 through 1969-1970)

School colors:                                        Purple and Gold

School Fight Song:                                 “On Onarga” to the tune of “On Wisconsin”

Onarga Military School
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As the information under the photo above states, Onarga Military School was an excellent facility not only for learning, but also for participating in “sports”. The following sports were in fact offered at the school in the early 1950s:



Cross Country
Track & Field

The football team competed in the Wauseca Conference with “five other public schools”. Basketball and track were probably also a part of the Wauseca Conference but at this time we have not verified that. There is an excellent season by season record of the basketball program from the 1940s through 1970. One athlete also won a medal from the State Track Meet. The school took its athletics very seriously and made it a part of the cadet’s everyday life.

Boys Basketball

The Onarga Military School Cadets had some real nice seasons in their time.

1942-43                                                                Capt. C.H. Ludwick

1943-44                                                                 (unknown)

1944-45     1 – 16                                                   Capt. Keith Clark

1945-46   17 – 5                                                     Capt. Keith Clark

1946-47   17 – 9                                                     Capt. Keith Clark

1947-48   19 – 9      Regional Champions              Capt. Keith Clark

1948-49   13 – 10                                                   Capt. Keith Clark

1949-50     5 – 14                                                   Capt. Gordon L. Fisher

1950-51     6 – 14                                                   Capt. Gordon L. Fisher

1951-52   14 – 8

1952-53                                                                Capt. George Zarcoff

1953-54   11 – 12                                                   Capt. George Zarcoff

1954-55                                                                Capt. Bill Eskridge

1955-56                                                                Capt. Bill Eskridge

1956-57                                                                Coach Bob Avery

1957-58                                                                Coach Bob Avery

1958-59                                                                Coach Bob Avery

1959-60                                                                Capt. Julius Corrubia

1960-61                                                                Capt. Bill Eskridge

1961-62                                                                Coach Loren Getz

1962-63                                                                Capt. Robert J. McCoy

1963-64                                                                Capt. Robert J. McCoy

1964-65                                                                Capt. Robert J. McCoy

1965-66                                                                Capt. Martin A. Alendoff

1966-67                                                                Coach Lawrence Gordon

1967-68                                                                Coach Jerry Rees

1968-69                                                                Coach A.J. Lundberg

1969-70              Last season listed

Boys Track & Field

One Onarga Military School thinclad carried the banner for the school’s track team. In 1948 Lawton Lamb was STATE CHAMPION of ALL SCHOOLS in Illinois when he won the 1 Mile Run in the old one-class system!!

1947-48        Lawton Lamb      1 Mile Run      STATE CHAMPION!!


Some of the better Onarga Military HS football records are listed below. Thank you to Tom Sikorski for his research.

1951     4 – 3        2nd place (tie) Wauseca Conference

1956     5 – 2        3rd place Vermillion Valley Conference         Coach Bill Eskridge

1957     5 – 2        2nd place (tie) VV Conference                     Coach Bill Eskridge

1958     7 – 0        Vermillion Valley Conference Champs    Coach Bill Eskridge

1959     1 – 2 – 3   (Yes – 3 ties!)                                              Coach Bill Eskridge

Onarga Military last fielded a football team in 1968.

Seeking More Information

If you have any further information regarding Onarga Military School and its athletic program please write to us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net..  You can also write to us via real mail at

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il        60631

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