In 1887 the Chicago, Santa Fe, and California Railway Company built a line from Kansas City to Chicago through Henderson County establishing several towns, one of which was Stronghurst. Known as the "Magic City," the town arose out of nothing and grew quickly as people wanted to live in a town where the railroad stopped.
Commercial endeavors skyrocketed - three grocery stores, a hat shop, a clothing store, a barber, a blacksmith/machinist, two liveries, a lumberyard, a meat market, a shoemaker, a laundry, a drug store, a photography studio, two hardware stores, a furniture store/undertaker, restaurants, a harness shop, a blacksmith and wagon shop, a jewelry store, three doctors offices, a paint shop, a tin shop, a carpenters shop, implement dealers, a grain elevator, two hotels, two banks, a theater, an opera house, a half-mile racetrack, a city park, a baseball diamond, a drayage service, ice delivery business, and a stockyard that handled more stock than any other point between Kansas City and Chicago.
In 1896 an electric company offered service from 7 to 10 pm each evening warning its customers by flickering the lights when the power would be shut off. In 1903 Stronghurst made an attempt to remove the county seat to its location. Plans were drawn for an elaborate Victorian two story building, but at the November election the proposition failed by 121 votes.
In 1918 the Hereford Association Pavilion was built and was the site of many top quality livestock sales until it burned in 1923. Construction of State Highway 94 began in 1924 and was given permission to pass through the village in 1925. As much a manufacturing town as it was a farming village, Stronghurst boasted several creameries, a novelty and envelope factory, a tank factory, a windmill factory, three cigar factories, a brickyard, and a canning factory that remained in operation until 1933.
Culturally, Stronghurst was noted for the yearly Chatauqua (a caravan of lecturers, artists, musicians, and talent from other countries). Local residents eagerly took part in plays and musicals held at the Opera House. Each year in the village park the IOOF sponsored a huge picnic featuring a carnival with booths, rides, musicians, skits, acrobats, balloon ascension, and lectures. For children this was the highlight of the year.
Stronghurst is located along Illinois Highway 94. It is 70 miles south of the Quad Cities and 20 miles east of Burlington, Iowa. And oh, yes...the Santa Fe Burlington Northern Railroad still runs through the heart of town.