Women’s Work Wednesday: Barbara Jeffery Natzke

As we often say around the Historical Society, we owe our existence to the work of Leone Schmidt and the Natzkes!

Barbara Natzke and her husband, Peter, produced and published the Warrenville Digest for over 30 years, at the time providing a robust news source of the happenings of town, and to us historians, providing a detailed history of the more recent past. The Digests get frequent use around the Museum when preparing for programs, exhibits and when helping researchers.

A 1988 front page from the popular Warrenville Digest.

During this last week of Women’s History Month, we honor all the hard work Barbara put into not only the Warrenville Digest, but also the Warrenville community through her work with the Library and the Historical Society. Please enjoy reading a little more about Barbara as told through a 1996 column by our late City Historian Leone Schmidt:

There was a lot more to the editor of the Warrenville Digest, Barbara Natzke, than met the eye.

As she rode her bike dispatching her errands, her headset was usually tuned in to her favorite symphonic recordings. She gardened and took care of her home and family. An embroidered map of the city, a product of her design and needlework skill, hangs in City Hall.

Before co-founding the Digest with her husband Peter in 1964, Natzke’s byline appeared regularly on the pages of its predecessor, the Warrenville News, and eventually, she succeed Joyce Nilles as its Bulletin Board columnist.

Warrenville’s very own telephone directory was pioneered by Natzke in 1961. Convinced of a genuine need, even though informed by Illinois Bell that the listings in its directory could not be used in preparing a Warrenville book, she laboriously started from scratch, calling each resident. The annual directory thereafter, through 1988, was the result of her foresightedness and tenacity.

Holding a master’s degree in library science, Natzke was an avid reader and felt a special devotion to the library. She served on its board as secretary continuously from July 1979 until her retirement last November because of her ill health.

Barbara Natzke working with the Historical Society’s Historic Sites Committee placing a plaque on a historic 4th Street home. Bob Chase is securing the plaque, while Barbara (far left) and other members make the presentation.

Her interest and contributions to Warrenville’s heritage were significant, starting with the publishing of the booklet, “The Living Past of Warrenville,” which was based on extensive interviews with local historian John Player. She recorded the organizational minutes of the Warrenville Historical Society in 1980, become a life member and was active on the Historic Sites Committee. Until last year she faithfully took her turn staffing the desk at the Warrenville Museum on Sundays.

Barbara Natzke went about unpretentiously “making a difference,” and Warrenville will long reap what she sowed.

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Hiram E. Leonard Diary, March 26 – April 1, 1868

26th Thursday  rather a fine day  I did my choars was at the office all day & came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly worne out with Sister [in margin] James Paxton & Miss Olmsted were married.

27th Friday  A fine day for March  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out  Connel sawing wood  Mrs Jorden came to see Sister.

28th Saturday  A fine pleasant day  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly worne out with Sister  Connel finished sawing my wood  Mrs Jorden came to see Sister.

29th Sunday  A fine warm pleasant day  I did my choars was at home the most of the day went to the office at noon choared round the most of the day went to bed at about 9 nearly sick  Sherman Willson came & paid me 308 dollars  R B Pollard called & see me & stayed some time  Mrs Stone went to Hines & Willson  Dr A Watermans fourth child & second son was born this morning.

30th Monday  rather a fine day  I did my choars was at the office all day & evening came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out with Sister & trouble etc.

31st Tuesday  rather fine weather for March  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ tiard & nearly sick & worne out with trouble & Sister.

April 1st Wednesday  rather a fine day but cool  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ tiard sick & worne out with trouble with Sister [in margin] Wm Jorden died tonight at about 10 oclock  Wm Boyd was married about this time.”

Hiram E. Leonard Diary, March 19 – 25, 1868

19th Thursday  rather fine day but frozen in morning  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ sick & nearly worne out with trouble.

20th Friday  rather a fine day but frozen in the morning  I did my choars was at the office all day & came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out with trouble.

21st Saturday  A fine pleasant day but frozen in the morning  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick and worne out with Sister, I got a letter from Caroline today & Rol Willson got a letter from his wife which made him feel rather bad, but he left with me to send to her twenty five dollars, & settled with me & gave his notes.

22nd Sunday  A fine pleasant day but water was frozen quite hard in the morning, I did my choars eat breckfust went to the office & back choared round wrote some & took care of Sister etc went to office in evening came back & went to bed about 9 nearly sick & worne out with Sister, Mrs Stone went over the river to Bostwicks.

23rd Monday  A fine pleasant day  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ tiard & nearly sick.

24th Tuesday  A fine day for March  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ tiard & nearly sick with a cold  Denne cut wood.

25th Wednesday  A fine rainey day & cool  I did my choars was at the office all day & came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick with a cold.”

Women of Warrenville: The Cenacle Property

As we celebrate Women’s History month, we tell the story of two groups of women who occupied the property most commonly known as the Cenacle. Please enjoy this post adapted from Leone Schmidt’s “A Page of Warrenville History” about the Chicago Telephone Company operators who took rest at Macklin Hall and the nuns who created the Warrenville retreat Our Lady of the Cenacle.

The beautiful estate on Batavia Road that was once identified at its entrance as the Cenacle was put together by the Chicago Telephone Company (forerunner of Illinois Bell) which began purchasing acreage from the Morris brothers in 1913. The company wanted another (its fourth) rest home for its “hello girls” who seemed prone to collapse from their demanding duties. A telephone operator’s life in those days was nerve-racking and there were numerous casualties. Rehabilitation was considered cheaper than hiring and training new operators.

In three years a glorious paradise of 44 wooded acres, enhanced with lovely gardens, was ready for luxury living. The sparkling DuPage River, spanned by a steel-concrete arch bridge, was dammed to maintain a water depth of four and one-half feet for boating and bathing facilities, and a cement pool was also available for swimming. A spring brook wandering through the property was dammed and stocked with trout.

The two-story Colonial-style residence 240 feet long could accommodate about 30 guests. Each two-story bedroom was designed for two girls, with two sleeping porches—the occupants could sleep either inside or outdoors as she preferred. The great living room (80 by 100 feet) with an immense gas fireplace and clusters of electric lights in the beamed ceiling was the pride of its builder. Macadamized driveways ribboning the grounds were also illuminated with electric decorative lamps.

Dedicated as the Margaret Macklin Hall in August 1916 in honor of a particularly distinguished telephone operator, truly this resort was unique not only to Warrenville but to the entire countryside. The average stay of an operator was two to three weeks, and they were paid $4 a week to “rest.”

A large staff was required to maintain the plant, which included a diary, a herd of sheep, and an automobile to transport the girls back and forth to from the CA&E depot. A Mrs. Ruess headed the establishment from her office in Chicago, and on the local payroll was a superintendent and an assistant, a resident nurse, two cooks, a dining room girl, housekeepers, laundress, maintenance man, gardener, and handyman. The caretaker and his family—for many years the James Rohrbaughs—lived in the small white house at the entrance.

As the strain of manning (or personing, if you insist) the switchboard lessened, the need for rehabilitation centers disappeared and the Warrenville rest home was put on the market. The chance of a “white elephant” emerging in the neighborhood was averted when Our Lady of the Cenacle (a Catholic religious order) acquired the property and in February 1939 opened it was a weekend retreat for its nuns from Chicago.

In 1962 construction of a new novitiate to adjoin the original house was commenced. The handsome addition of brick, concrete, and steel, capped with copper overhang included a chapel, infirmary, offices, sewing and recreation rooms, besides the two wings of bedrooms—all prepared for the novitiates being moved from Long Island, New York. The extensive building was completed and opened for inspection to hundreds of visitors on September 28 and 29, 1963.

A fine example of creativity in “moving with the times” was demonstrated after the dwindling group of novitiates was transferred to Pittsburgh. The Cenacle continued conducting retreats and programs—dispensing spiritual and practical guidance (in a most conducive environment)—to people of all faiths and from all parts of the country at the property until it was sold to the DuPage County Forest Preserve in 2008. The building was torn down and the land is now part of the Blackwell Forest Preserve Property.

 

Hiram E. Leonard Diary, March 12 – 18, 1868

12th Thursday  fine weather but some cloudy  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out etc.

13th Friday  A fine warm pleasant day for March  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ and went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & tiared out with Sister.

14th Saturday  a fine pleasant warm day  I did my choars was at the office all day came home 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out.

15th Sunday  A fine warm pleasant beautiful day  I did my choars went to the office & back choared round the house went to office at noon came back was at the office in the evening came back & went to bed at about 9 nearly sick [in margin] Joseph Helm came to D Kenyons today.

16th Monday  A cloudy day with thunder showers  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out [in margin[ S Willson deded his farm to Crist Burmmel.

17th Tuesday  A cloudy damp day & grew colder  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick.

18th Wednesday  rather a fine day but cool & frozen in morning  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ tiard & sick.”

Hiram E. Leonard Diary, March 5 – 11, 1868

5th Thursday  A rainey nasty day  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ sick & worne out with trouble.

6th Friday  A rainey muddy nasty day the snow a going off fast  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ sick it rained verry hard the most of the night & the river raised fast, the water backed up the drane in to my celler over 2 feet, D Kenyon had a sick turn tonight & got the doctor.

7th Saturday  rained some in forenoon & grew cooler & cleared off in afternoon, the river verry high but fell towards night  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ sick & dishartened  cow calved.

8th Sunday  A fine day & pleasant ground frozen in the morning but thawed out  I did my choars was at the house all day after going to office & back, choared round & took care of sister went to office in evening came back went to bed about 9 sick & worne out with trouble Mrs Stone & Nelson went to Raynoldses & stayed all night  Mrs Jorden came about 10.

9th Monday  a fine day for March  I did my choars was at the office all day came home about 8 ½ and went to bed 9 ½ nearly sick with a cold etc.

10th Tuesday  fine weather but some cloudy  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick with a cold & worne out with trouble.

11th Wednesday  rather fine winter  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ tiard & nearly sick.”

Hiram E. Leonard Diary, February 26 – March 4, 1868

26th Wednesday  fine weather for the season  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ and went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out with trouble.

27th Thursday  fine weather with a little snow on the ground  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ sick and worne out with trouble Mrs Jorden came to see my sister in the forenoon.

28th Friday  fine weather for winter some snow  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out.

29th Saturday  rather a fine day but grew cold & snowed some in evening  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ called at D Kenyons & got home a little before 9 went to bed about 10 nearly sick & worne out & trouble.

March 1st Sunday  rather a fine cloudy morning & had a flurry of snow about 9 then the sun shone out, but it snowed & blowed the most of the afternoon & verry tedious  I did my choars went to the office came back about 10 cleaned out the stove pipe in south room & choared round the house & barn went to office in evening came home & went to bed about 9 tiard & nearly sick with trouble etc.

2nd Monday  A cool winter day with about 1 foot of snow on the ground all blowed in to keeps pretty snug weather  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed about 9 ½ nearly sick discouraged & disheartened.

3rd Tuesday  more fine but a cool a cool morning  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ sick & worne out with trouble  Mrs Jorden came today to see Sister.

4th Wednesday  rather fine day & thawed  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out.”

Hiram E. Leonard Diary, February 19 – 25, 1868

19th Wednesday  A fine warm thawey day & all mud & water, seems like April weather  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ tiard & nearly sick with a cold and worne out with trouble.

20th Thursday  A fine thawey day  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out  Mrs Jorden came here.

21st Friday  rather a fine winter day more cool  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out with trouble.

“22nd Saturday  rather cold freezing weather  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out.

“23rd Sunday  A cold cloudy windy raw disagreeable day   I did my choars eat breckfust went to the office & back choared round the house the most of the day put my hams in _________ & went to the office in the evening came home & went to bed at about 9 nearly sick & worne out with Sister Mr & Mrs Jorden came at 2 ½ P M.

24th Monday  fine winter weather  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out with trouble.

25th Tuesday  fine weather for Feb but no sleighing  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick with trouble.”

Hiram E. Leonard Diary, February 12 – 18, 1868

12th Wednesday  fine weather & sleighing  I did my choars was at the office all came home at 8 ½ and went to bed at 9 ½ worne out with trouble & sick.

13th Thursday  fine weather for winter  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ and went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out  Mrs Jorden here [in margin] Mrs Jorden came to see sister.

14th Friday  fine winter weather & snowed thawing  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ tiard worne out a watchin & a bad cold.

15th Sunday  A fine warm day, the snow thawed fast  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ sick.

16th Sunday  A fine warm day but some cloudy spoilt the sleighing  I did my choars was at home all day a choaring round went to the office in morning & evening went to bed about 9 tiard & sick  Mrs Jorden came to see sister between 4 & 5  E Stone & Mrs Bostwick came here about noon L Bliss called here.

17th Monday  fine weather for winter  I did my choars was at the office all day & evening came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out.

18th Tuesday  fine warm winter weather & thawed  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out.”

Hiram E. Leonard Diary, February 5 – 11, 1868

5th Wednesday  fine weather  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ sick etc  Mr Jorden was buried at Naperville by Catholicks.

6th Thursday  a fine but cold day  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick & worne out with Sister  Mrs Mary Mannings funeral was attended today with spelnder and richness they were out from Chicago [in margin] Mrs Jorden was here to see Sister.

7th Friday  A fine day for winter  I did my choars was at the office all day & came home about 8 & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick with a cold & worne out with trouble.

8th Saturday  rather a fine cloudy morning but snowed the most of the day & evening snow fell about six inches the largest fall of snow we have had at one time  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ & went to bed about 10 sick & worne out with trouble.

9th Sunday  A good winter day with good sleighing & pretty cold  I did my choars was at the office at 10 & came back & choared round the most of the day went to bed at 9 sick.

10th Monday  fine winter weather & good sleighing  I did my choars was at the office all day came home about 8 ½ & went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick with a  cold.

11th Tuesday  fine weather for winter  I did my choars was at the office all day came home at 8 ½ and went to bed at 9 ½ nearly sick with a cold & worne out.”