“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Woodstock in McHenry County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Eugene Debs and Old McHenry County Jail

Eugene Debs and Old McHenry County Jail Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Paul Fehrenbach, June 9, 2018
1. Eugene Debs and Old McHenry County Jail Marker
Inscription.  The 1894 Pullman Strike and boycott of Pullman railcars led by the American Railway Union involved 250,000 workers in 27 states. It paralyzed much of the nation’s rail system and directly led to the establishment that year of a national Labor Day. The strike also brought civil charges against American Railway Union leaders for violating a court injunction against the strike. Their attorneys, including Clarence Darrow and Lyman Trumbull, defended them before the United States Supreme Court.

On 27 May 1895, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld court injunctions against labor strikes. The decision, “In re Debs,” sent American Railway Union leader Eugene V. Debs to a six-month stay in this building, then McHenry County Jail. The Pullman case guided governmental response to strikes for nearly four decades. Not until the 1932 Norris-LaGuardia Act did the United States Congress erase the power of courts to end strikes through injunctions.

In Woodstock, Sheriff George Eckert protected Debs from threats and the Eckert family began three decades of warm friendship with Debs. Eckert allowed Debs to use his jail time to study
Old McHenry County Courthouse and Jail image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Paul Fehrenbach, June 9, 2018
2. Old McHenry County Courthouse and Jail
Marker is on the northeast wall, lower right in this picture.
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and ponder the plight of working-class Americans. Famous visitors included reporter Nellie Bly, Milwaukee socialist Victor Berger, and Keir Hardie, the first Labour Member of Parliament.

Debs left Woodstock even more determined to fight for working people. His time in McHenry County Jail transformed Debs from a labor leader into a national political activist, founder of the Socialist Party, and five-time presidential candidate.
Erected 2017 by City of Woodstock, Woodstock Celebrates, Inc., The Illinois Labor History Society, The Illinois State Historical Society, and the McHenry County Federation of Teachers, Local 1642.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Government & PoliticsLabor Unions. A significant historical year for this entry is 1894.
Location. 42° 18.912′ N, 88° 26.9′ W. Marker is in Woodstock, Illinois, in McHenry County. Marker is at the intersection of Cass Street and Johnson, on the left when traveling west on Cass Street. Marker is located on the Cass Street side of the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 101 North Johnson Street, Woodstock IL 60098, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. McHenry County Civil War Monument (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Woodstock Opera House (about 400 feet
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away); 1851 Marengo Station (approx. 7.2 miles away); The Elgin & Belvidere Electric Company/Rebirth of the Elgin & Belvidere (approx. 7.2 miles away); Indiana Harbor Belt 1181 (approx. 7.2 miles away); Spaulding Tower / Towers and Interlocking Plants (approx. 7.2 miles away); Couplers (approx. 7.2 miles away); Railroad Brakes / Westinghouse Automatic Air Brakes (approx. 7.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Woodstock.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 18, 2018. It was originally submitted on June 15, 2018, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 432 times since then and 75 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on June 15, 2018, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.

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Oct. 6, 2022