Allie Mateja, Maggie
Simons, and Nicole Fitch
represented MCHS and
competed in the Girls
Swim Sectional at St.
Charles East High School
on November 10, 2018.
The girls each swam
two events and all did
a great job. A big thank
you to Mrs. Urbanek for
spending her Saturday at
St. Charles East with the


Although collapsed in the middle, the state’s oldest remaining example of “round-style barn” construction was lost to fire Nov. 24, when the wind changed direction on a small fire nearby and caught the structure with sparks, according to statements. At the time, the barn’s wood was being reclaimed and several posts had been saved, when the fire started.

A 911 call was received at 10:51 a.m., from the barn’s owner, who was notified of the blaze, and firefighters were dispatched from several districts to the site location at 25208 River Road. The individual on-site, Rick Rath, had started a small fire to burn unusable lumbered parts, when the wind caught it. He had been given permission to remove wood from the barn, which had buckled under the weight from a heavy snowstorm in 2008.

“It was a round barn, collapsed already in the center,” said Fire Chief Robert Bradbury, of the Marengo Fire Protection District. “It was going to be torn down. The gentleman reclaiming the wood had a little fire going, to burn excess wood. That was what caught the barn on fire. Winds changed on him, and no investigation is taking place, based on his statement.”

“There were several fire protection districts that responded including us, the Union Fire Protection District, Harvard…Capron came with an ambulance, but there were no injuries. The Woodstock Fire and Rescue District came out too, but they turned around,” he said. “All that’s left there is the stone foundation of the barn.”

The barn’s owner was in a field harvesting seed corn, and not in the immediate area, at the time of the fire. Fire Crews left at approximately 12:40 p.m. that same day.

Records indicate the barn was built in 1897, and although partially collapsed, it was the oldest remaining round barn example in the state of Illinois. Historic barn and storage structures are part of the agricultural legacy in Mc Henry County

The first upright silo built in the United States was located on the outskirts of Spring Grove at 801 Main Street, in Burton Township. Erected inside a barn, it was built by Fred Hatch, and his father, Lewis. Lasting until 1980, portions of the rock and mortar foundation are the only existing traces. It was recognized with a plaque as a landmark site by the Mc Henry County Historical Society, based in Union.

Another major fire involving a barn occurred on property located at 18000-block of Church Road, nearly one year ago. The barn and a garage were consumed by flames, also killing some livestock and chickens. The owner unsuccessfully attempted to extinguish the fire with a hose, before going to a neighbor’s house to call 911. Several fire protection districts responded, and Bradbury later said the cause was undetermined, due to the complete loss of the buildings and their contents.



The Marengo Park District sought input from residents on the re-opening of the Starfish Water swimming pool at Indians Oaks Park through a non-binding advisory referendum question on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. The two part query asked if residents wanted the pool’s re-opening to be researched and supporting a property tax increase not to exceed $150,000.\

The county clerk’s office posted unofficial results that did not favor the proposal with 1,184 “No” votes cast, and 672 “Yes” votes, a disapproval margin of 72.9 percent to 27.1 per cent.

Shuttered since 2014, the operational and maintenance costs that had originally forced its closure are still a factor in trying to revive it. The park district has faced financial troubles for nearly a decade resulting from the 2008 recession, receding home values, and a decline in anticipated property tax revenues. Marengo Parks and Recreation Superintendent Joe Vallez had cited problems of potential damage from inactivity at the site as being an unknown factor.

“We wanted to put the question in the hands of the voters, as it should be,” he said.

The park district’s Board of Trustees met Nov. 15, with an agenda item of issuing approximately $24,00 in taxable general obligation limited tax park bonds, and $115,295 in taxable general obligation tax park bonds “for the payment of certain outstanding obligations,” with the levy of the direct annual tax paying for the principal and interest.XXXX The board approved the bond issue, and both were purchased by Oak Brookbased Republic Bank, with a branch in Addison. The purchase was fostered through prior relationships between the financial institution and Vallez, resulting in a “great rate nearly 2 points less than any Mc Henry-area bank.”

Regarding the pool, Vallez said it is not anticipated that the question will come up again via a referendum route. “We are now formulating plans on what we can do,” he said. “We’re looking at possibly demolishing it, and putting up a zero-depth pool which is a spray park with little animals. The water is on a recycle system, it’s gathered in a tank, re-chlorinated, and returned to the pool.”




Gary Reiher booking photo.

Photo courtesy of Lake County sheriff ’s deptartment


 The early morning Nov. 16 snowfall resulted in numerous traffic accidents in the vicinity of routes 23 and 176, due to icy road conditions. The Marengo Fire Protection District responded to several assistance calls including one with injuries at the Route 23 Bridge.

“There were quite a few in our district…we had four service calls, Union had two, and Woodstock had several calls,” said the fire protection district’s Lt. Noel Gaines. “What I can tell you is that the bridges were solid ice, and Illinois Department of Transportation trucks couldn’t get out to the area in time to salt the roads.”

The areas where the accidents occurred were mostly under state jurisdiction, although the fire protection district and Marengo personnel monitored the areas until roads and bridges could be serviced. Motorists are urged to exercise caution during winter driving, especially on bridges as the roadbeds are the first parts to freeze due to its elevations.


Marengo resident Gary Reiher, 33, was ordered to be held in the Lake County Jail after being charged with home invasion, domestic battery, and violating an order of protection for the Nov. 3 early morning break-in of his ex-girlfriend’s home in Round Lake Park. 19th Circuit Court Judge Paul Novak set bail at $300,000 with conditions that potential release cannot be effectuated until a Nov. 15 domestic assault risk assessment hearing.

 Reiher, of the 500-block on Eisenhower Street, allegedly broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend at 4:00 a.m. Nov. 3, dragged her through the premises by the hair and arm, beat and choked her, poked the woman in the stomach with a knife, and hit her 4-year old son. He destroyed her cellphone, but she managed to use an old unit to call 911 at 10:45 a.m., to call authorities.

After police arrived, authorities said Reiher was found hiding under a patio deck, 25 yards from the residence, by a Lake County Sheriff ’s Department K-9.XXX Court records show he had attacked her previously, and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of battery. He was sentenced to 12 months of probation, with a contingency order to have no contact with her.


The Riley Community Consolidated School District 18 unanimously approved a motion for the estimated aggregate tax levy extension for 2018 property tax assessments, during its Nov. 19 meeting. The action also included with the final adoption of the Certificate of Tax Levy, Tax Levy Resolution, and Certificate of Compliance with certain provisions of the Truth In Taxation Law. No public hearing was scheduled, as the amount was below the tax levy cap set by state law.

The total levy amount is $4,239,210 and includes fire prevention, safety, energy conservation, disabled accessibility, school security, and specified repair purposes. Itemized in the total levy amounts are: $3,132, 210 for educational costs; $627,000 for operations and maintenance; $250,000 for special education; $103,000 for municipal retirement; $52,000 for social security; $45,000 for tort immunity; $22,000 for working cash; and $8,000 for transportation.

The Certificate of Tax Levy was filed Nov. 20, with the Mc Henry County Clerk’s Office.

Trio Grille Restaurant is home to a weekly trivia contest that has been going on most Tuesdays for the past four years. Anyone who walks in can play, even if they’ve never played before. Customers can form teams of no more than ten people or can find a team to join.

Teams work together to come up with a list of answers to over 60 questions that are projected on a TV screen while being read aloud by emcee Emily Hoffman. The team that gets the most correct answers might win, however there is a jackpot twist. A team can bet some or all of its points before hearing a final jackpot question. So it’s anybody’s guess which team will win the $25 prize that week.

The evening I visited, there were seven teams in competition, with tables and chairs pushed together in various configurations. There was room for more; Hoffman told me there are often several more teams and the restaurant is full. I was there on a World Series game night.

Manager Don Huntington started the event with the help of his son Carey, who wrote the questions and researched the answers. Carey, an English teacher in Shanghai, became too busy to create the weekly games, so for the past couple of years, Don has purchased a power-point presentation of questions from an Australian company.

The Trivia Night atmosphere is friendly and welcoming to newcomers, but it is clear that many people have been there before and have formed long-standing teams. As each team reads each question and discusses the correct answer, Huntington serves as “arbiter” and “guard,” especially making sure that absolutely no cell phones are in use or even visible during the entire the contest.

Participants kid that they are playing “for the money,” and admit they are there for the fun, for a chance to visit with friends and for a night out with a nice group of people enjoying good food.

Gardens were necessities for families prior to the mid-twentieth century. Without refrigeration it was uncommon for food to be shipped long distances as is done today. As a result, most households had a garden located very close to the kitchen to provide a supply of fresh produce for the table. Climate and personal tastes dictated the contents of vegetable gardens that might include corn, beans, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers and varieties of leafy greens and herbs. In the Midwest staple crops like potatoes, carrots, cabbages and turnips were grown and held for year around use in root cellars.

A greater variety of vegetables were under cultivation in 19th century gardens than is common today as we have the convenience of well stocked grocery stores. Seeds from open pollinated plants were saved for the following year’s garden. Neighbors, friends and family shared seeds among themselves. Newlyweds might receive seeds as a wedding gift for beginning their household. A benefit of the vast varieties grown was inherent resistance to disease and pestilence that is lacking in today’s monocultures.

In the past gardens were effectively organic since there were no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Tables were laden with vegetables unadorned by the cadre of pesticides that are used today in commercial growing. Companion plantings helped maintain vigor and insect resistance. The garden was kept fully productive at all times through succession planting. Gardeners maintained the health of their soil by scrupulously rotating crops and amending the soil with green and animal manures and winter cover crops. Portions of the garden were allowed to lie fallow in order to regenerate.

Anyone familiar with current organic gardening practices will recognize the wisdom of these earlier gardeners. We are re-discovering the value of heirloom seeds, food that is locally grown, managing water resources, and good soil practices including crop rotation and composting.

Start thinking about your garden for 2019. Why not consider a historically themed garden? Victory Seed Company in Oregon has a website, that has ideas for an 18th century themed garden. Master gardeners maintain an interesting 19th century vegetable garden at the Historical Museum in Union during the gardening season. Plan to visit often next summer.

The Marengo Indians varsity volleyball team. Photo courtesy of MCHS athletic department


It didn’t look good for Marengo, at the start, punting from their 43-yard line on the first possession, and fumbling the ball away at Chicago Sullivan’s 1-yard line on the next. But, by halftime, it was all over and the offensive juggernaut had piled up a 47-6 lead. As they say in Colorado, “No worries.”

Marengo (8-2) opened the IHSA Class 4A playoffs Oct. 26 with a 47-20 firstround win over Sullivan at Rod Poppe Field. The 5th-seeded Indians, who carried a perfect 6-0 mark to take first-place outright in the Kishwaukee River Conference, returned to the post-season in a big way, after going 2-7 last year, and staying home.

Marengo’s Finn Schirmer seemed to carry a pile of defenders, from the 5-yard line, for the first of his four touchdowns on the night, with 3:32 left in the first quarter. Two minutes later, Cole Davis (4 reception, 51 yards) snagged a 21-yard TD pass, from quarterback Travis Knaak. In the second quarter, Schirmer (13 rushes, 86 yards) scored TD’s on runs from 4, and 7 yards out, within minutes of each other.

The Indians’ defense then closed ranks on the 12-seeded Tigers (6-4), with Colton Lohff breaking into the backfield, and knocking the ball out of running back David Toney’s arms, with Willy Arriola recovering the fumble. Marengo worked the ball downfield, as Schirmer picked up his fourth rushing TD, from the Tigers’ 4-yard line.

A little more than one minute later, Knaack threw a 21-yard TD strike to Lohff. Knaak passed for 83 yards, completing five of thirteen passes, and rushed for 78 yards. Sullivan’s Dave Roberts caught a 26-yard TD pass, from John Dishman, to put the Tigers on the scoreboard. Marengo’s Aaron Shephard received the ball at the 10- yard line on the kickoff, and proceeded to run 90 yards for a TD, with 0:39 seconds left in the half. His PAT kick brought the tally to 47-6, with a running clock.

Sullivan’s Matt Granderson picked up two TD runs in the fourth quarter: a 7-yarder, with Dishman running for a 2-point conversion, and one from 5 yards out, with a second 2-point try failing with an incomplete Dishman pass. Marengo moves on to face the 4th-seeded Chicago Urban Prep-Bronzeville (9-1), which defeated Elgin-based St. Edward (5-5) in its first-round playoff game, by a score of 24-14. St. Edward had gone 5-0 in the Metro Suburban-Red league, and the CUP-Bronzeville Lions also went 5-0 in conference play.


The Marengo Indians won straight sets against the Woodstock North Thunder, during an Oct. 17 Kishwaukee River Conference away tilt.. The Indians won 25-17 in the first match, and took the second 25-22. The Indians also traveled to Rochelle to play the Hubs Oct. 24. They split the first two sets, winning 26-24, and dropping the second, 25-14. The third set was a hard-fought 25-23 win. Photo courtesy of MCHS athletic department.

Today the holiday that we observe every November 11th is called Veterans Day; it’s a day when we celebrate all of the women and men who served in the armed forces of the United States. The holiday finds its roots in what was originally called Armistice Day; the day that hostilities ceased between the forces fighting in World War I. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson called for the commemoration of the first Armistice Day. This day was to be observed with parades, small ceremonies, and a brief cessation of business at 11:00 a.m.

It wasn’t until 1926 that the Congress of the United States formally recognized the end of World War I, and in a resolution declared that the 11th of November “should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations…” In 1938 Armistice Day became a legal national holiday, and in 1954 Congress amended the Act of 1938 by taking the word “Armistice” out of the law and replacing it with the word “Veterans,” making it a day to honor all veterans.

As November 11, 2018, approaches I thought that it would be fitting to write about a local Civil War veteran who left a legacy not only to our community, but to the whole nation in the form of his Civil War diary. This soldier’s name was Lucius Barber, and his home was on a farm in Riley Township on modern-day Hartman Rd. The Barber family settled in the township in 1851 when Lucius was about 12 years old. Little (if anything) is known about Barber’s life from age 12 to the time the Civil War broke out.

At the start of the war, on April 27, 1861, Barber joined a military company that was being organized in Marengo by Harley Wayne of Union. At the time of his enlistment Barber was 23 years old. His state military record listed his occupation as farmer, described him as being 5’10 with hazel eyes, and a light complexion. His place of birth was given as Java, Wyoming County, New York.

After Barber enlisted he kept a diary of the regiments activities and whereabouts, and in 1894 his family published the diary in a book titled Army Memoirs of Lucius W. Barber, Company “D,” 15th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, May 24, 1861, to September 30, 1865. In actuality, Barber started scribing in his diary on April 27, 1861, the day he enlisted in a military unit that would eventually be designated as the 15th Illinois. Initially the regiment was a state military unit formed in anticipation that President Lincoln would call for additional troops. The April 27th entry reads, “…we held ourselves subject to orders and in readiness to march when called upon.” The recruits didn’t have long to wait, Governor Yates soon sent orders for Wayne’s company to report to Freeport, Illinois, on May 11, 1861, and go into “camp of instruction.”

Barber described the scene of downtown Marengo on the morning of May 11th. He wrote, “… the usually quiet streets of Marengo were thronged with spectators, friends, and relatives of the soldiers who had come to witness their departure.” Before the recruits boarded the train, a short ceremony was held where the ladies of Marengo presented the new unit with a regimental flag, and the soldiers “made a solemn vow never to disgrace it or bring it back until our flag could wave in triumph over all our land.” Soon afterward the Company left for Freeport, and it was the first step of a journey that spanned more than four years and covered 10,897 miles.

As early war events developed the federal government realized that the war probably would not end quickly. Lincoln made another call for troops, and on May 24, 1861, Harley Wayne’s company was sworn into federal service and designated as Company D of the 15th Illinois – thus the date discrepancy in the book’s title.

The 15th Illinois clashed with Rebel troops in places like Shiloh, Vicksburg, Davis Bridge, Atlanta, and Bentonville. But it was on October 4, 1865, that the course of Barber’s life changed from a fighting soldier to a prisoner of war. On that day a portion of the 15th Illinois was captured by soldiers from General William Loring’s Division of Hoods Army outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Barber was incarcerated in the infamous Andersonville Prison in Georgia from October 10, 1864, to November 20, 1864.It was in Andersonville during his captivity that Barber contracted tuberculosis that would eventually take his life. After his release Barber returned to the regiment and served for the remainder of the war and then some. The regiment was finally mustered out in September of 1865.

Barber returned home, but the tuberculosis had taken its toll. Barber died at age 32 on March 12, 1872, and is buried in the Barber family plot located in a field on Hartman Rd.

For readers who are interested in learning more about Barber’s war experience his diary is still available today. An original copy of the book will cost you hundreds of dollars, but a more recent reprint was published by Time-Life Books and can be found for under twenty-dollars. A free electronic version can also be downloaded at armymemoirsofluc00barb/ page/n5.



An ambitious sidewalk and parking lot improvement plan that will encompass most of the downtown area, including the historic district, was approved by the city council, during its Oct. 10 session. The city of Marengo will apply the remaining balance in its Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) amounting to $321,620.93, to pay for the projects. The RLF was closed out last Jan., in accordance with state law.

The Mc Henry-based City Engineering firm of HR Green supplied estimate totals to the council for the upgrade plans that are pegged at $328,839. The separate components are: Route 23 sidewalk ($137,734), Side Street sidewalk ($133,807), Taylor Street sidewalk ($26,452), Parking Lot A-Old Library Parking Lot ($24,779), and Parking Lot B-off Washington Street ($6,067). The parking lot behind Marengo City Hall was estimated at $99,123 and not considered as part of the improvement package.

In a letter to council members, City Administrator Josh Blakemore noted that good construction bids could bring the overall effort in line with the remaining balance taken from the RLF close-out. Should project overruns arise, the additional monies could be used from contingency or capital improvement funds.

The improvements are tentatively slated to begin this spring.


Marengo City Administrator Josh Blakemore received an update from the Illinois Tollway Authority on the progress involving the remaining phases, as well as a projected timetable for completion. City council members were apprised last month, and “Everything is full-steam ahead, and really cooking,”  he said.

“They’ve basically acted on the intergovernmental agreement to outline how the construction costs will be broken down,” Blakemore said. “They approved it….and the right-of-way acquisitions that surround the access are being handled by them, so, we’ve distanced ourselves from that aspect. The ITA is very quick, and moving ahead with this project. It’s expected to be completed by Aug. 2019.”

The outlined schedule indicated that project job order bids would be opened in late Nov., and contracts awarded by late Dec., with the close of the calendar year. A “Notice To Proceed” is anticipated in Feb. 2019, with “contract mobilization” expected in Apr., with access construction. The Route 23 Bridge widening and overpass were completed earlier this year. Commercial and industrial properties are planned to surround the access, and benefit the city of Marengo with additional revenues. In past years, the municipality has steadily annexed properties along Route 23 into its jurisdiction.

When finished, it will be the sole access point along the Route 90 Jane Addams Tollway in McHenry County. The project has been on the county’s “Wish List” for more than two decades.


The solar farm project, encompassing the area around the intersection of Route 20 and Johnson Road, cleared another hurdle as two separate motions were executed by the Marengo city council, during its Oct. 22 meeting. Marengo Solar Farms LLC, listed as the beneficial owner, had entered into annexation agreements with the city to become enfolded within their boundaries. A Letter of Credit, a contingency item to the agreement due Sept. 7, was not submitted.

The company returned to the city council with an offer to place funds in an escrow account as collateral from the cash value of the agreement on two parcels that make up that commercial venture’s site, until letters of credit are secured. They further offered to deposit the amounts Oct. 23, should the motions be approved. The city council members voted 6-1 on two motions, one for each parcel, with one alderman absent.

An option to purchase the parcel from Nelligan Investments LLC in the amount of $60,400 and an option to purchase a parcel from Richard Johnson and Judith L. Feddma that carried an amount of $57,362 were accepted as equal to the cash values as escrow collateral, in lieu of the letters of credit, until such time as they are presented to the city

The Marengo Park District is asking voters in the far western Mc Henry County community if they want to investigate re-opening the shuttered “Starfish Waters” outdoor pool through a non-binding referendum question on the upcoming Nov. 6 general election ballot. The pool, a big summertime draw for the area, and a popular part of the district’s holdings, was shuttered six years ago amid financial considerations and mounting debt.  

The advisory question was first considered by board members last July, and the text is rather lengthy albeit concise with it purpose. “Re-opening the pool within the Indian Oaks Park…wil require a significant property tax increase in order to pay the costs of investigating the current status of the pool, repairing and rebuilding the pool and maintaining it in the future.   

“Do you support investigating the re-opening of the pool…and if so, would you approve a significant increase to your property taxes to acquire monies not to exceed $150,000 to pay for the investigation of the current state of the pool?” Voter response is being used as a gauge, and the election result is not an implemented decision. 

“The park district is not advocating raising property taxes on the community, it is simply putting the question in the hands of taxpayers, as it should be,” said Marengo Parks and Recreation Superintendent Joe Vallez. “The pool’s closing was a financial decision made six years ago. Now, the next question is if it’s still operable, what will it take to get it back up to speed? Remember, it’s been sitting there all these years…what will we find?  

“People have asked, when will it be opened, if it will be opened…the board continually gets these inquiries, so they decided to put the issue to rest and move forward by putting the decision to our taxpayers,” he said. “The referendum is two-fold: should the park district investigate re-opening the pool, and if so, are you willing to have a tax increase to do it?  

The park district has changed greatly, since coming into existence through a public referendum in 1938. Indian Oaks Park was added in 1973, along with plans for buildings and other amenities requested by the community. Budgeting was always premised on population growth and the resultant economic growth of the area, both of which fell short of expectations and financial concerns have continued to dog the park district and other governmental agencies.   

The 2008 recession and decline in residential properties contributed to budgeting issues. The 2014 closing of the “Starfish Waters” pool was expected to save approximately $32,000 that year in operational costs, while the park board secured a $75,000 loan to fill a gap in expenses for its Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which runs from May 1 to Apr. 30.  


A statement from the park district said bonds issued for contractors and materials would be offset by resident usage and annual tax levies revenues would offset the bond obligations. 

“Some projects went over budget, and more money was borrowed. Expected revenues were not seen. The bonding capacity of the park district was maximized. Marengo home values declined significantly, and so followed a decrease in the tax levy…scheduled bond payments still needed to be paid. Some bonds were restructured and payments have been stretched out years, even decades into the future. 


The statement also said, “The park district is itself facing over $4 million of debt. There is a bond with payment due in 2020 that must be restructured as the current combined tax levy and revenues of the park district will not cover the payment. Defaulting is not an option…by cutting costs and making conservative choices, an investor will be willing to purchase a restructured version of the bond.” 


Vallez entered the picture in 2014, with a history of “turning around” failing park districts. The pool was closed. The Skate Park and the two-decade old Indian Oaks playground were later deemed safety hazards, and dismantled. Repercussions from a failed bond referendum in 2013, and the subsequent sale of bonds by board members had stunted the district’s finances. 


A community victory came with the replacement of playground equipment and upgrades at Indian Oaks Park. The price tag and costs of $30,000 price tag were eventually met through a consensus-building effort that resulted in funds and materials being donated from residents and commercial entities.  

A volunteer work crew of 50 residents and trades people met at the park site May 13, of last year, and spent the day erecting a new playground and landscaping the surroundings. The Union-based firm of INTREN was heavily involved with erecting and putting together the new park’s components, and the installation was celebrated the following month with a June 3 ribbon-cutting ceremony. “That was a very good day,” Vallez said. “Everyone came together. A park, and a park district should reflect what the community wants.” 


Vallez also noted that while the pool is only used four months during the year, like outdoor golf courses, and operational costs are factors for consideration, the advisory referendum will provide a direction for the closed pool, “put in the hands of taxpayers.” 


There’s no question about it – human beings put an emphasis on firsts. Being the first to cross the finish line in a race makes a person a winner. The first team in a sports league division is looked upon with honor – for example as I write this both the Bears and the Cubs lead their divisions in their respective sports, and make their fans proud. Well history is the same! We have Delaware the first state to join the Union, George Washington our first President; Wright Brothers - the first to make a powered flight, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the first men to walk on the moon; I could go on until I run out of paper, but I believe that you’ve grasped my point. Well Marengo isn’t any different, and it has its firsts too. As October 2018 approaches so does Marengo’s 47th annual Settlers’ Days, and in the spirit of the celebration I’m going to list some of Marengo’s firsts.

There are two sources that I’m using for this article; the first is the History of McHenry County Illinois: 1885, and the September 12, 1935, edition of the Marengo Republican News. This particular issue of the newspaper featured 114 pages packed with local history, and was published leading up to the Marengo’s Centennial Celebration – probably the first event that celebrated the settlement of our community. So here we go!

First Settler: Calvin Spencer came to the area known today as Marengo in 1835. Spencer was from Seneca County, Ohio.

First Death: Calvin Spencer’s mother is believed to hold this distinction; she died in November of 1835.

First Physician: Dr. Ward Burley who settled in Marengo sometime in the winter of 1835 and 36. He operated a dry goods store in conjunction with his medical practice until his death in July of 1847.

First Birth: This is somewhat disputed, but the history book gives this distinction to the son of Dr. Ward Burley. The child was born in 1836, and passed away at the age of two. History is mute on the names of the other persons competing for this distinction.

First Marriage: M.B. Bailey and Miss Lydia Hance were married on January 14, 1838.

First Male Teacher: According to the McHenry County History O.P. Rogers was the first teacher. No date is given in the history of when this was supposed have occurred. According to the Marengo Republican News Rogers didn’t teach a term of school until 1838.

First Female Teacher: The Marengo Republican News gives Caroline Cobb the distinction of being the first teacher who taught a term of school in Marengo in 1837.

First Religious Service: Officiated by Reverend Southworth on March 20, 1836, in the home of Calvin Spencer. First Religious Organization: The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the fall of 1837.

First Election: Was held at the home of William Sponable on April 23, 1838.

First Grist Mill: Built in 1846 about one and half miles northwest of Marengo. The first flouring mill was built in Marengo in 1861.

First House: Built by Joseph Bryton in 1835.

First Store: Operated by Moody Bailey in 1837.

First Hotel: Built in 1835, and operated by Calvin Spencer in the area of the current intersection of East Grant Highway and South State St.

First Post Office: Established in 1841. The first Postmaster was Alfred King, and the post office was located on his farm about one mile west of Marengo. Prior to 1841 Marengoans received their mail through the Coral Post Office which was established on July 6, 1837.

First Railroad: On October 18, 1851, the first tracks of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad were laid through Marengo.

First College: The Marengo Collegiate Institute was built in 1856 becoming Marengo’s first (and only) college. The school operated for two years.

First Town Charter: Marengo was incorporated as a town and the charter was granted on February 9, 1857.

First Newspaper: The Marengo Journal published the first issue of the newspaper on August 16, 1856.

First Telephone Line: In 1883 the first toll line was established to Marengo by the Chicago Telephone Company. In 1895 the first local telephone exchange was established.

First Fire Department: The Marengo Fire Corps was established in 1883 as the first real fire protection organization.

First Automobile: Purchased by A.A. Ryder in 1901.

First Electric Railway: On January 19, 1907, the first round trip on the Elgin and Belvidere Electric Line was made. On February 1st the first passengers were transported on the line.

First Electric Streetlights: On September 11, 1914, at least 30 electric street lights on State Street were lit for the first time.

As you can see from this list our community has come a long way from the open grass prairie that Marengo was when Calvin Spencer and other settlers first arrived. Institution by institution, and organization by organization Marengo has progressed. When you celebrate this years’ Settlers’ Days activities enjoy yourself and have a great time, but somewhere in the midst of your fun take a moment to ponder the settlers and the people of the past who contributed to build this great community. Also, take a moment to reflect on the future of Marengo, and how we can make it a better and stronger community


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