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.


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.

The McHenry Pickle Factory

Through most of its existence, McHenry County has been an area focussed on agriculture. In the late part of the 19th century, pickle factories became something of a fad in the county. Woodstock, Crystal Lake, and Nunda were just some of the local towns to have them. By 1880, McHenry actually had two pickle factories. The first one was built in the summer of 1874 by a group of farmers.

1892 Map of Pickle Factory
Map from 1892, showing the location of Pickle Factory along Waukegan Road (now Rte. 120). It was roughly at the location of where the Advance Auto Parts is today.

The McHenry Pickle Factory cost about $8000 to build, measured 40’x80’ and had two stories. It included an additional 50’x125’ wing for “salting purposes”. This wing would include 50 tubs, each 8 ft. tall and 10 ft. in diameter for the purposes of pickling the cucumbers. Each tub cost about $40. The operation was up and running in August 1874 and received over 1000 bushels of cucumbers by the end of that month. Expecting success in its initial year of operation, the factory signed up for over 200 acres of cucumbers to be grown in the area.

By 1876, the factory was operated by two men named C. B. Curtis and a Mr. Walker, and ran under the name Curtiss, Walker & Co. The business did well and was regarded as one of the best factories in McHenry County. They even contracted a cooper, B. W. Austin, to make the barrels on site to store and transport the pickles. When Walker died in 1880, Curtiss sold his shares of the company to W. A. Cristy who ran the business under the name Cristy, Walker & Co. Cristy would go on to run the company for almost twenty years.


1893 Pickle Factory
Section of 1893 Sanborn Map showing the layout of the Pickle Factory.


When W. A. Cristy took over the business he planned a large renovation for the factory. He put up two new buildings: a Boiler House (16’x20’) and a Vinegar House (24’x40’). For the company’s vinegar, Cristy used a corn and malt formula that gave the pickles a better flavor than traditional formulas. Also for the making of vinegar, Cristy bought a 25-horsepower engine that would make it cheaper to produce. When started the engine produced 700 gallons of vinegar daily. All told the renovation cost about $40,000. However, this paid off, as the factory would produce about 20,000 bushels of pickles a year and distribute them throughout the United States.

Cristy went on to have a very successful career here in McHenry. He sold the pickle factory to R. W. Stafford in May 1899. He ended up in Joplin, Missouri until his death in 1924.The pickle factory itself would thrive well into the 1920’s.


“Pickle Shipping.” McHenry Plaindealer 5 Dec. 1877: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18  May 2017.
“Pickle Seeds.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Apr. 1876: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18  May 2017.
“New Roof For Pickle Factory.” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Dec. 1890: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 23 May 2017.
“Change of Ownership.” McHenry Plaindealer 18 Apr. 1880: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18  May 2017.
“Cooper Shop Connected to Pickle Factory.” Woodstock Sentinal 12 Nov. 1874: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 16  Jun. 2017.
“Cooper Shop Sold.” McHenry Plaindealer 19 Jul. 1876: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 23  May 2017.
“Pickle Factory Enlarged.” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Nov. 1880: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Jun 2017.
“Pickle Factory Improvements.” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Aug. 1877: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18  May 2017.
“Pickle Factory Construction.” Woodstock Sentinal 20 Aug. 1874: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 18  May 2017.


Red Faber Pitches in McHenry

In the summer of 1935 St. Mary’s softball charity game proved to be a memorable one. It pitted teams from the McHenry Elderly Men and St. Mary’s Holy Name Society and featured a bonus game that between the Married Men vs. the Single Men.  People were really looking forward to the game as it featured Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, Red Faber. Faber spent over twenty years pitching for the White Sox and was a crucial part of the 1917 World Series team. The recently retired Faber owned a home in Pistakee Bay and was in town for the summer.
Red Faber
Photograph of Red Faber taken in 1917, from the Library or Congress.
The umpire was a famous wrestler of the time, Charles Peterson. Like Faber, Peterson was in town as he owned a vacation home in Pistakee Bay. It was thought that the event was to be so well attended that extra stands were built just for the game. The game did not disappoint as over 500 people were in attendance. Faber, who won 250 games in the major leagues, won 12 to 10 against the team led by St. Mary’s Msgr. Charles S. Nix. In the second game, the single men won against the married men, 9-8. Faber and Johnson weren’t the only big names playing in the game. Some names that played are still known in town today. Freund, Miller, Justen and Altoff just to name a few.

“Red Faber To Pitch” McHenry Plaindealer 25 Jul. 1935: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 7 Mar 2016.
“Red Faber Now A Local Resident” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Aug. 1935: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 7 Mar 2016.


The Everett Phonograph & Music Store

The Everett Hunter Manufacturing Company was a staple in McHenry for many years. Everett Hunter’s boat making business started in 1889 when he immigrated to the US from England. In 1919, business was booming and it was decided that they would expand into producing phonographs as well. What put phonographs on the map was that they were designed with two needles, one for recording and one for playing music. This looked like a great industry for the Hunter Company to invest in.
Advertisement from the Plaindealer on 3 Apr 1919.
In March 1919, the Everett Phonograph was introduced to the public. The Everett sold so well that the Hunter Company put out ads looking for workers to help construct them. Phonographs were interesting to make, as they required the mechanical components that made or recorded sound. However, these components were housed in attached cabinets to make them more attractive for people to have in their homes.
Ad from Plaindealer on 7 Oct 1920
During the first ten months of production, the Everett was sold out of the warehouse at the Hunter Manufacturing Company. However, with business doing so well, the Everett Music Store was opened in January 1920. Located on Green Street, it was run by Everett Hunter Jr. This also opened the door for the business to sell other musical merchandise, mainly records. The music business took off. Sometime in 1921, the Hunter Manufacturing Company stopped making the Everett Phonograph and became a dealer for Brunswick Phonographs and merchandise. In 1922, the Everett Music Store expanded it’s location in McHenry and branched out, opening a store in Woodstock. The success was short-lived however, and by 1924 the Everett Music store was bought out by the Nye Music Store. Yet, for a short moment in history, McHenry had its own manufacturer of phonographs represented by the Everett Hunter Company.
“Big Free Display” McHenry Plaindealer 6 Apr. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Change At Music Store” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Feb. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Drop In” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Jul. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Factory Needs Help” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Free Concert At Boat Factory” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Dec. 1919: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Has Neat Quarters” McHenry Plaindealer 26 Feb. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Is Branching Out” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Nov. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Music Dealer In New Territory” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Jan. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Music Store Expands” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Jun. 1921: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“New Quarters For Music Store” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jan. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Repairing Building” McHenry Plaindealer 29 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Saxophone Demonstration” McHenry Plaindealer 30 Mar. 1922: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.
“Will Open Retail Store” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Jan. 1920: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Sep 2016.