Fermilab History and Archives Project

Barkei Farm: Site 70

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Barkei Family History Barkei Farm

Around 1880, Andrew Barkei, and his two brothers William and Henry, immigrated to America from Gutersloh, Germany. Andrew started farming in 1885 along Warrenville Road, north of Naperville. A few years later, Andrew bought a nearby farm along Naperville Road and farmed it until 1917 when his son, Louis, married Anna Feldott. Louis and Anna raised a family of ten and farmed that land until it was sold to Bell Labs in 1963. Gilbert, the oldest son of Louis and Anna, was born in 1918 in Naperville. Gilbert married Barbara in 1943 and they had four children, two boys and two girls.

Gilbert left Wheaton in 1947 to rent the 160-acre farm on Wilson Road (site 70) from the owner, Clayton Lehman,  who inherited the land from his father Wilton Lehman who was killed by a bull on the property.  When Gilbert bought the Lehman farm around 1950, he used it as a dairy farm, filling and shipping 25 milk cans a day. Gilbert was the biggest shipper at that time, on the route. He continued machine-assisted dairy farming for a number of years until he decided to switch to grain farming. Although the two types of farming went together, i.e. he had to feed the cows with the hay, oats and corn that he grew, Gilbert switched to grain farming because he was growing older and it was less work than dairy farming which took constant care and oversight. Since dairy farming was quite difficult for just one man, Gilbert always hired extra help for his dairy, and also for planting and harvesting his crops to feed his livestock. Only by having hired help could a farmer take a vacation.

After the Barkei farm was sold to the state of Illinois in 1969, Gilbert and his family moved west to Steward, Illinois (they grow soybeans and corn). Son Robert and Grandson Brandon continue the history of family farming in Illinois.  Gilbert and his family attended the Farmers Picnics but, sadly, he passed away in the fall of 2010. 

The Barkei house was moved to 14 Sauk Circle and the barn remains in its original setting on Wilson Road.

Farm Families

Farm Families