The History of Saunemin Township High School
Saunemin (population 456) is located in upper-eastern Illinois in east-central Livingston County. Illinois Route 116 runs directly through town and Illinois Route 47 runs through the west side of town. The Norfolk & Western Railroad cuts throught the middle of Saunemin. A branch of the Five Mile Creek flows just to the west of town. Saunemin is located about 12 miles due east of Pontiac.
An entertaining way that is told to us that the town received its name is a part of local legend. It is said an Indian tribe sent an advance guide out to scout the area that the town would later inhabit. When the guide returned and was asked what he observed, he responded “saw no men.” The tribe was then able to proceed with their travels.
In reality, as told to us by Pam Haag Geyer, Class of 1970, the town was named after a Kickapoo Indian Chief. Pam provided the following information as taken from an article titled “The History of Livingston County 1878” :
“At the time of the formation of Livingston County, Saunemin, Sullivan, Pleasant Ridge and Charlotte Townships were comprised in one election precinct, and it so stood until the second year after township organization, when Pleasant Ridge and Charlotte were struck off. When all four of these towns were embraced in one, it was called Saunemin, after the old sachem of the Kickapoo Indians. The name was given to the precinct by Mr. Oliver, of the present township of Chatsworth, who settled there when Indians were plenty in the country, and knew the old chief well.”
The first known schools in the Saunemin area were opened in 1854, one of which was in a log cabin in the rural area, and the other was opened in the village. The latter school was replaced in 1863 with a facility built with public funds.
Saunemin began offering a secondary (post-8th grade) educational source for their children in 1893 with a two-year extension of the grade school, which held its first graduation exercises in 1895 with nine students receiving diplomas. This original Saunemin High Schol building burned down in 1916. A new building was completed in 1917, which is when Saunemin High School (4 years) was officially established for the Saunemin kids.
Nine students were honored in those first exercises in 1918 as Saunemin High School was a great success for nearly seven decades. The mid-1980 ‘s saw financial issues and a dwindling enrollment as cause for concern. It was 1987 when Saunemin High School graduated her last senior class. During this final year, Saunemin High School’s student body consisted of 63 total students. Since 1987, the high school-aged students of Saunemin have had the option of attending Pontiac High School or Dwight High School to earn their diplomas.
The original Saunemin High School building no longer stands. However, the SHS gymnasium (built in 1939 by the WPA) does still exist and is currently used by the Saunemin Junior High students for athletic contests. Pam Haag Geyer, SHS Class of 1970, provided the following information regarding the Saunemin H.S. gymnasium:
“The high school was across the road from the grade school on highway 116. The high school building is gone, and soon the old gym will be gone. They are adding a new gym to the current grade school, and the old gym across the road from the grade school will be torn down. That will be another sad day. Lots of memories there.”
Saunemin Junior High is still going strong, hosting grades PK-8.
Saunemin High School Quick Facts
2-yr school opened: 1893
4-yr school opened: 1918
Year closed: 1987
School nickname: the “Eagles”
School colors: Purple & White
School Fight Song: “Go On Saunemin”
Sung to “On Wisconsin” Tune –
Click Play button below left to hear tune.
“Go on Saunemin Go on Saunemin,
You are doing fine.
There is no one that can stop you
When you’re once in line!
U rah rah!
On to victory, on to victory
Fight to win or die.
Fight fellows fight fight fight
For Saunemin High!
E E Eag
L L Les
Eagles Eagles Eagles !!”
(A second Fight Song went like this:)
“Hail Hail To Saunemin High”
“Hail hail to Saunemin High
All hail to the purple and white.
Hail hail to Saunemin High
For you we are ready to fight.
U rah rah.
Ever faithful ever true
As we raise our song anew.
All the days we’ve spent with
You all hail
All hail to you!”