Nelson High School

Nelson School


Nelson, Illinois

Overhead Railroad Silo


Nelson, Illinois

The History of Nelson High School


Nelson (population 170) is located on an important railroad intersection of the former Chicago and Northwestern Railroad tracks (now Union Pacific) in western Lee County. The east-west tracks are those of the “Overland Route” between Chicago and San Francisco and the tracks going south lead to St. Louis. As far as driving is concerned, Nelson is one mile north of Rock Island Road connecting Dixon and Rock Falls. Attractions in Nelson include the “Who Else Land” and the “Railside Bar and Grill”. Woodland Shores subdivision is to the east. Nelson was platted in 1862 and is named after the owner of the property on which the town was established, Samuel Nelson.


The Nelson School pictured above was built in 1922 and we are sure there was an older building used for a school purpose prior to that. The school is located on the corner of Main Street and Cass Street. We believe high school-aged kids were taught in this school until the 1940s. High school-aged kids were then bused to Rock Falls High School to the west while the K-8 kids stayed in the Nelson School building.

Today, the building is still standing and in good condition. The facility closed as a school in 2012 and the students of Nelson now attend school in the East Coloma School District. They continue to attend high school in Rock Falls.

School memories from Justice Tarbill:

“The grade school mascot was the Blue Raider. Our colors were blue and white. They offered basketball to kids 5th grade and up, but since our school was so small they combined us with another school called Riverdale so we could have enough kids on a team. The original Nelson school is the tall dark brown building (pictured above); that portion was a basement (kindergarten was taught in one of the rooms in the basement) and 2 rooms upstairs (one held 1st and 2nd grade, the other held 3rd and 4th grade) Tuesday and Thursday music class was held in the main part of the basement. There were also bathrooms upstairs. It was split into 2 groups for music k-4 and then 5-8. The special education teacher had a partition in the basement where he worked out of. The later addition to the school housed the gym as well as 2 more bathrooms, the principals office, and 2 more classrooms, one for 5&6 and one for 7&8. Gym glass was held Monday and Wednesday either in the gym or outside. There was no cafeteria, we had picnic tables set up around the gym that we would eat at. I miss that school!”

Nelson High School “Quick Facts”:


Year school system organized:            1800s
Year Nelson School built:                     1922
Year high school curriculum ceased:   1940s??
Building Status:                                     Still Standing
School Colors:                                      GS – Blue & White
School Mascot:                                     GS – “Blue Raiders”
School Song:                                        Unknown

Nelson School Gym




Nelson High School may have offered athletics but we could find no information whatsoever on anything other than the existance of the school itself. The gym pictured above may have been built after the deactivation.


Looking For Information


As you can see, we are in need of some help here. If you have ANY information regarding the town of Nelson and the school there, drop us an E-mail at – or – you can mail to us at:


Illinois High School Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, IL  60631


Nelson, Illinois

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