Volume Thirty-One

No. 4


August 1990




The summer meeting of the Society has been planned and, as usual, another interesting program is scheduled.  Be sure to mark your calendar now so that you will not miss the meeting---and bring a friend or newcomer to Batavia with you so that person may become acquainted with our Society.


Date:               Sunday, Sept. 16, 1990

Time:               3:00 p.m.

Place:               Bartholemew Room, Civic Center, 327 W. Wilson St.




Dr. Rodney Nelson, III of Geneva will present a program regarding early medicine.  Dr. Nelson recently has written a book entitled, Beaumont, - America’s First Physiologist.  William Beaumont's observations and experiments are regarded as the first important American contributions to medical science. A brief business meeting will precede the program and the customary social time over cookies and coffee will conclude the afternoon.


The excellent cookie bakers among our members have spoiled us with the expectation of homemade "goodies" for our meetings.  I trust some members will volunteer again to bring cookies.  


If you can help in this way, please call our Vice-President, Marilyn Robinson at 879-2253.




Oct. 9th:          The Heritage Committee of ACCESS will sponsor a program on inter-urban railroads with emphasis on the CA&E.  Watch the local papers for details.

Dec. 2nd:        The Society's annual meeting and pot luck dinner at Bethany Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall.  Details will be in a later newsletter.




Joe Burton"Yore" in this case means the early 1900's when horsepower meant the power of a real four-legged horse.  Back in those days there were no gas stations but there were horses all over town.  Milk and ice were delivered to your home by horse-drawn wagons.  Early pictures of downtown stores clearly show hitching posts out in front where autos park today. To keep horses properly shod there was a blacksmith shop on the island across from the movie theater.  If you didn't own a horse you could rent one with carriage attached from the Wheeler Livery Stable on So. Batavia Ave . . . just across the street from Bert Johnson's Drug Store. Then there were the cows.  The L. E. Wolcotts and the Hamilton Browns on No. Batavia Ave. both had cows.  Nancy Newlin Pearce recently wrote about going with her sister to get milk from the old H. K. Wolcott home on So. Batavia Ave.  I can remember when that cow was led down Union Ave. for its daily grazing in a field behind Bellevue.  I used to fetch milk from the Bergman family who lived on No. Washington St. (now Lincoln St.).  It wasn't pasteurized, it wasn't homogenized, but it was simply delicious! Other highlights of that era included: CHICKENS:  There was hardly a block in town that didn't awaken each morning to a symphony of "clucks" and a "cock-a-doodle-doo!"  


My family was no exception.  Over the years we had a succession of White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds and Black Minorcas.  As part of our weekly chores my brother and I had to clean the hen house. SHEEP:  When the Frank Snow family lived in the Frank Lloyd Wright house north of town, Mr. Snow evidently tired of mowing the front lawn which was as rocky and hilly and spacious as it is now.  He bought a herd of sheep which not only kept the lawn neat and trim with their grazing but also added a touch of color to the landscape.


COMMUTING IN STYLE:  One of the daily events which attracted attention was John Gunzenhauser's trip from his home, "Villa Marie", on No. Batavia Ave. to the Chicago and Northwestern R.R. station at the foot of the Wilson St. hill.  Seated comfortably in the back of his carriage with a coachman and two prancing horses, Mr. Gunzenhauser literally rode in style.  In the evening the same coachman, carriage and horses met the train from Chicago and returned him to his home.


A PONY:  Martin O. Nelson, who lived on McKee Street, had three sons and a daughter: Russell, Earl, Howard and Adeline.  To keep them happy he gave them a pony and a cart.  It was the talk of the neighborhood and every kid on the west side of town.


A PIG:  Yes, there was a pig but I can't remember the name of the family who owned it.  They lived about two blocks directly north of where the Depot Museum now stands.  I used to fish in that area and one day, as I watched in horror, they butchered the pig in their front yard. PIGEONS:  Batavia at one time probably had more pigeons than you could find on State Street in Chicago.  These were racing pigeons, but that is a whole story in itself about which I intend to write as soon as I can gather all the facts.




I wish to thank Joe Burton for another article about Batavia in the early 1900's.  The following are remembrances sent in by others in response to my request in January, some by the same people quoted in the last issue. I recall the annual fireworks display on the 4th of July at the "athletic field" in northwest Batavia in the "30s."  The American Legion put on the show.  The fireworks were given to Sen. Arnold Benson and I remember seeing the boxes stacked high in a room in his house.  The anticipation was wonderful and the show always lived up to our expectations. P.B.R.


I wonder if anyone recalls when Bolton Mallory flew into Batavia and landed on the athletic field. It was lunch time and the kids were all late for afternoon classes because they were out looking over the plane---something never seen up close before! H.E.R. - - - - - - - - -SanitationIn those early days a great many of the men chewed tobacco.  If they had been sensible there would have been no problem, but women wore long dresses or long serge skirts that just hit the sidewalk behind them as they walked along.  I loved watching the hem of Grandma's skirt "plip-plipping" along the sidewalk.  It seemed as if her skirt was dancing to town. The problem arose because the tobacco chewers would spit on the sidewalks.  Finally the women rebelled and got after the city fathers.  The men fumed and snorted, the women campaigned, and finally signs were posted on the telephone poles, "No spitting on the sidewalk." A.V.B.


Do you recall fifty years ago when: a first class letter cost 3¢ to mail and the postman delivered the mail twice a day?  the pond extended under Wilson Street?  recycling was done by feeding the collected garbage to hogs?  telephone numbers were only 4 digits long and party lines were common? there were “5 and 10 cent stores” that had items for those prices?







What were the call letters of Batavia's radio station which had its broadcast tower east of Raddant Rd. and south of Giese Rd.?



What Batavia store used the slogan, "Let these birds feather your nest," in its advertisements?



In Nov., 1929, Batavia's City Council planned to obtain options on property on which to erect a "Community Memorial Building." Where was it to be located?




Jim HansonAntique Show


The Cigrand Antique Show was successful and raised $877 for the Society.  The Batavia Antique Dealers' efforts in organizing the show and designating ticket proceeds for the Society are greatly appreciated.  Planning is underway already for next year's show.  I also wish to thank the members who volunteered to handle ticket sales at the show: Barb & Dave Sawitoski, Pearl Blass, Georgene & Walt Kauth, Mary Harris, Bill Wood, Elsie Renaud, Ted Schuster, Linda & Jeff Schielke, Betty Morehead, Don Schielke, Cliff Anderson, Harold Patterson, Georgene Schramer, Shirley Hoover, Jacki Upham, Patty Will, Dolores Carlson, Marilyn Robinson, Rosalie & Dick Jones, Dot Hanson, Norma & Elliott Lundberg and Pearl Pedersen.


Upstairs at the MuseumThe storeroom on the second floor of the museum is taking on a new look.  

New shelving has been secured along with special acid-free boxes, wrapping paper and picture files so that our collection of artifacts can be properly stored.  Every Tuesday Helen (Ray) Anderson, Marilyn Phelps and Dot Hanson spend the morning cataloging, filing, and organizing our collection.  They have been volunteering for this for many years but their task has been much more demanding this year with the reorganization.  


Our curator, Carla Hill, has been a great asset to this project, securing all of the various materials needed and seeing that the shelving was secured and erected.  This work isn't obvious to the public but is important.  These fine ladies are owed a debt of gratitude for their efforts! On the MoveThe Gunzenhauser gazebo and the Coffin bank are now in place on the museum site bringing together all of our buildings.  Final work on the gazebo restoration is continuing.  When completed, this unique and colorful structure will help beautify the pond area.  Long range plans involve creating an interior display in the bank in which a number of our office artifacts can be displayed.


More research by MarilynIn the last issue I reported on the award Marilyn Robinson received from the Illinois Historical Society for her book, LITTLE TOWN IN A BIG WOODS.  Marilyn now is adding to our store of information about Batavia's past with a series of articles on historic Batavia homes in the Windmill News.  Her interest and abilities are a real asset to our Society! Volunteer TripThe Park District sponsored a trip for the museum volunteers early this month to the Early American Museum near Mahomet, Illinois.  Those able to go enjoyed a wonderful experience.  If you are near Mahomet (just west of Champaign) at any time, it would be well worth your time to see this exceptional museum with its many excellent displays.  Carla and the Park District are to be commended for this thoughtful manner of showing appreciation for the volunteers.




The coordination between the Society and the antique dealers for the Cigrand Antique Show last June was handled by your co-presidents and vice-president.  Planning for the 1991 show has just begun.  If one of our members would offer to coordinate the effort between the Society and the dealers, it would be appreciated.  This will involve attending regular planning meetings with the dealer committee (held mornings), offer suggestions, and secure and assign volunteers to assist at the show.  If you would be interested in taking on this responsibility, please call Jim Hanson (879-7492). 




What's in a name?  It seems that there can be more than one thing.  As most of us know, "Batavia" comes from the Dutch and our city was named for the city in New York with the same name.  The word, according to several sources, means "fair meadows," and this has been the accepted definition for a long time. Recently, a former Batavian, Marilyn Benson Hughes, sent a copy of a page from THE COVENANT by James Michener which gives a different interpretation---one also supported by references.  To quote in part: "Batavia! This tiny enclave ... had been named after the Batavi, those fierce, sullen men encountered by the early Roman emperors in the marshes that would subsequently become Holland." (Reference was to Batavia, Java, settled by early Dutch explorers just as Batavia, N.Y. was settled by the Dutch of "New Amsterdam" as it was first known.)





The radio station was WORD.  It was affiliated with the Jehovah's Witnesses.  This seems to explain the choice of call letters due to its Biblical connotation.



The Crane & Swan furniture store located on the northeast corner of Wilson and River streets.  This building is one of the oldest business structures still standing in downtown Batavia.



The proposed community building was to be located both west and south of the post office.  The city already had an option on property from the post office to First Street and from Island Ave. to the pond and was going to seek an option on the land west of the post office to the pond.  


A referendum was planned for the 1930 spring election to fund the construction.  It was to have city offices on the first floor (probably facing Island Ave.); an auditorium on the second floor level with Wilson St.; and the third floor reserved for use by service organizations.  Needless to say, it was never built!  




In keeping with the theme of our program for the fall meeting, it seemed appropriate to share some history of doctors and medical issues in Batavia's past. A special meeting of the Town Board was called April 4, 1884, for the purpose of taking measures to protect the village against smallpox as Yorkville had reported 14 cases in the past week.  A committee was appointed to arrange with the local doctors to vaccinate everyone at the village's expense.  The following March $4.00 was paid to each of the four doctors involved: Drs. Cooper, Burroughs, Fitts and Augustine. It seems unlikely that there were many women doctors in the 1800's, but Batavia had one.  


Dr. Annie Spencer came to Batavia in 1886 and practiced for many years.  She was an assistant at Bellevue for four years.  When our library was in the former Levi Newton house, she lived and had her offices on the second floor.  When the building was razed to extend Wilson St., she built a home on No. Batavia Ave. Hospitals were uncommon also.  Two local doctors solved the problem by providing hospital care of their own.  Dr. DeFour used several rooms in his home for patients at one time.  This house, located at 114 N. Washington Ave., also served as a branch library for the east side at another time.  


According to the recollection of Dr. West when presenting a talk to the Society in 1960, he said that a Dr. Whitten used another house for three or four years in the same manner. Dr. West was one of the best known and respected doctors in Batavia for over 40 years.  In the same talk mentioned above, he told about attending medical college in Chicago and graduating in 1902.  


At that time there were thirteen medical schools in Chicago, only three of which were accredited.  While practicing in Chicago he had a coronary attack.  He was urged by another doctor to get away from work in the city and told Batavia needed a physician.  Shortly thereafter he was visiting a brother in Elgin and came through Batavia on the way back to Chicago.  He liked it so well that he rented a house before leaving town, thus starting his practice here in 1910. At that time there were three active doctors here---Drs. Annie Spencer, Bothwell, and Johnson---whom he called on in order to become acquainted.  


Dr. Fitts was semi-retired, Dr. Augustine had retired, and Dr. McNair had recently moved to Oklahoma. Dr. Fitts had come to Batavia in 1884 (at the time of the smallpox scare mentioned earlier) and Dr. McNair came in 1893.  John Gustafson recalled that Dr. McNair's "sunny disposition cured aches and pains as much as his pills as the atmosphere of a room brightened when he entered." About the time of the First World War, Dr. Mostrom from Geneva entered into a partnership with Westin a clinic.  Later Drs. DuFour and Elliot followed and, as time went on, others including Drs. Habegger, Baxter, Shirer and Grigg were in the West clinic. Dr. West said that when he began his practice they had some antitoxins but were often afraid to use them in large enough quantities to do much good.  


Around 1915 diphtheria had become prevalent with 67 cases in Batavia in one week. All the school children were checked and many were found to be carriers and were sent home.  He also recalled that in his early days, babies were delivered in the home for an average fee of $10. Batavia's first physician was Dr. D. K. Town who arrived here in 1839 and practiced until 1862.  He lived on S. Batavia Ave. and was responsible for planting many of the trees in the parkway of that street and along Union Ave. and Walnut St.  Another early doctor was Henry Williams, who arrived in 1850.  Not only did he practice medicine but also was a wholesale florist operating an extensive greenhouse at the corner of Batavia Ave. and Main St.  He served as county coroner for five years. Dr. Chas. Bucher came to town in 1855.  He enlisted in the army during the Civil War and was an assistant surgeon.  He returned to Batavia to resume his practice along with serving as coroner and also on village and school boards.


 A Dr. Garnsey practiced here from 1850 to 1890, and another "40 year man" was Dr. Burroughs who served Batavians from 1861 to 1903.  Other familiar names of men who came around 1900 and were involved not only in curing ills but also in civic affairs were Drs. G. O. Kerfoot, O. W. Hubbard and Roy Bothwell.  Of course the list could go on and on and even then I would surely leave some out. In an 1888 book on Kane Co., the author said of pioneer physicians, "They did not write a prescription which could in a few minutes or hours be filled by a druggist but, by necessity, carried a supply of medicines suited to the wants of people in their saddlebags." Yes, things have certainly changed!




Furniture stores were involved in the undertaking business into the 1900's. This relationship is said to be the result of the manufacture of coffins by furniture dealers.  Advertisements in the Batavia Herald during this period show our town was no exception.  


One such advertisement is printed below.  Another, printed in a 1906 issue of the paper states:




Furniture & Undertaking
Cor. Wilson & River Sts.
Batavia, Ill.


(This store later became Crane & Swan mentioned in the quiz.) Bill Davis, who worked for the post office for many years, told this story: O. M. Thomle had a carpenter who worked for him making coffins on the second floor of his furniture store.  The carpenter brought his meals with him to work and kept them in one of the coffins.  He often included Limburger cheese.  One day Mr. Thomle was showing the coffins to a prospective customer when he raised the lid of the coffin where his carpenter kept his cache of food including the Limburger cheese.  He got one whiff of it and slammed down the lid thinking they had done a poor job of embalming that fellow. Earl Lundborg shared this story with John Gustafson many years ago: Aaron and Andrew P_____ lived near each other.  Aaron died suddenly and a local undertaker went to embalm him in the home as was the custom then.  For this he carried two huge, black suitcases.  Unfortunately, the undertaker was confused and went to Andrew's home by mistake.  Andrew also was near death and was expected to pass on at any time.  When the undertaker knocked at the door the son answered.



The son looked at him and the suitcases and said, "My God, can't you wait until my father dies?" (You will have to decide yourself about the accuracy of these stories.)




The photograph below shows Dr. Chapman and his mode of transportation for making house calls.  A description of this, but related to Dr. Garnsey, was given by Guy Conde.  Mr. Conde said that the doctor drove around to see his patients in a two-wheeled road cart.  He always carried a brass lantern attached to the cart so that he always was ready for night calls.  Like Lincoln, in cold weather he wore a shawl.  He eased the pains of his children patients by giving them an orange as he left.  Dr. Garnsey lived on No. VanBuren St.






The picture below is one of several the Society has of former doctors in Batavia.  Do any of you recognize him?  Not only does the Society have his photo but we also have a collection of his "record books" from 1899 until 1943!  His ads in old Batavia Heralds were the same for many years: "Physician & Surgeon, Cor. Batavia Ave. and Wilson St.  Office hours 10 to 12 a.m. 3 to 5 and 7 to 8 p.m."  This is Dr. O. W. Hubbard.







I am still looking for more remembrances of Batavia's past.  Please jot yours down and send them to the Society.  They needn't be long nor written like a professional author would write.  Merely help us preserve a picture of Batavia as no history book can do.