The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website

Rockford Seed Companys

Rockford was once home to many major mail order seed and plant wholesalers. Roland H. Shumway, Hiram W. Buckbee, Alneer Brothers, Great Northern Seed Company and Condon Brothers and others.

Buckbee Seed Company

Jesse Buckbee was born in Orange County, New York  in 1796. He was the son of a Revolutionary soldier who was descended from John Buckbee, an Englishman who settled on Manhattan Island in the 17th century. In 1845, Jesse Buckbee purchased 300 acres of land in Winnebago County and relocated his family. He died shortly thereafter, but was survived by his wife and children. Among their children was Theodore, who later married Catherine E. Allington. Theodore and Catherine had two sons, Hiram Wheeler born September 6, 1860, and John Theodore Buckbee born August 1, 1871.

Theodore Buckbee’s life was closely and almost entirely interwoven with the growth and material progress of Rockford. As a member of the board of supervisors, serving for many years as its chairman, he served the public with integrity. He was chairman when Veterans Memorial Hall was erected between 1901 to 1903 to commemorate the valor of the soldiers and sailors of Winnebago County. At its dedication on the morning of June 3, 1903, he introduced to the audience the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, the orator of the day. He was also an officer and director of the Winnebago County Fair Association and paid special attention to the seed department and brought it up to a high standard, serving the society until it passed out of existence.

Theodore's son Hiram W. Buckbee began selling cabbage plants as a boy in 1871 from the Buckbee homestead at 1405 Kishwaukee Street. This was the beginning of what would become one of the most important merchandising institutions in Rockford and beyond. Buckbee gradually expanded his business into the corporation of H. W. Buckbee, Rockford Seed Farms and Forest City Greenhouses.

The company grew 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, and encompassed an area bounded by Kishwaukee Street on the east, 15th Avenue on the south, Seminary Street on the west and Chicago and Northwestern railroad tracks to the north. Much of the stock was advertised by catalogs that were mailed out across the United States and grew into a huge mail order business. In 1921 alone the company mailed out over 750,000 catalogs. John T. Buckbee was born on the family homestead and attended the public schools of Rockford. He studied agriculture and horticulture in Austria, France, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, and Great Britain. He would join his brother Hiram in operating the seed company. Hiram W. Buckbee would pass away in 1921 leaving John in charge of the company. Hiram Buckbee’s obituary notes that he performed “countless deeds of benevolence,  unostentatiously and for the joy of doing good. No project for the advancement of Rockford ever lacked his moral and financial support and he dearly loved the city which was the scene of his successful business career.”On March 4, 1927 John T. Buckbee was elected as a Republican to the Seventieth and to the four succeeding Congresses. He served until his death in Rockford, Illinois April 23, 1936. Both were buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Partial View of Buckbee's Seed Warehouses, Greenhouses and Trial Grounds

The results of planting Buckbee's "Full of Life" Seeds". The Buckbee Homestead was at 1405 Kishwaukee Street at the corner of what is now known as Buckbee Street. Growing acreage covered over 15,000 acres and the buildings had over 350,000 square feet of working space.

Buckbee's New Early Sunrise Sweet Corn. Buckbee's advertised heavily in farm magazines and by post card to promote new products and their catalogs.

Buckbee's Famous Flowers - A partial view of our Carnation Greenhouses at Holiday Time. H. W. Buckbee, Rockford Seed Farms, Forest City Greenhouses, Wholesale Seeds, Plants, Bulbs, Cut Flowers

Growing Buckbee's "Full Of Life" Peas on Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's Pedigreed "Full Of Life" Onion Seeds On Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's "Full Of Life" Pansies on Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's "Full Of Life" Nasturtiums on Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's "Full Of Life" Musk Melons on Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's "Full Of Life" Sweet Peas on Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's American Beauty Roses

Growing Buckbee's New Shady Hydrangea "Hills Of Snow"

Growing Buckbee's Great Ruby Strawberries on Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's Christmas King Cabbage on Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's Famous Beefsteak Tomatoes For Seed On Rockford Seed Farms

Growing Buckbee's Green Beans

Buckbee's Christmas King The Best Late Cabbage

Buckbee's Genuine Perfected "Monte Cristo" Watermelon

Buckbee's Tomatoes

Buckbee's Famous Prize Winning Chrysanthemums

Buckbee's Tulips

Buckbee's New Illinois Honey Dew

H. W. Buckbee's Prosperity Tomato

Buckbee's Seed Warehouse, 600 Buckbee Street


More Information about Hiram W. Buckbee can be found in the "People of Interest" Section of this Site

Charlotte M. Haines

Charlotte M. Haines was a division of the H. W. Buckbee Seed Company targeting women. Located at the Buckbee Farm at Kishwaukee and Buckbee Streets. A real person, Charlotte would author several books on growing seeds, including "Seeds Grown By A Woman".

The mail order company sent out catalogs and mailings and advertised heavily in garden related magazines. Charlotte would become president of the Buckbee Seed firm in 1926 under the ownership of  John Buckbee after H. W. Buckbee's death. They would use the Charlotte M. Haines brand from 1923 until 1937.

In October 1937, the Condon Brothers purchased the four story factory building on the north side of Buckbee Street and the seed business itself and the Buckbee name for $42,000.00. The greenhouses, Buckbee homestead and the acreage were not involved in this transaction. Condon would merge the Buckbee business with the large Condon Brothers Seed firm as it had done a few years earlier with the Shumway Seed Company also of Rockford.

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