Thursday, July 17, 2014

Buckbee's Full of Life Seeds

Let's start poking around in a new company that made an major impact around the turn of the 20th century. 

Rockford, Illinois is where Hiram Buckbee was dealing in seeds from 1871 until 1921.  The H. W. Buckbee was the name on the ads, although his younger brother was an important part of the firm as well. The company included the Rockford Seed Farm, Forest City Greenhouses and a seed store in Rockford.  

1918 ad

Here is a bird's eye view of Rockford in 1880.  The Forest City Greenhouses were out side of the map unfortunately. There was a seed store downtown, as well, on South Main Street. 
Another of these wonderful bird's eye view maps is at the end of this post.  While it is out of focus, you can see the country and what I think is the Buckbee place.




In the beginning:

Some other nice things to know about Hiram Buckbee: (born 06 Nov 1860),
"Before the cares of his large business concerns absorbed his time, Mr Buckbee was a proficient cornet player and was a member of the Forest City band. Under the leadership of the late August Deidrickson,  in 1880 they accompanied the Rockford Rifles on a trip down south which was an event of national note.

He found relaxation from business in recent years in the ownership of a stable of trotters and pacers in which were horses capable of winning honors on the grand circuit for harness horses, his latest purchase being Red Launcelet.


During the world war Mr. Buckbee devoted a large share of his attention to welfare work in the hospitals at Camp Grant here in Rockford. The 108th Engineers made him an honorary captain before their departure for France and made a presentation to Mr. and Mrs. Buckbee in recognition of their efforts. He was intensely patriotic and being on a train on one occasion where proper arrangements had not been made for the subsistence of a company of soldiers he sent the whole company into the dining car on the train at his own expense."

above from Find A Grave - more there

Some interesting things to know about John Theodore Buckbee: (born 01 Aug 1871
First, he was born the year his brother started the business.  
He was was a U.S. Representative from Illinois. (!)
Born on a farm near Rockford, Illinois, Buckbee attended the public schools of Rockford. He studied agriculture and horticulture in AustriaFrance, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, and Great Britain. He served as president of H.W. Buckbee Seeds, which was established in 1871 by his brother, Hiram W. Buckbee, in Rockford, Illinois.
Buckbee was elected as a Republican to the Seventieth and to the four succeeding Congresses. He served from March 4, 1927, until his death in Rockford, Illinois, April 23, 1936.  
from Wikipedia


The rock here is from a 1911 catalog.  According to the following information, that is a bit of a stretch - but advertising is advertising!   I'll hopefully find some information covering the time between a kid selling cabbages and the huge company Buckbee created!


The following, less elegiac info, from Project Uplift:

Company history in a nutshell:
Hiram W. Buckbee, born in 1860, began selling cabbage plants as a boy in 1871. From there he expanded his business into a huge operation that included a 350,000-square-foot warehouse, greenhouse complex, and trial area, along with a 15,000-acre seed farm. 

An 1892 biography of Jesse Buckbee (Hiram’s grandfather) noted that this “immense seed business conducted...under the name of H. W. BUCKBEE, with its collateral branches, Rockford Seed Farms and Forest City greenhouses, is one of the most important merchandising institutions, not only of Rockford, but of IL, and for that matter, of the U.S.” 

In 1921, the year of Hiram’s death, his company mailed out 750,000 catalogues.
In addition to Buckbee, Rockford was home to three other prominent mail order seed and plant wholesalers: Roland H. Shumway, Alneer Brothers, and Condon Brothers. The four businesses would later merge under the name of Condon-Shumway, a company that stayed in business until the 1970s. Clients of the company included Bing Crosby and Perry Como."




For those of you who enjoy reading old news, this storm washed out that little bridge you can see on the map following the article.  This map shows further into the country (in a fuzzy way).

Heavy Rains--Flood in Rock River--Damage to Railroad, Property, &c., --Lives Lost

This vicinity was visited last Thursday night by one of the severest storms of rain we ever witnessed. Thursday, it had been quite lowry during the day, and at about 6 o'clock P.M., the rain began to fall very rapidly, ans continued to so till midnight, with but very slight interruptions. It is almost inconceivable what an amount of water fell in these six hours. It had been falling but a few minutes before the whole ground seemed to be covered as with a lake, which rushed down to the river through every little depression in the surface of the earth which it could find.

Of course Rock River went booming right up, and early the next (Friday) morning everybody expecting that the falling of such an immense amount of water would be the cause of much damage, large numbers of people were out to see what had been the effect of the storm. Going down to the railroad bridge, we found it covered with our citizens, who were looking upon the vast volume of foaming waters as they tumbled over the dam. The river had spread far beyond its banks, and had flooded the mills and factories on the water works, compelling them to suspend operations. At this time of writing (Saturday morning) they are yet submerged, and it is not likely that work can be prosecuted for several days. The river wall of the foundry of the Reaper Works seemed to be partially swept away, and the roof rested on the boiling waters.

The "Patch" just above the bridge, was the greater portion of it submerged. This low piece of ground is the habitation of many of our Irish population, and their shanties are thickly planted over it. We are told that ths: they were made to vacate their quarters very suddenly in the middle of the night by the swelling waters;--some of them manifesting much terror at their situation. We heard it said that one of the shanties had commenced floating with its occupants in it, when they were aroused to their dangerous situation, and escaped by the assistance of a neighbor who came to their rescue with a boat. The shanty floated off, and has not been heard of. If this be so, this family had a very narrow escape from death.

We learn that the Starch Manufacturing Co. had some $400 worth of starch in their vats, which was entirely flooded by the waters, and was probably spoiled.

Some half mile below the dam the steamer Rockford was endeavoring to gain her landing at the foot of the factories. She had then been laboring for several hours to reach her landing but the current of the rushing waters appeared to be too strong for her. She, however, at last succeeded, but to the spectators appeared to be in eminent danger of capsizing when she was obliged to expose her broadside to the tremendous force of the vast volume of water. She careened fearfully, but effected her landing safely, however.

Learning that the railroad track had suffered considerably a short distance from our city limits, we proceeded to the spot, which is at the culvert across the low land on Mr. Samuel Gregory's farm, and close to his dwelling. A very small stream, which is quite dry in the summer, runs along here, and a culvert had been constructed for the passage of the water. The culvert proved altogether too small for the vast body of water which rushed down this little stream on Thursday night, which piled up against the embankment of the railroad to the height of some twenty feet, we should judge, when it forced its way through the embankment just east of the culvert walls, carrying away about fifty feet of it, and leaving the rail and ties of the road suspended in the air, they holding together by the spikes by which they were fastened. The culvert was preserved entire, and only the embankment will have to be replaced.

When the water had carried the embankment the whole volume if it came through with tremendous force, carrying with it about an acre of swelling ground which was exposed to its full force in the bend of the stream just below the embankment.

The damage to Mr. Gregory is considerable in the way of loss of fences, destruction of fowls, &c. It is estimated that he lost near $1,000 worth of fencing on his farm by the flood. All of his fowls, we believe, with the exception of one solitary turkey, which lodged in a tree top, were swept away. The water surrounded his house, and the family were obliged to move all the furniture into the upper story. His horses were rescued from the stable, though not until the water had risen up to their bellies. His sheep were also rescued from their enclosure just in time to save them from being swept away.

After thus finding its way through the railroad embankment, the body of water rushed on down the bed of the stream until it came to Kishwaukee street bridge, at the Buckbee farm, which it swept away completely. This bridge rested on substantial stone abutments--not one of the stones is left in its place; they were all torn out, and scattered along down the stream for twenty rods.

Crossing over the river, we found some damage to have been committed on Kent's Creek--The railroad culvert just beyond the depot was like all the others, altogether too small to admit the passage of water which came down the stream, and it set back on the low land above, flooding the whole of it, carrying away the bridges on State street, and Cedar streets--The water rose to such a height as to flood several buildings and barns adjacent to the low land, and in some instances rendering it a difficult labor to rescue horses from their stalls. Dr. Richings' fence was partially carried off, trees washed out and he also came very near losing his horses. The Doctor was absent at the time, and a neighbor succeeded with difficulty in swimming the horse out. The water rose into the second story of the barn. One family in a house on Elm street, on the west side of the creek, were obliged to be taken out of the windows of the house, with the water up to the arms of those who rescued them.

The eddy formed by the water as it forced itself through the culvert, washed out the south side of the railroad embankment considerably, making taking away a portion of the main track. Below this the water submerged the flat, and as we are told, drowned quite a number of hogs which were enclosed in a pen on the flat.

We learn that two more culverts have been swept away between Cherry Valley and this city, of course, not all railroad communication is suspended. No train has passed over the road with way since Thursday, and probably cannot for a few days.

It seems to be beyond question that a very great portion of this damage is the direct result of the smallness of the culverts on the Galena Railroad. Their want of capacity to accommodate the large body of water which came down the small streams, set it back on the land above it until it had gained such a volume and power as to force its way through the embankment, and then, its course no longer impeded, the whole vast body moved together and at once, with a force which nothing could resist, and hence most of the damage. We learn that the Galena company were told on all sides, when building the road, that these culverts were altogether too small for the purpose, but they would listen to no suggestions from those who were better acquainted with the country than they, and here is a result of their obstinacy. That they can be made to "smart" for it is the general impression, and the inclination seems to be, among those who have suffered from their inadequate culverts, to make them pay the damages which their obstinacy has occasioned. It will be a useful lesson for them, if they take it rightly, and be the prevention of much damage in the future.
The bridge on the Beloit road, near the cemetery on the East Side is destroyed, and most of its abutments, which were of stone. The stream which this bridge spanned, is an insignificant little rivulet at most all times, and in summer is entirely dry. All the bridges on this road between here and Roscoe are swept away.

We went up the line of the Kenosha Railroad along the river bank, yesterday (Friday) but we found the embankment entirely safe so far as we went, though the waters of the river were all around it and had submerged it for about half its height. We do not think that any damage is done to this road any where in this vicinity.

But the saddest part of the calamity is yet to be told--that is the loss of life. Fortunately no lives were lost from the flood in our city, and perhaps none were endangered, unless it were in the case of the shanty which was floated from the "Patch," which is more than likely to be apocryphal. But not so can all our neighbors say. The village of Roscoe was visited with a terrible loss of life, which has cast a deep gloom over that place. We give the account of the Register in regard to the sad calamity, as it accords exactly with the facts of the case as we have received them.
The village of Roscoe was inundated by a sudden rush of water, houses tumbled into ruins and nine lives lost. We are indebted to Mrs. H.S. Brown, of that place, for full particulars of this sad calamity. Mr. Brown came down on horseback, reaching here about noon yesterday. He reports every bridge gone between here and Roscoe, and he had to ford the streams. The people along the route report all the small streams higher than was ever before known.--A large amount of fencing has been carried off, and grain washed out.

Of the affair at Roscoe Mr. B say the water was dammed up at the railroad culvert about a fourth of a mile east of the bridge, across a small creek that puts into the River right in the village. The embankment here is very high, probably forty feet, and the culvert being entirely too small to discharge the water, it soon accumulated so as to form a small lake. The pressure finally became so great that about a hundred and fifty feet of the bank gave way, and the water rushed down with resistless force sweeping everything before it. Five buildings in its course were demolished almost in the twinkling of an eye, and in one were congregated a family of ten person--nine of whome were hurried to a watery grave. This family was that of Rev. Horation Ilsey, (a Presbyterian Clergyman) and consisted of himself, wife and eight children. The mother and children were all lost, and Mr. Ilsey was rescued from the top of a tree, near half a mile from where the house had stood. The bodies of four of the children had been found when our informant left--9 o'clock yesterday morning. Mr. Ilsey is a brother-in-law of E.I. Tinkham, Esq., of Chicago. The children ranged in age from infancy to 18 or 20 years. The oldest was a young man who had returned from Milwaukee on Saturday last on a visit. He had been employed in that city as a clerk in Marshall & Ilsey's Bank. The house was a good two story brick structure. Mr. Ilsey states that the family were all awake, and had taken refuge in the upper story.

Three other houses in the village were carried away. One of them was a great house occupied by a family named Adams. Bring so near the creek, the family considered it unsafe, and they left it in the early part of the evening. Another, a frame house, occupied by a family named Welch, was left by the family just before the water came down upon it, and it was swept. A new wooden building and a barn were also destroyed. The bridge over the creek was also carried away. The Register's informant represents the excitement of the people of Roscoe as intense when he left there Friday morning.

This terrible calamity at Roscoe was also, it will be seen, caused by the inadequacy of the culvert built by the Galena road at this point on its Beloit Branch.

One other loss of life we have to record--that of a Prusian named Sass, a tenant on the Britton farm, near the mouth of the Kishwaukee. He was endeavoring to cross a low place which was overflowed on horseback about 10 o'clock A.M., when the horse suddenly pitched into a hole above his depth, throwing Sass out of the saddle into the water, who being unable to swim, was drowned. He leaves a wife and one child, who were standing in the doorway of the house; and were agonized spectators of his sudden death.
--Rock River Democrat (Rockford, IL), 6/8/1858, page 3


This is what the land looks like now.

Had to throw this in because of the covered railroad bridge over the river at Rockford.
From around 1898 the Library of Congress thinks. It is a cyanotype (who knew!?)