The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website

Other Rockford Seed Companies

J. B. Root & Company

J. B. Root came to Rockford in 1866, a lawyer by trade ,became interested in agriculture, pomology which is focused on the development and cultivation of fruit trees, and floricuiturel which is defined as the cultivation of flowering and ornamental plants for gardens and for floristry, comprising the floral industry. The development, via plant breeding, of new varieties is a major occupation of floriculturists. J. B. Root contributed many valuable articles on the growing of vegetables for family and market use for the columns of the Prairie Farmer magazine and also  authored several books on the subject of growing fruits and vegetables.

J. B. Root had a large seed farm in east Rockford. Under his skillful and energetic management, this business had grown rapidly until it assumed an importance in the country, sending his illustrated catalogs to all parts of the United States. Root grew his plants in greenhouses, or "hot houses" a they were known back then. The plants were grown in half oyster cans or small boxes and then packed into crates in which they could grow, and continue their growth from the time they reached the consumer and were planted. The plants were shipped by express companies.

On December 7, 1876 J. B. Root passed away due to heart disease, had he lived, he would have undoubtedly become one of the largest seed growers in the country. Mrs. Root would continue on with her husbands company keeping the same employees in place. She did sell the business to C. R. Root shortly afterwards, we have no idea of the relationship between the two.

A couple of brothers who came to Rockford from Sweden, Alfred A. Alneer and Charles G. Alneer  found employment as young boys with the J. B. Root Seed Company. In 1887 they started a seed growing company of their own, and around 1890 they would purchase the J. B. Root Company and consolidate it into their company, Alneer Brothers Seeds

Alneer Brothers

The Alneer Brothers, Alfred A. and Charles G. started their seed company in 1883 in an area that would later become the Broadway Business district. They would operate a retail store at  710 South Fourth Street. They would later purchase the company that they worked for for ten years prior to starting their own seed farm, the J. B. Root Company, and would consolidate it into their seed company.

Bob Anderson photo

They would build a new building in 1894 at 116 Kishwaukee Street in the "Kishwaukee Triangle" (shown above on the left) which at one time was one of the busiest business areas in the city, where there was plenty of room for farmers to park their wagons and horses while they shopped or visited leisurely. Their store was a scene of activity, but the mail order business remained as the core of the business with thousands of colorful catalogs being mailed out annually. They carried a full line of flower, vegetable, farm and grass seed along with flower bulbs.

Raymond J. Alneer, the sons of one of the founders, Alfred A., was the last member of the Alneer family to run the business. In the early days of the business sales were good when almost everybody had a vegetable garden in their back yard. The seed business declined rapidly as people quit planting gardens. He would let the business close without any fanfare. It would become a part of the Condon - Shumway Seed Company in 1950.

Charles J. Cherry & Company

Charles J. Cherry worked for the Buckbee Seed Company in the seed room for a long time before starting his own seed firm in 1913. He would open a salesroom at 127 North Main Street along with a mail order seed business. Late in 1914 the seed firm was incorporated by Charles J. Cherry, Laverne C. Miller and Emmett Hickey. The company would close it's doors in 1920 and Cherry went back to the employ of the Buckbee Seed Company

Great Northern Seed Company

Great Northern Seed Company, 1780 Rose Street. In operation from 1900 until 1936. Another one of Rockford's mail order seed companies that heavily advertised it's products by illustrated catalogs, newspapers, magazines and postcards. Great Northern Seed Company would be acquired by the much larger Bukbee Seed Company and operated as a subsidy for several years.

Great Northern Seed Company Chinese Primroses

Great Northern Seed Company Turnips

Great Northern Seed Company Verbenas

Condon Brothers Seedsmen

Condon Brothers Seed Company located along Cedar Street was established by Leonard Condon, his brother John and their father Thomas in 1910, although they had been truck farming since 1891. The firm was a mail order and wholesale business selling nationally, and eventually internationally. In September 1928 the Condon Brothers seed merchants opened a retail store just west of their seed company building at 632-644 Cedar Street. The entire Condon line was on sale at the store. They bought the R. H. Shumway Seed Company firm in 1933. They would maintain separate catalogs to be mailed out annually until 1959 when the Condon and Shumway catalogs were combined into one. Over 2 million catalogs were mailed out annually. The Condon Firm was sold in 1978.

R. H. Shumway Seed Company

Roland H Shumway was born July 26, 1842 at the family farm in New Milford, Illinois. At the age of 19, he enlisted and served in the 67th Illinois infantry forces (there being no national Army until World War I ) during the American Civil War. Two years later, he re-enlisted in the 50th Illinois Volunteer Forces. In between his duty in the military he would marry Emma Davis in 1864. Roland would be discharged from the service in 1865. In 1870 Roland founded R. H. Shumway seed company south of Rockford. Residents received a catalog in the mail from which they could order many different kinds of seeds. In 1871 he realized the importance of the production of thoroughly good seed as the best means of success to the farmer and gardener alike, and gave special attention to the development of such seeds. Mr. Shumway removed from new Milford to Rockford in 1873 after moving the seed company to East State and third streets in 1872. The company would expand again and moved office and warehouses two 118-122 South First Street.

Shumway market was established in 1905. Was a place for farmers to gather and sell their fruits, vegetables, and flowers to local residents. The picture above is from the early years of the city market on market day, view from the future site of the Midway Theater. Across the street in the background is State Street Baptist Church, raised in 1949, and Hess Brothers Department store which was demolished in 1973. The original Shumway Market building is also visible on the middle left. Note the House on State Street.

The R. H. Shumway Market Place on East State Street was named in honor of Mr. R. H. Shumway who generously presented the ground to the City of Rockford on May 2, 1904. The house on the left would later become the site of the Midway Theater.

Another view of Shumway's Market Day from the turn-of-the-century. Shumway trust stipulated the city that the land must always be available for a public market. Today the area behind the Market building is used as a parking lot for the most part.

The company policy was to remain a strictly mail order seed company and their customers resided in every state in the country. By 1926, is world's largest mail order seed company. Every spring 200,000 catalogs were mailed direct to the customers, the Rockford post office received a large business and revenue from the Shumway seed business. R. H. Shumway would be hit by an automobile while walking and die three days later on December 30, 1925. His son Myron Shumway would assume charge of the large mail order business after his

fathers death. Myron would die from heart disease on March 16, 1933.

In 1933 after Myron's death the Condon Brothers Seed Company would purchase the assets of the Shumway firm.

The original Shumway market Place entrance and comfort station, circa 1905.

An architects drawing of the new Shumway Market Building circa 1923

The Shumway Marketplace remained active from 1904 until the 2000's

Eventually the for me to Rockford seed companies, Buckbee's, Condon, Alneer and Shumway would merge to form seed giant Condon - Shumway. The company remained in business in Rockford until 1978. The company name would be purchased by an enterprising marketer from South Carolina in the 1980s and eventually control of the R. H. Shumway Seed Company name was sold to the J. W. Jung Seed Company of Wisconsin.

The Rockford Seed Company

The Rockford Seed Company - I could find no information on the company, however it states the company was formed in 1871 close to the same years as the H. W. Buckbee and R. H. Shumway Seed Companies formed, maybe a subsidiary of one of them or not ? Our research never ends and when and if we uncover more information on this company we will post it here.

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