THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Twenty-Nine

No. 2 

July 1988


THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN SUMMER MEETING PLANNED

 

Our co-vice presidents, Marilyn and Bob Phelps, again have arranged for an interesting program for the next meeting of the Batavia Historical Society.

 

Date:               Sunday, August 28, 1988

Time:               3:00 p.m.

Place:              Batavia Civic Center, 327 W. Wilson Street, Batavia

 


Program       

 

Marlene Kettley of Aurora will speak on "Margaret", a characterization of a pioneer relative. This will give us all a better insight into the life of a pioneer woman. Mrs. Kettley is a graduate of the Batavia schools and at present serves as a volunteer at the Mormon Library in Naperville.  

 

Please plan on joining us so that you may become acquainted with “Margaret.”

 

Social Hour  

 

Time to chat with friends and meet new ones. A short business meeting will precede the program.


 

MEMBERSHIP NEWS

 

As of July 1st, the Society had 20 new members who joined this year. They are welcomed and we hope they will be active in our organization.

 

In addition, so far this year four new Life Memberships have been purchased:

 

Genevieve Becker;

Eldon Frydendall;

Darlene Violetto;

and the Gary-Wheaton Bank of Batavia.

 

Look at your mailing label. A red dot indicates your 1988 dues have not been paid. Please take care of this promptly. More than 100 names were deleted from our mailing list this spring as a result of failure to pay past dues.


MARK THE CALENDAR

 

The Annual Meeting of the Society will be held on Sunday, December 4, 1988.  

 

Details in the next newsletter.



BOARD-BRIEFS

 

The Board of Directors met on June 30th and again on July 14th at the Depot Museum.  

 

Among the items discussed, the Board:

 

a)   gave approval to proceed on the placing of a marker on E. Wilson St. indicating the site of the Payne cabin once permission can be obtained from the property owners,

 

b)   agreed to work cooperatively with the Park District in acquiring and moving the "gazebo" located on the old Gunzenhauser property.

 

c)   informed Marilyn Robinson, a retired Batavia teacher, that the Board might be interested in helping publish a book on Batavia history which she is writing that will be written at an elementary school reading level. More details will be needed before a final decision will be made.

 

d)   will contact several local artisans to repair several of the artifacts in the Museum.

 

e)   approved the purchase of a book on the Lincoln Highway (which ran through Batavia) and a reference book related to preservation of limestone buildings.


 

PEOPLE AND PLACES

 

Mr. and Hrs. John Jaeger of 419 Union Ave. are the newest owners of an Historical Society house plaque. Their home is dated from 1863. Congratulations!

 

Several of our members need a special "Thanks" for taking on responsibilities that make our Museum a success:

 

May Lundberg for securing and scheduling the volunteer hosts and hostesses each month;

Walt and Georgene Kauth for opening and closing the Museum on weekends;

and all the volunteer hosts and hostesses.

 

Marilyn Robinson has taken on the task of indexing the articles in all of the Newsletters. This will be most helpful for those wishing to locate information about our town, particularly the recollections which John Gustafson wrote during the early years of the Society.

 

Speaking of volunteers, don't forget that May Lundberg can always use help staffing the Museum (879-3660) and Marilyn Phelps would appreciate assistance with refreshments at our meetings (879-1924). Either would welcome your call!


MINI-QUIZ

 

1. What Batavia business has been in existence for over 50 years in the same building but at four different locations?

 

2. Who was Batavia's last Civil War veteran and when did he die?

 

3. Batavia once had 3 streets bearing the name Washington at the same time.  Other than present-day Washington Ave., what are the other two called today?

 

4. The name North also has been used for 3 streets.  Other than present North Avenue, which present-day streets once bore that name? (See page 7 for answers)



RECOLLECTIONS OF ANOTHER ERA

Carl W. Johnson

 

These are a few random recollections of persons, incidents, and places in the South Batavia Avenue business section between First and Main streets where, at the southwest corner of Batavia Avenue and First Street, in the old Buck Building, my father was in the grocery business for nearly half a century.  

 

It was known first as Micholson and Johnson, then Johnson and Carlson, and finally as Swan Johnson's. You might say that this is a brief anecdotal conversation of some remembrances of those times, with no particular historic significance, but maybe with some personal interest. I shall not vouch for the accuracy of any of these early impressions.

 

At the south end of the block Mr. George Burton ran a grocery and hardware business. I always associate the mere mention of the name, George Burton, with this incident : My father's delivery boy, who at the time I think was Ernest Nelson, had quit to work elsewhere at a better job. Mr. Burton's delivery boy heard of this and so on the next Saturday night --- they always kept open Saturday nights --- this boy with his father in tow called on my father to apply for the vacancy.

 

What was wrong with working for Mr. Burton?  Well, nothing in particular except, for this one thing. It was customary to get your wages on Saturday night, and it seemed that Mr. Burton was sometimes a little lax and forgetful in this department. He always paid eventually, but the boy didn't exactly relish Mr. Burton's erratic habit of letting things go, sometimes for several weeks.

 

So he told of this incident: Not having been paid for several weeks the boy approached Mr. Burton a little timidly and said, (knowing that George was pretty hard of hearing), "Say, Mr. Burton, I wonder if I can get $5.00 tonight?" Mr. Burton, cupping his ear, said, "What's that? Can't hear!" Raising his voice a little, the boy repeated, "Say, Mr. Burton, I wonder if I can get $5.00 tonight?" "What's that? Can't hear!" was the response again. Now, somewhat emboldened, the boy said, "Say, Hr. Burton, I wonder if I can get TEN DOLLARS tonight?" Mr. Burton replied, "Thought you said FIVE!" My father's store had a well-known reputation as a gathering place for discussions and debates, cracker barrel and all, around the pot-bellied stove, by some of Batavia's leading citizens.  

 

These weren't just spasmodic gatherings but were for all practical purposes an established institution, operating especially in the wintertime on a six-day week basis. Here one could get the very last word on politics, taxes, the state of the nation, and on most any other subject, public or private, current at the time. Scandal-mongering seems to have been taboo. A climate of privacy was had by placing a rack of National Biscuit Company display shelves about six feet high, maybe ten or twelve feet in front of the stove, separating the business part from the recreation section of the store.  

 

A half dozen or so chairs were provided, augmented by wooden boxes for the overflow. Joe McKee, a bachelor until late in life, always immaculately dressed and with an aristocratic bearing, was invariably the first to arrive at about 6:00 a.m. when my father opened to catch the tobacco and snuff trade of the factory workers on their way to work.

 

A little digression: chewing snuff was the final test among factory workers for separating the men from the boys, and I am certain that this is the predecessor of what today is known as LSD. I make bold to speak with some authority on this subject because at the tender age of 15 or so I experimented with Copenhagen Snuff and as a result was wafted into the land of oblivion on the wings of the morning into the arms of Morpheus, there to commune with the spirits and the angels as they went 'round and 'round, like Dr. Timothy Leary says, until later when consciousness did again return; and when, I assure you, there was Hell to pay as well as the attending physician!

 

Now, to return to Joe McKee. Joe came early to read the CHICAGO TRIBUNE and to be prepared with an opening statement when the session should later on begin.  On one particular winter morning Joe was pacing back and forth in front of the store, shivering in the cold, when a working man passing by asked him what was up, what was the matter.  

 

Joe answered that he just couldn't understand why that damn Swede, Swan Johnson, couldn't get down on time to open up! You see, my father was five or ten minutes late that morning. Another substantial citizen making up this interesting circle was A. B. Burke, father of Mary Burke, long-time art teacher in the Batavia schools. His home was on South Washington Street (now 125 S. Lincoln). Mr. Burke always carried a cane.  His specialty, as I remember, was the legal aspect of topics under discussion. He was the logician.

 

Another stalwart in this group was Henry Walt, builder of the brick building at the east end of the bridge known as the Walt block.  He spoke slowly, measuring each word, and with a judgment that had the respect of his colleagues.  His home was on South Washington Street directly opposite Mr. Burke's home.

 

Another much respected participant was Mr. C. W. Shumway, founder of the Shumway Foundry Company. The one thing I always associate with Mr. Shumway's name is that he had a special reputation for treating his employees with an unusual kind of consideration. When you went to work for Mr. Shumway, you had a lifetime job if you wanted it.  

 

I also recall he would stop in every morning on his way to the foundry to get his daily quota of cigars. Of course there were many others constituting this fraternity, a list too long for recital here, but these made up the base on which the group owed its continuation.  

 

I remember, for example, that Johnny Ozier, grandfather of Mrs. Jennie Prince, was in some way attracted by these men and would now and then come a long way from his home on the east side, maybe to relive the days of the Civil War. Every Saturday I would hitch up my pony and drive out about five miles on Main Street road to the Bald Mound Creamery to get several cases of butter for the week's supply.  

 

Butter, as I recall, sold for 20¢ a pound with a little fluctuation from week to week.  Every now and then one of the merchants would run a special on butter, perhaps because it was perishable. Once a man came into my father's store and asked how much butter was. "Twenty cents," said my father. "Your competitor down the street is selling it for l5¢," said the man. "Did you go in and buy any?" asked my father. "Yes, I did, but they didn't have any," said the man.

 

"Well, when we don't have any, we sell it for 5¢ a pound," replied my father.

 


NOTE

        

We are indebted to Miriam Johnson for sharing with us this article written in 1950 by her late husband, Carl. He was a charter member of the Society and used this as a basis for a talk given in 1967. I felt it merited sharing with all of our current members and being made a part of our recorded history.

 

J.H.



THE GOOD OLD DAYS:    PART 2

 

The response to my request in the last issue for names of neighborhood stores was not listed in that newsletter has been great. A number of additional stores were identified as well as names by which some on the earlier list were known. Thanks to all who gave me help on these identifications. They include:

 

East side:    

    

Frank Howaniec's at 407 Spring St.

 

Eloise Miller's at 125 N. Van Buren St.

 

Bert Stebbins' at the southeast corner of River and Columbia streets.

 

John Updike’s at the northeast corner of Park and Church Streets.  

 

Daniels' was also known as Pat's (Kenneth Patterson) for a short time.  

 

Beardsley's had been called the North End Grocery in the 1890's and run by both G. R. Kenyon and E. E. Newton.  

                 Later owned by J. H. Joslyn.

 

West side:

     

Martin Pierson's at 639 Main St. Bill Alverson's at 317 First St. Ed Peterson recalls this as an ice cream and confectionery store with cones priced at 8¢ and most candy bars at 5¢ --- but the "best" was a Wilbur which cost 15¢.

 

Abhalter's Little Store was once operated by Charles Lathrop and also by Arthur Anderson. Clarence Berg and Albert Johnson both ran the C. A. Nelson store after Mr. Nelson.

 

F & H was run by Martin Pederson after he sold his store at 521 Houston St. The building at 615 Houston St. was called "the Swede store" but it is not known if this referred to it as being operated as a store at that location or merely a reference to the fact it formerly was the Anderson store at the northeast corner of Batavia Ave. and Wilson St. before being moved to make way for the present Anderson building.

 

Another store had no address. It was the "Store at your Door" which operated from a truck which had a limited stock of food essentials and would park so housewives could come out to the street and get some basics they needed., I am sure in earlier times there were also a number of peddlers.  

 

One story I've been told had to do with one called "Tubin" who had a horse-drawn wagon.  He came out of a house one day after displaying his wares and found his horse lying dead in the street. He only remarked, "He never did that before!"  (Another source credits this incident to a Mr. Shelan who peddled cloth.) When mention of the peddler's horse was made, more childhood memories came to mind for me.  

 

I recall the clip-clop of the milk wagon horse (before they had rubber horseshoes) as milk was delivered house to house.  

Batavia had many dairies offering delivery service over the years, something almost completely gone. Occasionally our milkman, Lennie Johnson, would let us ride in the milk wagon as he made his deliveries. I remember how well the horse knew just which houses took milk and where to stop, particularly brought to mind one day. My pal and I managed to get the horse to move while Lennie was at the back door making a delivery. The horse went to the next regular stop and no further! I'm sure that prank ended our welcome on the milk wagon.  

 

The Batavia Dairy horses and wagons were housed on the northwest corner of Mallory and Houston streets, a building which today is apartments. Another favorite for children was the iceman.  

 

When he chipped the large blocks of ice to break them into the size which a customer wanted, we could have the slivers to suck on --- a real treat on a hot summer day! The customer would place a card in the front window turned to show what size block of ice was needed for the icebox.  As I recall, the cards had the company name in the center and along each side a number for the order size --- 25#, 50#, 75# or 100#.  

 

The iceman used his pick to break the large blocks, pick up the ordered piece with his tongs and throw it over his shoulder to carry to the house.  He had a leather pad to protect his shoulder. John Gustafson wrote a two-part article on Batavia's ice businesses in the Society newsletter in 1972 which is most interesting.

 

Another summertime noise, but not as frequent as the clip-clop of the milk wagon horses, was the distinctive ring of the scissor grinder's bell. Up and down the sidewalks he went, bell ringing to announce his coming, so those who needed knives, scissors, etc. sharpened could bring them out to him as he came by their homes.

 

These are some of my recollections, shaded by warm memories and clouded by the passage of time.  

 

As Carl Johnson wrote in this issue's feature article, "I shall not vouch for the accuracy of any of these early impressions."  

Drop a line to add yours and/or correct or add to mine so we can have this information for the next generation who will never experience the "personal" type of service these merchants, delivery people, and peddlers provided.

 

Jim Hanson


ELECTION YEAR: 1844

 

Nathan Young, who became one of Batavia's leading citizens in the last half of the 1800's, moved to Kane County earlier and farmed near Sugar Grove. He kept of daily journal from which the following were taken in which he expressed his strong sentiments on the national election of 1844.

 

Feb. 12:          

 

Mr. Weller, member of Congress from Ohio is a Democrat of the fault-finding type and the party to which he belongs are fond of and generally deal in the same article to excess and indecency. Their day of retribution is at hand. Look at the results of the Vituperations and abuse heaped upon Gen. Harrison by the party.

 

Where did they land, far up Salt river. Let them but again take a similar course in the coming Presidential canvass and they will never land or make shore but sink in their old half tarred and shattered vessel to the bottom of Salt river and may God keep them there until they are pickled enough to live up to the Golden Rule.

 

Feb. 26:          

 

Calhoun has come out and defines his position by letter. Will not consent to have his name go before the Baltimore Convention nor will he support a man opposed to free trade or one in favor of having slavery (abolition of) agitated in Congress. If such be your position, you never can be President.

 

Mar. 1:            

 

The prospects for Clay are brightening. The Whigs as a body are all agreed and united upon Clay as the man for President. The Baltimore Convention is needless.  The Locos are troubled very much about these days.  No union among them, they have various candidates. Some for free trade.  Some for no protection and others for Revenue Tariff only.

 

Mar. 19:          

 

Maryland has set "the ball a-rolling on" by electing 6 Whigs to Congress, her entire delegation. Stand back and make way for Connecticut.

 

Apr. 22:          

 

By news recd. today by the N.Y. Tribune, we learn that Connecticut has disentabled herself from the arms of Locofocoism and come around and take a foremost rank in the Whig line of "conquer we have, conquer we shall, and conquer we will."   Hurry, give her 3 welcome cheers. Henry Clay is our man. For him we'll vote, for him we'll fight And put the Locos all to flight.

 

June 13:          

 

James Polk of Tennessee has been nominated by the Locos for President and Silas Wright of N. Y. for Vice President. Later news says Wright declines, probably because he is the greatest man and ought to have been first on the·Ticket.

 

July 6:    

         

Congress has adjourned and the members have gone to their homes and thank God, the Tariff remains undisturbed and Texas is not ours yet for all the efforts put forth by Tyler and the Locofocos.  

 

These two great and important questions will be handed out to the people during the present Presidential campaign and they will decide whether Locofocoism, that Anti Tariff and Annexation shall take the place of Tariff and no annexation.

 

July 17:           

 

Pres. Tyler so violently bent on Annexation of Texas has annexed himself to Miss Gardner.  So he has accomplished annexation in one way, if not another.

 

Nov. 4:

           

Election day.

Sugar Grove precinct went for Clay, 5 majority.  The first time the Whigs ever outnumbered their opponents by votes.

 

(NOTE:  Mr. Young must have been deeply disappointed when he learned of the final outcome of the election when Polk defeated the Whigs.)

 

With all of the electioneering we read and hear this year, it is interesting to realize that even on the frontier of Kane Co. 140 years ago, concern about nominations and elections was of interest and concern.


QUIZ ANSWERS

 

1. The popcorn stand now on N. Water St. It started on Batavia Ave. just south of the K.P. bldg.; was then moved across the street to the lot just south of Stosh's barbershop; then to W. Wilson St. where the Batavia S.& L. employee parking lot is situated; and then to its present location.

 

2. Seymour Wolcott who died at the age of 93 in an automobile accident in 1940. Born in 1847 in New York, he came to Batavia at the age of 7. In adult life he was involved with Bellevue Place from its early days until his death.  In 1863, at the age of 16, he enlisted in Co. B., 141st Infantry.

 

3. Both Lincoln and Logan were named Washington street. Mayor Schielke, as a young man, convinced the City Council to make the change to Lincoln to eliminate the confusion of the last duplicate name, particularly for the fire and police departments in emergency situations.

 

4. Both Illinois Ave. and Lake St. were previously called North St. (With the help of our historian, Bill Wood, an article on the many street name changes in Batavia will appear in a future issue.)

 



BATAVIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION:  1988

Rates

 

Single: $3
Tandem: $5
Sustaining: $10

Life: $50