Volume Forty-Two

No. 3



July 2001





This picture is uniquely appropriate to this issue of the Historian for at least three reasons -- other than that it's a wonderful picture. Some of you will jump to the conclusion that it's a picture of a Fourth of July parade because that is the holiday we now have in mind. And it could well be that: many Independence Days had parades just like this one. But this particular parade wasn't on the Fourth.


It is the Memorial Day parade that was held in either 1951 or 1952 -- a parade like the ones Rod Ross described in "Memorial Day Memories: Logan's GAR General Order 11, Yesterday and Today," an address included in this issue that he gave at the society's June 9 general meeting.


Now note the oufit that leads the parade. It is Boy Scout Troop 12, remembered in this issue by Don Miller, the donor of this picture. Don is carrying the American flag, while Harry ("Corny") Pierce, the long-time scoutmaster of Troop 12, can be seen marching alongside the flag. Others in the picture are identified in the copy available for inspection at the Gustafson Research Center.


Harold Holbrook, NelsonLake and the Batavia Soil Builders


The following story is based on an interview that Elliott Lundberg had with Harold Holbrook on April 24, 2001. Harold's wife, Marge, was present. Harold was born in 1929 to Norman and Hannah Schielke Holbrook -- an example of the widespread family connections that Jeff Schielke described in the last issue.


Most of us probably think of Nelson Lake as a beautiful nature preserve. And it has been that for years. Harold Holbrook recalls that the Morton Arboretum came out there and took some kind of a willow that is native to thatarea, as well as other rare species. Many bird watchers have long come out there. But the lake also has a commercial heritage. Batavia Soil Builders began taking peat moss out of Nelson Lake after World War II, and the operation continued into the 1970s. vol43Num_2.jpg


As Harold, who began working for the company in 1953, describes the product, "The peat from Nelson's Lake was neutral, neither alkaline or acid. Neutral peat was very unusual. Peat from Canada, which is what is mostly sold here, is acid. The neutral peat, mixed with dirt, perlite and other things, was a perfect growing medium, especially for large operations like greenhouses." Paul Wasser, Dr. Morley and Speed Pasetti owned Nelson Lake, having bought it from Carl Marcuson. They rented out the hunting rights to various people, which Harold believes is the reason they bought it. Speed and Dr. Morley liked hunting, but Paul never did.


He had a lawn and landscaping business before becoming a partner in Nelson Lake. He probably saw this as an extension of his lawn business -- and the fact that he could stock fish in the "ponds" formed from digging peat was a bonus. The company built a road out across the swamp. Harold recalls, "They kept dumping fill in there. They would get the fill from Lindgren's Foundry and would dump it in there and then put gravel on top of that. John Soderdahl would operate a drag line from the road, and_they would operate a drag line from the road, and they would load the trucks and haul peat up on the "flat" (platform) by the building and then shred it into great big piles. They had to let it dry out first, though -- the water would be running out of the peat.


"Dave Treest, who came out and worked when Lindgren's Foundry was on strike, built great big mats out of elm wood. It

was green wood, and they put bolts in to make those mats and bolt them to the bottom of the crane so it would float. John Soderdahl would dig the peat out, never going over the same spot or the crane would disappear. He always would move it over a little bit. One Cat went down once, and the only thing showing was the exhaust pipe. They pulled it out. They dug down about six feet for peat. Below that was blue clay.

"Paul mixed peat moss with dirt behind the Central Pattern Works, which was located in the middle of the block behind

what is now Bistro America. We hauled the dirt from the property where the Fair Grounds in St. Charles is located. We mixed the soil together with the peat and perlite and cow manure. We'd pile it up and then run it through the shredder." Later the company had a building, 50 by 100 feet, out at Nelson Lake. Built mainly by Jim Kalina, it had a poured cement floor and a steel framework. The walls were rounded so that they could pile dirt against them."


Quite a bit of the peat mixture was sold in bulk. It would go to such places as Garfield Park and Marquette Park in Chicago and George Ball in West Chicago. If a customer needed acid peat or real dry peat, Paul would have a carload brought in by train to Prairie Street where he would unload it, truck it to Nelson Lake, mix it up and box it. He would have boxes of dried peat that he would sell to Jiffy Pot, which would put it in little trays and sell it.


"For R. S. Hatch & Sons, we packaged the peat," Harold continued. "We had a packaging machine, and we had a room set up with an automatic weighing machine that weighed so much in each bag, and then the bag went down to a man who sealed it up. The smallest bag was about a pound and a half; the biggest was about five pounds. R. S. Hatch had their own name on the bags, but we also had the Batavia Soil Builders name on our bags." Generally there were about four men working there.



Besides Harold Holbrook, John Soderdahl and Jim Kalina, employees over the years included Paul Wasser's two sons, Fred and Dud, George and Tom Ward, Lisle Bower and Jim Benson, former Batavia building inspector. Paul used to hire neighborhood kids to work "the swamp" -- Jim and Jack Schuler, Robert Thrun and Harold's and Marge's son, Dan. They worked hard, but Paul gave them a chance to operate equipment. Harold reminisces, "1 drove a truck and worked the shredder and did everything else, too -- anything that came along.


I got paid all the time I worked there, not much, but nobody made a lot of money then. I quit about three times, and I went back about three times. Paul never paid me enough, and I had no benefits. I'd work at the Batavia Body Company, and Paul would run over here and ask me if I'd come back, and he'd give me a little more money, and I'd go back to work. I made a little over $1 00 a week at the end. "Paul's wife, LaVona, kept the books. Paul used to have about three or four hundred dollars of cash in his pocket. If he wanted something, he went and bought it. That's the way he did business. Once in a while LaVona would ask about some money that she had no record of receiving.


He figured anything he could sneak by her was his money. He'd sell a couple of bushels of dirt to somebody, and the money would go in his pocket. But most of the income went into the business. "When I left Batavia Soil Builders after twelve and a half years, they were still in business. After Paul Wasser died, the man who took over at Nelson Lake packaged peat in North Aurora before he went bankrupt. He bought the business and the name, but I don't remember who it was. That would have been in the early 1970s. After Harold left the company, he worked for the City of Batavia for five and a half years, and then worked for the Batavia School District for 21 years. He now enjoys retirement, together with his wife, Marge, who records acquisitions as a volunteer at the Depot Museum.




The Batavia Historian, recipient of the Illinois State Historical Society's 1997 Award for Superior Achievement, is published quarterly by the Batavia Historical Society. The editor, Bill Hall, will welcome any suggestions or material -- 630-8792033. The Depot Museum, a cooperative effort of the Society and the Batavia Park District, is open from 2 to 4 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from March through November. The director, Carla Hill, can be reached at 630-406-5274.


Don Miller's Memories of Boy Scout Troop 12


The request for information regarding scouting in Batavia that appeared in the January 2001 issue elicited considerable response, particularly regarding the location of Troop 12's cabin. Some of that response appeared in the April issue, but we continue to receive a great deal of information, all of which is on file at the Gustafson Research Center. It is not possible to reproduce it all here, but we are printing excerpts, summarized information and a wonderful picture from "A History of Boy Scout Troop 12, Batavia, Illinois, 1945 through 1952," submitted by member Donald Miller, who now lives in Grampian, Pennsylvania, but obviously left much of his heart in Batavia.


The Boy Scouts were officially established in this country in 1910. Troop 1 in St. Charles was founded shortly thereafter, and Troop 12 was not far behind it. (Don notes that "the troop number has no significance relative to age or chronology -- they were selected arbitrarily as available within a council.") Both were initiated somewhere between 1910 and 1920. Troop 12, a part of the Chief Shabbona Council, was essentially an east side troop; it was sponsored by American Legion Post #504. Batavia had two other troops, both on the west side --Troop 6, sponsored by Bethany Lutheran Church and Troop 3, sponsored by the Congregational Church. Harry (Corny) Pierce was Scout" master of Troop 12.


In Don's view, "he was'undoubtedly the best scoutmaster within the council." While most scoutmasters had one or two adult assistants, he never did. To the contrary, he knew the individual scouts within his troop well and always worked hard with the most promising of them to the point of their achieving Eagle Scout rank; then he would confer Junior Assistant Scoutmaster status upon them. It was not, however, as though Pierce was completely without adult assistance.


Max Cavender was the Institutional Representative, liaison between Troop 12 and its American Legion sponsors. Mel Few was of valuable assistance in working with the older scouts through the Explorer Scout program, and Les Bix, having been an excellent Cubmaster, was good at easing the younger generation into the Boy Scout ways of doing things. Not to be forgotten was a loyal cadre of fathers who were always on hand for driving purposes; included here ("just off the top," Don writes, "and thus not necessarily all-inclusive") were Glenn Anderson, Bob Bina, Weldon Daniels, Scoop James, Russ (Whitey) Marshall, John Schiedler, and Gordon Thomas, Sr. Last, but by no means least, in the adult leadership setup was Arlie Lundborg, who functioned as the Board of Review, not just for Troop 12 but all of Batavia Scouting.


The Historian's request for scouting information in the January, 2001, issue began with an inquiry of whether anyone could tell us whether Troop 12 had a cabin, if so where it was located, and whether anyone had a picture. The first two questions were answered in the last issue: Several persons told us that, yes, Troop 12 had a cabin and that, surprisingly, the cabin was on the west side of the river, south of the old City Hall and across from the Shumway foundry.


No one has come up with a photograph, but Don Miller has sent drawings and a floor plan that are included in information on file at the Gustafson Research Center. The cabin was large and attractive. Does anyone know what happened to it? In response to a question from Bill Wood, Don wrote,"You asked if I couldn't include the names of some of the boys who were active. Accordingly, I tried putting on the proverbial thinking cap and came up with the following for those years in which I was involved n that being the spring of 1945 through the fall of 1952. You'll note that I've grouped the names.


"Group 1 is all of those whowere already members and active at the time I joined. The next five groups are sorted by high school graduating class. The final group is a collection of younger individuals whom I cannot segregate by class, but who were all active before I bowed out. "Group 1. Donnie Anderson, Mike Beebe, Wayne Benson, Maurie Brown, Jim Curnock, Norm (PeeWee) Dietz, Fred Goldman, Bob Jansen, Don Jeske, George Kidston, Milt Larson, Stan Lenart, Jim Mair, Bob Maytum, Gene Minor, Ed Quinn, Jim Quinn, Vic Schrauth, Gordie Thomas, and Bruce Wright.


"Class of 1950. John Conde, Ray Hallin, Don Miller, Don Parre, Bill Schrauth, Russell Treest, and Dud Wasser.


"Class of 1951. Bill Cavender, Ralph Jaschob, Louie Kouzes, Joe Lenart, and Bob Schiedler.


"Class of 1952. Jerry Anderson, Bob Barnes, Jim Benson, Fred Buri, Mike Daniels, Harvey McClurg, Rich Miller, Tom Moran, Russell Scott, Billy Smith, and Fred Wasser.


"Class of 1953. Clifford Carlson, Roy David, Dan Kohler, Harry Pasley, and Bobby Thomas.


"Class of 1954. Don Allen, Ron Allen, Gordon Anderson, Ken Benson, Don Brandenburg, Rich Buri, Carl Gibson, Paul Hanlon, George Hermes, Herbie Hurtt, Bob James, Jim Miller, Max Striedl, and Bob Thomas. "Younger Group. Howard Anderson, Bob Becker, Leslie Bex, Tony Bex, Bobby Bina, Bob Buckner, Skip Challis, Chuck Clark, Bob Engstrom Guy Few, Bobby Hanlon, Don (DeeDee) James, Dick Marshall, Roger Maytum, Jerry Miller, Bob Morley, Dick Riseling, Roger Riseling, George Striedl, Stanley Thomas, and Chuckie Wright."


Although Troop 12 was essentially comprised of the boys on Batavia;s east side, there were occasional exceptions, including George Kidston, Guy Few, and Bob Morley. Toward the end of his history, which includes sections on troop organization, meetings, summer camp, American Legion party, Memorial Day parade (see accompanying picture), Camporee, fall football and competitive rallies, and the annual Christmas party, Don noted: "Generally a boy would join Scouts at age twelve (later moved to eleven in the early fifties) and advance through requirements to a First Class rank and two or three merit badges.


By that time, he'd be about fifteen, maybe sixteen. At that point, however, different individuals would go different ways. "Scouts with natural athletic abilities would be maturing into full-fledged athletes, and usually tended to move on to varsity athletics and all the practice time demanded. And at sixteen, obtaining a driver's license became a top priority. Once accomplished, an extreme desire for that first car took hold.


Cars took money and, of necessity, work. Jobs were necessary to support this new-found diversion. Again, time now devoted elsewhere. And finally, the single largest item at this point in life -- girls, much more fascinating at this point than anything else.


"And so, on average, most Scouts started drifting away at the four or five year mark of tenure. Those who didn't were the ones who pursued the more advanced requirements and aspired to the Star, Life, and possibly Eagle ranks."




Memorial Dedication


The following column by Sheila Stroup is reprinted with the permis­sion of the New Orleans Times-Pica­yune newspaper. Sheila, the daugh­ter of Dorothy Vilven Tierney and the late L. Clifford "Mike" Tierney, grew up in Batavia and is now a Metro colum­nist. She graduated in the Batavia High School Class of 1961, which is having its 40th Reunion this fall.



I'm not sure what made me think of Jake Birkeneder.

Maybe it was looking at graduation cards or maybe it was just the smell of May. All of a sudden he was in my head, like a lyric from some long-for­gotten song.

When I dug out my old high school yearbook, it all came back to me. He's on the dedication page, which reads:


Friendliness and cooperation are qualities which seldom go unnoticed; however, they often go unpublicized. It is for this reason that we, the Class of 1961, dedicate our Echo to you, Jake Birkeneder.


There's a photo of him in gray pants and work shirt, a ring full of keys on his belt. He's looking down at a ply­wood table as if he just finished build­ing it -- a set-up shot if ever I saw one. We should have gotten a better pic­ture, one where we could really see him, I thought.



But the Echo is full of bad photos and good memories. What we did started out as a lark, really, an act of defiance by the year­book staff.

We thought we were so smart, the way seniors always do. We were ready to whip the world into shape, and when our sponsor decided we should dedicate the yearbook to the English teacher who retired in the middle of the year, we rebelled.


We liked to think we drove her to her untimely departure, for one thing. And nobody was going to tell us what to do, so we dedicated the yearbook to our favorite janitor instead.

We wanted to be a little shocking, I suppose, and do something no other Class had done. And we liked the little man with the German accent, who never raised his voice and always had a smile for us, who at 61 still rode his motorbike to school.


Someone made sure that Jake came to the May assembly when the yearbooks were handed out. It was that fluttery time of senior year, when the work is over but the fun isn't, when all that's left is the prom and finals and graduation, and you're in a limbo of mixed emotions as everything in your life is about to change.


When we called Jake to the front of the gym and read the dedication to him, he seemed overwhelmed. I don't remember what he said exactly, but tears filled his eyes and he spoke in soft, halting voice.


I looked over at Barb, my best friend, who'd been in on the dedica­tion business, and we both started crying too. We knew that without re­ally intending to we'd done something right and good.


So we dedicated the yearbook to our favorite janitor instead. We wanted to be a little shocking, I suppose, and do something no other class had done. And we liked the little man with the German accent, who never raised his voice and always had a smile for us, who at 61 still rode his motorbike to school.


Someone made sure that Jake came to the May assembly when the yearbooks were handed out. It was that fluttery time of senior year, when the work is over but the fun isn't, when all that's left is the prom and finals and graduation, and you're in a limbo of mixed emotions as everything in your life is about to change.


When we called Jake to the front of the gym and read the dedication to him, he seemed overwhelmed. I don't remember what he said exactly, but tears filled his eyes and he spoke if soft, halting voice.


I looked over at Barb, my best friend, who'd been in on the dedication business, and we both started crying too. We knew that without really intending to we'd done something right and good.


Gone but not forgotten


Earlier this weeki called Illinois information to see if there was a listing for Jake Birkeneder in the town where I grew up. I knew it was a long shot, but Birkeneder is an uncommon name, Batavia a small town. There was no Jake but there was an AI, and when I called him he said that Jacob was his father, that he'd died in 1982. He told me all about him -- how he had come to America from Germany in the mid-1920s, how he loved children and gardening and growing trees, what a good-hearted man he was.


He remembered the dedication well -- how touched and grateful his father - had been, how he'd never expected such a thing. "He relished that for the rest of his life," he said. "After he died, I found the yearbook among his things. It meant a lot to Dad." I think we grew up a little the day we handed that book to Jake and saw how much it meant to him We realized that sometimes you do the right thing for the wrong reasons and that we weren't as smart as we thought we were. It was probably the last lesson we learned in high school -- one that served us well as we stepped out into the world.



Another Mayor's Batavia Roots

Civil War and More Gleanings from Boh Brown's Family Records


The introduction to Mayor Jeffery Schielke's family reminiscences in the last issue stated: "Our purpose is to show how a family, over generations, merges into a town, becomes a part of the fabric that makes the town truly a community," Rod Ross alluded to this in his address at the society's June 9 general meeting.


Since then, this notion has been driven home anew by our reading of the family papers that former mayor Robert V.Brown and his wife, Lillian, have given to the Gustafson Research Center.


When Robert V. and Lillian Brown bought the house at 228 North Washington Avenue in 1949, this perpetuated vol43Num_4.jpgcontinuous family ownership of the property for almost 100 years.


This property, which together with the adjacent 218 North Washington, became known as the Stephens Homestead after it was purchased for $1,000 from Charles B. and Cassindana Wells by their son-in-law and daughter, Charles C. and Mary Sophia Wells Stephens, in 1876. Mary's father had purchased the house, previously the Baptist parsonage, from Orsanus Wilson in 1866 for $900, and it is possible that the Stephens family had occupied it during the intervening ten years. Charles C. and Mary Stephens had a son, Charles R. Stephens, and three daughters, Cassindana, Fannie and Clara.


Charles R. was the first operator of the Mooseheart grocery store. Sister Cassindana (better known as Cassie) Stephens, was Batavia's librarian from 1911 to 1939. Charles R. married Maud Seldon. One of their children was Marjorie, who served at one time as executive director of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce; she and her husband, Merwin Brown, were the parents of our former mayor.


The relationship between Charles B.Wells and Charles C. Stephens was more than just that offather-in-Iaw and son-in-law. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Wells joined the 52nd Illinois regiment as a private, eventually advancing to the rank of major.


Stephens served as a commissary sergeant (quartermaster) in the same regiment. The papers at the Gustafson Research

Center include an interesting letter that Stephens wrote to his wife shortly before the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi; it made the tedium and frustrations of life in camp come alive to anyone who has ever served in the military.


There were the usual complaints about not receiving mail from home and about superior officers. Stephens wrote: "I had a little talk spat with the Col. this morning -- he undertook to tell me my duty. I referred to the Army Regulations and I was right. The Col. is very hard to please - cannot do anything with [him] until he gets a little waspish." During the Vicksburg campaign, Wells, then a captain, was attached to the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant. On a visit to the site, Bob and Lillian found his name on the plaque listing members.


vol43Num_5.jpgThe Wells family had a long history in America, with Peter Wells arriving in Rhode Island from England in 1656. Charles B. Wells had come to Illinois from Massachusetts as a young man, with a wife and one child. After moving from Dundee to Geneva, he studied law while operating a store and teaching. Later he was elected and served as clerk of Kane County. In 1850 he bought the three lots at the corner of Third and Franklin streets for $60 and built the handsome Georgian house that in 1908 became Geneva's first hospital and was later occupied by Robin's Book Store.


This house has been cited by the Historic American Buildings Survey and is recorded in the Library of Congress as an outstanding example of early American architecture. In 1857 Wells bought another house in Geneva, at 128 South Fifth Street; it is not known whether he moved there from the house on Third Street or bought it for an investment or for one of his children. The Stephens family also had an eastern background, although we cannot trace it as far back as the Wells family. Charles C. Stephens came from New Jersey.


Longhand notes in the family papers at the Gustafson Research Center show a line of Stephenses from 1732 on but without indication of where they lived or how they fit in. In an attachment that appears to be similar handwriting, there is a listing that ends with Isaac Stevens (spelling sic).


A question naturally arises whether this might be the Isaac Stephens who, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, was a partner with J. W. Randall in the operation of a quarry on the south side of Batavia east of the river, served as the stone work contractor for the building of the Methodist church, and built and operated the Mill Creek Park south of Batavia.


Bob Brown is not aware of any connection. With Bob's and Lillian's three boys, seven grandchildren, and three great grandchildren living in Batavia (eight generations) and son David serving as an alderman, the family's ties with Batavia are continuing strong into the twenty-first century.


Perusing the genealogy of the family reveals an Orson Wells born in 1795. This makes one wonder, with such an unusual first name, whether there is a connection to the famous actor, even though his name was spelled Welles. Anyone who has spent time tracing family roots finds that spelling of a name, sometimes even for the same individual, was likely to vary before the middle of the nineteenth century.


Our readers will be glad to see that Helen Anderson did not stop writing about growing up in rural Batavia Township after the Society's publication last winter of her Memories of a Childhood. Copies of that book can still be purchased for $5 at the Depot Museum.



A Farmer's Garden

by Helen Bartlet Anderson


"One is nearer to God in a garden Than anywhere else on earth"


Mama knew that, as she planted seeds in her very large farm garden. Many times I heard her say, "And Godwill give the increase," just as Cliff and our children have heard me utter that phrase as we planted our own garden. Each February the seed catalogs filled up a goodly portion of the mailbox. Seed catalogs replaced the Aurora Beacon as Mama's after-dinner reading.


Papa said it really wasn't necessary to help choose the seeds because Mama would order the same as she did in other years anyway. At school, our teacher, Miss Agnes Nelson, sent to Ferry Seed Company for packets of seeds. Each student could choose one packet of vegetable seeds and one packet of flower seeds. Each packet cost one penny. In March and April, the birds were beginning to come back. Out in the pasture, dandelions were blooming.


When Mama saw them, she grabbed her big butcher knife and made her way to the patch of dandelions. She would come back with two or three clumps of dandelion greens, wash them and into her skillet they would go, along with bacon, mustard, an onion, an egg and vinegar. Roger andI learned that dandelions were notonly pretty, but good to eat as well after we got used to their bitterness. One year Papa decided to makesome dandelion wine, which he stored in a milk can in the garage. It so happened that a neighbor stopped by and enjoyed too large a sip of the the wine.


Shortly after the neighbor went home, Papa received a phone call from the neighbor's wife. The wine disappeared, and we never heard any more about it.Papa's garden work meant planting the bushel of potatoes that he has elected much earlier from the potatobin in the basement. He chose themost perfect ones he could find. Now it was time to get them ready for planting. They were cut into chunks, withat least two eyes in each piece.


Rogerand I could not help with so importanta job. Papa told us it was dangerousbecause of the very sharp knives theyused.The potato patch was at one edgeof an already plowed field. Papa would lead patient Coaly, pulling a small plow, to make the furrows. Then Uncle Charlie would take a hoe and chopholes two feet apart and six or eight inches deep. Now it was our turn. We dropped a piece of potato into each hole and then stepped on it.


That was lots of fun -- for a while. Roger, of course, finished his row first. Around the first of July, Roger and I were appointed to watch for potato bugs on the young plants. Papa gave us each a tin can and a stick to knock the beautiful brown and gold striped beetles into our cans. We each tried to find the most beetles, but most days I felt lucky to find one or two. Of course,Roger always found more. After awhile there were no more beetles; then Papa sprayed the potato vines with a poison -- I believe it was called Paris Green.


Potatoes were the main garden crop. Papa said, "Men who work so hard have to have good, solid food to keep them strong, so we need to planta lot to last us through the winter." In July or August Mama or Charlie would dig a few hills that would only last a few days. Then Mama would announce at breakfast that she needed potatoes. If no one offered, she would dig them herself.


This schedule continued until late fall, when the rest were harvested -- enough to fill the potato bin -- enough to last all winter. Back to Mama's big garden -- vegetables and berries were rapidly ripening, one after another. Along the west fence grew thorny gooseberries, currant bushes, asparagus, parsley and dill. A strawberry patch was at the south end, with raspberry bushes near the road. The north fence supported grapevines, with horseradish and rhubarb near the gate. Tomato plants and cabbage plants were planted as seeds in flat boxes in early spring.


In between the fences were several long rows running northand south, with carrots and beans, green, yellow and lima. There were lettuce, radishes, onions, beets, peas and spinach. How we waited for those radishes to get big enough to slice ona piece of fresh bread with butter anda pinch of salt and pepper.


The garden was filled, with the exception of the squash, pumpkins and sweet corn, which Papa planted along with the field corn. In spite of the weeds, dry weather or flooding, vegetables and fruit from the berry bushes were always a major part of our meals. Farmers eat big breakfasts, big dinners and big suppers. We were well fed.



June 9 General Meeting


Memorial Day Memories:

Logan's GAR General Order 11,Yesterday and Today

Dr. Rodney Ross


At our June 9, 2001, general meeting, we were privileged to hear Dr. Rodney Ross reminisce about Memorial Days, past and present. As most readers will recall, Rod, a Batavia High school graduate with a doctorate from the University of Chicago, previously spoke at both the 1975 dedication of the Depot Museum and the 2000 dedication of the Gustafson Research Center. He is presently an archivist at the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, D.C. Following an introduction by John Maxson, past president of the Illinois State Society of Washington, D.C., Rod delivered the message that follows (taken from Rod's prepared remarks with some introductory comments omitted because of space limitations):


Almost precisely a year ago, I had the pleasure of appearing before many of you in this same room. Again, I'd like to thank the Batavia Historical Society Program Chair Dick Benson for having me. One result of Dick's initial invitation has been the ongoingcontact I've had with the editor of TheBatavia Historian, Bill Hall. While I've long been a fan of Bill's work, I was particularly impressed with the most recent issue of the society's newsletter and its lead story "Six Terms as Mayor: Six Generations in Batavia -Reminiscences on Family by Mayor Jeffery D.Schielke." In connection with that feature, Bill ovserved: "This isn't just a genealogy story, although the family tree provides the framework for it and is interesting in itself. Our purpose is to show how a family, over generations, merges into a town, becomes a partof the fabric that makes the town truly a community."


As I mentioned last year, my family came to Batavia only in 1946. While no place is perfect, I can't think of any place whose heritage could be more fulfilling than Batavia's. For me, growing up Batavia in the 1950s, one particularly significant aspect of our town's heritage was the annual observation of Memorial Day. Memorial Day in Batavia in the 1950s was a big deal, complete with parades of hundreds of participants, in large part because entire grade school classes marched as classes.


The starting point would be Wilson and Batavia Avenue. The destination alternated, year by year, between the West Side Cemetery and the East Side Cemetery. At the parade's head would be veterans of the Spanish American War, followed by veterans from World War I, and then those from World War II, and by the middle of the decade, veterans from the Korean conflict. At the respective cemetery the program seemingly was unchanged year by year. It always including the reading of John A. Logan's Grand Army of the Republic General Order 11 and the recitation of John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields."


At the program's end a trumpet player near the speaker's podium would play taps, with a repeat refrain sounding from a far off spot within the cemetery. Then the crowd would quietly disperse. In the 1950s alii knew of Logan was that he was the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, whatever that was. Subsequently, I've come to know something about Logan, including his service as the third president, or rather "commander" of the key organization of Civil War Union veterans, the GAR. Also, after reading Marilyn Robinson's September 1998 article in The Batavia Historian, "Grand Army of the Republic -- Post #48. Batavia Men Who Helped Preserve the Union," I've come to understand a bit more about the background for our town's May 30th celebration of what started as a quasi-public "holiday" in 1868, and in 1887, along with the Fourth of July, became a holiday with pay for Federal workers.


If you were to reread Marilyn's article, you'd learn that the Grand Army of the Republic was founded in Illinois n 1866, with its purpose the "defense of the late soldiery of the United States, morally, socially, and politically." At its peak in 1890, the GAR had over 400,000 members nationwide. Batavia's racially integrated post had more than 130 members. As Marilyn noted: 'The post always participated in Decoration Day programs, the holiday established to honor Civil War veterans.


In 1927 the post gave the Batavia American Legion post the $100 in Liberty Bonds it owned and passed to the post the duty of tending to veterans' graves in Batavia cemeteries." As for GAR Commander John A. Logan, at one time he was truly a major figure for the nation as a whole and in particular for Illinois. As you may remember, last year's Batavia Historical Society program began with the singing of Illinois, including the song's fourth verse: Not without thy wondrous story, Illinois, Illinois Can be writ the nation's glory, Illinois, Illinois On the record of thy years, Abraham Lincoln's name appears, Grant and Logan, and our tears Illinois, Illinois Grant and Logan, and our tears, Illinois.


The high point of Logan's career came two years before his 1886 death when he was the Vice Presidential Republican candidate on the 1884 ticket headed by James G. Blaine. The names of both men are commemorated in Batavia streets, with Blaine Street on the west side (as in the Blaine Street School of which I and my siblings are alumni) and Logan Street on the east side (as in the Logan Street Baptist Church).


In the flier I've passed out, you'll see that I've condensed into one paragraph what I consider to be the essence of Logan's general order of May 5, 1868, designating May 30th as Memorial, or Decoration, Day: The 30th day of May is designated for the purpose of strewing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion. Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains and their deaths a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance.


Let no vandalism or avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic. If you were to visit the thrillingly dynamic Logan statue by August Saint Gaudens in Grant Park in Chicago off Michigan Avenue where 11th Street dead-ends into Michigan Avenue, after making the pilgrimage up the stairs leading to the statue, on its base you'd read an excerpt of another key part of Logan's general order, that the dead should be honored as long as a survivor of the war remained alive.


In the flier you'll also see that I've reproduced photographs from the backside of the ILLINOIS HERITAGE MAP showing the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial in Washington, as well as Washington's own statue of John A. Logan and Logan's final resting- place. I would hope that the ILLINOIS HERITAGE MAP would prove useful to any tourist visiting the nation's capital as a means of navigation with the city.


I would also hope that the associated commentary in identifying the map's sites would provide a measure of insight into the relevance of the sites per se. Since I began my talk by referring to Mayor Schielke's genealogical essay, it might well behoove me to conclude with a plug for a genealogical primer by a Chicago friend of mine, Tony Burroughs.


It's a 2001 work entitled Black Roots: A Beginner's Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree. Don't be put off by the title, or by the fact that you may not have had any ancestors who were slaves or collateral relatives who served time in Statesville in Joliet. It's truly a wonderful book that highlights unlikely genealogical resources and suggests pitfalls to avoid. I'll leave you with this short paragraph from Tony's introductory chapter: Sometimes when I visit the cemeteries where my ancestors are buried, the feeling comes over me again.


I was in the old section of East Batavia Cemetery with Jeanne Jones, whose ancestors founded Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in 1847. It was Chicago's first African American church. I was interviewing a historian -- that would be Batavia's teacher/historian John Dryden -- who was giving Jeanne and me a tour of the cemetery. He pointed out the headstone for her great-grandfa- ther and I heard a gasp.


I didn't understand why because she had visited this cemetery before. When I realized she had not located his grave site and headstone on previous trips, I understood her excitement and emotion.


I thank you.




What's New At The Museum?

by Carla Hill, Director


Summer has finally arrived! Chris Winter, Marilyn Robinson and I spent almost the entire month of May giving tours to Batavia third grade students. By the time the month ended, we saw just under 600 students walk through our doors! The Passport Program, which encourages children and their families to visit the many museums and historical sites throughout Kane and DuPage Counties has now started. The Batavia Public Library and the museum are working together once again to promote this program. Chris and I are working on a new display for Furnas Electric, which will be placed in the hallway of the Gustafson Research Center. The display will detail the history of Furnas Electric and the people who worked there.


Work will resume on the Batavia Rail History display, which will feature artifacts from Jerry Rubles collection. The new computer center is now completed in the Gustafson Research Room. We have purchased a new computer system, a photo quality printer, a scanner and a digital camera. We have also purchased collection software, which will allow us to computerize our collection records and indexes. The entire computer center and equipment has been funded by a very generous grant from the Hansen-Furnas Foundation.


On June 21 , Julia Spalding will begin a summer internship with at museum. Julia will work with our new software and will be entering many of our indexes as well as many other tasks. She is being funded with some cemetery. He pointed out the headstone for her great-grandfather and I heard a gasp. I didn't understand why because she had visited this cemetery before. When I realized she had not located his grave site and headstone on previous trips, I understood her excitement and emotion.


Of the grant money that was received from Hansen-Furnas Foundation.

Some of the many recent donations to the museum's collection:


• Beautiful wool lap robe - Katherine Reed


• Painting of "City of Batavia" boat painted by Roy McGary - Donna Dwiggins


• Metal tools, steel yard scale owned by Axel Peterson, scrapbooks fillec.J with book marks collected by Viola Peterson.


• Strawberry Basket stamped Otto Mier, Batavia, II - Florence and Andrew Liedberg


• Shumway Foundry 100th Anniversary items from Georgene Kauth and Elliot Lundberg


• Several Batavia business advertising items - Donald Weaver


• 1883 marriage certificate - Marj and Harold Holbrook


• Early tools and fishing pole - Larry Kloehn


We have also received many new additions to our photograph collection.


We are always looking for additional Batavia photographs. We will copy photographs for our collection and return the originals. We are anticipating a very busy summer and we are always looking for new volunteers.


We would really appreciate anyone who would be willing to volunteer occasionally on Sundays in the research center.


If you would like to volunteer at the museum or the Gustafson Researd Center, please contact Kathy Fairbairn at 406-9041.



Membership Matters


Since the last issue, Mr. and Mrs. David Brown, Jeff and Mel Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Brown, Jr., Bill Buchanan (Redlands, CA), John and Judy Gosselin, Marilyn Hughes (Oshkosh, WI), Kade Corporation, George Von Hoff, and Francis E. Youssi, some of whom were previously annual members, have become life members.


The memberships of the three Brown families were gifts of Bob and Lillian Brown, and the membership for George Von Hoff was an 80th birthday gift from Bob Nelson.


Other new members (from Batavia unless otherwise noted) include William Byrnes (Carbondale, IL), Rick and Karen Grant, Joe Haugen, Kristin and David Hemink, Nancy Hollmeier, Dr. Craig Bowron (St. Paul, MN -- gift from Nancy and Denis Bowron), Richard and Audrey Miller, and Bonnie Schumpert (Somonauk, IL). We welcome these new members and look forward to their participation in the activities of the society. With regret, we report the death of charter member Donald W. Clark, who along with his family was the subject of "Seventy Years Together -- Avenue Motors and the Clark Family" in the October, 2000, issue and of member Edith (Mrs. Wesley) Arter.


We have received monetary donations in memory of Donald W. Clark from Richard and Lois Benson, Alma J. Karas and Yangling Zhang, and Walter and Georgene Kauth; in memory of Edith (Mrs. Wesley) Arter from Barbara Conde Hopkins; in memory of Marcella Johnson from Walter and Georgene Kauth; and for general purposes from Lyle B. Nelson, Kay Peterson, and Mrs. Guy Giannini.


Also, as discussed elsewhere in this issue, we received a grant of $5,000 from Batavia Township


$5,000 Grant from Township for Microfilming Records


Batavia Township recently granted $5,000 to the society for use in a sorely needed project -- microfilming old and fragile records in the Gustafson Research Center. Microfilming will not only help preserve the records but will also make them more readily usable by those engaged in research. We are deeply appreciative of this support from the township.



Why Campana Is in Batavia


While Bill Wood, Elliott Lundberg and Bill Hall were interviewing Mayor Schielke about his roots (see story in last issue), the question arose of why Campana is in Batavia. Mayor Schielke's recollections are the basis of the story that follows:


Did you realize that Campana is in Batavia? Most people, we are sure, assume that it is in Geneva since Fabyan Parkway is the general border between the two cities. But Campana is an exception When Campana constructed its building in an unincorporated area on the northwest corner of Batavia Avenue and what is now Fabyan Parkway in the early 1930s, the insurance company required the installation of a large water tank to provide water pressure in case of fire.


A large wooden tank was installed in the tower; in fact, Mayor Schielke believes that the purpose of the tower was to house the tank. About 1968, this water tower started leaking. At that time, there was a large amount of cotton used in manufacturing products, and the insurance company told Campana that it needed more water capacity and should have a municipal water supply.


Geneva told Campana that it had no water line nearby, so the company went to see Mayor Swanson. It so happens that there was a Plan Commission meeting at 7:00 that night, with a City Council meeting beginning one-half hour later; the incorporation of Campana and the water hookup was approved that very night. Campana agreed to pay for the necessary extension of Batavia's water line on North Batavia Avenue, recovering the cost as others later tapped into the line.


That is what accounts for a jog in the boundary line between Batavia and Geneva.


And it is after that that Geneva decided it would be wise to put in writing what had been an assumed boundary.


Dues to Increase in 2002


At its April meeting, the board of directors voted to set the dues for 2002 and thereafter until further notice as follows:


Individual, $10;

Joint/Family, $15;

Junior, $2;

Business or Institution, $20;

Life (individual), $100;

Life (family), $150;

Life (Business or Institution), $150.


A few facts indicate the need for this increase. First, dues received are not sufficient to cover two of our major membership services alone -- meetings and the Historian.


And we are incurring new expenses since the opening of the Gustafson Research Center.

Our dues will still be a bargain, the lowest in the area -- substantially so in most instances.