While we at Project Uplift NFP are looking forward to the renovations that will take place in our future headquarters in the historic Buckbee Building, we thought we would also take a look back to see why this building is so significant to the history of Rockford, IL. Who were the Buckbees and what contribution did they make to Rockford?
We’ll begin by looking at the family. 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 17thcentury.
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 W. and John T., who would later operate H.W. Buckbee Seed Farms and Forest City Greenhouses.
Theodore Buckbee (son of Jesse and father of Hiram) is described as follows in his biography:
“…his life was closely and almost entirely interwoven with the growth and material progress of the city. No man ever lived who had more friends in Winnebago County nor whom more thoroughly deserved them. His advice in business and public affairs was sought eagerly and often, and those who followed it had no regrets…As a member of the board of supervisors (for many years its chairman), he served the public with fidelity and unquestioned integrity. He was chairman when the splendid memorial hall was erected in Rockford to commemorate the valor of the soldiers and sailors of Winnebago County, and at its dedication, June 1893, introduced to the audience Theodore Roosevelt, the orator of the day. As an officer and director of the Winnebago County Fair Association, he paid special attention to the speed department and brought it up to a high standard, serving the society until it finally passed out of existence.”
Hiram was equally active in his community. He was a cornet player and member of the Forest City band. He was also a member of Rockford Lodge 102, the Chicago Athletic club, in the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, in the Society of American Florists, and in the American Seed Trade association, and was a director the Rockford National Bank.
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.”
The Buckbee Building certainly has an illustrious history. In our next post we’ll talk a little more about the family business .