The History of Versailles High School
Versailles (population 567) is located in lower western Illinois in southeastern Brown County. Illinois Route 99 is the main roadway into Versailles. Route 99 connects Versailles with its neighbor 10 miles to the northwest, Mt. Sterling. The Russett Branch RIver flows into town as well. A town of note near Versailles might be Jacksonville about 20 miles southeast of Versailles.
The following history of the Versailles school system was sent to us by
Mary Logsdon, historian with the Versailles Area Genealogical and Historical Society:
Versailles High School History
“The first school built in the village of Versailles for both an elementary and high school was completed in the summer of 1872. [pictured on your web site.] This was a modern brick building of two and ½ stories, containing two rooms on the first floor, one large room in the second story, recitation room, hall and a basement. It was constructed at the intersection of Third and Chestnut streets, and was erected at a cost of about $10,000. The 1880 History of Schuyler and Brown Counties called it “an imposing structure, standing as a monument of the liberality and intelligence of a progressive people.”
C.B.Reynolds was the Principal at this time, and Thomas A. McCormick the main teacher. This building housed both grade and high school classes until it was destroyed by fire about 2:30 on the afternoon of November 4th, 1910. The disastrous fire started in the belfry, and soon engulfed the entire building. The winter’s supply of coal and a barrel of coal oil had just been delivered and stored in the basement, adding fuel to the fire. A student wrote in a letter to a friend that some students grabbed the books and threw them out the windows, some grabbed their scarves and sweaters, and others just ran for their lives. The organ, bookcases, clock, maps and some pictures and chairs were also saved. Since it was totally destroyed, school was held in other locations, such as the opera house, churches and private homes around the town for the remainder of the school year.
A new brick structure to replace the burnt school opened in October of 1911, although not fully completed at this time. It housed six classrooms, recitation room and two playrooms in the basement. Constructed by Apsey, Fuche & Co. of Monmouth, its cost was $24,000. This was also for both elementary and high school classes. Several additions were made over the next years, including a gymnasium, hot lunch cafeteria, three additional classrooms and indoor playroom. The coal fired steam furnace was converted to natural gas ca. 1965. High school continued as a four year program until 1944 when a three year program was initiated. In 1947 the High school closed and students were bused to Mt. Sterling High School. The school continued with grades K – 8 until the end of the 2003 school year when it was closed and all classes are now bused to Mt. Sterling. The main body of the school was demolished by the school district, saving the gym, cafeteria and three newer classrooms, all in one wing. These were given to the Village of Versailles for the community’s use and now house the Village Library and City Hall.”
You can check out the Versailles Area Genealogical & Historical Society website at http://vaghs.tripod.com .
At some point in the mid 1940s, a consolidation effort of the high school districts in Brown County began. It is probable that Versailles was a part of these talks. Versailles High School joined this effort in 1947.
Versailles High School Quick Facts
Year opened: late 1800s / early 1900s
Year closed: 1943 ??
School nickname: the “Blue Devils”
School colors: Blue & White
School Fight Song: “We’re Gong Over”
This was an original tune adopted in 1918, written by student Howard Wilson. He won a contest sponsored by the school for best original school song. Judges of the contest were Rev. and Mrs. J. M. Judy and Miss Gladys Turner.
On the edge of this old town,
Stands a building of renown,
Filled with students young and fair,
Not afraid to take a dare.
From the schools of other towns
And we’ll show them up as clowns
Just you listen not to what we say.
Old Versailles High School
Yes, Versailles High School,
It’s the best place in the state of Illinois
We made the labors
Of all our neighbors
Look like nothing when we send out
Our own boys.
So come on down men
And see your game win,
When we start into the game with visitors.
To the friends
Who have come
From far away
For V.H.S. is going to win.
V.H.S. is some fine name,
And ‘twill always stay the same,
Whether in athletic sports
Or in studious reports.
And we are so very proud
Of our old V.H.S. crowd
Here’s to our future.