Village of Wauconda History
Enjoy this brief sketch of the local history of Wauconda from 1836 to 1918, based on archives located at the Wauconda Township Historical Society, 711 N. Main Street, Wauconda.
The First Town Meeting
The first town meeting was held on the first Tuesday in April, 1850, probably in “The Old Tavern.” The first officers elected and appointed at this meeting were: Jonathan Wood, Moderator; LaFayette Mills, Town Clerk; Peter Mills, Supervisor; James S. Davis, Assessor; E. L. Huson, Collector; A. J. Seller and Andrew Cook, Road Commissioners; E. S. Huson and Seth Hill, Constables.
No trace of the records telling about early justice courts and early trials can be found. Mrs. Maria Powers, one of the few living pioneers, tell me that the records were burned when a house in where they were kept, was burned.
First Streets and Lanes
There was only one street and that followed the Lake Shore until Hampton Colgrove, living in the north part of town, for personal reasons, petitioned to have the road changed to the present location of North Main Street.
In early days all the streets leading into Main Street were merely lanes. There were no bridges and persons wishing to enter or leave the town on Main Road must ford the inlet or outlet to the lake.
The first stage route from Wauconda was to Janesville, Wisconsin, via of Chicago. Ambrose Bangs, then a mere lad, son of Justus Bangs, was the “stage driver.” He says that he suffered a good many hardships, but he also had many funny, as well as amusing experiences; yet he had no trouble with the Indians. It took Mr. Bangs one week to make a round trip, consequently in those days Wauconda received mail once a week only. Not many letters were sent because the postage was twenty-five cents for each letter, and none of the letters were enclosed in envelopes.
The first Post Office was at Slocum’s Lake. It was called Cornelia, and Thomas Slocum was the first Post Master and Mary Slocum, his wife, was assistant or deputy Post Mistress. In those early days the pioneers of Cornelia Settlement hoped to establish a permanent village there, but as it failed to prosper the Post Office was moved on June 27, 1849, to Bangs’ Lake where it remained until present time. The first Post Master in Bangs’ Lake was Hazard Green.
According to the Archives*:
Traditions say that Wauconda was named for an Indian Chief by that name, who is buried somewhere on the southern bank of Bangs Lake, back of the town hall. The word translated from its Indian language means “Spirit Water”.
When the first settlers arrived, there were no Indians as they had moved westward. In 1840, a remnant of the Winnebago tribe lived on the shores of the Fox River and came to Wauconda to trade. Several Indian mounds were found near here, and it is probable there was an encampment at Slocum Lake.
In 1836, Elihu Hubbard built a log cabin on the bank of the lake. In 1848, Justus Bangs, the first settler, built a home where the town hall now stands, and it was for him the lake was named. Wauconda was organized in 1849, and the first town meeting was held the first Tuesday in April, 1850.
Most early settlers came from New England and New York. They came by covered wagon and some came through the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes.
The first main street ran along the bank of the lake and the streets leading into it were lanes. They used to ford the inlet and outlet of the lake.
The stage route from Chicago to Janesville went through Wauconda. Ambrose B. Bangs drove the stage from Chicago to Janesville for eight years. It took him one week to make the round trip.
There was a saw and grist mill at the foot of Mill Street near the lake. It burned in 1906. There was a brick yard on the Cook farm and another on the Kent property on Maple Avenue. A limestone kiln was located on the bank of the lake on Kimball’s property. At one time, limestone was a very profitable business and there was an abundance around Wauconda. There was a foundry and blacksmith shop where Farman’s house now stands.
In 1839, the school district was organized and a schoolhouse built. It stood where the Clark Hotel now stands. It was log, 20 feet long, and was heated by a fireplace in one end. Books used were Cobb’s speller, the Bible, second and third readers, and an arithmetic.
Population of Wauconda in 1850 was 200, and the town had three good stores, two public houses, and various mechanics.
A petition dated July 19, 1877 was presented to the Honorable John L. Turner, County Judge of Lake County, on July 28, 1877; requesting that a described section of territory within the Town of Wauconda be incorporated as a Village, to be known as the Village of Wauconda, agreeable to the provisions of “An act to provide for the incorporation of “Cities and Villages”, approved April 10, 1872.
At an election held at the Pratt House, in the town of Wauconda, on Saturday, the 18th day of August, 1877; for and against Village organization, the following number of votes were polled:
Village Organization 49
Against Village Organization 24
The first meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Wauconda was held on September 24, 1877, at the office of a Justice and selected a President and a Clerk.*The source of the following information is unknown. The date it was written is also unknown. Photo: Courtesy of the Wauconda Township Historical Society