WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS THIS GRAIN MILL LOCATED?

This photo has been a puzzle for years.   It is #101 of a series of picture postcards that were taken around 1913 in “downtown” Schaumburg.   In the words of Viola (Botterman) Straub, “It wasn’t a large building.  The platform in front held about 12 bags of ground corn (grist) and then it was full.”  All of the other buildings in the series are still standing or have been identified.  Because all of the other postcard photos were taken very close to the intersection of Schaumburg and Roselle, we knew it had to be in the general vicinity.  In fact, in her oral history Erna (Lichtardt) Hunerberg mentions that the mill was to the east of the Creamery.  But, how close?

Jack Netter with the Village of Schaumburg even blew up the photo to get a glimpse of the buildings in the background to the left.  One of them had a very distinctive roof line but that still yielded us nothing.

The first mention of the mill appears in Marilyn Lind’s Genesis of a Township when she states that “a new business in town this year [1902] was the Schaumburg Grist Mill operated by F.W. and H.H. Nerge.” After an exploration of the early versions of the Daily Herald it looks like the Nerge Brothers ran the business for a few years—but didn’t necessarily serve as the miller.   An issue of the Herald from May 9, 1903 illustrates this: “(1) Schaumburg Grist Mill will close down next week for the summer. Rush in your grinding. (2) Otto Plehwe, the miller will do carpenter work for Louis Menke as soon as the mill shuts down.”

Later in the November 28 and December 19 issues of the same year we are told that the “Nerge Bros.’ Grist Mill will grind feed every Tuesday and Wednesday during the season and on other days if the rush warrants it.”  Business must have been good because in an October 28, 1904 issue it is mentioned that “Henry C. Nerge has bought one of the famous Kolling corn huskers and shredders and can now give the farmers the best satisfaction.”

The Nerges didn’t let such a nice space go to waste for just working with corn.  From an October 20, 1905 issue, it states “Lots of relatives, friends and neighbors gathered at F. W. Nerge’s Sunday evening and the mill furnished a fine dance hall for the jolly crowd.”  It appears any large gathering space in the township was ripe for social activities.

In 1907 though, the Nerge brothers sold the mill to Henry Oltendorf.  Henry was somewhat of a local guy who came to Schaumburg from Elk Grove Township.  In the October 11, 1907 issue it mentions that “Henry Oltendorf will leave the farm to his son and move here Nov. 1.”  It also says “Schaumburg Center Mill will start up Oct. 1, and grind feed for the farmers every Wednesday and other days, when the business warrants.  Henry Oltendorf, Proprietor.”

Mr. Oltendorf was listed in the 1910 census as the miller.  He not only served the community in this capacity but he was also one of the first elected officers of the newly opened Farmers Bank of Schaumburg in that same year.  Later articles up through 1915 also mention the mill’s existence but it is the article from October 9, 1914 that yields the big bonus!  It states that “Fred Botterman moved his family and household goods to his new home, the H.E. Oltendorf house north of the mill.”  Which leads us to this conclusion…

1.  We know that the photo to the right is the Botterman house.  You can see the Easy Street Pub or Charles Krueger’s Inn and Boarding House, as it was known, in the background.  [Unfortunately the house no longer exists.]
2.  We do know that the Botterman House stood between what is now the Easy Street Pub and the Creamery.
3.  We now know that the mill itself was between these two buildings.  In fact, if you look at the photo and compare it to the Mill postcard, you can almost picture it in the open space in the foreground.

As for when the mill shut down, I would have to say it is somewhere between 1918 and 1920.  A 1915 mention in the Herald says, “H.E. Quindel had the boiler at the Mill repaired by a pair of experts.”  This statement, along with the mention of Fred Botterman moving into the Oltendorf house leads me to believe that Mr. Quindel, a local entrepreneur, purchased the mill from Mr. Oltendorf sometime in 1914.  In fact, in a discussion with Viola (Botterman) Straub, she mentioned that she thought Quindel might have owned it at one time or another.  Yet a second confirmation.

He had some repairs made in 1915 but by the 1920 census Mr. Oltendorf is engaged in “General Farming” and there is no mention of a miller in Schaumburg.  Erna Hunerberg also mentioned in her oral history that she recalled the whistle being sounded at the Mill at the end of World War 1 which was November 11, 1918.

It was also reported in 1920 that H.E. Quindel moved to Chicago that year.  Which makes it very probable that he divested himself of his local holdings before that time.

Once again, like the Wilkening Creamery, a business came and went in early, downtown Schaumburg but, thanks to an early photographer, its existence didn’t go for naught.

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