The History of Belknap High School
Belknap (population 155) is located in far south-central Illinois in the southwest portion
of Johnson County. The town his located about 5 miles north of the Ohio River. The main roadway taking you to and from
Belknap is County Road 3, located about 3 miles west of U.S. Route 45. Eden Road also takes you to Belknap and
connects you to the town just 4 miles east of Illinois Route 37. On the website called MapQuest (www.mapquest.com), Belknap appears to be about 4 blocks wide and 4 blocks long. Belknap sits about 20 miles southeast of Carbondale.
Belknap, Beginning of 1900
Vienna Times, January 25, 1900
from the train at our depot you will find yourself in a town of about 500 inhabitants. The obliging agent in the office is
Mr. Joe Morgan, one of our boys, who has been in the employ of the Big 4 at this place about 3 years. Looking to the left,
we take notice how in the past few years South Belknap has grown and spread till it has reached the forest-covered bottom
land. This large two story building is our school house. We employ three teachers, and when our children complete the course
of study prepared for them they are well fitted for any occupation in life. Observe our broad, clean streets and six foot
sidewalks all through the town, with never a saloon to pay expenses.
Turning from the depot up Main Street, we stop
at the Belknap House, where we are greeted by the smiling landlord, Uncle Jim Bob Evers, and his wife, who will make you welcome
and comfortable. In the front of this building the Herod Brothers keep a large stock of dry goods and groceries.
beyond is the large flour mill owned by W. L. Williams and managed by his brother, S. T. Williams.
Here you can buy the finest of flour. Farther up the same street we read from a modest sign "Cottage Hotel." This place is
widely known for its wholesome meals and nice treatment of the traveling public.
We retrace our steps across Main Street
and enter the store belonging to W. Particular Brown. Now we know why "Particular" is attached to his name,
for in his large stock of goods, where you can purchase anything, from a toothpick to a parlor stove, he is particular to
have everything in its place and give you the best of bargains.
The next door is W. A. Burns, one
of our old citizens, coming here when our town was in its infancy. He keeps a large stock of goods. Back to the corner we
pass up Main Street; here is our drugstore. The owner, S. H. Rees, bids you enter where everything has a
fresh appearance and he can furnish you with any kind of patent medicine, paints, brushes and jewelry.
The next door
is the barber shop, run by Lewis Tapley. This restaurant, where fruit, candy and other good things are displayed,
belongs to W. F. Weeks. Just above, we enter the large store of W. L. Williams. Here the
post office is kept, also. The clerks, W. H. Gibbons and Miss Myrtle Williams will sell
you anything from a side of bacon to the finest silk or satin.
We cross the street and enter the store of our enterprising
spokesman, O. M. Fraim. Not many years ago Mr. Fraim came to our town a poor man. Now he
owns several hundred acres of land, a large store well stocked with goods__showing what any man can do in Southern Illinois
when he tries.
Next door above is the office of Dr. O. P. Martin, where you will find all the up-to-date
medical journals, mysterious mixtures and dangerous looking instruments.
Just a few steps from this we enter another
office, with the neat sign of Dr. A. I. Brown; very much like the other office, save the owner is more active,
being a much younger man. Our doctors are both church members; so are all our business men with one or two exceptions.The
saloon question has been submitted to our people but once in more than twenty years.
Our churches, of which we have
two, the M. E. and Christian, are well attended.
If you will climb to the summit of this large picturesque bluff you
will find a beautiful view spread out before you. Looking to the southwest, we see the white buildings in Grand Chain; also
the smoke from the steamboats on the Ohio river, the highlands in Massac, Pulaski and Union counties; while below us is our
own little town, the smoke curling up from many chimneys, speaking of warmth and happiness within.
Though the town of Belknap had a very promising start at the turn of the 20th century, improvements
in transportation and the loss of the railroad that once passed through town led to its decrease in population from around
500 in the year 1900 to its current population of 155.
We only know of a former high school in Belknap as we happened upon a web address found at:
This address focuses on a conversation with Belknap resident John
F. McCluskey as interviewed by Mark Foss. The interview was in a series which Shawnee Community
College would record interviews with residents of southern Illinois and record them as part of history. Mr.
McCluskey stated the following regarding his life in Belknap in 1932:
"I went to the second year of high school. There were just two of us who graduated that year
from the second year of high school. That was as far at this time as they had high school in Belknap. Magdalene Huckleberry
and I was the only two that graduated. That was in 1932."
Through this we can confirm that Belknap High School indeed existed. It likely began as a two-year
high school in the 1920s and continued through the late 1940s. The kids of Belknap probably continued their high school
education in Vienna if they so desired after completing their first two years at Belknap. Belknap High School was
probably closed due to a state law in the late 1940s that officially ended the use of two-year high schools in Illinois.
The school-aged children today attend schools in nearby Vienna. The fate of the Belknap High School
building is needed.
Belknap High School Quick Facts
Year opened: early
Year closed: late
Vienna School District
Belknap HS team nickname:
BHS team colors:
School Fight Song:
Athletics and Extra Curriculars
We believe that Belknap High School competed in basketball, baseball, and track. Band and chorus may have also
been part of the curriculum. Team nickname, colors, fight song, records, and coach's names are all items being sought.
From Carolyn Decker:
"I went to Belknap when it was a grade school. 1-2-3 grades in one room, 4-5-6 in another one, and 7-8 in the third
room. My mother was was born in Feb of 1913 and went to high school at Belknap. She continued on to graduated
from Vienna High School."
Need Your Help
There are a lot of holes to fill regarding the history of the Belknap High School athletic program and
school accomplishments in general. If you have any information you can share, more photos of the old
school building and great teams, you can forward them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
. You can also write to us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il. 60631