AN AUCTION AT THE BERGMAN FARM

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

Farm-Auction

The day was warm and sunny.  Perfect weather for a farm auction, I arrived at Harold Bergman’s farm, on the northwest corner of Ela and Algonquin Rds about 9:15 in the morning.  The open fields behind the steel barn and old chicken house were already filled with cars.  People were milling about, looking in old cardboard boxes that’d been loaded on about a dozen flatbed wagons.  I can only assume that they must have been the hay wagons that Harold filled each time he harvested a new crop of hay from his 36 acre farm.  They were so old and weathered that I thought that I’d get slivers in by backside for sure when I hoisted myself up onto the wagon.

The auctioneer had set up the area in row upon row of farm tools, boxes of household articles, and furniture.  The style of furniture told you much about the many years that it had served the generations of Bergmans, some dating back to the turn of the century and other pieces taking the family into more modern times.

From my perch on the wagon, I had a good view of the auctioneer’s progress. As piece by piece and box after box made its way to the parked cars, it was sad to see the end of another farm especially a farm that had been in existence since the 1860s.

Like most of the farms in the area, the Bergman farm was a dairy farm.  With a herd of approximately 30 cows, the crops to maintain the herd were planted and harvested year after year.  In 1971, after the Cook County Forest Preserve condemned the land, the bulldozers came to tear down the barn that had been erected in 1903, the milk house and the windmill.  The Bergman family sold the dairy herd in the late 60s upon learning of the Forest Preserve’s plans to condemn their land on the south side of Algonquin Rd.  What remained of the farm was the acreage on the north side of Algonquin Rd., the farm house and chicken house.  Only 36 acres of land remained.

Originally, Harold had decided to sow grass to prevent erosion, but then he realized that he could produce a hay crop to sell to local horse owners as well as the race horse owners who raced at Arlington Park Race Track.  Eventually he became the oldest living farmer to be actively farming in Cook County. Last fall he harvested his last crop.  The tractors were parked in the large storage building west of the house. The bales of hay were piled high to the ceiling.  Winter would bring customers who’d load their hay and eventually empty the building of that last spring planting.

As the auctioneer worked his way through the equipment and tractors, I watched Harold, sitting in a lawn chair outside the house he was born in, graciously accept the extended handshakes of well-wishers who stopped by to greet him.

This June Harold will celebrate his 99th birthday. Happy Birthday to an amazing farmer and dear friend.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
Eagle2064@comcast.net

(The photo is from Saturday Evening Post.)

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One Response to “AN AUCTION AT THE BERGMAN FARM”

  1. DN71 Says:

    Remember this farm well, living in Winston Knolls in the early 70’s. I think it was the summer of ’75 that my brothers, Dad, and myself got in to model rocket building. We used to go across the street to the huge field on the South side of Algonquin Rd (across the street from the farm house) and launch them. I doubt these rumors are true, but when I was little, I remember a story that some older boys were messing around in his field behind the farm house he shot rock salt at them from a shotgun. So we never tried to cut through… ha ha. Sure that was a bogus story. Had to be because we eventually moved down to Freeman Rd. in the new Westbury subdivision. We were the first family to move in to the new subdivision, which at that time consisted of two houses… ours and our neighbors who moved in I think the day after us. The rest was corn as far as the eye could see (unless you turned around and looked at the Winston Knolls homes behind our house).There was a farm house down the street (became the village hall and O’Malley lived in). and yep… heard stories that the owners of that home would also shoot rock salt at you if caught tresspassing. I say all bogus because behind that farm was also a field then forest area that we always played in (which is now Whiteley School)… but fun stories in the end. Eventually, the corn was ripped out to make way for a few lakes and of course, more homes.

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