Forrest Township High School "Eskimos"

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IN THE BEGINNING - Where Closed High Schools Consolidated To
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Forrest High School Built in 1902
Forrest, Illinois

Forrest High School
Main Staircase - Incredible Craftsmanship

The History of Forrest High School
Forrest (population 1,225) is located in upper eastern Illinois about 30 miles northeast of Bloomington. This places Forrest in the southeast portion of Livingston County. U.S. Route 24 runs east and west through town and is intersected by Illinois Route 47 which runs north and south. Two railroads also intersect in Forrest: the Norfolk & Western and the Toledo, Peoria, & Western. 
The community was laid out (or platted) in 1866, then became incorporated in 1875. The original name was Forestville, named by railroad men who saw the area as the only place with timber for 50 miles on their line, but shortened in honor to a request that was made by a railroad president for his partner who hailed from New York State. 
Forrest first started educating its younger members of the community in 1855 in the country, but it wasn't until 1869 that the community opened its own institution right on the site of what would be the high school. Starting out as a township high school, a two-year institution was opened in 1890. In 1898, this was changed to make Forrest High a four-year course of study in classical, scientific, and normal divisions. Following a lightning strike that destroyed the building in August 1902, the school building which housed Forrest Township High was built in 1903 at a cost of $37,000. 
The school was reorganized as Forrest Township High School in 1915, which added commercial courses three years later. A gym was built in 1939 along with home economics and science classrooms. Agriculture was added in 1949.
Forrest High School served its community for at least five decades. In the late 1940's, consolidation talks began with nearby Strawn and Wing. The voters in all three communities approved a measure on March 26, 1949 that approved the formation a new school district. The Forrest Township School District became known as the Forrest-Strawn-Wing School District, ending FTHS' solo run.
The high school for the "new" District was located in Forrest from consolidation with Strawn and Wing until 1985, when Forrest-Strawn-Wing consolidated with nearby Fairbury-Cropsey and Chatsworth, ending the run of high school success in Forrest. The old Forrest Township High School suffered fire damage in September, 1980 and was razed in the spring of 1981.
Forrest Township High School Quick Facts
Year two-year HS opened:              1890
Year four-year school began:           1898
Year school destroyed by lightning: 1902
Year new school building built:        1903
Year consolidated Strawn & Wing:  1949
Schools fate:                                 became Forrest-Strawn-Wing High School
School building today:                    razed during the spring of 1981
School nickname:                          the "Eskimos"
School colors:                               Red, Black, & White
School Fight Song:                        unavailable

Forrest High School
Photo of Classroom

Forrest had an excellent athletic program with many successful seasons in which IHSA hardware was won. The best of these was the 1920-21 and 1921-22 track seasons. Can you say STATE CHAMPIONS! The thinclads of Forrest High did in those two years. That is right, two state championships.
The Forrest High kids also brought home some IHSA hardware ( in basketball, though on a smaller scale. We believe Forrest may have also competed in baseball and possibly football. Forrest Township High School was a member of the Vermillion Valley Conference. If you have any additional information regarding the athletic program at Forrest High, please send us an e-mail.

Forrest HS Track & Goal Post
Courtesy of Richard Soseman

Boys Track & Field
As stated above, the Forrest High School tracksters faired quite well in the early 1920s. Incredible, in fact, for a small town school. Coach C.C. (Cliff) Merrill led the Forrest kids to two Class 'B' State Meet championships. Below are listed the medalists and the towns they beat out for those honors. Great job Forrest High!!
1919-20      Individual Medalists
                  C. Rugh                    440 Yard Run                     STATE CHAMPION!!
                  Relay                        880 Yard Relay Team        4TH Place
1920-21      Team WON the STATE 'B' MEET CHAMPIONSHIP!!
                  Individual Medalists
                  Marion Leonard        120 Yard High Hurdles       STATE CHAMPION!!
                  Relay                        880 Yard Relay Team         STATE CHAMPIONS!!
                  Bert Dancey               220 Yard Hurdles               2ND Place
                  ??    Gregg                880 Yard Run                     2ND Place
                  ??    Keeley               440 Yard Dash                   2ND Place
                  Final 'B' Meet Team Standings 
                  1.)  FORREST HIGH SCHOOL  19 Points        Coach C.C. Merrill
                  2.)  Carlinville                           11
                  3.)  Greenfield                          10.5
                  3.)  Greenville                          10.5
                  4.)  Wheaton                           10
                  5.)  Carrollton                            9
                  6.)  Woodstock                         8
                  7.)  Havana                               7
                  7.)  Dwight                                7
                  9.)  Wyoming                            6
                  9.)  White Hall                          6
                  9.)  Berwyn-Cicero (Morton)       6
1921-22      Team Won the STATE 'B' MEET CHAMPIONSHIP!! 
                 Individual Medalists
                 Relay                          880 Yard Relay              STATE CHAMPIONS!!
                 Bert Dancey               220 Yard Hurdles            STATE CHAMPION!!
                                                    50 Yard Dash                  3RD Place
                 Marion Leonard         120 Yard High Hurdles    STATE CHAMPION!!
                                                    High Jump                     2ND Place
                 Final 'B' Meet Team Standings
                 1.)  FORREST HIGH SCHOOL    19.5 Points       Coach C.C. Merrill
                 2.)  Elmwood                              15
                 3.)  Greenfield                             12
                 4.)  Toluca                                  10
                 5.)  Monticello                              9
                 5.)  Wheaton                                9
                 7.)  Carlinville                               8
                 8.)  Illiopolis                                 8
                 8.)  Berwyn-Cicero (Morton)          6
                 8.)  Onarga                                  6
1922-23     Individual Medalists
                 Bert Dancey                220 Yard Hurdles           STATE CHAMPION!!
                 ??    Kelley                 880 Yard Run                 4TH Place
1923-24     Individual Medalist
                 ??    Eberts                 440 Yard Dash                2ND Place
1927-28     Individual Medalist
                 ??    Williamson         Pole Vault                      5TH Place
Boys Basketball
The Forrest High School boys' basketball team won four Regional titles and two District titles. Basketball scores from the IHSA Tournament were located on a website titled "Ilinois Postseason Basketball Scores" and are printed below as available.
Unfortunately, the team records and coaches' names of these and other great Forrest High basketball teams are not available. If you have this information please send us an e-mail.
1921-22             District Champions!!                       Coach (?) Harms
                  Livingston Co. Tourney Champions
                         Fairbury District Tourney
                         Beat Reddick 57-14
                         Beat Gridley 29-25
                         Title game - Beat Pontiac
                         Peoria Sectional Tourney
                         Lost to Galesburg 20-10
                         Galesburg lost in semi-final.
1922-23 through 1932-33 postseason scores unavailable.
1928-29  14-  7                                                       Coach A.W. Patton 
1929-30  21-  4                                                       Coach Ralph Brasmer
1933-34             Dwight District Tourney                   Coach's name and record needed.
                         Lost to Mazon 26-22
                         Mazon lost in title game.
1934-35             Dwight District Tourney                   Coach's name and record needed.
                         Beat Kempton 35-19
                         Lost to Odell 25-23
                         Odell lost in semi-final.
1935-36             Gibson City District Tourney            Coach's name and record needed.
                         Beat Loda 42-21
                         Lost to Cropsey 42-36
                         Cropsey lost title game.
1936-37 through 1940-41 Scores & records needed.
1941-42             Chenoa District Tourney                   Coach's name and record needed.
                         Lost to Fairbury 36-22
                         Fairbury lost in semi-final.
1942-43 through 1945-46 Scores & records needed.
1946-47             Regional Champions!!                   Coach's name & record needed 
                         Dwight Regional Tourney
                         Beat Mazon 70-43
                         Beat Pontiac 43-41
                         Title Game - Beat Coal City 67-50
                         Ottawa Sectional Tourney
                         Lost to Marseilles 67-48
                         Marseilles won Sectional title.
                         Marseilles lost in Sweet 16 round.
1947-48             District / Regional Champions           Coach's name & record needed 
                         Forrest District Tourney
                         Title Game - Beat Kempton 56-35
                         Dwight Regional Tourney
                         Beat Reddick 58-46
                         Beat Dwight 45-32
                         Title Game - Beat Coal City 59-45
                         Joliet Sectional Tourney
                         Beat Aurora Marmion 45-42
                         Lost to Thornton 41-32
                         Thorton lost in Sweet 16 round.
1948-49             Regional Champions!!           Coach's name & record needed  
                         Dwight Regional Tourney
                         Beat Reddick 58-32
                         Beat Cullom 74-36
                         Title Game - Beat Coal City 56-49
                         Ottawa Sectional Tourney
                         Beat DePue 60-54
                         Title Game - Lost to Ottawa 41-37
                         Ottawa lost in Sweet 16 round. 
Interesting to Note:
Clive Follmer led the state of Illinois in basketball scoring in the 1948-49 season, scoring 714 points. The team that year lost to Ottawa HS in Sectional finals, just missing the Sweet Sixteen (when there was only one class).
Follmer, along with his brother Mac, went on to start for the University of Illinois, playing for Harry Combes, and in the early 50's, participated in the "Final Four" in the first "Battle In Seattle".
Thanks to Jim Traub for this bit of information!
1949-50             Dwight Regional Tourney           Coach's name & record needed 
                         Dwight Regional Tourney
                         Beat Gardner 61-42
                         Lost to Odell St. Paul 62-50
                         St. Paul won Regional title
1950-51             Green Valley District Tourney     Coach's name & record needed
                         Lost to San Jose 67-41
                         San Jose won District title.
                         Pontiac Regional Tourney
                         Beat Gardner 49-32
                         Lost to Odell St. Paul 66-65
(Unknown why FTHS played in Regional after losing District.) 
1951-52             Regional Champions!!             Coach's name & record needed  
                         Gardner Regional Tourney
                         Beat Dwight 65-37
                         Beat Wilmington 65-28
                         Title Game - Beat Braidwood 53-49
                         Kankakee Sectional Tourney
                         Beat Rantoul 62-53
                         Title Game - Lost to Kankakee 67-54
                         Kankakee lost in Sweet 16 round. 
1952-53 through 1954-55 postseason scores not available.
1955-56              Fairbury Regional Tourney - 2nd Place  Coach's name & record needed.
                         Vermilion Valley Conf. Champs!
                         Beat Colfax Octavia 58-36
                         Beat Chenoa 49-44   
                         Title game - Lost to Normal 66-56
The website titled "Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores" lists Forrest HS as continuing to compete through the 1958-59 season. On the page for scores from 1959 the school is listed as Forrest-Strawn-Wing High School. Here are the scores for Forrest for the 1957 and 1958 seasons.
1956-57             Regional Champions!!             Coach's name & record needed  
                         Normal Regional Tourney
                         Beat El Paso 68-54 
                         Beat Normal 77-51
                         Title Game - Beat Fairbury 79-60
                         Decatur Sectional Tourney
                         Lost to Warrensburg-Latham 76-68
                         Warrensburg-Latham lost title game
1957-58              Fairbury Regional Tourney - 2nd Place  Coach's name & record needed.
                         Beat Lexington 73-56
                         Beat Normal 66-61   
                         Title game - Lost to Fairbury 69-66
                         Fairbury lost in 1st round of Sectional
All scores after 1958 listed as "Forrest-Strawn-Wing".
The following article is the content of the 1933 valedictory speech given by Velma Swing at Forrest Township High School's graduation ceremony. The actual paper the speech was typed on is viewed in the photo to the right as contributed by Megan Montgomery, granddaughter of Velma Swing.
"                               AFTER HIGH SCHOOL –WHAT?
           Speaker Velma Swing, Valedictorian, FTHS Class of 1933
"The subject I want to talk about tonight is “After High School, What?” and since these times make it impossible for many graduates to go on to school, Iwish to discuss that side of the subject.

FTHS Valedictory Speech 1933 by Velma Swing
Submitted by Megan Montgomery

Seniors suddenly find themselves graduated from high school and wonder with a panicky feeling, “What will I do now?  Some are hoping to go on to school to gain a higher education. Others feel that for lack of funds or some other reason they must remain at home while the others go on. These feel they are accomplishing nothing. But if they would look around them they would realize that most of the influential men of the community merely graduated from high school. The people who go on to college fit themselves for positions higher up in the world and leave the old home town. However, someone must stay behind and take the places of the present community leaders.

The question here is, “What can I do for service in the community?” Naturally one has to work his way up. There are many vocations in any local community that will broaden one’s life and that of the people around him. There is, for instance, farming. Some people say, “You don’t need a high school education to be a farmer.” Possibly not, but high school does help because from association with teachers and classmates you learn the lesson of fair play and to tolerate the views of others. A college graduate, unless he is a graduate of an agricultural college, would never be satisfied to live his life on the farm. He would feel that he was fitted for bigger things.

The girls can not all become business women. Some must stay at home and become the future housewives and mothers. The greatest service to the community is rendered by the homemakers because the foundation of American happiness is the home.

Then, too, just because the student has graduated and can not go on to school, why must he stop learning? If you look at it in the one sense, you can still study and learn. Going to college is not necessary for that. And, in the other sense, you will always be learning because life is a study and each incident a lesson. There is no need for a person to sit down and give up hopes for the future just because he can not go through college.

The seniors who go on are considered more fortunate. But I think college is just a continuation of high school on a larger scale. Seniors will become freshmen once more, then sophomores, juniors, and seniors again. There will be another graduation and then the student will have to go out and break his way into the business world. True, he will have his college diploma to aid him but he must show his worth just as much as the high school graduate or there will not be a place for him. Of course, if he is really good he will eventually succeed and be well-known in his world. But is it not just as good to be well-known in a small community as in a large one, if you are rendering a service to your fellow man?

Altogether, whether the high school graduate goes on to school or goes into the business world immediately, I think it is all very much like a jig saw puzzle and each person is a piece asking, “Where do I fit in?”

If You Have ANY Information You Would Like to Share
Forrest High School had many great seasons and accomplishments that should be recorded and remembered. If you have access to this information, please e-mail us at You can also write to us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, IL  60631