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A Hometown Named Palatine

Following Northwestern Illinois’ Black Hawk War in 1832, waves of pioneers traveled former Indian trails to the west of Chicago. The first recorded non-native settler to this area is said to be George Ela. Presented with beautiful prairie land and prominent woodlands; Englishman’s Grove to the west, Plum Grove to the south, Highland Grove in the southwest; George selected Deer Grove in the northwest to lay down roots in 1835.

In 1850, at the behest of the state, village leaders met in a schoolhouse to select a name for Township 42. Many names were considered but ultimately the suggestion of Harrison Cook; formerly of Palatine Bridge, New York prevailed.

In 1855 the Illinois and Wisconsin Railroad extended its reach west of Dunton Station (now known as Arlington Heights) and our first train depot was constructed. Joel Wood who owned land north of Chicago Avenue (later to be called Palatine Road) and Elisha Pratt who owned south of Palatine Road had the foresight to see where the center of town would grow and began plotting blocks and streets. If only Hiram Thurston shared in their vision, he would have accepted Joel’s offer to buy downtown Palatine for $10; he just couldn’t see past the low land filled with green water and cattails. Palatine was incorporated in 1866.

Thanks to the train and those new-fangled automobiles, Palatine’s slow and steady growth continued. People came out to the Cook County Fairgrounds, located east of present-day Northwest Highway and Hicks Road from 1914 to 1931. With our streets now paved, growth accelerated and following World War II, our now familiar subdivisions took the place of the old homesteads and farms that first put Palatine on the map.

Dr. Robert Gerowitz wishes to acknowledge Marilyn Pedersen and the Palatine Historical Society not only for their invaluable assistance in helping us create this book, but also for keeping our town’s history alive.

January, 2010

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This is a southwest oriented aerial view of downtown Palatine photographed in 1929. The large 3 story building in the center was the Batterman Brick Block built in 1884. It contained street level stores, second floor offices, and an Opera Hall on the top level. It was demolished in 1938 (as was the bank building that replaced it in 1962) and now is the location for the Firefighter’s Memorial.

Just to the south of the Batterman building on Slade and Brockway are two buildings which will be featured later in this book. The two story Starck Hospital and the white framed Schoppe’s Store.

The building just north of the tracks, in the lower left hand corner was built in 1924 (on land that previously had a livery stable) by Charles Dinse to house a pool hall, barber shop, and ice cream parlor; the long extension to this building was a bowling alley. More recent residents knew it as the original Durty Nellie’s. The unfinished space on the right side of the photo remained that way for years (this was the Great Depression after all). Eventually, it became a grocery store, an S&H Green Stamp Center, and lastly, Mia Cucina Restaurant.

Now that you have your bearings, keep in mind that where you are reading this book is beyond the upper left hand corner of this picture, somewhere on what was once Orrin Ford’s land south of town.

Travelling north of Palatine’s village limits around 1900 your carriage would cross a bridge on Hicks Road. Underneath runs Nason’s Creek. The area’s first religious organization was a Methodist group that met in a log schoolhouse located in Deer Grove in the early 1840’s. Its first regular preacher was the Rev. John Nason.

Today you can bike ride along the creek below Hicks Road from the library (which once had a golf course in that same area). On the right side of this photo (east of Hicks) was the northern part of the County Fairgrounds which eventually became a strip center.

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Pictured on Brockway and Slade facing south are two prominent buildings. On the left is a two story structure which at the time of this photo was named Starck Hospital. Prior to its brickwork, it was the wood sided Kunze Saloon. Dr. Carl Starck, who arrived in Palatine in 1899, opened the facility in 1916 with ten beds on the second floor along with an operating room, lab, dentist office, and nurse’s station. In the 1940’s, Dr. Starck also trained nurses at the hospital. In 1950, he closed the hospital due to a nursing shortage. The first floor has served over the years as the location for the State Bank of Palatine, the Chicago Telephone Co. exchange, Palatine Drug, Coleman Drug, the U.S. Army Recruiting office, a gift shop, and a jewelry store.

Across the street from the hospital is the Schoppe Family store; about which another page will be devoted.

Also of note in this picture is the bandstand on the northwest corner. The Palatine Military Band organized in the 1870’s by Mayor J.H.Schierding, gave summer concerts here each weekend until the structure was removed in 1921.

As transportation transitioned at the turn of the 20th century, there was the still familiar sight of horse drawn wagons and hitching posts on one side of the dirt road and Model T’s on the other.

A very popular photo around modern day Palatine is this group of men in Oswald Kunze’s Saloon. Kunze came to America in the 1880’s and arrived in Palatine in 1904. He left for Texas in 1916 and sold his building to Dr. C.A.Starck who made it into a hospital.

Seated left to right are: William Henning, Fred Henning, Henry Hitzeman, and Charlie Streus. Looking on are: Charles Henning, Henry Bruhns, a man named Fred, “Grandpa” Meyer, Henry Roesner Sr., Al Smith, Fred Gieske, and August Hackbarth.

Henry Bruhns arrived in America in 1893 at the age of 17. After working as a cattle dealer in Schaumburg, he moved to Palatine in 1901 and ran Bruhns Meat Market at Palatine and Brockway from 1911 to 1929.

August Hackbarth came to Palatine in 1903 to operate a blacksmith shop. In 1915 he opened a garage which sold tires, farm equipment, and cars (he advertised a Maxwell 25 for $655). In 1919 his place of business was a center for the sales of WW I liberty Bonds. His garage became the location of Marmax Glass and later Emmett’s Saloon (I think he’d like that).

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George Ela had the right idea when he settled in Deer Grove. Its woodlands, watercourses, and fields are as important to us today as they must have been to him back then.

Prior to 1915 when the Cook County Forest Preserve District acquired Deer Grove as its first nature preserve, Dr. J.W.Wilson operated a recreation park there. On the weekend patrons enjoyed the dance pavilion, running track, baseball field, refreshment parlor, and dining hall.

Travelers would come from as far as the city; via the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, and for 10 cents the “Palatine Buss” would take them the remainder of the way to Deer Grove. Later in this book, we’ll discuss Maud, the train engine that replaced the Buss.

In 1890 if you wanted to enter this building you would do so on the north side near where the dark horse is standing. The H.C.Matthei Store opened on Slade Street originally.

The Schoppe family came to this area in 1853. Louis left the family farm and with his brother Henry, bought the store in 1892. Using land they owned on Brockway they enlarged the location and moved the entrance.

The Schoppe Bros. General Store installed 33 gas jets to light it “as bright at night as it is during the day time.” A local institution for long-time Palatine residents, Schoppe’s was an icon of Americana. “Old-timers” would gather around the pot-bellied stove to trade stories and talk about events of the day.

A year after Henry died in 1966 the store closed its doors and was for a short time a ceramics shop. In 1969 the 26 North Mod Shop moved in but a year later a fire destroyed this historic locale. The modern brick structure now at Brockway and Slade was at one time a card shop/jewelry store and is currently a music store.

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When he was posted as a special night watchman in 1895, Herman Schrader received
no salary. His duties included lamp lighting, dog catching, and cleaning the village hall. In 1897, he was allowed $5 per month. His pay rose to $40 per month by 1912.

By 1913 he and Henry Law (hired in 1896) became official, full time, uniformed policemen when they received formal appointment by the village board for $55 per month.

Still patrolling on foot, they continued to serve the community until 1919.

By 1892 Walter Camp, who was considered the “Father of American Football”, had fashioned a new sport out of rugby and soccer. Among the most important differences where the concepts of a line of scrimmage and down-and-distance rules.

In 1894 when the Palatine Men’s Athletic Club took the field they were outfitted in uniforms from Palatine High. Helmets, shoulder pads, and Nikes weren’t even thought of back then and a game which relied more on running and kicking used a ball far less streamlined than today’s pigskin.

Seated left to right were: Lee Bissell, Philip Matthei, H.L.Merrill, W.L.Smyser, and Walter Lytle. Standing were: William Mosser, A.G.Smith, Bert L. Smith, Henry Pohlman, Earl Dahms, Harry Rea, and J. Fink.

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Parked on a dirt road in town next to the plank sidewalk are Henry and Mary Thies.

Henry and Mary are buried a few hundred feet away from Dr. Gerowitz’s office, in Palatine Township’s Salem Cemetery; established as a family cemetery in the 1850’s by Frederick and Dorothea Thies. You might wonder why someone would establish a cemetery in front of a strip center on Plum Grove Road and Euclid Avenue. However, it was in fact the other way around. The site behind the cemetery, was once the location for the Salem Evangelical Church; which was built in the 1890’s. In 1912,
the church moved into the downtown area but the resting place for Henry and Mary remains undisturbed except for traffic noise.

The story of railroad transportation in Palatine is actually a tale of two trains. One was vital to the growth of the town, the other a more colorful story. Taken in chronological order, the Illinois and Wisconsin Railroad made its way to the Deer Grove Trading Post in 1853. On October 13th of that year, the Chicago Tribune printed the following: “At 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon, a party of invited guests, filling one first class passenger car, started on an excursion on the Illinois and Wisconsin Railroad to Deer Grove, about 25 miles from this city. The party consisted of some of our most enterprising citizens, and members of the Press, with a few of the legal fraternity…A social lunch was served up and champagne and crackers were partaken of with great relish. This was the first passenger train ever run over this road…the party expressed themselves as highly gratified with the ease of motion and the rapidity with which the train progressed. The country along the route affords a pleasant view, and Deer Grove received many compliments for its rural scenery.”

Unfortunately, this railroad failed, but was followed by the establishment of the Prairie du Chein and Fond du Lac line which was ultimately taken over by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in 1859.

Palatine’s first depot located between Brockway and Bothwell Streets, was built by Hiram Thurston in 1855 (yep, that’s right; he’s the same guy who wouldn’t buy downtown Palatine for $10) with lumber and land donated by Joel Wood. It featured separate waiting rooms for men and women, oil lamps, and Postmaster D.B. Wood’s post office.

Not just important for local farmers to get their products to market, the railroad helped our early population grow by allowing those who wished to work in the city to also live in the country.

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Its engine was named for the popular comic strip, “Maud the Mule” and the 11 mile short-line Palatine, Lake Zurich, and Wauconda Railroad’s humble beginnings were the brainchild of Justin Orvis and Robert Wynn. The route delivered freight and commuters to these communities, as well as vacationers to Dr. Wilson’s Deer Grove Park picnic grounds.

Two days before its inaugural run on September 6, 1911; the C&NW Railroad sold “Maud” (built in 1885) to the PLZ&W line and rented them a passenger car. Crowding onto an additional box car (some folks hanging onto the steps) local residents celebrated Palatine Day in Deer Grove.

Things didn’t always run smoothly for Maud. Because of its dependency on second- hand equipment, the PLZ&W was dubbed the “Palatine, Lake Zurich and Walk” railroad at one point, because the engines had trouble pulling the load if there were too many passengers while on a steep grade. One such spot was the trestle in Lake Zurich built to cross the EJ&E tracks. The riders would sometimes be forced to exit the train, walk across the trestle and then meet the train on the other side.

Mother Nature was also an important factor in the ultimate demise of the PLZ&W. Before the tracks were laid in Lake Zurich they had to be built around a stubborn sink hole. The Great Blizzard of 1918 left the 42 inches of snowfall in 10-20 foot drifts on the tracks and the Palm Sunday tornado in 1920 destroyed the Wauconda engine house; further crippling the little railroad.

As Americans embraced the automobile, Rand Road became a paved highway in 1922. 1924 saw Maud’s final run after a cold spring and unsuccessful July 4th holiday turnout contributed to the line’s downfall.

Portions of the PLZ&W right-of-way are still visible, especially along the Palatine Bike Path south of Dundee Road and just north of Dundee Road in the Deer Grove Forest Preserve, where you can still find the pilings for the bridge that crossed the creek. Wooden ties and spikes were found in these areas in 2006. Another relatively undisturbed section is in the wooded area just west of Cuba Road and north of Rand Road. A beautiful section of canopy trees over the old rail bed was found there in 2007. Other sections west of Quentin Road are visible but difficult to get to because of the thick brush.