THE SECRET LIFE OF HONEYBEES IN SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

In a time when bee populations are being threatened, yet organic foods are on the rise, wouldn’t it be nice to stop in at Meineke’s  Honey Farm, once located in rural Schaumburg Township?  Known for its fresh honey and delicious, homemade chocolate honey candies, the Honey Farm would be a neat niche business in today’s commercial landscape.

It was in the 1950s and 60s that Ellsworth Meineke operated an apiary and small gift shop on Golf Road at its intersection with Plum Grove Road.  What had started as a high school hobby for Mr. Meineke as he came of age in rural Elk Grove Township, grew into a small commercial operation when he opened his first bee business in 1946.  His first location of Meineke’s Honey Shop was on Higgins Road in today’s Ned Brown Forest Preserve, about a 1/4 mile west of Arlington Heights Road in Elk Grove Township.   Due to its proximity with the road, the shop, today, would literally be ON Higgins Road.

Since a number of farmers in the area kept a few hives for their own supply, Meineke found that, in order for a commercial beekeeper to increase production, it was necessary to establish “out apiaries.”  His future business site on Golf Road in Schaumburg Township served as one of these adjunct sites during the Elk Grove Township period.

In 1952, eager to add acreage to their Busse Woods location, the Cook County Forest Preserve began acquiring parcels around Meineke’s main location.  By 1954, he had sold out and relocated to his secondary location in Schaumburg Township where he built a home as well as a combined store and honey factory.

There, in addition to the hives and always growing field of sweet clover, Mr. Meineke and his wife, Vera, maintained their other out apiaries on farms within a 30 mile radius in addition to their wholesale and mail order customer base through the early 1960s.  According to Mr. Meineke’s daughter, one of the out apiaries was at the former Fin ‘n’ Feather Farm property in East Dundee on State Route 25.  It was also the property of the Milk Pail which still exists in 2012.  The Fin ‘n’ Feather was owned by Max McGraw who was an associate of Mr. Meineke’s.

At its peak, Mr. Meineke’s operation was one of the largest of its kind in the country, with an estimated 20 million bees. By 1965, however, they had reduced their business to the small gift shop where honey, candies, confections, and antiques and collectibles all relating to bees and honey, were sold.   The gift shop was a two story building with the store on the first level and the candy/confectionary operation on the second level.

Development had approached as early as 1959 when Our Saviour’s United Methodist Church agreed to purchase a portion of his property for their new church.  As a result Mr. Meineke was forced to move 35 hives to one of his out apiaries which was about 13 miles from the farm and west of the Fox River.  Eighty five additonal hives were moved to a new spot behind his honey processing plant.

The Meineke’s themselves were progressive and even developed a plat for their own subdivision,  naming it, appropriately, Honeydale!  Eventually the Meinekes sold a parcel for the development of the strip mall that, today, lies to the east of Portillo’s.  An even larger parcel was sold for the creation of the Versailles on the Lake apartments in the late 1960s.

In addition, Mr. Meineke was engrossed in the formation of the new village of Schaumburg, serving on the first Village Board from 1956 to 1961.  Not stopping there, he continued to have Mayor Atcher’s ear and was instrumental in both the formation of Woodfield Mall in 1971 and the Spring Valley Nature Club in 1974–legacies as unique as Ellsworth Meineke’s own Honey Farm.

Today the Schaumburg Park District’s Meineke Recreation Center is named for Ellsworth and, in commemoration of their generous contributions, his wife’s name graces the Vera Meineke Nature Center at the Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary.  A piece of Ellsworth still exists a bit further south at Sara Meginnis Park on the southwest corner of the intersection of Plum Grove and Schaumburg Roads.  The gazebo there was once part of the Meineke property.  After Mr. Meineke’s death in 1979 it was donated to the village of Hoffman Estates and was later graciously returned to Schaumburg where it now holds a place of honor in the park.

However, if what you remember is stopping at the store on Golf Road or in Elk Grove Township, take a moment to tell us about those wondrous candies!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

Thank you to Brad Root of the A.I. Root Co. for his permission to use the photo from The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture by A.I. Root.

The other black and white photo is courtesy of the Schaumburg Township Historical Society.  The image of the Meineke Honey Farm is compliments of LaVonne Presley.

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17 Responses to “THE SECRET LIFE OF HONEYBEES IN SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP”

  1. Joan Skoneczka Steffen Says:

    My sister us to work there after school.

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Joan,

      Many people remember the Honey Farm but few people were in close contact with Mr. Meineke. Any information, photos or paperwork she might have would be an interesting addition to our library’s archives. There is surprisingly little to be found.

      If you or she would like to contact me off this blog, I can be reached at jrozek@stdl.org

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  2. Catherine Earl Says:

    he was my grandfather.

  3. Carol Karp Peterson Batchelder Says:

    Meineke’s Honey Candies were my family’s most coveted treats..enjoyed, fought over throughout my childhood. I still miss that rich chocolate with liquid honey filing!

  4. John Allseits Says:

    As a teenager in the 60’s, my mom took me to Meineke’s to buy beeswax for a craft project. (It came in the same little cakes, as the honey-chocolate candies.) This started a family tradition, that lasted till they closed, of buying Meineke’s candies. I recall they had a “see-through” beehive in the store, like an ant farm… John Allseits

  5. Lynn Watts Says:

    I remember trips with my parents and grandmother and aunt back in the late 40’s to the honey shop on Higgins and then on Golf Road. I will never forget how my sister and I used to save our allowances to spend on the candy and contemplate which piece to eat first.. Before my Dad put the petal to the medal after our acquisition, we had our first bite. My favorites were the chocolate cups filled with honey and topped with a walnut, the jellied candy covered in chocolate and the chocolate covered coconut candy. I miss it so much. Were the recipes ever sold or were they lost?

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Lynn,

      Thank your for fun comments! It is interesting that your family was a customer at both of Mr. Meineke’s shops. Do you have any idea how your family first heard about the shop? Did you live in the area? I’m assuming your family bought and used the Meineke honey too?

      I will let you know if the recipes still exist.

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

    • jrozek Says:

      Lynn,

      I just found an article from the December, 1967 issue of American Bee Journal that was written by Ellsworth Meineke. The article is called “Honey Candies for the Retail Trade” and he actually gives all of his recipes for his candies. Because it was written for other beekeepers, the recipes are written for large quantities. He gives a recipe for the following candies: Honey Date Nut Balls, Honey Kisses, Honey Walnut Chews, Honey Coconuts, Honey Jellies, Honey Caramels and Honey Creams. It is clear from reading them that you sort of have to know your way around the types of honey and how to make candies. That being said, the Honey Coconuts and Honey Caramels do sound yummy!

      Jane

      • Lynn Watts Says:

        Wonderful, how can I get the American Bee Journal? Is it online or can I find it at a certain library. I am so excited. Thanks for the reply to my original message.

      • Cecily Atcher WingSong Says:

        Oh, Jane! I’ve been dreaming of their caramels for 50 years or so. I’m Cecily Atcher. My sister, Chris worked in the store. It was her first job. I mowed the lawn on their little john Deere riding mower, because I wasn’t afraid of bees!
        If I could get the caramel recipe, I’d bee in heaven!
        Thanks for all you do to keep the spirit of old Schaumburg alive!
        Cecily Wingsong

      • Lynn Wattw Says:

        Please do. If you have the recipes, start another candy shop reviving those delectable treats for another generation. If you do, please contact me.

      • jrozek Says:

        It’s wonderful to hear from you Cecily–and nice to get the details about you and your sister working at Mr. Meineke’s Honey Farm. Thank you so much for sharing!

        Jane Rozek
        Local History Librarian
        Schaumburg Township District Library

  6. Lynn Watts Says:

    Unfortunately, my parents, my aunt and uncle, and grandparents have all passed away. I think our family’s love of good candy started with my mother’s mother. Until fifth grade we lived at Foster and Latrobe in Chicago. Then we moved to the Cicero (Skokie Blvd) and Toughy (sp) area. Higgins was part of our roam.
    I forgot about the caramels, but they were also on the list of favorites. Those caramels just melted in your mouth. My Dad loved the caramels. I have had honely caramels that come close to meineke’s, but I have not found any of the other candies anywhere.

  7. Catherine earl Says:

    Thank you for bringing my grandfathers farm to the forefront.it was always a fairytale when we visited with my mom. Nice to see his legacy lives on to show my child and grandchildren

    • jrozek Says:

      I’m delighted to do it. Mr. Meineke was quite a force in Schaumburg Township and we are still reaping the benefits. If you would happen to have any photos of him working with his bees in the field, I would sure appreciate hearing from you. You can reach me at jrozek@stdl.org

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

      • Lynn Watts Says:

        When my mother died 4 years ago, my sister and I found a couple of pics we took next to the sign for the honey candy shop. However, I don’t remember if we kept the pics or not. If we did, I have no idea where they are now.

        I will save your email and if I find the pics I will email them to you. I so miss those chocolate honey cups with the walnuts on top and the jellies.

        I tried to work with chocolate and gave up. However, I put clover honey in my applesauce when I can.

  8. Catherine earl Says:

    Funny how it turns out, but bees are in the news again.without them this planet would die. We now live in an area where other small family beekeepers live. Im thinking about starting a hive.

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