McHenry Electric Service Company

 

McHenry’s first venture into the electric world started in February 1908. Town leaders wanted to bring McHenry into the electronic age for some time, but this wasn’t as easy as one might think. Electric companies weren’t like the giant corporations that we have today. Many were start-ups, most of which failed. For example, towns would get electric service, only to lose it if the company supplying the electricity went out of business.

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Picture of the Buch Hotel from a Sanborn Map in 1912. The basement of the Buch Hotel was where the McHenry Electric Service Company was located.

In February of 1908, the town board started meeting with George Paige and Lloyd Howell to set up what would become the McHenry Electric Service Company. While the company was a start-up, both Paige and Howell had experience in the electric company business. They would set up and maintain the company’s equipment. This included setting up new lines, fixing broken equipment, and trimming trees that might damage electric wiring. The company’s headquarters was housed in the basement of the Buch Building (where the Old Bridge Tavern is today.) The electricity’s main source of power was a 50-horse gasoline powered motor. The village board was very excited to provide this new service to its citizens, as well as the vacationers who would be in town for the summer.

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Advertisement from July 1908 of McHenry Plaindealer.

By June of 1908, electric service was up and running. For those who took advantage of the new service, it was well received. The village set up six-foot tall posts with electric lights along the main streets of town. For whatever reason, price or convenience, the service didn’t take off. For a while, the McHenry Electric Service Company even offered to set up customers at the company’s expense. By the summer of 1909, the company came forward to the village board and stated they were not getting the patronage required to successfully run the business. In October, the McHenry Electric Service Company was put up for sale and McHenry looked as if it would spend the winter in the dark.

However, on November 1, 1909, the Illinois Lakes Light and Power Company took control of the business and equipment from the McHenry company. The Illinois Lakes’ company was much larger in scale, offering services in several locations, such as Mount Prospect, Cary, and Crystal Lake. The company was run by Edward Lake. Lake decided to run the electric company similar to a telephone company with lines connecting larger areas including running connections from town to town. It was a more ambitious plan than most electric service companies were running at that time. The Illinois Lakes Light and Power Company went on to become one of the largest electric companies in the state.

Sources

“An Ordinance” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Mar. 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Cement Foundations” McHenry Plaindealer 7 May 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Electric Service Now In Buch Building” McHenry Plaindealer 16 Apr. 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Franchise Is Accepted” McHenry Plaindealer 12 Mar. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“May Have Electric Lights” McHenry Plaindealer 27 Feb. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Plant Now In Operation” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Jun. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“New Engine” McHenry Plaindealer 24 Dec. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Electric Tidbits” McHenry Plaindealer 14 May 1908: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“$1,000,000 Company” McHenry Plaindealer 18 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Company Changed Hands” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“McHenry’s Light Plant” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Apr. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“More Lights” McHenry Plaindealer 5 Aug. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“That Lighting Question” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Oct. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.
“Line Reaches Out After Many Cities” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Nov. 1909: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 10 Feb 2017.

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