Penfield St. Lawrence Academy

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Penfield St. Lawrence School Building Sketch
Provided by Martha Lundgren

Penfield St. Lawrence Catholic Church 2013

The History of Penfield St. Lawrence Academy
Penfield (population approximately 200) is located in east-central Illinois in the northeastern portion of Champaign County. The sits on County Highway 22 just south of U.S. Route 136 and just west (3 miles) of Illinois Route 49.  Buck Creek flows by the southeast edge of town. 
An excellent history of the town of Penfield can be viewed at the webaddress of .  In summary, the town of Penfield was platted in 1876 and is named after a gentleman named Guy Penfield, who also platted the city of Rantoul.  Settlers came to the area as early as the 1830s.  A school system was in place very early on in the town's existence.
A history of St. Lawrence High School was provided to this page by our own author, Kev Varney, who obtained the information courtesy of the Catholic Post (the newspaper of the Peoria Diocese):
"The church of the same name was founded in 1898 by a Rev. M. Gensler. The church was built in 1905, and St. Lawrence Academy was built in 1916 by Father Williams O'Brien, with the intention of being only a grade school. The Dominican Sisters from Springfield were in charge of the school, which started accepting high school students in 1917, and became a four-year school afterward. The high school was discontinued in 1943, while the grade school closed in 1966. The church was remains open today, as it was redecorated in 1998 during the parish's centennial celebration."  

Penfield St. Lawrence Catholic Church 2013

Penfield St. Lawrence Academy Quick Facts
Year opened:                  1917
Year closed:                   1943
School team nickname:   unavailable
School team colors:         unavailable
School Fight Song:          unavailable  
The St. Lawrence High School athletic program likely included the sports of basketball, baseball, and track.  It is possible that at one time or another football or other sports were offered as well.  We are searching for team records, coaches names, and individual accomplishments.  Also welcome are the "quick facts" items we are missing above, including team nickname, uniform colors, and school fight song. If athletics were not a part of the curriculum, please let us know that as well. 
We suspect that St. Lawrence High School offered several extra-curricular activities on top of sports.  School dances, clubs, band, and chorus were possibly offered to the SLHS students as well.

George Early & Maurice Buck (Class of 1943)
Submitted by Martha Lundgren

From Martha Lundgren:
"The Academy and St. Lawrence School (elementary grades) occupied the same building, with the Dominican Sisters having an apartment on the third floor of the red brick building.  My father, Maurice Buck, was in the last class to graduate from the Academy in 1943.  He was raised on a farm southeast of Penfield, and went to the No. 8 School, a one-room school house that occupied a one-acre parcel of land a quarter mile from his house.  After grade school, he attended the Academy for high school.

By the time my older brothers and sisters attended St. Lawrence School in Penfield, two Dominican Sisters taught the eight elementary grades.  (Sr. Mary Lois was one of the nuns, and my siblings and parents were very fond of her.)  My second oldest sibling, Jim Buck, was in the last class to graduate from the Catholic grade school.  I will find and forward a picture of my father's graduating class and one of Daddy opening the door for Jim on Jim's graduation day.

After St. Lawrence School closed, most of those elementary school students transferred to the public school in town, Penfield Grade School.  However, with the baby boomers having hit elementary school age and the influx of students from the closing of the Catholic School, the public school needed more capacity.  The addition onto the Penfield Grade School building was not complete until January of 1967.  So, the kindergarten, first and second grade public school students actually attended class in the former St. Lawrence School building from August,
1966 until early January.  So, even though the Catholic grade and high schools had closed, all six of my siblings attended school in the building, even though some of use were public school students at the time.

Even after that, the St. Lawrence school building continued to be used for catechism classes and meetings.  Thousands of fried chicken dinners were prepared in the basement of the building and served under a large tent behind the building in the annual Labor Day Homecoming event, a major annual fundraiser for the parish.  And my family held a number of family reunions in the school building and on the grounds.

St. Lawrence Parish owns the property its church and rectory occupy, and three similar sized parcels across the streets to the east, to the south and to the southeast.  The Catholic school building stood east of the church until a few years after St. Lawrence Parish built a new parish hall across the street from the church to the south.  Sometime after the new parish hall was built, the Catholic school building was demolished.  This would have been sometime prior to1993.

I hope you find this information useful.  I have some interesting memorabilia from the Academy, such as the programs from the senior class plays that the students put on, that I will be scanning and sharing with my family and my cousins whose parents attended there as well.  When I've got that done, I'll send those along, as something you can show about how theater was an important part of the experience in this tiny little school amid the cornfields of central Illinois."
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