AJ School History

Union Academy, Anna High School, and Jonesboro High School, consolidated in 1918 to form the Anna-Jonesboro Community High School (AJCHS). Although three schools consolidated, it was Union Academy that was most closely linked with AJCHS. It provided the location for the school and helped fund the school

1871-1917

In 1871, two Anna men, Walter H. Willard and William Wallace Faris, realized the need for secondary education in Anna, Illinois. The small town only had eight grades of education available. In September of 1883 their idea of higher education in Anna became a fact when Union Academy was opened.

Union Academy started in an outgrown school building of two rooms that had been used as a storage place for hay. On the first day of school for the Academy there were forty-seven students with two teachers, Reverend Mr. Faris and Reverend C.W. Sifford. The following spring another teacher, E.R. Jinnette, joined the staff. The attendance increased and an additional building was needed. John H. Span donated one and one-third acres on the hill between Anna and Jonesboro to the school. Money was then contributed to the school from citizens of both towns, and plans began for the additional building. B.F. Mangold received the contract for the new building, and on October 20, 1884, the building was ready. In order to provide furnishings for the new school, the women of Anna and Jonesboro gave a fundraising dinner in the assembly room.

The growing Union Academy needed a larger campus. When Charles M. Willard died in 1893, he left his home on Main Street, the surrounding land overlooking the foothills of the Ozarks, and other property. The proceeds from the sale of some of the land started an endowment fund for Academy. In 1894, Union Academy took possession of the remaining property and used Mr. Willard's home as a girls' dormitory. At the same time a large frame building was built west of the newly built Academy building. This building, West Hall, became the boys' dormitory. Union Academy was continuing to grow, and in 1906 another new academy building was erected on the property received from Mr. Willard with the funds left from donations of citizens of Union County. This building was named Benton Hall, in honor of Jacob Benton of Dongola, Illinois, who had contributed five thousand dollars to the building fund, permitting the building to be erected free of debt. The school now consisted of five buildings.

By 1907, Union Academy had become a very prominent school. It had plenty of space and offered three basic routes of study. These courses included the Classical, Latin-Scientific, and the English Course. When a student entered into the school, he or she chose one of the three courses.

During this time the public schools of Anna and Jonesboro had enlarged to include high school work. In 1917, the Anna High School, the Jonesboro High School, and Union Academy consolidated to form the Anna-Jonesboro Community High School.

Union Academy campus was approved as the new campus for the school. The endowment funds for Union Academy, other than the Willard fund, were returned to the donators upon request, but most of them left their money with the new high school. All of the funds that were left constituted an excess of thirty thousand dollars. This money left to the new high school made it one of only a few endowed schools in the state of Illinois.