The United States wasn’t in the First World War for long, but when it did become involved, the nation fully immersed itself in the conflict. Overall, the county bought over $5 million in liberty war bonds and raised over $100,000 in donations. Not bad for a county with 33,000 people according to the 1920 census. McHenry County was also right there in the fray sending several young faces off the front, 57 of whom died for their country. To say that the mood was jubilant, when news of the war’s end arrived in McHenry, would be an understatement.
News of the peace settlement first reached McHenry, when William Pries, proprietor of the Centerville meat market, received word from Chicago at about two in the morning. Mr. Pries tried getting hold of several people to spread the news, but to no avail. He finally got hold of J. E. Pufahl, superintendent of the local Bordon’s factory. Pufahl and the night watchman were able to get the boilers up and running to use the steam whistle to alert the town. However, this didn’t happen until 4 A.M. Soon after the Borden factory’s announcement, church bells joined in the chorus.
Within 30 minutes, people started marching down the streets of the town, with owners turning on the lights of their businesses and citizens turning on the lights of their homes to guide the way for the celebratory crowd. Around 1:30 in the afternoon the large parade started with about 1,500 people marching. Starting at village hall and working its way around the main streets of the town, it made its way back to the hall to finish. At the end of the parade, an effigy of Kaiser Wilhelm was hung from a telephone pole where it was summarily shot by some of the townspeople. At one point, car loads of people from Richmond and Spring Grove arrived to join in the celebration. The Richmond folks had a band that played some tunes before departing. There was a patriotic themed stage at the opera house, located above Pries’ store, where several of McHenry’s most prominent names spoke regarding the end of the war. However, the highlight of the evening was a large fire built just south of the village hall that was enjoyed by all. A McHenry band also came to the fire and provided some entertainment.
After the guns fell silent in Europe, it would take time for the American troops to come home. At the end of the war, the estimate would be about six months or sometime around June. The county designated the first week in June as Homecoming Week. On June 10, 1919, the Woodstock public square hosted a huge celebration with about 15,000 to 20,000 in attendance. As the county seat, Woodstock was designated as the host for the first celebration and then each town had their own celebration for their own soldiers.
McHenry would have a celebration of its own. Initially the main question would be were would the funds come from, should they come from the 4 of July fund or from one all on its own. Most towns in the county formed committees to raise funds and distribute them to maximize the monies to have the best celebration possible. McHenry’s celebration would start by embellishing the town in patriotic colors and decorations. The items were purchased and housed at William Smith’s store for people to pickup at cost. At 10 am a parade started with everyone in town encouraged to participate. If the veterans wanted to walk they could, but their participation was stressed to be purely optional. A speaker and band were selected to entertain the crowds at the old park in town. Throughout town there were vendors available to offer food and refreshments for soldiers at no cost. Others attending who purchased from the vendors would pay with the money going to those who fought and died overseas.
- Woodstock In Gala Attire.” The Marengo Republican News. 5 Jun 1919, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 Oct 2019.
- “Germany Signs Armistice.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 14 Nov 1918, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 Oct 2019.
- “McHenry Will Celebrate.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 19 Jun 1918, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 19 Oct 2019.
- “Great Welcome To Soldiers.” The Marengo Republican News. 29 May 1919, 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 29 Oct 2019.
- History of McHenry County, Illinois. Chicago: Munsell Pub., 1922. Print.