Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bunker Hill Military Academy

Among the institutions which Bunker Hill once boasted was the Military Academy (in the very early days called the Seminary) and stood on grounds, which is today the American Legion Park.  It opened in 1859.

Its history dates back to December 22, 1857.  On that date, a meeting was held "to take measures looking forward to the establishment of an academic school."  E. Harlan was chairman and W. Hutchinson was secretary.  The following committee was appointed: A. Ellet, P. Huggins, J. Weller, T. Van Dorn.  On the building committee was E. Howell, G. Mack, G. Parmenter, J. Delano, and E. Davis.  Later, Dr. Delano withdrew and H. Hopper was substituted.  On January 26, a constitution was adopted.  The amount of capital stock was fixed at $25,000.  P. Huggins offered to donate a four-acre lot for the building.

The building was brick, three stories high, and considered substantial in every way.  In its original state, it had three rooms on the first floor, five on the second, and the third floor was a large hall.  It was said to have cost about $19,000.

At the first call for volunteers in the Civil War, Professor Smith and 39 of the pupils entered the army.  Others soon followed and it became necessary to close the school.  The building was then loaned to the school district and used a public school for several years, or until the new public school was opened in 1869.

Samuel Stiver became the owner and proprietor of the academy in 1887.  Under his guidance, the institution attracted many young men from other states as well as several foreign countries, who for the most part, lived on the grounds.  Many Bunker Hill young men and women also attended the school.  Much of the success was attributed to a well-organized advertising program.

Cadets at the academy also engaged in the popular sports of the time including baseball, football, gymnastics, tennis and track.  They also had drills and competition in handling of firearms.

Mr. Stiver passed away in 1910 and the academy was taken over by Mr. Marburger.  After failure to operate the school successfully as far as finances were concerned, it was decided to close the school in 1913.

After being threatened with foreclosure, the association decided to sell the property at auction.  James Jencks purchased the academy grounds, the H. Meyer property, T. Mulligan's, and the ballpark ground on October 18, 1916.  He sold some of the buildings and finally tore down the main building.

Jencks later sold the grounds to the Civic League of Bunker Hill and they built a park there, which they maintained until 1948, when all the buildings were destroyed by the tornado.  The grounds were then taken over they the American Legion and they maintain a park there.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, October 24, 2012.

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