(McNabb) Swaney High School "Pirates"

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Swaney School Buildings
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McNabb Swaney High School

The History of Swaney High School
 
Swaney High School was located in a true country setting. The IHSA web site (www.ihsa.org), when listing the athletic accomplishments of the school, refers to it as (McNabb) Swaney High School. However, the reality is that the school was located in the country between the towns of McNabb and Magnolia, but postmarked as McNabb. McNabb (population 310) is a small town located in eastern Putnam County. It sits along Il. Route 89 at County Road 11. This places it approximately 11 miles southeast of LaSalle. The Conrail Railroad runs through the center of town. A branch of Clear Creek runs through the northwest side of town.
 
Swaney High School was established in 1906. A book was written regarding the founding of the school and its great reputation of fine education. It is titled "John Swaney Schools - Rural Education Pioneers 1906-1966." Swaney High School was located in a Quaker community and was closely associated with the University of Illinois. In fact, John Swaney himself donated six acres of his land to the U.of I. for agricultural research purposes. This move led to Swaney High School being named one of the first high schools in Illinois, as well as the nation, to devote an interest in agricultural education and development.
 
Swaney was featured in a 1920 Illinois schools journal. The following facts about the school were furnished:
 
No. of districts consolidated:          3
Square miles:                               20
Assessed valuation:                      $546,296
Cost of house:                              $40,000
Annual tax levy:                            $6,000
Tax rate:                                      1.11
Annual tax levy before:                  $1,950
Teachers now:                              7
Teachers before:                           3
Enrollment now:                           180
Enrollment before:                        100
Enrollment in grade school:           120
Enrollment in high school:             60
No. studying agriculture:               15
Aid from vocational fund:               Yes
Years of high school course:         4
Months in year:                            9
 
Swaney High School served the people of McNabb and the surrounding countryside well. In 1946, the residents of Magnolia, its neighbor to the south (and also featured on this site), entertained thoughts of disbanding their high school and joining Swaney HS. This became a reality in 1948 when the residents of Magnolia voted to make the consolidation/annexation complete. The school was then known as Magnolia-Swaney High School. 
 
The school thrived for nearly two more decades until another consolidation effort was begun. This involved all of the existing high schools in Putnam County. This effort, too, became a reality in 1966 with the establishment of Putnam County High School in Granville. The Swaney School system was effectively deactivated. The building currently serves as a junior high school.
 
The current Swaney Middle School is said to have it's ghost stories. Lockers in the P.E. changing rooms at games have been known to open and shut. When people stay after school sometimes they will find themselves being chased by a person in a black cape. Now, we don't know if this is true or not, but who would possibly make up such a thing like that?
 
Swaney High School Quick Facts
 
Year opened:                            1906
Year merged with Magnolia HS:  1948
Year closed:                             1966
Size of last graduating class:      15
School nickname:                      the "Pirates"
School colors:                           Blue & Gold
School Fight Song:                    unavailable    
Athletics
 
John Swaney High School offered basketball for sure. This is evidenced by the four District titles won by the Pirate boys' basketball teams. The Pirates also saw one of its boys bring home two medals from the Illinois State Track Meet under the old one class system. Baseball was offered throughout the existence of SHS. Short runs in wrestling and football are touched upon later.Tennis courts were built on the school grounds; however, tennis was never offered as a competitive sport. The successes of the school in athletics are listed below.
 
Boy's Basketball
 
The Swaney High School Pirates took home a total of four District titles. Two of the titles were won as Swaney High School and two were won as Magnolia-Swaney High School. 
 
As (McNabb) Swaney High School:
 
1927-28     N.R.A.     District Champions                  Coach unknown
1929-30     N.R.A.     District Champions                  Coach unknown 
                                Tri-County Tourney Runner-Ups
1930-31                    Tri-County Tourney Runner-Ups  coach unknown
1939-40                                                                   Coach A.I. Bolton 
 
As Magnolia-Swaney High School:
 
1952-53     N.R.A.     District Champions         Coaches Names Unavailable
1953-54     N.R.A.     District Champions    
 
One of the best players to grace the hardwood of McNabb-Magnolia-Swaney High School was Jim Kinney. He had a couple of huge perforamances in the 1956-57 Basketball season. In a December 14, 1956 game against Neponset, he scored 56 points to lead his team to victory. A few games later, he broke his own record by putting up 61 points in a January 15 game against Hennepin. He was 23-for-45 from the field in that game.
 
Boys' Track & Field
 
One athlete excelled in track on a State Meet level at Swaney High School. Thomas Quinney brought back two medals in two different years for the Pirates. The skipped year is not a misprint. We are not sure as to why Thomas Quinney did not place in the 1932-33 meet.
 
1931-32      Thomas Quinney          1 Mile Run        4th Place
1933-34      Thomas Quinney          880 Yard Run    3rd Place
 
Wrestling 
 
Wrestling was also offered at Swaney High School. In fact, the boys there excelled at the sport. It was before the 1933 school year started when a teacher named Paul Benbow was hired to teach Chemistry and Agriculture. Mr. Benbow was also a former wrestler at the University of Illinois. He received permission to start a wrestling program for the boys of Swaney HS. What a great Coach he would prove to be, leading the boys to incredible heights from 1933 to 1936.
 
The Swaney boys teams had to travel far in some cases just to find another team to compete with as there were very few wrestling programs in the area at the time. A State Wrestling Tournament (wrestling was not officially recognized by the IHSA until the 1936-37 school year) was held by the schools who had programs.  The Swaney boys were winners of the tournament in 1934!  Imagine, State Champions for such a small school who competed against much bigger schools such as Champaign!  One of the rewards for winning the tournament was that Swaney High School was able to host the State-wide tournament the very next year.
 
Two of the boys from Swaney were recognized as Individual Champions for the school. Thomas Quinney and Gwynne Peterson both earned multiple individual championships for their respective weight classes.   
 
Mr. Benbow left the school after the spring of 1936 and the wrestling program came to end. 
 
Football
 
Though very brief, the football "program" at Swaney High was not without a great story. The school started a team in 1922. The Henry News Republican reported that the football team played its first game on October 7th, 1922. They were matched against a much larger school in Chillicothe. A much larger school meant much larger players and the result was none too pretty. The Swaney boys worked to the bitter end but came up on the short end of a 101-0 score. Their second game against Wenona resulted in a lopsided defeat, too. It also ended in many injuries for the boys on the team and football was discontinued then and there.  The football program ended with a record of 0-2 and was never restarted.     
 
Need More Information  
 
We have received a great amount of information from local historian Lonna Nauman and will post more later. If you have any other information you would like to share regarding Swaney High School please complete a or a Guest Commentary Form. We always are looking for photos of the school building and great teams and coaches of note. You can also reach us via e-mail at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net or write us at:
 
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St. 
Chicago, Il.    60631 

Swaney School Cheers
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Wrestling Champs - Thomas Quinney and Gwynne Peterson