Adopt A Book

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The McHenry County Historical Society is launching a conservation initiative within its Research Library. The public is invited to “adopt” a historic McHenry County book held within its collection by sponsoring its conservation fee.

The McHenry County Historical Society’s Research Library holds numerous 19th and early 20th century survey notebooks from notable McHenry County surveyors including John Brink, Charles Hopkins Tyron, and his great-nephews Charles Leon and George Leslie Tryon.

The official county surveyor re-established and maintained the official government survey monuments and reviewed property boundary surveys and subdivision plans. They reviewed, approved, and signed off on any disputes, decisions, or divisions of property. They may also have performed property boundary surveys and create subdivision plats for private clients.

Surveyors' notebooks were the rough draft for finished surveys. They document what may no longer be present or visible after a century or more has passed. They are consulted in trying to find original boundaries, or in trying to find long neglected features on the McHenry County landscape.

Due to their age and use for research, the survey notebooks require professional conservation. Once adopted through the Society’s Adopt-a-Book program and stabilized, each survey notebook will be made available in the Research Library for public use once again.

By donating to the Adopt-a-Book program, you are directly supporting these conservation efforts. On this page you will find books selected for “adoption”. If you choose to donate the full conservation cost, you will receive:

  • “Adopt-a-Book” certificate.
  • Information packet on your selected book.
  • Before-and-after images once the conservation is complete.
  • Formal acknowledgment of your tax-deductible contribution.

  • Acknowledgment in our next Tracer newsletter as a member of our Adopt-a-Book Program.
  • Donor appreciation event with tour of the MCHS Research Library to view your adopted book.
  • Free 1 hour scheduled research time in the MCHS Research Library.

Please know that you do not have to adopt a book on your own. You and your friends, family, or an organization you belong to may jointly adopt a book.

If you cannot decide on a book to adopt or cannot fund the whole cost, please consider donating to the General Book Conservation Fund.

Your donation will go towards the adoption of the highest priority piece. As a valued supporter of the McHenry County Historical Society & Museum, we thank you in advance for your commitment to preserving the permanent collection! For more information about the Adopt-a-Book program contact Kira Stell at

How to Adopt a Book

  • Choose the book that you would like to adopt.
  • Click on the ADOPT NOW button and fill out your information
  • You will receive confirmation of your adoption.
  • An information packet will be mailed to you. This includes your adoption certificate, the condition report and treatment proposal, color prints of the book in its “before” state, and relevant background information on the piece.
  • Your adopted book will then be sent away for conservation. The curator will check in with you with an update once the book has been restored.

John Brink’s Survey Notebooks — John Brink, an original government surveyor of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, surveyed and walked most of McHenry County’s township and section lines. He was born in Phelps, New York, on January 12, 1811. After leaving school, he decided to pursue a career as a land surveyor. In November of 1833, he passed through the northern part of McHenry County. John Brink continued his federal government work until 1840. A year later, he and his wife, Catherine, moved to a farm between Crystal Lake and Cary. John Brink was elected McHenry County Surveyor in 1843. He held that post for nearly forty years. The Brinks were married for 60 years and are both buried in the Lake Avenue Cemetery in Crystal Lake. The following John Brink survey notebooks are featured in the Society’s Adopt-A-Book Program:

Notebook A (1854-1856)

Field notebook of John Brink, McHenry County Surveyor
Accession No. 1988.036.02a

Content: Survey notes are from throughout the county but include plats of the burying ground at Algonquin and Hubbard’s addition to Algonquin, drawing and notes on the Crystal Lake outlet, notes on a re-survey of the road on the south side of Crystal Lake running from Crystal Lake to Marengo, and notes on Cary and Huntley stations.

Conservation Treatment: The brown leather cover is worn, and the binding and pages are loose. Treatment includes fully disbind, mend/guard for stabilization only, surface clean, full resew, reback with leather, deacidification, mend and stabilize the case.

Conservation Fee: $950

Notebook 1866-1869

Field notebook of John Brink, McHenry County Surveyor
Accession No. 1988.036.03a

Content: Survey notes are from throughout the county. It includes levels of the Fox River commencing at Algonquin Dam measuring depth of water every 50 feet and plats of the old village of McHenry, including its public square, Calvary Cemetery on Jackson Street in Woodstock, the burying ground at Crystal Lake, the Bigfoot burying ground, and Harts’ 2d addition to Harvard.

Conservation Treatment: Front leather cover is missing and binding and pages are loose. Treatment includes disbind in its entirety, surface clean, mend/guard for stabilization purposes only, resew in its entirety, rebind with a new case, and non-aqueous deacidification.

Adopted through General Book Conservation Fund Donations. 

Notebook 10 (1867 – 1869)

Field notebook of John Brink, McHenry County Surveyor
Accession No. 1988.036.01i

Content: Survey notes are from throughout the county but include plats and/or notes on E.G. Ayer’s property and Ayer’s addition to Harvard, the mill pond in T 43 N, R 9 E, relocation of the road that runs from Woodstock to Big Foot, re-survey of a road in Dunham Township, survey of a road in the village of Dearborn running from L. Walkup’s hardware store, and J. W. Sanborn’s in English Prairie.

Conservation Treatment: The front cover is loose, back cover is missing, and pages are loose. Treatment includes fully disbind, mend/guard for stabilization only, surface clean, full resew, and deacidification.

Conservation Fee: $750

Notebook D (1894-1903)

Field notebook of John Brink, McHenry County Surveyor
Accession No. 1988.036.03b

Content: Survey notes are from throughout the county. Includes a number of Crystal Lake surveys such as Douglas Avenue and Kroeger’s addition, Clow’s front on Crystal Lake, Paddock’s addition, and notes on “John Berg to J.P. Kroeger for $250 per acre,” L.D. Lowell’s level, and meanders in Crystal Lake.

Conservation Treatment: Brown leather cover is tattered, binding is loose, and pages are yellowed and fragile. Treatment includes fully disbind, mend/guard for stabilization only, surface clean, resew with a pamphlet stitch, stabilize tears in the case, return to case (if possible), and deacidification.

ADOPTED by Luco Surveying 

Horatio Coe Notebook, 1892

Accession No. 1975.104.03

Horatio B. Coe came west from Connecticut in 1849 and taught in Geneva Lake a year. In 1864 he enlisted in the Civil War. After the war, he came to Harvard and was a principal of the Harvard public schools for 4 years. He left several times but came back to Harvard time and again. His father established Derby Academy in Connecticut and made several important surveys, among them a survey of Housatonic River for a proposed canal, presumably fostering Horatio’s interest in surveying.

Content: On the front cover is “H.B. Coe, Harvard, Ill. Jan. 1/[18]92, Minutes & platting of old surveys.” This is like a lesson book on surveying and contains survey “problems” and instructions, like the use of tangents to find unknown angles, and a glossary. But it also contains a plat of Coon Island and notes on surveying a meander on Coon Island, minutes of a meander line around a hill in Sec. 17 T 45 N, R 9 E (very eastern McHenry Township), and notes on a survey of an island hill near the mouth of the Nippersink.

Conservation Treatment: Front cover is loose. Treatment includes mending for stabilization purposes only, reattaching loose pages, lifting the adhered page and re-attaching it with wheat paste, surface cleaning, repairing the cover and re-attaching it to the text block, and non-aqueous deacidification. Infill the areas of loss to the boards with Japanese tissue.

Conservation Fee: $700

Surveying with Brink, 1879

Accession No. 1975.104.04

Content: This is a fragment of a book entitled "Minutes of Surveying." The fragment starts with "Field Notes" and "Minutes" of surveying with John Brink, who has been County Surveyor for many years ... ." It's a firsthand account of what it was like to survey with John Brink. It is Oct. 1, 1879. Horatio Coe is off with Mr. Brink to survey Coon Island in Pistakee Lake. Coe learns the importance of finding "old corners" in solving disputes. It also documents the fact that Brink named Lake Geneva.

Conservation Treatment: This is a fragment of a book. A brown leather cover is present with 4 pages. Since so much is missing, recommend mending the pages to stabilize the holes and tears, and deacidify the pages, and enclose in a case.

Adopted by Michael Evans.

Tyron Family Plat Book, 1890s

The McHenry County Historical Society also holds a collection of surveyor notebooks from the noted Tryon family of McHenry County. They consist of survey work done by three members of the Tryon family, Charles H., and his great-nephews, Charles L. and George L. Tryon.

Charles H. Tryon was the McHenry County surveyor for 20 years in the late 19th century. Charles H. Tryon was born in South Deerfield, Mass. on June 2, 1826 and came with his parents to the Hebron area of McHenry County. They established a farm at the northeast corner of what is now Tryon Grove Road. He married Elizabeth Downs of Lake Geneva, Wis.. In 1888, he served as the official McHenry County surveyor. Charles H. Tryon died at his home on April 13, 1916.

Charles L. Tryon, a great-nephew of Charles H. Tryon, was born November 30, 1885 and was raised on the family farm. He was elected county surveyor in 1913 and passed an examination for the newly formed McHenry County Highway Department where he served as the first county engineer until his retirement in 1958. He died in Woodstock on October 5, 1980. George L. Tryon, a brother of Charles L., was born March 1, 1891 in Woodstock. He was taught surveying by his brother and was a surveyor in private practice until his death on June 3, 1957. All three are buried in Woodstock’s Oakland Cemetery. The Office of County Surveyor was abolished in Illinois in 1957.

Content: This plat book is folio sized, 14 x 17 inches and contains 131 numbered pages of maps. A few of the maps are with color and some are double paged. The plat book is hand labeled “Part II.” MCHS does not have Part I, but the John Brink index details some of the survey plats in Part I. Only a few of the plats in Part II are dated. Among the plats are: Crystal Lake’s Prospect Point, Mead’s Second Addition to Hebron, Douglas Addition to Crystal Lake, Syndicate Addition to Marengo, and Smith’s, and Mansfield’s Addition to Woodstock, Coon Island, Pistakee Bay and Orchard Beach.

Conservation Treatment: Most of the first half of the book’s pages are loose and therefore tearing. Each page would be de-acidified and encapsulated and a new post binding would be created.

Adopted by Arlyn Booth, Maggie Crane & Don Rose. 

1927 Thrift Press’ McHenry County Atlas

The 1927 atlas is the first dated county land ownership atlas after the 1872, 1892, and 1908 county atlases. It is the only dated land ownership atlas MCHS has, between 1908 and 1939. Like its predecessors, the atlas contains full-page maps of each township and measures 16 x 12 inches. The legend states that the township maps show schools, churches, cemeteries, and paved roads. It does show other roads, railroads, and bodies of water. It is heavily used in property research, which represent a large share of our property research requests. This snapshot in time, coupled with other resources, is valuable in tracing land ownership over time. It is also used in answering cemetery, country school, creek channelization questions,  as well as other types of historical research in the 1920s.

Conservation Treatment: Since the volume is staple bound, removing the staples and side-sewing through the original holes is recommended. The tape would be removed from both the page and the case, mend/guard for stabilization purposes only, surface and reback.

Adopted by Mary Maurer 

Buffalo House Business Ledger

The “Buffalo House” in Lily Lake was opened by John A. and Michael L. Worts as a combination tavern and hotel in 1901. Michael L. Worts took the lead in deciding to build the tavern/hotel to supplement the family’s farm income. Lily Lake, itself, was a Chicago destination for fishermen in the 1890s. In 1897 Michael Worts married Katherine Boley, a daughter of Gottlieb and Josephine Boley. Gottlieb Boley owned the McHenry Brewery which produced a beer called “Buffalo.” Having married into the Boley family, Michael made certain to sell only “Buffalo Beer” at his new roadhouse; the reason why the establishment was called the “Buffalo House.” Michael sold his share of his business to his brother, John, in late 1905.

In the late 1920s, Otto Broecker purchased the property and renamed the tavern as the “Lily Lake Hotel.” It was a popular spot for Chicago fishermen and hunters to stay. After passing through the hands of various owners, Floyd and Mary Lee purchased the property and made extensive changes in the building. The building was torn down in the late 1990s.

Content: The 6 x 15 inch business ledger is left to tell its story and the story of many other such establishments in early 20th century McHenry County. The ledger dates from the early 1900s and kept track of the tavern’s patron’s drink bills. Conservation: The oversize ledger is stained and the first page is in pieces. The front and back cover are loose. Treatment includes mending for stabilization purposes, surface cleaning, hinging on loose page, rebacking the original boards with Japanese tissue, stabilizing the cracks in the board with Japanese tissue, and reattaching the case to the text block.

Adopted by Teresa Williams