THE BELL FAMILY ON STRATFORD FARMS: CHAPTER TWO

As magnificent as the Stratford Hotel was on the corner of Jackson and Michigan in Chicago, Stratford Farms in Schaumburg Township was just as nice in its own way.  After running photos in an earlier blog posting that the James Austin and Florence Bell family passed on of the farm along Roselle Road, it is a pleasure to share a few more.  These pictures are of both the farm and of the hotel memorabilia the family owns.

Levy Mayer, a wealthy attorney and senior member of the law firm of Mayer, Meyer, Austrian and Platt was an owner and developer of the Stratford Hotel along with his brother-in-law, Edwin F. Meyer.  They also purchased Stratford Farms to help supply the restaurant in the hotel with food.   According to a Chicago Tribune article that appeared after his death on August 14, 1922, he “was reputed to be the wealthiest practicing lawyer in the country.”  He was known for his work on cases involving the meatpackers, the Iroquois fire, child labor, woman’s suffrage and the constitutionality of the stockyards act.  When he died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage, it was just a few years after the Bell family began managing Stratford Farms in Schaumburg.  After Mr. Mayer died, the farm was solely owned by his brother-in-law, Edwin F. Meyer.  This aligns with both a 1920-26 plat map we have in our collection that shows his ownership of the property and the fact that the Bell family managed the property for Edwin until they left in 1934 for a farm they purchased in Kentucky.

But, it was long enough to become familiar with Mr. Meyer who was a fairly frequent visitor to the farm.

At some point he was nice enough to pass on this self-portrait postcard with a note handwritten on the back.

Judging by the note, he was obviously a busy man who had been unwell.

The following items are memorabilia of the Stratford Hotel.  Imagine a maximum $6 stay at the hotel.  Or, having the option of paying for a shower or not!

 

 

This is a silver creamer with the hotel’s name stamped on the underside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional photos of the farm were also passed along.  This panoramic view of the farm is taken from the west, looking east.  The thin, white strip that bisects the photo behind the windmill and in front of the grove of trees is Roselle Road.  The house to the right is where the farmhands lived who the Bells hired.  In fact, one of those farmhands was Irving Flarity who came from Canada and found himself in the Schaumburg Township area.  The Bells hired him and he worked for them for many years.  In the photo below he is standing on top of the water tower with his arms opened wide.  It took a fair amount of guts to perform that stunt!

This gives you a better idea of the location of the buildings on the farm.  It is essentially a reverse of the photo above and we are looking east across Roselle Road at the farm.  The big white dairy barn is on the left.

This barn caught fire one day in the late 1920s or early 1930s.  Catherine Bell was doing her homework when her cousin from across the road ran over to tell them that the barn was on fire.  Florence Catherine called the fire department but the farm was not part of the district so they required $200 to put out the fire.  Not being able to guarantee that amount of money, she ran down Roselle Road to get her father who was in “town” at Schaumburg Center.  When they returned the barn was nearly gone.  Many neighbors had gathered to try and put the fire out but it was a lost cause.  According to Catherine, the fire was so hot that it was possible to hear the milk bottles in the barn popping and breaking from the heat.

In the photo below, the water tower is to the right of the barn.  Both houses had easy access to Roselle Road with the two story farmhouse where the farmhands lived on the left and the 1 1/2 story house where the Bell family lived on the far right.  According to Florence Catherine, “Mr. Meyer had a fella with a camera come to the farm and take that photo.  Mr. Meyer had that photo hanging up in his house.”

A flock of geese was part of the farm’s bird population.  In this photo they are near the water tower and windmill.

The threshing team is hard at work on the farm.  Irving Flarity, the man who was obviously not afraid of heights, is standing on top of the pile of straw.

Mr. Edwin Meyer is holding James Austin Jr in the photo below.  The woman standing behind him is James’ mother, Florence.   The little girl in front is Florence Catherine Bell.   The lady holding Edwina Bell is her aunt and Florence’s sister, Eva Hastings Baumgardner of Minnesota.  James Austin Bell Sr. is behind his sister-in-law.

The Bell children pose in their front yard.  From left to right are James Austin Jr., Florence Catherine “Kate,” John Robert and Edwina.  Florence Catherine was the oldest, followed by James Austin Jr. and Edwina who were twins, with John Robert being the youngest.

The Haffners were the Bell family’s cousins who lived on a farm across Roselle Road in the grove of trees.  The Haffner family also worked on the farm.  Ada (Bell) Haffner was a sister to James Austin Bell Sr.  According to Kate Bell, there was a low spot to the left of the tree line where the field tile was broken.  The area would flood, forming a temporary pond that would freeze in the winter where both families would ice skate.  One has to suppose that, because it was shallow, it would freeze relatively quickly and also allow for comfortable skating.

Florence Catherine also says that when it rained, “we would slide around in the wet grass.”  Notice those white rocks?  She also said that when they mowed the lawn, they had to move all of the rocks beforehand so that they got a nice, clean swipe along the driveway.

 

These farm photos were all taken with a big, black Kodak type camera by James Austin Bell, the patriarch of the family.  According to Catherine, “Pa was proud of his camera [and] nobody touched his camera.”  We don’t know why he bought the camera in the first place but, presumably, he had an interest in photography, was able to get the camera for a reasonable price and was eager to take photos of his growing family and the land he farmed.  Thank goodness he did!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

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5 Responses to “THE BELL FAMILY ON STRATFORD FARMS: CHAPTER TWO”

  1. Tiffany Martel Says:

    Are the Stratford Farms and Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale related? Was the mall named after the farms?

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Tiffany,

      Because there was such an extensive time span between Stratford Farms and Stratford Square, I suspect they’re not related. I have a call in to check it out so I will respond again when I’ve had definitive proof on who Stratford Square is named for. Interesting thought, though…

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library
      jrozek@stdl.org

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Tiffany,

      I heard back from the Local History Librarian at the Bloomingdale Public Library. She talked to the former president of Stratford Square Shopping Center who said it refers to Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Stratford, Ontario is on the Avon River and every year they hold a Shakespeare Festival in honor of THEIR namesake, Stratford Upon Avon, in England which is the birthplace of Shakespeare.

      So, it’s no correlation to Stratford Farms in Schaumburg. Thank you for the question, though. It’s good to get these things clarified!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library
      jrozek@stdl.org

  2. Jacqueline Manning Says:

    Photo of the houses on the farm F.C. Bell said that “Mr. Meyer had a fella with a camera come to the farm and take that Photo, Mr. Meyer had that photo hanging up in his house”

    The big barn to the left was the barn that burned down. Some say that because PA was hauling stuff from Chicago for the pigs, some one may have had it out for him, or it could have been when PA was leaving with a load of hay, the car sparked and that could have been what started it.

    I was doing my homework and my cousin came over and said the barn was on fire to call the fire dept. When I called the fire dept. They said had to guarantee 200.00 before they would come out. We were in dupage county and they were In cook county, that shouldn’t have made a difference” that barn burnt to the ground.

    The photo of the kids in the yard, “when it would rain we would slide around in the wet grass.

    We use to have to move rocks and now that lawn”

    “PA was proud of his camera, nobody touched his camera”

    Lastly, Flourence would like to note that her middle name is spelled Catherine, not with a “k” there were so many Florences in the family thays why they called her Catherine, when she got older the kids started calling her “Kate” .

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