Newspaper Clippings for
loose clipping, source unknown 7 June 1954
MILLBURN PEAT MOSS BECOMES A BIG BUSINESS
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.
FOUND BY ACCIDENT
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
"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."
STARTED LAST FALL
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
"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
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
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.