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More than 200 people helped the McHenry County Historical Society kick off is newest exhibit: "Prairie Trails to Strange Tales: McHenry County’s Earliest Years" on May 3 at county history museum, 6422 Main St. in Union.
This exhibit is the first to be featured in the Society’s newly renovated first-floor Anderson Gallery. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took 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. To hear Exhibits Curator Kira Stell's talk about the exhibit on STAR 105.5, click HERE.
The opening reception included craft beer tastings for those 21 and older from Scorched Earth Brewing Company, Crystal Lake Brewing, Lucky Girl Brewing Company, Sew Hop'd Brewery & Tap Room, McHenry Brewing Company and ShadowView Brewing. Jazz/blues music was provided starting at 6:30 p.m. by the Tom Steffens/Gary Parker Duo.
The 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.
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