Archive for the ‘Farms’ Category

WILL THE REAL WAYNE KING PLEASE STAND UP?

July 31, 2016

To Tell The Truth is a television game show that began in 1956.  It featured a panel of four celebrities who, through the questions they asked, tried to determine the correct identification of one of the three guests who was appearing because of their unusual occupation or because of an interesting experience they had had.  The two impostors could lie if they wanted but the real celebrity was required “to tell the truth.”

The show aired in the evening on prime time television and, two years into their run on Tuesday, January 14, 1958, Wayne King, “The Waltz King” appeared.

Wayne King was a nationally known orchestra leader who was renowned for his saxophone playing and the waltzes his orchestra performed.  The orchestra had a Chicago-based radio show and television show at various times after World War II but was most renowned for their performances at the famous Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.  In fact, his orchestra performed “The Last Waltz You Save For Me” on the final day of the Aragon’s long run.  In addition, he put out a number of LPs highlighting his waltzing, orchestral sound.Wayne King 2

But, in Schaumburg Township, Mr. King was known personally.  He purchased a weekend, get-away farm along Roselle Road in August, 1951 where the Mennonite Church is today.  In fact, their barn-like church was the barn that housed his animal stock back in the day.

During his years here, Mr. King endeared himself to the people of Schaumburg Township with his quiet, unassuming ways.  A number of the oral historians on the library’s Local History Digital Archive speak fondly of him and remember him going to Lengl’s (now the Easy Street Pub) for a bite to eat and even serving as Master of Ceremonies at the Fall Dance Frolic at the Roselle Country Club (now the Schaumburg Golf Club.)

Mr. King sold the farm in 1957 and the following year appeared on “To Tell The Truth” to try and fool the panel made up of Polly Bergen, John Cameron Swayze, Kitty Carlisle and Hy Gardner.  You can watch it here on YouTube at 15:56.  See if you can tell who the real Wayne King is before the panel casts their vote!

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

THE BERGMAN FARM IN HOFFMAN ESTATES

February 14, 2016

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

BergmanFarmhouseman2011 Pic 1

 

The house has stood proudly at Ela & Algonquin Road since the turn of the century. Its white exterior is slowly graying due to peeling and weathered paint. The evergreens around the front porch have become overgrown and now hide the front of the home that Harold Bergman was born in 99 years ago. Whenever I’d visit Harold, I’d always find a small trail of tiny pieces of hay that he’d track up the stairs as he’d make his many daily trips to the barn when customers would come to pick up a load of hay.

Over the years, since the Cook County Forest Preserve purchased the Highland Dairy Farm’s 200 acres south of Algonquin Rd., the decision was made to continue farming the remaining 36 acres with a hay crop. It provided an excellent way of preventing erosion and a cash crop of top notch hay for the thoroughbred horses at Arlington Park Race Track and horse owners in the surrounding rural areas of Cook County. It helped pay the taxes and other expenses on the farm. But with increasing age, Harold’s family knew that although he was the oldest living farmer in Cook County to still farm his land, the time had come to sell what was left of the farm.

The land was sold to M&I Construction. They’re planning to build 81 single family homes on the farm property with half the homes in phase one and the remainder in phase two. It’s nice to know that the new development will be called Bergman Pointe and several of the streets will have Bergman family names.

BergmanFarm house2011 Pic 2

The 115 year old farmhouse still stands as it has for so many years but for how long?  The farmhouse is now in the hands of the Village of Hoffman Estates. Benjamin Historic Certification has determined that the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. It’s an early example of one of the few remaining four square farm houses in Illinois. Hoffman Estates would like to find a suitable owner who could save the farmhouse from the wrecking ball, which could occur in March, 2016 if no interested family or business can be found to rehab the farmhouse. The Village of Hoffman Estates, Benjamin Historic Certification and Landmarks Illinois are all working together in an effort to save Harold’s home.

Remembering my visits to the farm, I recall the beautiful wood, perhaps cherry, that framed the doorways and windows in the first floor dining room along with the built in china cabinet that housed the good china and linens. There are two front parlors, old wooden floors and pocket doors that take you back to an earlier time when the front parlors greeted special guests on special occasions. Each parlor has a separate door to the front porch, an unusual feature not found on many four square farmhouses. I always wanted to live in a house like this but my time is past for such dreams.

We’re all hoping that a family or business can be found who’ll make this their new home before the March deadline for demolition.

For more information about the farmhouse visit the special website at http://www.hoffmanestates.org/bergman or visit Landmarks.org

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
Eagle2064@comcast.net

(The photo above is courtesy of Landmarks Illinois.)

THE THISTLE COMMISSIONER OF SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

November 22, 2015

thistle 2

 

See that purple ball in the middle of the photo?  It’s on the edge of a corn field and is really a beautiful little plant.  But, then, most weeds are.  It’s a thistle and is one of many varieties in the United States.  Thistles are considered a problem plant and can be difficult to control.  In fact, they were so rampant in Illinois in the early 1900s that many counties–including Cook–created a post in their township governments for Thistle Commissioner.

It was the job of the commissioner to make sure the farmers and landowners kept their thistles and other “noxious weeds” under control.  When one farmer let the situation get out of hand, the weeds could wreak havoc on neighboring farms.  Thus, the Thistle Commissioner would tour the township’s roads, take note of large infestations and notify the offending landowner.  If they failed to comply, a crew would be hired to take care of the problem and the bill would be handed over to the landowner.  Obviously, it would be in the farmer’s best interest to stay on top of the situation and keep his fields clean.

According to Schaumburg Township Officials 1850 to Present, compiled by L.S. Valentine, the first mention of a Thistle Commissioner for Schaumburg Township was in 1915 when Fred Springinsguth took on the job.  By 1924, August Geistfeld had the job and was being paid $5 a day to make sure the fields, pastures and roadsides were tidy.  Others followed in their footsteps over the years.

Walter Fraas, who lived in the south side of the Township served in the 1940s and, according to his son, Donald, took the job very seriously.  Below is a letter he would send out to offending landowners.

Fraas letter

 

The task of actually controlling the thistles often fell to the farmer’s children and they did NOT like the job.  In her oral history on the library’s Local History Digital Archive, Esther Mensching spoke of how her father would send them out to the field, clad in leather gloves, and they would pull the plants by hand.  The thick, impermeable gloves prevented them from being stuck by the thistle’s spines.

It was necessary to do the job before the plants flowered and after a rain when pulling the taproot was easier.  As the thistles were yanked, they were thrown on the field.  The children moved through the fields, row by row, from 8:00 to noon, taking an hour or so for lunch and then returning until 4:30 when it was time to come back in for the milking.  This was not a job for the faint of heart!

The Thiemanns spoke in their oral history about each person taking 2-4 rows in the corn and oat fields and tackling the thistles with a hoe.  The intent was to get to the thistles by the time the corn was 3-4 feet high and the oats were around a foot high.  They, too, disliked the hot, sweaty, boring job.  Their job, however, didn’t end with the fields because they would also use a scythe to cut down the thistles and all other weeds in the fence rows.

In yet another oral history, Mary Lou (Link) Reynolds, daughter of Adolph and Estelle Link, talked about how her father lost his job as a commercial artist in Chicago during the Depression.  Through a friend, he obtained free housing on Minna Redeker’s farm (now Spring Valley) in exchange for keeping the thistles under control on the property.  It was obviously a win/win situation for both landlord and tenant at a difficult time, but it is also clear that thistles were a difficult issue for the farmers of Schaumburg Township.

Due to continuing infestations, the office of Thistle Commissioner remained in effect until the early 1970s.   Around 1972 Cook County eliminated the position and turned the job’s responsibility over to the Highway Department.  By that time development in the township was beginning to overtake the farm fields that were left and the job became obsolete.  Thistles, though, are still considered “noxious weeds” and if you come across any in your yard, just take your leather gloves or hoe to them.  It’s a lesson learned from yesterday’s farmers!

 

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

 

 

 

AN AUCTION AT THE BERGMAN FARM

August 30, 2015

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

Farm-Auction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
Eagle2064@comcast.net

(The photo is from Saturday Evening Post.)

LOOKING FOR A FARM PHOTO FROM HOFFMAN ESTATES

August 31, 2014

Did you by chance live in Parcel C in early Hoffman Estates?  In the early 1960s?  Barn graphic

Daniel Sedory, one of the blog readers, and I are looking for a photo of the barn that still stood at that time just north of Alcoa Lane.  It was probably part of the Heide farm.  Or, if you want to go further back and are part of our German farm families, it might possibly be part of the Linnenkohl or Wille property.

Daniel was your average, curious boy at the time and even found this part of a German Lutheran paper while poking around in the barn.

Der Lutheraner

If your family lived on Alcoa–or even north of Golf Road on Amhurst Lane or Cambridge Lane–and you may have taken a picture from your backyard looking towards that barn, we would love to hear about it.  Maybe you had a pool set up in the backyard or were having a birthday party or family gathering and that barn was in the background?  Or, maybe you were taking pictures of your first, brand new home and wanted to proudly share the photos with family?  Or it could be possible you’re a Heide, Linnenkohl or Wille descendant and have some of the family photos of the old homeplace.

If any of these situations are the case and you’re willing to share the photo(s) with us, you can contact me at jrozek@stdl.org or 847-923-3331.  We appreciate any assistance you can give us!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian

WHEN THE SETTLERS CAME TO SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

May 25, 2014

How did the farmers come to settle in Schaumburg Township? Our early pioneers had varying reasons for coming to the “New World”. There were so many unsettling events in Europe that many came to find a better life and an opportunity to own land and provide for their families.settlers 2

In Germany, there always seemed to be one kind of conflict after another. The younger generation didn’t want to serve in the military as many of their ancestors had. Having land of their own was also a problem. A father could only leave land to his oldest son, or he could divide his land, giving smaller and smaller parcels to the other sons. There wasn’t much land to divide after several generations had worked it for decades. Brothers would work together or would decide that there was no longer a life for them in their village. For these reasons, many traveled to the United States in the hopes of buying land that was being offered by the government for $1.50 an acre.

After many years of fighting the Indians for control of their land, the federal government decided that the “Indian problem” needed to be solved. Thomas Jefferson had taken part in plans to move the Indians out of territory the U.S. wanted to settle, as early as 1803. It wasn’t until President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 that the men and women came to settle the lands vacated by the Indian tribes.

Not only Germans came, but early settlers from the east coast decided to move further west to start farms all across the Midwest and western portions of the U.S. Many came from other countries in Europe. They traveled by ox cart, and by boat. When the great potato famine hit Ireland between 1845 and 1851, people were starving to death and they fled to the U.S. in large numbers looking for a way to work and raise their families.

The land was calling to all of them. The price was affordable and they came to this area of Schaumburg Township to settle with their families on rich farm land with water and scenery that reminded them of home.town square statues

They raised cattle, sheep, hogs, and planted crops to feed them. They had chickens, ducks and geese. Gardens were planted with all the produce they needed for the winter months. Fruit trees were planted and bee hives were set out in the orchards. The smoke house was built and life was good. This was what they had come here for.

They all moved on with the development of Hoffman Estates and other surrounding villages. The rural way of live was over. A new generation was buying homes and raising their families. We still have farms but they’re further west. Everyone seems to continue to move to find a better way of life.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
Eagle2064@comcast.net

THE HUNT FOR THE BOEGER/REDEKER FARMHOUSE

March 23, 2014

The Volkening Heritage Farm is on the hunt.  They are trying to track down a good photo of the Boeger/Redeker family farmhouse that used to exist on their property.  They don’t know that it exists but it’s entirely possible.  Maybe someone can help, because the story goes something like this…

After Johann Boeger came to the United States from Germany, he made his way to what would be Schaumburg Township and purchased his parcels of land from the United States government between the years 1845 and 1848.  The property is located on the southeast corner of Plum Grove and Schaumburg Roads.

He couldn’t have known that, almost 170 years later, the bulk of his property would remain true to its roots.  The original prairie he encountered is now a nature sanctuary and the farm he built is now a working, living farm.  Today, we know the farm as the Volkening Heritage Farm and it is located on the Spring Valley property.  Both entities are part of the Schaumburg Park District.

In the years after Mr. Boeger arrived, he built two homes for his family.  House #1 was built in the 1850s and is the small farmhouse that is there today.  House #2, the house that we are looking for, was built in the 1860s.  One photo of House #2 in its heyday exists but it is faded and, as you can see, the house is somewhat hidden in a copse of trees.Redeker house 1

This house stood for over a hundred years.  It is thought that a separate wing was added on at one point.  Eventually, though, the house was handed down to Mr. Boeger’s great-grandson, Herman Redeker.  As Spring Valley was being formed and land was being purchased in the late 1970s, Mr. Redeker was concerned about the well-being of the house, even though it had fallen into serious disrepair.  That is evident in this photo from the July 26, 1974 issue of The Herald.  Redeker house 2

Mr.Redeker eventually negotiated a deal in 1976 with the Arlington Heights Park District.  They dismantled the house piece by piece with the intent to rebuild it at Pioneer Park.  Unfortunately, that plan never came to fruition.

Today, the Heritage Farm would love to have a good, working photo of this missing house.  Maybe it’s a picture of the house all by itself.  Or, maybe it’s like a number of photos of this period where the Boegers had a picture of their family taken in front of the house.  If you can help, please contact Patricia Kennedy at the Volkening Heritage Farm.  It would be most appreciated!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

SCHAUMBURG OF MY ANCESTORS

March 17, 2013

LaVonne's bookIt doesn’t happen very often that new books are written about the history of Schaumburg Township.   When it does, it is necessary to relay the good news.

Local resident, LaVonne Thies Presley has written a detailed account called Schaumburg Of My Ancestors in which she explores the history of the farm where her father grew up and lived during the early part of the twentieth century.  As a descendant of this German family who homesteaded and farmed our rural township, LaVonne’s devotion to our history is constant and passionate–a gift she received from her parents.

The 281-page book begins with the arrival of her paternal great grandparents, Friedrich and Maria (Pollworth) Thies, to Schaumburg Township around 1870.  The land they purchased and farmed was along Meacham Road, directly to the west of today’s Route 53 where the WGN tower now stands.  Heinrich, one of their five children, married Sophie Fedderke and they eventually purchased half of the family farm and began their own family.  It is this family and their farm upon which this book is based.

With the births of their five children–Henry, Clara, William, Emma and Alvina–the young parents worked hard to not only sustain themselves but to create additional income as well.  Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Heinrich died of heart failure after nearly 10 years of marriage at the age of 45.   Until her sons were old enough, the farm was worked by others while Sophie and her children lived nearby.  Around 1908, the family moved back and went about the business of making the farm a success.   Thus begins a fascinating account of the myriad details that were involved in running a farm and household and what it was to live in rural Schaumburg Township during the first half of the twentieth century.

We are introduced to the crops and foods that were grown, the animals that were raised, and the styles of farming used.  Water, wells, wood, shopping, banking, fire protection, roads, mail, newspapers, magazines and radio are just some of the topics that are covered.  In addition, we are treated to very complete chapters on attending St. Peter Lutheran Church as well as a history of the five original public schools of Schaumburg Township.  These details are enhanced by a wonderful array of photos and papers saved  by the family over the years.  It is truly a wonderfully complete look at life in our township long before suburban life moved in.

In 2002 LaVonne wrote her first book, A Schaumburg Farm, 1935-1964, which was an account of the Wiese (Wise) Road farm her parents owned for nearly three decades.  It is where LaVonne grew up and where every memory remains acute.  As the only child of her parents, William and Clara Thies (she also had an older, half-brother named Ray), she was the focus of a devoted couple who were sustained by the land they farmed and loved.   According to LaVonne, her father was a true conversationalist whose stories and memories provide many of the details for Schaumburg of My Ancestors.   His life on the Meacham Road farm and then on Wiese Road gave him and his daughter a lifelong zeal for farming, family and the land that was the constant in their lives.   This book is dedicated in his honor.

Copies of the book are available in the Schaumburg Township District Library’s Local History Collection.  You may either reserve it online through our catalog or call the Reference Desk at 847-923-3322.  Copies are also available for purchase at the Schaumburg Village Hall, Prairie Center for the Arts and the Volkening Heritage Farm Visitor’s Center.  The price is $20. 

FROM SUNDERLAGE TO STEINMEYER: A FARM AT BUTTERMILK CORNERS

December 30, 2012

For nearly 50 years, the name William Sunderlage appears in the upper left portion of the Schaumburg Township plat maps.  From as far back as the 1871 map, you can find that name straddling both sides of Higgins Road.  It is not until the 1926 map that the name changes.

Old Higgins RoadWilliam and his wife, Wilhelmine (Humbrecht) Sunderlage  had five children and lived in the area.  According to family lore, William and Wilhelmine gave and/or sold the land to their daughter, Emma, who married Herman Steinmeyer in 1897. For those of you who have been in the Schaumburg Township area for a number of years, you may recall this farm that sat off of Barrington Road down Old Higgins Road.  It was across Barrington Road from the entrance to Cook County Forest Preserve’s Barrington Road Pond.  For many years, this small crossroads was called Buttermilk Corners.  The photo above is Old Higgins Road looking east towards the farm.

Emma was born in 1875 and Herman, also a native of Schaumburg Township, was born in 1867.  They married in late 1897.  It is stated in a Sun-Times article from February 16, 1975 that  the Sunderlage land officially switched hands to the Steinmeyers around 1900.  Steinmeyer house (original)

Emma and Herman raised their children, Edwin, Caroline, George, Amanda and Ester on this property.  The house to the right is where they lived during the time most of their five children were born.  In 1905 they built the large, two-story, white farmhouse that was obvious from Barrington Road.  It “was surrounded by two barns, a hog pen, a smokehouse and a sprawling 1-acre garden that included berry bushes, fruit and nut trees and several bee hives.  It was notable for its custom design which included twin front doors installed for easy ingress and egress for funerals.”  (Pioneer Local; September 1, 2005)  The photo below shows this large house in all its glory.  It must have been amazing to go from four rooms to this large, beautiful home.Steinmeyer house

The farm was approximately 81 acres and served the family for many years.  Edwin, Caroline and George never married and continued the farming tradition well after most of the other farmers had sold off and left the area.  Because of their unique situation, George was interviewed a number of times.   According to the Sun-Times article, he eventually “sold 50 acres to a developer, continuing to rent 23 acres back on a year-to-year basis.”  This is confirmed in a Chicago Tribune article from October 6, 1974 where it is mentioned that he sold the property “nine years ago,” i.e. 1969.  “He made enough money…to buy a 156-acre farm north of Sycamore in DeKalb County.”  Left with 31 acres in Schaumburg Township, he continued to raise steers and do grain farming.

Eventually age got the best of George and his siblings and it became necessary to move off the farm.  The farm remained in the family until the late 1990s when the property was acquired by the hospital next door.  The large house, built by Emma and Herman, mysteriously burned down in 2003.  The other buildings—including the barns and the original house—were still in existence as of the Pioneer Local article of 2005.  They have since been torn down and the property is vacant, waiting for future development.  Old Higgins Road is still in existence.  If you turn off of Barrington Road, you will cross a small branch of Poplar Creek and proceed east about 1/4 mile.  On the right is the Steinmayer home place.  With perseverance and love of the land, the farm remained in family hands far longer than any other farm in this portion of Hoffman Estates.Poplar Creek branch

Tune in next week for a continuation of the Steinmeyer’s story at Buttermilk Corners…

[Information for this posting was also provided by an oral history with Ester (Steinmeyer) Bierman and another history with her son, Jon, and daughter, Judy.]

[The photos were provided compliments of Pat Barch, Hoffman Estates Historian.]

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

SPRING VALLEY AND THE MERKLE FAMILY WHO LIVED THERE; PART THREE

November 18, 2012

Continued from last week, this is a portion of a biography, written by William Merkle.  The book is about his parents and is titled Frank and Leona.  It is a portion from the chapter he wrote about their family’s ownership of an 80-acre parcel in Schaumburg Township.  That parcel is now part of the Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary.

“Mom was like Killer Joe Garson behind the wheel.  We would race against the clock to get from Leicester Road to the farm.  The roads were not great, mostly two lanes, but not cluttered with traffic or stoplights.  Mom took a slide-through approach to stop signs and barely skipped a beat.  Our best time was twenty-two minutes, and we rarely needed more than a half hour.  Today, even with a network of throughways and four lanes, it takes more than forty-five minutes.

I was eager to learn to drive.  Dad taught me and let me practice on the farm lanes.  He let me lean in front of him and steer to begin with.  My driving had a practical side; it became possible for me to operate the tractor.  I soon became the undisputed master of the lawn cutting operation using the big sicklebar attachment on the side.  Though big for my age, it was all I could do to pull up the bar to avoid rocks and stumps.  At the ripe old age of eleven, Mom would let me drive her to Schaumburg on errands.

Because no one lived full time at the farm during those early years, we kept no animals there.  However, a set of three white geese were purchased and they lived independently on the large pond and gave a lovely smooth paddling touch to the place.  We learned quickly that they were not pets, rather that they could chase after us and snap.  To be admired from a distance.  On the other hand, Leona loved them and brought them corn to eat at the edge of the pond.  When they saw her coming, they’d skim over to her, honk happily, and get to work on the corn.

One year while burning off the peony fields in the Fall, a strong wind came up, and started blowing sparks to threaten nearby fields.  Dad raced into the house, called the Roselle Fire Department, and within an amazingly few minutes, about fifteen men showed up in cars and a firetruck.  The Chief approached Dad with a clipboard and offered on of the most convincing sales pitches we ever heard.  With the fire tearing through a nearby oat field, and the embers heating the soles of our shoes, Dad was asked:  “Would you like to join the Fireman’s Association?  We can’t offer our help unless you sign this application form.”  Dad couldn’t grab that pen fast enough.  After a hasty signature, the Chief nodded and those mostly volunteer firement unbundled from their vehicles and began beating the flames with thirty inch square rubber flaps mounted on broomsticks.  Working systematically and a bit furiously, they had the fire out in just a few minutes.  Sheer relief after imagining the whole county going up in the Great Merkle Fire.

Mom and Dad wanted to live full time at the farm.  They hired an architect friend to draw up plans to add wings onto the cabin–one for bedrooms and baths, and one for kitchen, utilities, and garage.  The design was creative and charming, very much in keeping with the cabin and its setting.  Sadly, these hopes were destined not to be fulfilled.  In 1946, Dad built the bare boned kitchen and bath brick addition, which served his needs but was a far cry from what they had planned together.

The eighty acre farm was taken by eminent domain by the Town of Schaumburg and is now the largest section, over 60%, of the new ‘Spring Valley Nature Center.’  It was a real loss to the family, which might have, for example, developed the land into fifteen 4 acres luxury building lots.  For the family it will remain a great Memorial to Frank and Leona Merkle.”

Excerpted from Frank and Leona by William Merkle.  2012.  Reprinted here with his gracious permission.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library