Looking on the main street of Winnebago
|Motto(s): Welcome to Wonderful Winnebago|
Location of Winnebago in Winnebago County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
|• Village President||Frank Eubank|
|• Total||1.94 sq mi (5.02 km2)|
|• Land||1.94 sq mi (5.02 km2)|
|• Water||0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)|
|Elevation||869 ft (265 m)|
|• Estimate (2016)||3,002|
|• Density||1,549.82/sq mi (598.41/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|Wikimedia Commons||Winnebago, Illinois|
Much of the history of Winnebago revolved around the arrival of the railroad and the productive farms all around.
The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, encouraged by Chicago merchants in all the urban communities, arrived in Rockford on the east side of the Rock River in August 1852. Each town at the west end of the line as it continued west became a magnet of growth, motivated by the massive leverage of farmers arriving with their livestock, or wagonloads of produce ready for delivery to market. In 1853, then the Galena and Chicago Union extended to the west from Rockford to Freeport. This track forged through both Elida (later called Winnebago), and Pecatonica, igniting local growth. In October 1854 the village's train station was laid out, and by rights was the center of attention. The depot attracted commercial development, warehouses and stockyards emerged near the tracks. In January 1855, Joseph D. Warner, who was the first railroad station agent, finished his house on South Elida Street.
Then from 1903 through 1930, the village was served by the Rockford and Interurban Railway, an electric interurban line with frequent passenger service from Rockford or Pecatonica and Freeport. This line also brought electrical power into Winnebago. At this time laborers started commuting to work at an ever-growing Rockford, and many more residents did their shopping in Rockford rather than locally. Rides from Winnebago to Rockford were $.25.
The community was first settled in 1835. The first settlement was actually at Westfield corners because that was where the stagecoach route passed through. The first settler in the Winnebago Township was David Adams Holt in 1835. The first school in Winnebago Township was established at Westfield in 1839. Elijah Holt built a house in 1840 that is still standing in Winnebago Township on Montague Rd. which is now part of the Severson Dells Forest Preserve; a marker was placed there by the D.A.R. in 1981.
Most of the first land claims for that area was $1.25 an acre in the south end of the township, because it was wooded instead of prairie land. In July 1841, the first two purchasers of land in Winnebago Township where Henry Schoonmaker and Joseph Folsom. Mr. Folsom was a veteran of the 1812 war. Both men purchased this land from the Galena Land Office. Most of the early farmers were Irish immigrants from New England and New York, with some coming from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Roads of the time were dirt tracks, with the ‘State Road’ from Rockford to Freeport passing through the northern tier of sections of Winnebago Township.
The school house at Westfield Corners was razed in 1844.
In July 1846, the organization of the First Congregational Church of Winnebago met at Westfield. The organization of the Methodist church was also at Westfield Corners.
In 1849, the community adopted the name Elida, but later renamed itself Winnebago after a Native American tribe that had lived in the area.
In 1850, there were 499 residents, most being farmers. There was one 1 minister, one molder, two blacksmiths and four mechanics. Most of the site of the future village of Winnebago was sold at $80 per acre to a group of men who then laid out where the railroad would pass.
In June 1855, the Middle Creek Presbyterian church was built for around $2100 at Montague and Kendall Roads. By the time fall rolled around the first store was up, running, and owned by N.D. Warner, and the first school class met in the Winnebago village at the Methodist Church. Last but not least, the Westfield M.E. church was having services in their own building as well. The first physician to arrive in Winnebago was Dr. Wesley Rush Gearhart, who practiced medicine in Winnebago for 30 years. In the mid-1850s, the Old Stone Church building was being used by the Congregational church and is now the present site of the Winnebago Cemetery.
In 1858, a frame school building was built on the southeast corner of Soper and Benton streets, a bargain at $1325. The Edson was Winnebago’s first hotel. It was built in 1859 on the southeast corner of Benton and Main Streets, later the first public hall was added, thanks to D.C. Lewis. The Middle Creek Cemetery was established in 1859.
The year 1860 saw Winnebago township’s population at 1002. The village itself had 276 residents, and employment ranged from physician to shoe-maker, teacher to postmaster.
During the Civil War, Winnebago sent 150 soldiers and two nurses. One local mother, Mrs. Merchant, sent 10 sons for military service.
In the 1860s, it was the policy of temperance leaders not to permit alcohol establishments in the village; this was later mandated by a local option vote. 1868 saw a new four-room school house completed at the southwest corner of S. Benton and Winnebago Streets. The First Presbyterian church was initiated in Edson Hall by the Rev. Braddock of Middle Creek church, just north across the street from the new school. Also the Free Methodist church of Winnebago was organized, and that church was built on the northwest corner of Winnebago and South Benton Streets.
In 1870, the census counted 1428 residents, though these were not divided into village and rural categories because growth had now slowed.
The village was formally incorporated in 1878, the village’s population was almost 600. D.C. Lewis was elected Village President, and Reuben Alworth, clerk. First orders of business included immediately installing a windmill and stock tank on E. Soper St., (across from the present village office), followed by a local option to prohibit alcohol sales.
1875 was the founding year for the Winnebago Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Co., and for the Westfield Creamery, which sent butter for judging at the Centennial Fair in Philadelphia Pa. in 1876. In October 1876, Local Masonic Lodge #745 of Winnebago was established.
The Winnebago High School's first graduation class was in 1874. The organization of the Winnebago High School Alumni began in 1879.
In 1883 the Congregational church was built on S. Elida St. The Winnebago Reflector was the village’s weekly newspaper, and it was established in 1887 by the Reverend Chenoweth, who was the Congregational minister. Its editor was Charles Tritle.
At the end of the 1880s, the Illinois Central railroad built its competing east-west line through the center of Winnebago Township paralleling the Chicago & Galena Union .
Fires obliterated the S. Benton & Main St. business buildings on one side in 1890, and then a year later destroyed the business buildings on the other side of the street. At that time property in country villages was of little value, so much of the damage was not covered by insurance. Nine years later there would be another disastrous fire downtown.
In December 1893, the Township Hall was built with township funds and then dedicated. In 1897 the Winnebago Produce & Supply Co. was established with local stockholders. On August 22, 1899, the first Soldiers’ Monument was dedicated at the Winnebago Cemetery on Westfield Road. John M. Mitchell led in raising the $800 needed.
Early 20th Century
1903 brought telephone service to Winnebago. At first there were two competing companies, but they finally interconnected. The Winnebago Post Office started delivery to rural routes in 1904. The two routes covered large sections of Burritt and Seward Townships, as well as Winnebago. The State Bank of Winnebago was established in its new building on the site of the Edson Hotel in 1912, it was succeeded by the People’s State Bank in the late 1920s, and that bank fell under in 1932-33. January 1914 The volunteer firefighters were organized and established in the village, and Winnebago furnished a fire engine pulled by horses in December of that year. During this time period the churches in Winnebago dwindled from four down to two. First Presbyterian replaced its building with a brick edifice in 1914, and the Methodist Church purchased the Congregational building and parsonage in 1920. In August, 1925 the Winnebago Consolidated Schools’ new brick building was dedicated. This building was on S. Benton St. In 1926 the first school yearbook, hand-written by the students, was issued.
After WWII the population of the village started growing again. Most of the vacant lots were beginning to disappear as homes multiplied. Costs were still fairly affordable, so veterans and wartime workers could easily provide for their expanding families. After few years, the overcrowded high school was definitely feeling the pinch, and a new building was put up at the north end of town and dedicated in 1959. This building is still standing today and serving hundreds of children as Winnebago Middle School. The other schools in the village followed suit replacing their undersized facilities.
By 1948, the State had completed the concrete road through the village to U.S. 20. In turn Winnebago expanded by putting in the water system (1950) and sewer plant (1958). The first zoning dictum was also a result of the village’s escalated growth.
In 1972, a volunteer library was rejuvenated by the Junior Women’s club and in 1982 the public library district was established; the building itself on N. Elida St was complete for use in 1988.
Village population totals
- 1940: 637
- 1950: 752
- 1960: 1059
- 1970: 1644
- 1980: 1644
- 1990: 1840
- 2000: 2958
Winnebago is centered at the intersection of Highways 16 and 49, south of US Route 20.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,000 people, 1,009 households, and 841 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,500 people per square mile (821.6/km²). There were 1,023 housing units at an average density of 735.0 per square mile (284.2/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 98.14% White, 1.12% African American, 0.03% Native American, 0.30% Asian, and 0.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.18% of the population.
There were 1,009 households out of which 50.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 69.9% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 16.6% were non-families. 14.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.93 and the average family size was 3.24.
In the village, the population was spread out with 34.3% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 19.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.8 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $59,891, and the median income for a family was $62,685. Males had a median income of $44,851 versus $25,817 for females. The per capita income for the village was $21,019. About 0.9% of families and 1.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.0% of those under age 18 and 3.9% of those age 65 or over.
Students in Winnebago are served by Winnebago CUSD#323. The district has one high school, one middle school and two elementary schools. The Winnebago schools website is http://www.winnebagoschools.org/.
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