Monday, August 25, 2014

Dear friends and farmers,

As you know, Historic Wagner Farm stands as one of the few remaining farms in north suburban Cook County, Illinois. Though it's hard to imagine what the area looked like more than a hundred years ago, the Farm represents a large piece of Glenview's history. The Farm wasn't always 18.6 acres of land, surrounded by suburban homes and major roadways.

On Christmas Eve in 1855, Johann and Katharina Wagner arrived in the United States from their home in Weiler, Germany, which lies just west of Koblenz in the Rhineland. The Wagners eventually made their way to northern Illinois and settled in Gross Point (now Wilmette), an area that was heavily populated by German immigrants. The Wagners soon established their homestead on the south-east corner of Lake and Wagner Roads (what is now the fire station.)

By 1898, Johann Wagner owned approximately 91 acres: ten acres on the south-east corner of Lake and Wagner Road, 11 acres on the north-west corner of Lake and Wagner Road, 30 acres on the south-west corner of Harms and Lake Avenue, and 40 acres north of the present farm. However, the reach of the Wagners' property did not stop there.

Thomas Wagner and Julia Brachtendorf on their wedding day.

Johann and Katharina had ten children. In 1892, their youngest son, Thomas, married Julia Brachtendorf, whose family owned more than 40 acres of farmland in Northfield Township. Ten years after their marriage, in 1902, Thomas and Julia purchased the Hoffman farm on the north-west corner of Lake and Wagner Roads – now known as Historic Wagner Farm. At this time, the farm was 40 acres, extending west of the present-day farm. Thanks to the work and research of Carlin Horbal and Joyce Fardoux, we're able to see exactly how far these property lines extended in the maps below. Click on each map to enlarge it.

A view of the Wagner family farmland and the Brachtendorf family farmland during the late 1800s. (Johann Wagner is noted as John Wagner,  Sr.)

The same view of farmland owned in the late 1800s from a more modern perspective of Glenview.

The ownership of these properties changed and shifted over time. In 1898, Johann Wagner divided up his property between all of his children. Thomas Wagner inherited the 11 acres where the Greek Church now sits. The Brachtendorf land was divied up between Julia and her three siblings when Mary Brachtendorf passed away in 1927. However, the entirety of this land eventually was passed on to the Wagner family when Lucy Brachtendorf (Julia's sister) passed away in the 1950s and left the family's land to Pete Wagner (Julia's son). Pete sold off 9 acres for local residents to establish St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church and school. The remainder of this large property was taken over by the Northfield Park District through eminent domain and is now Willow Park.

Though it may be hard to imagine when wandering the current 18.6 acres of farmland, the combined Wagner family farmland spanned nearly 200 acres only a century ago.

Until next time,