If you are considering moving to Huntley, Illinois, you should know a bit of its history. In this installment of Know Your Town, we look back at the history of Huntley and at how this welcoming town came to be known as ”The Friendly Village with Country Charm”.
The Village of Huntley was founded in 1851 by Thomas Stillwell Huntley. Born in 1807, he grew up in Cortland County, New York where he was inspired by his prominent father who owned most of Ellicottville, New York. Thomas excelled from a young age in school and later as a merchant. He was town supervisor, a justice of the peace and a founding member of the Ellicottville First Presbyterian Church.
In 1830, Thomas married Eliza Fox, also a member of an affluent New York family and the sister of a New York State Senator. They had 2 children together and were married until her death in 1873. In 1876, Thomas remarried to Emma Annette Brinkerhoff. His third and last child was born to Emma. Emma was 36 and Thomas Huntley was age 71.
At the age of 39, in 1846, Thomas Huntley left New York behind and set out to Illinois where other family members had settled a few years prior. He bought 680 acres of land in Grafton Township for $1.25 an acre. On today’s map of Huntley that land is at the corner of Conley Road and Route 47. Little did he know at the time that he was moving to Huntley, Illinois!
Upon learning the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad line was planned for just south of his property, he purchased an additional 80 acres along the future railroad line. That property soon became the heart of Huntley where he built a train station, general store, three churches and his own home which still stands today on Woodstock Street.
Some of the land was used for a town square, for farming, as the town cemetery and as lots for other businesses and homes. It was just the beginning for the then town of Huntley Grove, which over time, came to be known simply as Huntley. In 1851, the first train came through Huntley and thereafter the town was a popular shipping center for farm and dairy products.
Thomas Huntley was a very well-respected man who held deep religious beliefs and trusted in the good of man. He was a founding and active member of the First Congregational Church and his generosity was welcomed and appreciated by the many he helped over the years. His great wealth allowed him to help community members by offering interest-free loans. He continued to farm his land and purchased many properties in northern Illinois and other states. Travels took him from coast-to-coast where he met many influential people and became an early member of the Republican party.
On May 21, 1894 Thomas Huntley passed away at the age of 87. The obituary showcased just how loved and well-respected he was noting “The (First Congregational) church was filled to its utmost capacity and many had to remain outside.” It went on to proclaim that his “kindness and generosity will always be remembered so long as the history of this town remains.” It is only fitting that today, the Village of Huntley is known to its residents and those considering moving to Huntley as ”The Friendly Village with Country Charm”.