Archive for the ‘Farms’ Category


February 18, 2018

It was a hot, miserable job done at the steamiest time of the year.  It required multiple men, multiple teams of horses, a steam engine and a loud, noisy thresher.  It was a multi-step process that involved removing the seed heads of ripened oats from the stems of the plants.  It was called threshing.

In the early years, before mechanization, threshing was accomplished by cutting down the stalks of grain, gathering it into bundles, allowing it to dry for a bit in the field and then either dragging a roller over it or hitting it with a mallet of some type to separate the grain from the stem.  The point was to have the oats available for the horses and poultry.  The stems–or straw–was used for bedding in the barn.

Once a more easy, mechanized way of accomplishing the job became available, the farmers of Schaumburg Township took to it as quickly as they could afford it.  Because it required both a steam engine to provide the power, and a threshing machine to separate the grain from the straw, this was no small feat. These were both expensive pieces of equipment and required a fair amount of outlay for farmers who were used to getting their work done with horse power.

As a result, a group of farmers who lived near each other, banded together and formed a threshing circle or team to pay for the equipment and do the work.  In most instances the equipment was probably paid for by one farmer who had more funds and was moving beyond subsistence farming.  The others in the circle may or may not have reimbursed him for the cost of the job.

Threshing was done at the farms over the course of a week to a week and a half when the grain was ripe in July or August.  Despite the fact that the hot, muggy conditions were unpleasant, it was still a time that was looked forward to simply because the neighborly camaraderie was something to be enjoyed and appreciated.

During threshing time each farmer began the day at their own farm doing the milking.  Depending on the herd, this took a fair amount of time.  After things were in order on their own farms, they made their way to the farm where the threshing would take place.  Usually, by the time they got there around 7:30, the steam engine’s boiler would have been stoked with wood or coal and would be fired up and ready to go.  Both pieces of equipment were placed close to the barn so that the grain and the straw were in close proximity to the animals who used it.  When they were set to begin, the farmer would blow the whistle of the steam engine as a friendly “All set!” to the surrounding countryside and the other threshing teams that would be working that day.  There was no ambient sound in those days so the toot of the whistle carried well.

The process was begun when one man threw bundles of grain into the threshing machine.  It was powered by the steam engine via a long belt that connected the two pieces of equipment.  As the thresher began the separation process, the grain was routed into bags that were placed in a wagon.  When the wagon was full, it was pulled by a team of horses into the barn.  The heavy bags were then lifted out, carried to the granary and emptied.  This allowed the farmers to reuse the bags and also gave the grain a chance to dry more fully.

Meanwhile, another man would get ready to “shape” the straw pile as the straw was separated from the grain and blown out of the thresher.  There was an art to swinging the blower about as the straw had to be arranged properly to keep rain and snow rolling off of the pile instead of infiltrating it.  If this happened, the straw would dampen, causing mold to form.  Moldy straw wasn’t good for the farmer or the animals so it was crucial that this once-a-year crop was managed perfectly.

Yet another man or two would take a wagon and team of horses out to the fields to pick up a load of grain bundles that had been drying for a few days.  There was yet another method to stacking these bundles.  They would be placed grain side forward in the wagon with the straw end hanging off.  The intent was to not lose any grain if at all possible.  Any grain that fell off was swept up and added to the granary.

While the men were busy working outside, the lady of the house was busy inside preparing the food that was necessary to keep the men going throughout the day.  She usually had assistance from her daughters, a sister, a neighbor or a friend.  Around 9:30 the men would take a break and have a brief “lunch.”  Someone from the house would bring out sandwiches  that were made with summer sausage, lunch meat or some other type of meat.  Donuts, coffee cake, coffee and water would also be part of the meal.  The coffee was brought out in a Karo syrup pail and then served in coffee cups since this was a time before paper cups.

“Dinner” was served at noon and was a chance to briefly clean up and come inside for a full, sit-down meal, although the Stratford Farms threshing crew, pictured above, ate outside under the trees.  The men would wash up at the pump, in buckets or in basins of water before they entered the house to have a seat at the stretched out dining table.  There they were often served a special beef roast, boiled potatoes, gravy, vegetables, homemade bread, canned pickles and, of course, plenty of pies.

Some of the ladies were known for a special item or two.  Oral historian Ramona (Lichthardt) Meyer said their family made their own root beer for the group.  She also mentioned that the table was laid with ironed, white damask tablecloths.  Brother and sister, Donald and Marian Thiemann, mentioned that their mother made her own homemade lemonade, complete with ice, which was a treat. In the words of Elmer Moeller, another oral historian, “The best part of threshing was the eating.  It was out of this world.”

Around 3:30 another “lunch” was served which was a repeat of the morning lunch.  Finally, at 6:00 when they had wrapped up for the day, sometimes a supper consisting of leftovers, fried potatoes, meatloaf, hotdogs, etc. was put out–along with some cold beer that had been cooling all day in the cold water tank used by the cows.  This was probably consumed fairly quickly as the men needed to get back to their farms for another round of milking.   Needless to say, it would have been an exhausting day.

Once the work was done at one farm, the operation was moved to another.  Because the steam engine was so heavy, it had to be driven on the shoulder or across the fields.  If they had to cross the paved roads, they put planks down so the treads of the steam engine wouldn’t dig into the pavement.  It moved very slowly so it took time to drive from farm to farm.  The thresher wasn’t as cumbersome as it could be pulled with a tractor or a team of horses.  Once situated, the process started all over again.

Threshing eventually became obsolete with the advent of the combine which did all of the work for the farmers.  There was no need to bind the bundles of grain or send it through a thresher.  The combine did all of that and even held the grain as it separated from the straw.  It was definitely a more cost effective process but it eliminated the good times, the good eating and the good work.  As Don Thiemann said, “You worked your butt off but you had good fellowship too.”

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

My thanks to LaVonne (Thies) Presley for her comprehensive write up on her family’s threshing methods that she wrote about in her book Schaumburg Of My Ancestors.  She covered every detail of the process and answered any questions I had along the way.  I would also like to thank the oral historians and their family memories of threshing.  Many of them have passed away but listening to their interviews on our library’s Local History Digital Archive is always a chance to walk back in time with them.  You, too, can check out their videos here.

The top photo was taken on the Fred Pfingsten farm on Plum Grove Road and was contributed by the Pfingsten family.

The second photo was donated by the Pastor John Sternberg family and is of an unknown Schaumburg Township farm.

The third and fourth photos were donated by the family of Florence Katherine (Bell) Randall and are of Stratford Farm that was on South Roselle Road.  

We thank them all for their generosity.



February 4, 2018

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.

This is an unknown farm.  The painting or, possibly, colorized photo, was passed on to me by LaVonne (Thies) Presley.  She wondered if it might possibly be the “newly discovered” Gieseke/Bartels farm that I wrote about here.

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,  We thank them for their generosity.







January 21, 2018

This picture was recently sent to me via the descendants of Florence Catherine “Kate” Bell, who grew up in Schaumburg Township in the 1920’s and 30’s.  Her father, James Austin Bell, was, for the times, a voluminous photographer and took many photos of Stratford Farms, a Schaumburg Township farm he managed on Roselle Road that supplied poultry, produce and dairy to the Stratford Hotel in Chicago.   This was a prime example of the photos he took.

His children often appear in his photos and this one is no exception.  A young Kate is sitting on a pumpkin next to a Malt Maid Co. truck that is being loaded.  It struck me that it is rather odd that a truck advertising “Made of Malt and Hops” is picking up pumpkins.  Malt is made from cereal grains and hops come from the hop plant.  Pumpkins don’t fall into either one of those categories. Who was Malt Maid and why was a Chicago company driving all the way to rural Schaumburg Township to pick up a truck load of good-sized pumpkins?

It seems that Malt Maid was connected to the Manhattan Brewing Company, a city block sized brewery at 3901 South Emerald Avenue and Pershing Road in Chicago, that was purchased by the infamous mob boss Johnny Torrio.  According to an April 24, 1977 article written by reporter Richard J. La Susa of the Chicago Tribune, Johnny Torrio bought Manhattan Brewing, “a brewery of minor importance” in 1919.  In The Legacy of Al Capone, author George Murray states that Torrio purchased the brewery in the spring of 1919.  This was but a few short months before the Volstead Act was passed in October that gave us prohibition.

After Torrio bought the brewery, La Susa states he “changed the name of the business to Malt Maid and controlled it until 1924, when he was forced to ‘retire’ from the Chicago scene by a faction of his mob led by Al Capone.”  The timing of the name change differs in various articles and books used as research for this posting, but it is universally agreed that Malt Maid was also co-owned at various times by other mob bosses Dion O’Bannion and Hymie Weiss.  It would have obviously been a good move to change the name from Manhattan Brewing to Malt Maid with prohibition in full effect.

We know that Florence Catherine, the young girl in the photo, was born in 1917.  She looks to be about 4 or 5 years old.  This would mean the year would be either 1921 or 1922.  And clearly it’s the fall, judging by the size of those pumpkins.  Having found no mention of local breweries using pumpkins in the beer making process, I contacted John J. Binder, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor, who wrote Al Capone’s Beer Wars in 2017.

He told me that in “that era I have no information that pumpkins were ever used in the process of brewing beer.  If pumpkins were part of a Halloween tradition for children or were used to make pie more generally in autumn in the early 1920s, there are simple answers to this question. This would then probably be…O’Bannion helping Torrio (or vice versa) to deliver pumpkins to the part of the city where he controlled the bootlegging to give/sell [to] the kiddies… Again, if they were working together in bootlegging they would have helped each other out with resources such as trucking…”

It is interesting that they would have found their way to Schaumburg Township to purchase pumpkins from Stratford Farms.  Given the Farm’s connection to the Stratford Hotel in Chicago, word must have somehow gotten around that the farm provided much of the produce for the hotel–and that it was plentiful.

Hence the Malt Maid truck.  And the result?  A chance for James Austin Bell to take the photo.  Given the fact that, per La Susa, “the company’s name was changed to Fort Dearborn Products Co. in 1925,” Malt Maid was indeed a short lived name.  Which makes it fairly incredible we have this amazing photo of their appearance in Schaumburg Township!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library





July 23, 2017

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


July 15, 2017

Join the Hoffman Estates Historical Sites Commission as they conduct tours of the Sunderlage Farmhouse at their annual open house.   Cookies and refreshments will be served.

In addition, the Schaumburg Township Historical Society is sponsoring the Sharon Kimble Ice Cream Social.  Come see how ice cream was made before we had Baskin Robbins or Dairy Queen.    If you enjoy socializing, learning about history and eating ice cream then stop by.  This is free but, as always, a donation will be accepted for the ice cream or our Raise the Flag Fund.

Take this opportunity to view this historical farmhouse and its National Register smokehouse, talk to the Civil War reenactors,  check out the cute animals and eat some delicious ice cream!

When:  Sunday, July 23, 2017 from 12-4 p.m.
Where:  Sunderlage Farmhouse at 1775 Vista Lane, Hoffman Estates


June 24, 2017

Surprises come in all shapes and sizes and this particular surprise came in the shape of the house pictured above.  Last December, Pat Barch, Hoffman Estates Historian, was contacted by Sue Gould, a local realtor, who was listing a home at 635 Lakeview Lane in Hoffman Estates.  According to the tax records she pulled, the home was built in 1879.  It is next to Lakeview School and the front of the house faces Evergreen Park and pond.  She wondered if we knew anything about it.  (Lakeview School is to the left in the photo below.)

The answer was no, we didn’t, because this house was a total surprise to us!  We know of only two houses in Parcel C that were here before the Hoffmans began development in the area.  One is the Hammerstein House on Illinois Boulevard that is now the Children’s Advocacy Center and the other is a private residence.

The realtor asked for a bit of background on the house so we got busy.  In looking at some of the old plat maps, Pat determined that the home was owned by the Bartels family.  I made a couple of calls and talked to Mr. Sporleder whose family farm backed up to the property.  He confirmed that, during his lifetime, the farm was first owned by Arthur Bartels and, later, by his son, Harvey Bartels.  He also mentioned that they lived in a big, two-story house.  Bingo.

In looking back at the many plat maps in our library’s collection, Arthur Bartels owned the property back to the 1920’s.  However, I suspected their ownership was earlier than that.  Mr. Bartels married Alma Hitzemann in 1915 at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Schaumburg.  An account of their wedding ran in the Palatine Enterprise and stated, “The happy couple were the recipients of many beautiful and useful presents and will start life under most favorable circumstances on the groom’s fine 160-acre farm, with good large buildings and everything to make them prosperous and happy.”  In fact, the obituary for Mrs. Bartels in 1945 confirms that, “after their marriage [they] made their home on their farm on Bode Rd. in Schaumburg twp.”

This clearly did not date the house though.  Prior to Mr. Bartels purchasing the property, the plat maps show that the farm was owned by the F. Gieseke family going back to 1861.  The property was split sometime in the following ten years and became two parcels, with houses built on both farms. (Note the fieldstones that make up the cellar walls of the house.)

According to the records collected by Larry Nerge, Friedrich or “Fred” Gieseke emigrated here in 1845 and died in 1891.   Friedrich or “Fred Jr.,” his son, died in 1911.  Both farms are listed on the maps under the name of F. Gieseke.  It’s a good possibility that the west farm passed from the Giesekes to the Bartels after Fred Jr. died in 1911.

Interestingly, Hattie Hitzemann, the sister of Mrs. Bartels, married William J. Gieseke who lived in another part of the township.  It is probably through Hattie and William that the Bartels heard that the Gieseke property was for sale.  Fred Gieseke Jr. was a first cousin to William’s father, Johann or “John” Gieseke.  So the property was kept in the family for all intents and purposes–though slightly removed from the direct line.

According to my contact, Mr. Sporleder, his best guess was that Harvey Bartels sold the property in the late 1950s.  The adjoining Gieseke property to the east had been sold in 1943 to Arthur and Dorothy Dalton Hammerstein.   After Arthur’s death in 1954, Dorothy sold the farm to the Hoffmans of F & S Construction.  It makes sense that the Bartels would have followed with a sale of their own farm in the next few years to F & S.

But the old Gieseke/Bartels house remained–as did the Gieseke/Hammerstein house.  For some reason F & S allowed both of them to stay in the midst of ongoing development. Somewhere along the line, though, the Gieseke/Bartels house dropped out of the local history consciousness.  Fortunately it resurfaced, thanks to Sue Gould’s attentiveness and concern.  And, just in time for Pat and me to take a look!

It was clear in the walk through that the house was added onto at some point.  There were two separate apartments with two separate kitchens and entrances.  Judging by the walls and the foundation in the cellar, it was also obvious here that at least one addition had occurred.  It is my feeling that the portion of the house in the middle and a fair portion on the east side, closest to Lakeview School, were the oldest parts of the house.  The chimney is another giveaway for that argument as is this bay in the center.  Notice the style of the trim around the window.

We are just grateful we were alerted to this piece of history we might have otherwise missed.  There are few farm houses left in Schaumburg Township and it was nice to have the opportunity to view this quiet masterpiece from days gone by.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library



May 28, 2017

About six years after Levy Mayer, a formidable Chicago attorney, and Edwin Meyer, his brother-in-law, bought the Stratford Hotel in 1907 at the corner of Jackson and Michigan in Chicago, they also bought a farm in rural Schaumburg Township.  The plan was to grow chickens, cows, pigs, produce, etc. to supply the restaurant in his hotel.   Rather than paying wholesalers for the items, the hotel would go right to the source.  Thus began Stratford Farms on Roselle Road in Schaumburg.

In October 2011 I wrote a blog posting about this farm and, even though it’s been 5 1/2 years, Sandra Nobles found the blog posting.

Amazingly enough, her great grandparents, James Austin and Florence Bell, managed the farm with their children for a period of time from 1917 to 1934.  Even more astounding, they took wonderful photos of the farm during the time they lived there.  We are fortunate that their daughter, Florence Catherine “Kate” Bell is sharing the photos with us.


Pictured below is one of the two houses on the farm.  The Bell family lived in this house.  Roselle Road can be seen in the middle of the photo.  Electricity had not yet come to Schaumburg Township so we can confirm that it is a telephone pole along the road.  According to Florence Catherine, they had both telephone service and running water in this house. They did not have generalized rural electric power on the farm until later in the 1920s.  In fact, Florence Catherine remembers them putting the poles in the ground.

Prior to that time, they had an engine that powered a battery.  Electricity was then derived from the battery.   Ice was sold at the “dairy” in Schaumburg Center.  (This was the Buttery, as we know it now.)  She also said that her mother did a lot of canning, including jellies.  Laundry was done on a washboard and was hung outside to dry.

There are a variety of outbuildings behind and to the right of the house.  And, clearly, the owners saw a strong need for water as they built their own water tower for the animals and the produce they raised.

This is a closer view of the farm’s buildings.  The other house on the farm is in the background of the photo.  The farmhands lived in this house.  According to Florence Catherine, one of the outbuildings had an engine that would power electricity for the building.  The building also had a nice concrete floor where the kids would roller skate around the support poles of the structure.  Notice the two figures posing for this photo on the catwalk that surrounds the water tower.  Irv Flaherty, their steady farmhand, is one of them.

This photo is taken from the front porch of the house on Roselle Road.  Imagine standing on Roselle Road at Hartford Drive today and looking east with nothing to impede your view.  That is what you see here.

In this photo you get an idea of the scope of produce the farm was growing for the hotel.

These were some of the pheasants raised for dining purposes for the hotel.

Here is another view of the countryside–and of a snazzy looking roadster–most likely owned by Mr. Edwin Francis Meyer.  (According to Florence Catherine, her sister, Edwina, was named for him.)  Again, the land and the view seem to stretch on forever.  Some of you car buffs may be able to determine what make and model this is.

The family made friends with people who lived near their farm.  One of the couples was Mr. and Mrs. Ode D. Jennings who had a 300-acre farm nearby.  The two ladies “would go shopping together” and “Pa and O.D. would talk and have (farm related) dealings.”  Another nearby friend was John Homeyer who had 40 acres that was encompassed by Stratford Farms on Wise Road.  He would bring his cows over every day to graze on the 40 acres and then bring them back to his farm to milk at night.

Her father also had farm dealings with Mr. Lengl of Lengl’s Schaumburg Inn.  Mr. Lengl raised pheasant, venison and squab that were served in the inn.  Possibly Stratford Farms provided some of the produce too?  In addition, her father’s services would be required when people from Chicago would come to the Inn and leave late at night, only to get their cars stuck in the ditches.  Mr. Bell would get a call and have to hitch up a team and pull them out.

James Austin Bell Sr. came from Ohio in 1917 and worked for Mr. Meyer at the Stratford Hotel, managing and tending bar.  His wife, Florence, and their young daughter, Florence Catherine “Kate”, came to Chicago in January 1918 after Florence Catherine’s birth.  They then moved to the farm and in January 1920 their twins, Edwina and James Austin, Jr. were born.  One year later, in October 1921, they had a son, John Robert.

In the photo below are, from left to right, Edwina, John Robert, Catherine and James Austin Jr.

The next photo is another scene of the Bell family.  The children from left to right are:  James Austin Jr., John Robert, Edwina and Catherine “Kate.”  Their mother, Florence, is holding John Robert, who is still fairly small.  This helps to place the time of the photo as 1922 or 1923.

This is a photo of Florence Catherine on the occasion of her birthday.  She has on a beautiful, sparkling clean dress and stockings with, what look to be, new shoes.  Edwina is standing on the grass and James Austin is sitting on the steps behind her.  Her mother appears to be standing in the house behind the screen door.

We are also treated to a photo of James Austin Jr. and Edwina dressed up in their very best too.  Maybe they are on their way to the Roselle United Methodist Church where the family attended services.

This is a more casual day.  From left to right are James Austin Jr., Florence Catherine “Kate”,  John Robert and Edwina.  Notice how they are dressed.  It was a carefree existence for the children and there was no reason to dress up.  Very seldom do we see photos of this type where children of this time period in Schaumburg Township are dressed in their every day garb.  This is a unique view.

This is a photo of the twins, Edwina and James Austin.  Irv Flaherty, one of the farmhands, is holding on to Edwina who certainly seems like a lively child!

James Austin Bell, Sr.  worked and played baseball for the Great Northern Hotel of Chicago before he went to work for the Stratford Hotel.  He must have continued to play Great Northern baseball even after working for Stratford Farms because, in this photo, he is dressed in his Great Northern baseball uniform.  Note the “G” and “N” intertwined on the front of his uniform.  One wonders if he drove a car to his games or took the train from Roselle into the city.  (According to Florence Catherine, her mother never drove and would catch a bus “at the end of the road.”

In 1930 the family is listed in the census with Florence being 12, Edwina and James Austin 10 and John Robert 8.  Ada and Fred Hafner, direct relatives of the Bells, are also listed with their children:  David 19, Daniel 18, Bethella 12, Paul 10 and Phillip 7.  By 1934 both families had moved on.  But, aren’t we lucky James Austin Bell Sr. took these marvelous photos when he did?  What an interesting perspective of everyday life on a busy farm in the twenties that, as Florence Catherine said, “was like a little city.”  Thank you to the extended Bell family for providing the photos!

To this day, we commemorate the heritage of Stratford Farms by the farm’s marker that can be found behind the Turret House.  In fact, you can see this same marker in the above photo that looks out to the east across Roselle Road.  According to Florence Catherine “Kate,” she and her siblings used to climb these posts and sit on them.  What a nice way to bring this story full circle!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

The photo of the Stratford Farms marker is used courtesy of the Village of Schaumburg. 


April 15, 2017

The Volkening Heritage Farm at the Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg invites you to participate in an introduction to  life  on an 1880s working farm in the springtime.

This family event features such activities as plowing, blacksmithing, laundering, gardening and butter churning.  Family members will be able to participate in many other activities such as handcrafts, games and hayrides.  Refreshments will be available.  Admission is $4 per person and $16 per family.  Children 3 and under are free.

April 23, 2017   12:00 – 4:00
Spring Valley Nature Center
1111 E. Schaumburg Road
Schaumburg, IL


March 5, 2017

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.


When developers saw the potential for building their suburban communities, they went about buying up the farms but not every farm fell to the wrecking ball and bulldozer.  The farm fields were laid out with curving streets and newly built homes but some of the old farm houses remained.  After several generations of life on the old homesteads, it was impossible for some of the farm families to see their homes torn down, so they choose to stay, selling their open fields and keeping life going in the family farmhouse.

We can still see the old farmhouses scattered within the village.  Only their unique appearance gives them away.  Few of us know their whereabouts.

One such farmhouse was recently discovered after I received an e-mail asking about its history.  After living in Hoffman Estates for the past 50 years, I’d never seen this old farmhouse yet it was about a half mile from my home.   Of course I had to drive to the address to see for myself.  The farmhouse was located on Lakeview Lane directly west of Lakeview School.  Due to restrictions for right turns onto Lakeview it was clear that I had never gone down this street before.

I learned that it was the Bartels farm house by looking at the old 1942 and 1954 farm plat maps and with help from Jane Rozek, Schaumburg Township Library Historian.  What a wonderful historical discovery.  It was so surprising that both Jane and I had no idea that this farmhouse still existed.  There are other old farmhouses in our village; some have been restored or repurposed.

The ones that come to mind are the Hammerstein Caretaker’s home on Abby Wood Dr. west of Conant High School, the Gieseke/Hammerstein farmhouse on Illinois Blvd., east of St. Hubert’s School (shown above), the Sunderlage farmhouse on Volid Drive (first photo below), the Vogelei farmhouse and barn on the northwest corner of  Higgins and Golf Roads and the Bergman Family’s farmhouse on the northwest corner of Ela and Algonquin Roads (second photo below.)



BergmanFarmhouseman2011 Pic 1

The farmers have moved on. Most have died but a few live on now into their 80s and 90s.   Many of their children remain to tell us the stories of growing up on the farms.  Over the years Jane Rozek and the Schaumburg Township District Library have saved those farmer’s stories for us to listen to long after their passing.

Many early residents, who lived on the edge of the newly developing village, still remember hearing the cows mooing out in the fields or the roasters crowing early in the morning.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian


October 1, 2016

What:  The Volkening Heritage Farm at Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary is sponsoring their annual Autumn Heritage Festival.  Step back in time and watch history come to life at Spring Valley’s most popular event! Experience life on an 1880s farm by helping with the harvest, cooking over the woodstove or squeezing fresh apple cider. Relive the adventure of the Illinois frontier at an authentic pioneer encampment near the log cabin. The day will include historical demonstrations, children’s crafts, haywagon shuttle, live music and a variety of tasty fall foods.

When:  Sunday, October 2, 2016 Noon to 5 p.m.

Where:  Volkening Heritage Farm.  Parking is available at the Nature Center on Schaumburg Road and off Plum Grove Road across from Heritage Farm.
Charge:  Cost is $4 per person and $16 per family. Children 3 and under are free.

Info:  Call (847) 985-2100 for more information.