A Village with a Country Charm Huntley Grows Rapidly from Its Roots as a Dairy Farm Community
Amato, Jonathan, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Jonathan Amato Daily Herald Correspondent
- This is the first in a series about how our communities have changed during the last century. In coming weeks, Hampshire, Dundee Township, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, Cary and Fox River Grove will be featured.
When the 20th Century opened, the town of Huntley was almost 50 years old. German immigrants mixed with people of English and Irish descent to make up the population of the village, which would grow and change as the decades of the century passed.
In 1900, it was still possible to talk with a veteran of the Civil War. Automobiles were still a newfangled invention, and the village of Huntley was a small farming community.
Community newspapers reported on who was visiting whom, who had gone into Elgin to go shopping, and which local residents were at home, sick.
National and international issues probably seemed far away from the small town in southeast McHenry County but would soon change the lives of town residents in more ways than one.
This is a journey back through the history of the 20th century in Huntley, taken decade by decade. Sources include recollections of town residents, newspaper accounts, and materials provided by the McHenry County Historical Museum and Huntley Public Library.
The turn of the century saw Huntley solidify its position as one of the premier milk transport centers in the world.
In an article dated May 31, 1901, the Huntley Journal claimed that "Huntley is the largest milk shipping point in the world. A total of 1,200 cans - or 9,600 gallons - of milk is brought there every day. At an average of 90 cents per can, this would mean $1,080 per day, $32,400 per month and $388,000 per year."
Milk was brought into Huntley from surrounding dairy farms and processed at one of the plants in town. The milk then was shipped to Chicago on the Chicago-Northwest Railroad.
According to the late William "Pat" Williams of Huntley, farmers had to get up at 3 a.m. in order to get milk to the train by 7:30 a.m.
Dairy farming would continue to be an important part of the region for several decades to come.
Huntley residents also took time out to play. When the village tried to ban baseball on Sunday in 1906, Walter Farley, coach of the Huntley team and mayor of the village, led a march to the baseball diamond in protest.
Huntley, as well as America, was introduced to the wider world when the United States entered World War I in April 1917.
Sixteen men answered the call to the colors from Huntley. The home front aided the soldiers in Europe through donations to organizations such as the Red Cross.
One serviceman, Harry Weltzien, was a motorcycle courier and had five motorcycles shot out from under him.
Huntley's mayor at the time, Henry Mackeben, encouraged donations by issuing a proclamation, part of which read, "May your pride in your township, your interest in humanity and your love for Old Glory, prompt you to give cheerfully and liberally. Let the heads of each family talk it over amongst themselves, settle how much they can conscientiously donate so that when the solicitors make their call, the business may be transacted with a minimum of effort."
The Victor Mey Company started to provide electricity to the village in 1913, although outlying farms would have to wait until the 1930s and '40s to get electricity.
Huntley Consolidated Unit School District 158 was founded in 1920. As a result, one-room schoolhouses in Grafton Township were closed, and students were bused into Huntley.
The original buses were Model T Fords with wooden bodies and one long seat on each side. A high-school student drove.
Also in 1920, returning veterans founded American Legion Post 673. Dr. Oliver Statler was elected the post's first commander. …