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Community Leaders

Through the decades, our business community has played an important role in the history of Fox Lake. Business leaders led the initiative to incorporate Fox Lake as a Village. The first mayor, John Brown, was a businessman who owned the first downtown general store. In 1901, he purchased the corner lot and built a general store (Fox Lake Fair), which also housed the post office.

He wasn’t the last business owner to be elected mayor. Through the decades, some mayors have been the owners and operators of local businesses, such as a barbershop, an auto parts store, a movie theater, a resort, a funeral home, a real estate office and a fence company. The list of village trustees who were also local business owners is even longer.

Business leaders have always played an important role within Village organizations. Some were volunteer firemen who would run out of their places of business to respond to fire calls—often leaving their customers standing there “to watch the place.” The Chamber of Commerce represents just one of many organizations that the business leaders have supported. They have been at the forefront with the development and operation of groups such as the Lions Club, Rotary, Resort Owner’s Association, Liquor Dealer’s Association, American Legion and others.

Powerful, well-connected people helped the early Chain develop with State funding. Paved roads, electricity, the McHenry Dam, bridges and improved rail service are examples. Governor William Stratton and his family were early residents of Fox Lake, while Governor Otto Kerner had a lakefront home on the Chain. Chicago mayors Anton Cermak, William “Big Bill” Thompson and Fred Busse were all familiar sights in the area. Senator William Lorimer had a summer home on Pistakee Bay where he hosted many influential politicians and businessmen.

Many people assume the channels connecting the major lakes in the Chain were part of nature’s gift. Actually, it was the State who was responsible for cutting the channels as we know them today. In 1908, the State hired Ray Pregenzer’s excavating firm to make navigable channels between the lakes. These channels were not completed until 1915. Needless to say, this decision had a major impact on the area’s economy ever since that time.

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