The Village of Schaumburg was incorporated on March 7, 1956, but the heritage of Schaumburg dates back to the much earlier times when the first inhabitants of the area were members of the Sauk, Fox, Pottawatomie, and Kickapoo Indian tribes. By the mid-nineteenth century, settlers first began to arrive from Germany and the eastern United States. Legend has it that the earliest settler was Trumball Kent from Oswego, New York. Kent, a “Yankee,” as settlers from New England were called in the west, founded a settlement in 1835 not far from what is now called Olde Schaumburg Centre, formerly known as Sarah's Grove. The first recorded settler of Schaumburg Township was German born Johann Sunderlage. According to legend, Sunderlage was a member of a survey team that divided Cook County into townships around 1833. He liked the area so much that, upon completion of the project, he brought his family from Germany and settled in the area around 1836.
Sunderlage and his family occupied their land in the Township until the federal land sale of 1842 allowed them to purchase the property and obtain the deed. Sunderlage and Kent represented the predominant groups that settled Schaumburg Township in its early days. In 1840, 56 percent of the Township households originated from the eastern United States, while 28 percent were German-born. By the 1850s, the population mix had settled to 28 percent “Yankee” and 48 percent German.
By 1870, Schaumburg Township had become completely German. Land records show that all the property in the Township was owned by German immigrants or their descendants. This pattern emerged as many Yankee settlers continued to travel west for the promise of newly opened lands on the Great Plains. The land they occupied in Schaumburg was then purchased by German-born immigrants.
Schaumburg Township remained almost exclusively under German ownership until the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Depression caused the foreclosure on some German-owned farms which were then purchased by non-German individuals and companies. Nonetheless, German heritage remained important in the area. German was the first language of the majority of households until the 1950s. St. Peter Lutheran Church, the community's oldest church which was constructed in 1847, held services in German as late as 1970. Schaumburg Township was originally known as Sarah's Grove. This name was derived from a grove of woods that ran through the northwest portion of the Township, which was named for three young women whose families lived adjacent to the grove: Sarah McChesney, Sarah Frisbe, and Sarah Smith. However, the name was never made official. Until 1851, the area's official name was Township 41. At the 1850 Township meeting, residents discussed two names for the Township; Lutherville and Lutherburg. In the middle of the discussion Frederick Nerge, a prominent German landowner, put his fist down on the table and called out, "Schaumburg ichall et heiten!" (It will be called Schaumburg!). With this statement, a consensus was reached on the Township's official name.
This chosen name derived from Schaumburg-Lippe, the part of Germany where many of the Township's residents originated. The majority of German settlers were from the Hesse-Kassel or Hanover districts, but apparently those from the Schaumburg area had more influence in the community's affairs.
Schaumburg Township prospered during its early days. The area's main occupation was farming, with potato growing, dairy products and raising cattle as main sources of income. The land was a very large meadow surrounded by extensive wilderness. Wildlife such as geese, ducks, quail, prairie chickens, rabbits, and deer were very abundant.
In 1858, a small market area emerged at what is now the intersection of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads. Schaumburg Centre functioned as the central service district for the surrounding agricultural producers. It included two general stores, four cheese factories, a cobbler, a tailor, a wagon maker, and a blacksmith.
Most of the early growth in the Northeast region of Illinois occurred along the Fox River Valley and the major rail lines. Since neither of these transportation networks served Schaumburg Township, the Township remained rather isolated. Few roads existed, and several were often impassable. To reach the market, Schaumburg farmers had to travel 27 miles by oxen or horses to Chicago, which only had about 35,000 inhabitants at that time.
In 1900, during a period of German nationalism, a 50 year anniversary brochure reported the following account: "Schaumburg has, as an important English daily newspaper said: 'The reputation of being the model community of Cook County. Also, the town of Schaumburg is an example of a community for all other towns in Cook County and probably in other counties, too. Schaumburg is prompt in the payment of its taxes; it supports churches and schools; it has also the best roads in the land and - Schaumburg has never had a jail.' Finally, it is not just for the settlers only, but also for foreigners."
This isolation was broken, however, as the automobile became the primary means of transportation. Two projects, the expansion of O'Hare Field into a major international airport in 1955 and the construction of the Northwest Tollway in 1956, put Schaumburg in an ideal location for suburban growth. In response to development pressures, the area encompassing what was known as Schaumburg Centre, was incorporated in 1956. At the time of incorporation, the Village consisted of two square miles and a population of 130 residents.
Incorporation enabled the village to control its growth and development. Early village leaders are credited with the foresight and planning that has made later economic growth possible. The original comprehensive plan adopted by the Village Board in 1961, reserved large tracts of land for industrial, commercial, and office development. Growth in these sectors has made the village a major area employer and the State's second largest retail center, Woodfield Mall.
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