Volume Thirty-Five

No. 2

October, 1994

Annual Fall Meeting

Please mark your calendars and then join us on October 16, 1994 at the Depot Museum


Plan to arrive about 1 :30 p.m. with the program commencing at 2:00 p.m. Marilyn Robinson, Vice-Chairperson of the Historical Society and Carla Hill our curator have been working hard to combine the formal dedication of the Coffin Bank and our little red caboose for this day. The Coffin Bank will be a permanent exhibit displaying photos, artifacts and a diarama about the history of Batavia banking. Our C. B. & Q Caboose will be open and depicting the "daily life of men who lived and worked on these cabooses."

After a warm welcome and the ribbon cutting, we have invited Nancy Prichard and Steven Lusted, Jr. of Batavia and Elmer Passon of St. Charles to share their knowledge and stories on our new exhibits.  

Elmer will be representing the Union Illinois Railroad Museum.

Please join us for refreshments and a great meeting of interest and history.  
We will hold the meeting rain or shine.We hope to see you all there!

Thank You

Dear Historical Society Members,

Each year we honor the museum volunteers with a thank you letter and a small gift. A Fall trip and a Christmas luncheon are also our way of saying "thanks" to our volunteers.

Many local museums that are larger than the Depot Museum have a difficult time getting enough volunteers. We have always been so fortunate.

A special thanks to Kathryn Fairbairn who has taken on the responsibility of scheduling the volunteers, a job that May Lundberg did with such dedication for so many years.

Without volunteers the museum would not be able to be open the number of hours that it is, our catalog and storage areas would be suffering greatly, research would not be done and articles would not be written.

I could go on and on with this list. Volunteers truly do make a world of difference!

Thank you all!

- Carla

Attention Friends of the Batavia Historical Society!

The Museum wants to expand its collection of historic Batavia manufactured windmills and related items.  

These items are desired:

·Sales catalogs/brochures/advertising

·Windmill weights

·Windmill salesman's models and other promotional items

·Windmill parts


The three major windmill companies were:

·The Challenge Company

·The Appleton Manufacturing Company

·The U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Company

There are also three little known Batavia windmill companies:

·Snow Windmill Company Batavia Windmill Company

·Benjamin Danforth Company

Please contact Bob Popeck at 879-1424, ext. 103 if you have information on any of these items.

The Annual Windmillers' Trade Show

In 1989, Mr. and Mrs. William Dalley of Portales, New Mexico contacted people they know who had an interest in the collection and preservation of the American windmill to come to Portales and share their knowledge of windmills.  

About 50 people showed up the first year and today, the organization has grown to approximately 350 members across the U.S. and Canada. Windmillers join together on an annual basis to swap "iron", as old windmill parts are called, stories, restoration tips, and the latest information and finds on windmills from coast to coast.

This past June, Bill Wood, Carla Hill and Bob and Francine Popeck all ventured to Kendallville, Indiana to visit the 6th Annual Windmillers' trade show. Arriving at the county fairgrounds in Kendallville, we found ourselves immediately greeted by a family of windmill collectors from Minnesota who had stopped in Batavia on their way to Kendallville to tour our museum.  

Since this was our first trade show, we did not know quite what to expect so we ventured into the main building where the hustle and bustle was on-going. It did not take long to make ourselves known since the Batavia delegation was wearing red golf shirts with a gold windmill logo on it showing we were from Batavia.  

We split up and each of us found many windmill enthusiasts from whom we learned that there was a lot more to know about windmills than we had realized. We found out that Dr. T. Lindsay Baker was at the trade show. He had been in Batavia several years ago to lecture on windmills and to talk with many old-time Batavians about wind-mills. He has authored several books, one of which is considered "the bible" on windmills. Dr. Baker was letting the word out at the show that Batavia people were in Indiana to put in a bid for hosting the 1995 show.


This, in fact, was not quite correct as our mission was only to scope out the show and learn as much as possible about how it is run with the idea that perhaps Batavia could host it in some future year.

A group from Canada was lobbying hard to hold the 1995 show. The day was hot and clear and we joined in on several tours arranged by the host committee. We watched a windmill trivia contest conducted by Dr. Baker and found out that indeed the members who were in attendance had a vast knowledge of windmills. From young to old, it was entertaining to watch this contest. The evening's banquet meal was delicious and the fellowship of the attendees was great. There were two interesting guest speakers, then a business meeting was held to decide the location for next year's windmill show.

I was allowed time at the podium to make a pitch for Batavia's willingness to consider hosting the show in the future, possibly in 1996, and assured them that our city would be very supportive of the idea. After all bids were heard, the organization held a secret ballot election on the final location.

As the tallying of the results came in, Batavia received 11 votes without even being on the ballot for the 1995 show. The winner of the 1995 trade show site was Calgary, Canada. Our small delegation said our good byes to the many people we had met and new contacts we had made who may help us to bring some of our windmills home. On the four hour drive home we had no trouble talking about the day's events and beginning to shape ideas into just how wonderful Batavia's event could be if we were selected to hold the show in 1996.

A delegation must present its official pitch at the 1995 Windmillers' Trade Show. We hope to represent Batavia next year in a bid to hold this exciting event in our community.  

Bob Popeck



Earlier this year, when my wife Francine and I were planning our trip to California to attend our son's wedding, we had no idea that it would turn into such an adventure - a windmill adventure.  
Well over a year ago, after the society and the city decided to search the U.S. for Batavia-manufactured windmills and related items, I decided to undertake this as a personal project. The end of the tunnel was not as bright as I had hoped it to be in finding our mills.  

After many letters and phone calls to serious collectors in the western states, I found that antique mills, let alone Batavia mills, are not just sitting around for the asking. In the fall of 1993, a historical researcher from Kansas named Homer Beck agreed to make our project a priority on his list. I enlisted several other collectors in our search. They continuously told me to be patient, that someday our search would come to a successful end. Not being an overly patient person, I continued to pursue all contacts I could find with few results.  

In the spring of 1994 my new found friend from Wichita, Kansas brought forth good news.  He was able to find a Challenge Company "steel" mill in Pennsylvania that had been manufactured around 1906. He also located a steel Appleton Goodhue Special in North Dakota, produced in Batavia about 1902.

Challenge folding wood mill with trademark spear weight may soon come home to Batavia.

This was just what my sinking spirits needed and I began to feel more hopeful that our project would be successful after all. Since my wife and I were heading west in August, a stop in Kansas to view the "old" new finds seemed in order.  

At that time my other sources still had not developed any substantial finds but I had not given up on them. In marking out our itinerary, we planned to stop at several well known windmill collections along our route. To see meticulously restored historic windmills in person must far surpass the beauty in any photographs that we had seen.

One of the stops we planned was in Lamar, Colorado to view what we heard was one of the best displays of old mills. The collector, a great guy named Bob, informed me that he was restoring a Challenge "OK" solid wheel wood mill which was produced around 1885. Since he might be willing to sell it, might we be interested in buying it? 

I asked him to please hold it for us until I met with the Historical Society board. It was now time to request the board of directors to officially act upon the purchase of all three windmills and the restoration of two of them. The board had been apprised that the two steel mills needed restoration. Upon learning of another "old" find, they felt that the purchases indeed warranted a "yes" vote of approval.

Now our trip west was really getting full. We had three firm stops on our way to California to view private windmill collections and two stops to view our potential purchases. In discussing our windmill project with yet another windmill collector in Minnesota, whom we had met previously at the June 1994 Windmillers' Trade Show, he agreed to take on the job of restoring the two steel mills if we brought them to him from Kansas.  
Adding all of these miles together, it ends up to be a grand total of 6,575 miles from Batavia and back, including doubling back from Kansas, renting a trailer and hauling our "iron" mills to Minnesota.

So off we went, the car loaded for our trip - including a pair of binoculars so these two new windmill enthusiasts could look at the great countryside and guess at which type of windmill we might be looking. We planned several stops along the way to see relatives and friends as well as sightseeing in the southwestern states. Our first stop to view mills was in McCool Junction, Nebraska.  

The owner of this large collection of some of the rarest mills around is a beekeeper by profession. He owns some early wooden Batavia mills in addition to early mills from other major manufacturers - 34 mills in all. This stop was well worth it.  
The owner, who was on vacation, had made arrangements for us to view his home and collection as well as his wood and welding shops where all the restoration takes place. It was sad to see thirteen of his mills laying on the ground due to a tornado-like wind storm from the summer of 1993. We were told that the fallen mills will all be repaired and re-erected by next spring.

We drove to Wichita where we were greeted with wonderful hospitality by the good folks who had found our "steel" mills.  

The next day we drove out to personally see our windmill purchases.  We were pleased to find the mill sections and gears in decent shape, yet far from ready to be placed on display. A long drive, but westward ho for Colorado we went. Arriving late in the day at Lamar, Colorado, we called the ranch, only a small one of 15,000 acres, owned by Bob Emick. We were invited out by his son, who explained that his dad had just left to go back to his house in town. We went for a short 30 mile drive to the ranch with a very strong threatening storm brewing in the direction we were heading. Now for those who know me, a camera is a very good friend of mine and all I kept thinking was "I am going to lose my light for pictures!"


Bob and Kenny admire the large vane of the "OK" mill soon to be erected in Batavia.


Bring 'em Home
Twenty nine miles, and yep, if you looked hard about two miles west off the highway (or the easy way was with the binoculars) you could see a group of windmills standing on the flat horizon. The typical ranch road was indeed different as you passed over several cattle gate crossings and wound your way through some grazing cattle to complete the trip to the ranch. Oh, yes, the black clouds had beat us there but the rain skirted the ranch.

Greeted by Bob's son, we stared in awe at the beauty of their wooden mills in this rustic setting. The Good Lord must have wanted me to do a good job of taking pictures so he allowed the sun to come out as bright as day only on the ranch. I left my wife to visit while I went wild taking photos. And, would you believe, in this already beautiful setting, a rainbow appeared just to tie it all together! Of course we viewed the Challenge "OK" mill as it sat within a building nearing total restoration and it sure is a beauty!  

We then left the ranch and headed back to town without a drop of water on us.  We knew that the owner of this magnificent collection lived on the main street in Lamar. He had a 10 foot windmill set up on his front yard so it wasn't too hard to find him. Again we were greeted with hospitality and friendliness by the entire family.  

They expressed great enthusiasm for the "Bring 'em Home" project. They also said they would support our bid to bring the Windmillers' Trade Show to Batavia (they have held it twice). We made arrangements to see Bob again at the ranch in the morning to close the deal on the Challenge "OK". We were also told of a 14' U.S. Wind Engine Model "E" mill that sat downtown that we should take a look at in the morning.  

We were overnighting at the large Best Western Cow Palace motel in which Bob had an 18' mill that was manufactured in Kendallville, Indiana on display. The next morning before breakfast the sunlight was brilliant and the sky was a clear blue as we stopped and sighed in admiration and began photographing a real beauty of a Batavia mill on the main street of downtown Lamar.  

To me it was a very heartwarming experience to see "Batavia, Ill." on the tail vane of this mill.  It was a beautiful day for a ride in the country so off to the ranch we went. Bob and his son greeted us with a tour of some of their iron (this is a term referring to windmills which are in pieces or not restored).



Some people would refer to it as junk, but we now knew better. We were shown what was at one time a 18' railroad mill used to specifically pump large amounts of water into a railroad water tower for the steam locomotives. If our new friend could authenticate that indeed this was a Batavia mill manufactured by the U.S. Wind Engine Co., he would offer it for sale to us. Time was flying by quickly but we did not want to just jump in the car and take off with such warm, helpful people around.  

Bob and his son, Kenny, suggested that we go over to Rick's place, another windmill collector who is again "just down the road a piece". It seemed like a half hour drive as we followed Bob and Kenny and his wife to Rick's father's house where Rick was waiting for us. They had been told that we were heading to New Mexico to visit another collector but our glances at our watches didn't speed things up at all.  

This stop was also unbelievable for these good people not only collected windmills; but they seemed to love many, many things including mouse and animal traps. Have you ever seen over 600 traps all displayed within one building?

Of course, there were also over 200 windmill weights in his collection and numerous windmill models such as those displayed in our museum. After admiring his collections, we followed their two trucks to Rick's ranch to view his mills and to meet his wife.

As time was marching on, Colorado Bob suggested we have lunch (it was now 1:30 p.m.) so the whole group proceeded to the closest town, Campo which is "just down the road a piece" (thankfully, it was in the direction of New Mexico). It was really hard to leave this fun group but after a call to the folks in New Mexico to tell them we would be late, we proceeded on our way. We finally arrived in Portales, New Mexico just around sunset to see a collection of 70 windmills on about an acre of land. The Dalley's own an additional 19 acres which are cultivated.  

The rest of the evening was spent just talking about windmills, their experiences running the first three trade shows, Batavia's Riverwalk and windmill projects, and the possibility of us sponsoring the show in 1996. Our westward adventure was supposed to have stopped there for that was our last stop with any connection to windmill collectors.  

However, there is always room for exceptions, especially when one is on vacation! We spied an amazing wind generator farm as we left the desert city of Palm Springs, California. The desert floor and mountain sides were covered with at least four to five thousand wind generator mills. This was quite a different site after visiting all; of those beautiful antique windmills.

Our story resumed after our son and daughter-in-law's wonderful wedding in San Diego with more sightseeing on our return trip through Utah and Colorado. We headed back to Kansas to pick up our two steel mills and haul them slowly in a trailer to Minnesota for the final phase of our trip. As we were driving up the county road to the Herrig's home in Elko, Minnesota, we were met with an extremely heavy thunderstorm which we waited out before we unloaded our cargo. This was the first significant rainfall that we encountered on the entire trip.

This collector has only a few operational mills up for display but he has a large collection of "iron" and a wonderful display of windmill vanes, both metal and wood. Several of these were made in Batavia. In his collection he has a tail vane from a U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company mill called, the "Halladay Standard". T. Lindsay Baker told him this mill is one of the earliest mills produced (1870) and one of the oldest known examples of this vane available in the country today - a real collector's find. It measures about 12 feet long by 4 feet in height with the name of the mill and Batavia fairly readable on it. We are looking for a Halladay Standard mill but we must be very, very patient for this one. This collector also showed us several Challenge Model 27's he has in different stages of restoration.

We are now in negotiation for this make of mill as well. We made one last stop with friends enroute back to Batavia. We arrived home safe and tired but very happy to have seen so much of our beautiful country and so many fine examples of windmills, the symbols of the American prairie and western frontier. 

This is but part of the story of our windmill journey and of the many hours we spent traveling and becoming advanced novices in the field of windmills. The story does not end here as it seems our enthusiasm has touched the hearts of our new found friends in Colorado who have called their contacts and have come up with two additional Batavia mills for us.

One of these will be brought to Batavia when the Challenge "OK" is delivered in October. Since our return, I have also had conversations with my collector friend in Nebraska who has located a rare wood "vaneless" Challenge mill.

The Colorado folks have also located one for us in Texas. I feel that this last year and a half have been very successful with all the good fortune that has come our way in the past few months. I was told to be patient and my patience and persistence have been rewarded with all of these great treasures which we will soon bring home.

- Bob Popeck


There is good news about our dear friend and board member Bill Wood.

He is recovering nicely from his recent major automobile accident. We visited Bill at Copley Hospital and bored him with our great vacation stories.

We found him to be in good spirits. I am sure that is due, in large part, to the big group of friends who have kept Bill in their prayers.

Bill is now recovering at home so keep up the hard work in rehab, Bill!

We all want you out there in the front row when our wind-mills arrive!

Your Help is Needed

The Architecture and Design Committee of the Batavia Task Force has initiated an architectural survey of the buildings in downtown Batavia. We hope that this survey will heighten awareness of buildings which singly may not be of particular architectural or historical significance but which together contribute substantially to the character of the town.

It is in increasing public awareness and appreciation of the shared architectural heritage that comprehensive local surveys are particularly useful. The Architecture and Design Committee will welcome any assistance that the Historical Society can give to our Survey project.

We, in particular, need historical data such as past uses of buildings, past owners, old photos, etc. To this end, we are planning a Get-Together in May and details will be forthcoming.

Thank you for your interest. Linnea Miller, Chairman Architecture and Design Committee of the Batavia Task Force Please contact Bob Popeck or Carla Hill if you are able to assist this committee with their survey. Forms are available from Bob, Carla or any Task Force Architecture Committee member.