Farming is a passion. Those who are engaged in it have an incredible bond with their land, their animals, their equipment and their buildings. During the active century of farming in Schaumburg Township (1850-1950), many of the farming families passed the farm down through multiple generations. As a result their bonds with their property ran long and deep.

They were intimately familiar with every square inch of their acreage, having either walked it or driven it countless times over the years. They became attached to many of their animals–particularly their milk cows–who gave true meaning to the term “cash cow.” They spent hours choosing the right equipment and even more hours maintaining it until the last bit of usage had been wrung from it. And, even more so, they took pride in their buildings–whether it was their home, their chicken coop, their equipment shed or their barn.

To commemorate that bond, farmers would often commission an artist to paint a rendition of their farm and then proudly hang it on a wall in their house. Several examples of these paintings of Schaumburg Township farms are found below.

This beauty of a painting was recently brought to my attention by Lu-Ann (Rosenwinkel) Munneke. Her parents were Paul and Paula (Gehrke) Rosenwinkel who purchased the farm in 1950 from the Japp family. Paul grew up in Addison, the son of Albert and Ellen (Backhaus) Rosenwinkel, and Paula grew up in Elk Grove Township. There were two houses on the farm and a massive white  barn that was built in 1917 and was the centerpiece of the farm. The Rosenwinkels lived in one house and rented the other.

The farm’s southern border was along today’s Weathersfield Way. They had a quarter mile driveway off of Roselle Road and mainly raised steers as well as pigs for a time and, of course, chickens. They were also grain farmers.

A good portion of the farm was eventually sold to make way for the Timbercrest subdivision in the early 1970s and, later, the Farmgate townhouse development. If you lived in Schaumburg Township during the latter part of its farming days you might remember the farm as pictured in the photo below. The view is looking north towards the farm from Weathersfield Way. The barn was truly a magnificent structure.

It has since been discovered that the painting below was found in the estate of Marilyn Gieseke who was the daughter of William Gieseke. The painting or, possibly, colorized photo, was passed on to me by LaVonne (Thies) Presley. It is not a farm that was in Schaumburg Township and is most likely from Marilyn’s mother who was an Oltendorf.

In looking over the painting, we noted that there were no electric poles lining the lane that led up to the house and barn. LaVonne made the supposition that the painting had to have been done before the 1930s as that is when electricity came to Schaumburg Township.

Notice the long rain gutter that cuts across the side of the barn.  Clearly the farmer was trying to catch every drop of rain that ran off that large expanse of roof.  Chances are the water was routed into a cistern or holding tank.  The water would have been used for the animals or, possibly, to keep the milk cool after the cows had been milked.

It is also obvious the farm was bisected by a lane leading from the main road.  This was a common occurrence.  The home would be found on one side, along with the vegetable gardens, the orchard and, possibly, the chicken coop.  The other side was the business end of the farm, complete with the barn, equipment sheds, and various outbuildings.  Typically, in this day and age, the women ran the house side and the men ran the barn side of the farm.

This is yet another unidentified farm.  Clearly this farmer was interested in having the artist capture the buildings used to maintain the farm.  The big, red barn centers the painting with two silos in the background, possibly a pig shed to the right and a couple of other small buildings sprinkled around.  It is also possible that this painting was done by someone who lived on property that bordered the farm since the perspective is from the back of the buildings.  Maybe they were taken by the mystique of the farm and wanted to tie in the red of the barn with the colors of the changing trees.

The following two paintings are part of a series of Schaumburg Township views that were painted by Allan Gray sometime in the 1970s.  (All seven paintings can be found in the Illinois Collection alcove of the library on the second floor.) The first shows the Wilkening farm that was  on the east side of Roselle Road, near the location of today’s Country Inn & Suites.  Notice that the farm is close to Roselle Road (when it was two lanes) and on the same rise where the hotel can be found.

The last owners of the farm were Walter and Sarah Wilkening who were siblings.  If you look closely at the bottom of the painting, Mr. Gray notes that the Wilkening family had owned the property since 1869, although a September 19, 1984 article from the Chicago Tribune mentions that the farm was built in 1866.  Chances are good Mr. Gray spoke to them while doing the painting and picked up that tidbit. The farm was sold in 1978 or 1979 around the time the Wilkenings died. When the property was eventually developed, the village of Schaumburg honored the long time owners by naming two of the streets in the industrial park–Wilkening Road and Wilkening Court–after the family. It really was quite an impressive place with its big white house and red barn surrounded by a wide variety of trees.

Finally, this is probably one of the most famous farms in Schaumburg Township simply because it still exists and, not least of all, because it is the oldest.  It is called the Sunderlage House and can be found at 1775 Vista Lane in Hoffman Estates.  The house was built in 1856 by Johann Sunderlage who had come from Germany on an exploratory trip to the area in 1832.  Once he had found property he thought would be appealing to those back in the Old Country, he went back to Germany and then returned with a group of families in 1838.  They were the Greve, Ottman, Meyer and Schirding families who also made their homes in the area.

Johann, in fact, married Catharine Greve and together they developed the farm that is named for them. After their deaths they passed the farm on to Amanda Meyer Volkening, their widowed great niece, who ran it with her family.  In the 1930’s the Volkenings sold the farm to Lila Harrell, an interior decorator, from Chicago who later sold it to Peter Volid, a manufacturer and CEO.  He eventually deeded the property to the Village of Hoffman Estates in 1978.

Since that time, the Hoffman Estates Historic Sites Commission has absorbed oversight of both the home and the brick smokehouse that is visible in the back right of the painting.  The smokehouse is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  The home was not submitted for inclusion due to the additions that were put in place, but the original structure is still evident in both the painting and in the photograph below.

These paintings represent a bygone era of a township that was resplendent with active, impressive farms, houses, barns and acreage.  It is a unique way to truly appreciate the history that was here before and see it from an artist’s perspective.  The variety of the paintings give you an idea of, not only the styles that the artist used, but also a land that cannot be forgotten.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

Images of the Winkelhake house and the Sunderlage house are by permission of Gray’s Watercolors, www.grayswatercolors.com.  We thank them for their generosity.






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