West McHenry’s Post Office – Part 1

McHenry has had several things that make it stand out from its neighbors. Yet, one of the more distinctive things about it was that for many years it was the only city in America to have two Post Offices that worked independently of each other. From 1882 to 1950 McHenry had two post offices, one in Centerville and the other in West McHenry. Centerville, which was part of the original settlement, included the areas around Riverside, Pearl & Green Streets. West McHenry was usually regarded as the area around the train station, took off when it was established around 1854 by George Gage. Thus, the west side was often referred to as “Gage Town” and almost immediately there was a rivalry between the two sides.

1893 Post Office
1893 Sanborn Map Showing Post Office Near Corner of Main & Front Street in Gagetown.

The post office in McHenry was established in 1837 and was always in Centerville. How it ended up in West McHenry isn’t entirely clear, but it was almost certainly political. The move was a rather swift one. In November 1882, through the workings of Congressman Sherman, it was announced that C.V. Stevens had been appointed Postmaster by Washington and Stevens was moving the office to his store on the west side of town. The McHenry Plaindealer noted that the people of McHenry expressed their “extreme surprise” over the move. A few weeks later, the paper mentioned the move and explained that while some in town were very happy, others were furious. Many other local papers also reported on the subject. For instance, in the December 1, 1882, edition of the Crystal Lake’s, the Herald, makes mention that the post office had been moved. Interestingly, it noted that there was already a demand by some in McHenry to open another post office.

Main Street 1908
Post Card of West Mchenry From About 1908. The Post Office Would Have Been The Third Building On The Left

The Centerville people demanded that something be done and sought the help of their new congressman, Reuben Ellwood. Ellwood came to McHenry (his office was located in DeKalb) and noted that there was little to no chance that the situation would be resolved peacefully or, at least, anytime soon. However, he quickly conceded to the citizen’s demand for another post office in McHenry, in or around its original location. In June of 1883, another post office was opened in Centerville, and as one History of McHenry County noted, Uncle Sam became a “Peacemaker.” Sycamore’s paper, The True Republican, wondered in June 1883, how there could be two offices so close together? While it did seem to break the rules of the department, it did make the people of McHenry happy.

Tripp Ad - Jan 1883
Ad From January 5, 1883 Plaindealer from the Tripp Bros. Noting The Post Office Leaving Their Location

So why did the post office move to West McHenry in November 1882? Some insight may be found in the editorials from the local newspapers. The Woodstock Sentinel’s editors, Southworth & Glennon, were political rivals with the Plaindealer’s editor, Jay Van Slyke. They were very blunt about calling out “Van” on various issues. In an editorial piece, written in May 1883, it was stated that if Van Slyke’s role in the moving of  the post office in McHenry came to light, VanSlyke would be shown as a “traitor worse than Judas.” Also in June 1884, an editorial piece was published in the Sentinel while VanSlyke was jockeying for a place in the Republican party. The editorial goes on to state that during the 1882 elections, VanSlyke made the claim to some people in McHenry that if the post office were moved to West McHenry, votes could be secured for Congressman Sherman. However, it was later claimed that VanSlyke knew that Sherman was going to lose. Just how much of this is true would be up for debate, although it could explain why the move happened so quickly. (It’s also important to note that the Plaindealer offices were located in West McHenry.) However, what is important is that this gives a possible (or partial) explanation as to why the Post office was moved.

Stay tuned for the upcoming months we will have more about history of the West McHenry Post Office.


“Post Office Moved.” McHenry Plaindealer 8 Nov 1882: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.
“Post Office Removed.” Woodstock Sentinel 16 Nov 1882: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.
“P.O. Moved.” The Herald (Crystal Lake) 1 Dec 1882: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.
“Plaindealer Editorial.” Woodstock Sentinel 10 May 1883: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.
“Grand Tempest In A Teapot.” True Republican (Sycamore, IL) 9 Jun 1883: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.
“New Post Master.” McHenry Plaindealer 13 Jun 1883: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.
“New Post Office.” McHenry Plaindealer 20 Jun 1883: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.
“New Post Office.” The Herald (Crystal Lake) 22 Jun 1883: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.
“Oh! Consistency Thou Art A Jewel.” Woodstock Sentinel 5 Jun 1884: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 9 Mar 2018.

History of McHenry County, Illinois. Chicago: Munsell Pub., 1922. Print.


Operation Alert

In the 1950s, the US was in the tensest time of the Cold War. This new type of war brought a new variety of fears due to the weapons of mass destruction that were available. The most infamous being the atomic bomb. Civilian defense organizations were set up at the state and national level. Many towns were strongly encouraged to form their own in 1951. The McHenry Civilian Defense Board, which was headed by mayor George Freund, was broken down into three departments: Fire & Rescue, Law & Order, and Relief. The purpose of the board was to be prepared for any situation or attack that might be brought upon the city or assist a neighboring city if they were attacked.  

Study City Chart - 23 Apr 1959
Civic Leaders of McHenry & Skokie Go Over Plans In April 1959 Edition of the McHenry Plaindealer.

Operation Alert was introduced in 1954, calling for cities all over the country to take part in drills to make sure their community was ready if a possible attack were to take place. Despite being scheduled, all of the drills were to be conducted as if they were real threats, not only by the administrators but the citizenry as well. Citizens were given the loose time between 10am and noon, to add some surprise when the drill actually occurred. The drill started with blasts from the city’s sirens and would last intermittently for fifteen minutes. Members of the McHenry VFW acted as an auxiliary police force, offering direction and information for the people. Schools went on lockdown and fire departments responded to areas that were “attacked.” Main thoroughfares were kept open so that traffic wouldn’t bog down, but the remainder of the public was asked to stay indoors.

testing communications - 4 May 1961
Mayor Doherty & Chief Grobel testing communications outside of a tent at VFW in May 1961 Plaindealer.

In 1956, McHenry began to work with the city of Skokie in a drill that would be held annually for about five years. Skokie is about 12 miles from Chicago and if it were attacked, Skokie could find itself vulnerable to a fallout. While the evacuation of the citizenry of a town was the last resort, if necessary, the people of Skokie were encouraged to travel to McHenry. In July of 1957, McHenry Police Chief Joseph Grobel, Mayor George Freund and civic leaders of Skokie setup a drill. A caravan of about 200 Skokites left town in an organized manner and make their way up to McHenry. They were greeted at the VFW where everyone enjoyed a luncheon.

Picture from the McHenry VFW Post Dedication in 1948 from 27 May Plaindealer.


The mock evacuations would continue for the next five years stopping around 1962 and always reported to be executed rather well. Thankfully, the evacuations were never necessary, but now they give us a glimpse and one of the tensest times in our nation’s history as well as McHenry’s history.


“City To Welcome Skokie Evacuees.” McHenry Plaindealer 28 Apr 1960: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Operation Alert In City Friday Fine Success.” McHenry Plaindealer 23 Apr 1959: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Study City Chart.” McHenry Plaindealer 23 Apr 1959: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Alert Proves Exciting For Entire City.” McHenry Plaindealer 2 Nov 1961: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Civil Defense Alert In City.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Jul 1956: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Explain Civil Defense Plan For This Area.” McHenry Plaindealer 21 Sep 1961: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“List Committees On Local Civil Defense Board.” McHenry Plaindealer 28 Jun 1951: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Observe Operation Alert In McHenry.” McHenry Plaindealer 10 Jul 1957: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Operation Alert Observed By Local Civil Defense.” McHenry Plaindealer 3 Jul 1957: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Successful Alert Program Brought To Conclusion Sunday.” McHenry Plaindealer 4 May 1961: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Alert America.” McHenry Plaindealer 22 May 1952: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.
“Civil Evacuation To Be Last Resort.” McHenry Plaindealer 5 Apr 1951: 6. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Jan 2018.

McHenry’s Borden Factory

Going into the 1900s, McHenry had a lot going for itself. It was a summer tourist destination and had a great agricultural community. Businesses and factories were also starting to spring up throughout the village. One of those was the Gail Borden Condensing Plant. The Gail Borden Company had factories in many towns in the state of Illinois. In 1901, McHenry would become one of those towns. By 1910, McHenry County alone had Borden factories in McHenry, Cary, Richmond, Woodstock and Hebron. In these factories, Borden would buy milk from dairy farmers, process it into condensed milk, then ship it to Chicago for mass production & packaging.

rv06pfCTMSgGf84g7opR_1912 Sanborn Map - Bordon's (1)
1912 Sanborn Fire Map Overhead View of Factory and Ice House.

In May 1901, Borden started building their factory here in McHenry. They purchased the land on the western bank of Mill Pond. This location was ideal, as it was next to the pond, which in the winter would supply the factory with the ice it needed. Also, on the other side of the factory was the Chicago & Northwest Railroad, which would take the milk to Chicago. The business started that spring and did very well, with the hiring of up to 25 people at a time. In October of that year, the Bordens built their own ice house with a direct run from Mill Pond.         

Bordon Picture - Feb 1902
Picture of New Factory From Feb 1902 McHenry Plaindealer.

The factory in McHenry was always one that the city was proud of. Borden kept the building clean and up to date. The factory had overhauls or upgrades throughout its operation. In 1913 business was going very well and the Borden’s dug two new wells on the property to help increase their water supply. In 1915, the company ran 120 ft. of pipe from Mill Pond to a nearby area that had become a “dumping ground” of garbage. The area would be cleaned up and turned into a park for the public with the pipe helping keep the area dry. In 1924, the newest equipment was brought in to help bring the factory to its utmost efficiency. Overall the McHenry factory had the reputation of being one of the best dairy factories in the area.

The Borden business was a multifaceted one, with many moving parts and ties to the community. The factory would get its milk from local farms, which would sometimes lead to problems. Local farmers seemed to keep a wary eye on Bordens, as prices they would receive for their milk would fluctuate. The Bordens would do the same as many local farmers would join the dairymen unions that would band together to reject milk prices that Bordens had offered them.  In the middle of this were the people who worked at the factory, many whose livelihood would be affected by the relationship between the farmers and the company. Despite a strike by dairy farmers in 1916, the partnership between the groups involved was a profitable one. Also, there was the ice hauled in from Mill Pond. Borden would hire large crews to cut and haul ice from the pond into its ice houses. After a while this hauling ice became an annual event, as well as a source of income.

Jan 1922 Borden.PNG
Borden Factory From 1922 Sanborn Fire Map

For about 25 years, the relationship between the community and the factory was a prosperous one. The Borden Company flourished in McHenry and in McHenry County overall. However, automation was starting to become more prominent. Since the factory was built, the process involved putting the condensed milk product into bottles when they were sent to Chicago. But with new machinery, the bottling process was skipped and the milk was then put into large tanks when they were sent off. This change cost 13 people their jobs in Aug 1925. By 1926, there was talk of closing down the factory in McHenry and just having the village be a stop for farmers to deliver their milk to Chicago. There was even a date that the company set to shut down operations: April 1, 1926. For whatever reason, the factory didn’t close and held out for two more years when it closed on April 1, 1928. Milk was then trucked to the city, instead of being sent by rail.  

The Borden building and ice house were almost immediately purchased by the Mathews-Tonyan Company. On Dec 19, 1928, the ice house burned almost completely to the ground. Thankfully nobody was hurt and the building was almost empty. Mill Pond, where the company got its ice & water, was drained in 1929. The main factory building still stands today and now is home to a lamination company.


“Borden Factory Closed April 1.” McHenry Plaindealer 5 Apr 1928: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Jan 2018.
“Borden Ice House Destroyed By Fire.” McHenry Plaindealer 20 Dec 1928: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Jan 2018.
“Will Commence Building In A Few Days.” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Apr 1901: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Jan 2018.
“Postponed Closing For 30 Days.” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Apr 1926: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“13 Men Lose Positions.” McHenry Plaindealer 20 Aug 1925: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“Ice Harvest Starts Soon.” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Dec 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“Milk War On Again.” McHenry Plaindealer 16 Mar 1916: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“Milk War Ended.” McHenry Plaindealer 13 Apr 1916: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“New Machinery At Borden’s.” McHenry Plaindealer 3 Jan 1924: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“Arranging For Milk Market.” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Feb 1928: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“Borden’s Whistle Is Heard Again.” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Jan 1927: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“More Wells For Bordens Factories.” McHenry Plaindealer 21 Aug 1913: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.
“Will Beautify Property.” McHenry Plaindealer 20 May 1915: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 3 Jan 2018.


McHenry’s 1st Christmas Parade

On December 10, 1961, McHenry Held its first Christmas Parade. Sponsored by the city’s Chamber of Commerce, the idea was to celebrate the holiday season as well as drum up sales for local businesses. The McHenry COC also sponsored the Fiesta Day Parade, Play Day as well as the Dollar Day.  Just like today, businesses would have special offerings to help with holiday sales. For instance, many would stay open late throughout the last two weeks of December. A special promotion that was established to coincide with the parade was a drawing for $250 worth of merchandise and services among different McHenry merchants. Many familiar names were on the list, Justen Furniture, Lee & Ray Electric, McGee’s Store for Men among others.  

Photograph of Viscounts Receiving State Flag From Governor Stratton in February 1961.

The parade started at 1pm at the train station, went east on Main Street, north on Green Street, north on Riverside Drive and finished at the city park. Several businesses and organizations provided decorative floats for the parade that was described as “long and colorful.” Some of the themes of the floats were the Good Ship Lollipop, Merry Christmas from the Circus and the Nativity Scene.


Photograph Of One Of The “Merry Christmas From The Circus” Float.


Also involved were various performing groups. Leading the parade was the high school Viscounts Drum and Bugle Corp. The Viscounts, who were sponsored by the American Legion, were a highly decorated group that competed throughout the country. Earlier in the year, the Viscounts won the National Sons of the American Legion competition in Denver, Colorado. They were joined by the Vikettes, the newly formed color guard also sponsored by the American Legion. Rounding out the performers, were the Red Devils, the high school and city band. The guest of honor was Santa Claus himself. Kris Kringle went from the parade to Ernie’s Sport Center, which was located next to the old theatre on Green Street. The parade was a huge success with over 4,000 people coming in to watch the event. The tradition was set, and the parade became an annual event for many years to come.

McHenry Retail Merchants Committee
List of Participating Businesses from Dec 7, 1961 McHenry Plaindealer.


“4000 Witness Christmas Parade.” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Dec 1961: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Nov 2017.

“Chamber of Commerce Revue Activities.” McHenry Plaindealer 28 Dec 1961: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Nov 2017.

“COC Will Hold Colorful Line Of March.” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Dec 1961: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Nov 2017.

“McHenry Parade Sunday Greets Santa.” Daily Sentinal (Woodstock) 8 Dec 1961: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Nov 2017.

“Viscounts Corp Wins Famous Cleveland Trophy.” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Dec 1961: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Nov 2017.


Cherished Memories Of Days When We Were All Together.



While doing research for another blog post, I ran across the above memorial in the McHenry Plaindealer from March 1946. I became curious was to how Pvt. Pearson passed. Was it fighting the Germans or over in the Pacific or fighting the Japanese? It turns out that is was something just as tragic, yet sadly, much more likely to be forgotten as it wasn’t on the battlefield.

William Pearson was born  in Pennsylvania in 1913 to William and Josephine. Before WWII he worked at the Sears, Roebuck & Co. as an assistant department manager. He was drafted in February of 1942 and was inducted by the Army late that month. Stationed at Camp Grant, near Rockford,  William was visited by his mother before he left for a training camp, Camp Crowder, in Missouri. Sadly, Pvt. Pearson never made it to Camp Crowder.

pvt. william pearson.JPG
Pvt. Pearson in uniform shortly before his passing.

On March 7, 1942, William and 230 other troops were on a train transport to Crowder when their train hit a passenger train, the “Will Rogers”, in a head-on accident. Both engines remained upright surrounded by wreckage and carnage. Two crew members of the “Will Rogers” and four soldiers, including William Pearson, were killed. He had the unfortunate distinction of being the first soldier from McHenry to be killed. An additional 25 crew members and 20 soldiers injured. Initially it was thought that a mix up in signals was what led up to the crash. In fact, at the time of the accident the “Will Rogers” had almost come to a stop. Unfortunately, the military train was traveling at about 60 MPH at the time of the collision.

Most of the soldiers who were killed or injured came from a wooden car that had another car kaleidoscope through it. (In train terms, kaleidoscoping is when a car literally runs through one or more other cars causing an effect like a kaleidoscope being closed, usually with grizzly results.) If took over 5 hours, and in some cases a blowtorch, to cut through the train to get to some of the dead and injured. Doctors, nurses and emergency crews from Monett, Neosho, Joplin, and Springfield were taken to the scene to assist the wounded. A special train was even dispatched from Neosho with medical personnel and supplies. Shortly after the accident, uninjured soldiers were taken to Camp Crowder.

An inquest was held by the Army and it turns out that human error was what lead to the crash. The engineer of the special carrying the troops, knew that the “Will Rogers” was coming through the area. However, he looked at his watch wrong and mistakenly thought his train would clear the area before the Rogers arrived.  

Fold3_Page_42_World_War_II_Honor_List_of_Dead_and_Missing_Army_and_Army_Air_Forces_Personnel_1946 (1)
William Pearson in the WWII Honor List of Dead and Missing Army Personal. DNB stands for Died Non-Battle.

William Pearson’s body arrived back in McHenry on March 11th, and services were held by the Peter M. Justen Funeral Home, conducted by the McHenry County council of the American Legion the next day. The religious service was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and William was buried in the St. Mary cemetery. The McHenry American Legion Post, No. 491, took part in the ceremony, as did a firing and color squad.

Before leaving for the service, William lived with his mother at the Mrs. Barlow farm at Chapel Hill, where he lived for five years. The Barlows, being Josephine Pearson’s sister and brother-in-law. After William’s death, Josephine Pearson remained living with the Barlows. Around 1946, Josephine and the Barlows moved down to Miami, Florida. She would live there until her passing in 1961. It’s possible that the memorial that Josephine left for William in the McHenry Plaindealer was her farewell to him as she was leaving the area.



“Death Toll 7 In Collision of Two Trains.” Decatur Herald 9 Mar 1942: 8. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Oct 2017.

“Officials Probe Headon Train Crash.” The Pentagraph (Bloomington, IL) 10 Mar 1942: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Oct 2017.

“Today’s News In Pictures.” The Daily Sentinel (Woodstock, IL) 10 Mar 1942: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Oct 2017.

“Wm. Pearson of McHenry Crash Victim.” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Mar 1942: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 26 Oct 2017.

“McHenry Man Killed.” Republican-Northwestern (Belvidere, IL) 10 Mar 1942: 8. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“Rites For Soldier Killed in Crash of Trains Held Today.” Belvidere Daily Republican 11 Mar 1942: 8. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“5 Local Men Safe As Train Crash Kills 7.” Belvidere Daily Republican 9 Mar 1942: 8. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“Bodies of Victims of Trainwreck Sent Home.” Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, IL) 10 Mar 1942: 6. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“Troop Carrying Train Crashes.” The Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, IL)  10 Mar 1942: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“Seven Die in Collision of Troop Train and Limited.” San Bernardino Daily Sun (San Bernardino, CA) 8 Mar 1942: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 20 Oct 2017.

“In Memoriam.” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Mar 1946: 8. Newspapers.com. Web. 14 Mar 2017.



The Telephone Girls’ Strike of 1945

In November of 1945, the people of McHenry County saw something they hadn’t seen before: people picketing in the streets. On November 15, 1945, the Illinois Telephone Traffic Union voted to strike. During the war, the federal government set up different commissions to regulate labor and salaries in the wartime economy. The commission set the recommendations (salaries, hours worked, etc.) and companies would use them as guidelines.  In the case of the telephone industry, the National Telephone Commission was created. The NTC set the recommended wage for telephone workers at $4 a week and nine years for an employee to hit the maximum pay scale. The local company involved, Illinois Bell, decided to take the NTC’s recommendation. However, workers or as they were also known as “the telephone girls” felt slighted and voted to strike.

CL Strike.JPG
Two Telephone Girls Picketing in Crystal Lake. Compliments of the The Herald.

Over 8,900 telephone employees went on strike throughout the state of Illinois, about 7,200 were from Chicago. Some towns, like Fox Lake and Wauconda averted the strike as they operated with dial telephones. While the strike lasted, only emergency calls were to be put through. Non-Union workers, recently retired employees and other volunteers were recruited to take emergency calls. The strike itself was peaceful, one person even commented that strikers would be better off going home or catching a show. Although the President of Illinois Bell, A.H. Mellinger, said that the staff leaving their posts “Not American-like”.  

Illinois Bell Notice
Posting from Illinois Bell for customers during the strike.

The strike was short lived, only lasting for six days and service immediately resumed. In the end, Illinois Bell met the workers’ demands and set the two dollar increase (workers were making the suggested $4 at the time) to be implemented in February 1946. They also went on to not charge their customers for the week of disrupted service. Both sides wrote letters to the public saying how much they appreciated the public’s patience and support. Overall, people seemed to realize how much they appreciated having their phones and found a newfound respect for their “telephone girls.”  


“Telephone Strike Has Whole Town Talking – But Only In Person.” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Nov 1945: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“McHenry Phone Conscious As Strike Ends.” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Nov 1945: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Local Telephone Employees To Take Strike Vote Friday.” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Nov 1945: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Telephone Rings After Day And A Half.” Daily Sentinel 20 Nov 1945: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Telephone Operators Taking Strike Vote During This Week.” The Daily Sentinel 15 Nov 1945: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Picketing By Strikers Makes Appearance Here.” The Herald 22 Nov 1945: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Vote On Strike By Telephone Union Nears End.” Chicago Daily Tribune 16 Nov 1945: 27. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Telephone Service Normal Following End of Wage Strike.” Chicago Daily Tribune 26 Nov 1945: 18. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Settle Telephone Strike.” Chicago Daily Tribune 25 Nov 1945: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“Phone Strike Still On After Parley Fails.” Chicago Daily Tribune 20 Nov 1945: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.
“2000 Telephone Operators Vote On Strike.” Chicago Tribune 15 Nov 1945: 31. Newspapers.com. Web. 24 Sep 2017.

The Beginning of McHenry’s Pries Market

In 1918, William Pries came to McHenry after purchasing the local market from Charles Frett. Frett had been in McHenry for 25 years when he sold the business. It was well respected and liked. People in town knew that Pries had big shoes to fill. William Pries, who was a successful businessman from Wauconda, got off to a rough start in McHenry. When moving his possessions from Wauconda to McHenry during a rough February snowstorm, his car got stuck on Green Street by the Empire Theatre. Due to the weather, the car would remain stuck for over a week.

Green Street
Section of a postcard from 1922. Piers is the building on the left hand side.

Despite this, rough start, the Central Market was very prosperous. Located on the corner of Green Street and Elm St. (Rte. 120), it was in a prime location. Being a very active person, Pries was always looking to improve or renovate his business. On the bottom floor of the Central Market was a combined grocery store and a butcher shop. The Post Office was in the southern-most section. In 1923, Pries divided the market and butcher shop and created space for two more store fronts. All four of the stores would have access to Green or Elm Street, have glass fronts and would measure about 18’x40’.  In 1925, he sold the market end of the business, which was taken over by the National Tea Company. Pries retained the butcher shop while the National Tea Company successfully ran for many years in McHenry.

Ad Appearing In The McHenry Plaindealer from 23 Jan 1923.

When Pries bought the business, the top floor was McHenry’s opera house and an office. In 1925, he would clear out the opera house including the balcony, dressing rooms and stage. The area was cleared to be a great hall for meetings and banquets. The new hall was separated into two rooms, but it had a sliding wall that could be opened for larger events. Some of that rented it out were the Knights of Columbus, the Daughters of America and the Riverview Camp. The office space would contain two one room offices and one two room office. They were tastefully appointed with mahogany doors and ivory enamel. Over the years the second level would also be converted into to apartments.   

1922 Sanborn Map Showing the Overhead View of Pries. Note the Stage and Scenery.

William Pries ran the Central Market until 1945, at which time, his son William Pries Jr. took over. William Sr. went on to enjoy retirement until he passed away in 1964. The Central Market building itself went on to become several different business through the years, including several different restaurants. The last restaurant there was Windy City Wings, which was lost to a fire on Dec 21, 2012. Thankfully nobody was hurt in the fire. Sadly, the fire was a total loss and the building was destroyed, leaving some families displaced right before the holidays. For more information, here is the article from the Northwest Herald.


“Founder’s Day Anniversary.” McHenry Plaindealer 15 May 1958: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Aug 2017.
“Central Market Changes Owners.” McHenry Plaindealer 23 Jun 1927: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 27 Aug 2017.
“Changes Being Made In Pries Building.” McHenry Plaindealer 3 Dec 1925: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“Charles G. Frett Sells Out.” McHenry Plaindealer 31 Jan 1918: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“Grand Opening of New Modern Store.” McHenry Plaindealer 18 May 1950: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“National Tea Company Takes Over Grocery Department of Central Market.” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Apr 1925: 4. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“New Supermarket To Replace National Tea Store On Corner.” McHenry Plaindealer 20 April 1950: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“Old Central Opera Hall Remodeled.” McHenry Plaindealer 18 Feb 1926: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 Aug 2017.
“To Remodel Business Block.” McHenry Plaindealer 11 Oct 1923: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 18 Aug 2017.