THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Forty-One

No. 3

 

July, 2000

 


A Splendid Dedication of the Gustafson Research Center

 

Neither soaring temperature, stifling humidity, nor threatening skies kept a festive crowd from participating in the dedication of the Gustafson Research Center at the Depot Museum on Sunday, June 11.

 

And the crowd was rewarded: no rain fell, and evryone enjoyed an outstanding program. The ribbon-cutting ceremony began at 1:00 p.m. with short remarks by Ralph Voris, executive director of the Batavia Park District; Bert Johnson, president of the Batavia Historical Society; Pat Callahan, commissioner of the park district; William Hall, chairman of the society's long-range planning committee; and Mayor Jeffery Schielke.

 

In Schielke's remarks, he paid tribute to the Gustafsons, John, Lucile, Arnold, and Alice, describing the unique contributions each made to Batavia's history.

 

After this, Pat Callahan and Bert Johnson cut the ribbon across the door of the center, and everyone was invited to go inside. At 2:00 p.m., those in attendance at the ribbon-cutting and others who arrived later gathered in the council chambers at the municipal center to hear the featured speaker, Dr. Rodney Ross, who had been the speaker at the dedication of the Depot Museum in 1975.

 

Rod was a 1961 graduate of Batavia High School; he went on to earn his bachelor's degree at Knox ctollege and his master's degree and doctorate at the University of Chicago. He is presently archivist at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Rod's moving address was actually in two parts -- an introduction in which he recalled continuing contacts he has maintained with members of his high school class and other Batavians and then what he considered the mainpart.

 

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We would like to have included his entire address in this issue, but space considerations mandated otherwise.

 

Accordingly, with Rod's permission, we have included, as an insert, the main part of his speech. In a later issue, we can perhaps include the fore part, which should interest many readers because the people mentioned.

 

The dedication ceremonies concluded with refreshments and an opportunity for any who wished to return to the research center, which remained open until 5:00 p.m.

 

All that remains is for members and others to make use of this tremendous resource, whether to research their family histories, find out more about the houses in which they live, learn about the industries and businesses that built Batavia or pursue any other inquiry that involves Batavia history. (Photos courtesy of William J. Wood)

 

 


 

A Walk along East Wilson in the Early Days (Continued)

 

In the last issue, we followed Madge Grimes Spencer on an 1890s memory walk east along the south side of Wilson Street, starting at the bridge and ending at Prairie Street. We now resume her 1961 reminiscences of life along Wilson Street a hundred years ago.

 

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Now we headed back west on the north side of Wilson, stopping at the corner of Wilson and Van Buren Streets.

 

The present [1961] Catholic Church (now the Park District's East Side Community Center) was built on this corner in 1896, under the direction of Rev. George Ratz. The parish house, a large structure of colonial brick costing $9,000, was completed in 1910 under the direction of Rev. J.P. McGuire.

 

Crossing Van Buren, we came to one of the landmarks of Batavia, in 1961 the home of Quentin H. Blewett. This house is the front part of the original structure built one hundred years ago on land that was part of the original Isaac Wilson addition to the town of Batavia.

 

About half a block west was a long, narrow building with porches the full length, owned by Mrs. Myette and later by the John Geiss family. Mr. Geiss used the front part, which had wooden steps to the sidewalk, as a shop where he carried on the business of cigar making. This business later occupied one of the buildings downtown.

 

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The property was sold later to the school district and, with buildings removed, became a part of the Louise White School yard.

 

The Grimes home occupied the next corner, facing Wilson Street. In 1833, Christopher Payne had staked out his claim to what is now part of Batavia. He sold his claim in 1835 to Judge Isaac Wilson, father of the late Hon. Isaac G. Wilson. This property was purchased shortly after by Jacob and Lucy Grimes at the price of $1.25 per acre. The forest was cleared away, all except an oak and an elm tree, which in 1961 still stand on the Wilson Street side of the house.

 

The original house was only one story high, but in 1888 when more room was needed, the upper part was erected by Willis Grimes, who had henpurchased it from his uncle Jacob. After Mr. Grimes' death, it became the property of Mr. and Mrs. (Madge Grimes) Spencer. Across Washington Street was a vacant corner lot owned by Alex Grimes, father of Willis.

 

This he gave to the Baptist Church when they built their new church Down the hill, there was a unique store run by Miss Hallam. She sold anything from a pin to a bolt of cloth. All of her supplies came from Marshall Field's in Chicago, where her sister was a most valued employee, making trips yearly to Europe to purchase supplies for Field's.

 

In the next yard was a little building where James Stewart had a barber shop.

 

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On the back of the lot was a small cottage where the Stewarts, with their three sons, lived.

 

The next building was a large wooden one, with about eight steps leading up to it. This was the Charles Leipold Meat Market. Under the meat market was the shoe repair shop of Charlie Richter. This later became the location of the Julia Kline building.

 

 

 

 

 

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Across the alley was the Averill building, which housed a meat market and later a bakery shop. It, too, had an outside stairway so that the second floor could be used for housing. Next to it was a small wooden building where Cole and Conde had a shop in which they made all kinds of leather goods and repaired sewing machines.

 

Then came several small buildings, finishing the block with the Smith and Crane building-on the corner of River Street. This was a most imposing furniture store, and in later years when it became the property of Glenn Crane, it serviced the surrounding countryside.

 

Under this building facing River Street was the barber shop of Dell McDowell and, later, William Chamberlain. Anyone who remembers the old wooden building across River Street lived some time ago. Here Jimmy Alexander had a grocery store, with a lunch room in the rear.

 

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This property was purchased by Willis Grimes and James Thompson, who continued with the grocery business. Later Herman Shaw purchased the Grimes interest, and it was known for many years as the Thompson and Shaw Grocery. The old wooden building was replaced by the present brick structure.

 

West along the street there were a number of one story buildings occupied by the Fred Newcomb Meat Market, the John Davis Grocery, the Jacob Geiss Tavern, and then the large stone building belonging to Jacob Patch

 

This was a wonderful shoe store. Here you were waited on by Mr. Patch or his daughter Emma. We must not forget the little building next where John and Larry Quinn had their harness shop. 

 

Remember, there were no autos in those days, and that made for a very thriving harness business. One interesting feature of this shop was the grand raffle that they conducted every Thanksgiving Day, an event that made someone richer by a wagon robe, a whip, or perhaps a full harness.

 

There was another vacant space to the river, but soon Henry Walt built what was known as the "Walt Block." This was a divided building of two stories. On the east side, W.L. Grimes had his hardware store, with its rows of base burners and cook stoves. These were the days before gas, oil and electricity were used for heating.

 

Today in 1961, a bakery is located there. On the west side of the building, at one time Louis Silverman had his dry goods store; later, when Silverman moved across the street, it was used by the father of Oscar Brenner. Afterwards an ice cream parlor and, more recently, a tavern occupied this building. The upper floor has been the home of many -- a dentist's office, lodge halls, meeting places for churches, conventions, etc. We have returned to a point across the street from where we started.

 

Not. many will remember some of places, but we trust this tour will bring a smile, a tear, or a fond memory of the years that have passed.

 


 

The Old Oak Table and the Sideboard

 

 by Helen Bartelt Anderson

 

Helen Anderson was born in the early years of the twentieth century on a farm in Batavia Township. Our readers always look forward to her stories, and we shall encourage her to continue drawing on her memories of years gone by.

 

The walls of our dining room were painted a medium green with a drop ceiling of ivory and a narrow border of gold separating the two colors. Mama's dining-room table sat in the center of the room. It was a large, round, heavy oaktable. When extended it would seat fourteen or more diners. The heavy curved legs had feet with claws that always fascinated me. The dining room chairs were not real large, but they were tall. Chair seats were covered with hard, heavy, brown, leathery-looking fabric, held in place by many round-headed tacks.

 

Above the table hung a large kerosene lamp, which could be pulled up or down. It was made of china and brass. Roses, in many shades of pink and red, adorned the shade and base of the lamp. A round wick gave much better light than our other lamps. Three brass chains attached it to the ceiling. All of our meals were eaten around this table. Papa had strict rules -- no one could eat until we were all seated. Then Papa would say grace, thanking God for the food He always provided.

 

We were not allowed to leave the table until all had finished eating. During threshing and other harvesting, this great old table, stretched to its full length, allowed as many as fourteen men to fill their tummies with Mama's good Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, giving them the strength they needed for the afternoon's hard work.

 

Occasionally, Uncle Ed and Aunt Peg, with sons Grant and Carl, drove out from Oak Park. Aunt Peg was Irish, with red hair, and was lots of fun. Every few years, she returned to her home in Ireland, to visit her family. One time she brought Mama a beautiful white, Irish linen tablecloth, with shamrocks woven into the design of the cloth. It was long enough to fit the old oak table when pulled out full length. Mama would no longer have to use two smaller cloths and overlap them in the middle. Mama ordered a new set of dishes to go with her new tablecloth. They were white with a black-patterned border.

 

On each side was the initial B in gold. The edges were rimmed with gold. The old oak table was kept busy most of the time. Mama covered it with oilcloth -- immune to spills. Bread was kneaded, cookies were made, and fruits and vegetables were prepared for canning. It was a good place for Mama to spread out newly washed clothes, sprinkle them, and roll them up for the day's ironing. It was a study area where multiplication tables were memorized, and stories and poems were read over and over. As we sat around the supper table, Mama or Papa would "hear" our spelling words. We rarely misspelled words on tests.

 

It was also a play area for my brother, Roger, and me. We played dominoes and checkers and made beautiful pictures in our coloring books, sometimes using paints. The smooth, flat surface of the table helped Roger's little brass steam engine travel to the other side of the table, with whistle blowing and steam escaping. We traced, colored and cut out farm animals to put into Roger's shoe-box barn. There were two doors on the east wall of the dining room. One led to the pantry, the other to a clothes closet. In between the two doors stood the sideboard. This, too, was made of oak. There were two quite large compartments in the lower part. The one on the right held Mama's good dishes. The left compartment contained the business part of farming. Papa kept it locked so busy little fingers would not lose important tax receipts, etc. The long middle drawer held table cloths and towels.

 

Smaller drawers above protected Mama's good silverware on the right. The left drawer was given to junk. In it went paper tablets, pencils, erasers, a bottle of ink and pens, stamps, scissors, and, like all junk drawers, a small hammer, a couple of screw drivers, carpet tacks, and the thimble-like gadget that fit over the end of curtain rods so that newly washed and starched curtains would slide onto the rods with ease. There may have been a small rubber ball and a few jacks, marbles, and a pocket knife or two. On top of the sideboard, two strong, heavy arms curved upward to support a rather narrow shelf, which Mama claimed as her own. It held a key or two and pretty little vases.

 

The mail carrier, each day, delivered the Aurora Beacon (from the night before), and the usual mail. All the mail, including the Beacon, was deposited on the sideboard, waiting for time to be read. Mama usually glanced through the Beacon after noon dinner, and often her eyes would close for a short nap while sitting at the dining room table.

 

On the north wall of the dining room, there was a doorthat led to the kitchen and then wall space in back of Papa's chair. An old kitchen clock sat on a shelf above Papa's chair. Papa would come in from milking, wind the old kitchen clock, and settle in the chair by the dining room table, where he would look over the news. It was at that time that I would crawl up onto his lap and try to wind his huge watch, which he carried in a pocket in his bib overalls. Soon we were sent off to bed.

 

The old kitchen clock now sits on a shelf in our kitchen. Each hour it gongs the time of day. Each night, before we go to bed, it is necessary to wind it. It most likely was a wedding gift given to Mama and Papa in 1908. (I wonder if our electronic clocks will still be around ninety-two years from now.)

 

Precious memories that only I can record. This story was written about our goings-on and some of the things that made our house a home.

 


 

Charles E. Hall -- An African-American Pioneer from Batavia

 

 

The suggestion for this article and most of the material on which it is based came from Rod Ross, a native Batavian, archivist with the Center for Legislative Archives in the National Archives, and speaker at the dedication of the Gustafson Research Center on June 11, 2000.

 

Although Charles E. Hall is mentioned in John Gustafson's Historic Batavia and in Batavia Places and the People Who Called Them Home and is buried in Batavia's east side cemetery, we doubt if many Batavians have heard of this native son who became "senior specialist on Negro statistics" in the United States Census Bureau. Two years before his retirement in 1937, Hall's promotion to that position made him the most senior African-American civil servant to have served in the U.S. Department of Commerce -- but his advance did not come quickly or easily. Hall was born in Batavia on May 22, 1868, the son of Pennsylvania-born Rev. Abraham L. Hall and his wife, Joanna, born in North Carolina.

 

The family resided at 208 N. River Street. Although Rev. Hall never held one of the top leadership positions in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he enjoyed the distinction of having been a founder of Quinn Chapel, the mother AM. E. church in Chicago. As Hall's oldest brother Augustus recalled in 1929 in the Aurora BeaconNews, "the public school of Batavia had closed its door against all colored children [immediately after the Civil War] and a school was established at the colored AM.E. church north of town, with an English woman by the name of Mrs. Pashey as teacher."

 

We do not know how long that school continued and whether Charles may have attended it briefly, but at least the major part of his schooling was in the public school of Batavia. After two years at Wilberforce University, an AM.E. college in Ohio, Hall tried his hand at a variety of positions. As Ross wrote in a paper presented at a recent meeting, Hall engaged in "a real estate venture in Spokane, Washington, a job with the New York Central Railroad out of Buffalo, New York, and work in Springfield, Illinois, both as a clerk in the State Senate and as Managing Editor of the black newspaper, the Illinois Record. Politically, Hall was a Republican and as a Republican served first as Assistant Secretary of the 1898 state convention in Springfield of the League of Re Republican Clubs and then in 1900 as Assistant Sergeant-of-Arms for the 1900 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia."

 

In 1900 Congressman A J. Hopkins of Aurora secured Hall's appointment as a clerk at the Census Office, then a part of the Department of the Interior, at a salary of $720 per year, and he remained in the Census Office (the name of which was later changed to the Census Bureau) for 37 years except for a brief time with the Bureau of Immigration within the Labor Department during World War I.

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Although he received continuing active support from Illinois senators and congressmen and his personnel file contained excellent evaluations, advancement came slowly, undoubtedly the result of increasing segregation in the federal bureaucracy. It was unheard of for blacks to exercise supervisory authority over whites, and field jobs, even in the North, were generally beyond the reach of African-Americans.

 

In 1907 when Hopkins, by then a U. S. senator, recommended that Hall be given a field assignment in Illinois, the director of the Census turned down the request as follows: "Experience has convinced me that it is not desirable to detail our colored employees for field work. As representatives of the office they are not always able to command the same consideration and attention that are given to white men.

 

Furthermore, a colored man is not able to occupy a seat in a parlor car or a berth in a sleeper, without the possibility of disagreeable experiences, so that he generally avoids these necessary conveniences; he is seldom able to patronize the dining car while there are other passengers occupying it; and having reached a town or city where he is to work, it is practically impossible for him to stop at a first-class hotel. In certain sections the office would be subjected to the humiliation of having its representative compelled to ride in cars reserved for the colored race, popularly known as 'Jim Crow' cars."

 

At one stage, he put his career at risk by refusing to implement a policy that would have required the women working in his section to use separate toilets. Although he was successful in challenging this policy, doing so may have led to a memorandum of the then Director of the Census Bureau stating "that Hall is sometimes difficult to handle and that he has made statements which gained considerable circulation derogatory to the Census Bureau and its work."

 

Despite the handicap of race and his willingness to stand up for what he thought was right, Hall made a reputation for himself by studies that were published by the Census Bureau. These finally resulted in his promotion to a senior position and membership in the so-called "Black Cabinet," a group of African-Americans working in government departments who met together to discuss how best to coordinate policy for blacks across agencies. Hall's published studies include "Negroes in the United States, 19201932," "Retail Stores Operated by Negro Proprietors in New York City," "Colored and White Deaths in Selected Cities, 1930 and 1931," "The Negro Farmer in the United States," "Persons in State Prisons and Reformatories," "Negro Populations of Fifty Cities," and "Progress of the Negro in It is ironic that, although Hall was a life-long Republican, his belated recognition came during the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

 

Because of the value of the work he was performing, the Census Bureau Director sought to have his employmentcontinued; however, he was unsuccessful, and Hall was forced to retire in 1938, after 38 years of federal employment, at the mandatory retirement age of 70. Shortly after he began work at the Census Office, Hall married Lena D. Watters, a fellow Illinoisan who came from a relatively wealthy family. Although they never divorced, theirs was not a happy marriage, and for much of their marriage they lived apart. They had no children. Hall maintained his voting address as Batavia throughout his Washington career. He had siblings and nieces and nephews in Kane and Cook counties and spent time with them, especially after his retirement. He died in Chicago in October, 1952, while visiting a nephew, Dr. Lloyd A. Hall, a technical director of the Griffith Laboratories.

 

The funeral was in Aurora; burial was in Batavia. Source material provided by Rodney Ross for this article include "A Centennial Celebration of Federal Employment: Charles E. Hall (1868-1952), 'Specialist in Negro Statistics' with the Census Bureat, Rodney A. Ross, April 1, 2000; "Figures Is His Business," an article by G. James Fleming in The Crisis, September, 1937; a Bureau of the Census publicaton, Progress of the Negro in Texas, by Charles E. Hall, June 1, 1936; "The Racial Bureaucracy: African Americans and the Federal Government in the Era of Segregated Race Relations" by Desmond King (S1. John's College, Oxford University) in Governance: An International Journal of Policyand Administration, October 1999; pages from the personnel file of Hall in the National Archives; a letter from John A. Gustafson to Rodney Ross dated February 15, 1972, covering information he had found on the Abraham 1. Hall family and enclosing a paper, "The Negro in Batavia, Illinois," presented by Mrs. Jennie White Price to the Batavia Historical Society on February 14, 1965; and the obituary of Charles E. Hall from the Chicago Defender, October 11, 1952.

 

This material is available in the Gustafson Research Center of the Depot Museum. Photograph from page 179 of the Minutes of the Thirtieth Annual Meeting, Grand Lodge, Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World, convened in Senior High School, Atlantic City, N.J., August 25th-31, 1929 [Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, DC]

 


 

West Side Cemetery

By Marilyn Robinson

 

First published in the Kane County Chronicle January 25, 2000. Used by permission. Marilyn's columns appear in the Chronicle every Tuesday. Her column on the East Side Cemetery was reprinted in our last issue.

 

The West Batavia Cemetery Association was founded on February 2, 1859. A board of trustees was elected, including Elijah H. Gammon, President; William Coffin, Secretary and Treasurer; A. N. Moore; D. K.Town; and J. C. Derby. Citizens wanted to secure title to and that was being used as a burying ground south of town. At this founding meeting, it was voted to fix the gate on the road, repair the fence, clean up the grounds, fix the streets and mark the lots, set corner stones, and build a fence from the road to the grounds.

 

They later voted to raise $500 to build a stone fence. Through the years, the board seems to have been primarily concerned with securing land and building fences. Either the board didn't meet often or they didn't record meetings. The text account of a formal meeting is on June 11, 1863. Samuel D. Lockwood donated a strip of land three rods wide adjoining the south side of the cemetery. It was voted to build a second wall to enclose the new land.

 

On September 3, 1877, it was announced that the cemetery was filled. D. C. Newton was appointed to confer with the town trustees to suggest a consolidation of the cemeteries and transferring their ownership to the city. Until then, Langdon Miller was appointed sexton to have charge of the cemetery, keep the gates locked, and not allow any interments unless the parties paid him from $1 to $5 for a grave.

 

Five years later, November 1882, William Coffin offered to sell to the association three acres of ground on the west and south sides of the cemetery for $1 ,000. Coffin received a fiveyear note at 6% interest. An 1883 newspaper clipping in the record book shows that D. C. Newton, Joseph Whipple, and Nathan Young purchased the Coffin land, removed (he old stone fence, and placed a wire one around the entire cemetery. They paid to have a roadway laid from Batavia Avenue into the cemetery that divided near the old boundary. A road leading to the north and another leading  to the south left a triangular piece of land that the men thought would be a good location for a soldiers' monument. Lots in the new part of the cemetery could be purchased from Whipple, Newton, or Young.

 

The article read, "It is not a money-making scheme, but these men have taken the responsibility, advanced the money so that all may be benefited," and for that they should be thanked. The records show that meetings were often called where there was no quorum. The board would meet the following week. The trustees continued to want the care of the cemetery turned over to the city board. They met in May 1892 with the east-side trustees and suggested that the two boards become one association and do so. In May 1893, the two boards met again, but reached no agreement.

 

So, the westside association approved having their gate and fence fixed. In June 1894, the trustees asked Charles Coffin if the Lockwood heirs would sell them more land abutting the cemetery. They voted to employ a man to destroy the weeds in the cemetery. On July 2, 1894, the two boards met again. The east-side trustees still wanted to maintain control of that cemetery. The west-side wanted to buy more land closer to the public highway than the Coffin family was willing to sell. On July 31, 1894, the board postponed purchasing the land until they met again with the eastside trustees to try to convince them to turn the cemeteries over to the city.

 

On March 13, 1895, the west-side association decided to act alone. In April, they presented a petition, signed by 43 lot owners, to the city council showing their desire to have the cemetery come under city control. Nine aldermen voted for the transfer. Only D. R. Sperry voted against it. An agreement dated April 17, 1895, states, "For the sum of $1, the Cemetery Association transfers the land and any cash it has over to the city. This includes 2 acres and 4 rods of land originally received or purchased from Elijah S. Town in 1859, 1/2 acre of land from Samuel D. Lockwood in October 1864, and 3 1/8 acres from William Coffin and heirs in November 1882.

 

An inventory shows that the city received $892.47, one lawn mover and oil can, one wheelbarrow, one iron tooth rake, and one wood workbench. It is noted that there is a well and iron pump on the grounds.

 


 

BATAVIANS I HAVE KNOWN -- WALTER R. JOHNSON

Elliott Lundberg

 

This remembrance of Walter Johnson might appropriately be called "The Making of a Banker." It is based on an interview that Elliott Lundberg conducted in the autumn of 1988 when Johnson, former president of the Batavia National Bank, was 93 years old. Elliott himself was a long-time employee and officer of the bank.

 

 

Many Batavians remember Walter R. Johnson, who was with the Batavia National Bank, now part of Bank One, from 1920 until 1975, serving for a number of years as president and finally as chairman of the board. His career did not follow the pattern of today's banking leaders but reflected a varied background and innate shrewdness that enabled him to guide the bank successfully through depression, war and then years of prosperity. Johnson was born in Batavia to Swedish immigrant parents. His father was born in Varberg in 1862, his mother in Frillesos in 1863. They came to Batavia where they met about 1880 and later married. Johnson recalled his brothers and sisters as follows: "Tillie was the oldest child in our family; she was born in 1890 in the house located where the Campana building now is. She married Edgar Anderson in 1914, I think.

 

They had three children, a girl named Dorothy who was killed by an automobile in front of their home, a boy named Edgar who was born in 1918, and a girl named Marion who married a man named Youssi. My sister Hilma was next; she was born in 1892. I was born in 1895. My brother Arvid was born in 1897, and my brother Raymond was born in 1901. Tillie was the only one of us to have children." He continued, "I was born in a house now numbered 744 Walnut Street, and grew up in what is now 748 Walnut Street, a house that my father was building when I was born. I started school, probably in 1901, in the southeast corner of the old Grace McWayne School. Grace McWayne was my first grade teacher. Then I had Amelia Brown, who lived on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Wilson.

 

I think her father was postmaster. In second grade I was put up into the room ahead of me and I went into Mrs. L.E. Wolcott's room. My third grade teacher was Miss Bennett from Elgin; that was on the first floor of the old church school on the corner of First and Lincoln Streets. "I had Ellen McKee, a sister of Grace McWayne, for a teacher when I was in eighth grade. We went to high school on the third floor of the McWayne School. I quit in the last part of the first year and went to work." After that, Johnson had a series of jobs, starting at the Newton Wagon Works where his father was a blacksmith. ''The summer I worked there," he said, "I'd get the wheel and bore holes in the top to put in a screw, and put a plate over a seam, just a plug in the metal over the spoke. Then it would go to a man named Bartelt, and he would put the box in the hub. I just worked there one summer.

 

"I worked for Kinne's store in 1910 from the time summer started up to the first of the year. I also worked at the Henry Wenberg Greenhouse at the corner of Garfield and Harrison Streets one summer, probably when it was first built, some time before 1910. Then I worked again for Newton's for several years, running a drill press. After that I took a job at the courthouse -- in the summer of 1914, I think. "When I worked at the courthouse," Johnson continued, "it was in the Recorder's Office. I worked there until 1918 when I went in the service. I got out of the army April 1, 1919, and the next day I was back in the courthouse. I left there and came to the Batavia National Bank in 1920, where I worked on the bookkeeping machines they had just gotten." During the 1920s, H. T. Windsor, who had come to town around 1910 from Wisconsin, was a vice president of the bank but actually ran it. Julian Augustine was also a vice president, and W. B. Beem was cashier. When the depression came, things got tough, and the bank examiners told Windsor to let Augustine and Beem go. As Johnson remembered, they said '''You've got Johnson here, he'll take care of it.''' I said that I was just a kid. But I was 35 years old and had been at the bank for 10 years. So I was the one who went through all the depression stuff. I think I did a good job. "During the depression there was only Mr. Windsor and myself, and Manley Peterson had started in the late twenties.

 

We also had four women working there. Mr. Windsor was named president. I was vice president -- and I ran the bank." One job that Johnson particularly liked was clerking farm sales. "They were usually held in the fall or early spring," he recalled, "when a farmer would be moving to another place or giving up farming. They would hire an auctioneer -- George Scott when I started. I'd go to work at the bank and then leave for the auction, which usually started about 10:00. I'd put down the name of the item being sold and then the amount and then the name of the fellow who bid it in, and then I'd collect the money. At first the auctioneer wanted his money before he left, but later on he got to know me so I could send him a check. "They sold equipment and livestock," Johnson continued. "A cow would bring from $30 to $50, depending on its age. I got so I was charging two percent so I made some money. I went out in all kinds of weather since the sales were usually held in the colder months, and I'd have lunch with the owners of the farm and friends who were stopping in. I got to know the farmers real well, and I thought it was a darn good thing for the bank, which got a lot of business out of the farm sales. I'd average a sale a week in the winter.

 

"I think the first farm sale I clerked was for Jim Banbury on a farm on the Warrenville Road. I clerked for a lot of old timers -- Jim Banbury, Matt Molitor, George and Charlie Bartelt, the Schimelpfenigs, a couple of Raddants, Hohman, Holter and Feldotts. I started clerking in the 1920s and probably ended in the 1950s." Johnson was married in 1919 to Elsie Carlson. They built a house on North Jefferson, and Elsie's sister Freda Carlson lived with them after her mother died. Elsie died in 1972; she and Johnson had been married 53 years. Freda continued to live with Johnson after his wife died. Elsie had another sister, Esther Bergquist, who was a widow. When Johnson was 80 years old, he walked into the bank one day and joined the employees for coffee, announcing to those gathered there that he was going to get married. "I'm marrying Elsie's sister," he said, "Esther, not the one I'm living with." They went to Hawaii on their honeymoon. It was his first airplane ride. When the bank was sold in 1970, Johnson retired after 50 years of service -- but he continued as chairman of the board for another five years. He died September 14, 1989.

 

 


 

 

Batavians and the Nation

An Address by Dr. Rodney Ross

Dedication of the Gustafson Research Center

Batavia, Illinois -June 11, 2000

 

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land! Whose heart hath ne'er within him bum'd As home his footsteps he hath tum'd From wandering on a foreign Strand!

 

I first read those lines from the beginning of the 6th Canto of Sir Walter Scott's The Lay of the Last Minstrel when I was in a high school English class in the nowdemolished Batavia Junior High Building. The gymnasium of the now-demolished building stood where I had gone to kindergarten in the late 1940s, in what had once been the town home of that same John vanNortwick in whose country home the Gustafsons once lived. John vanNortwick may have been Batavia's preeminent 19th century captain of industry, but the town's preeminent 19th century citizen, bar none, was Judge Samuel D. Lockwood.

 

In December 1864 Lockwood wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, on the bottom of which Lincoln penned: "Judge Lockwood, the writer, is one of the best men in the world. File." In the past few weeks I've thought a lot about that inscription. Lockwood was twenty years older than Lincoln and outlived him by nine years. The two of them would have first gotten to know one another in Vandalia, Illinois' second state capital, when Lockwood was a justice on the 5-man Illinois Supreme Court and Lincoln was a young legislator in the General Assembly from New Salem.

 

In the first edition, that of 1962, of Historic Batavia (but dropped from subsequent editions) John Gustafson wrote on page 67: 'Judge Lockwood's fight for human freedom on the bench and in the legislature was supplemented by his contact with Abraham Lincoln whom he loved as a son. They were good friends. After he came to Batavia, he entertained Lincoln at Lockwood Hall, but he had known and influenced Lincoln for many years. Lockwood was very pleased that it had fallen to his lot to license the three men, Lyman Trumbull (a future Illinois Senator), Stephen A. Douglas (perhaps Illinois' best know Senator ever), and Abraham Lincoln.

 

Today his examining of Lincoln for the bar would seem very irregular. They just went walking and Lockwood asked Lincoln questions! I've tried diligently to verify the story of Lockwood licensing Lincoln, and I've come to the conclusion it can never be proved. All that "the literature" says is that on September 9, 1836, Lincoln was licensed by two justices of the Illinois Supreme Court to practice law in courts of the state. Would that John Gustafson were alive today, so that I could ask him for the source of his story, since I'm absolutely convinced it is correct, and the Lockwood was one of the two justices in question. Another thing I'm convinced is true, but can't prove, is that it was Judge Lockwood who recruited Dr. R. J. Patterson to come to Batavia and establish a sanitarium for women, Bellevue Place, in the old Batavia Institute building. It was to that building in 1875 that Mary Todd Lincoln came for a four-month stay following her insanity conviction by a Cook County court.

 

In an odd sort of way my personal destiny was tied to Lockwood Hall, located then and now on South Batavia Avenue heading south toward Mooseheart, on the opposite side of the avenue from the west side cemetery. In 1946 my family moved to Batavia at the suggestion of the then-owner of Lockwood Hall, Rodney Brandon, Illinois Governor Dwight Green's director of the state Department of Public Welfare. It is no coincidence that Rodney Brandon and I share the same first name. When I was born in 1943 my parents, as is Jewish custom, gave me a Hebrew name in memory of a deceased relative. My Hebrew first name is Raphael, in honor of Dad's maternal grandfather Raphael Goldberg. That I was given the English first name of Rodney was either because of the great respect Dad had for Rodney Brandon, or it was a tactful ploy given that Dad, as superintendent of the Manteno State Hospital, reported to Rodney Brandon.'

 

The introductory part, which dealt with contacts that Rod has maintained with friends from his Batavia days, has been omitted because of space requirements. in 1964 at the age of 56, Dad operated Bellevue Place. Mom in effect functioned as resident manager, since most days Dad was on the road as visiting psychiatrist to various prisons and reformatories in northern Illinois. In 1984 the late Monsignor William Donovan celebrated his 100th birthday. At that time, in his honor, the city council renamed the Wilson Street Bridge the Monsignor William Donovan Bridge. In light of Father Donovan's words of comfort to Mom in 1964, I though it only appropriate that I send him a brief congratulatory note. With your indulgence I'll read in full his very lengthy reply.

 

Dear Rodney,

 

Your gracious letter touched me deeply. It was a delightful surprise that you remembered me. I have never forgotten you nor your mother. You were dear to him (your father) and therefore, dear to me. I believe that as things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other, so people who love the same people must love each other. You are caught in the net of logic.

 

Among my cherished memories is that of a seemingly unimportant incident. Your father with you in tow met me in a novelty store no longer existing in Batavia (no doubt what later became Jack's Toy Box on east Wilson). It chanced that we stopped to talk at the toy counter which immediately commanded your attention. You were attracted by some tiny metal horses displayed at the counter. You were very small and stood on tip-toe reaching out to take two or three of the small toys in your grasp. You tugged at your father's sleeve and when he turned, you held out the three toys with a pleading gesture that said plainer than words, "May I have these?" Your father turned his attention from me to you and said gently but firmly, "Just one, Rodney, just one. " You hesitated and your father repeated as gently and firmly as before, "Just one, Rodney, just one" and you conceding defeat, returned the two toys. This was a small paternal victory which your father won by gentleness and firmness. Many a time, I witnessed his success with patients by exercising these same qualities.Gentleness and firmness are concomitants or should be.

 

Gentleness without firmness can degenerate into weakness, even cowardice. Firmness without gentleness easily converts to stubbornness, arrogance, and cruelty. These two qualities were wedded inseparably in your father's character and formed for him a patent of nobility that was unique in this troubled world. I can make no better wish for you than that you continue to reflect the qualities that made your father preeminent. His life, measured by my lengthy string of years was a/l too brief, but I remember the words of a wise observer of the human scene, whose name escapes me now, who said "God's greatest gift is a heart of courage; his least is length of years." Your father had the greater gift and used it generously. Mine is the lesser and as you conceded victory in the childhood incident related above, so I as I stand on the brink of eternity concede the palm of victory to your father as he dwells in the eternal courts of the Lord of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

Clearly the letter speaks as much about Monsignor Donovan as it does about my father, with both representative of the very best of those who have made Batavia their homes. A decade ago Clara and I were planning a vacation trip to the Tucson area, and from Peg Jackson I got the address of my BHS classmate Bob Boss. Bob, an artist of some note in Arizona, came by, and we spent much of the evening together. He was amazed that I could tell him something about pretty much everyone he asked about. I offered the explanation that I guessed I had never really left Batavia. His come-back was that he felt that he had never really been there in the first place.

 

"Tis a pity, and his loss.

 


 

Membership Matters

 

Since the last issue, Steven J. Collins and Jennifer L. Warta, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Cooper (Vancouver, Washington), Wilda and Robert Kintop, Keith and Deborah Riddell, Betty Scharpenter (St. Charles), Mayor and Mrs. Jeffery Schielke, and Dorothy J. Willey, some of whom were previously annual members, have become life members.

 

Other new members (from Batavia unless otherwise noted) include Helen L. Browne (Geneva), Violet Johnson, Mark Johnston (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Jan Larson, James and Pamela McLane, AI Morfee (Delray Beach, Florida), Bart Nelson (St. Charles), Pat and Schuyler Pardee, Tim and Rica Peterson, William J. Peterson, Inc., Jim and Anne Snodgrass, Timothy V.Tincknell (Evanston, Illinois), Margaret Urich, Ron and Cis Vermaat, Terry Ward, and Dick and Doris Zerby. We welcome these new members and look forward to their participation in the activities of the society.

 

With deep regret, we report the death of long-time member Marge Rundle and life member Mary Bailey Peterson. We recently received a $1,000 contribution from the Hansen-Furnas Foundation. ln addition, we have thus far received contributions for furnishing the Gustafson Research Center from Sandra Chalupa, vice president of Questers, $50; Marilyn Robinson, $500; Agnes Clever in memory of the Lynn Clever family, $200; Lois and Dick Benson, $500; Robert and Lucy Anderson, $100; Jane M. Peterson and Mary A. Peterson, $1,000 including $500 in memory of Viola E. Peterson; Ted Schuster, $200; Barbara and Bill Hall in honor of William J. Wood, $200; J. Burnham family by Ruth Burnham, $500; David King, $50; M.I.C., Inc., Dennis Kindtop, $300; Ruth Herzberg in honor of Carl and Emelie Groener, $200; Bill Hall in honor of Barbara D. Hall, $200; Bert L. and Ruth A. Johnson, $200; and Barbara and John Masters, $200. Adelaide Nelson has asked that gifts in memory of her husband, Bussy Nelson, in the amount of $570 be used for research center furnishings.

 

Many thanks to these generous contributors. In addition, we thank Kathryn Klose for her gift of a beautiful Norwegian decorated chest brought to this country by her great-grandmother in 1851.

 


 

Bits of Batavia History

by Marilyn Robinson

 

Early the morning of March 14, 1863, a fire broke out in the upper part of Jacob Grimes' drugstore on East Wilson Street. It soon spread to Dr. Isaac Lord's building on the west, occupied as a barber's shop. It spread east to a small building owned by William Coffin and occupied by John Coolidge as a shoemaker's shop. From there the fire went on west to a building owned by Col. Wilson and occupied by James Rollins as a boot and shoe shop. It was assumed the fire originated from a defective chimney flue. In March 1866 the Flax Factory was entirely consumed by flames. Some supposed the cause was a spark from an engine; others thought it was the work of an incendiary.

 

The disaster threw a number of men out of work. In April 1913 City Marshal Monahan served notice on the general chicken-raising public of Batavia that the open season for all poultry within the city limits was closed by law. Any and all owners of chickens had to keep them confined between April 1 and October 1, under penalty of a fine of from $3 to $35 for each and every offense.

 

The week of October 18, 1866, L. P. Barker raised 570 loads of stone from his quarry. Each load was equal to about 1/3 of a cord and weighed 7 1/ 2 tons. The distance from Barker's quarry to the depot where the stone was shipped was over 1/2 mile. That meant in horsepower, the horses traveled 570 miles. The stone was worth on the average $14 a cord. Total value shipped that week was $2,660. Barker probably didn't recognize half that sum as he had to pay for carting and the labor of quarrying. He employed many stonecutters.

 

In September 1902 Thomas Harker, age 95, died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. John Griffith, at Batavia. He was born in England and at one time was gardener for King George III and often told of chats with Queen Victoria when she was a little girl and he was gardening for her father. In 1893 Batavia was famous for its German Cream, made by William Long. It was advertised as "A most excellent thing for chapped hands and face, making the skin soft and smooth." Fifty years later the city was famous for Campana Balm which served the same purpose.

 

The men of the U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Company began working nine hours per day instead of eight on February 1, 1876. At that time the company was building a model windmill with three runs of burrs, elevators, conveyors, and all the apparatus that was needed for a flouring mill for the Centennial Exposition. The base of the tower was 3 1/2 x 5 feet, having two floors of about one foot between them, upon which the models would be placed. The walls would be of glass so that all the operations of the mill could be seen. The tower was nine feet high. The mill would be kept in running order during the Exposition.

 

A new Baptist parsonage was built in 1912-13 for $2,800. Rev. J.D. Leek announced at its completion that the money needed had all been raised before it was completed. Not one dollar was sought during regular services of the church.

 

In 1892 there were nearly twenty who taught the piano and organ in Batavia. Prof. John Geiss was a good band instructor as was shown by the efficiency of the Rock City Band.

 

For two decades the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin Railroad ran special trains to Batavia's Glenwood Park south of the village on the east side of the river. The railroad owned the land. Early in 1934 the state was given the land by the railroad to avoid paying high taxes on it. When the federal government wanted to lease the land in July of 1934 the state gladly did so. It was converted into a transient camp and a group of men from a similar site at Algonquin were moved into it. Twenty-four dormitories were built, a restaurant and recreation building was set up, stoves put in, washrooms constructed, and modern plumbing and shower baths installed. The men who inhabited the camp were used on PWA and CWA projects in and around Batavia, the most notable work being reconditioning of the Island Park.

Three years later the camp was abandoned. In April 1895 the Appleton Manufacturing Company purchased the Goodhue Wind Mill Company of St. Charles, including the machinery, tools, stock, manufactured goods, and goodwill of the concern. This was an old and popular mill, having sales all over the United States and South America. Mr. Goodhue and his men went to work in the Appleton Factory.

 

Vance Helm of Batavia, age 11, was believed to be the youngest telegraph operator in the world. He clicked off and received messages at the office of Colton. He was a master of the intricate details of his profession in 1893.

 

In 1892 the population of Batavia was 4,541.

 

On January 17, 1930, it was announced that The Continental Hatcheries with headquarters at Polo, Illinois for over ten years, was going to open an egg hatchery at 6 West Wilson Street. The company leased the store room which until then had been used by the Batavia Post Office. This new company was to be known as The Continental Batavia Hatchery. Continental planned to establish a modern all-electric 12,000 egg capacity hatchery that would be ready for service about February 1. It would render a complete service to all poultry raisers within its trade area by handling everything worthwhile for poultry raisers -- feed, brooders, brooder houses, poultry supplies and equipment. A mammoth incubator was installed for custom hatching. Apparently the business did not succeed for it did not last long enough to be listed in the 1932 city directory.

 

There were fourteen men on the 1915 high school football squad. The seven returning lettermen were James Niles, Richard Benson, Ralph Swan, Otis Council, Russel Dunlop, Spencer Johnson, and George Ticknell. Earl Newton, Sugar McNair, Raymond Markuson, Elmer Sackrison, Siegle Sandberg, Oliver Swanson, and Robert Averill made up the rest of the team. The men had little trouble defeating the St. Charles Boys' Home by score of 76 to 0 in its first game.

The second game was away, but the team entered it with confidence, being backed by a large number of Batavia High rooters led by cheerleaders James Dunlop, Ted Daniels, Mike Cahill, and Paul Parce. St. Charles High School got near the goal line twice but couldn't get through the strong defense of Batavia.

 

The final score, Batavia 34, St. Charles O. The third and final game of the season was the toughest. Crystal Lake was played off its feet in the first half as Batavia ran around the ends at will and completed a number of forward passes. In the second half, Crystal Lake came back stronger and held Batavia to only one touchdown.

 

Still the final score was Batavia 33, Crystal Lake O. Four days after this game, Coach J.K. Fancher contracted diphtheria and was quarantined. Five days later, school was closed because of the epidemic for two weeks. When it reopened November 8, local doctors came to the school each day to give medical exams to students and teachers.

 

Many others caught the dreaded disease; and by December 2, one-half of the students were out because of it.

 

The school was closed again until after the Christmas holiday.

 

 


 

Happy Fourth of July!

 

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Help Us Complete the Biographical File

 

The biographical file that has been in process for several years is now set up and available at the Gustafson Research Center.

 

In addition to the notes made by John A. Gustafson in 1960, Marilyn Robinson has added many current families to the file, which now contains nearly 800 biographical sketches. Be sure to make use of this file if you are doing research on a Batavia family.

 

We would like to have a brief family history of all Batavians for future researchers to use. The time to record history is now when it is happening; everyone becomes a part of history. Please help by giving us as many generations of your family as you can. If you have a generational chart already prepared, a copy would be a welcome addition to this file.

 

The information desired would include, for each generation in a family, the following: Husband's name, date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, date and place of death, and parents' names with vital statistics. Wife's maiden name, date and place of birth, date and place of death, and parents' names with vital statistics. Children's names, dates of birth; who, when and where married; and dates and places of death.

 

A brief history of the family: when it came to Batavia, occupations, interests and experiences of each member.