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

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McHenry Township is bounded on the north by Richmond and Burton Townships; on the east by Lake County; on the south by Nunda Township: and on the west by Greenwood Township, and it is congressional township 45, range 8. The Fox River traverses it from north to south, and it contains half of Pistaqua Lake, which is in the northeastern part; one-half of Lilly Lake, which is in the southeastern part; and MeCollum's Lake, which is near the center of the township; while two branches of Boone Creek which is the main stream of the Nippersink, as well as many smaller water courses supply ample water and drainage. It is one of the most fertile and productive townships of McHenry County, which has long had the reputation of being one of the leading agricultural sections of the state. McHenry County is one of the oldest settled townships in the county, and in it the county seat was located not oniy before Lake County was separated from McHenry, but for some time thereafter, as is given in another chapter.


The first settler of McHenry Township was Dr. Christy G. Wheeler, who came here in 1836, and opened a small store. He was a brother of Elder Wheeler, who lived to attain the distinction of being the oldest living pioneer of McHenry Township. Dr. Wheeler was a medical practitioner and also a local preacher, and alternated between his mercantile pursuits and his two professions. His health was very frail, he in fact having come to Illinois in the hope that the change would prove beneficial, but he did not improve, and at length died only a few years after his settlement here. Some of the other pioneers were as follows: Henry and John McLean, Louis and John Boone, William and David McCullum, Wesley Ladd, Samuel Walker, Allen and Freeman Harvey, B. B. Brown, Jonathan and Mike Sutton, Rev. Joel Wheeler, William H. Hankins, and his aunt Mrs. Valentine and her son, and also a man by the name of Teabout. The Harkins party came to McHenry Township in September, 1837, having made the journey in an emigrant wagon, which they used as a shelter until their cabin was erected. In December, 1837, Young Valentine fell from a tree and was instantly killed. Mr. Teabout lost his life while hunting not long thereafter through the accidental discharge of his gun.


Rev. Joel Wheeler performed the first marriage ceremony in McHenry Township in November, 1839, when he united Joseph Fellows and Christiana Robinault, that is recorded. The first child born in the township was Christy Wheeler.

The first death was that of William Herrick. He was crossing the Fox River on the ice, his horse broke through, and in some way his rifle was accidentally discharged, causing his death. His body was interred on the banks of the river, and there remained for many years, but in the early eighties, when a cellar was being dug on the site of his grave, his remains were disinterred and laid to a final rest in the McHenry Cemetery.


The "silent cities" of the township, the cemeteries, are numerous.

At first the dead were buried near the old mill-dam, one mile to the north of the village of McHenry, but as other cemeteries were opened up, the bodies were removed from it and placed where the graves would receive better attention. Among the township's burying grounds are these: Thompson's Burying Ground, the Ringwood Cemetery; one located just west of Ringwood; and others both public, and churchburying grounds. The Catholics have a. large cemetery near their church at Johnsburg; the Woodland Cemetery is at McHenry village. This last named was laid out in 1858, and is a Protestant cemetery, while the Catholics have another one located near the village of McHenry also.


At the point on the Fox River where the city of McHenry now stands, in the days long before the white man set his foot on McHenry County soil, the Indians built a ford of broad, flat, square-cut stones of sandstone, which were regularly laid and secured by other stones in such manner that the swift current of the stream would not dislodge them. The pioneer white men removed these stones and used them for hearth-stones, and some of them are still to be found. It has never been ascertained the source from which the Indians obtained these stones, as no similar formation has been found anywhere in this locality.


The Village of McHenry is distinguished as having been the county seat for so many years, and also as being the first town that was organized in McHenry County. It was laid out by a Chicago surveyor, named Bradley, in 1837, through the efforts of Henry McLean, and the latter built the first house in the place, a log one, 12x16, near the site of what later was known as the Riverside House. For several months after this little building was erected it served as a gathering place for the settlers and a wayside tavern. Dr. Christy Wheeler opened and conducted the first store. The first wagonmaker was Richard Bishop, who opened his shop in 1840. Nathan Haight was the first blacksmith. The first saw-mill was built in 1837 by a man named Barnum, who later sold it to H. O. Owen and James Salisbury who completed the work of construction, John McOmber doing the actual work. Mr. McOmber afterwards built himself a house from the first lumber sawed by this mill. Not long after this mill was completed, James Salisbury went below to correct some error with reference to its action, and not having notified the miliman, he had scarcely placed himself in the machinery, than the gate was hoisted, the mill put in motion, and Mr. Salisbury was crushed and killed almost instantly. He was buried by Rev. Joel Wheeler in the first cemetery by the mill dam.

In 1851 E. M. Owen and his brothers H. A. and O. W. Owen, built a grist-mill at McHenry that was for a long time the best in the county. They ran it in partnership until 1858, when E. M. Owen bought the interests of his brothers, and sold it to R. Bishop for $20,000.00. Mr. Bishop immediately added the roller process at a cost of $10,000.00, and for a number of years this mill was one of the leading industries of McHenry.

The old mill site is pointed out by the old settler as one of the important land-marks of by-gone days. The race that conveys the water to the mill is still overflowing and the water wastes itself away from day to day, but its utility seems forever gone for milling purposes. In fact there are but few of the early mills in use anywhere, on account of the milling center for flour making has long since changed and it is conducted on a different plan, perhaps a better plan, at least the farmer sells his wheat and buys his supply of flour now!


There was a day when Mellenry bid fair to become a place of much manufacturing interest, in fact it is related that the village had an opportunity during the early sixties to secure what is now known the world over, as the Elgin Watch Factory, but business men did not pull together in harmony, and they let the prize slip away to Elgin, which made concessions and some sacrifices in order to build up that great plant when its stock holders most needed aid.

In the early eighties a pickle factory was established at McHenry. It was founded by that well-remembered pioneer and excellent citizen, Richard Bishop, who for many years operated this factory with profit to himself and the surrounding country, but in time this business shifted to large city centers, Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Chicago, etc., and the small town plants were put out of commission. However at this time there are hundreds of acres of land in and around McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove and other eastern McHenry County points which produce cucumbers which are placed in salting plants near where they are grown and later in the season, are shipped to Chicago, where they are made into pickles. It has come to be a large industry.

In 1868 George Gribbler built a brewery at McHenry He commenced in a small way but eventually possessed a large paying plant where lager beer was produced in great quantities. It had a large local and a fairly large shipping sale.

One of McHenry's earliest industries was the wagon factory of Richard Bishop, whose well. equipped plant was totally destroyed by fire in 1878, but was rebuilt upon a much larger scale, with improved machinery for turning out farm and light wagons. But this, too, like other small town factory interests, had to succumb to the inevitable and in time gave way to the great wagon factories in the country, with which small places were unable to compete, hence had to close down.


By reference to old publications, paper files, etc., it is learned that the following constituted the majority of business men, firms and professions in McHenry from 1880 to 1885:

Richard Bishop, E. M. Owen & Son, Amos D. Whiting, Francis A. Herbard, Isaac Wentworth, Charles B. Curtiss, Gottlieb Boley, Nordquist & Weber, Barbeau Brothers, L. D. Lincoln, John B. Blake, Henry Madden, William M. Yager, E. M. Howe, Mathias Englen, O. W. Owen, J. P. Smith, H. E. Wrightman, Perry & Owen, Mayers & Bartlett, Edwin Lawless, Henry Colby, Dr. H. T. Brown, Dr. C. H. Fegers, I. E. Bennett, John Karges, E. G. Smith, George Dimmel, Anton Engelen, J. J. Gillis, John Heimer and Thomas Knox. Many of the above named business factors had been residents of McHenry prior to and during the Civil war period, and bore well their part in sustaining the Union at that time.


It was incorporated August 10, 1872, with the following officers: Richard Bishop, president; J. B. Perry, J. M. McComber, H. C. Smith, John King, and Frank K. Granger, trustees; and Michel Keller, clerk. The subjoined have served as presidents of McHenry village from date of its incorporation: 1872- R. Bishop, 1873- J. B. Perry, 1874-C. B. Curtis, R. Bishop, F. K. Granger, R.. Bishop, Smith Searles, H. Bishop, Anthony Webber, Rollin Howard, R. Bishop, B. Gilbert, F. K. Granger, Rollin Howard, J. Van Slyke, Simon Stoffel, J. Van Slyke, (1891), (No record for several years), 1897-John I. Story, 1898-W. A. Christy, John Evanson, P. J. Freund, F. J. Wattles, John H. Miller, Simon Stoffel, D. J. Wells, R. G. Chamberlain, John Olson, and Simon Stoffel.


The following are the present officials of the village of McHenry: president, Simon Stoffel; clerk, W. G. Schram; treasurer, J. C. Holly; magistrate, John W. Kimball; marshal, John Walsh; attorney, A. H. Pouse; trustees, Peter Doherty, Louis Erickson, John R. Knox, Albert Krause, B. I. Oaten and Frank Wetten.


The village voted to issue bonds and construct a system of water works in August, 1897, and this was carried out, and today the village has a fine system of waterworks, including a deep artesian well from which is ever flowing a large stream of health-giving water. The water is pumped to a ninety-foot steel water tower which has a large holding capacity as reserve in case of fire or other emergencies. The water is distributed through the scattered village, and most all neighborhoods will soon have water in front of their very door.

At the pumping station, a combined water plant building with its gasoline pump and other fixtures, are housed within one building together with the "City Hall," as the brick structure, near the center of the village is known. Here the council meets, and here, in a large fire-proof safe, is kept a good set of public municipal records.

Arm ordinance was passed the village board March 9, 1908, by which a Chicago electric company was granted a franchise to distribute electricity throughout the village for a term of twenty years. This was carried out, and thus it was that MeHenry was soon illuminated by the brightest of modern lights.


McHenry has two post offices. One at the old original village and another near the depot, in what is styled West McHenry about one mile apart. The original McHenry post office was established in 1837, with Christy Wheeler as postmaster. When West McHenry sprang into existence, at the time the railroad was built, there was soon a bitter rivalry between the two town sites and indeed the spirit has not altogether died out, however generally speaking peace obtains between the two sections. It was during one of these hard-fought rivalry battles that by some "hook or crook" the office was moved from the old to the newer part of town. So, for more than a year, the people at the old village had no postoffice, but through Congressman Elwood, a man came from the department at Washington, and looked the field over and as a result a new post office was established, since which date, 1883, the two parts of McHenry have each had a post office, one mile apart. Certainly Uncle Sam is a peace maker! The postmasters names for the earliest years are not a matter of record, save in the Department at Washington, hence only those of a later period can be given. At the original McHenry they have been in the order given: J. B. Perry, Captain Snow, Rollin Waite, J. C. Holly, T. J. Walsh, who was commissioned in 1915. This is a third class postoffice; has three rural routes eared for as follows: No. 1 by carrier H. H. Fay; No. 2, D. I. Granger; No. 3, Joe N. Miller. The U. S. leases the brick building in which this postoffice has been kept several years.

The West McHenry post office has had for its postmasters: C. V. Stevens, J. W. Kimball, Simon Stoffel, H. C. Mead, E. E. Bassett, who was commissioned in 1914. This is a third-class post office and sends forth one rural delivery or mail on a twenty-nine mile route, the carrier being James N. Sayler.

"West McHenry" is the direct result of the building of the Chicago & Northwestern railroad through this section. The place was laid out by George Gage and it was largely through his influence that West McHenry was made a station on the road. At first the village was called "Gatetown," but soon took the name of West McHenry. Some of the second lot of business men at this point were: William Hanley, Oatman & Sons, Amos D. Whiting, Smith & Snyder, Curtis & Walker, W. A. Cristy and W. H. Wiswell.


The first hotel in the township was built in 1837, by B. B. Brown, at Mdllenry. It was a rude, although very comfortable log house, and served as a hotel more than twenty years. The second hotel was the Mansion House, at McHenry, built by Horace Long, and used for the old courthouse until the county seat was removed to Woodstock. It was built in 1838, was a frame structure 40x60 feet, and two stories in height. Early in the eighties it went out of commission as a hotel.

The Fremont House was erected in 1851, but was burned about seven years later.

The old Riverside Hotel was built in 1864 by John W. and David Smith. This was counted a fine structure in those days. It was built. of brick and was three stories high, with dimensions 40x60 feet. It served its day and generation and passed out of use.

The Parker Hotel of West McHenry was built in 1858 by George Gage, and for a time bore the owner's name. Its first landlord was Mr. Van Doozen, who opened it New Year's Day with a grand ball. He was succeeded by William Murray, and he in turn by a Mr. Holmes. Later, came Landlord Edson, who after two years was followed by W. Parker and L. D. Lincoln. On August 4, 1881, F. A. Parker, son of W. Parker, took charge of the hotel, but, in 1884, resigned in favor of his father.

The principal commercial hotel of the village is now known as the Park Hotel, an old building, but the hotel is conducted on modern plans, as far as possible in so small a place where the customers stop but for an occasional meal, and possibly over night.


This is a small hamlet situated on the northeast corner of section 13, of McHenry Township, three miles southeast of Ringwood, a station on the railroad in this township; and it is also about two miles northeast from McHenry village. This hamlet was settled by the Germans in 1852, and was named in honor of their leader, for the settlement was really a colony. His Christian name being John the place was called Johnsburg. It has ever been known almost exclusively as a German settlement. St. John 's Roman Catholic Church was established here by Father Portman in 1845, when the membership consisted of but three families, but today it is among the largest churches of any denomination within McHenry County. About 1880 a $45,000 stone edifice was constructed here, and then its membership (1880 to 1885) was 275 families. The present business interests are not large, this hamlet being away from any railway, and the greater number of the people trade at larger places in and out of this county. A large parochial school is conducted here, by the Catholics.

There are doubtless many of the present day citizens of Johnsburg who are sons and daughters of pioneers whose names here follow, and who were in the early vanguard and among the settlers, later thrifty Germans who claimed as their heritage this portion of McHenry County, in the fifties and sixties. Henry Hatterman, Martin May, Charles Mathew, Peter Rothermel, John Weber, Peter Werfs, Charles E. Buchanan, Theodore Mayer, Charles Kuhnert, Ley & Adams, Simon Nichols, Mathias Hohiman, Henry Miller, Mathew Heimer, Frank Miller, William Akthoff, Joseph Palmer, Steffen Thelen, Peter Adams, Martin Boughner, L. N. Freund, John Molitur and John Thelen, were the most prominent.


This village is a station on the Chicago & Northwestern railroad, in sections 9 and 10 of McHenry Township. It was settled in 1837 by Dr. Luke Hale and William H. Beach. Doctor Hale was a physician engaged in active practice at Ringwood for many years. Both of these men came from Vermont, bringing their families with them. The village was platted and recorded in 1844. Owing to the fact that the entire plat was surrounded by a ring of woods, the appropriate name "Ringwood" was given to it by its proprietors. Elder Wheeler held the first religious services in what is now McHenry Township, in a log house erected by H. W. McLean.

The first school was taught in this township in a log building which stood on the banks of Fox River.


Every Township has its own peculiar features, distinct from all others. Here in MeHenry Township it may be said of its special characteristics that it is the oldest organized settlement of the county; it was the home of the original county seat when Lake and McHenry were all in one large sub-division of Illinois. The old land-marks which to the older generations presented hourly reminders of an honor this division of the county once possessed, but today these reminders are mostly gone and the story is handed down from father to son. But this township and her beautiful villages and hamlets may well boast of the progress they have made with the passing years.


MeHenry Township had a population in 1890 of 2,555; in 1900, 2,673; in 1910, 2,679; and in 1920, 2,825.


The following are serving as the township officials of McHenry Township: Supervisor, Stephen H. Freund; assessor, John W. Kimball; clerk, Charles B. Harmsen; highway commissioner, William B. Tonyan; justices of the peace, W. J. Welch and E. C. Hawley; constables, W. H. Kelley and John Walsh.

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