History of St. Thomas Catholic School
Through the determination and foresight of Fr. John Barry, parish priest, and the sacrifices of parishioners from St. Thomas and Immaculate Conception churches, St. Joseph’s Academy opened its doors for the first time in September 1905, with approximately fifty students. The first classes were held in the church, with planks placed across the pews for desks. Arrangements were made with the Dominican Sisters in Springfield to staff the school.
The first school was a three-story stone structure that housed students in grades 1-8. The boarding school opened in 1907, with the girl’s dormitory on the 3rd floor of the school. Boys were placed in the homes of parish members in Philo. In 1909 a new building, commonly known as the “Frat House”, was built at a cost of $2,500 to house the male boarders. The Knights of Columbus in Philo raised the money, with the help of the Bongard parish.
In 1914, St. Joseph’s became an accredited Catholic high school. In 1919, a new $20,000 two-story brick rectory was built. In 1937, a fire gutted the rectory. A loss of enrollment followed, and the high school closed. The Academy was renamed St. Thomas School.
St. Thomas School was built and supported with many sacrifices made by parents and parishioners throughout the school’s century of existence. From hauling lumber and other materials in wagons to build the first school, to the days spent planning chicken dinners and pancake and sausage breakfasts to financially support the school, to the many volunteers who helped as librarians, teacher's aides, coaches, lunchroom supervisors, or playground supervisors, and to the many who served on the school board – your service and contributions to the school are deeply appreciated and gratefully acknowledged.
Because of its long-standing tradition of academic excellence, its building of outstanding character, and its strong Catholic faith teaching tradition, St. Thomas School has enjoyed the respect of the community for more than 100 years. It is the hope and dream of those associated with the school that the community will continue to be enriched by St. Thomas School and its alumni for the next 100 years.