The Hunter – Weckler Boat Company

During McHenry’s heyday as a resort town, one of the most popular attractions were the lotus beds at Fox Lake, Pistakee Lake, and Grass Lake. Seeing a great business opportunity, Chicagoans, Everett Hunter, and A.J. Weckler, set up a boat factory in Fox Lake in 1904. The factory was a temporary one, as they had their eyes on setting up a much bigger site in McHenry if things went well. Things looked to go very well as the scenic Fox River was the preferred way to get up to the lotus flowers and other attractions. Testing the market, Hunter and Weckler, started making boats and had a great season. They sent the next two years selling boats from their Fox Lake location, keeping their offices in Chicago, and planning their large factory in McHenry that would function as both factory and office. Most in town were very much in favor of having such a prosperous business here, and many of the town leaders worked with Hunter & Weckler to get them to keep their sights on McHenry as the future home of their boating company.

Photo appearing in the McHenry Plaindealer on 9 Feb 1911.

By 1907, the Hunter & Weckler Boat Co, were ready to call McHenry home and set out to build what would be one of the most impressive & well-respected boat factories in the country. They found some property in the perfect location along the Fox River. Nestled along the river and right next to the old Iron bridge, which was the only bridge in McHenry at the time. This would enable very efficient transportation of materials by land or water. Originally, the plans for the new structure would measure 40 ft. x 140 ft. In May 1910, A.J. Weckler sold his share of the company and Everett Hunter became sole owner, who then set out to make an even more impressive structure.

It was during this time that the construction of the factory really started to come along, Hunter hoped to have everything finished for the 1911 boating season. The structure’s cement blocks were crafted by Albert Etten. By September 1910, he had assembled 3000 bricks, which would be at about the rate of 150 a day from when he started about a month earlier. Aside from the making of the bricks, much of the construction was done by Hunter employees. This would keep them from getting idol while construction of the factory was stopping the production of boats. Three storage facilities were included at the plant with measured about 50,000 square feet and all told, the factory sat on 20 acres of land. The main plant itself was separated into two sections, a woodworking area, and a machine shop. The entire facility was powered by electricity and ended up measuring 70 ft x 150 ft.

An overhead image of the Hunter Boat Company from the Oct 1912 Sanborn Map for McHenry.

Quickly, the Everett Hunter Boat Company would be one of the largest and the most respected boat manufacturers in the country. Over time, however, the lotus flowers disappeared from man-made natural causes. Also, people started wanting faster boats, unlike the cruising models made by Everett. In July 1956, the Everetts sold their business to Harry Hans, who made it a boat service site naming itself the North Bridge Marine Service Company. However, in January 1958, a fire struck destroying much of the Hunter complex. Some of the storage areas were saved probably due to a new cement floor. Unfortunately with much of the material used in the business being flammable, there wasn’t much the fire department could do once the blaze started. Undaunted, the North Bridge Marine Service Company went on to rebuild and were in business for many years.

  • “Business Men Meet” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 1 Jun 1905, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “Factory Proposition” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 24 Mar 1905, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “McHenry’s New Enterprise” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 29 Dec 1904, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “Willis & Frankenstein…” The Inter Ocean. (Chicago, IL) 19 Feb 1905, 22. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “Don’t Be  A Knocker” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 16 Feb 1905, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “Boat Factory Again Busy” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 21 Feb 1907, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “E. Hunter of the Hunter-Weckler Boat Company” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 10 Oct 1907, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “Hunter-Weckler Boat Co. Smashes At Show” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 14 Apr 1910, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “E. Hunter is now sole possessor” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 21 Apr 1910, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “The cement blocks…” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 15 Sep 1910, 4. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “Work on the site…” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 29 Sep 1910, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “McHenry Boat Industry” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 9 Feb 1911, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.
  • “$200,000 is estimated loss in spectacular fire…” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 16 Jan 1958, 1. Web. 9 Feb 2021.