Central History

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

by Mr. Ira Harris, retired teacher

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL is the oldest free public high school in continuous operation west of the Allegheny Mountains. It was established in 1854 as EVANSVILLE HIGH SCHOOL. In 1918 the name was changed to CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL when another high school was built.

LOCATIONS OF CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL*

1854 First and Chestnut Street
1855 Second Street between Main and Locust
1855 First and Vine Street
1855 Public School Building, Fourth Street, (Became Wheeler School)
1863 Second and Clark Street
1868 Sixth and Vine Street
1970 5400 First Avenue (Students 1971 - 72 school year)
*taken from a plaque in the front foyer of Central High School

GOLD and BROWN, Central's colors,were chosen some years before 1908. There is a tradition that the combination was suggested by Helen Click, teacher at the school from 1895 to 1905, because they were the colors of her sorority (Meyer, Central High School, It's First Hundred Years)

"The Rouser" originated in 1917. Ada Bicking, music supervisor, suggested the tune of the University of Minnesota rouser, and a girl of the class of 1918 wrote the words. It first appears in the SAGAS of 1918 beginning, "Evansville High School, hats off to thee!" The change to "Central High School, hats off to thee!" the following year greatly improved the rhythm. (Meyer)

The announcement of the opening of the school,which is now Central High School, is found in the Evansville Journal for August 15, 1854. The opening date of the free public high school, which in now Central, was September 4, 1854.

Evansville High School opened on September 4, 1854 with an enrollment of 17 students - 8 boys and 9 girls. The school started on a quarter system with new students entering the high school in January of 1855. The report at the end of the year states that the High School had a year-end enrollment of about 30. In order to graduate or move to the next level a student had to pass a very stringent final examination. A teacher did not give an easy exam for fear that it would reflect poorly on them as a teacher.

"On the basis of the 1887-88 graduation list, Ferdinand C. Iglehart has been publicized as our first graduate. He was the son of Asa Iglehart. He was accorded a full page with portrait and biography in THE ANNUAL for 1909. It is possible that he was the first student to go through a public ceremony of graduating or to have a diploma handed to him, or he may have been one of several; we shall never know this definitely until we find a printed or written record made at the time the event happened. However, we do know that a goodly number of students completed the required course previous to 1863 and that they were recognized in public ceremony in 1898. The fact that others completed the course earlier does not in any way detract from the glory of Ferdinand C. Iglehart, who became a prominent clergyman in the New York area." (Meyer, p. 100)

The City Directory of 1858 contains the first printed list of subjects taught in the high school.

First Year Second Year Third Year
English Grammar Algebra (I) Virgil (I)
History (I) Latin Cicero
Physical Geography French Greek
Algebra Physiology Chemistry (I)
Philosophy Geometry Rhetoric (I)
Latin Composition Geology
Arithmetic (I) Declamation Botany
Writing (I) Virgil (II) General History (I)
Reading (I) Trigonometry (II) Trigonometry (I)
Spelling (I) Chemistry (II) Astronomy (II)
Composition (I)   Logic (II)
Declamation (I)   Conchology (II)
    Navigation (II)
(I) Denotes First Term only Surveying (II)
(II) Denotes Second Term only Constitution of the US (II)

During 1896-97 the north and south wings and Central Tower is erected at the Sixth and Vine site. The tower becomes the symbol of Evansville High School.

The wearing of caps and gowns was tried at Central in 1920 and 1921, but was dropped in 1922. It was resumed in 1929 and seems now to be a permanent custom. (Meyer, p. 102)

"During the first forty years of our school's existence, there were no athletics of a competitive sort. In 1896 we had a mathematics teacher on our faculty named Linnaeus N. Hines. A giant of a man, nearly seven feet tall and high in every direction, he must have weighed 300 pounds. Mr. Hines had become fond of football and considered it a fine sport for boys able to stand the roughness of the game. He organized a team in 1896 which arranged games with other school teams. Since there was no State Athletic Association then to make rules covering eligibility, Mr. Hines played center. Only 13 boys came out for the team that year..." "Leanord Young, physics teacher and later principal, also played on the team." (Meyer, p. 149)

The first Senior Yearbook, entitled THE ANNUAL, was published in1909. The second Senior Yearbook, entitled THE SAGAS, was published in 1912.