The History of Sigel St. Michael High School
Sigel (population 386) is located in lower eastern Illinois in the southeast corner of Shelby County. U.S. Route 45 is the main roadway to and from Sigel while Interstate Highway 57 runs just to the east of town. The Illinois Central Railroad also runs through Sigel. Sigel is situated about 5 miles northeast of Effingham.
According to the web address of http://www.edenmartin.com/counties/bigsprng.htm#B , Sigel was first platted in 1863 along the Illinois Central Railroad. The town was called Hooker until its name was changed in 1871. Several small businesses soon sprung up including two hotels and two churches.
Sigel High School was in operation from 1930-54 under the auspices of St. Michael Catholic Parish. …
St. Michael’s Parish began in 1866 and opened its own parochial elementary school in 1877. The Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, whose Motherhouse is in Joliet, Illinois (hence, commonly identified as the “Joliet Franciscan Sisters”), assumed the responsibility for staffing St. Michael School upon its opening in 1877. In 1928 plans began for a new combination school/convent building which opened in 1930.
When the new structure was ready, it featured four classrooms. Since only three classrooms were needed for the eight grades of the elementary school, Father George E. Faller, the Pastor, and Sister M. Michelina, the Principal, decided to start a high school in the fourth classroom. Thus, St. Michael School in Sigel became a Catholic grade and high school program. The high school had a three-year curriculum and was officially known as the Sigel High School.
Classes began at the Sigel High School on September 5, 1930, with 11 students (5 boys and six girls) taught by Sister M. Humiliana, Teacher and Principal (until 1943). In 1931 enrollment rose to 27 students and Sister M. Aurea joined the faculty. The following year a third year was added and Sister M. Nothburga joined the other two Sisters. In 1933, Mr. Kenneth Baker joined the faculty (he would remain until 1952) while Sister Nothburga was assigned elsewhere. After that point, for the duration of the school’s existence, the faculty would consist of two Joliet Franciscan Sisters, one of whom would serve as Principal, and one lay teacher. The first graduating class was 1933. Enrollment typically hovered at about thirty students until it declined significantly in the school’s final years.
During the 1934-35 academic year, Sister Aurea was assigned elsewhere and was replaced by Sister M. Borromeo (who would become Mother Borromeo, the Mother General of the whole Joliet Franciscan Order, in 1956). Sister Humiliana continued as Principal and Mr. Baker remained on the faculty. This arrangement lasted throughout the 1935-36 academic year.
In the fall of 1936, Sister M. Bonaventure arrived to replace Sister Borromeo, who had been assigned to Mansfield, Ohio. From 1936 until spring 1943, the faculty remained the same: Sister M. Humiliana, Principal; joined by faculty members Sister M. Bonaventure and Mr. Kenneth Baker. Enrollment reached its all-time high of 35 in 1937.
In 1943, after thirteen years of service, founding Principal Sister Humiliana was replaced as Principal by Sister M. Solana; Mr. Baker and Sister Bonaventure remained on the faculty under Sister Solana for two years.
In 1945, Sister Bonaventure became the Principal, and from then until spring of 1949, Sister Bonaventure headed a stable faculty of Mr. Baker and Sister M. Siena. In 1949, Sister Siena departed and was replaced in her classroom by a native of Sigel who had already been serving on the St. Michael Grade School faculty for several years: Sister M. Evangela (Stella) Hanfland.
Three years later, in the fall of 1952, significant changes occurred when school opened in the fall and Principal Sister Bonaventure was replaced by Sister Evangela (who would remain as the school‘s Principal until its closure in 1954), and veteran faculty member Mr. Kenneth Baker was replaced by Mr. Walter Scott (who would also remain until the 1954 closure). For 1952-53, Sister M. Protase was the third faculty member and in 1953-54, that position was occupied by Sister M. Felicitas.
In 1949, the school transitioned from a three-year program to a two-year program and thereafter was called The Sigel Junior High School. Enrollment trends became worrying. An enrollment of 28 students in 1945-46 became 23 students by 1946-47, and by the fall of 1949, enrollment was at 14. Numbers fluctuated thereafter, never exceeding the twenties and in the final year of the school, 1953-54, enrollment stood at 18.
The Sigel Junior High School closed its doors when the spring semester ended in 1954, ending a twenty-four year tradition.
St. Michael Grade School, which extends to Grade 8, continues to flourish under a faculty composed entirely of lay teachers. The Joliet Franciscan Sisters, who also operated the public elementary schools for decades at Lillyville and Green Creek, have left an enduring footprint on Effingham County and the surrounding area, but no longer staff schools corporately.
Much of the information contained in this article is drawn from the book, Sigel, IL: 1863-1988, 125 Years (no author). In particular, readers may find it interesting that complete enrollment lists for all twenty-four years of the Sigel High School’s existence can be found on pages 85-97.
Submitted by Father Michael Monshau, O.P.
Taken from public places on the internet, here is a composite of most of the Sisters who taught at Sigel High School during its existence.
Sigel St. Michael High School Quick Facts
Year opened: 1930
Year closed: 1954
Consolidated to: Neoga Community School District
Sigel HS team nickname: unavailable
Sigel HS team colors: unavailable
School Fight Song: unavailable