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!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

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