Fermilab History and Archives Project

Bengtson/Schwahn Farm: Site 24

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Bengtson/Schwahn Family History

Schwahn FarmHerman and Wilhemina Schwahn came to America from Germany and bought the property on Giese Road in 1868. The land had originally been prairie and heavily wooded until they turned it into farmland. They came to the area with their infant son, Julius, who had been born a year earlier. The move was made possible by the Bartelt family of site 37, who paid the expenses for the Schwahns to make the trip. Julius Schwahn married Minnie Guth in 1889 and inherited the farm. They had ten children, but only four survived: Sarah (b.1890), Clemens (b.1894), Eric (b.1900), and Verena (b.1905).

In 1918, Clemens married Katherine Handell, and built a second house on the north side of the farm. In 1923, Julius and Minnie moved to Prairie Street in Batavia, leaving Eric and Clemens to maintain the farm. Eric married Margaret Nichols in 1923, and inherited the family’s original house.

The Schwahns acquired much of their land by purchasing adjacent farms. They bought the land previously owned by Lars Bengtson and the Nelson family, bringing their farm size to almost 180 acres. The Schwahn brothers kept all of the acquired buildings, and incorporated them into their farm. There was one house of special interest that had been built by Lars Bengtson, who had come to the area from Sweden in 1867. This “pioneer house” was considered historic because it had never been rebuilt or remodeled. It consisted of two rooms and an attic and was used by the Schwahns as a chicken coop.

The Schwahn farm was a dairy farm, but they also grew corn, hay and alfalfa. Eventually they sold the cows and the brothers raised sheep and pigs. As years passed, Eric and Clemens rented the land out and held other jobs—Clemens at a factory in Aurora, and Eric at Campana in Geneva. They lived in their homes until the state of Illinois purchased the land in 1968.

The original Schwahn homes were moved to 7 and 16 Sauk Circle in the early 1970’s, but #16 was demolished in 1984. In 2003 Eric Schwahn’s nephew, Martin Drendel, donated a “Western Queen” plow, used on the family farm, to Fermilab. The plow was purchased by Herman Schwahn in 1868 from the Moline Plow company in Moline, Illinois. It is on display in the Kuhn Barn.


Farm Families

Farm Families