Volume Thirty-Two

No. 2

April 1991


Plans for the spring meeting have been finalized and we are looking forward to a good turnout to show our appreciation for this special group of Batavians who will present the program.

DATE:            Sunday, April 28, 1991

TIME:            3:00 p.m.

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


The 3rd grade students from H. C. Storm School will present a program about the history of Batavia based on what they have learned during the local history unit.

Following the program, a brief business meeting will be held.  In addition, Carla Hill will give us the latest information on the project for displays in the basement of the Depot Museum including sketches depicting these displays.


The meeting will close with our usual chance for conversation with friends over coffee and cookies.
As always, I am looking for volunteers to bake some cookies for the meeting as the homemade variety are so much better than store-bought.  If you will bring some, please call Marilyn Robinson (879-2253) and let her know so she can plan accordingly! 


1.  In 1914 Dr. H.H. Whitten announced the opening of the Batavia Hospital. Where was it located?

2.  In 1968 Batavia's merchants started a special February promotion with many stores offering the same "come-on" item for 22¢.  What was the item?

3.  What do the names Lowell and Manchester have in common in relation to Batavia?


In the last issue's "mini-quiz" and its answers, I inadvertently typed a wrong date and then missed it when proofreading. In the question about the two dates related to the forming of the Society the second date was listed as Jan. 17, 1990 and should have been 1960.


The last year has seen four new life memberships in the Society making our total well over sixty. These new enrollees in this special group are Dolores Carlson, Virginia Jackson, Alvan Collins, and the Harris Bank-Batavia. This display of interest and commitment to our organization is most welcome.


At its January meeting, the Board of Directors appointed Bob Pikrone as the new house plaquing coordinator. He replaces Ed LaMorte who, after many years in the position, asked to be relieved.  Mr. Pikrone's response to a plea for volunteers in a recent newsletter was welcomed by the Board. Presently, twenty-one homes or other buildings in Batavia have plaques designating them to be over 100 years old. Anyone interested in securing a plaque must file an application with the coordinator.

The application requires the owner to provide information about the building along with documentation as to its age. Once the application is approved by the coordinator and his committee, it is forwarded to the Board of Directors for final approval. Once final approval is given and the fee to cover expenses is paid, the Society orders the plaque and delivers it to the applicant.

The present cost is $70.00. Anyone interested may secure more information and an application from Bob Pikrone by giving him a call. His home phone is 557-2222, or he may be reached at work by calling 584-1818.


Helen Bartelt AndersonMy first remembrance of the City of Batavia was the celebration on the bridge of the end or World War I. I can recall the hanging and burning of the Kaiser in effigy; the shouting, milling crowd; and the miserably cold, drizzly day. Mother took me inside the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin depot where we watched through the window. I was four years old.

I was born and grew up on my parents' farm east of Batavia on Warrenville Road. At an early age, and when the weather was pleasant, my father would take either my brother or me on the light farm wagon to deliver our milk to the dairy where Phil Elfstrom's building is now located at 25 N. River St. Even the horses enjoyed this trip in the early morning.

Arriving at the dairy, my father would lift the heavy eight or ten gallon cans of milk up onto a landing where Mr. Ed Stafney, inspector, would lift the cover from each can and smell the contents. A sample was taken to determine the amount of butterfat. The more butterfat, the higher the price paid for the milk. The cans then were sent down a metal chute where someone at the other end would dump the milk into a big vat. I never knew what happened to the milk after that. The cans were washed with a hot solution under pressure that gave off a lot of steam, and we would pick them up at another doorway to be taken back to the farm and refilled that evening and the next morning at milking time.

Quite often there were groceries to buy at Kinne & Jeffrey's (the SE corner of Wilson and River) or at Patch & Lemley's. My mother didn't believe in candy for children, but sometimes my dad would give me a penny for lemon drops or horehound candy. Quinn's Harness Shop was next to Patch & Lemley's. I loved the scent of the new leather and was fascinated by leather punches, rivets, harness buckles, etc. These places were on Wilson Street along the north side between the bridge and River St. William Chamberlain had a barber shop in that same area. 
Occasionally, there was a visit to Fred Briggs' blacksmith shop to have new shoes put on the horses. His place was on N. River St. and later became Merrifield's Garage if I remember right. Across the street from the dairy was George Howarth's Feed Store. He also sold bolts and parts for farm machinery, twine to tie the bundles of grain for harvesting, etc. We stopped often at Feldott's Implement Store on E. Wilson St. where there were so many interesting things to see, including boxes of fluffy, yellow chicks in the spring.

One of my greatest joys was when there was time to stop for a visit with my grandfather, Carl Bartelt, who lived on E. Wilson St. just beyond the city limits. My aunt, Mrs. Amanda Alberding, always seemed to have ready a big, fat sugar cookie or a freshly fried doughnut, and always a cup of steaming coffee for my dad from a big granite coffee pot that sat on the back of the cook stove.


Joe Burton

Back in the 1600's, the skies over the area that was to become Batavia were often black with birds---passenger pigeons. Ornithologists estimate three to five billion of these birds once covered the eastern part of the United States.  They were called "passenger pigeons" because they traveled great distances in search of food.  As acorns were a favorite delicacy, their natural habitat was oak forests. Their numbers began to decline in the early 1800's when they became popular as a food item for humans and they now are extinct. The last of these birds died in captivity in 1941.

Early this century, however, another kind of pigeon began to inhabit the skies over Batavia. These were known as "homing" or "racing" pigeons. Like their cousins the passenger pigeon, they were free to roan the skies, but instead of going home to nests in the trees, they lived in lofts near the homes of the people who owned them.

These were tame birds.  A loft was a room used only by the pigeons, usually located in the top of a garage or barn. There they slept, ate, and raised their young. The owners provided food and water.

Why were they called "homing pigeons"? They had a peculiar knack of knowing where home was located. When let out of the loft they quickly took flight and soared around in circles. In this way they evidently learned what "home" looked like.  Also, by some almost magical trait, a sense of direction enabled them to find the way home from great distances.

This homing instinct led to the introduction of pigeon races. Owners would each gather their best birds, put them in a ventilated crate, and take or ship them to a distant point. All crates were opened at the same time and the first birds to arrive back home were the winners. Betting was understandably popular. Flights varied from shortened distances such as fifty miles to as many as 1,000 miles in length.
On race days, which were usually on weekends, each owner in a racing club would deliver a crate with his bird(s) to the railroad baggage agent. All birds were shipped on the same train to the same destination where they were released simultaneously at a predetermined time as decided by the owners (club members).

Back home, each owner anxiously began scanning the skies watching for his birds to appear. When a bird returned and entered the loft, the owner registered the time by taking a band off the pigeon's leg and inserting it into a special time clock. Later all clocks from the owners were compared and the winners determined.

There were at least four Batavians who raised and raced pigeons. The four I definitely know raced were Sherman Anderson, John Van Burton, Carl More, and John Van Nortwick, Jr. Each had his own loft and a flock of fifty or more birds. During the First World War, these owners as well as others allover the United States, gave homing pigeons to the army·which used them extensively to carry messages. Communication technology in WWI certainly differed from what was used in Desert Storm!

Lacking proof that such activities were as popular in Geneva, St. Charles, Elgin and Aurora, I hereby proclaim Batavia the racing pigeon capital of the Fox River Valley.

(Note: As a youngster I often helped my uncle, Carl More, with his pigeons and remember well going with him on "pigeon business" to St. Charles on numerous occasions, so I feel certain at least that community also had a number of club members. Jim Hanson)


1.   The Batavia Hospital was located in the stone house at 114 N. Washington Ave. which is often referred to as the Peckworth or DuFour or Bothwell house.

2.   The promotional item for the merchants' February sales was small, frozen cherry pies for 22¢. This tied into the date of the sale weekend which was Washington's birthday, February 22nd, along with the cherry tree legend about him.

3.   Before Batavia had its post office in 1841, it had no official name. One of the most frequent references was Head of the Big Woods. In a letter written by Isaac Wilson in 1837, he made reference to Lowell opposite the Head of the Big Woods. Thus it must have referred to part of what is now Batavia. At about the same time a proposed plat for land on the east side of the Fox River north of present-day State St. and about three blocks in depth was drawn by John VanNortwick. It also included the northern part of the island and a dam connecting the two areas plus some buildings (mills?). He refers to it as Manchester.  A later plat for the same area filed in the early 1840's dropped the name.  The Society has copies of both of these early plats in its files. Thus, this name also related to part of Batavia in the late 1830's.


The picture above shows the west side of S. Batavia Ave. between First and Main streets in 1914. Many of the buildings are gone, but a number still stand. The businesses at that time starting at First St. (foreground on righthand side) were:

Johnson & Carlson, groceries.

W. S. Winchell, sewing machines, bicycles, musical instruments
J. Seth Anderson, jeweler and stationer

Anderson & Johnson, barbers

William Alverson, confections

Herman Zinn, Druggist

Emil Larson, saloon

Carl Anderson, motorcycles

Anton Johnson, tailor

H. O. Warren, barber

Philip Strobel, saloon

Jim Elworthy, prop., Revere House

Ed Collins, confectioner, lunches, ice cream, stationer & plumber

Nels Benson, meat market

George Burton, groceries and hardware.

The first three were all in the large frame building in the foreground. Carl Johnson's memories of his father's store were in the July, 1988 issue of the newsletter. The 1914 City Directory lists Adelia Rickert as having a boarding house at an address between the jeweler and the barbershop with Sarah Honeywell selling corsets at the same address. Was there an opening leading to a house set back where the Oh Henry 5¢ sign can be seen?

Barber poles can be seen in front of both barbershops. The buildings housing the last three businesses still are in use near Main St. as is the one for Strobel's saloon (Stosh's barbershop building). Behind the trees is the stone building where today are located Dr. Casillas's office and the former Johnson Drug Store.

This picture, which is on an old postcard in the Society's collection, isn't the only display of how things have changed. The other side of the card has a 1¢ stamp for postage!


Carla Hill

The contract for the Depot Museum basement displays has been awarded to Omnicon Ltd. from Elk Grove Village. This firm has extensive experience in exhibit design.
There will be three handpainted murals incorporated into the displays. Displays will include an Indian display, the Christopher Payne cabin, one on early immigration, Batavia's quarries, the windmill companies, the Newton wagon, and a photographic display on architecture.
The completion date is estimated to be around the middle of June.
I am seeking help of two types in getting ready for the final construction of these displays. First, I am looking for photographs of early Batavia scenes to copy for use in the displays. All photographs will be returned after they have been copied unless you specify you wish to donate them to the Society. I am looking for a wide variety of scenes and need these fairly soon. If you have any such photographs you will loan me, please call (879-5235).
The second type of assistance I will be needing sometime around the middle of May are volunteers who would be willing to help clean the artifacts which are to be included in the basement displays. This will involve working at the Museum at a time which is scheduled to be most convenient for those willing to help. Please call me if you would be available to help with this task--again at the Park Dist. office (879-5235).


My sincere thanks to Helen Anderson and Joe Burton for sending me the two articles in this issue.  Stories and memories of this type help preserve our local history. I trust more of our members will share some of their recollections.  Long or short, they all are welcome! Please jot yours down and send them to me at P.O. Box 14, Batavia.

Jim Hanson




Individual:                            $3

Joint/Family:                         $5

Sustaining:                           $10+

Life (each):                           $50

Business or Institutional:        $10

Bus/Inst. Life                        $100