ITEMS OF INTEREST
THE McHENRY BREWERY
The brewery was orignally buiIt in 1868 by George Gribbler. Since then it was operated by different parties among whom were Edward Owen. A Mr. King, and Schreiner and Benfield. In 1880, the proprieter was a Mr. Herber, (or Herbes) , at which time Gottlieb Boley purchased it for $1,400. Mr. Boley came to MoHenry in 1874 and had been employed there as a brewmaster. By 1885, because of improvements added by Mr. Boley, the brewery stood ahead of all others in the county with facilities for manufacturing beer. With a capacity for 1,200 barrels, business was never better. In addition to the brewery, Mr. Boley owned a large malt house in which all of the malt was prepared for use in the beer brewing process.
In 1895, shortly before his death, Mr. Boley remodeled the brewery and constructed a $5,000 addition. He installed steam boilers, making the brewery an up to date plant at that time. Previously, there were no boilers or tanks. The beer was boiled in a huge kettle over a furnace fueled with wood. In those days there were no facilities for making ice. The beer was kept cold in the basement where the walls were built of three layers of brick and banked with earth to keep the interior cool. In later years, ice was cut from the mill pond in the winter and stored for future use. Following is an article from the January l6, 1913 issue of the McHenry Plaindealer newspaper regarding the procurement of ice.
"The MeHenry Brewery ice houses were filled in record breaking time this year. It took the gang of ice men just exactly forty eight and a half hours to fill the house at the brewery and the one at the pond. This beat last years record by ten and a half hours. In years gone by, it required at least four days to fill the house at the brewery, while this year it required but eighteen hours to do the same work. The work of filling the ice houses was under the personal supervision of Michael L. Worts, the senior member of the brewing firm of Worts and Boley."
Gottlieb Boley was born in Wurttemburg, Germany on October 23, 1844 and he died in McHenry on September 18, 1900. Gottlieb's father died In 1867 and his mother in 1873, both in Germany. He attended school until he was 14 years of age and then began learning the brewers trade. In1865, he went to Switzerland and France, and in 1868 to Bavaria where he remained for five years. In the Fall of1873, after the death of his mother, he came to America. In September of 1874 he came to McHenry where he found employment as brewmaster in the brewery he was eventually to own. He worked there for three and a half years and then opened a saloon. Later he was employed as an agent for the Woodstock Brewery until he purchased the Mchenry Brewery in 1880. While in Chicago, Gottlieb met Josephine PytIick. She was born in what is now Czechoslovakia and came to America in 1871. They were married in September 1874 and had three children; Katherine, Josephine, and Gottlieb, (Patsy).
Michael L. Worts, who married Gottlieb's daughter Katherine, worked at the brewery until Gottlieb died. Michael had passed on a good offer to go to Mobile, Alabama as a brewer in order to stay in McHenry and work with his father-in-law. For some reason, the brewery was operated by Grott and Damgard for about five years after Gottlieb's death. Michael had left the brewery and, as previously mentioned, built and operated the Buffalo House in Volo until 1906 when he and Patsy Boley resumed the operation of the brewery. It was probably about this time when they began producing beer under the brand name of "Buffalo Beer.''
The brewery was operated with a great deal of success until Prohibition drastically reduced the production of beer in 1919. The circumstances surrounding the operation of the brewery at that time are somewhat clouded and contradictory. An article appearing in the July 20, 1933 publication of the McHenry Plaindealer, announcing the planned reopening of the brewery, stated it was closed in 1916 and sold to a William Kline of Chicago. Mr. Kline was said to be the owner as of the date of the newspaper article. Yet, it is a fact that Mike Worts was operating the brewery during Prohibition and served two sentences in the county jail for making and selling real beer. My brother, Barney, clearly remembers Uncle Mike having built smaller vats under the originals in order to secretly brew real beer.
In 1933, the old brewery was reactivated by new owners. Extensive remodeling took place with new tanks and machinery being installed. Five huge steel tanks, each weighing two tones, were to hold the brew and a large ice machine was to care for the new cool ing system. A Mr. H. J. Schnaitman was named as manager for the new operation.
How long the new brewery remained in business, I do not know. But, anyone that was familiar with the old Buffalo Beer did not have kind words to say about the new brew. In recent years, the building has been used as a bar and restaurant under various owners. The building is a landmark and one of the oldest structures in McHenry. Some people say that ghosts of long gone people occupy the premises because of eerie, unexplainable noises heard during the night. I have a relic from the old brewery which I greatly treasure. It is a ceramic beer mug bearing the inscription. "McHenry Brewery - Worts and Boley", and was given to me by Louis Ohirich, grandson of Michael Worts. If there are, in fact, ghostly spirits cavorting about in the old brewery, there is certainly one in the beer mug because a beer always castes excellent when drunk from it.
THE BUFFALO HOUSE
About 1901, Michael L. Worts built a two-story structure at Lily Lake on land he acquired from his father. Until 1906 he operated a saloon and hotel on the premises. The business was taken over by his brother, John A., who ran it until1911. Then, another brother, Matt, operated the business until he ran into hard times several years later and sold the Buffalo House to someone outside of the family.
The Buffalo House name was probably adopted because of the Buffalo Beer brand name of the refreshments being served there. Buffalo Beer, of course, was produced and supplied by Mike Worts at the McMenry Brewery. I have a ledger which was kept by John's wife during the time they had the business. It is interesting to note the names of all of the people who frequented the place at that time, and how much they paid and owed to their account.
The Buffalo House was a combination saloon and hotel. Travelers and fishermen availed themselves of the facilities, for in those days excellent fishing was to be found in the nearby lakes and streams. My brother, Barney, remembered the abundant supply of walleycs in the Fox River and the large bluegills in Lily Lake. The original building still stands and is a cocktail bar and restaurant known as the Lakeside inn. Although extensive remodeling over the years has altered it's appearance, the lines of the original building remain evident.
VOLO AND THE WASHINGTON HOTEL
Today, Volo is not much different than it ever was. Many of the old buildings remain and can be identified even though some have had their original lines altered. How much longer Volo will remain the sleepy little farm village is uncertain because the inexorable march of progress is encroaching upon it.
After a postoffice was opened in 1848, more settlers were attracted to the area. Among the early arrivals were the Rossdeutschers. Browns and Bacons. Prior to November 27, 1868, Volo was known as Forksville, probably because of the Fork in the road in town facing east. A tornado destroyed the Volo Methodist Church on March 24, 1902, and in 1906 the Post Office was closed. As of this writing, the house is still standing to which Theodore moved when he retired and where the Theodore Worts family portrait was photographed. In addition, on the south fork on the road, a building, which was originally a creamery, is still intact and operated now as a tavern such as it was when John A. Worts and "Teddy" Wagner had it after Prohibition was repealed.
Unfortunately, one of the most interesting structures of old Volo and Forsville no longer exists. At first it was called the Gale Hotel, but is best remembered as the Washington Hotel. It was located at the fork in the road and faced west. As near as I can determine, it was razed in the late 1950's.
In 1851, Nathan Geer, editor of the Waukegan Gazette, toured the plank roadbed between McHenry and Lake Counties. He wrote that at the fork in the road at Forksville stood a hotel operated by a Mr. Gale. The old plank road only lasted a few years, but over a hundred years later, the building was still standing. Before being razed, the building was the private residence of Catherine Molidor who purchased it from Jacob Worts many years before.
During its century or more of existence, the building had been used as a hotel, saloon, dance hall, and a residence. In the 1950's, the then State Senator, Ray Paddock mentioned some things he remembered about Volo as told to him by his father. The Paddock family home stood by the plank road, a short distance east of Volo. Actually, the plank road went no further than Squaw Creek, except in a few spots.
Senator Paddock's father told him that the hotel was a favorite retreat of Lake and McHenry County soldiers home on furlough during the Civil War. Festive parties and dances were held there. At one such gathering, a sportive Union soldier aimed a kick at a window, so the story goes, but as the window as already open he kicked himself out into the yard. Later that evening, the soldiers gathered mattresses from the rooms and were about to set them afire in the parlor, when somebody prudently interfered with their plans. That must have been quite a party.
In the early 1890's, Jacob Worts opened a meat market on the first floor of the building and had living quarters in the rear. The second floor was rented as a dance hall. After a couple of years, Jacob sold the place and went back to farming, but in 1908, he re-purchased the place from Matt Bauer who had been operating a saloon there. Jacob continued the saloon business for several years and then sold it to his sister and brother-in-law, Anna and Michael Wagner. For some reason it returned to Jacob's ownership and he eventually sold it to Catherine Molidor as a dwelling."