McHenry’s First Bank

Banks have always been an important part of a community. Besides safely holding people’s money and offering loans, they were usually headed by many of a town’s business leaders. This was especially true when banks were single buildings and not the huge financial conglomerates we know today. McHenry’s first bank was no different. In fact, it was originally run out of a store.

Advertisement for the Bank of McHenry in 10 Jun 1891 edition of the McHenry Plaindealer.

When McHenry was first getting itself established, James B. Perry was one of the town’s most successful businessmen. He originally went into business with Alfred Martin in 1872 in the old E.M. Owen Store. They sold general merchandise, such as clothes, food, fabric, and other supplies. In February 1883, Alfred Martin sold his shares in the store to Oliver Owen. Now known as, Perry & Owen, the business was very successful. So much so, that they opened what was the first banking business in McHenry, the Bank of McHenry, right in their store. In 1895, the Bank acquired a large safe from the Cary Safe Company located in Buffalo, New York. It weighed 8,000 pounds, cost $1200, and had a triple time lock. The time lock was a somewhat new innovation for bank safes. The safe was rather large, measuring 40”x50” and, was six feet tall. In 1896, Perry & Owen sold their store to Lewis Owen and S.S. Chappell.

Overhead view of the bank in 1912 from the Sanborn Map Collection.

By the late 1890s having the bank operate out of the store wasn’t feasible, if the bank was to grow. Perry & Owen found a nice plot of land, just north of their current business located next to the McHenry Plaindealer’s office. One of the more important items was not just security for the bank customers’ money. A brick building lends to a more permanent, dependable-looking structure, giving a customer more confidence in their financial institution. Perry & Owen built themselves a new two-story brick structure, which was completed in March 1901. The bank measured 24×54 with space on the second floor for a lodge hall. The Bank of McHenry ran a thriving business until 1912. Oliver Owen’s health was in decline and he was looking to retire. James Perry was also looking to not work as hard, yet not fully retire. They sold the bank to Clarence Hoy.

Bank (building on the left) from ca. 1920. Compliments of the City of McHenry.

Hoy and his sons ran several banks in the area. They had locations in Woodstock, Crystal Lake, and Ringwood, among others. Oliver Owen retired and James Perry stayed on as the Bank’s vice president in October 1913. In 1920, there were big changes for the bank. Clarence Hoy was able to get the bank to be a state bank, which offered a variety of coverage and commercial services. The bank was renovated later that year and changed its name to the Fox River Valley State Bank. All went well until it didn’t.

Overhead view of the bank in 1922 from the Sanborn Map Collection.

In Jun 1923, Clarence Hoy with his sons, Fremont and Kenneth, and some others involved in the Hoy Banking Company were charged with a variety of crimes including embezzlement and obtaining money by a confidence game. In December, the Hoys and the other defendants were found guilty and were sent to Statesville Prison. They ended up having their sentences reduced, and only served about one to three years, but the Hoys banking days in McHenry County were over. When the Hoys were charged, the Fox River Valley State Bank chose William Pries to be the bank president. The public reportedly didn’t seem too concerned with the criminal situation involving the Hoys. That and the fact that the bank retained the services of Gerald Carey, showed that the problem was more with the Hoys’ legal issues than the bank itself.

Advertisement for the selling of the bank building from the 17 Aug 1933 Plaindealer.

In 1929, the bank changed its name again to the Citizen’s Bank. The following year, the name was changed yet again to the People’s State Bank of McHenry. Like many businesses and people, the bank was hit hard by the Great Depression. The People’s State Bank of McHenry merged its business with the West McHenry State Bank in April 1933. The building was liquidated, with F.H. Wattles purchasing the building in a public auction in September 1933. Today the former bank building is the longtime home of the McHenry Chamber of Commerce.


  • “Bank of McHenry Sold.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 30 Oct 1913, 1. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “This Week, January, 1896…..” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 30 Dec 1920, 4. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “Useful Like Ended.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 4 Jun 1925, 1. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “Citizens State Bank.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 23 Aug 1928, 7. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “Changes in Banks.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 15 Feb 1915, 1. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “Local Bank Has New Name.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 12 Jul 1928, 1. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “New Bank May Be Organized.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 4 Jul 1929, 1. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “F.H. Wattles Purchases Bank Building.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 31 Oct 1929, 1. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “The Bank of McHenry….” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 15 May 1895, 5. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “The New Safe at the Bank of McHenry.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 18 Sep 1895, 5. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “New Bank Building.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 21 Mar 1901, 1. Web. 30 Aug 2022.
  • “Verdict In Hoy Case Is Reached After Midnight.” The Woodstock Sentinel (Woodstock, IL) 13 Dec 1923, 1. Web. 30 Aug 2022.