John Greer, one of the early settlers by 1857 in the Prairie Green area, was born in Pennsylvania in 1812 and died January 2, 1891 in Hoopeston. His major legacy to Hoopeston, beside Floral Hill Chapel, was John Greer College which was erected in 1890, but not completed until after his death. He watched the corner stone being laid in September of 1890, the college, however, was not completed and did not open until September 9, 1892.
Greer wanted to give the the young people in the area the chance to receive a college education, something he regretted not having, and endowed $40,000 to $50,000 for the college to be built in Hoopeston. This early college cost students $10 for a ten week term, $19.50 for two terms, three terms were $26, four terms- $28 and for five terms, it was $30. For shorter periods such as a week, it was only $1.25. Classes included courses in the classics, science, teaching, business, shorthand, music, and elocution.
Greer felt “young people of any age would be received and educated with care and patience, no matter how poor their early means for schooling had been.”
In 1914, and possibly some classes as early as 1912, high school classes were combined with the college, remaining as part of the college until 1926. At this time the school became strictly a high school. The college was no longer in Hoopeston.
During this time, and due to the fact that the basketball gym had no heat, fans did not hae a place to sit to watch a game and other teams refused to play Hoopeston in the old John Greer gym which was on the third floor of the building with no heat, a new gym was built. The present John Greer gymnasium was built in 1927 and the first game played December of 1928. A tunnel was also built from the gymnasium to the the high school basement so that students would not have to go outside between the two buildings during winter or when it was raining.
Another change came about in 1955. The City fathers decided to build a new high school on Route 9 in the South Side Park. The South Side Park was home to the football team which meant a new location had to be found for the team’s football games.The new football field was moved to Newt Lee’s field just west of Dice Addition where it remained until until 1939, the year Honeywell Field was created. The high school classes were moved to the new Hoopeston High School in 1956 and John Greer became John Greer Junior High. It remained a Jr. High School until 1969.
It was during this time in 1968 that a new John Greer Grade School building was built to house K-6th grades, attaching the building to the gymnasium. It opened in the Falls of 1969 for classes. Since the college building was considered a safety hazard and beyond repair, it was demolished on Thursday, March 6, 1969. The tunnel was filled in and sealed off. Also in 1969, the new Hoopeston Junior High School was built and attached to the high school on Route 9.
Lincoln Grade School was closed and students were sent to be part of John Greer Grade School with Lincoln slated to be demolished later in 1969. It did not comply with the state fire and safety regulations.
It wasn’t until 1982 that the three grade schools were changed to grade centers with John Greer Grade School housing the fifth and sixth grades and later kindergarten and at risk classes. Today John Greer houses 3rd through 5th grades due to Honeywell Grade School’s closing. It was demolished in October 2020. Sixth grade was moved to the Hoopeston Middle School which now houses 6th to 8th grades.
John Greer’s legacy lives on through John Greer Grade School and as the only tombstone allowed in the circle that houses Floral Hill Chapel at Floral Hill Cemetery.