Onarga Grand Prairie Seminary

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Onarga Grand Prairie Seminary Buildings
Submitted by Sandra Lytch, Courtesy of Patty Goff

Grand Prairie Seminary Building 2010
Photo Submitted by James Horaz

The History of Onarga Grand Prairie Seminary
Onarga (population 1,438) is located in upper eastern Illinois in west-central Iroquois County. U.S. Route 45 meets up with Illinois Route 54 in Onarga.  Interstate Highway 57 lies to the west of town and has exit ramps leading to Route 54.  The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad lays some tracks through Onarga as well.  Onarga lies about 30 miles southwest of Kankakee.  Onarga was being settled in the early 1800s and became incorporated as a town in llinois in 1853.
Onarga has a great history of educational opportunities for its children. Besides the public school originally offered in town, there was a private, co-educational boarding school offered in Onarga as well.  It was offered to predominately upper class kids whose parents were able to pay the tuition. 
The school was named the Grand Prairie Seminary and was established in 1864.  To put this in perspective, the school was established while the Civil War was being fought!  Grand Prairie was a "private preparatory school" designed for intense and worldly education.  In its day it was one of the premier schools in the United States.

Grand Prairie Seminary Buildings
Submitted by Sandra Lytch, Courtesy of Patty Goff

Grand Prairie Seminary Building
Submitted by Sandra Lytch, Courtesy of Patty Goff

Grand Prairie Seminary Building
Submitted by Sandra Lytch, Courtesy of Patty Goff

The trend for private co-ed schools began to wane in the early 1900s. The Board of Trustees for Grand Prairie decided to go into a different direction.  In 1917 it was decided to close the Grand Prairie School and "open" the Onarga Military School for boys.  The facilities remained the same, however the name was changed and the admittance of girls was ceased.  
Onarga Grand Prairie Seminary High School Quick Facts
Year opened:                      1864
Year closed:                       1917
Consolidated to:                  Onarga Military Academy
School nickname:               unavailable
School colors:                    unavailable
School Fight Song:             unavailable

Grand Prairie Seminary was a member of the IHSA and competed in sports and other extra-curricular activities.  Onarga offered basketball, baseball, football, and track & field. School team nickname, school team colors, and school fight song are all needed.  Also coach's names and information on the better teams in the school's history are being sought.  The only sport that is listed on the IHSA website is boys track.
Boys Track & Field
One year proved a success for the Grand Prairie Seminary track team.  It was the only year that the IHSA offered a "C" Track Meet which was apparently for private schools.  One athlete with the last name of Wand brought home second place finishes in the shot put and discus, placing his team SIXTH overall in the "C" Team Competition. Note the schools that OGPS competed against, two were from states other than Illinois!!
1915-16C     Team Finished SIXTH in STATE MEET Competition!!
                   Individual Medalist
                   ??  Wand                  Shot Put                     2ND Place
                                                    Discus                         2ND Place
                   Final Team Standings - State "C" Track Meet
                   1.)  Evanston (E. Academy)                      48  
                   2.)  Lake Forest (L.F. Academy)                25  
                   3.)  Brazil, Ind.                                         25  
                   4.)  Chicago (Morgan Park Academy)         18  
                   5.)  Chicago (Lewis Institute)                     10  
                   6.)  Onarga Grand Prairie Seminary        6  
                   7.)  St. Joseph, Mich.                                 4

Grand Prairie Seminary Baseball Team of 1915-16
Submitted by Carol Cunningham Suplee

The GPS boys competed in baseball too.  The followng information, as well as the photo to the right, were sent to us by Carol Cunningham Suplee:
"My father, Lyman Emory Cunningham, attended Grand Prairie Seminary and I see his name in the 1916 Annual Operetta program on your website. I was delighted to find it! Also, I would appreciate knowing more about his stay there and wonder if there are class lists. It appears he was there, perhaps 1915-1917, and he apparently left to join the army for WWI. He was also a debater and it would be wonderful to know of any programs where he is listed.
I have found a photo of the GPS baseball team, with my father in it. I do not have a date but I am assuming it is about 1915-16."
There was a football program at Grand Prairie Seminary.  Kris Reardon has discovered this while looking at photos kept from her grandfather's high school days spent at the school. 
Research by Rob Pacey revealed that the Grand Prairie Seminary has a football program dating back as far as 1903! The following except from the 1910 Paxton High School yearbook summarizes a game played that year between Paxton and Grand Prairie Seminary.

Football - Onarga G.P.S. vs. Paxton 1910
Submitted by Rob Pacey

Submitted by Rob Pacey

"Annual Operetta" Cast of 1916
Courtesy of Dottie Davis

Extra-Curricular Activities
The Grand Prairie Seminary offered a very well-rounded education.  Two items sent to us by Dottie Davis help to showcase this.  Dottie's mother, Dorothy Elizabeth Hull, attended Grand Prarie Seminary from 1916 -1918. While looking through her mother's belongings, Dottie came across a program for the "Annual Operetta" given on Friday, April 21, 1916 as well as a picture that must be the cast of that production. She also discovered a program for a "Second Annual
Debate" between Urbana High and Grand Prarie Seminary which took place on April 7,1916.  Images of these items appear on this page.  Thank you Dottie! 

Operetta Program - 1916
Submitted by Dottie Davis (Click on Photo for Enlarged Version)

Onarga Town Parade - Early 1900s
Submitted by Dottie Davis

Memories and Facts
From Sandra Lytch:
"I have been researching my family roots and have found that my great grandmother and two of her sisters attended the Onarga Grand Prairie Seminary in the late 1870's and early 1880's.  My great grandmother, Anna Ridge Brumback, graduated from this seminary in 1880, and then married Dr. Alfred William Hyde.  Her sisters attended the same seminary - Iva Brumback and Elizabeth "Libbie" Ridge Brumback.  They were all teachers - probably at Onarga Grand Prairie." 
If You Have ANY Further Information
If you have any further information or corrections regarding the history of Onarga Grand Prairie Seminary High School please forward it to us so that it may be shared on this site.  A photo of the original school building is being sought.  You can contact us via e-mail at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net. or via real mail at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il.   60631

Debate Program Inside
Submitted by Dottie Davis (Click on Program to View Enlarged Version)

Debate Program of 1916
Thank You to Dottie Davis