GENTLEMAN FARMERS 4: FRANK C. RATHJE, CHICAGO BANKER

When Frank Rathje bought farm property in Schaumburg Township, one of his reasons must have been to indulge his love of Percheron draft horses.  It was on his farm on the northeast corner of the intersection of Plum Grove Road and Golf Road that his International Grand Champions were raised.

Mr. Rathje lived on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and was a well known banker locally and nationally.  In 1917 he started the Mutual National Bank and, from 1926 forward also served as president of the Chicago City Bank and Trust Company.  During these tenures he served as president of the American Bankers Association and the Illinois Bankers Association.  He was so successful that it was noted in his February 25, 1967 obituary in the Chicago Tribune that “his two banks during the bank moratorium of 1933 were among the few in Chicago outside the Loop to receive federal permission allowing them to open immediately at the end of the moratorium.”

It was in 1930 that Mr. Rathje agreed to purchase the farm from Charles Quindel in Schaumburg Township as a second home.  He made his first mortgage payment for the property on June 16, 1930 and, by January 26, 1932, the property’s title fully reverted to him from Quindel.  Because he grew up on a farm near Turner Pond in Roselle, he was familiar with and attached to this area.  In fact, his parents are buried in Bloomingdale Township Cemetery.

As he began showing Percherons raised on this farm, they were  consistently beat by those shown by a gentleman named Paul Engler.  So, according to Mr. Engler’s son, Bill, he did the smart thing and hired his father.  Paul Engler and his wife Nellie then moved to the area in 1941 to manage the farm until Mr. Engler’s death in 1964. 

By Bill Engler’s account, the farm was always a working farm of around 200 acres.  “It consisted of several beautiful red farm buildings with two silos situated on the sides of the main barn.  The other barns were two horse barns, a couple of chicken barns, a hog barn, a very large corn crib and a grainery for the wheat and oats.  There was a very large board white fence that ran along the edge of the property closest to the houses…  Crops grown on the farm were used to feed the horses, cattle, hogs and chickens that were raised there…  Our horse barn was exceptionally nice.  It had great stalls.  As one entered the barn on the right, you saw a trophy room where all the ribbons and pictures of the International Champions were kept.  There were lots and lots of ribbons.”  There were also two houses on the property—one for the Englers and one for the Rathjes when they came to stay.

The Percheron show horses were also the work horses on the farm.  They were used throughout the year to raise and harvest the crops but, from June through November, select horses “would be shown at state fairs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.”  The exhibition season culminated with the International Livestock Show in Chicago after Thanksgiving.

By the early 1950s though, it was evident that the farm needed to yield to the tractor method of farming.  It was in 1951 or 1952, by Mr Engler’s recollection, that the Percherons were sold.  The Englers continued to work the farm for Mr. Rathje.  In addition, Mr. Rathje owned a small 15 acre farm on Schaumburg Road next to the current District 54 Administration Building that he purchased from the Petia family.  (Daily Herald, February 27, 1948)  A house and barn were on the property and, according to Mr. Engler, “young heifers were usually kept there.”

Despite the fact that his main residence was Chicago, Mr. Rathje was still loyal to maintaining the rural character of the township.  In a Chicago Tribune article from June 1, 1947, it was noted that Mr. Rathje, who was recently elected president of the Union League Club, was an articulate objector to the potential sale of beer at the Roselle Golf Club.  He told the Cook County Zoning Board, “most property owners in the area had moved to the quiet of the country because they wished to escape the hustle of the city.”    One also has to suppose that Mr. Rathje was not too happy when the new tollway to the north took part of his property in the early 1950s.  Then, in 1955, Mr. Rathje led the opposition to a petition by the F & S Construction Company that wanted to begin a “huge home project.”  (Daily Herald, February 17, 1955)  Even with his considerable influence, the petition moved through the Cook County Zoning Board and eventually the new village of Hoffman Estates was begun.

On February 24, 1967, Mr. Rathje passed away, leaving his wife, Josephine, and his children, Shirley, Josephine and Frank Jr—and his property in Schaumburg Township.  In 1967 or 1968 the main part of the property was purchased to make way for the formation of the Schaumburg Business Park.  While it is difficult to imagine Percheron draft horses romping in the area where office buildings now stand, we can be grateful for Mr. Rathje’s longevity in owning his farm and in the appreciation he had for the bucolic countryside he sought for rest and relaxation.

And, if you look hard enough, you will find books in the Schaumburg Township District Library with a Frank C. Rathje memorial plate in them.  He was so well thought of in the area that the fledgling Schaumburg Township Historical Society donated funds to purchase Illinois history items in his name.  These were added to the collection of the library that was, itself, just getting started.

My thanks to Bill Engler for his recollections of the Frank Rathje farm.  His contributions were detailed and extensive.

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7 Responses to “GENTLEMAN FARMERS 4: FRANK C. RATHJE, CHICAGO BANKER”

  1. Mike Says:

    I’m glad I found this site. I’ve only lived in Schaumburg since 1995, but I grew up in Mt. Prospect, so I remember a lot of the things mentioned here.

    Anyway, I have a farm, or possible farm question. One RT 59 just north of Rt 58 there is remnants of an old windmill and part of a foundation. I was wondering who it belonged to. I believe this is still Hoffman Estates here.

    Also, being an amateur photographer, this has been a great source of subjects. Thanks.

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Mike,

      I’m glad you’ve found the blog too! I am working on the farm you mentioned. I am putting some feelers out so we’ll see what comes back. This is actually Hanover Township and, unfortunately, we do not have older maps as we do for Schaumburg Township. I’ll let you know if anything turns up.

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian

  2. Mike Says:

    Thanks!

    • jrozek Says:

      In looking at a Farm Plat Book Cook County, Illinois that was published by Paul Baldwin & Son in 1954, the map shows the owner of that property is R.W. Sutter. Whether he or his family erected the windmill is not known. If I track down an even older map, I’ll let you know if the name is the same.

      Jane Rozek

      • jrozek Says:

        I also looked at the Cook County, Illinois, North Part, Atlas and Plat Book that was published in 1973. By then, the property had been acquired by the Cook County Forest Preserve. Again, I’ll add to this if I find more.

        Jane Rozek

      • Mike Says:

        Thanks. Was wondering if Cook County owned it due to the location now. Thanks!

  3. Margot Rathje Moenning Says:

    I enjoyed reading about my great Uncle Frank’s farm; when it was
    purchased,from whom, and the many facts about the working
    farm. Visiting Uncle Frank one Sunday,1948, with my father
    Bertram Rathje,brother Louie, and twin sisters Linda and Lois,
    Lois slipped between the white board fence to get closer to the
    young draft horses. Paul Engler gingerly slipped between the
    boards and scooped up my six year old sister. We were
    surprised to see Lois inside the pasture, eager to meet and
    greet the young horses, and Paul’s quick response to the
    situation.

    Margot Rathje Moenning
    Evanston,Illinois

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