Exploring the History of Farming in the Park Forest Area

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– With much of the South Chicagoland area now developed – our term for land now occupied by homes and businesses, infrastructure above and below – it’s sometimes hard to believe that, now all that long ago, Park Forest and surrounding areas was dominated by farmland. The Park Forest Historical Society (PFHS) will present a program in September to explore this area’s agricultural roots.  The program will be preceded by a brief annual meeting of PFHS with reports from the officers and an election of the board.  The Sunday September 20 meeting will be held at 2:30 p.m. in the Board Meeting Room of Park Forest Village Hall at 350 Victory Drive, and is open to the general public.

The Annual Meeting will be followed by a discussion of a joint venture by the South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society (SSGHS) and the Park Forest Historical Society (PFHS) to explore the Park Forest area farm history. Kathy Wellington-Nassios, President of SSGHS and Jane Nicoll, Archivist of PFHS will discuss what progress has been made so far in gathering information on the farms and the families who owned them. Both societies have been contacted by members of the Weishaar families who owned farms on the land that became Park Forest. One family owned the land Rich East is built on. The other owned land at the present 26th and Western which may have extended down to the land now including Schubert Woods in the current Cook County Forest Preserve. This has sparked a desire to find out more about other families, including interest in finding photographs of the people and the farms.


Research already uncovered has sparked a broader interest in the history of the area now known as Park Forest. The South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society (SSGHS) and the Park Forest Historical Society (PFHS) are combining efforts to collect genealogical records, photographs and oral histories of the earliest farmers who settled in southwestern Bloom Township, southeastern Rich Township and northeastern Monee Township. Surnames of early pioneer families include: Batchelder, Blattner, Caskey, Cole, Helman, Ledoux, Marker (Merker), Marthaler, Metzger, Newton, Reibl (Reihl), Roberty, Scheide, Smith, Stuenkel, Weishaar, Wolff, and Young. Names of the farm families can be found on the websites of the societies at, and


As an offshoot of the project, SSGHS is collecting information on the St. Anne Catholic Church, formerly at Sauk Trail and Westwood in Park Forest, IL. For over one hundred years St. Anne’s was counted as one of the oldest parishes belonging to the Archdiocese of Chicago. In 1901, lightning struck the building, resulting in a fire that destroyed the original church. Later that same year the chapel was rebuilt, albeit smaller, reflecting its dwindling numbers. From its rebirth until 1949, St. Anne’s was considered a mission station of St. Liborius in Steger. By 1920, its members numbered only 12 families, and by Christmas Day, 1951, the remaining parishioners were holding their first service in the new St. Irenaeus church at Orchard & Indianwood in Park Forest. By the early 1960s, St. Anne Catholic Church had become a memory. SSGHS has been researching what happened to the church building itself and is trying to locate the records of the church, passed on to St. Liborius. The records will shed light on the lives of the families of the area.


Although the church is gone, the cemetery remains, next to the Park Forest Tennis and Racquet Club, across from Rich East High School. With internments dating back to the 1850s, St. Anne Cemetery is one of the oldest burial grounds in the area and one of the last remaining landmarks of the region’s pioneer days.


For more information on the project and to offer information on St. Anne’s, contact Kathy at 708-957-7958 or [email protected]. For information on the Park Forest Historical Society, contact Jane Nicoll at 708-481-4252, or [email protected].