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Campion College

Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

1880-1888 and 1898-1925


At the Prairie du Chien Public Library I was told that the state correctional institution which now occupies the old Campion College campus was only medium security.  But when I showed up with a camera, I was sent packing in a hurry, being told in no uncertain terms that this was private property and that I could not come in to take a picture.  The tone suggested that I might get a closer view of Campion Hall than I wanted if I did not make myself scarce.


There were two attempts to establish a college at Prairie du Chien before 1880: Prairie du Chien College (1866-69) and St. John’s College (1871-76).   Sacred Heart College opened in the fall of 1880 with 61 students.  Offerings included a commercial course as well as classical studies for high school and college students.  In 1888 the school was closed for lay students but continued until 1898 as a Novitiate.  In 1898 it was reopened to lay students as both a high school and a college.  In 1913 the name was changed to Campion College of the Sacred Heart, named for the martyr Edmund Campion.  


In 1919 the Student Training Army Corp was established at Campion College.  This later became a Reserve Officer’s Training Corp unit.  Students received two hours of drill weekly along with one hour of military science.  One of the musical opportunities involved the Corp band.


A name often associated with Campion College is the poet Joyce Kilmer.  Before his death in 1918, Kilmer, a Columbia University graduate, delivered the commencement address at the college.  The room in which he stayed in Marquette Hall was preserved.  The school library bore his name. 


The collegiate division had 80 students in 1915.  In 1925 Campion College closed that division because of lack of space.  The high school division, grown to 400 students, continued until 1975. 

Bricks and Mortar

The original home of Sacred Heart College was the Brisbois House.  Built as a railroad hotel in 1857, it served as a hospital during the Civil War and home for both Prairie du Chien colleges.  John Lawlor purchased the property and offered it to the Jesuits, who renamed it in his honor.   As the college grew, it added three more buildings of note before World War I.  Kostka Hall contained classrooms, a theater and dormitory.  Campion Hall (1909), became the largest building on campus. Marquette Hall (1915) served primarily as a dormitory. 


Lawlor Hall was razed in 1960-61.  Kostka Hall burned in 1968.  Campion and Marquette Halls still stand.  After the high school closed in 1975, the campus was used by a Martin Luther Preparatory School.  Since 1995 the campus has been a medium security prison for the state of Wisconsin.


Lawler Hall (left) and Kostka Hall. (Photo from Campion Knights accessed 5-15-2018.


       Colors: Crimson and Black

       Team name: The Rockford Morning Star refers to the team as the Crimson.  At some point Knights became the                              official  team name.


The major sport at Campion College early on was baseball.  The Campion team played college, semi-pro, and professional opposition.  One website notes that they played the St. Louis Cardinals in an exhibition game.  Basketball teams attracted players from Cleveland and played in Cleveland.  The final basketball team, featured in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, compiled a 9-4 record against “hard” competition.




Campion College played football off and on from 1900 through 1924.  The 1916 team was undefeated in six games.  The 1913 team won six of seven.  Tucked into a tri-state area, Campion most often played Wisconsin neighbors Platteville Normal and Wisconsin Mines; Dubuque, Luther, Loras, and St. Ambrose Colleges from Iowa; and St. Mary’s College from Winona, MN. 

William "Bill" Hoffman coached football, basketball, and baseball at Campion 1911-1952, his teams compiling a .685 winning percentage in 1009 total college and high school games.

(Above) 1920 Campion football team  (Photo from Campion Knights, <>) accessed 1-17-2017


Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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