Johann & Katharina Wagner, circa 1890
Thomas & Julia's Wedding, 1892
Meet the Wagner Family
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 southeast corner of Lake and Wagner Roads (what is now the fire station.) By 1898, Johann Wagner owned approximately 91 acres (10 acres on the southeast corner of Lake and Wagner Rd; 11 acres on the northwest corner of Lake and Wagner Rd; 30 acres on the southwest corner of Harms and Lake Ave; 40 acres north of the present farm.)
Johann and Katharina had ten children. Their youngest son, Thomas, who was born in 1869, married Julia Brachtendorf, of Northfield Township, in 1892. Ten years after their marriage, in 1902, Thomas and Julia purchased the Hoffman farm on the northwest corner of Lake and Wagner Roads – now known as Wagner Farm. At this time, the farm was now 40 acres, extending just west of the present day farm. Thomas also inherited the land on the northeast corner of Lake and Wagner Roads. Thomas’ siblings inherited all the other lands in the farms estate. In addition to farming, Thomas was the Northfield Township Road Commissioner from 1910 until his death in 1950. He also owned a gravel business that he passed to his sons, Frank and Martin. Thomas and Julia had five children – Frank (1894-1959), Lucy (1899-1980), Rose (1903-1997), Peter (1904-1991), and Martin (1910-1984). Four of the children (Frank, Lucy, Rose, and Peter) remained on the farm their entire lives.
Wagner Farm, 1910
Photo by: Karen Pulfer Focht
Pete Wagner, circa 1961
The Wagner family owned and lived on the property until the death of Rose Wagner in 1997. Rose’s will stated that the farm should be sold and any proceeds placed in trust for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Glenview. A locally organized group called C.O.W.S (Citizens Organization for Wagner) worked to have the farm saved from development.
In 2000 the Glenview Park District purchased the property and opened Historic Wagner Farm, a living history farm that interprets Glenview farm life in the 1920s. Today Historic Wagner Farm is dedicated to its mission of increasing understanding of local agriculture both past and present.
• Three generations of Wagners have lived and farmed in the surrounding area. Like most of their neighbors, the Wagners grew corn, oats and hay to feed their herd of dairy cattle. They raised sheep, hogs and chickens and sold milk, eggs and produce at Chicago markets.
• 1860: Johann and Katharina Wagner move to Northfield Township, and what would become Glenview, five years after emigrating from Weiler Germany.
• Thomas and Julia Wagner purchase land that would become Wagner Farm in 1902 from their neighbor Peter Hoffman.
• Thomas and Julia have five children between 1894 and 1910.
• 1912: Thomas Wagner runs and wins election as road commissioner for Northfield township
• 1916: The Wagners drill a new well and construct a pump house to cool milk.
• 1920: The Wagners tear down old house and build a new brick house complete with electricity.
• For more than 135 years, the Wagner family lived and farmed the surrounding land.
Pete & Rose Wagner, circa 1961
Photo by: Karen Pulfer Focht