In July 1938, the McHenry area had some of the worst floods in its history. A huge storm on June 30th brought torrential rains The storm saturated the area and caused area rivers and lakes to swell. Damage and destruction to local fields, crops and buildings were due to the rivers flooding their banks. However, probably the worst casualty was to the area’s bridges.
Rivers like the Fox and Nippersink, pounded the bridges that spanned them, damaging some and destroying others. Up to 13 bridges were damaged in some way and the estimates totaled approximately $300,000. Like the rest of the country, the area was in the midst of the Great Depression and assembling that kind of money wouldn’t be easy.
Public officials for the McHenry County Road and Bridge Committee did have some options, such as applying for federal funds and raising money through public bonds. In September 1938, a special election was held to vote to get a grant from the federal government. If the public voted “yes”, the government offered to cover about $58,000, or 45% of the total of the $130,000 needed, For the rest of the money, about $71,000, a slight tax of 2 cents for every $100 in property assessment was also voted on by the public. The election passed by a whopping 1,300 to 460. This was the first time that a bond issue had been voted on by the county.
Of the thirteen damaged bridges, seven needed to be completely rebuilt. Greenwood alone lost four bridges. One bridge that crossed the Nippersink cost $25,000 to rebuild. Construction of some bridges started in August of 1938. Work was finished for all but two bridges by June of 1939. The citizens of Johnsburg and Greenwood acknowledged their new bridges with huge dedication ceremonies. By the end of the fall, all of the bridges were successfully rebuilt, thanks to the leadership of the McHenry County Road and Bridge Committee and the grant from the federal government.
“May Cost $125,000 to the County” The Daily Sentinal (Woodstock) 2 Jul. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“Cloudburst on Thursday Ends Heavy Rain” McHenry Plaindealer 7 Jul. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“Seek Federal Aid Road And Bridge Repairs” McHenry Plaindealer 14 Jul. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“Must Find A Way To Finance Bridge Problem” McHenry Plaindealer 4 Aug. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“$130,000 Cost Estimated to Build Bridges” McHenry Plaindealer 11 Aug. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“McHenry Bond Issue Election To Be Held Tues, Sept 6” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“To Be Erected Just South of Old Structure” McHenry Plaindealer 1 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“$130,000 Bond Issue OK’d By Voters Tuesday” McHenry Plaindealer 8 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“County Claims Thousands of Dollars Owing” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“Rain Delays Work On New State Bridge” McHenry Plaindealer 22 Sep. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“Busy Session Held Tuesday at Woodstock” McHenry Plaindealer 17 Nov. 1938: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
“Greenwood – Special Correspondence to the Sentinal” The Daily Sentinal (Woodstock) 12 May 1939: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“Community Club Makes Plans for a Big Celebration” McHenry Plaindealer 18 May 1939: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 17 Nov 2016.
“Work Is Completed On Seven County Bridges” McHenry Plaindealer 15 Jun. 1939: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 4 Nov 2016.
Baseball was a small town’s game and many towns featured semi-professional clubs during the 1900’s. McHenry was no exception. The baseball team the McHenry Blues started in 1905 and played through 1909. The town was also home to the McHenry Shamrocks who played from the early 1930s until the mid-1960s.
Semi-Pro baseball was similar to today’s minor league baseball in that many players were hoping to make it to a professional team. Players back then didn’t make a lot of money and probably had a second job, but playing with the local team kept the dream of playing professionally alive. For the fans, it was great entertainment. This era of baseball was also known as “townball”, due to the fact that most teams were financed by a local business or businesses. Sometimes other events were arranged the same day as the ballgame, such a dance or fundraiser.
On April 28, the Blues opened the season with 13-0 win over the Pekin Giants of Chicago. It took twelve innings to beat the Elgin Tigers 9-8. The following week was another blowout again with the Blues winning 12-2 against the Rock Island Athletics. The Blues even beat the Elgin Code of Honor team in June and the Waukegan city All-Stars in August. Overall , the Blues did very well for themselves. However, they had one huge problem.
Even back then, baseball ran off of ticket sales. In the early 1900s the cost of attending a game was 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children . If your attendance was too low, your team wouldn’t be able to make any money. Even worse, if they did too poorly they might not be able to pay their players and would have to cut their season short. That is exactly what happened to the Blues in 1907 when their poor ticket sales caused them to cancel the last eight games on their schedule. Again, this wasn’t due to poor performance, as they only lost one of their games. Sadly, this would happen to the team again in 1908, although the 1908 club wasn’t as good as its predecessor. Poor attendance seemed to affect many of the other local teams as well, which led to some to question as to whether the game was dying out. McHenry didn’t really have a baseball team with any continued success until the McHenry Shamrocks formed in the 1930s.
Please stay tuned for further historical updates on the famous McHenry Shamrocks baseball team appearing here in our local history blog in the Spring.
Here was September’s This Week In History that was published weekly on the McHenry Public Library’s homepage.
September 4, 1930 – Headline: HS Enrollment Breaks Records
The McHenry High School saw a drastic rise in its population securing 63 new students in its freshman class alone and total attendance up to 200 students. Credit was given to Superintendent C. H. Duker in promoting the importance of education to the community.
September 15, 1904 – Headline: Riverside Dance
On September 10, 1904 the Riverside Hall hosted a dance contest that was attended by 90 couples. The dance was a close contest and five couples were selected as finalists. The deciding performance was a waltz, with the winning couple each receiving a 2 1/2 dollar gold piece.
September 23, 1948 – Headline: “Tandem Time” To Be Benefit Production Of Hospital Group
The Woodstock Auxiliary hosted its annual fundraiser to benefit the construction of a new wing for the Woodstock Hospital for mothers and newborn infants. The performance was “Tandem Time” an 1890s piece. McHenry residents, who would also benefit from the construction, performed and supplied costumes for the fundraiser.
September 26, 1877 – Headline: The McHenry Pickle Factory A short sketch of what they are doing this season
The McHenry Pickle Factory was economically solvent in 1877, a time when the US as a whole was in the midst of an economic panic. The McHenry Pickle Factory building was over 500 feet long and processed 25/ 40 gallon barrels of pickles a day. The factory also owned the nearby cooper shop, which supplied all of the barrels & casks needed for their pickle & vinegar business.
During the early part of the 20th century, McHenry was a booming tourist destination. People from Chicago and the surrounding areas would flock to McHenry to enjoy Pistakee Lake and Bay, the Fox River and other relaxing attractions. Realizing the economic opportunity, McHenry welcomed the tourists having already established resorts and hotels in the area. McHenry also offered various forms of entertainment such as dancing at the Riverside Hotel/Hall.
The city-fathers realized early on that adding a ground-floor indoor facility that could house a sport, fair, convention or large indoor gatherings could greatly benefit the city’s economy. This large facility could host events and be a magnet to gather the tourists and local people alike. This was an idea that took shape over time. It appears to have first been mentioned around 1909. However, it really seemed to take on steam in 1912. On February 22, 1912 the McHenry newspaper, the Plaindealer, posted a picture of the proposed coliseum. The plan was described as having steam heating, electricity and bathrooms with indoor plumbing. An earlier account noted that the building would be built from cement blocks and constructed in a semicircular pattern to limit posts and beams obstructing spectators’ views. It would be used to entertain vacationers in the summer and offer new opportunities to the citizens of McHenry in colder weather.
There were a couple of places mentioned for the location of the coliseum’s construction. One location was the “center of town” and the other was Water Street (now Riverside Drive). The idea was that the people of the city would invest in the project by purchasing shares so the coliseum would be literally for the people of McHenry. One document mentioned about 100 people were willing to invest int the project. In February,1912, an article stated that 3/4 of the funds had been raised and that the construction was all but a certainty. However, the construction never came to be. How close the project came to fruition or why it didn’t materialize is hard to say. In August,1912, the McHenryPlaindealer newspaper mentions that the idea of a coliseum wasn’t dead and that some citizens wanted to continue with the project. However, there is no further mention of a coliseum anywhere in any McHenry historical documents. It’s interesting to imagine what a building like this could have meant for McHenry’s growth.
On March 30, 1908 one of the worst train wrecks took place here in McHenry. Around 8:30 am a train loaded with 24 head of cattle and six calves were headed to Ringwood from Crystal Lake. Just south of the McHenry train depot there was a slight curve. The train hit the curve too quickly and flew off the tracks. It proceeded to crash through the wooden platform leading to the train depot, smashing it to pieces. The train finally came to a stop just before the depot itself, with the depot not suffering any major damage. The tender (the car carrying the train’s coal) and the engine stopped almost side-by-side.
The train’s engineer, A. Jewell from Chicago, seeing that the accident was unavoidable, jumped out of the locomotive’s window. He avoided what would have been almost certain death and only suffered minor bruises and cuts. The conductor and S. W. Smith, the owner of the cattle, were also able to jump to safety. Sadly the train’s fireman wasn’t so lucky. Ernest Auler was inside the cab and didn’t have time to leap to safety. Later inquests would determine that he was killed by scalding hot water and steam from the locomotive. Mr. Auler was well-liked, a member of the Platt Deutsche Guild, and originally from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. After the inquest, his body was sent back home to a wonderful service at his mother’s home. Oddly enough, in regards to the cattle, despite being thrown around in the wreck, only one calf was killed and the rest were unharmed. The cattle were then loaded up and finished their journey up to Ringwood.
The cleanup of the wreck didn’t take long. The accident occurred at 8:30 am and by was cleared out by 7:00 pm. A track just east of the accident allowed for rail traffic to flow rather unencumbered while the wreckage was moved. Many photographers were on-hand to collect pictures of the accident. Looking at the wreck, it’s a wonder that only one life was lost. What was even more impressive was how the city was able to clear everything out of the way and go about its business the very same day.
“Fireman Dead In Wreck.” McHenry Plaindealer 2 Apr. 1908: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 12 Aug 2016.
“Funeral For A. Euler.” McHenry Plaindealer 9 Apr. 1908: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
Sanborn Map Company. McHenry, McHenry County, Illinois : July 1898 Scale [ca. 1:1,200]. 100 ft. = 1 in.; Scale [ca. 1:6,000]. 500 ft. = 1 in. “Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps” (Accessed: August 16, 2016).
Everts, Baskin and Stewart. McHenry Township: 1908, McHenry County, IL [map].1908. Scale undetermined; using “Historic Map Works by Proquest”.