Ottawa Catholic High School “Crusaders”

Ottawa Catholic High School
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Credit: Marquette High School

                              The History of Ottawa Catholic High School

Ottawa (population 18,307) is located in central LaSalle County in north-central Illinois. Ottawa serves as the LaSalle County seat and was established in 1837.  The city is rich in history, including being the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858. It is also home of the locally famous Reddick Mansion, formerly owned by sheriff and state politician William Reddick.

Two major waterways, the Illinois and Fox Rivers, join forces in the heart of the town. Two railroad lines, the CRI & P and the AT & SF, also intersect in town. Major roadways connecting Ottawa to Illinois in every direction include Interstate Highway 80, U.S. Route 6, and Illinois Routes 23 and 71.

Ottawa Catholic High School was created in the fall of 1946 upon a papal decree by Pope Pius XII to Peoria Diocese Bishop Joseph Schlarman. The school was formerly the home of the all-girls’ St. Xavier Academy and began to admit boys one class at a time while the girls who remained from St. Xavier continued their studies at Ottawa Catholic until the school would become a co-ed, four-year institution.

The Sisters of Mercy had to have the St. Xavier building remodeled so that the school could accomodate both genders in the building, and also made plans to add a wing to the school that included six classrooms, a cafeteria, combination gymnasium-auditorium, and the athletic director’s office. That addition would not be completed until sometime in 1950.

Ottawa Catholic’s history is a short one, due to the fact that it bridged St. Xavier Academy to the current-day Marquette High School, which opened as a four-year co-ed school in the fall of 1949 with students who had attended OCHS for the majority of their high school careers.

Ottawa Catholic Class of 1948
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Credit: Ottawa Times

Year opened:               1946

Year closed:                1949

Known today as:          Marquette High School

School colors:              Blue & Gold

School nickname:         Crusaders


Ottawa Catholic offered football, basketball, and baseball to its up-and-coming male athletes, doing so in order to build consistancy and the programs as they started to play varsity sports.


The Crusaders played their home games in the Ottawa Armory, next to Ottawa High School along the Fox & Illinois Rivers. As freshmen, they went 12-8 for coach Rev. Richard Raney, including victories over Grand Ridge High School’s varsity. The program built up to sophomore and freshmen teams the next school year, then offered varsity hoops in 1948-49. The Crusaders wound up 3-21 for Coach Dick Taylor in that first varsity season.


Ottawa Catholic did not organize its first team until 1947, going 5-2 as a frosh-soph team only. The next year, Coach Dick Taylor’s Crusader varsity went 4-3-1 overall in a schedule that saw them take on varsity and varsity “B” or junior varsity teams.

In one game during the 1948 season, Ottawa Catholic tied Bloomington Trinity at 20-all, as halfback Bob Bongartz ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns. The single-game rushing total was the highest in OCHS/Marquette history until 1984.


The Crusaders did compete on the diamond during the spring for Coach Dick Taylor, compliing a 3-6 record in the spring of 1949.


A number of students who attended Ottawa Catholic went onto successful careers and have been honored by the alumni association as members of the St. Xavier/Ottawa Catholic/Marquette Alumni Hall of Fame and/or have been inducted in the school’s John Pocivasek Athletic Hall of Fame for their athletic endeavors. Among those that have received these honors:

–Bob Bongartz, MHS class of 1950, attended OCHS all three years. Bongartz stood out as OCHS’ most versatile athlete, playing halfback in football, forward in basketball, and pitcher-infielder in baseball. Bob has been inducted in the athletic hall of fame individually as well as a member of the 1949 MHS varsity football team.

–Robert E. (Bob) McGrath, MHS class of 1950, attended OCHS all three years. Was involved in football and music at OCHS. After his graduation, Bob attended the University of Michigan where he graduated from that institution’s School of Music in 1954, and later wound up gaining acclaim with The Mitch Miller Singers, plus has been involved with the childrens’ program Sesame Street from its opening season (1969), thus having been the longest-lasting human character on the PBS series program.

–F. M. (Mike) Scherer, MHS class of 1950, attended OCHS all three years. Just like McGrath, he attended the University of Michigan and made his mark as a industrial economist and author, graduating with high honors at Michigan in 1954 with an A.B. degree, following that up with an M.B.A. with high honors from Harvard in 1958, then his Ph.D in business economics from Harvard in 1963. Scherer is professor emeritus of public policy and corporate management in the Aetna Chair at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and served as chief economist for the Federal Trade Commission from 1974-76.

Glen (Joe) Dougherty, MHS class of 1952, attended OCHS as a freshman. After graduation, he made his mark as a civil servant and volunteer, including the head of the LaSalle County Board. Dougherty has also been inducted into the athletic hall of fame at the school as a member of the first MHS varsity football team in 1949, and set a record for longest run from scrimmage (96 yards) against Chebanse in 1951.

–Gerald (Jerry) McGinnis, MHS class of 1952, attended OCHS as a freshman. He majored in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois, and later received his Master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Following employment with Westinghouse Electric & Alleghany General Hospital in the Pittsburgh area, he formed Lanz Medical Products and then Respironics in 1976, which helps people to breathe better. He remains involved with Respironics as its Chairman of the Board and Advanced Technology Officer.


We certainly welcome your submissions to our site about Ottawa Catholic High School. Whether it be athletic-related, academics, memories, or a photo, we’ll be glad to accept it. Please contact us at or by clicking here to complete the Guest Commentary form. You can also send your information to us by mail to the following address:

Illinois High School Glory Days

6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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