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McHenry County History

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McHenry County as a governmental entity was created in January, 1836 out of larger Cook County. Between 1836 and 1839 McHenry County also included Lake County. An increase in population on the eastern side caused the split into the two counties.

Pottawatomie Indians in the 1833 Treaty of Chicago ceded this area, the last remaining Indian Territory in Illinois, to the U.S. Government and were forced to move west across the Mississippi River by 1836.

The county was named after Major William McHenry of White County, Illinois, an Illinois Ranger during the War of 1812, a delegate to the 1st Illinois Constitutional Convention and Spy Battalion Major in the 1832 Blackhawk War. McHenry County was named to honor him by his colleague in the Illinois General Assembly when he died in 1835.


McHenry County with its vast prairies, oak savannahs, rivers, and streams was settled quickly; the county seat being moved from McHenry to the more centralized Centerville (Woodstock) in 1844. Shortly after the Civil War advances were made in preserving and shipping mile by rail, area farmers began specializing in dairy production for the Chicago Market.

Natural beauty, recreational opportunities, the development of railroads, hard roads, fertile land, factories and industries were all factors that helped draw new residents to the land.

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