A SHORT HISTORY OF |
ROOSEVELT MILITARY ACADEMY
(This account was obtained by Jerry Guinn '50 from the Mercer County Museum, Aledo, Illinois)
After the ending of the first World War, the buildings of the William and Vashti College [in Aledo, IL] stood empty. The decreased enrollment and lack of finances had taken its toll. For four years the campus was unused except the use of the administration building by the Aledo High School while Northside School was under construction. Then, in 1924, the buildings were taken over by a military school, and were occupied by that institution for nearly fifty years.
Fire had destroyed the buildings of the Kansas Military Academy at Oswego, Kansas, in March, 1924, and Col. Clyde R. Terry, its owner, needed a place to relocate. He had heard of the vacant campus at Aledo and made arrangements to transfer from Kansas to Illinois. On March 16, 1924, Col. Terry, five teachers, and forty-four cadets arrived on the train in Aledo, and Illinois Military School had begun.
The Kiwanis Club fed the new arrivals, and they were made as comfortable as possible in the new quarters. On March 27, the institution was chartered in Illinois, and the military school was in business.
Financial assistance came from Aledo businessmen, who formed a board of trustees. The William and Vashti property was acquired by paying its indebtedness, $17,081.42, and additional money was borrowed against the campus to pay $9,000 for rehabilitation of the property for its new use and $5,000 for promotion of the military school. The board subscribed an additional $22,000, and another $14,000 was raised locally to provide operating capital for the institution. The board of trustees, as stockholders, were to own the campus until Col. Terry could arrange to purchase it himself.
The school grew rapidly, and in 1927, against advice of his associates, Col. Terry entered a contract to use the property of the defunct Hedding College in Abingdon, Illinois, as a branch for the senior grades, 10th through 12th and a junior college. In 1929 the school was extended even further with the addition of another branch at Menominee, Michigan. The onset of the depression meant too much financial pressure, and Col. Terry was in trouble.
In 1926, Claude Niles, a Chicago businessman, contributed bonds that were valued at $50,000 to be used for the construction of Niles Hall, a new dormitory. Construction was begun, but the bonds were not sold. The crash of the stock market in 1929 destroyed their value, and further problems arose. The depression added one more dimension to the financial situation because enrollment decreased immediately. The end result was bankruptcy for Col. Terry and Illinois Military School in 1931.
The board of trustees then decided to operate without Col. Terry because they still had claim to the property because of the original investment. The rest of the buildings and equipment were purchased in a bankruptcy sale. All of the school was consolidated at Aledo with most of the faculty and of the cadets being moved there.
Soon after this change, the cadets chose the new name, Roosevelt Military Academy, in memory and honor of Theodore Roosevelt. The school made it through the depression because the local trustees were willing to borrow against their own property to provide the funds. The debts were paid, and Roosevelt Military Academy became one of the better such schools in the country.
In 1943, the board selected Col. Glen Millikan as the superintendent, and he remained in this capacity until its closing in 1973. In an article in the [Rock Island] Argus, Col. Millikan reminisced about his total of 45 years with the Academy. it is quoted in its entirety as follows:
"Colonel Glen G. Millikan, superintendent of Roosevelt Military Academy, which will not reopen this fall, reminisced yesterday over the 45 years he has spent there, a career which began with walking a mile to the academy from the court house in Aledo, and thumbing his way to Viola and back from the same spot."
"He had just hitchhiked from Monmouth where he had completed his sophomore year at Monmouth College and knew he couldn't return, because 'I was just plain out of money. I had come to the Aledo courthouse to talk to Superintendent of Schools, Fred Close, about a teaching job in a country grade school.' " (He was told there were no jobs.)
"Just as the dejected young man was leaving his office, Close remembered that Col. L. S. Stafford, headmaster at Roosevelt Military Academy, had asked him about a teacher for the 8th grade."
"Col. Millikan said he stood outside the court house for five minutes trying to decide what to do. He couldn't go back to Monmouth, and he had been headed to his parental home in Viola. He was tired from the trip, which hadn't been all hitch-hiking, and discouraged....So he gritted his teeth and plodded out to the military school."
"He only got an appointment for an interview when he reached the school and was told to come back in three weeks. Returning in that length of time, he was kept waiting what seemed to him a very long time. When the head of the academy, Col. Stafford, finally came, he said, 'You're the fellow from the newspaper who wants the story of the commencement program?' "
"The young applicant's answer was, 'No, I'm the man you told to come back in three weeks about the teaching position.' "
" 'Oh---well, we looked into your credentials, and we're going to hire you.' "
" 'I've often wondered what would have happened to me if I'd gone on to Viola 45 years ago instead of coming here to get that interview. ' "
What he did was go on to the University of Illinois for the summer, scraping together funds for that, and for 10 summers and 10 winters took ex tension courses, getting enough credits for his bachelor's degree in math and education.
He first taught third, fourth, and fifth grades and coached basketball and track for the grade school. After. . . .1934 he taught in the high school and coached that age cadet athletics.
When he received his Master's degree from the University of Illinois in 1938, the position of principal of the high school was given to him. Col. Stafford died in 1943, and at the time Glen Millikan was made the superintendent of his beloved Roosevelt Military Academy.
Just as the first World War had taken its toll upon William and Vashti College, so the Vietnam War and the general reaction to military schools closed many such institutions. The enrollment at Roosevelt Military
Academy declined, and inflation drained resources. The reputation of the school was in danger, and the trustees along with Col. Millikan decided to close rather than reduce the standards.
The local businessmen who set up the academy in 1931 were James A. Allen, Herschel J. Blazer, D. R. Farr, C. C. Barr, John Murphy, Sr., Oscar E. Carolstrom, Dr. M. M. Marquis, Dr. A. C. Sells, George Des Lauriers, and George Detwiler. At the time of the closing the board consisted of H. 0. Stutsman, Virgil Anderson, Glen Millikan, David G. Lawson and John Lemon, all of Aledo, plus Premo Westal. Chicago, and M. R. Hallstrom, Hoopeston.
Since that time (1973) the property has been for sale. National
attention was drawn to Aledo when the religious cult known as Hari Krishna made a proposal
to purchase the property as a residential school for their children. [The owners
turned down the sale after a public meeting where residents voiced their disapproval]
(Since this history was written, the Administration Building has been torn down to make way for a nursing home and the remainder of the buildings are boarded up and unused.)