The True Story of McHenry County Well and Pump

Recently, a post on the internet purported to tell the story of McHenry County Well and Pump. Unfortunately, they got significant aspects of the story wrong. I would like to set the story straight. And there is good reason that I would do so. After all, my father started and operated McHenry County Well and Pump from 1952 to 1979. During much of that time, I also worked with my father learning more than just the well business but also my father’s business ethics.

As my father used to say, “You do things right or you don’t do them at all.” He taught me right and this is the philosophy I’ve brought to my business, too.

Fred Matthesius – veteran, business owner, well man and father


Fred Matthesius was 1923 in Dresden, Germany. During WWII, however, he was a bridge builder in the US Army building bridges in combat for Gen. George Patton. After the war, he moved to Chicago, worked in a sawmill and married my mother – Ann (Dorn) Matthesius. He had six children – five girls and one boy – me.

In the ‘40s, he joined a well-drilling business with Clem Wirf in McCullom Lake. By 1952, he decided to go out on his own and opened McHenry County Well and Pump serving McHenry, Lake, Cook and Kane counties in Illinois and Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties in Southern Wisconsin.

At the height of his company, he was operating four cable-tool rigs with a total of 14 employees. He drilled and serviced commercial and residential wells. If you live or work in this area, there’s a fair chance that McHenry County Well and Pump drilled your well.

We drilled the well for the city of McHenry. One of the largest wells we drilled was for the Holiday Inn in Mundelein. It was a 60-hp pump set on a 5-inch drop pipe (that’s well-driller’s talk for big). The pump could throw out more than 500 gallons of water per minute.

My father started the company in McCullom Lake and then moved to McHenry (which is now part of Johnsburg). In fact, the building he had built for the company is now the Johnsburg Public Works building. We lived above the business.

He said he wanted to be there when someone needed help – if they had trouble with their well at night or on a weekend. He understood that, though most of the time we tend to take water for granted, when it stops flowing at someone’s home or office, that’s an emergency.

In the 1979, Fred Matthesius had a heart attack and stroke. He was incapacitated and my step mother took over running the business. Eventually, she sold the business to Bob Howe, who later sold the accounts to another well company in the area.

Fred’s tradition continues


When I was about seven, I remember carrying well buckets up to the well-driller’s platform on the drill rigs. I worked for the company throughout high school and then went to Illinois State University where I majored in geology. In the process, I learned about how the earth is made, and what it’s made of.

I brought this knowledge back to McHenry County Well and Pump. I worked with my father until he got sick and continued to work for the company until it was sold. I then spent 17 years with another well company in the area. But I was driven by a desire to follow in my father’s footsteps – not just as the owner of a well company but in terms of the high standards and ethics he brought to his business.

Today, as owner of McHenry Water Well & Pump, this is how I apply myself to servicing the wells of those I’m fortunate enough to serve – with craftsmanship where we don’t cut corners just to get the job done. I prefer the satisfaction of doing a good job at a reasonable price. By reasonable price, I mean that I don’t believe my customers should have to pay more than $100 an hour for well service.

When someone calls McHenry Water Well & Pump for service, I’m the one who answers the phone, the same way my father used to answer the phone when his customers called.

Above all, I approach every day with a sense that my father would be proud of the way I operate my well business. After all, he taught me well.
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