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Crystal Lake Historical Society

Early History

Local History

The City of Crystal Lake traces its origins to two separate communities which were established in the 1800s. Those communities were generally known as Nunda and Crystal Lake.

In 1835, Ziba S. Beardsley had come to the shores of the lake and commented that the “waters were as clear as crystal,” thereby giving the lake its name. Ziba Beardsley continued south to Naperville and missed the opportunity for fame as this city’s founder. In February, 1836 the first white settlers, Beman and Polly Crandall and six of their ten children, came from New York State and traveled to Crystal Lake in a covered wagon. The family lived in the covered wagon for a time until a log cabin could be built. Their original cabin was built in the vicinity of today’s intersection of Virginia Street and Van Buren Street. Four of the Crandall children were born here.

Najah Beardsley’s family was the second to settle here. His grandson, William Beardsley, was the first white child born on the Crystal Lake prairie (May 7, 1837).

The town was first known as Crystal Ville, but sometime before 1840, it was changed to Crystal Lake.

The area known today as “Downtown Crystal Lake” was first called “Dearborn” and then “Nunda.” The Village of Dearborn came into existence in the mid 1850s after the railroads extended their lines through the area. In 1856, the first train depot was established. This depot was pre-fabricated and shipped from Chicago on a flat car. Although the depot was located near Dearborn, it was called the Crystal Lake Station.

At that time, the main business district for the Village of Crystal Lake was located on Virginia Street about one mile southwest of the railroad station (near today’s McCormick Park). The railroad served to connect the people and industries of both Crystal Lake and Dearborn to Chicago and the rest of the county. Because of its close proximity to the railroad, Dearborn’s population and business district quickly grew.

On October 7, 1868, Dearborn’s name was changed to “Nunda” after an area in New York from which many settlers had come. The Village of Nunda was platted in 1868 by local surveyor, John Brink. The village included the area now generally bounded by Route 176 on the north, Crystal Lake Avenue on the south, Main Street on the east, and Walkup Avenue on the west. Much of the land was originally owned by Daniel Ellsworth and Simon S. Gates.

The villages of Crystal Lake and Nunda were each incorporated in 1874. In 1908, the name of the Village of Nunda was changed to “North Crystal Lake.” Several attempts were made to consolidate the two villages. Finally, after much disagreement, the Village of North Crystal Lake was annexed to the Village of Crystal Lake in 1914, and a new city form of government was established.