Volume Thirty-One

No. 1


January 1990


Society News


Information regarding the spring meeting of the Society will be in the next issue.  


This issue is devoted primarily to materials submitted by members. We need to have more members write down their remembrances of earlier days in Batavia and send them to us so that our records will contain a more complete picture of what life was like in those times. A page for your contributions is included. Please share some of your memories!


The Evening at the Old Louise White School was highly successful. More than 700 people attended and the Society realized a net profit of $4,033 to use for Museum improvements.  


In addition, two $1,000 gifts have been received from Erdene & George Peck and Virginia & Richard King in memory of Ethel & Arthur Carlson and Minnie & Henry Kahlke.  


These memorials will be earmarked for a special project to be determined after the Museum expansion plans are finalized.  


The Park District has begun work to create additional display area in the basement of the Museum.




Ted Schuster


The original predecessor of the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (now a part of what is known as Burlington Northern) was the Aurora, Branch Railroad Company authorized under a special Act of the Illinois legislature dated February 12, 1849. 


This special Act empowered that company to construct and operate a two-track line of railroad from Aurora “to some eligible and convenient point in the County of DuPage there to connect with the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, now known as the Chicago & Northwestern).


Acting under this charter, the Aurora Branch did build a single track line from Turner Junction (now West Chicago) some 12, miles to Aurora by way of Batavia. Construction was started first at Turner Junction and moved southward to Batavia and beyond using second-hand “strap rail” purchased from an eastern railroad operating between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, N.Y. This type rail was available at bargain prices because the New York legislature had just outlawed its use in that state. The ultimate plan of the Aurora Branch was to operate from Aurora to Chicago using the rails of the Galena and Chicago Union R.R. from Turner Junction to Chicago under an agreement called a "trackage agreement."


In these beginning years, the Aurora Branch owned no cars nor locomotives of its own. When its first train left Batavia at 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 1, 1850, the single wooden coach and the wood-burning locomotive, called the “Pioneer”, both belonged to the friendly Galena and Chicago Union R.R. which stood to gain by sharing Aurora Branch revenues while its trains were on Galena's tracksHistories of the Burlington don't reveal why the first Aurora Branch passenger train originated in Batavia.  


My surmise is that a great deal of fill work needed to be done south of Batavia in the area that can now be seen from a car on Route 25.  Given the primitive construction methods and tools of that day, the investors in the Aurora Branch quite likely wanted the Batavia-Turner Junction sector to get up and running as quickly as possible.  


It would be an advantage to the Galena to tap into the new Aurora Branch revenues as quickly as possible. Further, John vanNortwick, who later became president of the Chicago & Northwestern, lived in Batavia. Before becoming president of that road, he functioned as Chief Engineer of the C.B. & Q when it extended its line from Aurora directly to Chicago by way of Naperville, Hinsdale, and Berwyn in 1862-1864.


This background supports my further surmise that John vanNortwick was an important “connector” between the original investors of the Aurora Branch and the Galena Road in those years. What better reason could there be for starting the first passenger train in the present Burlington Northern system at Batavia?


In the 14 years from October 21, 1850 through May 20, 1864 (according to CB&Q histories) the Aurora Branch Railroad operated both passenger and freight service on its mainline through Batavia. In 1857 the road began to switch engine fuels from wood to coal.


The original strap iron rails laid on 6 inch square lengths of pine spiked, in turn, to crossties, were replaced by T-shaped iron rails commencing in 1853. They, in turn, were replaced by steel rails beginning in 1867. In the late 1850's the Galena and Chicago Union R.R. notified the Aurora Branch R.R. that its trackage agreement would not be renewed because of capacity problems on the Galena's rails.  


The Aurora investors already had an 1854 charter right to build a line direct from Aurora to Chicago under the name of a company known as the Chicago and Aurora Railroad. Accordingly, work on this new more direct line to Chicago was commenced in October, 1862, during the middle of the Civil War. Despite war-related labor and material and equipment shortages, that line was completed on April 29, 1864, under the personal supervision of Batavia's John vanNortwick.  


Once the shorter line came into operation and the Galena Railroad interchange at Turner Junction was closed to Aurora Branch train operations, passenger travel on the Aurora Branch through Batavia came to a halt. However, freight service over this original line continued, and still continues on a daily basis today.


Freight cars bound to and from the General Mills plant in West Chicago and the Northwestern interchange in West Chicago, as well as to industrial clients in Batavia's industrial parks, still travel through Batavia. The Aurora Branch R.R. maintains a presence in Batavia in the form of our Depot Museum.


I'm not sure when that building was constructed but it was always known as "the oldest station on the Burlington." Its size, design and grillwork suggest it was built as a monument to an important local railroad executive.


That was the tradition in early railroading days. Quite likely the person honored in Batavia by the Aurora Branch R.R. was John vanNortwick, who lies buried in Batavia's west side cemetery.




I appreciate Ted Schuster sharing this research with us. It adds another dimension to the story of passenger service to Batavia that started with Joe Burton's recollections in the November, 1989 issue. In 1852, the Aurora Branch R.R. was authorized to change its name to the Chicago & Aurora Railroad and to extend its service to LaSalle.


A copy of its timetable was secured for the Museum by Ted and is reproduced (Below). 


I was surprised to find it made the trip between Batavia and Chicago in just over one hour and thirty minutes, only about thirty minutes longer than with today's more modern equipment.


In addition, the "Pioneer", (pictured below), was the first train to leave Batavia on the Aurora Branch R.R. which Ted mentions in his article. In 1865 the Aurora Branch (Chicago & Aurora) R.R. was given permission by the legislature to take up its track from Batavia to Turner Junction provided the railroad built a line to St. Charles and connected it with the Northwestern at some location.


The railroad did not pursue this option but kept the line to Turner Junction (West Chicago) instead.







Jim Hanson




Bill Bowron told of a motorman on the old Chicago, Aurora and Elgin R.R. who was a man of few words and never too definite in his statements, according to John Gustafson's notes.  


If the motorman was asked if he was going fast when he had an accident, he would answer, "Yes, I was going fast but I could have gone faster."  


Another time, when asked if it had rained hard, said, "Yes, it did but I have seen it rain harder."


One day he hit and killed a horse. He was told to report the accident and this is what he said: "The horse came out of the alfalfa and then the alfalfa came out of the horse."




A man named John Kelly was involved in a railroad accident on the C.B. & Q. on Batavia's east side.  


Both of his legs had to be amputated in an emergency operation which was done in the depot---now our Museum--according to information from John Gustafson's files.






Ariadne Fredendall Boyd


I remember going with Ma to the butcher shops.  One was on Batavia Ave. about the third store around the corner from Main St. Another was on Wilson St. about two or three stores down the hill from Batavia Ave. At the Wilson St. store I recall how the butcher would reach down into a big barrel to pullout a piece of corned beef for Ma. No refrigeration, just in the pickling brine.  Next door to the butcher shop was a place we called the depot. One could get tickets there.


 Newspapers were delivered there at one time. Papers were also delivered to the drug store on Batavia Ave. I distinctly remember the time I was told to go down to the drug store and get the paper. It was winter and really cold. I must have been about ten. I had my usual cold, and when I got to the store it was full of men waiting for the papers. Because of the bad weather the papers were late. There I was, squashed in among all those tall, grown-up men. It was wartime (W. W. I) and all were probably anxious for the latest news. Well, I had the·greatest need to sneeze. 


Being too bashful to cause a disturbance, I held it in as long as I could, but when it came of its own volition I really sneezed--all over my face!  There I was huddled down among all those men, no handkerchief, and tears running down my cheeks. So horribly embarrassed!  I finally did the only thing I could think of and wiped across my gooey face with my mitten, only to make matters worse. The other mitten didn’t help much, but at least I felt better.  


The papers finally came and I quickly headed for home. I made it home and vowed never in my life to go any place again without at least two handkerchieves. Just riding on the streetcar was a big treat. The theater in Aurora had vaudeville every Sunday afternoon and my grandfather used to go. The best part was that he took me with him.  


How I loved those outings with Grandpa. Not only a trolley ride, but real people performing on the stage. Oh, yes, how we waited for the bell of the bakery wagon.  My mother was an expert baker and made all of our bread. There was never any want for cakes, pies or cookies, but when the bakery wagon came along with its bell tinkling, we each got a penny to go out and buy a huge, round sugar cookie.


The milk wagon carried large milk cans and one could go out with a pitcher to be filled. This changed and the dairy was soon delivering milk in glass bottles. In the winter, if one didn't bring the milk in soon enough, it would freeze and the frozen cream would be sticking up above the neck of the bottle with its little paper cap still in place.


I loved seeing it do this.




Nancy Newlin PearceWhen I was a child we bought our milk from Major H. K. Wolcott.  He was a handsome man with an immaculately trimmed white beard.  I remember him as always wearing a suit and weskit, across which stretched a heavy gold chain.  He was a widower and lived with an unmarried, invalid son in an imposing house with a large lawn which covered the entire block between Union Avenue and Walnut Street. His only cow was milked at appropriate intervals by Gus Benson, who doubled as a chauffeur.  My sister and I walked the two blocks twice a day, carrying an empty quart milk can.  The milk was often still warm when we arrived.  Although not pasturized, nor to my knowledge, tested, we drank it for several years and thrived. The only bad effect was to my sister's self-image.  She was older than I and constantly embarrassed by our menial task.  The conclusion of football or basketball practice coincided with our milk run.  Unable to face the unspeakable horror of meeting these heroes was too much for her.  So the·ignoble task was left to a younger and less sophisticated milkmaid. Eventually both Major Wolcott and his cow went to their reward and we had our milk delivered by the Batavia Dairy.  




Think back to the Batavia of fifty years ago (1940) and see if you can give the first and last name of each of the following people. These were nicknames or initials by which they were so commonly known that their other names usually were not needed or used.


1.    J.B.


2.    Babe


3.    John D.


4.    Dese


Can you also name the position or business in which each was involved in that year?  




Our Museum will be opening again in a little over a month.  May Lundberg, our volunteer coordinator, can always use more volunteers to act as hosts and hostesses.  If you can donate two hours a month, give May a call at 879-3660.  


Museum hours are from two to four o'clock on Mon., Wed., Fri., Sat. & Sun.




1.  J.B.                 

John B. Nelson, who was Supt. of Schools in 1940 after having been the high school principal.  One of our elementary schools is named for him.


2.  Babe               

LaVerne Woodard, who served as City Clerk for 37 years.  Woodard Field on Clark Island is named for him.


3. John D.           

Severin Alberovsky, Batavia's Chief of Police for 14 years.  He died in an accident on E. Wilson St. during a high-speed chase.  He was born in Austria and had served in the Austrian army before coming to the U.S.


4. Dese               

Oscar T. Benson, also known as “O.T.”  He operated the Phillips 66 station on So. Batavia Ave. in 1940.  Later he served as a police officer for about 20 years.




When I read Ariadne Boyd's comments about the butcher reaching into the barrel of brine, I recalled the following story told by Irma Jeffery----certainly not about anyone at the Kinne & Jeffery Store! A woman went into a meat market and wanted to buy a fish.  The proprietor only had one fish left so he reached into the pail of brine under the counter and swished around, finally coming up with this lone fish. The customer looked at it speculatively and asked, "Haven't you got one a little larger?" The man put the fish back into the pail, swished around in the brine again, and brought out the same fish, saying, "Here's a nice big one.”The customer responded, “It's nice and the other one was too.  I'll take them both.”



At the December meeting, Georgene Kauth, Bill Wood, Bob Cox and Bob Popeck were re-elected to their positions.  Marilyn Robinson replaced Marilyn & Bob Phelps as Vice-President.  All other members of the Board are in the middle of their two-year terms.


Office                                                Office Holder                                    Term ends


Co-Presidents                                    Dot & Jim Hanson                               Dec. 1990

Vice-President                                    Marilyn Robinson                                Dec. 1991

Recording Secretary                            May Lundberg                                    Dec. 1990

Corresponding Secretary                      Georgene Kauth                                 Dec. 1991

Treasurer                                           Elliott Lundberg                                 Dec. 1990

Historian                                            Bill Wood                                         Dec. 1991

Directors                                            Ray Anderson                                   Dec. 1990

                                                        Ed LaMorte                                       Dec. 1990

                                                        Bob Cox                                           Dec. 1991

                                                        Bob Popeck                                       Dec. 1991



P.O. Box 14, Batavia, ILL, 60510


QUESTION: What are some of your remembrances of Batavia in days gone by?  


Please write them on this sheet and return it to the Society so they may become part of our record.