The History of Salisbury High School
Author: Phil Shadid
The hamlet of Salisbury, Sangamon County, is twelve miles northwest of Springfield on State Highway 97, and about eight miles south of Lincoln’s New Salem State Park. It was surveyed and platted in 1832 on land belonging to Solomon Miller. The first general store was built by Simeon Clark, while Matthew Morehead opened the first cabinet shop in 1833.
Salisbury Township, including the unincorporated hamlet of Salisbury, was so small in population, it could not collect enough taxes to provide for road and bridge maintenance. The residents, along with adjoining townships, voted to split the township, thereby causing Salisbury Township government to cease to exist in 1989, ending more than 125 years of service. Gardner and Fancy Creek townships each took one-half of the township.
(At the time of the merger, Salisbury Township’s population was estimated at 600.)
But Salisbury, as small as it is (population about 150 in 2008), has a very fine restaurant, an antique shop, a church, and a tavern, and is the home of a world renown folk artist and art gallery. A museum is currently in the works. Tourism is a big boost to the economy during warm months because of nearby Abraham Lincoln attractions. And Salisbury is on the “Lincoln Trail” which was the route that Mr. Lincoln took whenever he made the trek to Springfield from New Salem, either walking or riding a horse. You can be sure that Lincoln stopped in Salisbury during his journeys. The trail is best known for boy and girl scouts who walk the 20 miles to earn a merit badge.
The first school was constructed of logs soon after the town was platted. A series of schools were built until the current school (brick) was completed in 1915, consisting of four rooms, two on each floor, and a full size basement. There were two other schools in the township, both one-room country schools: Georgetown (closed in 1945) and Berea (closed in1947); from “Country Schools of Sangamon County,” by Helen Murray.
Salisbury grade school students attended the 1915 in-town school. High school age pupils took courses in the high school portion of the Salisbury school. It was mentioned in the “Annual Report of Sangamon County Schools, 1914-1915” as having a two-year high school, but only two students graduated the 10th grade in the spring of 1915. The teachers were John L. Brubaker (also principal) and Anna E. Wilson. The school became a 3-year high school in the late 1920s.
As noted in the “Directory of Illinois Schools,” in 1937 there were 35 students in Grades 1-8 and 17 in Grades 9-11. The superintendent/principal was Earl Cain. The following year there were 45 in the grade school and 12 in the high school. The high school section closed in May 1941, while the grade school continued as a separate district with Grades 1-8 until Salisbury consolidated with the Pleasant Plains school district in September 1948. The final year for the school was 1961-62 when there were 48 in Grades 1-6.
In 2008, the building is still in use as a private residence. The owners kept the school bell intact, and whenever it’s rung, the sound drifts eerily into the countryside.
Sports may have been part of the school experience but there were only passing mentions of Salisbury in the area newspapers. For example, the Buffalo Tri-City Register on May 21, 1926, had a story about the first annual meeting of the “Two and Three Year High Schools of Sangamon county in literary and athletic contests.” The total number of points in each category was listed for each of the seven schools competing (“Salisbury sent no contestant”).
On May 12, 1933, the same newspaper printed this sentence about the annual track meet:
“Chatham did not participate, which is unusual; neither did Salisbury, which is usual.”
With such a small number of pupils in the high school it was apparent that Salisbury couldn’t field sports teams.
SALISBURY HIGH SCHOOL QUICK FACTS:
Year opened: 1914 (2-year high school)
Current building constructed: 1915 (now a private residence)
3-year high school: late 1920s
High school closed: 1941
Grade school closed: 1962 (consolidated with Pleasant Plains, Sept. 1948)
Team nickname: unknown (may not have had any sports teams)
Team colors: unknown
School song: unknown
Most of the above information was found in the Sangamon Valley Collection of Springfield’s Lincoln Library. Also, Buffalo Tri-City Register and Illinois State Journal newspaper microfilms were viewed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Photo of current Salisbury building taken in 2008 by Phil Shadid, who also conducted the research for the story.
Seeking More Information
We are in need of a lot of research in order to do justice to the former students, faculty, and townspeople who made Salisbury High School a success for so many years. You can e-mail items to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
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