THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Forty-Six

No. 4

 


October 2005

The Story of Josephine Melgoza

An Early Hispanic in Batavia

 

According to Josephine Melgoza, when her mother, Maria Cardenas, and her sisters and brothers moved to Batavia in 1953, they were only the second Hispanic family in town. Her story that follows, which is based on a July 12, 2005, interview by Alma Karas and Bill Hall, is a noteworthy chapter in the history of Batavia. 14.jpg

 

 

Josephine, the youngest child of Miguel Cardenas and his wife, Maria, was born In Ottawa, Illinois, on May 6, 1934. The Cardenas family had come from Salamanca, Guanajuato, Mexico, to Ottawa, Illinois, in 1923, although the father had been in and out of the United States since he was twelve years old.

 

Josephine's oldest sister, Catherine, didn't start school until her brother, John, was eight; her mother always said that her father didn't want them to start until they were a little older and could defend themselves from other kids. Because the family then spoke only Spanish, Catherine cried when she began school because she didn't know what they were saying. But by the time Josephine started school about ten years later it was different -- she spoke both Spanish and English. Josephine recalls Ottawa as "a nice, very nice town, famous because of the Lincoln and Douglas debates."                                                                                                                                                              

 

In 1939, however, her widowed mother needed work and there was little opportunity for employment there. "Friends of our family in Ottawa," Josephine said, "knew one of the two Mexican families in Geneva, the Aylalas. The other family was the Melgozas, Valeriano and Alvina. Both men worked on the Northwestern Railroad.

 

Mrs. Melgoza was going into the hospital for surgery, and the Ayalas told our Ottawa friends that the Melgozas needed someone to come and take care of Mrs. Melgoza and the children. Because my mother was a widow, they thought that maybe she would be able to come and help out. "I kind of remember them coming to ask Mother if she would be able to come and help out. Mother took me out of kindergarten -- I was five -- and took me with her. My oldest sister, Catherine, must have been about 15 or 16. She told my mother 'Yes, Mama, I'll be able to take care of my two brothers and my Maria Cardenas and daughter Josephine two sisters.' Back then, you know, girls of 14 were capable of taking care of a household.

 

"So then my mother came up to Geneva to take care of the Melgoza household, and I came along with her because back then a woman never traveled alone. That's just the way it was then." "Afterwards," Josephine continued, "my mother and Mrs. Melgoza developed a very good friendship. The Melgozas would come and visit us in Ottawa, and Mrs. Melgoza would say, 'Why don't you come up and work in Batavia? There's a lot of work there.'So little by little, Mrs. Melgoza, who was working at Campana, encouraged my mother to come. She did andwas hired, as a janitress because they didn't need anyone in the factory at the time."My mother worked there until her retirement; by that time, I was out of school. I was the youngest, and my sister Carmen was going to college in Chicago at St. Xavier's. My sister Corawas in nursing school in Ottawa. Wehad bought our first house at 911 Washington Avenue.

 

My niece lives there now, although the house was torn down and rebuilt. "After I finished school, I worked ata few places, first DuKane and thenat Hawley Products and Standard Steel. But I felt I should try the beautyprofession. My sister Cora was toldby her hairdresser that the American School of Beauty Culture in Chicago was the best one at the time. So we went into Chicago to find out, and that's how I ended up going to beauty school."

 

15.jpg"Did you take the train to Chicago?" Josephine was asked. "Yes, the 7:23,

and it still leaves at that time. I usually came back on the 5:05. George

Neri's wife, Pauline, from St. Charles was going to beauty school, too, and Beulah Izzer from Geneva -- we would all ride together. "So, I went to beauty school, but when I got outthere were no jobs. I don't know why I went to thebank, probably to borrow money to finish off paying for my schooling, and I was talking to Mr. Paddock, the president.

He asked me where I was going to work; I said, 'Well, I don't know,

but I don't want to go in and out of Chicago.' And he said, 'Why don't you go up on Batavia Avenue to the Polly Anne Beauty Shop -my wife's been going there for 29 years. Anne Johnson needs someone there.' So I went out where my sister was waiting, and I said, 'Come on, turn the car around. Let's go up on the Avenue.' "I went into Anne Johnson's shop across from the A&P, now Bank One, and said, 'I just came from the bank, and Mr. Paddock said you needed someone.' And she said, 'Yes,' and she must have asked, 'When can you start? I said, 'Don't you want me to do a head of hair so you can see what kind of work I can do?' "No," she said. Later she told me that if Mr. Paddock recommended me, I would be all right.

 

And so I started." Asked about Anne Johnson, Josephine replied. "She was born in Batavia, but her mother died when she was small, and she was taken to.an orphanage -- in Nebraska, I believe Her father settled close by so that he could visit the children every weekend. It was a beautiful story -- the way life should be. After she was 15, they came back to Batavia. She got a job in Aurora with Miss Lightcap, who had the only beauty shop there that did marcel waving with a curling iron. That's where Ann learned. In 1929, she told me so many times, Mike Shomig built that building at 121 BataviaAvenue. He went to talk to her about opening up a beauty shop there.

 

"She did, and it was the first beauty shop between Aurora and St. Charles. By the time I joined her in the 1954,

she had others working for her. Helen Anderson, Cliff's wife, worked for Anne. I worked for her for thirteen years. That was a good long time. After that I worked out of my own home. And through the whole time, I really enjoyed it because I met such fine people. Anne always said she had the best customers, and she did. Erma Jeffery, Jeff Shielke's aunt, was one. And Eunice Shumway, who was a founding member of the historical society was another one of my customers to come in on Mondays. Iris Elfstrom, Phil's mother, was a customer." "When did you get married?" Josephine was asked. "In 1957," she responded.

 

"My husband, Raul, was born and raised in Mexico. His uncle, Valeriano Melgoza, sponsored him and brought him to this country in 1955. "He didn't speak English when he came. I must have said something to Miriam Johnson, one of my fine customers, about my husband needing help to get his citizenship. She said, "Josephine, there's a retired teacher who would like something to do.' So I mentioned this to my sister Cora, the nurse, and she said, 'Oh good, I'll send Jose, too, and the children. That's how it happened that Eldora Hoover tutored my husband and my brother-in-law to become American citizens. I always told my husband he knew the Constitution better than I did." "How many children do you have," Josephine was asked. "Three," she replied. "My oldest son, Paul, lives in Georgia. He is what they call a

systems engineer with IBM. My daughter, Linnea, lives on North Avenue.

 

She is married to Bill Funk and has Linnea's Skin Care on River Street, across from the bank. My other son, Phillip, is a barber and works in one of the shops in St. Charles." Asked how a Mexican family selected the name Linnea, Josephine said, " When I was twelve years old and lived in Ottawa, I helped clean homes. I worked for a Dr. Carter's wife, and her little girl was Linnea. I liked the name, and I said to my sisters, 'If 1 ever get married and have a little girl, that's going to be her name.' When I worked for Anne Johnson, she told me, 'That's a Swedish name -did you know that, Josephine?' I didn't know that until she told me." "Do you ever go back to Guanajuato, the part of Mexico that your family came from?" we inquired. "Un huh. We still have the home of our grandparents there, which we would like to sell. I am the youngest, and it's time for us to get rid of it."

 

"Aren't your children interested?" "No," Josephine replied, "they travel on conducted tours. Several years ago before my husband had a stroke, I urged my kids, 'Please come and see how we fixed up everything here, before it's sold.' But they haven't been back since. My daughter said, 'You spend more money here, Mom, than if you go on a tour where everything is planned for you.' And it is true. But Guanajuato is beautiful -- it's my favorite city, even more than San Miguel de Allende." "When did your husband die?" we inquired. "In 2002. He had a stroke in 1999 -- we happened to be in Mexico, right there in Guanajuato. We were staying along with friends at the Hotel Luna where there are all the mariachis every night. I brought him home on the plane.

 

My daughter was on the phone constantly and said, 'Mom, you had better be sure he is all right because once he is on that plane, they are responsible for you.' So I told husband, 'Please be strong; and he said, 'I'm okay, I'm okay.' Once we got here, we took him. over to emergency at Provena. And Itwas a stroke. "He recovered all right -- I would say almost 90 or 95%. But that's when I realized that we had better do some thing. So we went a couple of times to Arizona because my daughter liked it so, and then we bought property there. He loved it.

 

I liked it, too, but after he died, I came back. That's a place for couples. I thought, 'I don't even have a cousin out there." Even at the time of her husband's death, Josephine's sense of humor came through. As she tells it, Bryan Moss at the funeral home was going over the paperwork with her and asked, "Are you the legal next-of-kin?" to which Josephine replied, "I am an American." They repeated this confusing exchange a couple of times before they discovered that Josephine thought she was being asked, "Are you an illegal Mexican?"

 

She tells this story with one of her frequent laughs. So now Josephine is settled for good in Batavia, her home for over 50 years, near her sisters, a son and a daughter, and her two grandchildren. Her life is another story of the ethnic experience, be it Mexican, Swedish, African or what have you, assimilaing into the"American·way of life -- as she says, "in a fine community like Batavia, with the good leadership of our mayor."

 


 

REMEMBERING the Borg House

 

 

Marjorie Carlson Withers

 

Marjorie Withers is a granddaughter of Patrick and Charlotte Borg, who married in 1893 and moved into the house at what is now 227 South Jefferson that Patrick had just built. As she tells in this story,she has given the Society a wealth of information about this house, the basis of a related story in this issue. Marjorie has also given us information about her family and holidays she enjoyed as she grew up in Batavia; these are available at the Gustafson Center and will probably be covered in a later issue of the Historian. 16.jpg

 

Episodes of "getting rid of things" occur to all of us, but especially in one's twilight years. In one of my scavenger clean-outs this year, I came across some old receipts, diaries, etc., lovingly kept for many years by my mother's sisters. Aunt Dorothy and Aunt Louise lived nearly all their lives in "the old homestead" (the Borg house) in Batavia, so naturally had a few keepsakes to be passed on.

 

 As their only living niece, I ended up with a precious boxful of cookies" that I relished-going through--reliving events as I went. But that "getting rid of things" urge prevailed, and some of these items were earmarked as "giveaway". Thus, one day, I e-mailed the Batavia Historical Society. Chris Winter, who replied, seemed eager to accept the receipts, pictures, etc. that I was offering. She was most gracious and agreed to see my husband and me in July, when we planned to drive from our home near St. Louis, to Batavia. That Monday morning at the museum, Chris seemed intrigued by the items I spread before her.

 

One was a receipt from a long-defunct 1890's pharmacy in Batavia--and she seemed thrilled with that. Some of the other well-preserved pieces of paper were receipts my Grandfather Borg had kept from the building of his house at 113 (now 227) So. Jefferson St., which was finished in 1892 - just before my grandparents were married. I have such fond memories of that old '1lace! I told Chris that every year or two, when visiting in Batavia, I'd wanted to talk to the present occupants. And every time, I'd tell myself that would be too intrusive. But Chris said I should really do so. After Jerry and I had looked around at the super museum displays, and were pre parjrJg to drive home, Chris again urged me to visit "my" house. So at last I decided to try. Julie Fessler seemed delighted to meet someone knowledgeable about her house, so immediately invited me in. It was a wonderful, nostalgic feeling, walking through those very familiar rooms.

 

Julie and Ron have made great improvements to the house and I marveled at each one. But the thrilling part was seeing that they love old houses and are most anxious to preserve the 1890s look of this one. As I was leaving, Julie asked if I knew what happened to the etched glass window that_wasjn the front door. I explained that the last family occupant of the house--my aunt, Louise Borg--stililoved the old homestead and wanted a memento. So she had that beautiful window removed from the door and put into a lovely oak frame. Thereafter, she lovingly displayed it in her front window the rest of her life. But it came to an unfortunate end. Precious as it was, evenwith a lot of TLC, that etched glass window was broken during packing up Louise's th ings after her death.

 

So Julie asked if I might have kept a photo of the window. Jerry was sure we had taken a picture, as Louise was so fond of "her window". Another search through more boxes at home, and one was found! We sent it to Julie, who hopes to have the window reproduced. I sent her many earlier pictures of the home's exterior, too. Ron thinks he might have the newel posts reproduced, to keep the authentic look of the front porch. But the best news was this: Now that the age of the house can be authenticated by the receipts I brought, the Fesslers have applied for a historical plaque for this dear old house! In my mind, it is well-deserved! All of this has been a lot of fun and most gratifying to me. My grandparents' house--where I spent many happy days, holidays and every single Christmas Eve--is being lovingly and painstakingly cared for. Thanks to the Fesslers and the Batavia Historical Society for this great experience.

 

 

BUILDING the Borg House

 

17.jpgIn the related story "Remembering the Borg House," Marjorie Withers tells us

that her grandparents, Patrick and Charlotte Borg, moved into their house at

what is now 227 South Jefferson after their marriage in 1893. She has also given

us some fascinating documents relating to the building of the house; these are

now in the Gustafson Center.

It is clear from these that the house did not spring into being overnight.

 

Indeed it took several years, probably because Patrick must have done much of the work himself while holding jobs, probably at the Appleton

Company as well as the U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Co., and because funds for buying material and paying carpenters took time to accumulate. Patrick William Borg, born in the Gothenborg area of Sweden in 1865, joined his older brother Ben in Batavia in 1883.

 

 

On October 3, 1888, the brothers bought adjoining lots nos. 4 and 5, block 2, Institute Addition to Batavia for $1 ,800, payable $300, with interest at 7%, annually until paid off. This contract was superseded on August 15, 1890, by a new contract with Sarah E. Stephens; at that time the two lots were split, with lot no.4 to Patrick and lot no. 5 to Ben.

Although Patrick would have bought materials and worked on the basic structure in the meantime, the first bill we find for work on the house is dated August 1 0, 1890; it is from August Dalstrom, written in Swedish, for carpentry work in the amount of $169.72. There is a $272.71 bill dated the next day from H. B. Bartholomew for flooring , moulding, shingles, etc. Other bills from Dalstrom and Bartholomew for flooringand siding followed over the next couple of months.

By September and October of that year it appears that finishing work was taking place.

 

Hartsburg & Hawksley in North Aurora (a firm still in business unti l recent years) billed Patrick $179.96 for brackets, moulding, windows, doors and turned posts, and Edwin Meredith provided $51.12 worth of locks and hardware. There was a paint bill for $7.45 from L. J. Patchin. After November 23, 1990, we find no further bills for construction. Financing was another matter. On October 10, 1890, Patrick W. Borg executed a note for $1 ,000, with interest at 7%, payable $100 in one year, $100 in two years, and $800 in three years, secured by a mortgage of George E. Watson. We saw evidence of payments and renewals to 1907.

 

How strange these amounts appear today, when the average home costs over $200,000 and their owners carry mortgages larger than what their grandparents made in a lifetime. It is a graphic example of what has happened

to the dollar over the past 100 years or so. But it is also illustrative of the patience our grandparents and great-grandparents exercised in waiting for their dream of owning a home to come to fruition. The accompanying pictures, anearly one undated but undoubtedly taken before 1950 and the other acurrent one show how few external changes have been made over the years and how lovingly the house has been maintained.

 


 

 

Remembering Bill Wood

 

 

Nancy N. Pearce

 

Those who knew Bill Wood claimed him as a special friend. We all have our own loving memories, and this is one of my favorite memories of my friend and my principal at J. B. Nelson. All my life I have had such an unreasonable fear of mice that it borders on the absurd. As I entered my first grade classroom early one morning, I heard suspicious rustlings and squeaks. Under the feather duster, the gift of one of the children, a large family of mice had established residency. This was my worst nightmare. Pale and panicky, I tore down to Bill's office, so breathless I could scarcely tell him of the horror I had seen. He sat me down in his chair and sternly told me not to move. A few minutes later he returned, brought me a glass of water, and walked me back to my mouse-less room.

 

I didn't ask nor want to know what heroic measures he had employed. This would be the logical ending of the incident, but with great empathy and understanding my principal andmy friend walked this coward to her room every day for four weeks. Each time he checked all corners where trouble might lie, reassured the coward that all was well, and then left to attend to the lesser duties of running a school. I never forgot this most thoughtful of gestures. I wish I could say I no longer fear mice, but sadly I do.

 


 

Our Wedding in Difficult Times

 

Helen Bartelt Anderson

 

Born in 1914 on a farm in Batavia Township, Helen Bartelt Anderson has been one of our most faithful and most popular contributors. She and her husband, Cliff, now live at the Holmstad in Batavia. In 2000, the Society published Memories of a Childhood, Helen's stories of life on the farm that had appeared in the Historian over the years. This book is available for purchase at the Depot Museum.

 

 

My father's death in 1930 from a farm accident had brought so many changes in our daily lives. Mama was so devastated and overwhelmed. Dr. West tried to help her fight the deep depression that enveloped her. He advised Mama to get away from the farm for a week. Mama or Uncle John contacted Mr. Beamer, the developer who sold Papa some land in Texas. He came to see Mama and invited her to go on the train full of people he was taking on an excursion to Texas. I was a senior in high school. I gladly accepted I (Aama's invitation to accompany her. 18.jpg

Aama and I both had a great time even though the only people we knew were Uncle John and Aunt Una. The week passed quickly. We were met at home by my brother, Roger, and Uncle Charlie, who both had the flu. I was also met by a pile of books and assignments.

 

I had to study hard to catch up in order to graduate. Mama was in better spirits than she had been for a long time and seemed glad to start cleaning up after leaving the boys to do all her work. Cliff Anderson had seen something in me that he liked. It took several years after high school for me to agree to "go steady" with him. I enjoyed my freedom. For a few years I worked for the advertising department at Campana. It was clean, enjoyable work. Our boss was Mr. Harry Fisher.

 

He was a wonderfully kind leader and director. Many decisions were put off by Mama including what to do about Cliff's and my wedding. Mama said, I'm sorry, Helen. Right now I cannot afford the wedding for you I have dreamed and planned on giving you. You and Clifford will just have to wait a while." Mama really wanted to better prepare us for our futures, but the money just wasn't available for either of us. I went to the Batavia National Bank and talked to Mr. Walter Johnson about a loan to go to the Gertrude Hale Beauty School in Chicago. He laughed at me. The economy in the land still suffered from the stock market crash in 1929. I had no collateral. I had much to learn. Somehow, Mama was able to pay for the training for me to learn to be a beautician.

 

Every day I took the "third rail" to Chicago to the Wells Street station and transferred to a loop train to State Lake Theater. The beauty school was located on the 13th floor. Anne Johnson hired me as soon as I finished school and received my license. Her Polly Anne Beauty Shop was right next door to the hardware store where Cliff worked. Anne said that might not work out very well, but she was only fooling. The farm was doing better. The hardware store was recovering from the depression.

 

Cliff and I talked about marriage. Mother-to-be Anderson suggested that if we could not have a regular wedding, perhaps we could be married by Pastor Nordlander at the parsonage. "We would be happy to prepare a wedding supper for you." Mama agreed to that plan, and so did Cliff and I. Mama would help provide the food. A few weeks later, we stood on the wide lower step of the parsonage's large winding stairway with our attendants, Edith Peterson and Harold (Bud) Carlstedt. It was there that we repeated the sacred wedding vows of always being faithful. The date was September 11, 1937, at 4:00 p.m. After the ceremony, we drove to the photographer to have a wedding picture taken. The photographer was Mr.

C.A. Lund. His camera sat on a tripod, and he threw a black cloth over his head.

 

His daughter assisted him. Our guests were waiting when we arrived at the home of Cliff's mother and father. We walked into the dining room to see a beautifully set table with flowers and candles. Mama had made a large bowl of chicken salad. With a plate of mother Alma's Swedish rolls, the supper was perfect. Cliff's Aunt Jennie had made a very tall angel food cake with pale pink frosting. It was a wonderful ending to a beautiful reception. Thoughts of regret have never entered our minds. I was a very tearful bride as we left our reception to drive to Rockford, the first night of our honeymoon. Does every bride start her wedding trip in tears? Was I really ready for marriage?

 

The next morning we left for Minneapolis and arrived late in the afternoon. We checked into our hotel room. Being hungry, we left our luggage and went out to find a nice restaurant. Feeling great, we went back to our hotel room. When we opened the bathroom door, 1,000 cockroaches scampered to safety. Even as a farm girl used to all kinds of bugs, I told my new husband he would have to call the manager to move us to another room. After much grumbling and arguing, Cliff did call, only to discover that they had given us their last vacant room. We took our luggage to another hotel across the street, minus cockroaches. Because of hurt feelings, we slept back to back all night. We were un Denaware of a badthunderstorm during the night, which soaked a spot on the bare floor by the open window.

 

A hug and a kiss in the morning made us ready for a happy day ahead. After visiting Cliff's former football coach in Minneapolis, we were on our way to Rochester. After spending two days there, we returned to our new apartment on Jackson Street in Batavia. Jennie Peterson, Cliff's aunt, who was the church organist, owned the house and lived upstairs. The apartment was beautiful. I was eager to learn to use the electric stove, refrigerator with freezer on top, indoor bathroom with hot and cold running water, and a new kitchen table with four matching chairs. They were stained a pale green. It was like a dream come true. The first morning after our trip, Cliff set our little kitchen table with our pretty new dishes. He said he wanted bacon and eggs -- I had thought cold cereal! He then went outside and said, "Call me when it's ready." It took so long for the electric burner to get warm. I put a slice of bacon in the pan, thinking it would take a long time. I peeled an orange for each of us and turned around to see our bacon burned to a crisp. I turned the burner down and fried an egg for each of us.

 

The eggs burned to charcoal. Cliff thought breakfast should be ready. Why hadn'tthe burner cooled off? Right then I decided we would have to get another stove. To add to my problem, Cliff came into the kitchen along with his nextdoor cousin, Esther, our first guest. I believe the old saying: "When a bride marries, she marries more than a husband, she marries a family." But I learned to love all of those dear Swedish people. And, best of all, Cliff's and my happy marriage is still going strong after 60 years.


 

Membership Matters

 

 

Since the last issue, we have added as life members the following, who were previously annual members (from Batavia unless otherwise noted):

 

Richard Riseling (Callicoon Center, NY), Spillane & Sons, and Robbin Hall Wheatley. Other new

members include John Anderson, (North Aurora), Betty Boyd (San Jose, California), Alan Drover (gift of Ruth Burnham). Ronald G. and Julie Fessler, Emily C. Kaus (Montgomery), William A. LeKander (Springfield, MO), Josephine Melgoza, Doris K. Miller, Debra Petges, Mrs. Alan (Donna Schiedler) Read (Indianapolis, IN), Janet A. Siers (Gi lberts), and Gary Woods. We regret to report the deaths of Sally Adams, a life member whose 100th birthday was reported in the April 2005 issue; George "Johnny" Hansford; and Mary F. Mullen.We received gifts in memory of Robert W. Conde from Georgene Schramer and Kenneth C. andJacqueline A. Upham; in memory of Jerry Harris from Eric and MicheleNelson (Jerry 's daughter) and Norm and Laura Salamone; in memory of Lorraine Harwig from Eldon and Jo Frydendall, Jeff and Barbara Gross and Pearl Swanson; in memory of Hazel Hawse from James R. Anderson; in memory of Eleanor Johnson from Batavia Senior Citizens Club: in memory of Mary F. Mullen from Dennis Erford, Thomas Peterson, Patrick Sage and Edward Symons; in memory of their parents, Henry andMayme Theis and Leo and Margaret Groener, from Ray and Anita Theis; in memory of Bill Wood from James A. Anderson, Ruth Burnham, Bill and Barbara Hall, Gerald and Karen Miller, Alma Karas and Yangling Zhang, Bob and Rhonda Nelson, Loraine Peddy and Timothy Renaud. We also received a gift from Polly Ernzen in honor of the Hills' 40th Anniversary and undesignated gifts frO/TI Robert W. Buchanan and from Byrey and Gerry Nelson.


 

An Enjoyable September Meeting!

 

Chris Winter, Secretary

 

The fall meeting of the Batavia Historical Society began in the city council chambers with the election of officers. The members approved the following slate of officers and directors: Patty Rosenberg, Vice President; Marilyn Robinson, Historian; Georgene Kauth, Corresponding Secretary; Directors, Bob Brown, Carole Dunn, Alma Karas, Gary King, and John 19.jpgWhite. After the brief business meeting, the members traveled to the farm and cabin site of John and Mary Lou White on Main Street. John shared the story of how they purchased the 18405 cabin from the Aquila Cook family in Richland County, Wisconsin, and transported and reconstructed it on their property.

 

There are many bits of local history behind the primitive pieces that are beautifully placed inside the cabin. The porch flooring was constructed from planks that came from a Challenge Company water tower that once stood on the Warne farm on Seavey Road. The pine floor inside the cabin was cut from trees that were sheared by a tornado on a neighboring farm on Main Street. The fireplace mantel came from the John Bartelt farm and the hearth stone from Oakley Skow's farm on Bartelt Road. Batavia windmill weights and an iron Sperry cauldron are prominently displayed on the stone fireplace. The sunny September weather and the hospitality shared by the Whites made a most memorable day!

 


Don Carlos Newton's 60th Birthday

Recalls Advances Seen in His Lifetime

August 1892

 

By Marilyn Robinson

 

Don Carlos Newton is best known in the history of Batavia for being president of the NewtonWagonCompany, founded by his father Levi Newton. He also served as a captain in the Union Army during the Civil War. We are grateful to Marilyn Robinson for finding and sharing with us the remarks he made during the celebration of his 60th birthday.

20.jpg

 

Don Carlos Newton was born in Alexander, New York, on August 26, 1832. He came to Batavia when he

was about 22 years old in 1854. In August 1892, forty relatives and friends gave him a surprise party to celebrate his 60th birthday. The Rock City Band and Miss May Wolcott provided music. Miss Mattie Prindle, Oscar Cooley, and H. N. Wade sang songs. Rev. R. I. Fleming gave a Bible reading, and Prof. William H. Crawford gave a humorous one. D. C. Newton expressed his appreciation by telling about Batavia when he first came here.

 

He lauded his mlother and his wife. Unfortunately, these words were not preserved. But his reminisces about his early childhood were and I found them in the collection of John Gustafson's papers. He had copied them from Mrs. Jack Schimelpfenig's scrapbook. Capt. Newton's remarks tell us how seeing a modern convenience for the first time frightened a young lad. They also show that people's reactions have not changed much.

 

Captain Newton's fright at seeing his first locomotive wasn't much different from mine when as a young girl, I heard my first jet airplane flying overhead. I wanted to run from what sounded like constant thunder. Itwas only after hearing more planes that I could identify the new noise coming from a clear sky.

The captain told of improvements that had come since he was born in 1832.

 

"Well do I remember that cold, snow day inthe winter of 1841 when the first pioneer locomotive came down near the town where I lived [InNew York] through what was called a deep cut and blew her whistle, the first one that had ever reverberated through those hills. How we boys left school and ran up there some threequarters of a mile and walked through the snow, until we stood in its presence, almost awe struck. How, while I stood there with uplifted hands warming myself, the whistle blew. How quickly I turned and ran through the deep snow until I could run no farther and turned to see what had become of the engine for I had no doubt but that the boiler had burst. (I had read of such an occurrence, and only three fragments would be found of it.)

 

"A few years later, some men came along the railroad track, putting up poles, and soon after some others stringing wires. In those days, I had to go after cows and as the pasture was across the railroad track, I started one night a little early, thinking I would study out the mysteries of the telegraph. I sat down by a pole, and for minutes intently watched the point, where the wire was wrapped around the glass to see if I could detect the passing of a letter. I failed. I did not

know the message passed through the wire and not over it. "A few years ago, while away from home, a Chicago friend wrote me of the wonders of the telephone. How they had connected Chicago and Milwaukee, and that a concert could be given in Chicago and listened to in Milwaukee. I did not understand it. I could not understand it.

 

I do not understand it yet. "Just think of it. During these 60 years that the great U. S. has increased in population more than 50,000,000 and in riches nearly 1 billion. I do not know as my coming and being here had anything to do with it. I do not know as I am to blame. In all the world's history this has been the grandest time to live. We have lived more, seen more, and perhaps have learned more than 5 generations of our ancestors. There has been more to see, more to learn and men live more than ever before. "Again my friends I thank you." Imagine what D. C. Newton could have seen had he not died the following year, October 1893.


Scratch Two "Sears" Houses

 

 

In the last issue we updated our early story on Batavia's Sears houses with pictures of additional ones identified by Rebecca Hunter of Elgin. Readers have challenged the identification in the case of two of these houses, both on Madison

Street. Bess Dougherty wrote us: "The one listed for 221 Madison Street is not a Sears. It was built in 1947 and 1948 by Carl Anderson (Dirty Doc), and Jack and Bess purchased it in 1949. We lived there until Feb. 2000. Carl built it and lived in the basement until it was sold.

 

Ben Hansford of Elgin called and said that the house at 446 Madison is not a Sears house. As we recall, he told us in the telephone conversation that he was the one who built the house. He has promised to send us information on that and other matters of interest. We are satisfied that this information, which comes firsthand, is correct, and we shall remove these homes from our "inventory" of Sears houses. We would point out, however, that it is not incompatible for a house to be a Sears house and still to have been built by the first owner.

 

 After all, especially in the earlier years, all that Sears provided were material and instructions. In many cases, one of which Beverly Waterfield described with respect to her father in the January, 2003, issue, the purchaser did all the work except possibly for basement excavation and wiring.

 


 

SAVE OUR HISTORY!

 

 

Thank goodness for Marjorie Withers] And may there be others like her. When we first saw her

story in this issue entitled "Remembering the Borg House" and saw how her idea of "getting rid of things" led to our getting irreplace· able family documents, we had a distressing thought. How often may people in her situation, no longer living in Batavia, have solved their "cleaning out" problems by throwing such items in the trash? What may we have lost of our history because it ended up in the hands of people who no longer had a Batavia connection?

 

We are pleading with you not to let that happen. If you have photographs, documents, scrapbooks or other documents or artifacts that are relevant to our history, let the Society have them for the Depot Museum. If they are items that youor your family wish to retain, we will be glad to make copies for our archives and return the originals to you. Just call Carla Hill or Chris Winter at the museum -- (630) 406- 5274.

 


 

 

What's new at the Museum?

 

 

Carla Hill, Director

 

It is hard to believe that fall is quickly approaching. This summer has been abusy time for us at the museum. This summer marked the 14th anniversary of the summer passport program that brings families from all over the Chicago area into the museum. We also took part in the new Batavia Fine Arts Festival. Chris Winter has been busy working on new displays for the museum. Her latest exhibit, "Batteries NotIncluded," featuring games and pastimes from the past has received many compliments. In August the Coffin Bank received a much-needed new coat of paint, thanksto the efforts of Henry Carlson who arranged for the work to be done as his Eagle Scout project.

 

Chris and I are continuing to work on new programs and trips that are being offered through the museum, including the ever-popular trip to the Newberry Library. We have ordered the 2005 ornament for the museum, which will feature theNewton Wagon Company. As in the past the museum volunteers will receive the ornament as a gift at the annual museum volunteer Christmas party. We are looking fOlWard to a great fall and winter season at the museum. As always anyone interested in volunteering at the museum should contact Kathy Fairbairn at 406-9041 or Chris and Carla at the museum at 406-5274.

 


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