Historian still telling Warrenville's story

  • Warrenville historian Leone Schmidt has written six books, many about her city's history.

    Warrenville historian Leone Schmidt has written six books, many about her city's history. Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

Published: 11/27/2008 12:04 AM

When Leone Schmidt left Chicago for Warrenville in 1952, she was looking for the country life.

"I always wanted to live in the country and this was the next best thing and close to the train," said Schmidt, now 90 and a Warrenville resident for nearly six decades. "My best friend lived here and that's how I found it. Then it had gravel roads and I could ride my bike on them to Naperville."

With her, she brought editing and writing skills gained working on the Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity newsletter in Chicago. Those skills benefitted Warrenville beginning in 1968 with her first book, a family history of the Warrens as settlers and a founding family of the village named for them.

Since her first book, "Come Fly to the Prairie," she has added five more titles to her credit including "The Life and Times of Warrenville: A Bicentennial History" in 1975; "In and Around Historic Warrenville" in 1982; "When the Democrats Ruled DuPage" in 1989; "For the Honor of Our Flag: The Life of General Mason Brayman" in 2004; and her latest this year,"Warrenville Comes of Age: A Historian's Memoirs" written for Warrenville's 175th anniversary.

All her books are available at the Albright Museum in Warrenville. She said she wrote the first book to enter a state competition; but of the six, she sees each as having its own unique value.

Her writing has gained her honors beginning with a proclamation in 1977 naming her city historian.

"The title didn't come with a job description," she quipped. "I was the first one."

Since then she's also garnered the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award from the Illinois Humanities Council and a Friend of History Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Locally, Warrenville City Council named the Warrenville Hall of History for her as well as a park on Warrenville Road.

The awards are nice, but Schmidt is more interested in her town where she also served as the first curator of the Warrenville Historical Museum. She sees her mission as city historian as a recorder of important events because history is valuable and it's important for people to know history, learn from mistakes and gain a sense of belonging.

The best thing about living in Warrenville, she said, is it's still so neighborly. Recently, she was feted with a 90th birthday party with more than 100 guests. For her birthday and Thanksgiving, she's thankful for her good health, her God-fearing Christian parents and her town.

"Warrenville's good to me," she said.