Archive for the ‘Farms’ Category

THE GIESEKE–HAMMERSTEIN FARMHOUSE IN HOFFMAN ESTATES

April 29, 2012

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

The Gieseke/Hammerstein farm house is one of the most historic buildings in Hoffman Estates.  It can be found on a quiet residential street surrounded by small ranch homes that were built in 1957 and 1958.

John and Caroline Gieseke were immigrant German farmers who bought their 165-acre farm from the U.S. Government in the mid 1850’s. Land sold for $1.50 an acre.   An Indian trail went through the farm and Pottawatomie Indians would stop for a cold drink or sit and rest on the front porch.

The third generation of Giesekes, John and Edwin, sold the farm to Arthur and Dorothy Hammerstein in 1943.  The Hammersteins added additional barns, new silos, and several smaller homes along with an additional 100 acres.  They hired Architect Thomas McCaughey of Park Ridge who made major changes to the old farmhouse.  When finished the newly renovated farmhouse had 5 bedrooms, seven bathrooms, servant quarters, a kitchen in the basement and a wine cellar.

Arthur was the uncle of Oscar Hammerstein II who was famous for his Broadway musicals and Dorothy was a silent movie star.  Dorothy especially enjoyed the quite rural life.  Their farm was known as “Cardoa Farm” but Arthur jokingly called it “Headacres” when the farm work got the best of him.  They raised pure blooded and registered Duroc Jersey hogs and Holstein dairy cattle.

When Arthur died in 1954, Dorothy sold the farm to F & S Construction for $150 an acre.  Within a year Hoffman Estates was springing up from the corn fields.  The farm house became the field headquarters for F & S Construction.  The largest of the barns became the first Community Center but on Nov. 11, 1959 a fire broke out and the barn burned to the ground. Another fire damaged part of the farmhouse.

Shortly after the fires Jack Hoffman deeded the property to the Hoffman Estates Home Owners Association.  With incorporation in Sept. of 1959, the farmhouse became our first village hall, police department and maintenance garage.  Fire insurance money along with an additional $19,500 was used to remodel and repair the 100 year old building.  Certified Construction Co. was awarded the bid in late Sept. of 1960.

The village hall grounds originally had a duck pond and several swamps.  The five acre site also had 75 trees, among them were 19 apple, 5 pear and 4 cherry trees.  Eventually the pond and swamps were filled in and the old silos torn down.

When the Village moved to their new home on Gannon Dr., the large white farmhouse was used by Health and Human Services and later became home to the Children’s Advocacy Center.  Through the efforts of Mayor O’Malley, the trade’s people from 20 local trade unions took on the aging farmhouse as a remodeling project.  Their volunteer work and donation of time and materials earned the Village the 1993 Governor’s Home Town Award.  The Center pays $1 a year for rent and many volunteer hours are still donated toward the upkeep of the now 150 year old farmhouse.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
Eagle2064@comcast.net

A NEW LIFE FOR AN OLD FARM

February 19, 2012

In 1918, slot machine magnate, Ode D. Jennings, bought  a 250-acre farm along Schaumburg Road that he used as his retreat from the big business world of Chicago.  He lived there until his death in 1953.   Despite his demise almost 60 years ago, Mr. Jennings and his farm continue to have an impact on the village of Schaumburg.

Upon his passing, his estate was put in trust for his wife.  Jeanette Jennings moved to Ft. Lauderdale, FL and is believed to have died around 1962.  Fortuitously, the farm property was then sold to Campanelli Brothers who proceeded to develop another phase of Weathersfield, the first subdivision in Schaumburg.  The Jennings farm served as much of the acreage for these early homes.  However, it was through the generosity of the Campanelli Brothers that an 11 acre complex that included “a large barn, farm house, garages, silo, wagon barns, chauffeur’s garage and guest house” were donated to the village for governmental use.  (Chicago Tribune, 10/19/1963)

Work was immediately begun in a two-phase approach to develop a Schaumburg Community Center.  According to the Tribune article, Mayor Robert Atcher said, “The first phase consists of renovation of the barn interior.  The lower level houses a meeting hall, a court room, and a police station, with bath facilities.  On the main level are a 500 seat recreation hall with stage, dressing rooms, a coat check room and a large kitchen.”  The photo below shows Mayor Atcher standing at the counter of the police station in the lower level of the barn. 

A Hoffman Herald article of August 29, 1963 also mentioned six police offices on the lower level.  The barn’s exterior, according to the Chicago Tribune article, was “virtually reconstructed” and a silo and windmill were retained to “preserve a rural appearance.”

No one knows for sure when the barn was originally built but, in an article from the Chicago Tribune dated 8/14/1966, Mayor Atcher is quoted as saying, “The barn is about 50 or 60 years old.  The farmers who built it came here about 1900.  It is a tremendously solid barn.”  This quote suggests that the barn was built before the arrival of the Jennings in 1918.

Other buildings were also involved in the million dollar remodeling that was done at cost by Campanelli Brothers.  The 14-room house, built around 1925, was redesigned for use as a Youth Center.  Another building housed the office of Village Clerk, Lucille Dobeck, the only full-time employee who was not a police officer.

A seven room house/garage once used by a farm employee, was renovated for occupancy by the civic center caretaker and his family.  In addition, a two-car garage was to be used as a warming house for the ice skating rink which was to be built on the grounds in the winter of 1963.  The rink would be “near other outdoor recreation facilities, including a baseball diamond, tennis courts and a swimming pool which [was] to be built in time for a Memorial Day opening.” (Hoffman Herald, August 29, 1963)  These outdoor developments were part of the second phase of the Community Center plan.

Uses for all of the buildings have changed over the years.  The Jennings house was used for some village offices until 1971 when the village moved into its Municipal Center on East Schaumburg Road.  “The house was then leased to the Schaumburg Park District for a number of uses, including a pre-school and for youth programs.  Since 1983, the house has been leased to a nonprofit organization.

The caretaker’s house was used for village offices until 1971.  The Building Department (surely crucial during the development heyday of the 1960s and 70s) was located on the first floor and Mayor Atcher had his office on the second floor.  In the intervening years, the building was used for a number of purposes including the home of the village’s Family Counseling Center.  In 2011, thanks to a reasonable rent of $1 a year and many donated construction hours and materials, it once again underwent a major renovation and opened as the offices for the Schaumburg Athletic Association.

The magnificent white barn is now used as a senior center on the main floor and a teen activity center in the basement.  This happened after the meeting hall was moved to the municipal center in 1971.  The police department also moved in 1976 when a Public Safety building was erected on Schaumburg Road.

Over the years the buildings of the Jennings farm have been used for multiple community purposes.  Countless numbers of Schaumburg residents and employees have moved through the various doors of the main house, the caretaker’s house and the barn.  Yet a visit to this quiet, shady area in the middle of a bustling village is enough to remind you why Ode D. Jennings, the gentleman farmer, bought the land in the first place.

GENTLEMAN FARMERS 5: ODE D. JENNINGS

February 12, 2012

The gentleman farmers who came to Schaumburg Township in the 1900s were either businessmen or lawyers.  The businessmen sold marshmallows, conducted orchestras, produced Broadway shows and sold milk. Or, in the case of O.D. Jennings, manufactured slot machines.

According to his obituary in the DuPage County Register of 11/26/1953, Mr. Jennings was born September 16, 1874 in Paducah, KY.  In his early years he worked for the Mills Novelty Company.  In 1904, he was running The Spectatorium, a large penny arcade, for the same company at the World’s Fair in St. Louis.  By 1906 he had collected enough capital to start his own business, Industry Novelty Company, Inc.  The company worked hand in hand with Mills by refurbishing the slot machines they had manufactured.

After moving to Chicago in 1907, the company was renamed O.D. Jennings & Company.  They began producing their own slot machines by 1918 and were successful enough for Mr. Jennings and his wife Jeanette to purchase a farm in Schaumburg Township off of Schaumburg Road, south of its current intersection with Braintree.  According to his obituary, the Jennings bought the property in 1918—about seven years earlier than is reported in most other accounts.  It is quite possible the farm was sold to them by the Kruse family who are shown on a plat map of 1898 in the same location.

A Walking Tour of Historic and Architectural Landmarks, written by the Village of Schaumburg’s Planning Department around 1993, states that the house, carriage house and barn were all built prior to 1925.    Since the Jennings were city people with money, it can be assumed that they were the builders of these structures at 220 Civic Drive.

Mr. and Mrs. Jennings spent a fair amount of time at their working farm where they  raised horses and beef cattle.  They appeared to go through caretakers somewhat rapidly in the early years.  In fact, mentions of these various farm workers further substantiate the Jennings’ purchase of the property in 1918.  Early versions of the Paddock Publications newspapers mention:  Franz Cash as a farm hand (May 7, 1920), Ed Seggesman as farm manager (November 12, 1920) and Anton Nielsen severing ties as farm manager (July 15, 1921).  Mr. and Mrs. William McCulless, a “colored couple” were also listed as leaving his employ on January 4, 1924.

After those first rough years no further mentions of farm vacancies were made in the papers.  In fact, the next tidbit is quite to the contrary.  On June 8, 1951, the DuPage County Register has a death notice for Elmer Cooper who was “well known in this area, having been employed as chauffeur by Ode D. Jennings for the past 25 years.”

The years proved to be very profitable for Mr. Jennings and his company which was located at 4309 Lake Street.  Around 1936, the company manufactured a payout pinball machine called the Sportsman that was actually more similar to a slot machine They eventually got into other coin-operated machines such as weighing scales, parking meters and gumball machines.  According to an account of Mr. Jennings on ibuyoldslots.com,  his factory was “technologically highly advanced” by the war years.  As a result, it was adapted for the making of aircraft assemblies and, later, for the manufacturing of “highly secret radar equipment.

At some point, prior to 1938, the Jennings bought another small parcel of property on the very northeast corner of Schaumburg and Springinsguth Roads from the Fasse family.  According to D. Nelson, her family, the Bottermans,  purchased the remainder of the farm from the Fasse’s in that year.  A house was built on the parcel for Mr. Jennings’ cousin, Everett, who served as his attorney.  Miss Irma Fischer who was a secretary in Everett Fischer’s law firm also lived in the house.  There was another, smaller home on the property where Mr. Therman, Ode Jennings’ chauffeur lived.  According to D. Nelson, this property was eventally sold in the early 1950s to Eve Fasse–no relation to the earlier Fasses–after Everett Jennings and Miss Fischer passed away.

After 35 years of ownership, Mr. Jennings died on his farm at the age of 79 on November 21, 1953.  It was reported in his obituary that he was “dealing in milk vending machines and had been working on a new type of carton at the time of his death.”  He left his entire estate to his wife Jeanette.  According to the Wikipedia article on his company, it was  bought by Jennings and Company which was incorporated in Illinois in March, 1954.  This company later merged into the Hershey Manufacturing Company of Illinois and by the early 1960s was the leading manufacturer of slot machines in the U.S.

The farm stayed in Mrs. Jennings’ hands although she moved to Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  In a 1955 Chicago Tribune article, it is stated that the Jennings estate was valued at $2,211,222.  Upon her death around 1962, the monies from the estate, per his will, were donated to his church and, also, to Passavant Memorial Hospital—now Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.  The Ode D. Jennings Pavilion at 707 Fairbanks Court is now part of this large medical complex.

And, his farm?  Well, it was sold to Campanelli Brothers who went on to build Weathersfield, the first subdivision in Schaumburg.  Read more about this timely sale in next week’s blog posting…

This posting was also written with the assistance of the website, http://www.antique-slot-machines.net/jennings.  The photos of Jennings and his company are courtesy of Marshall Fey from his book, Slot Machines:  A Pictorial History of the First 100 Years–which the library owns.  Mr. Fey also provided information on the other machines Mr. Jennings’ company produced.

 

WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS STRATFORD FARMS?

October 23, 2011

I received an email from the village of Schaumburg not too long ago asking if I knew anything about Stratford Farms.  A few years back, a Public Works crew was doing some work on property the village owns on the southwest side of town and they unearthed “a very solid marker” with the words “Stratford Farms” on it.  The village wondered where this farm was.

Well, thank goodness for the oral histories that have been done.  Ralph Engelking grew up next to the Stratford Farms and he mentioned this farm in his oral history.  In a followup call with Ralph, he  distinctly recalls two of these markers delineating the Stratford Farms property that was along Roselle Road, just north of Wise (Wiese) Road where the Christ Community Mennonite Church now stands.

In taking a few more steps back in time, the first mention of Stratford Farms is in a DuPage County Register article from August 29, 1913.  It says, “Rural mail carrier Vaas has resigned as carrier to take effect September 1 and has taken a position as superintendent of the Stratford Farm in Schaumburg.”   Another article from 1913 says that “Theo Vaas, manager of Stratford farm has bought some of the best registered Guernsey cattle that can be found in Wisconsin and New Jersey.  The barn is being rebuilt and put in the most modern condition.”  One can suppose that the farm had recently been purchased.

This is where Ralph and LaVonne Presley come into play.  In Ralph’s oral history, both of them could recall that this farm was purchased by the owner of the Stratford Hotel in Chicago, thus the naming of the farm.  The Stratford Hotel, located on the southwest corner of Jackson and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, was owned by Levy Mayer who was a very prosperous lawyer and real estate mogul.

LaVonne’s father, Bill Thies, recalled that “the hotel would send garbage from the hotel dining room out to Roselle via the  mail or milk train.  On the inbound trip, the farm would send eggs, slaughtered chickens and maybe milk and cream.”  The garbage fed the pigs on the farm.  Mixed in with the garbage were bits and pieces of china from the hotel that still pop up to this day.

In a 1914 issue of the American Poultry Journal, an ad mentions White Rocks and White Wyandottes–two species of chickens–being for sale from Stratford Farm.  W.R. Graves is listed as Manager of the Poultry Department.  The following year his wife, S. Helen Graves wrote an article on Conditioning Birds for the Show Room.  Not only did the couple raise chickens but they were also expert poultry judges.

As mentioned above, the farm was also known for their Guernsey cattle.  A September 25, 1914 article from the Palatine Enterprise mentions the Guernsey cows, calves and a number of chickens from Stratford Farms entered in a livestock exhibit in the area.  Their big prize was a grand champion, pure bred,  Guernsey bull that sold for $10,000 and was “the star attraction of the cattle department.”  Mr. Vaas must have been influential in the farm because he remained in place as farm manager until 1917.  An article from the March 2, 1917 Palatine Enterprise states that “Theo Vaas moved his household goods and family Tuesday from the Stratford Farm to Chicago.  He has been manager, several years of the Stratford Farm here, which is renowned for thoroughbred Guernsey cattle and poultry.” 

Mr. Mayer, the owner, died on August 14, 1922 leaving an estate worth $8,500,000.  The estate began to be settled in 1923 and, without knowing the details, it is assumed the Stratford Farms property was sold.  By 1926, the Thrift Press plat map of Schaumburg Township shows the owners as Brown & Krause & Co.

Ralph thought the farm continued raising some chickens and dairy cows.  During the Depression he recalled the many chicken coops being empty. He also said that the property was sold in the 1940s to a Mr. Niemechek who revamped the farm, moving specifically into the dairy business.  He put milking stanchions in the barn (that is now the church) and erected three silos to hold the silage that would feed the cows.

In 1951 Wayne King, the bandleader who’s been written about before on this blog, purchased the farm and converted the dairy operation to a beef cattle operation.  When the land was bought in 1963 for a residence–and a few years after Wayne King sold the farm–there was a large concrete cattle yard complete with feed bunks still in place.

Schaumburg Township may have had its rural character back in the early part of the twentieth century but the big city of Chicago still managed to shed its influence in many ways.

THE 8:30 MILK TRAIN OUT OF ROSELLE

July 24, 2011

If it seems like this area was swimming in milk in its farming years, it was.  And all that milk had to go somewhere. 

A number of the farmers who farmed the southern part of the township drove their milk to Roselle every day, day in and day out.  The intent was to put it on the 8:30 milk train that ran from Roselle to Chicago. 

A few weeks ago an article that was published as part of Roselle’s 75th anniversary came into my hands from a former resident of Schaumburg Township.  It is an account of the milk train written by Earl Crandall, who served as the Roselle station agent for 30 years, beginning in 1921.   The article appears here just as it was written.

 For more than a century, Roselle Road through Schaumburg and Bloomindale Townships was one of the main milk and cheese pipelines into Chicago.  In the 1920s this rolling prairie section was one of the dairy centers between Chicago and Elgin.  Schaumburg Township farmers brought their milk and cream to collecting and processing point along Roselle Road.

From those points dairy products – fluid milk, butter, and cheese – were transported down the road to the Village of Roselle and the Milwaukee Railroad from which a “milk train” made a daily round trip between Elgin and Chicago.  In addition a considerable number of farmers brought their fresh milk directly to the train in Roselle and were direct shippers into the city.

Being Roselle station agent in this period was the most important job in Roselle measure in terms of area and number of people served.  I took over the Roselle station job in 1921 and handled it for 30 years.  During my first two decades as railroad agent, practically this entire commerce passed through my office.

One of my sharpest recollections was having to make out the shipment papers for all those German farmers in Schaumburg Township.  I*t took me a long time to learn to spell those German names, such as Springingsgoth (sic).

During these years there were commuter trains through Roselle at 5:15 and 6:30 in the morning.  Then the milk train came at 8:30.  We had as many as 25 farmers from Schaumburg and Bloomingdale Townships, who brought their cans of milk each morning and left them on one of two platforms we had at the station.

The crew on the milk train would handle the transfer of the cans from the loading platform to the train.  The milk train came back at 4 in the afternoon and unloaded the empty milk cans so the farmers could pick them up the next morning.  This shows how times have changed.  It’s a good thing the farmers aren’t doing that now.  There wouldn’t be any cans there in the morning.

But the farmers were only one means of moving milk from Schaumburg and Bloomingdale farms to Chicago.  Nearly five miles north at the corner of Roselle and Higgins Roads (today this is in Hoffman Estates) stood the Nebel General Store and Creamery.

Farmers as far north as Palatine would bring in cream to Nebel and the creamery would make it into butter and cheese.  Most of the butter was sold back to farmers in the area. 

Several times a year I would get a shipment of 40 to 50 cases of cheese from up at Roselle and Higgins Roads.  It was hauled by wagon to the Roselle station for shipment to Chicago.

Times are always changing, and during my years as Roselle station agent, I witnessed change.  Farmers and companies in the Schaumburg Township agricultural complex were constantly striving to deliver a better product to Chicago in order to get better prices and protect their market.  This also demonstrated how important our area was in milk production for Chicago.

At Schaumburg Center, situated at the intersection of Roselle and Schaumburg Roads, a milk plant was operated by Lake Zurich Milk Company.  Its manager got a group of Schaumburg Township farmers interested in bringing their milk to Schaumburg Center so it could be cooled, put in large containers and moved by wagon down Roselle Road to the railroad siding at the Roselle station where an ice refrigerated car would be waiting.

Those milk wagons were always pulled by mules.  Each morning there was usually two wagon loads of milk delivered to that refrigerated car and sometimes there would be a third wagon load of milk.  The “iced car” would be brought out from Elgin on one of those early morning trains and put on our Roselle siding.  After the mule wagons had delivered their cargo, the car would be pulled into Chicago.

The Schaumburg Township area continued to be a major supplier of milk products to Chicago market until after World War II and into the 1950s.  However, before the war, the mule wagon ceased hauling milk to Roselle as new milk handling methods, hinged to electrical refrigeration at the farm with truck transportation to the city, came into general use.

Then the urbanization of the Schaumburg area began and today 30,000 people live there.  Today, the world’s largest indoor shopping center occupies the land that formerly supplied milk, butter and cheese to Chicago families.

While Mr. Crandall has long since passed away, the details in the article are marvelous and fill in a gap of our history in a substantial way.   A belated thank you to Mr. Crandall!

LIFE ON A HOFFMAN ESTATES FARM

May 1, 2011

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

Hoffman Estates is one of the suburbs that seemed to spring up overnight.  Its history began in the mid 1950s when F & S Construction felt that the area would be the right location for a new housing development.   The corn fields and farms would be the home of a new town, Hoffman Estates.

Most of us live on what was once a farm with sprawling corn and bean fields.  Perhaps there were herds of dairy cows also.  One of those farms was the Jahn Farm located on the east side of Jones Rd. near the intersection of Hillcrest Blvd in Hoffman Estates.  It was owned by Art and his brothers William and August.  The brothers came from Germany with their parents in 1877.

Art married Elsie Heine who grew up on her parents farm on Barrington Rd. across from today’s St. Alexius Hospital.  She wrote a wonderful autobiography about her live on her farm as a young girl and as the wife of Art on their Jones Road Farm.  Elsie and her daughters have always said that Jones Road was always Jahn Road years ago but no evidence of this can be found on maps. 

Elsie and Art Jahn moved to the farm to help Art’s father and uncle plant and run the farming operation. Her story tells of a farm house without electric, a bathroom or a furnace.  She had to cook, clean and wash for the 4 men in their home; husband, father-in-law, brother-in-law and uncle.  She had three children, a boy and two girls, but here young baby boy only lived a few days. 

Without electricity, they had to milk the cows by hand, but later when electricity came in 1940 they purchased milking machines.  She talked of the large fruit orchards and her large garden and the hours of canning that was done all summer long.

 Elsie raised chickens and geese the second year she lived on the farm.  They had Leghorns and White Rocks and when the roosters reached 3 ½ lbs. they were sold.  She purchased her chicks for .35 cents each. 

Threshing was done in July or August and a “gang of 12 – 14 men came to help.  Before electricity, she had to cook all the food on  wood burning and  kerosene stoves.  She also mentions using a flat iron that was heated on the wood stove, and kerosene lamps whose chimneys had to be cleaned once a week. 

Winter was especially difficult.  The house was cold and they “packed manure around the kitchen foundation and later straw bales” to help keep the house warm.  Mice always seemed to make their way into the farm house.  Once they had electricity, there was a bathroom, running water and oil burning stoves in the living room and dining room. 

Elsie’s daughters loved riding horses and they would ride with their neighbor Paul Hassell’s daughter up to the intersection of Higgins and Meacham Rds.  The girls both hated the fact that their parents had to sell the farm in 1960 when F & S Construction bought the land to build the Highlands development in Hoffman Estates. 

I live in the Highlands and can understand why they loved the farm so.  The hilly landscape with the farm house perched on top of the rise at Hillcrest and Jones (Jahn) Rd. most have been the perfect place for a farm.

Pat Barch, Hoffman Estates Village Historian- eagle2064@comcast.net

It should be noted that the photos seen in the post are not from the Jahn farm.  They are from the Fraas farm that was in another part of the township.

HOW THE BOEGER FARM BECAME THE MEGINNIS FARM AND THEN THE BOEGER FARM AGAIN

April 17, 2011

Sometimes I get lucky and things seem to magically appear.  As part of a project at the library, one of our employees happened to bring in these photos of an old farm at the intersection of Schaumburg and Plum Grove Roads.  Making things easy on myself, I called longtime, local resident, LaVonne Presley, to ask her whose farm this was.  She quickly told me this was the Paul and Sara Meginnis farm.   If you know your history of the village of Schaumburg you will recognize Sara Meginnis as the first village clerk of this community. 

The Meginnis farm property was first purchased as a land patent by Johann (and Sophie) Boger as identified in Schaumburg Township Land Patents by Bonnie Cernosek.  After building the house in the 1850s, Johann and Sophie passed it on to their son, Hermann Boeger.  According to Spring Valley Nature Center and Volkening Heritage Farm:  A Timeline, this property was sold in 1873.  Future  owners were the Louis Wilkenings and Mrs. Anna Murphy who is listed as the owner on a 1942 plat map.  [In an oral history on our library’s Local History Digital Archive, Marion Ravagnie, notes that she remembered Mr. Murphy (or his son) speeding around the township roads in a silver Lincoln Zephyr during that time period.]

According to the Daily Herald, the farm then passed into the hands of Palmer and Marge Carlson in 1949 who, in turn, sold the 70-acre farm in 1954 to its last private owners, Dr. Paul and Sara Meginnis.  They lived there with their son, Paul.  Dr. Meginnis served as a veterinarian at Arlington Park and other Chicago area racetracks and Sara soon became involved with the politics that were just beginning to swirl in the township.

In 1956, she ran for Schaumburg Village Clerk—and she won.  Since this was also the birth of the new village, the paperwork was overwhelming and it fell into Sara’s hands to handle the bulk of it.  According to an article in the Daily Herald [April 7, 1960], she was the one who ran all of the papers to the Cook County building in Chicago.  After a few years of donating seven to eight hours of her day to these duties the village hired clerks to manage some of the burden.

Having realigned herself with Mayor Bob Atcher’s Schaumburg United Party for the 1959 election, Sara served until 1963.  Dr. Meginnis served as a Schaumburg Township School Trustee and on the village’s early planning board.   Sara was active in the formation of Spring Valley Nature sanctuary and also became one of the founding members of the Schaumburg Township Historical Society along with Loie Wiley, Dru Linnell and Elaine Hertwig.

Until 1979, Dr. and Mrs. Meginnis lived on the farm they called “Taraday”.  At that time, the Cook County Highway Department approved a project to straighten Plum Grove Road which made a jog at Schaumburg Road.  As is obvious in the photos, a number of the buildings bordered the road and made it necessary to demolish them for construction.  Fortunately, efforts by Ronald Rood, Alice Whyte who was active in the Schaumburg Historical Society and a member of the Olde Schaumburg Centre Commission and Ellsworth Meineke’s son David, who was active in the Spring Valley Nature Club, rescued the original Boeger home on the property. 

Through their efforts, the Schaumburg Park District board agreed to provide up to $15,000 for half the cost of moving the house.  The Woodfield Bank also agreed to provide interest-free financing for any additional funds.  [Daily Herald, May 18, 1979].  The house with its two additional wings was then moved to its current location on the Volkening Heritage Farm.  It now serves as the farmhouse for the 1880s operating farm–which sits on original Boeger land.

According to longtime volunteer, Sandy Meo, the north section of the house as you walk into the kitchen is the oldest portion of the house.  The part of the house that the Heritage Farm refers to as the “grandparents’ section” was added on to the house at a later date.  It is the same layout as the original house with its one large room and two smaller rooms.  They have not been able to determine where this addition came from or when it was added.  From the outside of the house, the architecture of the two sections is markedly different.  Volkening home

As Sara Meginnis was quoted in a May 12, 1979 issue of the Daily Herald, “I’m so glad they’ve found a way to save those buildings.  There’s so little left of the beauty and simplicity of those days gone by.”  But the village hasn’t forgotten Sara or her home.   In August 2001, the park on the SW corner of Schaumburg and Plum Grove Road was named Meginnis Park in her memory.  How fitting that this is former Meginnis property.Meginnis Park

My thanks to S. and C.  Herrmann for generously donating these photos and, having the foresight to acknowledge history that would soon disappear.

GENTLEMAN FARMERS 4: FRANK C. RATHJE, CHICAGO BANKER

February 13, 2011

When Frank Rathje bought farm property in Schaumburg Township, one of his reasons must have been to indulge his love of Percheron draft horses.  It was on his farm on the northeast corner of the intersection of Plum Grove Road and Golf Road that his International Grand Champions were raised.

Mr. Rathje lived on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and was a well known banker locally and nationally.  In 1917 he started the Mutual National Bank and, from 1926 forward also served as president of the Chicago City Bank and Trust Company.  During these tenures he served as president of the American Bankers Association and the Illinois Bankers Association.  He was so successful that it was noted in his February 25, 1967 obituary in the Chicago Tribune that “his two banks during the bank moratorium of 1933 were among the few in Chicago outside the Loop to receive federal permission allowing them to open immediately at the end of the moratorium.”

It was in 1930 that Mr. Rathje agreed to purchase the farm from Charles Quindel in Schaumburg Township as a second home.  He made his first mortgage payment for the property on June 16, 1930 and, by January 26, 1932, the property’s title fully reverted to him from Quindel.  Because he grew up on a farm near Turner Pond in Roselle, he was familiar with and attached to this area.  In fact, his parents are buried in Bloomingdale Township Cemetery.

As he began showing Percherons raised on this farm, they were  consistently beat by those shown by a gentleman named Paul Engler.  So, according to Mr. Engler’s son, Bill, he did the smart thing and hired his father.  Paul Engler and his wife Nellie then moved to the area in 1941 to manage the farm until Mr. Engler’s death in 1964. 

By Bill Engler’s account, the farm was always a working farm of around 200 acres.  “It consisted of several beautiful red farm buildings with two silos situated on the sides of the main barn.  The other barns were two horse barns, a couple of chicken barns, a hog barn, a very large corn crib and a grainery for the wheat and oats.  There was a very large board white fence that ran along the edge of the property closest to the houses…  Crops grown on the farm were used to feed the horses, cattle, hogs and chickens that were raised there…  Our horse barn was exceptionally nice.  It had great stalls.  As one entered the barn on the right, you saw a trophy room where all the ribbons and pictures of the International Champions were kept.  There were lots and lots of ribbons.”  There were also two houses on the property—one for the Englers and one for the Rathjes when they came to stay.

The Percheron show horses were also the work horses on the farm.  They were used throughout the year to raise and harvest the crops but, from June through November, select horses “would be shown at state fairs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.”  The exhibition season culminated with the International Livestock Show in Chicago after Thanksgiving.

By the early 1950s though, it was evident that the farm needed to yield to the tractor method of farming.  It was in 1951 or 1952, by Mr Engler’s recollection, that the Percherons were sold.  The Englers continued to work the farm for Mr. Rathje.  In addition, Mr. Rathje owned a small 15 acre farm on Schaumburg Road next to the current District 54 Administration Building that he purchased from the Petia family.  (Daily Herald, February 27, 1948)  A house and barn were on the property and, according to Mr. Engler, “young heifers were usually kept there.”

Despite the fact that his main residence was Chicago, Mr. Rathje was still loyal to maintaining the rural character of the township.  In a Chicago Tribune article from June 1, 1947, it was noted that Mr. Rathje, who was recently elected president of the Union League Club, was an articulate objector to the potential sale of beer at the Roselle Golf Club.  He told the Cook County Zoning Board, “most property owners in the area had moved to the quiet of the country because they wished to escape the hustle of the city.”    One also has to suppose that Mr. Rathje was not too happy when the new tollway to the north took part of his property in the early 1950s.  Then, in 1955, Mr. Rathje led the opposition to a petition by the F & S Construction Company that wanted to begin a “huge home project.”  (Daily Herald, February 17, 1955)  Even with his considerable influence, the petition moved through the Cook County Zoning Board and eventually the new village of Hoffman Estates was begun.

On February 24, 1967, Mr. Rathje passed away, leaving his wife, Josephine, and his children, Shirley, Josephine and Frank Jr—and his property in Schaumburg Township.  In 1967 or 1968 the main part of the property was purchased to make way for the formation of the Schaumburg Business Park.  While it is difficult to imagine Percheron draft horses romping in the area where office buildings now stand, we can be grateful for Mr. Rathje’s longevity in owning his farm and in the appreciation he had for the bucolic countryside he sought for rest and relaxation.

And, if you look hard enough, you will find books in the Schaumburg Township District Library with a Frank C. Rathje memorial plate in them.  He was so well thought of in the area that the fledgling Schaumburg Township Historical Society donated funds to purchase Illinois history items in his name.  These were added to the collection of the library that was, itself, just getting started.

My thanks to Bill Engler for his recollections of the Frank Rathje farm.  His contributions were detailed and extensive.

CHRISTMAS IN THE VALLEY

November 28, 2010

What:  The Schaumburg Park District offers a unique recreation of how 19th-century German-American families in Schaumburg experienced Christmas.
When:  Saturday and Sunday, December 4 & 5, from 1-5 p.m.
Where:  Volkening Heritage Farm.  1111 E. Schaumburg Road, Schaumburg.
Details:  Cost is $2 per person and $8 per family. Children 3 and under are free.
Info:   Call (847) 985-2100.  See their website here.

GENTLEMAN FARMERS 3: PAUL HASSELL, CHICAGO ATTORNEY

September 12, 2010

When land was starting to turn over in the 1930s from the German farm families, Paul and Marguerite Hassell purchased their first 147 acres on land  south of the present day Hassell Road.  Having once upon a time been owned by the Fred Lamke family, it was initially purchased by a group of Chicago businessmen in 1936.  Their intent had been to make it a golf course.  During the Depression the mortgage was foreclosed and the Hassells acquired it as an investment.   Within the family, this farm was known as the East Farm. 

In 1946 he bought an additional 140 acres north of Hassell Road that was previously owned by the Plonsky family.  This plot ran north with the only entrance being off of Central Road.  This farm (called the West Farm) included a barn of pegged timbers and a 14 room house.  When the the tollway was built in 1950, the property’s access to Central Road was cut off.  The present day Hassell Road was then surveyed and put through the adjoining properties.  Together, the farm properties were known as Rolling Acres Farm.

During the week Mr. Hassell was a partner in the Chicago Loop law firm of Eckhart, McSwain, Hassell & Silliman but on weekends, Mr. Hassell and family retreated to their property to help with the farming and gardening activities.  Mr. Hassell hired a series of farm managers to help him with the day to day operations of raising steers and the grain that it took to fatten them.  Paul’s daughter Paula recalls Hans Bergman was one of the managers who served around the years 1948 to 1951.  She also recalls Donald Glaser whose parents managed the neighboring farm for the Bushes and later on Marshall Fields, also served as a farm manager. 

Mr. Hassell also developed a picnic grove on the land and it was used for community group functions.  As a member of the Masonic Hesperia Lodge No. 411, he sponsored the annual picnic on his farm.  According to the Hesperia Lodge’s website, this picnic would have up to 500 in attendance.  Imagine the cars lining the road!

In addition, the Chicago Tribune’s obituary speaks of him being known as the “Pied Piper of Ravenswood Manor.”   He and his family were from that Chicago neighborhood and routinely brought carloads of city kids to the farm for weekend trips.

In the 1960s, the Hassells began selling off their farmland to Sam and Jack Hoffman of F & S Construction, making their final sale in 1967.  The area south of Hassell Road abuts the Hilldale Country Club and is part of the subdivisions that surround High Point and MacArthur Parks.  The area north of Hassell Road is part of the Highlands West subdivision that surrounds Cottonwood Park.  The property north of the tollway is part of the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve.

Mr. Hassell continued to use the 90 year old farmhouse on weekends until the house was razed in November 1966.  According to the Daily Herald, before the teardown took place, evergreens were removed and replanted.  Unfortunately, a rare black walnut tree that had yielded several bushels of nuts every year caught fire when the farmhouse was burned.

While it’s impossible to replace that old black walnut and 90 year-old farmhouse, it is nice to know that Mr. Hassell’s beloved weekend farm yielded not only residences and greenspace for the Hoffman Estates Park District but is also the sight of our Hoffman Estates Branch Library!


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