Barrington's History

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Barrington and its surrounding areas have a rich history dating back to the Blackhawk War of 1832. Until that time, the area that now includes Barrington had for centuries been the home to tribes of Pottawatomi and Mascouten Indians. Late that year, under the terms of a treaty signed by Chief Blackhawk, the migration of the Indians across the Mississippi River began, thus opening up vast tracts of land along the Fox River to early settlers who began moving to the area in 1834.

Pioneers who traveled from Troy, New York, by way of the newly renamed City of Chicago, settled in what would later become Cuba Township in Lake County. Other settlers, primarily from Vermont, upper New York State, and Massachusetts (most notably from the Great Barrington area in Berkshire County, Massachusetts), settled in what is now Cook County. Their settlement was originally called Miller Grove but was later renamed Barrington Center. It was established at the point where Sutton Road crosses Route 68. The area's rich soil and ample water supply naturally attracted a growing number of farming families throughout the 1830s. These farming families were industrious, courageous people who saw an opportunity to carve out a prosperous future, not only for themselves but for those who would follow.

The migration into Barrington Center caused changes and the residents felt the need to develop a community. The first school house, the Northway School, was built at Barrington Center early in the 1840s just east of what is now the Catlow Theatre. Not only was this simple, one-room school the seat of learning for a growing number of farm youngsters, it also served as the house of worship for the Methodists and the Congregationalists until completion of their own churches in 1859. In 1850, at the request of the County Sheriff, the inhabitants of the various nearby settlements assembled to choose a name for their township, and to set up a town government. The name they chose for the township was Barrington.

In 1854, Robert C. Campbell, a civil engineer, completed a detailed plan for a village to be called Barrington Station. When built, it consisted of a farm house and a log barn owned by Willard Stevens, and was bounded by what is now Hough Street, County Line Road, a line east of Spring Street, and a point a few feet south of Russell Street. The 80 acres within this boundary were the nucleus of what is today Barrington proper. That same year also brought about the completion of the northwest extension of the Chicago and Fond-Du-Lac railroad, later known as the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. Deer Grove was the initial home of the railroad station, but in reaction to protests from residents of Deer Grove, the station was carted a few miles up the track by flat car to what would soon be the site of Barrington Station.

The homes that sprang up around the Barrington Station were constructed of logs, as were most homes in rural America at that time. But in 1855, the Village's first milled lumber facility began operations. The building that housed the mill is still a fixture on Franklin Street, a vivid reminder of Barrington's rustic past.

In 1863, the 300 people who comprised the population of Barrington Station decided, in a referendum, to separate local and township powers. This led to the state legislature's approval of a charter for the Village of Barrington in 1865.

Not surprisingly, many families from nearby communities saw the potential advantages of moving to Barrington and having easy access to the railroad and the growing number of stores that had recently opened. In reaction to this steady migration, the number and variety of small businesses to set up shop near the railroad kept pace with the growing needs of the population.

In the last decades of the 19th century, the City of Chicago grew from a promising prairie town to a great pivotal hub of commerce and industry. As Chicago became more prosperous, the desire for suburban living led to major population growth both in the countryside and in the Village of Barrington.

In the 1920s, advancements in transportation allowed wealthy families from Chicago to move into the Barrington area and build family estate homes. The location of the Village and its attractive environment appealed to those who had become wealthy during the booming 1920s. The Village’s population growth slowed during the difficult times of the 1930s and 1940s, but then resumed in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s as a result of the suburbanization in the Chicago area and the post–World War II baby boom.

In 2015, the Village will celebrate its sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary. A series of celebratory events will be planned to commemorate Barrington’s milestone birthday. A Sesquicentennial Committee has been established to plan the festivities, which will actually begin in 2013 to celebrate the 1863 referendum.