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1914 election united twin villages

The Crystal Lake train depot, built in 1914, is shown here in 1916.
The Crystal Lake train depot, built in 1914, is shown here in 1916.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Local historians concede there may be some confusion about the date of the city-wide centennial celebration.

Because Crystal Lake was founded – as a village – many years before the 1914 date we're celebrating a year from now this month. The 1914 date refers to when Crystal Lake became a city.

"We just love a reason to party," Crystal Lake Historical Society President Diana Kinney said, laughing.

The village of Crystal Lake was established in 1836 when Beman and Polly Crandall came by way of covered wagon from New York and built their home in an area that is now Route 14 and Van Buren Street.

The area initially was divided into two separate and distinct communities – Crystal Lake and Nunda (pronounced Nun-day, according to local historians). Nunda, later named North Crystal Lake, was christened after an area in New York from where many local settlers came. It came North Crystal Lake in 1908.

An election in 1914 officially incorporated the two villages. But it was not without an uphill battle – both communities had to approve it, and for years neither wanted to.

"I think they liked having their own identity – that was probably the biggest thing," Kinney said

The question of whether or not to annex North Crystal Lake into Crystal Lake was on the ballot four times, starting in 1894. Each time voters rejected it.

Apart, each community heal its own. The railroad, which still runs through modern day downtown, helped expand North Crystal Lake, and the namesake lake was a boon for Crystal Lake. (It's worth noting that the train depot that still stands today was built in 1914).

In the lead up to the 1914 vote, the local newspaper called the annexation question "a momentous one." Departing from journalistic objectivity, the Crystal Lake Herald – on its front page – cited the advantages of joining forces. Perhaps the biggest was connecting North Crystal Lake residents to Crystal Lake's water well, which was said to provide water that was far superior.

In 1914, the Crystal Lake Herald looked much liked what one might expect of a newspaper at the time – long, meandering columns running up and down the page. Society and farm news and school sports were front-page stories, and ubiquitous headlines often proclaimed "death takes old resident."

But the impending election stole headlines that year. It was historic on several fronts: Not only would it be the one to eventually unite the twin villages, it also was the first election in which women were allowed to vote.

The newspaper dedicated column inches to promote seminars to "teach the ladies how to vote." Nearly as many women as men voted in that election – 479 women to 504 men.

Villagers in North Crystal Lake were far more supportive of the measure, where it won by a wide margin.

After the landslide victory, subsequent elections were held to elect village officers, and Crystal Lake officially became a city on Sept. 23, 1914.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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