The first school was built in Stillwater in 1848. Stillwater became the first school district in Minnesota - District 1 - in 1850. Stillwater High School was built in 1873, the Lincoln School, at North 2nd Street and Laurel Street. The first graduating class of Stillwater High School accepted diplomas in 1876 with 10 seniors.
It is unclear when Stillwater High School established an official nickname. It is likely that nicknames were informal because the Kabekonian, Stillwater Gazette, and the Stillwater Arrow used nicknames interchangeably. In the early years the team was often called the “Red and Black.” In time they were often referred to as the “Croix” and the “Prison City Eleven” or “Prison City Warriors.” Despite these two primary identities, the future name of the school was born long before it became the namesake. On Friday, November 5, 1926, Stillwater traveled to Lexington Park for a game against St. Paul Mechanic Arts. When the dust settled, the smaller but speedy Black and Red and Croix, ran like “ponies.” Over more than the next two decades the three nicknames shared the spotlight. In 1945, the football team is called the Ponies while all other teams are still the Croix. However, by 1946, the Kabekonian featured an image of all four teams - football, basketball, baseball, and track and field - designated as the Ponies.
So while the Croix is a name of the past and we occasionally talk about the Black and Red, we are proud to be the Stillwater Area High School Ponies!
Not only is our connection to the nickname unique but our school logo is one of a kind as well. The logo is synonymous with Ponies football as it has been the helmet decal since 1971. The logo was created by former Ponies football player Paul Strohbehn (Class of 1974). As a freshman, Strohbehn won a contest in art class at Stillwater Junior High. The class was taught by Steve Forseth also a football and track coach.
Strohbehn recalls, "Our 9th grade art class, taught by Steve Forseth, was asked to take a shot at creating a logo for the Ponies. As I recall, he said the high school might use one from the class if they saw a design they liked. I sketched it in class that same day and turned it in Mr. Forseth. Sometime shortly after football practice started in the fall of 1971 I found that my logo was on the varsity helmets. Soon, it began appearing all around school. It struck me that the logo was really going to be adopted by the school when, as a senior, the basketball court was refinished and the logo was added to the center. During half time at a basketball game that year, football coach George Thole presented me with a beautiful plaque and recognized me as the logo's designer. It was quite a surprise! "
The logo became the football team decal in 1971, which continues today. As far as we know, we are the only school in the world that uses this logo. Moreover, it is the only logo the football team has used.
Strohbehn adds, "The joy I get from it's use still comes into my life as it did recently in Chicago at a trade show. I was talking with a product representative who I realized was based in Stillwater. He was familiar with the logo and it was fun to claim the design as mine. Stillwater High School provided me with an opportunity to experience true excellence in academics, music and sports. It is a great honor to have my design used by the school that I am so proud to have attended."