History of Marengo, Il.
From: The History of McHenry County, Illinois
Published by: Munsell Publishing Company, 1922

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Marengo Township is bounded on the north by Dunham Township; oii the east by Seneca Township; on the south by Riley Township; on the west by Boone County, and it is described as congressional township 44, range 5. The Kiswaukee and Rush creeks together with their numerous small tributaries furnish abundant water and drainage. Originally, this township was almost entirely a prairie section, the soil is of a rich, fertile character, and the farms of today are among the highest priced and most valuable of any within this county. This is the only township in McHenry County that has a stone quarry of any considerable importance; and it is located on section 31.


Calvin Spencer came here from Seneca County, Ohio, in the spring of 1835, and made his claim in what later became Marengo Township. He was accompanied by his sister, and she was the first white woman to keep house in the township. Soon after locating here Mr. Spencer was married to Miss Mary Hanee, and they became the parents of eight children. He lived until 1875, when he died in Marengo Township. In the autumn of 1835, Moses Spencer, father of Calvin Spencer, joined his son and daughter, and in November that year his wife died, hers being the first death in the township.

During the winter of 1835-36 Ward Burley located in Marengo Township, and he was the third settler. His claim was the present site of the city of Marengo, and it is interesting to note that he traded his now extremely valuable land to Frank Stafford for a stock of dry goods, and dealt in merchandise for a time, and practiced medicine. He was the first doctor to locate within the township, and was actively engaged in medical practice until his death in 1847. John Sponsable located here in 1836, coming in from Garden Prairie, Boone County, Ill., where he had made a claim, but only remained there a short time, then located in Marengo, and there died in 1846. His brother, William Sponsable, came in the fall of 1835. His claim had formerly been taken by Richard M. Simpkins, but the latter removed to Coral Township. William Sponsable, after buying the Simpkins claim, later sold it to another settler, and moved to Seneca Township. In the fall of 1835, I. Bache came in from Pennsylvania, and purchased a claim upon which he resided until 1840. Amos B. Coon came to Marengo Township October, 1835, from Bradford, Penn., but after a short stay went to some one of the Southern states. In 1837, however, he returned and for very many years was engaged in an active practice as an attorney. Theophilus Renwick was another settler of 1836, and in 1837, M. B. Bailey arrived in Marengo, and opened a small store in the village of Marengo, which he conducted for a short time. He lived here until 1882, when he died. George R. Page, George Bennett, J. A. Davis, William and Charles Barnes, Timothy McNamara, and H. H. Chapman were all pioneers of Marengo Township.


Originally this township was called Pleasant Grove, but when the post office was established it was called Marengo, and when the township was organized by the county board, for convenience sake, the same name was given it as the post office held; hence the civil township, the village and its post office are all known by one and the same name, Marengo.


Dr. Ward Burley and wife had a son born to them soon after coming to the township, and it is believed that he was the first white child born within Marengo Township. This child only lived two years.

The first marriage ceremony performed was that by Justice of the Peace M. B. Spencer, January 14, 1838, when lie united in wedlock M. B. Bailey and Miss Lydia Hance.

The earliest grist-mill, built in 1846, was located one and one-half miles northwest of Marengo. No traces of this mill have been seen for more than thirty-five years.


A little burial ground lying north of the village of Marengo was platted by the Scotch people living in that vicinity, and used by them.

The Catholic cemetery of Marengo lies in the northern part of the place and was laid out late in the seventies.

The Marengo Cemetery proper is directly north of the railroad, and was laid out in 1861. It originally comprised ten acres, but later was expanded. There are other small burying grounds in various parts of the township.


The census for 1890, 1900, 1910 and 1920 gave the following as the population of Marengo Township: In 1890, 2,702; in. 1900, 2,859; in 1910, 2,250, and in 1920, 2,442. The corporation of Marengo had in 1900 as high as 2,005 inhabitants.


The following are the township officials of Marengo Township: supervisor, D. M. Wright; assessor, J. G. Kitchen; clerk, J. T. Beldin; highway commissioner, J. F. Wilson; justices of the peace, J. C. Tanner and A. G. Beath; constables, Willis Jobe and M. M. Wilson.


Marengo was platted in 1846 by Damon & Spencer, and at a time when there was a small community settlement. The surveyor was A. B. Coon. It is situated in the extreme southeast corner of the Township of Marengo, in sections 25, 26, 35, 36. It is described as being all within congressional township 43, range 5, east.

The first house erected on the townsite of Marengo was that of Joseph Bryton, which was built in 1835. Moody Bailey opened the first store in 1837; A. M. Canon opened the first wagon shop, and Mr.. Blakesley was the first blacksmith.


Among the men and concerns to be engaged in business at Marengo later than 1880 may be recalled with certainty the following: F. O. Vail, Skinner & Treat,. Farmers & Drovers Bank, B. S. Parker, First National Bank, C. V. Wells, William Dougherty, P. T. Parkhurst, William Blood, Alexander Walling, John Kelley, John Arlington & Co., Tiliman. Gallaway, Reuben Miller, N. L. Jackson, Cady, York & Thompson, John Miles, C. H. Hance, F. W. Alderman, Arthur Wilbur, C. I. Boyington, M. A. Webb, William Stewart, Asa Wood, F. W. Patrick & Co., William F. Abbott, Casely & Fillmore, Vail, Otis & Co., A. S. Norton & Co., Gilbert Metcalf, C. W. Ingersoll, W. H. Sanders, Pacific Hotel, L. G. Buck, Almon & Ryder, C. F. Renwick, W. A. Treat, S. A. Srissey, G. W. Saunders, J. H. Bulard, Almon & Ryder, Henry Underwood, George Crego, Rodgers Brothers, Teeple & Go., E. P. Persons, A. R. Coon, Ira R. Curtiss, George Sampter, J. A. Read, H. E. & F. A. Patrick, P. B. Smith, A. P. Abbott, David Johnson, W. P. Pringle, Metcalf & Brown, A. L. Derry, George Stanford, Bartholomew & Co., W. H. Mesiek, S. C. Wernham, L. C. Nutt, J. W. Green, C. N. Clark, 0. L. Sherman, Marengo Pickle Manufacturing Company, J. J. Wilson, C. Fraidrich, J. Griffin, H. D. Storms, Frank Gaskell.


Marengo was incorporated as a village February 24, 1857. The first officers were as follows: F. Stafford, president; Calvin Spencer, Fletcher Lindsley, A. R. Parkhurst, I. P. Warner, trustees, and J. B. Babcock, clerk.

The village history extended down to September, 1893, when it became a city incorporation. The first officers under city incorporation were-E. D. Shurtleff, mayor; C. P. Fillmore, clerk; A. S. Norton, treasurer; J. M. Marks, attorney; aldermen-H. H. Blair, N. L. Jackson, H. 0. Otis, E. P. Vail, J. H. Patterson, S. C. Wernharn.

The present city officers are-C. B. Whittemore, mayor; Clifford Woeben, clerk; A. C. Smith, treasurer; E. D. Shurtleff, attorney; councilmen-Fred Dunker, A, E. Thompson, J. E. Heath, C. W. Wilke, Willis Job, C. J. Coarson.


The following are the present officials of the city of Marengo: mayor, W. C. Woodward; clerk, C. A. Woleben; treasurer, Canton S. Robb; health official, W. S. Eshbaugh; magistrate, J. H. Kitchen.; marshal, Byron Miller; attorney, R. D. Donovan; aldermen, J. E. Heath, W. S. Seronguer, F. R. Ocock, A. E. Thompson, F. D. Piper and C. E. Kelley.


A system of waterworks was installed in 1894. Wells were sunk and a good supply of pure water was obtained and this system continues to the present. It was piped throughout the city, a standpipe erected and has been a blessing to the place ever since. The city bonded itself for this and other improvements, but all such debts are paid off, and the city government, aside from a few small bills, is free of any debt. In 1.05 a sewer system was commenced and later completed; paving followed in 1908, and now one sees and appreciates a beautiful, even brick paving instead of former black dirt roads. A volunteer fire company keeps the city safe from the fire ravages of former years. They have an auto-truck and hose wagons, bought at an expense of $2,000. At present the lights of the city are provided by a private corporation. Before 1908 electric lights were furnished by a local municipally owned plant.


The Marengo Fire Corps was organized October 29, 1883, by H. B, Smith, J. Teeple and A. W. Kelley, with a charter membership of fiftytwo. The need of such an association of men was felt on many former occasions, but never more than on March 5, 1876, when the Ryder House and adjoining stores were destroyed. There was also a large fire January 4, 1867. When this fire corps was organized A. S. Gormon was made its secretary; E. A. Vandevere, treasurer; and H. D. Otis, Charles Ingersoll and J. Teeple, directors. For a number of years this company was maintained and did fine work, but as the place grew and times changed, it was finally superseded by other organizations. It is now the ordinary volunteer fire company, named above.


It was in April, 1883, that the Marengo Opera House was built by R. M. Patrick at a cost of $30,000. At that day it was among the finest playhouses in all Northern Illinois.

At present the places of amusement consist of occasional home talent plays, and the moving picture entertainments.


The first hotel at Marengo was built by Calvin Spencer in 1835, at the corner of State and Main streets. This was constructed of logs from the nearby forests, and was but sixteen feet square. When it was erected it was not with the intention of using it for a hotel, but Mr. Spencer soon found that he could not turn away the stranger, so engaged in the hotel business. In the spring of 1836 he built two more log houses about 18x26 feet in size; these served until 1838, when he added a frame structure 16x18 feet. Mr. Spencer continued in the hotel business until 1842.

In 1841 David Hammer built a log hotel, and. conducted it a short time. In 1842 a Mr. Basford bought the Spencer Hotel, and took David Hammer as a partner. The firm of Basford & Hammer subsequently erected a frame hotel of considerable proportions, and it was used many years for hotel purposes by various persons. Later it passed into the hands of D. Johnson who converted it into a private residence.

About 1853, or possibly a year later, Jacob A. Davis built a hotel on the site later occupied by the Ryder House, and this was used as a hotel until 1876, when it was destroyed by fire. At that time it was the property of A. Ryder, who immediately rebuilt and gave the new structure his own name. This and other hotels have been built, served a good purpose and been abandoned, while other more modern hotels have taken their place and serve the traveling public today.


The first post office in the vicinity of Marengo was established in 1841, and was kept by Alfred King, at his residence, one mile west of the present city of Marengo. David Hammer succeeded King, although for a time the post office was kept at the home of Joseph Deitz, but was then removed to the corner of State and Main streets. Colonel Cornelius Lansing was the third postmaster, and William F. Combs was the fourth, he keeping the office in a store on the site later occupied by the Free Methodist Church. The office was then moved to the southwest corner of State and Main streets, where the postmaster was L. L. Crandall. As the fifth postmaster, Anson Sperry was appointed in 1853, and held the office until 1861, it being in the meanwhile moved to the site later occupied by the Marengo Opera House. From 1861 to 1873 Dr. O. S. Jenks was postmaster and he had his office in a building later used by William C. Stewart as a dry goods store. Mr. Stewart succeeded to the office, was postmaster from 1873 to 1882, and kept the office in the same building as did his predecessor. In 1882 J. Q. Adams was appointed postmaster, and he removed the office to the southwest corner of State and Washington streets. From that date to now it will hardly be of interest to trace the many homes had by this post office. The postmasters since the administration of the above named men have been: J. Q. Adams from 1882 to 1894, F. M. Mead from 1894 to 1898, then he was succeeded by J. Q. Adams, and he in turn in 1902 by Charles Seofield. In 1915 came James Cleary and in 1919 Charles Gilkerson. This newly appointed postmaster wisely kept the old clerks, who had been efficient in their places. They are as follows: Miss Bertha Rowe, assistant postmaster, and Miss Lucretia Marshall, clerk. The rural carriers are: L. D. Sheldon, route 1; Mrs. Ina Coonradt, route 2; Lee Grover, route 3; D. E. Echternaeh, route 4.

The Marengo office sold Thrift Stamps during 1917 to the amount of $31,204.36.

The Marengô office was a second class office up to about 1917 when it was set back to a third class, when the general cry at Washington was retrenchment.


In the summer of 1916 E. D. Patrick remodeled the Marengo Opera House Building, and at that time submitted a plan to furnish and fit up on the third floor of this building a hall and clubrooms consisting of a hail 48 by 70 feet with 20-foot ceilings, billiard room, reception rooms, kitchen and dressing rooms with lavatory and toilet fittings, install lights and heat the same for an annual rental of $360.00.

Accordingly, a committee was appointed to organize the Community Club of Marengo, and they perfected such an organization, whose purpose it was to furnish clean and healthful entertainment and physical training and exercise to the members and families of the Community Club. The membership fee was fixed at $5 and $6 per year in advance.

The club is managed by a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer and five trustees. Monthly meetings are held by the officers, at which all matters pertaining to the management of the club are subinitted and disposed of. The detail management is carried out through several committees, as: House Comthittee, Athletic Committee, Educational, Entertainment and Membership Committees, all reporting to business meetings each month, for council and advice, as well as giving suggestions for the betterment of the club. The membership age limit is eighteen years and over. Men are admitted only, however, the ladies use the Halland Gym one night each week. The Boy Scouts also are given a place one night each week, at a nominal fee. This club has no connection, whatever, with any religious sect or creed, and holds no religious services in their hail. The members rather seek to demonstrate the true spirit of Christianity and democracy, in a practical, everyday way. It certainly has filled a common community need in the place, and is growing stronger each month. Members of this club work in perfect harmony with the various women's clubs, public school management and other societies of the city of Marengo. "WE" is the big word with this club. No cliques or anything of the kind, or politics is allowed to obtain within the club.

It has come to make the place a better, safer, pleasanter one in which to live and labor for the higher uplift of the general community.


The subjoined is a sketch made up from recollections of that sturdy pioneer, Calvin Spencer, who dictated these "early-day notes" to his daughter who wrote them down at the time he gave them, hence may be relied upon as authentic history:

The first settler in what is now known as Marengo was Calvin Spencer who arrived here with his ox-teams November 17, 1835. The previous year he had been here and cut logs for a cabin, also cut and put up stacks of hay with a scythe. The scythe needing grinding he walked about eighteen miles further west to Big Thunder Mills on the trail to Galeria. Mr. Spencer recalled seeing the body of Big Thunder sitting upright, facing the east in a pen built by the Indians to keep the animals away. It so remained there until the skull dropped off.

Mr. Spencer built on present site of the Gault Building, where he conducted a public house or tavern as then called. A large part of land was included in what is now the city of Marengo. The first post office was kept by Alfred King, who kept the office one mile west of the Spencer tavern. The post office was called Pleasant Grove, but finding another post office by that name, it was changed to Marengo, so named by Thomas Thorne. The first store was by Moody Bailey, on the site of the present Ellison garage. Fink & Walker Stage line covered the road to Galena up to the building of the railroad in 1851. It was the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. Miss Spencer, daughter of Calvin Spencer, now has a way-bill dated Chicago, March 11, 1852, for lumber shipped to her father and which was used in enlarging her present house, which he had erected in 1844. This building stands some three blocks east of the central corners, on the road to Chicago.

The first justice of the peace was Moses Spencer, father of Calvin, who died in 1861 in his eighty-first year.

The first marriage was that. of William Sponsable and Rachael Chatfield, both of whom were life-long residents of Marengo.

The first sermon was preached at the Calvin Spencer home in 1836, by Elder Southworth, an itinerant, the text being: "And he sat down and talked to the people."

The first medical doctor of Marengo was Dr. Burley Mason.

The first birth was Dr. Mason's son William, who died an infant.

The first school was taught in the summer of 1837 by Caroline Cobb, who became the wife of Spencer Flanders and she spent her life near Franklinville. The school in the fall of 1838 was taught by O. P. Rogers, who died only a few years ago. For many years he was a partner of L. Woodward in the nursery business.

The first newspaper at Marengo was the Marengo Journal in 1856, owned by Edward Burnside. The issues for the first few years ending in 1861 are now in possession of Miss Spencer in a bound volume.

The first water-mill was the Kishwaukee mill-it being on that stream; it was conducted by Smith Bros.

The first cemetery was a part of the present one which was later enlarged to the north side of the railroad. The first body buried there in the new part being George House, who died June, 1861.

The first Sunday school was conducted in the present Spencer residence.

Botsford & Howe operated the first steam-mill. Early merchants were Mr. Vawter, Kasson & Safford, Mr. Hyde and others.

Mr. Spencer was born in Cayuga County, N. Y., October 6, 1807, and died April 17, 1898. He was the son of Moses and Esther (Albee) Spencer. Calvin Spencer arrived at Marengo, with ox teams November 17, 1835. His parents also came west about that date, but the mother was taken ill en route and died the tenth of that month before reaching their destination. His brother-in-law Joseph Brayton, and wife, and a couple of young men came at the same time. The fear of Indians so worked on the mind of Mrs. Brayton that they could not be induced to remain in the country and they went back to La Porte, Ind.

Mr. Spencer was always an active man till well passed eighty years and retained his mentality and physical vigor up to near his death. His wife was born in 1810 and died in 1875.

Politically, he was identified with the Republican party. Originally he voted with the Whig party, and cast his first vote in 1828 against Andrew Jackson. He never missed an election. He heard the great debate between Lincoln and Douglas in Chicago, in 1856. In church affiliations he was of the Baptist denomination.

Of the seven children of Mr. and Mrs. Spencer, the survivors are: Orson, of Washington County, Ill., and Mary, widow of John Lambden, who was born February 25, 1841, in the old tavern at Marengo, still lives at the old homestead; and Edna Sophronia, born in the present Spencer house, May 27, 1849. She is known as a great lover of home and a zealous worker in the Baptist Church, and a liberal contributor to benevolent causes.


"As busy as a bee" certainly applies to Dr. C. C. Miller, the venerable gentleman of Marengo, who is now eighty-six years of age, and who has had to do with honey bees and flowers for almost three score years and has been associate editor of the well-known publication the "American Bee Journal" for many years. Doctor Miller was among the pioneer physicians of Marengo and vicinity, but about Civil war days abandoned his medical practice, and since then has been an active student and busy worker among the honey-bee hives, and occupied in imparting his knowledge by tongue and pen concerning the keeping of bees and the best methods of producing honey. His is no small, stinted knowledge of that most ingenious and wonderful of God's creatures, the honey bee. To be brief, in the introduction of this talented and universally respected veteran of the bee and honey industry, we will simply quote a short biography of him found a few years since in the biographical dictionary of notable persons in the United States, "Who's Who in America."

Miller, Charles C., apiarist, writer; born in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, June 10, 1831, son of Johnson J. and Phoebe Miller; A. B., Union College, Schenectady, N. Y., 1853; M. D., Medical Department University of Michigan, 1856; married Miss Helen M. White of Marengo, Illinois, August 12, 1857 (died 1880) ; married Miss Sidney J. Wilson of Marengo, Illinois, November 15, 1881. Began keeping bees at Marengo, 1861; and at one time four hundred colonies of bees, now fourteen, and produced many tons of honey; extensive writer for bee and agricultural journals; department editor of Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1890; associate editor American Bee Journal, 1894; Prohibitionist, Presbyterian, Member National Bee Keepers Union (twice president). Member Beta Kappa. Author: "A Book by P. Benson," 1874; "A Year Among Bees," 1886, "Forty Years Among the Bees," 1902; "Fifty Years Among the Bees," 1911. Editor "Apiary Terms" in Standard Dictionary; home, Marengo, McHenry County, Illinois.

His chosen profession, medical doctor, was too trying on his sensitive nature; it worried and chafed him, and for this reason he was content in withdrawing from that profession for which he had well fitted himself, and for a time he was a musical instructor in the old "Marengo Collegiate Institute" whose existence is now but a faint memory among the older members of McHenry County society. He has knowingly remarked in recent years that his "chair" there netted him $50 and some old lumber.

For a time Doctor Miller taught school and gave piano lessons and conducted singing school. He is full of music and at one time was a regular contributor of both words and music to the famous "Song Messenger." He was the efficient chorister in the. Moody Church of Chicago and even in his old age still may be classed among the "sweet singers."

His great achievements have been in that of an expert apiarist. At one time he had 400 colonies of bees and a careful estimate places the amount of honey he caused to be produced by these bees to be in round numbers 100 tons.

His writings on the honey bee, its habits, customs, and value have found their way into the Country Gentleman, Youth's Companion, Gleanings In Bee Culture, and every book of importance on bees in this country, and he has drawn from his knowledge of bees in his productions. He was editor of the department on bees in the Standard Dictionary, and his writings have been translated into the French, German, Swiss, Italian, Russian and Japanese publications. Doctor Miller is known far and wide, and by the bee publications in Texas, he is styled the "Sage of Marengo."

Doctor Miller is a religious man, and has been a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of Marengo since 1857. Through his religion, he sees the hand of the Creator in Nature. The sunshine, wind, rain, the grass and time flowers all appeal to his religious nature and in these elements he recognizes sublime beauty. Even the modest daisy is not too insignificant to be noticed, examined and talked about. So well is he acquainted with flowers that he was elected secretary of the Northern Illinois Horticultural Society, and still later was its president. He is truly a many-sided man. Whether one views him from the standpoint of scholarship, science, art, composition, Christian manly virtues, a home-lover and home-maker, or as the plain, everyday, hardworking enthusiast over bees and the production of the extract of all sweetness-"honey and the honey-comb," it matters not, he stands out in the open, high above and far removed, from but few, if any, in the various roles in life, in which he has been so conspicuous a figure for more than a half century in one place, McHenry County, Ill.

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