Harry Hough Case

These two cases are the first ones made for the Historical Society Collection when it was originally housed in the Grundy County Courthouse.

They are made of walnut salvaged from the first school in Grundy County—Hoge School built in 1835 on Pioneer. Road. The bottom panels were made out of the school desks. You can see the initials H.H. I and W. H. that were carved into the desk by the Hoge boys, Hendly, Isaac, and William. These cases were made by two local men—C.A. Baker designed them, Omund Fosen built them.

The case is full of early pioneer stuff collected by Henry Hough, one of the founders of the Historical Society. He is responsible for saving the Cragg cabin. Shown in that photo with George Cragg sitting there. John Cragg and wife Agnes came here from Patterson, New Jersey. He’d heard many stories about the Illinois country and wanted to head west. He talked it over with two friends, Ed Holland and Mr. Gate. They made a pact. They would each head for the frontier and settle near each other. If any one of them failed to live up to this agreement he would forfeit $50. It was decided that Gates would go back to the old country and return with their wives—Mrs. Gates and Mrs. Holland. Ed Holland would wait in New Jersey for his wife and Mr. Gates, then they would all head west. John Cragg and his wife would go on ahead and stake out claims for them.

But Mrs. Gates and Mrs. Holland refused to come to America. Mr. Gates stayed back there too.

John and Agnes Cragg came by way of St. Louis, and they stayed there a while. There they met a family who had fled the Ottawa area during the Black Hawk War of 1832 and they were anxious to return. They offered the Craggs use of half of their double log cabin in Ottawa until they could build their own. So the Craggs left St. Louis taking the river route to Ottawa. Their friends took the overland route. Whoever arrived at the cabin first would move in, and when the other family arrived they would announce their arrival by a blast on a horn. The resident family would answer with a similar blast. John Cragg got their first. Several days later the owners arrived.

In the meantime John Cragg was scouting the territory and decided to build his cabin on the east fork of the Mazon Creek.

Cragg cabin was 20 feet by 20 feet. It became first a tavern/inn in Mazon Creek territory because it was located on the Bloomington –Chicago Trail—the overland route used by people travelling to Chicago. It had a loft, a second story, which was unusual. So it was called “the palace”—a stopping place for travelers and cowboys driving on the Overland Trail to Chicago.

It was a safe place for runaway slaves to hide. During 1840-1861 the Underground Railroad was active in Illinois. When runaway slaves crossed the Ohio River there were several routes they could take through Illinois. The Bloomington-Chicago Trail was one of them. It ran diagonally from Bloomington to Princeton, then up through Grundy County, near the west fork of Mazon Creek, through Highland, Goodfarm, and Mazon Townships. Cragg’s cabin was a one day trip from Princeton. It marked the halfway point from Bloomington to Chicago.

Cragg cabin also served as the first polling place in Braceville Township.

In 1930 Harry Hough got written permission from granddaughter Jennie Cragg to move the Cragg cabin to his home in Mazon and restore it. But after 100 years the wood was so disintegrated that the ended up building an exact replica. He and his wife, Zulu, filled it will local antiques and opened it to the public as a museum (see photo).

When Harry Hough died in 1966 his son, Gerald, gave the cabin to Mazon High School and it was moved on campus. But the idea to keep it as an educational museum never materialized. In 1975 it was taken apart and moved to Goose Lake State Park. During the summer of 1980 the Youth Conservation Corps began rebuilding the cabin using new logs. It was completed in 1981. It is fitted with period furnishings and is celebrated each year in early June during “Log Cabin Days.”              

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