The 1886 Holland’s Directory features three full-page ads promoting Ernest Von Oven’s various businesses. All have the same office “at the forks of Aurora and Oswego roads,” where St. John’s Episcopal Church currently sits. In fact, the rectory behind the church was once the Von Oven home.
Von Oven arrived in 1855, and by 1866, he had established himself as a businessman in town and married Emma Reifnerath, with whom he raised a family of five children: Helene, Johanna, Hedwig, Frederick, and Emma.
Von Oven also started the Naperville Nursery with his brother, Adelbert, the favorite of all his operations, which ran until the mid-1900s, long past Ernest’s own passing in 1906. It was one of several nurseries in the area and was well-known for fruit trees in particular. Emma and her children carried on the business for a number of years. This 1926 ad from the American Institute of Park Executives shows the only son, Fred, as the president and “H. Von Oven” as the secretary. As Hedwig, unfortunately, died while still a toddler, this no doubt refers to Helene.
Von Oven’s other operations included a tile- and brickworks with George Martin, the builder of the mansion now featured at Naper Settlement. Martin had started the brickworks in the mid-1850s, but it really took off following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 when the city was desperate to rebuild. One of Martin’s former associates was Martin Ki