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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Growing up in Naperville – Farm town to large suburb


Growing up in Naperville, I’ve watched a small blue collar, farming town become a large city in the suburbs of Chicago.

My great grandfather, Adam Keller, moved to Naperville from Leimersheim Germany, in 1851. Actually, his naturalization papers say the “Kingdom of Bavaria.” He was a farmer and his first farm was on River Road just south of McDowell’s Forest Preserve. It was called River View farm. He grew apples, grapes, pears, raspberries and strawberries to sell at his farm stand on River Road.

He married Barbara Weigand, another old Naperville name, and they had 10 children.
His youngest son, Frank, married Nora Bapst and he bought the farm on Ogden Avenue between Naperville and Lisle.

He was a dairy farmer, but had an apple orchard with 10 different varieties of apples along with strawberries, asparagus, raspberries and grapes. He also made his own wine.

They had a farm stand from late spring to early fall and sold eggs all year. When he passed away my cousins, Frank III and his brother Ray Keller, bought the farm on 95th Street where they still have a farm stand.

We visited the new Keller farm in late September and picked a delicious peck of Jonathan apples! Frank Keller IV now is in charge of a fourth generation of the Keller family involved in farming!

When Frank married Nora Bapst that brought in another great-grandfather, Joseph Bapst, who ran a bakery and grocery store on the corner of Washington and Benton. He began playing in the Naperville Band in 1870 as a cornet player and leader.

His daughter Margaret taught piano in Naperville and she had a degree in music from Chicago Musical College.

Aunt Margaret had a rare gift; she had perfect pitch and could play anything you requested without music!

Many times I have been asked how I got involved in music. Well, I didn’t have a choice. It came in from all four sides of my family!

This is my 70th year with the Naperville Municipal Band. And I’m not that old!

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Ron Keller
Ron Keller
Ron Keller is a lifelong Naperville resident, tuba enthusiast and has been conducting the Naperville Municipal Band for over 50 years.