Museum opening, craft beer tasting

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Join the McHenry County Historical Society as we unveil our newest exhibit: Prairie Trails to Strange Tales: McHenry County’s Earliest Years. The opening reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m  Friday, May 3, at the Society’s museum, 6422 Main St. in Union.

Museum admission is free that night and at all times for Society members.
This exhibit is the first to be featured in the Society’s newly renovated first-floor Anderson Gallery. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 6:15 p.m. to dedicate the new gallery in honor of Norma & Glenn Anderson, whose generous memorial bequest made museum renovation possible.  

The opening reception will include craft beer tastings for those 21 and older from Crystal Lake Brewing, Lucky Girl Brewing Company, McHenry Brewing Company, Scorched Earth Brewing Company and Shadowview Brewing. Beer tasting packages – including a souvenir pint glass, six tasting tickets and pub snacks – are available for $20.. Additional tastings are $3 per ticket. All proceeds benefit the McHenry County Historical Society.

Jazz/blues music will be provided starting at 6:30 p.m. by the Tom Steffens/Gary Parker Duo.

This exhibit features tales of the first pioneers who settled the prairie and how they influenced McHenry County’s earliest communities. Following the end of the Blackhawk War in 1832, land-seeking settlers began entering McHenry County. News of the readiness of good, cheap land was relayed back East.

The journey traveling west was a long, hard and dangerous one. Pioneers packed all of their earthly belongings and supplies into a covered wagon and headed into the unknown.
Several small pioneer communities were established in McHenry County during the 1840s and 1850s. Pioneers were enticed by creek sites, which could be damned to provide power for sawmills. Not only was oak timber abundant, but fertile prairie suitable for crops spanned McHenry County. Pioneer communities such as Barreville, Brookdale, and Ostend seemed to have bright futures in the 1860s and 1870s. However, when the railroad declined to come through their communities hopes of great growth disappeared.

Learn about these McHenry County “ghost towns” in their heyday and what remains of them today. Discover stories about several pioneer families, many who are buried in McHenry County’s earliest cemeteries. The early history of McHenry County also chronicles many types of foul play including the first murder in the county.

 For more information, call 815-923-2267 or visit


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