History of Wauconda

Justus Bangs (1806–1895) set out from Vermont with his neighbor (possibly his relative) Elihu Hubbard to see if land in Michigan was as good as they’d heard. Not being impressed with Michigan, the men continued to the homestead of Justus’s older brother David, who had settled at Meacham’s Grove, now known as Bloomingdale, Illinois. Travelling up the Fox River and following Indian trails, they ended up at Diamond Lake, where they camped the first night with some Indians living there. The following day they came across what is now Bangs Lake. Bangs declared that he had found his home. With the help of his friends, he put up a log cabin in two days.

(Compiled by Lynn McAlister https://wauconda-history.org/early-1800s/)
Andrew C. Cook House
Wauconda Township Historical Society Cook House
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 North Main Street, Wauconda.

The 1st Town MeetingThe 1st town meeting was held on the 1st Tuesday in April, 1850, probably in “The Old Tavern.” The 1st 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, Road Commissioners
  • Andrew Cook, Road Commissioners
  • E. S. Huson, Constables
  • Seth Hill, Constables

Court & Trial RecordsNo 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 & LanesThere was only 1 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.

Stage RoutesThe 1st 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 1 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 $0.25 for each letter, and none of the letters were enclosed in envelopes.

Post OfficesThe 1st Post Office was at Slocum’s Lake. It was called Cornelia, and Thomas Slocum was the 1st 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 1st Post Master in Bangs’ Lake was Hazard Green.

According to the ArchivesTraditions 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”.

native AmericansWhen the first settlers arrived, there were no Native Americans 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 Native American mounds were found near here, and it is probable there was an encampment at Slocum Lake.

Bangs LakeIn 1836, Elihu Hubbard built a log cabin on the bank of the lake. In 1848, Justus Bangs, the 1st 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 1st town meeting was held the 1st Tuesday in April, 1850.

SettlersMost 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.

Building & StructuresThere 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.

SchoolIn 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, 2nd and 3rd readers, and an arithmetic.

DemographicsPopulation of Wauconda in 1850 was 200, and the town had 3 goods stores, 2 public houses, and various mechanics.

Village of Wauconda IncorporationA 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.

Village Organization VoteAt 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