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Newspaper Clippings for
June, 1954

loose clipping, source unknown 7 June 1954
County's Newest Natural Product
Goes to Gardeners, Landscapers.
By Marvin Cruse
One of Lake County's old "cranberry bogs" is going to town in precious piecemeal these days, its precise moisture content sealed in transparent polyethylene in a heavy white bag bearing the triumphant message: "Millburn Sphagnum Peat Moss - Nature's Own Wonder Worker."
Lake County's newest natural product - a moisture-retaining soil conditioner that has endeared it to gardeners and landscape men - is the result of two things: Mother Nature's slow and patient evolutionary processes following the glacial period in the earth's history and the brisk enterprise of Glenn H. Traer of Millburn Farms Inc., Lake Villa.
Whereas Mother Nature took an eon of time in creation of Lake County's unique deposit of sphagnum moss, Traer in three short years prodded engineers and industrial designers into creation of tailor-made equipment to allow the peat moss to be taken from its ancient resting place a few miles west of Millburn. Since last August, and particularly this spring, incessant work got Millburn Sphagnum peat moss to the market in a packaged form attractive and convenient to the home gardener.
Today, 12 persons are employed in the process of getting the material from the ground, processing it, packaging it and getting it to sales counters. Sunday afternoon TV listeners following John Ott's show, "How Does Your Garden Grow?" know that Lake County's newcomer to the home garden scene shares its national publicity with a renowned and established commercial fertilizer.
When big trucks carrying Millburn peat moss, roll around the corner past the grocery store at Millburn, Ed Martin, now 80, shakes his head in wonderment at what's happened to the old "cranberry bog" where he and other neighbors used to gather cranberries. There was a day when anyone who would have told you that Lake County soil would be packaged like butter, and sold for so much a pound, would have been regarded as plain crazy.
Those were the days when one walking over the bog felt the mossy ground quiver under foot. In its nervous sod, one found such plants as Arethusa, Calapogan and other bog orchids.
This was nature primeval in Lake County, vegetation it its simples and earliest forms - with water absorbent sphagnum moss as the pioneer giving it footing - seeking to reclaim as land, one of the water filled pockets left in the wake of the glacial era. Nature made a bog.
Once, perhaps, this was one of the nine recognized tamarack bogs - bogs found in Lake County alone. But by 1934 or thereabouts, any tamarack that may have found rooting there had disappeared, distinguishing it from other tamarack bogs located west of Hickory Corners on Rte. 173, north of Volo, southeast of Wauconda, near Cedar Lake, at Allendale Farm, at Ingleside and two near Pistakee Lake, one of which was purchased by Friends of our Native Landscape for preservation as a relic of nature's processes such bogs represent to botanists and agronomists.
John Terrell of Gurnee, sales manager for Millburn Peat Co., (which is a division of Millburn Farms Inc., of Lake Villa, operated by Traer and associates) found a few cranberries on the bog the past autumn.
Vastness of Lake County's deposit of sphagnum moss was discovered when Traer, owner of the land in which it lies, attempted to deepen one end of the bog to form an artificial lake.
"They went down 30 feet and came up with nothing but pure sphagnum peat moss," Terrell said.
"Mr. Traer, being in the mining business, was interested in doing something with the peat deposit. He brought some mining engineers here and they ran over a 100 test holes in various places. They estimated that there was somewhere between three and five million yards of it - approximately 40 acres, some of it 38 feet deep in spots.
"After we found we had the sphagnum peat and found it was good material for agricultural purposes, we ran across the information that the University of Illinois in some of its soil surveys had pinpointed this exact location as being one of the only bogs in this part of the country where peat was found to be formed entirely of accumulations of sphagnum, independent of reeds, sedges and things of that nature.
"It took three years of experimentation to find out how to dig the stuff out.
"Orthodox means didn't work, because of the nature of the material we were removing. The bog wouldn't support equipment of any weight at all.
"Finally, Sauerman Bros. Inc., of Chicago, cable-way excavators, came up with the answer to the problem with a rig consisting of a 120-foot steel tower mounted on high solid ground and a moveable tail tower at the other side of the bog, supporting a 1,500-foot cable and a dragline bucket to span the bog."
Every piece of equipment had to be redesigned, or tailor-made to suit the particular eccentricities of sphagnum peat moss. The excavating bucket grew in size, acquired a new set of special digging teeth. Drying equipment - a Lake County cousin of an Iowa alfalfa dehydrator - had to be redesigned, also.
Finally, under direction of Harry Frenzer of Northbrook, general manager, the company took out 30,000 yards of the material last fall.
"Originally our first thought was to sell chiefly in bulk to landscapists, florists and nurserymen," said Terrell.
"But everybody using it was crazy about the stuff. The demand from individual home owners kept up. So finally we came up with the idea of putting it up in a convenient-sized package for the retail trade."
Chicago became a first point for launching sales. St. Louis gardeners found that sphagnum peat moss - able to hold 20 times its own weight in water - was the thing to help whip the drought.
Today, it its attractive bag with slick plastic liner, Millburn Sphagnum Peat Moss is known to 15 distributors within a radius of 70 miles of Chicago. Two months after the bags went on the market, more than 800 dealers between South Bend, Ind., and Racine, Wis., offered the product.
The future seems bright for Millburn Sphagnum Peat Moss, product of a 40-acre bog.
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