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Juniors in the Village

Naper Notes Blog

Naper Settlement's blog will feature special events, historical happenings and interesting tidbits about Naperville's only history museum.

Apr 07

Threshing About – A Blog about a Thresher

Posted on April 7, 2017 at 10:28 AM by Emma Vodick


Hi, I’m Louise Howard, Chief Curator at Naper Settlement.

Welcome to Threshing About, a blog devoted to the conservation progress of our Wood Bros. threshing machine. The conservation work is being funded in part by a competitive Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

Stay tuned! This is the first post of this blog, which will run through the completion of the thresher’s conservation work, anticipated by June 2018

So, what about this Thresher?

A few years ago, the Wood Bros threshing machine was a
generous donation to the museum as a way to explore, embrace and present Naperville’s rich agricultural history to the public. The thresher will serve as a centerpiece within our exciting, new Agricultural Interpretive Center.

In operation for many decades, the thresher was used by local farm families to separate kernels of grains from chaff and stalk. The introduction of the threshing machine in the 18th century made the process of separating grain considerably less labor-intensive than it had been. The grandson of one of the thresher’s original owners noted that “the thresher benchmarks a certain time when the crop yield was fairly low and manual input was huge… conserving the thresher will show generations how far we’ve come.”

Combine harvesters soon became the equipment of choice to combine three separate harvesting operations — reaping, threshing and winnowing — into a single process. Obsolete, the iron beast (aka the thresher) was stored in a barn for many years, awaiting its unearthing and new purpose.

The Thresher has left the Barn!

Funding to conserve the thresher was received last fall from the Institute for Museum and Library Services and plans were put in place to relocate the thresher to a conservation workshop. As our conservation lab of choice, we selected the Kennedy Conservation in Mt. Carroll, IL. Objects Conservator Ralph Kennedy worked with specialty movers to transport the thresher safely from Naperv
ille to Mt. Carroll.  

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Review, Document and CLEAN!

Arriving in Mt. Carroll, work quickly began on researching the machine, evaluating and documenting its condition, and of course, its extensive cleaning! We found out that the thresher had become a temporary, but long-term, home (and bathroom) to many wild and furry friends! Can you say mice and raccoons?!

There’s still a long way to go, so check back frequently to see the latest developments on this fascinating machine!

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 Thresher review and beginning research. 

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Cleaning out dirt accumulation, nesting materials and fecal deposits from thresher’s animal inhabitants.

If you are reading this via email and would like to share a response or questions, you can join email us here.


Nov 04

Keller's Farmstand - Growing in Naperville since 1852

Posted on November 4, 2016 at 9:59 AM by Emma Vodick


In Naper Settlement’s journey to preserve the city’s rich agricultural history and explore the importance of locally-sourced produce, the Kellers stood out as an established farming family that has been in Naperville since 1852 and in the past 20 years have created three very successful farmstands in Naperville, Plainfield and Oswego, known as Keller’s Farmstand.

The Keller’s originated in Bavaria, Germany and purchased land along River Road on the north side of Naperville. During hard times, the first Frank Keller sold the farm and began work at The Naperville Bank, but after some time returned to farming and bought a new farm along Ogden Ave. It was used primarily as a dairy operation, but the farm also had a range of crops including apples, grapes, raspberries and potatoes. During the Great Depression, the Keller’s put up a table alongside Ogden Ave. which was a tremendous success.


“My grandfather always said that the raspberries and blackberries paid the bills during the Great Depression,” said Frank Keller IV. “The specialty crops have always been an important part of the farm.”

In 1966, Frank Keller Jr. sold the Ogden Avenue farm and purchased a larger farm on 95th Street (now named Knoch Knolls Road). Keller Jr. then retired from farming, allowing his two sons, Frank III and Ray, to raise corn, soybeans, oats, hay and cattle. The dairying was discontinued.

After Frank III’s son, Frank Keller IV, graduated college, he decided to join the Peace Corps. He ended up working with farmers in southern Africa teaching them how to grow vegetables.

“I figured if I was teaching agriculture over there, I should probably do it myself,” said Keller IV. “Once I returned, I rented about 5 acres from my dad and uncle and started the farmstand on the home farm.”

In 1991, the first Keller’s Farmstand opened along 95th Street and shortly after the second location opened on their Plainfield farm. After a four-lane highway was planned to cut through the Keller’s Naperville farm, the family decided to acquire land in Oswego to make up for the loss. In 2008, the Keller’s decided to open their third farmstand in Oswego. This is where Keller IV started to grow specialty crops such as sweet corn, pumpkins and apples.


Frank Keller IV thinks it’s incredibly important to educate community members on Naperville’s agricultural history. “When someone moves to Naperville they think ‘Wow, the layout of Naperville is great, there’s plenty of stores and businesses.’ But they don’t know that there were a lot of people spending their entire lives getting Naperville to what it is now, and a big part of that was the farm community,” said Keller. “There are a lot of families still around that were very instrumental. Pushing for good schools, running the city, etc.”

Keller’s Farmstand also welcomes schools to educate the students on farming and show them how great the United States agricultural system is.

“From my experience in the Peace Corps, you see that food is the number one issue for everything,” said Keller. “However, [in the United States] it’s mostly an afterthought, because agriculture is just so good here…. People don’t have to think about where their food comes from.”

Although there’s been plenty of hard days on the farm and bad weather throughout his career, Keller loves what he does. “Thankfully there’s many days where you love being on your own and working outside. I’ve enjoyed working with my family and my great grandfather. Our family is close enough to enjoy Naperville, but we are far enough away to feel like we’re in rural Illinois.”

For more information on the Keller Farmstands, visit their website at

If you’d like to learn more about Naper Settlement’s Agricultural Interpretive Center and its goal to preserve the region’s agricultural history, visit our website at

Oct 18

Farmers open their doors to Chicagoland mothers

Posted on October 18, 2016 at 1:47 PM by Emma Vodick

To create a relationship between farmers and consumers, the Illinois Farm Families Program invites Chicagoland mothers to tour farms and processing plants to ask questions and learn more about how they get their food, fuel and clothes.

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