Archive for the ‘Farms’ Category

SUNDERLAGE FARMHOUSE OPEN HOUSE & STHS SHARON KIMBLE ICE CREAM SOCIAL

July 14, 2018

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, and eat some delicious ice cream!

When:  Sunday, July 22, 2018 from 1-4 p.m.
Where:  Sunderlage Farmhouse at 1775 Vista Lane, Hoffman Estates

THE SECOND KERN BROTHER COMES TO SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

July 1, 2018

A few years after moving to Schaumburg Township, M.A. Kern learned the two farms south of his acreage on Meacham Road were for sale.  Having dived into the local horse racing world, he and his brother, L.D. must have been immediately interested in the adjoining property.  The Herman Fasse estate had recently sold the parcels to Mansell F. Grimes in December 1935 and March 1936.  A month later, on April 23, 1936, in an advantageous transaction, Mr. Grimes sold the two farms comprising 420 acres, to L.D. and his wife, Dorothy.

L.D. was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1890.  By World War I, he was living in Watseka, IL with his parents and brother.  He was a lawyer and was employed as an assistant state’s attorney for Iroquois County and as the attorney for the city of Watseka.  During the war he served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

After his service, he returned to Watseka where he met his wife, Dorothy.  They married in the 1920s and during that decade moved to Chicago, where he was part owner of Alliance Life Insurance with his brother.  By the 1930 census they were living in Lake Shore Towers with their one-year old son, Joe.   When they purchased the Schaumburg Township farms five years later, they were living in Highland Park and had three more sons, Jack, Jim and Jerry.  

Shortly after the purchase, L.D. and Dorothy enlisted the services of Paul Schweikher, a young, up and coming architect from Chicago, to give them some ideas about the farmhouse on their new property.  This was the farm due south of M.A. Kern’s Lexington Saddle Farm, on the southeast corner of Meacham and Higgins Road.

Though we are not sure how the Kerns knew Schweikher, it is the guess of their son, Jerry, that it could have been a referral from a friend or acquaintance.  As the story goes, Schweikher walked through the house shown above, stepped outside and took in the immense barn that was nearby.  Quite likely intrigued at the prospect, he agreed to transform the barn into a large house and garage for the Kerns.

Working in tandem with Emil Sporleder, a local contractor who also built M.A. Kern’s house, they began the process of stabilizing the barn so that it could accomodate the structure of a house.  This 12×12 oak beam, tapered peg apparatus was put together, separate from the barn and then moved into the barn.  (Notice in the photo below that the structure sits on runners.  Was it pulled into the barn?)  Jerry Kern says his father called it the “super structure” that held the barn/house together.

When finished, the house looked like the rendering at the top of this blog posting.  It had a ground level which the family used as both a basement and three-car garage.  (This was formerly where the Fasses used to milk their cows.)  The first floor was the main living floor and consisted of the kitchen, laundry area, living room, dining room and two bedrooms, as well as a large porch on the back of the house.  The second floor was the family’s personal floor with six bedrooms and another porch that was often used as a sleeping porch in the summer.  The third floor had one bedroom and a storage area.  There were also six bathrooms scattered throughout the house.

The house was not directly visible from graveled Meacham Road because it was situated at the end of a long lane.  It faced west and only certain angles could be seen from the road.  According to his son, L.D. loved trees and planted many leading up to and surrounding the house, including an apple orchard in the center of the property.

L.D. and Dorothy loved Schweikher’s renovation when it was completed in December 1936, and Jerry Kern described it as “probably the greatest place to grow up.”  The four Kern boys had at their disposal a ball field, the orchard and a picnic area with an outdoor fireplace that was built by their father.  You can see two of the three on the aerial photo of the farm that Mr. Kern provided.

Not only did L.D. provide a wonderful space for his family, he also had a small cottage built for his mother, Caddie Kern, so that she could live in her own home, yet still be connected to the family.  The cottage could be found tucked in the trees on the north side of the main house.  (Caddie died on the farm in 1945 and the cottage was later used by the older Kern sons when they came back to the farm for visits.)

The Kerns named their estate Willowbrook Farm and, with the redesign of the barn, it became necessary to build a new one for the property.  You can see that barn in the bottom left of the aerial photo.  Between it and the big house was a small house for the farm workers that Kern also put in place.  One of these workers was a handyman named Frank Kappa who was not comfortable with mechanized equipment.  He accomplished all of his work with the assistance of Belgian draft horses.  Jerry Kern described him as “honest and hard working.”  Kappa did not drive so L.D. picked him up every Monday from his home in the central part of the township.  He then stayed on the farm all week, working diligently until Friday afternoon when L.D. brought him home.

Farm work was also done on the former Redeker property that the Kerns purchased.  This land remained as it was and was farmed through most of the Kern’s stay by the Arthur Pierce family.  They lived in the house on the property and worked both farms.  Their sons, “Red” and Eugene, assisted their father.

The Kerns relished their house and farm life through the war years, with the boys attending one-room schools in Schaumburg Township.  Later their father drove them to Arlington Heights to attend elementary school and Arlington Heights High School.

In 1949 M.A. and L.D. Kern sold Alliance Life Insurance Company to Republic National Life Insurance Company of Dallas.  While M.A. stayed in the area for a few years, L.D. and Dorothy moved their family to Florida.  After the move, the Kerns enjoyed another decade together until L.D. died in 1959 at the age of 69.  The magnificent house and property that they left behind was sold in 1955 to the Bob and Maggie Atcher family who enjoyed the property just as much.  They lived there until the house regretfully burned to the ground in 1963.

The Kern brothers, however, had left their mark on the township through their beautiful houses and farms.  They made use of local, skilled labor in farming and building the many homes and buildings on their properties.  L.D. and Dorothy Kern’s children attended local schools.  The families also socialized with others in the township like the Hammersteins, the Wileys and the Brachs.  And, let’s not forget that their horse business utilized all that Arlington Racetrack had to offer.  Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if that magnificent barn/house were still here?  It would be another unique and lovely addition to the historical homes surviving in Schaumburg.

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

I would like to thank Jerry Kern for being so willing to share his family’s photos with the library and his memories of their time in Schaumburg Township.  He was a fountain of knowledge and very eager to make sure all of the details were correct.  The blog postings on both of the Kern brothers would not have been nearly as complete without his help!

Also, it was L.D. and Dorothy who were fortuitous in bringing Paul Schweikher, the architect, to Schaumburg Township.  He, in turn, took note of the lovely surroundings and, either as in kind payment for the work he did or with a minimal purchase, obtained 7 acres south of Salt Creek with his wife, Dorothy, and erected their own home on Meacham Road.  You can read about that transaction in next week’s blog posting.

The drawing of the Kern house was done with permission from the Chicago History Museum who owns the rights to the original photo.

    

 

 

THE FIRST KERN BROTHER COMES TO SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

June 24, 2018

It was horses that drew Murrel A. Kern to Schaumburg Township.

President and owner of Chicago-based Alliance Life Insurance Co., Kern had an initial interest in raising Tennessee Walking Horses, which are a type of show horse.  Desirous of a spread that was in an easy to reach location, and with enough potential to turn it into the showplace he had in mind, he found the perfect spot on the southeast corner of Higgins and Meacham Roads.  As a result, in 1928, Kern purchased the 175-acre Louis Kastning farm and began transforming the property into a farm that he and his brother, L.D. hoped would rival the horse farms of Kentucky.  [Cook County Herald, November 16, 1928]  They even named it Lexbrook Stables after Lexington, Kentucky, horse capital of the country.

M.A. Kern and his brother, Lowell or L.D., were born to James W and Caddie Kern.  M.A. was the older of the two and was born in 1888 in Goodland, Indiana.  His brother was born two years later in 1890 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  By the 1900 census, the family was living in Watseka, Illinois and James was working as an attorney.  Per his grandson, Jerry Kern, James eventually became the Iroquois County States Attorney.

In the 1910 census M.A. was listed as an artist and illustrator and living as a lodger in Chicago.  That profession did not last long because, at some point, Mr. Kern started the National Insurance Co. of Sioux Falls, SD. and later, on June 20, 1925, he incorporated Life and Casualty Co. of Chicago.  The name was changed to Alliance Life Insurance Co. on October 4, 1934 when they reinsured the Peoria Life Insurance Co. and acquired this building in Peoria. [Credit to the phorio.com website for this current photo.]

The company also operated on the top three floors of the building at 750 N. Michigan in Chicago.  The two brothers had their offices in that location.

Despite the fact that he would need to commute to the city from Schaumburg, M.A. was eager to build a new house on the property that would impress others in the local horse establishment.  He also had a new wife named Virginia who, according to his nephew, Jerry, “was a true Southern belle” and who M.A. wanted involved in the construction plans.  They proceeded to hire a local builder named Emil Sporleder to construct a large, 7000 square foot, three story mansion in the antebellum, Neo-classical style, complete with white siding and two-story pillars in the front.  It was complemented by a long, tree-lined drive off of Higgins Road that ended in a T at a circular drive that took guests to the back of the house.  In this picture from the pamphlet, Schaumburg:  A Walking Tour of Historic and Architectural Landmarks, you get an idea of the size and scope of the front of the house.

The house was completed sometime in the early 1930s.  M.A. continued to improve the farm buildings as well.  By the late 1930s the Kern brothers had branched out into thoroughbred racing and were entering their horses at racing venues around the country such as Hialeaha and Arlington.  As a result, M.A. had both a racehorse stable and a saddle horse barn on the property.   The stable was original to the farm and was vastly enlarged and renovated according to M.A.’s nephew.

Cows and steers were also part of the farm as were fields of grain and hay.  Interestingly, there were two tracks on the property.  One was in the stable and the other was at the southern edge of the farm.  The farm was encompassed by 5 1/2 miles of white board fencing, also designed to mimic Kentucky.  In a portion of the 1953 Palatine quadrangle topographic map, you can see the long straight drive off of Higgins Road that merges into the circular drive near the house.  Directly below that is the racing oval that they used to stretch the horses and as a site for horse shows that were held at the farm for the horse community.

Different accounts in the Cook County Herald, track some of the success the Kern brothers had at racing.  A July 21, 1939 article mentions that several of their more recent winners at Arlington Park were Bucket Head, Mars Man, Silver Kiev and Imperial Scout.  An even more exciting article from March 15, 1940 mentions that the Lexbrook Stable of L.D. Kern, whose farm was directly adjacent to the south, would be entering two horses, Designer and Potranco, in the Kentucky Derby.  They weren’t winners but it was quite a local achievement.

M.A.’s nephew recalls that there were three key employees who worked for the Kern brothers on the farm.  Al Bodiou was their jockey and Leonard Wilson was their trainer.  Albert Brown, followed by George Poirier, served as their farm managers.  Poirier was a man of many talents.  He could weld, work with machinery and did excellent wood work as well.

In 1949 the Kern brothers sold Alliance Life Insurance to Republic National Life Insurance of Dallas, Texas.  While L.D. retired from the insurance business, M.A. started another company called All American Life and Casualty based in Park Ridge, IL.  M.A. continued to live on his farm during the next few years until he suffered a heart attack in 1952.  He then moved to Florida where he died 18 months later on February 18, 1954 in Miami.

His wife, Virginia, inherited his estate and eventually sold the property to developers.  They created today’s Lexington Fields subdivision which was annexed by the Village of Schaumburg in 1959.  According to an ad in the Hoffman Herald of June 15, 1961, the developer had the home and 6 1/2 acres up for sale.  It was eventually purchased by Otis Schmidt.

M.A. Kern succeeded in creating the showplace he desired in rural Schaumburg Township.  It was horses that brought him to the area and horses and family that kept him here.  What an amazing and unique sight his house and farm must have been for those who found themselves tooling down Higgins Road in the 1940s.  They must have thought they were in Kentucky.

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

Next week, look for the story of the L.D. Kern farm that sat south of his brother’s on Meacham Road.  

 

 

DOROTHY DALTON HAMMERSTEIN, THE SILENT FILM ACTRESS WHO CAME TO HOFFMAN ESTATES

June 17, 2018

She was an actress in Chicago stock companies in 1910.  She moved to Hollywood to become a silent film star in 1914 and starred in over 50 silent films and co-starred with greats such as Rudolph Valentino and William S. Hart. She has a star on the Grauman Theater Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She was the Ingrid Bergman of her day.  In 1924, she married Arthur Hammerstein, the uncle of Oscar Hammerstein II and became Dorothy Dalton Hammerstein.  (The Hammersteins are on the left in the photo below.)

Dorothy retired from films when she married Arthur and never returned to her busy life in Hollywood.  She was destined to fulfill her lifelong desire to live on a farm.  That farm would be located in what would be the future Village of Hoffman Estates.

In 1943 she and Arthur purchased the Gieseke Farm, located just south of Bode Rd. and west of Roselle Rd, from John and Edwin Gieseke.  They called the farm Cardoa Farm.

Anton Remenih , reporter for the Chicago Daily Tribune,  interviewed Dorothy and Arthur in their unassumingly  simple yet cozy farm living room.  It was Aug., 11 1946, a busy time on the Hammerstein farm.  Dorothy was raising a herd of prized Holsteins and Duroc Jersey hogs.  “Dorothy was content.”  But Arthur said “It is I who named the place Headacres.  This is “Mrs. Hammerstein’s project” he said. He would have much preferred to be back working on Broadway.  Having been a successful writer of light opera on Broadway, he found it hard to be retired and living a quiet rural life.

Dorothy loved working with her beef and dairy herds.  Remenih reported that “She was also an accomplished equestrian and enjoyed riding her favorite mount Star.”  Dorothy always rode Star as she inspected the 275 acre farm.”

Dorothy enjoyed remodeling their 100 year old farm from a small house to a 5 bedroom, 7 bath home with servant quarters and surprisingly, a kitchen in the basement along with the wine cellar.  She brought along her lifetime collection of antiques as well as autographed pictures of Victor Herbert and others who starred with her during her silent movie career.

In addition to remodeling the farmhouse, Dorothy and Arthur added several barns and new silos to house and feed the cattle, hogs and horses.  Feed for the animals were grown on their 275 acres.  It was a beautiful and well maintained farm that would soon be sold to F & S Construction upon the death of Arthur on October 12, 1955.  It had been just 12 short years that Dorothy had lived her dream of being a farmer.   She moved back to New York to be with family and friends until her death in April of 1972 at the age of 78.

The farm that Dorothy loved so would become our most historic piece of property–our first village hall, police department and public works department.  It is now the Children’s Advocacy Center on Illinois Blvd. in Parcel C.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
eagle2064@comcast.net

TWO FARMING GENTLEMEN OF HOFFMAN ESTATES

April 22, 2018

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

In the latter part of 2017, two of the gentleman that I enjoyed talking to and visiting passed away.  Harold Bergman and Vernon Frost won’t be able to tell me their stories about the farming world that they lived in.  I will greatly miss both of them.

Vernon loved to talk about his early years growing up on his parents’ farm that was located at Central and Ela Rd.  He lost his father at an early age and went to stay and work on his Grandmother’s farm that is now the Highland Golf Course and was right across Ela Rd. from his parent’s farm.  He and his mother moved to Palatine but he continued to earn some money by working on other relatives’ farms in the area.

He had stories of his days attending the Highland Grove School on Ela Rd. and how Harold Bergman was his confirmation teacher at St. John’s Church.

He loved tractors and could keep them repaired and running for the daily work in the farm fields.  He told stories about the farms that formed their harvesting circle that shared the large combines to get the crops into the barns and silos.  He was always there when I’d call him for confirmation of information I was trying to pull together about the farming days before development began with F & S Construction.

Harold Bergman was a special friend who was always willing to sit down at his kitchen table and share the stories of what it was like to grow up on his parent’s farm at Ela and Algonquin Rd.  I’d ask question after question about his daily routine as a young boy.  He seemed to love remembering back to those early days.  I learned so much.  He also shared pictures from his life on the farm.

He told how the cans of milk would be put into a large tub of well water to keep it at 55 degrees until the dairy came by for pick up each morning.  When there wasn’t enough wind to drive the wind mill and pump the well water into the tub, he told of the series of Delco batteries that powered the pumps as well as his farm house.  The batteries gave enough power to last until shortly after sunset.  When the house went dark, everyone would go to bed.   When electricity came down Algonquin Rd. in the mid 1930s, he recalled how excited his mom was because she’d buy a new refrigerator and get rid of that old ice box.  All the light bulbs in the house had to be changed with the new “off the line” power as they called it.  Harold recalled how expensive those new bulbs were.

Harold was the oldest farmer still farming in Cook County.  He retired at the age of 100 moving to live with his son.  He passed away in December of 2017 at the age of 102.

These two men helped save our farming history by sharing their stories and photos of a time long past. I’ll always fondly remember them and be grateful for the time I spent with them.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
eagle2064@comcast.net

Thank you to the family of Vernon Frost for providing the photo of him for his obituary and to the Daily Herald for the photo of Harold Bergman near his familiar farm house on Algonquin Road.  

THRESHING DAYS IN SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

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
jrozek@stdl.org

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.

A SELECTION OF FARM PAINTINGS OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

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
jrozek@stdl.org

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.

 

 

 

 

 

WHO WAS MALT MAID AND WHY WERE THEY PICKING UP PUMPKINS?

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
jrozek@stdl.org

 

 

 

THE BELL FAMILY ON STRATFORD FARMS: CHAPTER TWO

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
jrozek@stdl.org

AN UNKNOWN FARM HOUSE APPEARED RIGHT BEFORE OUR VERY EYES

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
jrozek@stdl.org