THE HISTORY OF COLLINSVILLE SCHOOLS
The history of schools in Collinsville is an important part of the city's legacy. According to unofficial county records, Collinsville opened the first organized school in Madison County in 1804. This school, located near the bluffs on property owned by Peter Casterline, was known as "Casterline's School House." Jefferson Elementary School now sits on the site of this first school. There were no free schools in Illinois before 1825. Schools were supported by "subscription" and teachers "boarded" with the parents of their students. The first teachers in Collinsville included John Bradsbury, Elisha Alexander, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Yancey, Mr. Enlow and Beniah Robinson.
Other early schools in Collinsville Township included an 1812 school in the "dooryard" of Col. Samuel Judy's cabin (on property in the northern part of the township); an 1814 school built between the homes of Col. Judy and William Whiteside; and several other log schoolhouses.
Within the city of Collinsville, the earliest classes were held in the Union Church. In the 1840s, Philander Braley built and organized a private school that proved very successful on the corner of Center and Main Streets. Later, an academy was erected by the Rev. Charles Blood on the site of what was to become Webster School. Rev. Blood sold the building to the City of Collinsville. It was used as a public school until the construction of a new three-story brick school. This facility was damaged by fire in 1872. Opening in 1873, a new three-story replacement school was constructed at a cost of approximately $25,000.
In these early schools, the "executive" served as principal. As more schools were added to the system, the position of superintendent was created. One of the earliest superintendents in Collinsville was Mr. H. H. Keebler. He served in this capacity from 1880-86. During his superintendency, Collinsville Township High School was established. The first high school graduation ceremony was held in Temperance Hall in 1882. The commencement program for the five graduates included essays, recitations and musical numbers as well as addresses by Judge Collins (President of the Board of Education) and Judge Dale (Edwardsville). Collinsville Township High School (CTHS) was constructed in 1908 on Vandalia Street. This facility was closed at the end of the 1981-82 school year when all high school students began attending the newer "Greenwood" campus.
Superintendent Keebler was succeeded by Mr. Lehr, and he by D. B. Fager who remained until 1894. J. W. Love served one year and was followed by G. W. Smith, who remained from 1895 to 1900. Charles H. Dorris was superintendent from 1900-1937, with the exception of three years (1904-1907) during which time Mr. S. J. Curlee was superintendent.
Early Life of Charles Dorris
Charles Dorris and his brother were raised by their widowed mother in humble circumstances in rural Missouri and Illinois. Their main income was a small government pension (her husband served as a Union soldier in the Civil War). In the winter young Charles attended country school and in the summer worked on a farm. Their mother moved from an area near Okawville into Lebanon so that her sons could continue their education at McKendree College (at the time there were few public high schools). At the age of 17 Charles passed a teacher's exam in Nashville, IL, that allowed him to teach in a country school. The first year pay was $30 a month; second year, $33 a month.
McKendree and Lebanon were a good combination for the family. Both sons earned bachlor's degrees while their mother earned additional income by providing room and meals for college students. Charles read law there as well as receiving a Master's Degree. At McKendree he met another student, Susie May Peach, who became his wife and mother of their three children.
Career of Charles Dorris
From 1892-1900 Dorris taught in the Lebanon public schools as well as serving as school principal and superintendent. In 1900 he came to Collinsville as Superintendent; his duties also included classroom teaching. At the time Collinsville had sixteen teachers.
Under Dorris, four elementary schools were built including Jefferson which is still in use. After an interval of four years away from the district, he returned under one condition- that a high school be built. In 1908 the Collinsville Township High School on Vandalia opened with a capacity of 250 students. Within twelve years the building was remodeled and enlarged due to increased enrollment. He considered the township high school to be his biggest contribution to the Collinsville schools.
Dorris was a pioneer in developing early sports programs including the first high school football team and basketball team (girls). In addition to promoting physical education programs and public parks, he also supported art and music programs in the schools.
In the summers Dorris enjoyed teaching teachers in sessions at Illinois Normal Colleges (Carbondale and Normal) and also Valparaiso in Indiana.
When Dorris retired in 1937 he had served the school system for almost 40 years. He remains the longest searving superintendent in Collinsville.
Retirement and Later Life of Charles Dorris
When Dorris retired, the community and schools came together to honor his service with the dedication of a fountain and statue of Pan on the front lawn of the new public library on West Main Street. Contributions came from local citizens as well as small coins from many school children (this was during the depths of the Depression in the 1930's).
In 1956 the Collinsville School Board named a new elementary school for Dorris. At age 89 he considered this his biggest honor. That original school was demolished due to major structural damage from mine subsidence. In 2007 the current School Board voted unanimously to rename the Collinsville Intermediate School on Vandalia for Mr. Dorris (this school was originally built as North Junior High School).
Three generations of the Dorris family were present at the dedication held on September 14, 2008. Mr. Dorris' granddaughter Mary Sue Schusky, spoke on behalf of the family to express their renewed and continued gratitude for the recognition.
Reminiscence of Charles Dorris
Mr. Dorris who died at the age of 96 attributed his long life to healthful habits which included temperance walking, and plenty of sleep. He was modest mild mannered, and unselfish. He held strong personal religious and political beliefs but was respectful and tolerant of others. He kept a keen interest in the community, serving on the Library Board for many years. He enjoyed attending functions of various organizations including veterans and civic groups where he was often invited to speak. He also enjoyed McKendree College gatherings and graduations.
He enjoyed visits and correspondence with friends and family and former students and teachers. A love of literature and poetry gleaned from childhood McGuffey readers remained constant throughout his life including the New England poets, John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He also spent many Happy hours writing articles about his life for The Collinsville Herald and The Okawville Times on an old Royal typewriter using the "hunt and peck" method. As his eyesight declined another pastime was listening to Cardinals and Browns baseball games and popular radio programs including Lum and Abner and Fibber McGee and Molly.
Conclusion from Charles Dorris' Grandchild
My sister and I were fortunate to grow up in a three generation household. During our childhood and school years my grandparents lived with us in our large two story home. During world War II my grandfather became the "man of the house" while our father was in Europe in military service. He tended a garden which he started as a "Victory" vegetable garden well into his eighties.
U.S. Senator Paul Simon recalled a piece of advice my grandfather once shared with him, "Hold fast to your ideals."
A final quote in my grandfather's own words when he spoke at the dedication of the first Dorris School:
"In the years that are to come, when I have passed beyond the sunset and my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren come to look upon this building, it may be that they will be glad to know that the family name has been perpetuated in brick and stones."
A typical starting teacher salary in 1921 was $86 per month. Shown here is a 1921 offer letter to a new teacher for Maryville School.
Superintendents following Mr. Dorris include Edward B. Burroughs (1937-44), D. K. Darling (1944-67), Gene Allsup (1967-69), Nolan Correll (1969-75), John Renfro (1975-96), Thomas Fegley (1996-2000), Dennis Craft (2000-2011) and Robert E. Green (2011-Present).
Canteen School was built on two acres on Collinsville Road near Highway 111 in 1936 with an addition completed in 1949 for a total of six classrooms. The school closed at the end of the 1976-77 school year.
Caseyville School, at 433 S. Second St., Caseyville, was built in 1935 and added on to in 1948 and the years 1951-61. The property covers four acres and has 20 classrooms.
Clay School. Clay School was incorporated into the Collinsville Unit #10 School District during the formation of the district in 1951. It originally served the students in the territory within District 88 and the southeast portion of District 89.
Collinsville Community Unit District No. 10 had its beginning in July 1951 with the joining of the Collinsville High School District with the Collinsville Elementary School District and the elementary schools of the Village of Maryville, State Park Place and the two-mile country elementary schools within the high school district. An exception was the Village of Caseyville, the largest incorporated area at that time, which did not join the new district until July 1962. Since that time, there have been no territorial additions to the district.
The district, which covers 56 square miles, has the following schools:
Elementary (Grades K-4): Caseyville School, Hollywood Heights School, Jefferson School, Kreitner School, Maryville School, Renfro School, Summit School, Twin Echo School and Webster School.
During the 1964-65 school year, kindergarten classes were eliminated due to a shortage of classrooms. During the 1970-71 school year, kindergarten classes were added as mandated by the State of Illinois. That first year, the district rented space for 18 classrooms from district churches, operated nine temporary portable classrooms and held classes in converted basement space throughout the district in space not designed for teaching stations.
Collinsville Community Unit School District No. 10 took over the former Collinsville Post Office at 201 W. Clay St. in 1964. The building, when new, cost about $50,000 and was first occupied in February 1916.
The post office later became the property of the County Board of School Trustees Unit 10 in 1965. At that time, the market value of the property was given as $50,000 with the land valued at $36,000 and the building at $14,000.
Collinsville Township High School, built in 1908 in the 1200 block of Vandalia Street, Collinsville, was remodeled many times and included a later third-floor addition. The gymnasium later became the cafeteria and library wing, a shop wing was added and later a separate gymnasium was constructed. Originally, the band building, football bowl and baseball diamond were located across the street from the school.
Built on 26 acres, the building had additions in 1922, 1929, 1940 and 1956 for a total of 60 classrooms.
The school's band, which earned top state and national honors, was organized in 1931 with 41 musicians by the late
Franklin C. Kreider. Mr. Kreider was later honored by the district when the Webster Auditorium was named the Franklin C. Kreider Auditorium in his honor. View the resolution here.
Collinsville High School, located at 2201 S. Morrison Ave., Collinsville, was referred to as the Greenwood Campus when the original high school in the 1200 block of Vandalia Street was still being used. Students attended the first classes at the school in 1971. The cost of the building project was $7,125,330. The Vandalia campus closed at the end of the 1981-82 school year. A copy of the dedication program for the new building is available for viewing here.
During the 1971-72 year, the Collinsville Area Vocational Center at the current high school became operational.
A new addition to the high school was completed in the fall of 2004. This new facility included a new cafeteria, district kitchen, fine arts classrooms, an auxiliary gymnasium, training room, athletic conference room, coaches' offices as well as a 600-seat auditorium and set design room.
Collinsville Middle School, located at 9649 Collinsville Road, Collinsville, was built in 2003 with 59 classrooms, a cafeteria, gym and library.
Columbian School, at the corner of Combs and West Main Street, Collinsville, was built in 1893 at a price of $5,075. An addition was completed in 1910. The property measured 100' x 130' and had eight classrooms. Columbian closed at the end of the 1973-74 school year, was sold, and now houses several businesses. The 1967 Columbian teaching staff is shown at right.
Cuba School in Collinsville was built as a two-room schoolhouse on three acres in 1910 located at 300 Junghans Ave.
Dorris School was closed in 1997 because of mine subsidence. Students were moved to the new Renfro School at 311 Camelot Drive, Collinsville, which also housed students from Lincoln School. It was built on five acres in 1956 and expanded in 1963 for a total of 14 classrooms.
[Charles H.] Dorris Intermediate School (the former North Junior High School) was built in 1926 on 26 acres at 1841 Vandalia Street, Collinsville, with a total of 35 classrooms. When the school operated as North Junior High School, it housed students in grades 7-9. In 1971, the ninth grade moved to Collinsville High School's Vandalia campus. North then became a middle school for grades 6-8. The sixth-grade students returned to elementary buildings upon the completion of the then Maryville West School in 1974. During the 1981-82 school year, the ninth grade returned to North. In 2004, the school was converted into a 5th and 6th grade attendance center and renamed Collinsville Intermediate School. On September 24, 2007, the Collinsville School Board voted unanimously to rename the school in honor of Mr. Charles H. Dorris, who served for 37 years as the first Superintendent of Schools for the Collinsville Township District (high school and elementary).
Hollywood Heights School was built in 1961 on five acres at 6 South Oakland, Caseyville, with six classrooms.
Jefferson School, at 152 Boskydells, Collinsville, was built on one acre in 1926 and expanded in 1958 for a total of 13 classrooms.
Kreitner School was originally built in 1956 on five acres of land at 9000 College, Collinsville, donated by Irwin and Irene Kreitner. In 1960, the district purchased an additional five acres of and one lot adjacent to the school for $15,000 from Mr. Kreitner. The Tom Studebaker Construction Company in Granite City, Illinois, was awarded a contract to complete four additional classrooms and two restrooms. This addition brought the school's size to 13 classrooms at the start of the 1961-62 school year. In 1974, another addition (commonly referred to as "the Pod") was added to the north end of the school. Between 2003 and 2005, Kreitner School again received an expansion as well as renovations, including a new gymnasium, eight classrooms, two restrooms, a meeting room and central air conditioning.
In 1956, Lester Bickel was named the first principal of Kreitner Elementary School. When Mr. Bickel was promoted to Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent in 1962, Mr. Gerald Shaver was named principal. Upon Mr. Shaver's retirement in 1976, Mr. Ed Slovinski became principal. Mr. Ed Wentz followed Mr. Shaver in 1981. In 1987, Mr. Richard Lickfield was named principal. Upon Mr. Lickfield's untimely death following surgery in 2000, Dr. Bill Kinzer served as interim principal until Mr. Dave Stroot was named principal in 2001.
Lanham School, built on four acres in 1950 with six classrooms at 2200 Vandalia St., Collinsville, closed at the conclusion of the 1983-84 school year. It now houses the Madison County Regional Office of Education.
Lincoln School, built on one acre in 1962 on Camelot Drive, Collinsville, had seven classrooms. This school is now Renfro School.
Lincoln School for Blacks, according to incomplete records, was built on Goethe Street at Elm Street in the late 1800s in Collinsville. William White, one of the early teachers, altered the pattern of African American education in Collinsville by prescribing a course of study which allowed students to qualify for high school, the first student attending in 1909.
Refusing to accept African American students into Collinsville High School, the Board of Education paid their tuition and transportation to Lincoln High School in East St. Louis. When that high school became overcrowded, the Board sent the students to Jefferson City, Missouri, where they were boarded at Lincoln University High School. Not until 1940 were African American students accepted at Collinsville Township High School.
The first Maryville School in Maryville at 300 N. Donk St., was built on two acres in 1916 with 11 classrooms. Two portable classrooms were later utilized. The building was eventually sold and torn down to make way for the Maryville Fire Department.
Maryville School, at 6900 W. Main St., Maryville, was built in 1972. The original school had 46,000 square feet, with 17,800 square feet in the new edition completed in 1997 for a total of 63,800 square feet.
McKinley School, built in 1905 at 502 Wadsworth, Collinsville, is now an apartment complex. The school sat on a lot measuring 150' x 147' and had four classrooms.
The former Miller School was built on three acres in 1931 in the 600 block of Greenwood Place with an addition in 1955 for a total of seven classrooms. The school closed at the end of the 1977-78 school year and is now a condo complex called Greenwood Place.
North Jr. High School. See Dorris Intermediate School.
Pleasant Grove School, a one-room schoolhouse in Collinsville, was built in 1917 and phased out in 1971. Pictured at right is the class of 1961.
Pleasant Ridge School. No information available.
[John A.] Renfro Elementary School, at 311 Camelot was originally the site of Lincoln School. Due to mine subsidence, the former Dorris Elementary School was demolished and merged with Lincoln School. The new merged school was renamed John A. Renfro Elementary School in honor of John Renfro who served as the district superintendent from 1975 - 1996.
Smola School. No information available.
The former State Park School at 3301 Harvard Ave., Collinsville, now houses the Alpha and Omega Christian Fellowship. The school was built on two acres in 1935 and added on to in 1950 for a total of 11 classrooms. It closed at the end of the 1982-83 school year.
Summit School, at 408 Willoughby Lane, Collinsville, was built on four acres in 1961 with seven classrooms.
Twin Echo School, at 1937 S. Morrison Ave., Collinsville, opened as an open classroom concept in 1972. The school, which was renovated in 2002 and now has classroom walls, is 21,333 square feet in size and has two portable classrooms. The 1971 site plan can be viewed here.
Webster Junior High School and Webster School at 108 West Church Street. History currently being compiled.
Seeking photos and information
If you would like to contribute to this historical view of Collinsville schools, please forward information to the Director of Information Systems at 201 West Clay Street, Collinsville, Illinois 62234. Please mark all materials clearly. Photos and other archival items will be returned to the owner if a name and address are provided.
1Donald, Elizabeth. (2007, October 7) "Plans to restore fountain honoring Unit 10 pioneer." The Belleville News Democrat.