Rutland (population 354) is located in the lower southwest portion of LaSalle County. In fact a small part of Rutland extends into Marshall County. Il. Route 251 passes through Rutland at LaSalle County’s North 4th Road. The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad cuts through the middle of town as does the Prairie Creek.
The following history of the town was provided by our own Kev Varney:
The history of the village of Rutland can be traced back to 1855 when a company was formed in Rutland, Vermont called the “Vermont Emigration Association” for social, religious and civil purposes. The company found land in Iowa and Illinois before deciding on the Illinois site due to its location to the Illinois Central Railroad and the land was somewhat level and was deemed as “exceedingly productive.” Each member of the association was entitled to purchase a lot for a home in the new village and 160 acres of farmland, after it was purchased from the Illinois Central (who had just bought the land from the government and speculators). The land itself was 22,000 acres & spread over Livingston, LaSalle, and Marshall Counties.
Rutland Town Sign 2018
The village was laid out in November of 1855 and called New Rutland by the settlers. In 1857, the first school was built in the village. Over the next five years, over half the association (60 families in all) would be relocated in the village, leading to its reputation at that time of being one of the best shipping points on the Illinois Central. The area was known for the amount of corn, catle, and hogs that were raised and shipped from New Rutland, so much to the degree that warehouses were built for this purpose. In 1879 alone, 181,600 bushels (454 railroad cars of 400 bushels) of corn were shipped, along with 61 cars of hogs and 464 of cattle.
Somewhere prior to 1900, the “New” in New Rutland was dropped, and the village has gone by Rutland since that time. The town celebrated its Sesquicentennial (150th birthday) in 2005.
Rutland School Bus & Mr. Cusac – 1955
Submitted by Rick & Melinda Halberg (“left” click to view enlarged photo)
Rutland has a long and storied history of educating its children. Beginning probably in the late 1800s, Rutland supported its own school system for several years. It was in the early 1950s that Rutland began consolidation talks with nearby Minonk-Dana High School. This effort took effect in 1956 with the creation of the Minonk-Dana-Rutland School District. M-D-R HS also lasted from 1956 until 1992, when the schools of Wenona and Toluca joined M-D-R to create the Minonk Fieldcrest School District.
The Rutland school was used as a grade school, part of the Minonk-Dana-Rutland School District, until it was closed in 1967. The original Rutland High School building has been razed.
The Rutland Rangers had one great year in baseball and won three District titles in basketball. It is thought track and possibly football was also offered at the school. We are in need of your assistance to tell of the great Rutland High School Ranger teams of the past.
Can you say Sweet 16? The Rutland Rangers did in 1945!! And this was under the old one-class system to boot! During the 1944-45 season Rutland won their District and Sectional to advance to the State Tournament. It was there that the Rutland boys met their match. But it took MUCH larger Bloomington High School to do it. Bloomington beat Rutland 6 – 1, ending the Ranger dreams. Still a great story and incredible accomplishment for the team of 1945.
1944-45 No Record Available District/Sectional Champs Coach’s name unavailable
Advanced to Sweet 16
Lost 6 – 1 to Bloomington High School
The Rutland Rangers brought home three District titles in basketball. Two came in back to back seasons during the magical run of the baseball team, that being 1945 and ’46. Unfortunately the team records and coaches names are not currently available. There were likely many seasons of glory in the history of the Rutland High School basketball program. If you have any season records and coach’s names you can share, please forward them to us for inclusion on this page.
The photo to your right depicts the senior class of Rutland High School for the 1953-54 school year. The class consisted of one student, Marion Copp.
From Rutland High School alum Rick Halberg:
“I went to kindergarten, first and second grade at the Rutland School. I believe the gym was built in the late forties or early fifties. Under the evergreens in front were two stone monuments dedicated to a couple of area soldiers who had died in World War II. After the high school closed in 1955, the MDR school district continued to use the Rutland High School building as a grade school. Kindergarten for me was spent the first few weeks at Rutland, then the remaining weeks at Dana (we lived in the country).
I started first grade at Rutland in the Fall of 1965. The principal there was Charles Rowe. When I first started there, first and second grades were in the same room, taught by Leila Bane. About halfway through the year, the two grades each got their own teacher, so the second graders moved out into their own room. On the last day of school, Mrs. Bane would walk all of her students the two blocks to Fornero’s Diner (along old Route 51) and bought each of us an ice cream cone.
Recess for the first graders was in the yard next to the school, but the rest of the school got to go across the street to the city park. To call all the kids in from recess, they rang the huge bell that was in the clock tower of the school. You could probably hear it all over town as it was just like a church bell. There was a huge rope that came through the ceiling in the room next to the first grade classroom, and kids would get to take turns ringing the bell to end recess.
Rutland High School Gymnasium Building – 2006
The district closed the grade school in 1967, and all students went to either Dana or Minonk. The school building fell into disrepair almost immediately, and was torn down sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s, but the city maintained the gym since it was relatively new (less than 20 years old). It was used for wedding receptions and other social events (my high school rock band played there during the summer of 1974 during their Rutland Days celebration). In fact, when Minonk’s gym was “condemned” during the school year in 1975 (the school board said that the state declared the roof unstable, so they passed a referendum for a new gym…odd that the original building is still standing over 30 years later) the Junior/Senior Prom was held in the old Rutland gym. The class play that year was held in the Dana gym.
It’s really sad to see the old gym in the condition that it’s in today. Unfortunately, most of main street in Rutland has suffered the same fate. I love your website…I’ve always been of the belief that a small town dies when they lose their school. It’s so nice to see someone keep those memories alive.”
Need More Information
We are looking for more information from a Rutland alum or true Ranger fan. If you have a photo of the great teams in Rutland High School’s past, you can e-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il. 60631
Rutland HS Farewell Dedication – 1955
Thank You to Rick & Melinda Halberg
Rutland HS Class of 1933
Submitted by Glen Weber – “Left Click” on Photo to View Enlarged Version