Counry Yearbook

Facts to Remember

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Third Tuesday in March
Nomination of:

  • Federal Officers
  • State Officers
  • Legislative Officers Judicial Officers
  • County Officers
Election of:
  • Political Party Officers (Committeemen, Delegates to National Conventions)


First Tuesday after the First Monday of November
Election of:

  • Federal Officers
  • State Officers
  • Legislative Officers
  • Judicial Officers
  • County Officers
Retention of:
  • Judicial Officers



Last Tuesday in February
Nomination of:

  • Municipal Officers
  • Township Officers


First Tuesday in April
Election of:

  • Municipal Officers
  • Township Officers
  • Park District Officers
  • Library District Officers
  • School District Officers
  • Community College District Officers
  • Fire Protection District Officers
  • Officers of Other Special Districts



  ALL Tax Levies must be filed with the County Clerk on or before last Tuesday in December.   The County Clerk is responsible for establishment of the real estate tax rate.

Valuations are listed on the McHenry County Clerk's website.


Under the Election Consolidation Law (ELCO), which became effective December 1st, 1980, a uniform body of election law was provided governing the conduct of elections. The County Clerks and Boards of Election Commissioners are responsible for the administration of local elections as well as the Federal, State and County elections. However, most pre-election and post-election functions remain with the local government officials.

Under ELCO, which was amended effective January 1, 1998, all elections with a few exceptions are regularly scheduled on four dates in a two-year cycle. Referenda may be held on any of the four scheduled dates, except that no public question shall be submitted to the voters of a political subdivision at which such voters are not scheduled to cast votes for any candidates, unless a portion of a precinct is scheduled to cast votes for candidates at such election. A public question shall than be voted upon by all the qualified voters of the entire existing or proposed political subdivision at the election.

All elections are held at the established precinct polling places within the County. The polls are open from six a.m. to seven p.m.

For a schedule of elections established, please see page 1.


McHenry County is located in the Northeastern part of Illinois and was formed in 1836 from a portion of Cook County, and then included the territory now constituting two counties - Lake and McHenry.

The County was named in honor of Major William McHenry, an officer in the Blackhawk war, which was fought a few years earlier. The Village of McHenry, being located about in the center of the County, was selected as the county seat.

Three years later, in 1839, McHenry County was divided, formed into two counties and the eastern portion was named Lake County. At first it was planned to make the center of the Fox River the dividing line between the two counties but the people of the county seat, McHenry, protested so vigorously against being left at the extreme eastern edge of the new county border, that a compromise was arrived that moved the line about three miles east of the river at McHenry.

But McHenry's protest did not help much and in 1844 the county seat was moved to a site intended to be in the geographical center of the county, where a village had been laid out which, for the lack of a better name was first called Centerville, but soon after was changed to Woodstock.

Although there had been a law prohibiting white settlers from locating before 1836 on newly ceded Indian lands, there were some bold pioneers who pushed their way into the new county earlier, and the year 1835 saw quite a number of white settlers located in various parts of the county.

First Settlers

After the native Americans, the first settlers who migrated to McHenry County was the Samuel Gillilan family. Mr. Gillilan with his wife Margaret and children arrived on November 18, 1834, and established a home in Algonquin Township along the West side of the Fox River between Cary and Algonquin in Section 23. The Gillilan land holdings extended into sections 22-26-27 of Algonquin Township.

In 1835 came the first two group settlements in the county, one about one mile north of Ridgefield which was called Virginia Settlement. These people followed Gillilan who had pioneered this locality the year before. The other settlement was near where Marengo is now located and was called Pleasant Grove. Calvin Spencer from Ohio was the first to locate there early in 1835. He was soon joined by others who came from various places in the East, especially New York and Pennsylvania.

In 1836 there was quite an influx of population settling in various parts of the county, all except where Woodstock is now located, which site was not claimed until the decision to locate the county seat in the center of the county was decided. In 1837 the population of the county was estimated at about 200 people, but by 1840 the federal census gave the county a population of 2,578.

The first settlers came chiefly from New England, New York and Virginia. An English settlement was founded early in Burton Township while Irish immigrants came to Hartland as early as 1840. German Catholics settled at Johnsburg and German speaking Alsatians located on Queen Ann Prairie in Greenwood in the same year.

The first term of a Circuit Court in McHenry County was opened at McHenry on May 10, 1838. The court was presided over by the Hon. Judge John Pearson. McHenry County was then a part of the Seventh Judicial Circuit. The first election in the original county was held at Half-Day, which is now Lake County. 115 votes were cast to elect county officers.

Prior to 1850 several of the townships had different names from those they are now known by, but in that year the following names were changed for what reasons we have not learned; Brooklyn was changed to Nunda; Byron to Dunham; Center to Dorr; Benton to Burton.

We have already mentioned the date of the first election in the county. Prior to 1856 the county was solidly Democratic in its political complexion, but in that year doubtless because of the impending Civil War crisis the newly organized Republican party swept the county and elected a full slate of county candidates. The vote for President was: John C. Fremont, Republican, 2,869; James Buchanan, Democrat, 945; Millard Fillmore, Know nothing party, 43; since that time the majority of the voters have voted Republican.

First Schools and Colleges

The county's first schools appeared in 1836 in Burton and Dorr Townships and were held in private homes. Several townships erected school buildings in 1838, 1839 and 1840. Private institutions included Lawrence Academy, Nunda College, Marengo Collegiate Institute and Todd Seminary. Todd Seminary for Boys at Woodstock was founded by Reverend R. K. Todd, an early settler. Professor Noble Hill bought the school in 1892 and his family operated it until its doors were closed in 1953. Orson Welles was one of its talented students.

First Newspapers

The first newspaper in the county was the "Illinois Republican" published in Woodstock in 1846. This became the "Republican Free-Press" in 1854 and then the "Woodstock Sentinel" July 17, 1856. It became a daily on August 24, 1920. The "McHenry Plaindealer" was established in 1875. The "Marengo Republican" was founded in 1867 and merged with "The News" in 1906 to become the "Marengo Republican-News". The "Crystal Lake Herald" was established in 1867 as the "Nunda Herald". The "Harvard Herald" began in 1887.

First Courthouse

The first Courthouse was a frame building at McHenry. It is claimed that the old building is now part of the McHenry House located on Riverside Drive in McHenry. The second Courthouse was a frame building located in the public square at Woodstock. As the county grew in population and public business increased, outside office room was needed and a brick building was privately erected on the present site of the State Bank of Woodstock where several of the county officials were housed. This building came to be known as the "Rat Hole" and was later occupied as a saloon.

In 1855, a bill was introduced in the Illinois Legislature, passed and became law, which provided for the removal of the county seat from Woodstock to a location near Crystal Lake, at the junction of the two railroads which at that time passed through that town. This was before the railroad reached Woodstock. The law required a favorable referendum of the voters of the county to make it effective. The question came to a vote and resulted as follows: For removal, 1,049; against, 2,095.

The outcome of this election seemed to make the location of the county seat at Woodstock final and the Board of Supervisors soon after took up the question of building a suitable Courthouse to meet the public needs of a prosperous and growing county. By arrangement with the city officials the property just west of the public square was purchased by the citizens of Woodstock from the owner, Miss Mary McMahon, for $3,000 and transferred to the county, while the county transferred the public square to the city for use as a park. The Courthouse was then erected and completed in 1857 at a total cost of $47,000.

This was 160 years ago and the people of the county then believed they had built well and were proud of what they had done. The new Courthouse was paid for through a special two mill tax on real and personal property, levied by authority of a special act of the Legislature.

Natural growth of the County and demand for increased space in the Courthouse building exceeded the possibility of any expansion of existing space. The old Central School at Woodstock located about a block south of the old Courthouse was put on the market. The Board of Supervisors delegated a special committee to survey the possibilities of developing the space in this building for use as County Offices. Appraisers were retained to establish a valuation and they concluded that $85,000 was a fair price. An Ordinance to purchase this building from School District No. 72 at this figure was passed on April 26, 1955, payments to be made over a three year period.

In 1955, McHenry County erected a County Highway Garage at the junction of State Highway 47 and Country Club Road. This building serves a dual purpose; that of providing shelter and storage for the highway equipment and furnishing shop space for the servicing and maintenance of this equipment. In 1965 a Highway Office building was constructed near the Highway Garage.

In 2001, the County of McHenry approved a $4.2 million bond ordinance for the construction of a new highway facility in Hartland Township.

In December 1969, the County of McHenry bought 21 acres of land north of Woodstock, on Route 47 and south of Ware Road for a cost of $105,000. The Building Committee of the Board of Supervisors took bids for the general contract March 4, 1971. At the Board of Supervisors meeting March 9, 1971, the general contract for the Courthouse was awarded to six contractors for a total bid of $3,229,000.

Ground breaking for the new Courthouse was held on Tuesday, April 13, 1971. The first spade of dirt was turned by Willert H. Russel, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. The first of the County Offices moved into the new building on November 17, 1972.

In 1986, McHenry County erected an Auxiliary Service Building on the southeast corner of land on which the McHenry County Government Center is situated. The McHenry County Board awarded a contract in the amount of $3,450,000 for construction of the building and the remodeling of the McHenry County Government Center. The dedication of the Auxiliary Service Building was held on January 18, 1987.

The McHenry County Public Building Commission awarded contracts on June 27, 1990 and bond issue was approved in the amount of $39,025,000 to construct an addition to the McHenry County Government Center, to add a new jail, and to remodel and renovate the existing building. Ground was broken for this project on July 11, 1990. The first of the County Offices was relocated on April 24, 1992. Dedication of the building was held on October 15, 1992.

In November 2002 McHenry County broke ground on a new County Administration Building on Ware Road just north of the Government Center with occupancy starting September 2003.

McHenry County is particularly fortunate in as much as its economic life is well divided between agriculture, manufacturing and as a playground for metropolitan people who come here during the summer months to enjoy the pleasures of outdoor life in homes along the Fox River or on the shores of numerous lakes. With this group may be included many beautiful farm estates and country homes, some occupied the year around by their owners, others only during the summer months.

Dairying is the principal activity in agriculture. Practically all of the milk produced goes to the Chicago market as fluid milk. Poultry and eggs are next in importance and hogs come third. Corn is the principal field crop, with alfalfa, soybeans and small grains next.

Next to agriculture comes the important manufacturing industries located in various towns in the County, which employ several thousand workers in friendly and healthful surroundings at satisfactory remuneration the year around.

County Home Established

In 1884, the Board of Supervisors voted to appropriate $25,000 for the purchase of a farm and the erection of suitable buildings for the care of its aged dependents.

The money was provided through a bond issue. The J. C. Allen farm of 113 acres in Hartland Township was purchased at a cost of $6,000 and the first buildings were erected. In 1885, they were occupied for the purpose intended.

On April 8th, 1958, the County voted to issue bonds in the amount of $285,000 for the purpose of constructing an additional building and renovating the old building. In 1960, the name was changed from McHenry County Home to Valley Hi Nursing Home.

On February 10th, 1970, McHenry County Board of Supervisors awarded a contract of $468,000 for building an addition to Valley Hi Nursing Home. Dedication of the new addition on March 28th, 1971 made an additional 30 beds to the Valley Hi Nursing Home.

In 1984, the McHenry County Board awarded a contract in the amount of $1,930,000 for the 50 bed addition to the Valley Hi Nursing Home. Dedication of the new addition was held in March of 1985. Valley Hi Nursing Home is now at a total of 117 beds for their facility.

In April 2002, McHenry County voters approved a tax levy to enable the County to build a new nursing home on the same property. The building was completed and residents took occupancy in January 2007.

McHenry County In The Wars

McHenry County's part of the military campaigns of our country has been a record of which to be proud. The County as well as most of the northern part of Illinois was opened for settlement as the result of the removal of the Indians following the end of the Blackhawk wars.

Of our County's part in the Mexican War we know little except our cemeteries are dotted with several graves of veterans of that conflict.

McHenry County furnished 2,533 men, its entire quota for the Civil War and to the everlasting honor of our country, there was never the necessity of a draft among the loyal and patriotic citizens of McHenry County. The population of the County during that period was between 22,000 and 23,000 thus more than one man out of every ten men, women and children in the County served in the Civil War.

McHenry County spent $488,986.37 from public funds for relief work during this war which amount was exceeded by only seven of the large counties of the State.

The County was represented in the Spanish-American War in 1898 by Company G, 3rd Regiment, Illinois National Guard, which served in Puerto Rico during a period of several months and suffered numerous casualties.

In World War I, Company G, 3rd Regt. I.N.G., was again the first to be called into service with hundreds of volunteers and drafted men to follow. At the close of the war and return of the men, a mammoth homecoming was celebrated at Woodstock on June 10, 1919.

To World War II, McHenry County contributed about 4,000 of its young men and women with a casualty list of over 145 who made the supreme sacrifice.

Many McHenry County men and women served in the Korean conflict.

McHenry County had many service men and women serving in the Viet Nam conflict.

Several residents of McHenry County served in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm.

There are several McHenry County residents who have served and are serving in Afghanistan.

Numerous men and women are still serving outside the boundaries of the United States.


McHenry County , Illinois

The County Clerk is the Ex-Officio Registration Officer and shall have full charge and control of the registration of voters within the County. The County Clerk may appoint Deputy Registrars to aid in registering voters throughout the County. Each person before he or she is qualified to vote at any election must register with the County Clerk or an authorized Deputy Registrar.

Registration of persons in military or naval service is not required.

To constitute residence under this act, a permanent abode and dwelling place within the precinct is necessary. For a list of available deputy registrars contact the County Clerk’s Office at 815-334-4242.


Any qualified voter may, by making application to the County Clerk's office not more than 40 nor less than five days prior to election, receive an application, and when properly filled out and returned to the Clerk's office, said qualified voter will be mailed a ballot with instructions on how to properly mark said ballot. All ballots voted through the mail must be postmarked prior to the opening of polls on Election Day, and received by the County Clerk's office, no more than 14 days after Election Day to be counted.

Any voter who so desires may appear in person at an Early Voting site, beginning 15 days prior to an election and vote. Any voter may vote an "in person" absentee ballot at the McHenry County Administration Building, located at 667 Ware Rd., Woodstock on the Monday prior to an election. For further information contact the County Clerk's office at 815-334-4242.

The law permits a qualified voter who has been admitted to a hospital due to an illness or physical injury not more than 14 days before an election to cast an absentee ballot. For information on the procedure under this provision, please contact the County Clerk's office at 815-334-4242.


All voters in McHenry County are eligible to vote prior to Election Day. "Early Voting" starts 15 days prior to an election and ends the day prior to the election. No reason or "excuse" is needed. Any registered voter, with a valid government issued photo ID may vote early. Early voting sites and hours may be obtained by calling the Clerk's office at 815-334-4242 or visiting the Clerk's website at


A permanently disabled person may apply to the County Clerks Office for an application for a Disabled Voter's Identification Card, which will expire five years from date of issuance. Such card will permit the voter to vote an absentee ballot for each election. For further information, please contact the County Clerk's Office.


All notaries in McHenry County are registered in the County Clerk's Office at the Courthouse in Woodstock. The expiration date of each commission is listed along with the cities in which each notary resides.


There is no charge for recording or issuing certified copies of discharge papers of all persons having served in the armed services. Send your discharge papers to the Recorder of Deeds, Woodstock, Illinois, they will record the same and return the original to you.


Certified copies of birth and death records can be obtained from the office of the County Clerk, of the County in which they occur. Identification is required for any person obtaining certified copies of vital records, either in person or through the mail.


Where to apply
Office of County Clerk, McHenry County Administration Building, 667 Ware Rd., Woodstock, Illinois, between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday thru Friday. Identification is required and COUPLES MUST APPEAR TOGETHER.

Persons who may NOT marry

A) The following marriages are prohibited:

  1. a marriage entered into prior to the dissolution of an earlier marriage of one of the parties;
  2. a marriage between an ancestor and a descendant or between a brother and a sister, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood or by adoption;
  3. a marriage between an uncle and a niece or between an aunt and a nephew, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood;
  4. a marriage between cousins of the first degree; however, a marriage between first cousins is not prohibited if:
    • both parties are 50 years of age or older; or
    • either party, at the time of application for a marriage license, presents for filing with the county clerk of the county in which the marriage is to be solemnized, a certificate signed by a licensed physician stating that the party to the proposed marriage is permanently and irreversibly sterile;

B) Parties to a marriage prohibited under subsection (a) of this Section who cohabit after removal of the impediment are lawfully married as of the date of the removal of the impediment. Children born or adopted of a prohibited or common law marriage are legitimate.

The fee for a marriage license is Thirty dollars ($30).

Persons obtaining a license in McHenry County may NOT use the license to marry in any other County. A license to marry becomes effective in the county where it was issued one (1) day after the date of issuance, unless the court orders that the license is effective when issued, and expires 60 days after it becomes effective. If there was a prior marriage for one or both applicants, ending in divorce, the parties must provide the County Clerk with a certified copy of the divorce decree(s) pertaining to such prior marriage(s)

Qualifications-Residents of the State of Illinois
Age Requirements: Males and females must have attained the age of 18 years at the time the marriage license is effective or will have attained the age of 16 years and has either the consent to the marriage of both parents or his/her guardian or judicial approval.

Proof of Age:
Males and females who are 18 years of age and under must present proof of age i.e. certified copy of birth certificate.

Individuals who reside out of state may not apply for a marriage license in Illinois if such a marriage would not be legal in their home state.   Non-residents requiring consent of parents or legal guardian must obtain a consent sworn to before the COUNTY CLERK or a NOTARY PUBLIC. 


  • Civil Unions may be entered into by same-sex and heterosexual couples of at least 18 years of age.
  • After obtaining a license, a couple must wait until the following day to have their civil union ceremony performed by an officiant such as a judge or religious official.
  • A license will be valid for 60 days after being issued.
  • A license must be returned to the County Clerk's office within 10 days from the date of the ceremony.
  • A Civil Union must be dissolved in court, the same as a marriage.
  • Documentation of a previous dissolution, civil union or marriage, must be provided.
  • Persons obtaining a license in McHenry County may NOT use the license in any other County.

Where to Apply:
Both parties must appear together in the County Clerk's office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday at: Office of the McHenry County Clerk

McHenry County Administration Building
667 Ware Road, Room 107
Woodstock, IL 60098
Phone 815-334-4242

Persons who may NOT enter into a Civil Union

  • Persons not attaining 18 years of age
  • Blood relatives, down to cousins of the first degree may not enter into a Civil Union under the laws of the State of Illinois.

The fee for a Civil Union license in McHenry County is thirty dollars ($30).

Proof of Age
Applicants who are 18 years of age must present their certified birth certificate as proof of age.


Regular meetings of the McHenry County Board shall be held on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. unless different times have been established in advance.

The County Board shall meet as a Committee of the Whole on the Thursday preceding the third Tuesday of each month at 9:00 a.m. and at such additional times as called by the Chairman of the County Board.


Marriages Recorded 1,554
Civil Unions - Recorded (includes conversions) 6
Births 1,835
Deaths (Includes Fetal Deaths) 1,939
Adoption 44
Arbitration 341
Chancery 848
Contempt of Court 2
Criminal Felony 1,245
Civil Law Violation  483
Criminal Misdemeanor 1,753
Conservation 257
Divorce 1,018
Driving Under the Influence 926
Eminent Domain 21
Family 340
Juvenile-Abuse 85
Juvenile-Delinquent 192
Juvenile 4
Law-Under $50,000 837
Law-Over $50,000 436
Mental Health 19
Miscellaneous Remedy 1,010
Municipal Corporation 0
Order of Protection 927
Ordinance 2,434
Probate 422
Small Claims 3,076
Tax 6
Traffic 41,556
Traffic Accidents (no injury) 751
Traffic Deaths 16
Property Damage 2018 (Property & vehicle damage) 1,153
Passport Applications 2,708