Those who have been around Naperville long enough may still remember the days farm animals seemed to outnumber residents.
Newcomers and younger generations eventually will get a glimpse of what those farming days were like as Naper Settlement moves forward with plans to create an agricultural interpretive center on its grounds.
Debbie Grinnell, vice president of museum services, called farming "key to Naperville's 19th century history."
"Naperville was built as an agricultural community ... and yet we don't really represent that to its full extent," she said.
The proposal for an agricultural center comes on the heels of the Wheatland Plowing Match Association's offer to donate farming equipment it collected throughout its history as well as money and documentation it has compiled about several hundred farm families.
The group, which strives to preserve information about the area's farming history, is disbanding after 137 years and owns equipment like a thresher, plow, grain binder, oat cutter and tractor, which all date back to the early to mid-1900s.
The group is led by Wilbert Hageman, who grew up on a farm on Plank Road and used to run a feed store. The 83-year-old is among those who remember when Naperville was a farming community of 5,000 and said donating the equipment to the museum for an agricultural center seems appropriate.
"I think our forefathers would be very proud to have something like that in the Naperville area," he said.
Museum staff has proposed housing the equipment in a Morton-style barn and using it to teach lessons not only in history, but the science and technology involved in farming.
"This would show a progression of farming, but it would also allow us to openly display the equipment and interpret it and offer hands-on interactive (demonstrations) of technology," Grinnell said.
The Naper Settlement Museum Board gave its approval to moving forward with the project.
Councilman Grant Wehrli, who sits on the board, called it "a must do" and Sally Pentecost agreed.
"I think it's been a missing link for the settlement's mission and vision and telling our story," Pentecost said. "We have oral histories of some of these DuPage and Naperville farmers, but to have physical representation of it would be awesome."
Museum staff will now finalize the donation with the Wheatland Plowing Match Association and then start fundraising for other components.
Twitter@melissajencoCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun