Sunday, August 12, 2012

Morraine Hills State Park

On Sunday, August 5, 2012, I did a 3.2 mile hike of the Northern Woods Trail at Morraine Hills State Park.  This area is part of the northeast Illinois morraines.  A morraine is an accumulation of debris, such as sand, gravel and rock which is deposited by a glacier.  The morrianes at this park show the extent of the Wisconsin glaciation which receded from the area about 14,000 years ago.  Humans were not far behind and began populating the area shortly after the glacier retreated north.

The person credited as being the first settler of European descent to occupy what is now Morraine Hills was Horace Long. The following info is from
McHenry County was originally the home of the Potawatomie Indians. A treaty signed with the Federal government vacated their ownership as of August 1836. Many settlers did not wait for the legal right to the land and began moving in early. The area was first contained in the boundaries of Cook County, but when the population expanded and had no easy access to Chicago, the residents lobbied for creation of a separate county. McHenry County was formed of present day Lake and McHenry counties and was named after Major William McHenry, a hero of the recent Black Hawk War. Centrally located in the middle of the county, the village of McHenry was named the county seat on May 10, 1837.
Sometime in either 1836 or 1837, Horace Long moved to McHenry County from his home in Vermont where he was born in 1804. He built a cabin out of stones he pulled from the ground and hand hewn logs from the nearby hills. It was not large but comfortable, and suited his needs for his first years in the area. In 1838 he built a small hotel in McHenry and moved into town. He married Lodema Salisbury from New York on November 10th 1840. Their marriage license was the seventy-first issued in the county. In 1842, their daughter Laura was born. James was born on October 4th 1845, but he died on January 23rd, 1848. Edwin was born a year after his brother’s death.

In 1838, when he moved into town, Horace Long became active in the local community. He was appointed as the government agent responsible for the construction of the local courthouse. McHenry was the county seat and needed a suitable structure for governmental affairs. Agent Long purchased 125.75 acres west of the Fox River where Veteran’s Park is now located and contracted the work to build the courthouse to Rufus Soules and Caleb Davidson. It was completed in 1840 and the first Commissioner’s meeting was held on August 5th of that year.

While centrally located in the large county, McHenry was not convenient to residents of the eastern half who lobbied to create their own county. On March 1, 1839, Lake County was officially created from the eastern portion of the county. The village of McHenry was now on the eastern edge of the county and so in 1843 the county seat was moved to Centerville, which was later renamed Woodstock.

Since the courthouse was no longer needed for official business, an auction was held on January 8, 1844. Sheriff Henry Wait sold the building to Horace Long who moved it east to a lot near the river. He turned it into a hotel and tavern and lived there with his family until his death on September 23rd, 1878. The building still stands and has housed a hotel or tavern almost continuously since 1844. It has been known under various names including the McHenry House and Mansion House. The current establishment is called the Town Club

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