Having just married in 1937, Harvey and Ester (Steinmeyer) Bierman spent their first year living on an estate in Barrington where Harvey served as a chauffeur. The two newlyweds grew up on neighboring farms near Schaumburg Township’s upper northwest border with Palatine Township.
In 1938, Harvey became aware of an opportunity to rent the Harz blacksmith shop that was in their old stomping grounds at Buttermilk Corners. The blacksmith shop and the house that they rented was on the west side of Barrington Road, just north of its intersection with Old Higgins Road. This was just down Old Higgins Road from the Steinmeyer home where Esther grew up.
Harvey was a self-taught blacksmith and welder who wielded his crafts with much ingenuity. He rented the property from Fred Harz, son of Herman Harz who had begun the business around the turn of the century. The first rent check was written in June 1938. Soon after, he became an Allis-Chalmers dealer and sold tractors to the local farming contigent. According to their children, Harvey and Esther would drive to Rockford to pick up the tractors. Esther would drive back in their vehicle and Harvey would drive the tractor back going all of about 20 miles per hour down Route 20. What a long, slow ride that must have been.
For eight years, Harvey cultivated his craft and his business. Then, in 1946, the Harz family told the Biermans they wanted to use the property for themselves. To help them with this dilemma, Ester’s brother, George Steinmeyer, sold the Biermans an acre of land directly across from the Harz property on Barrington Road. Harvey then purchased a packaged Quonset hut in Arlington Heights for $3600 and had it delivered. After Louis Krunfus excavated the property, Harvey, with the help of his brother-in-law, Edwin Steinmeyer who was a carpenter by trade, and his father-in-law, Herman Steinmeyer, got to work building the hut.
Knowing, too, that he would need a new home for his family which now included a son and daughter, Harvey once again showed his ingenuity and agreed to purchase the one-room schoolhouse that was on the property of the church they attended. The Evangelical and Reformed Immanuel Church was located in current day Streamwood on Old Church Road. According to a booklet that was published in 1952 celebrating the church’s 100th anniversary, the school was sold to the Biermans for $2100.
The schoolhouse was rolled down Barrington Road on a flat-bed truck. Edwin Steinmeyer did the majority of the remodeling after Louis Krunfus excavated a basement. A second story was added along with a living room. The family lived there until Esther’s age intervened in the early 2000’s.
By the beginning of the winter of 1946, the Quonset hut was fully operational as the business that was simply named, Harvey Bierman & Co. During the first winter, there was no heat in the business although the forge must have gone a good ways to taking the edge off. The following year a boiler was purchased to provide heat for the work area and showroom that was at the front of the building.
Harvey made most of his money sharpening plowshares and cultivator shovels. His first forge was coal-fired with the fuel being purchased in bulk from Wright Supply of Bartlett and delivered in a dump truck. It was Harvey’s son who transported the coal to the second floor of the business. Jon says, “the coal was transported to the second story of the shop via the homemade vertical conveyor that my father designed and built. I shoveled the coal from the dump truck to the conveyor hopper. This was an all day Saturday job that I “enjoyed” three or four times a winter. We had two separate coal bins–one for the forge coal and one for the boiler which used crushed coal. Both bins were on the second floor; the boiler bin was on the north side and the forge bin was across from it on the south side. Dad built a second lateral conveyor to move the coal from the vertical conveyor to the forge coal bin. Dad’s conveyors were open link chain drive primitive by today’s standards but they did the job albeit with a lot of noise and dust.”
Harvey also created a system using a second-floor hopper that allowed him to simply pull a lever that opened the bottom of the hopper and the coal poured down into the forge. This system remained in place until the late 1960s/early 1970s. By this time, Harvey was not only using a propane-fired forge but the sharpening of plowshares had disappeared with the advent of easily purchased, replaceable plowshares. The photo below shows the north side of the building with the chimney where the smoke from the boiler escaped. As Jon said, the forge was on the south side of the building.
Over the years, Harvey employed a number of people including: Albert Botterman, Carson Winchell, Otto Nimarach, Harold Homeyer and Clarence Hartman as his bookkeeper. As the farmers began leaving the area, Harvey sold the Bierman Implement Co. in 1968 to his long-time partner, Clarence Hartman. Together they continued to provide welding services and sell commercial mowing equipment as well as residential lawn and garden equipment. This arrangement continued past Harvey’s death in 1981. Clarence died in 1986 and his wife continued to operate the business until Harvey’s son, Jon, agreed to buy the business the following year.
During Jon’s ownership, he phased out the welding portion and the business arrangement with Allis-Chalmers. Instead, he took on the John Deere line in 1990 and it helped the business grow. As Jon said, “It did very well for us.” It was also in this period that the third generation of Steimeyers sold the rest of their family’s property to the hospital next door. This happened in 2000 and, by the time, Jon Bierman was ready to close the business in 2005, the hospital was ready to purchase the Bierman’s last two acres. Shortly after, the Quonset hut and the Bierman’s modified school house were torn down. As of 2012, there is only the concrete pad and parking lot where the business stood. No part of the Biermans two acres have been developed–which makes it a silent memorial to this long standing family and business.
This post was written with the assistance of an oral history conducted with the Bierman siblings–Jon Bierman and Judy (Bierman) Bartelt. The details they provided in 2010 made this posting a delight to write. My thanks to them for passing on a bit more of the township’s history.
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
(The Bierman parcel purchased from the Steinmeyers was, according to family lore, on a former brick creamery that was named Buttermilk Corners. According to Jon, the bricks were used to make the floor for the Steinmeyer farm smokehouse. He remembers “my Aunt Caroline telling about helping to carry bricks from the old creamery building site for use as a brick floor.” He can also verify that the bricks were still there when the Quonset hut was demolished.)