Volume Forty-Seven

No. 1

January 2006

A Batavian Joins the Union Army

Some Recollections of Don Carlos Newton


Most of us are familiar with the Newton Monument that occupies a prominent place near the main entrance of Batavia's West Side Cemetery. Funded by a bequest from Mary Prindle Newton, widow of Don Carlos Newton, it was erected in 1918 to honor those Batavians, including her husband, who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Don Carlos Newton, born in 1832 and associated with his father, Levi Newton, in the Newton Wagon Company, which he later headed, served as a 1.jpgcaptain in the Union Army from 1861 until the end of 1864.


Recently Roger Derby, a great great nephew of Newton, sent us a copy of a speech that Newton gave in Chicago to the Loyal Legion, a social group composed of former officers of the Union Army during the Civil War. This copy is now in the Gustafson Research Center. The speech is undated but must have been long after the war ended but before 1892, the year of Newton's death. In this speech (in which Newton refers to himself in the third person), he recounts his wartime experiences, primarily those in the period before the Battle of Vicksburg.


In this issue, we shall excerpt only the first part of the speech, which deals mainly with anecdotes about day-to-day army life before the Army of the Tennessee, as Grant's and Sherman's commandwas named, got downto the grim aspects of war, beginning with the capture of Fort Donelson.


The story of a great war can never be fully written. Its prominent events will be known and read of all men. The record of its brilliant engagements, its great marches, and its strategic triumphs will all be set forth in detail and with reasonable accuracy. Its successful leaders will find a multitude of biographers who will vie with each other in their glowing descriptions of the services, achievements, skill and prowess of their admired captains and the patriotism and martial spirit of the nation will be fostered and promoted by historians, artists, and poets, who with facile pen, magic brush, and inspired verse have given to the valor and heroism displayed in the great contest an imperishable fame.


But even a great war is not all pomp, pageantry and brilliant victory. It is concern with details that are prosaic, humdrum, uninteresting, but upon proper attention to which the great successes depend. In some measure the history of every participant no matter how humble is an essential part of the war record, and the incident of the camp, the bivouac, or even the tedious march have not lost their charm or interest for the veteran of many campaigns. It is this humbler theme to which I shall address myself this evening, trusting largely to the memories which the incidents I relate will awaken, for the interest with which the companions will listen to my story. We old veterans of the war well remember the terrible shock that came to us when we heard the reverberation of that first gun fired at Fort Sumter.


How at the call of the martyred Lincoln the loyal young men of the North almost to a man sprang to arms and offered and pressed their services on the Government until the War Department was so overwhelmed that it could not accept one half the eager ones who rallied to the call. Today this memory seems almost like a dream, and the events of the succeeding years like a horrid nightmare. We at our homes in the North scarcely realized what was transpiring in the South, and only felt the weight of passing events when some loved one came back from the front scarred and maimed by rebel bullets. Except at some town where a regiment was being formed and the sound of the soul stirring drum was heard, Northern Illinois was as quiet and peaceful as the fabled Arcadia. The summer came and waned, her broad fields of golden grain and waving corn ripened as of yore and were as beautiful as a poet's dream.


One bright sunny day late in July of that eventful year, 1861, a lonely young man riding along in a one horse carriage over in DeKalb County was met by a farmer looking chap, evidently just coming from the town nearby, who hailed him with the question "Have you heard the news?" The reply to this was in true Yankee style, "What news?" To this came an answer that was as bewildering as unexpected. "Our army on the Potomac has been terribly whipped by the rebels at Bull Run and is in full retreat on Washington with the rebels in close pursuit, and it is thought that they will capture the Capital before night." The hope was expressed that matters tion of that first gun fired at Fort Sumter. How at the call of the martyred Lincoln the loyal young men of the North almost to aman sprang to arms and offered and pressed their services on the Government until the War Department was so overwhelmed that it could not accept one half the eager ones who rallied to the call. Today this memory seems almost like a dream, and the events of the succeeding years like a horrid nightmare.


We at our homes in the North scarcely realized what was transpiring in the South, and only felt the weight of passing events when some loved one came back from the front scarred and maimed by rebel bullets. Except at some town where a regiment was being formed and the sound of the soul stirring drum was heard, Northern Illinois was as quiet and peaceful as the fabled Arcadia. The summer came and waned, her broad fields of golden grain and waving corn ripened as of yore and were as beautiful as a poet's dream. One bright sunny day late in July of that eventful year, 1861, a lonely young man riding along in a one horse carriage over in DeKalb County was met by a farmer looking chap, evidently just coming from the town nearby, who hailed him with the question "Have you heard the news?" The reply to this was in true Yankee style, "What news?"


To this came an answer that was as bewildering as unexpected. "Our army on the Potomac has been terribly whipped by the rebels at Bull Run and is in full retreat on Washington with the rebels in close pursuit, and it is thought that they will capture the Capital before night." The hope was expressed that matters would prove to be less serious than the dispatches seemed to indicate, but it firmly fixed in that young man’s mind the resolve that had been held back partly by business matters and partly by family cares, that he would go to the help of his government and that at a pretty early day. At home was a young invalid wife and an infant daughter, not yet two months old, that pulled on the heart strings wonderfully, but the brave little woman when approached on the subject said, “Go,” and that was the clincher. Learning that the nucleus of the “Army of the Tennessee” was then forming at Geneva (Illinois), the county seat of Kane, he soon found his way to the place of rendezvous and placed his name on the roll of those ready to do and, if necessary, to die for their country. Having had no military experience and no knowledge of tactics he modestly sought only a sergeant’s position. Soon after going into camp however he found that no one there seemed to know much more than he of military matters and his ambitions began to rise. He thought he could fill a lieutenant’s position as well as anyone he saw, so laid his plans to capture one and succeeded. 


This ended in his becoming a full fledged captain before the year 1862 dawned and finding himself down in St. Louis in command of a hundred brave boys.The stay here was short as the command was soon armed and ordered to St. Joseph, Missouri, to assist in guarding that city and protecting the railroad in that direction. The captain was sent with his command to the little town of Stewartsville, some twelve miles east of St. Joseph with St. Louis and to preserve the peace generally. Here the captain took his first lesson in conducting a campaign. One Hart Peck was marauding around the country, committing depredations on Union people, tearing up the railroad tracks, and making himself generally disagreeable. A detail of some thirty men was made up and the command given to him with orders to go for Peck and capture him if possible. Peck’s headquarters were some six miles out, and to that point the march was made direct. On arriving within a quarter of a mile of the place, the scouts reported Peck and a few of his adherents on horseback in the yard in front of the house, and that they were uncertain as to whether they had been seen or not.


The captain crept up in sight of the place and found that it could be reached on either side through timber and so divided his little force into three squads; each in command of an officer. He took one, a lieutenant another and one was left to hold the road. One squad went by a circuitous route through the woods to the right; another to the left; and orders were given to the third one that if they heard any firing in the direction of the house they were to come forward at double quick.


The two squads reached a position beyond the house and closed in quickly only to find that the redoubtable Peck had fled, leaving the yard empty and the house occupied only by an old woman who sat quietly knitting in the chimney carner-and who calmly denied having seen any men that day until their arrival. so ended the Captain's first attempt at grand strategy. Hart Peck was not captured but the "Army of the Tennessee" as far as represented by that squad held the battlefield and came off with honor, capturing in the language of that pretty song our good old comrade John Mason Loomis sings, "One Old Squaw!" The command was soon returned to St. Louis where they found a new man in charge in the person of General W. T. Sherman, who had just been shelved there because of his alleged crazy ideas concerning the force that would be required to put down the rebellion. At that time no one could possibly have dreamed of the greatness he was to attain. He was around the camp in undress uniform with a much worn slouch hat on his head and looked anything but the great military genius he was.


Unless one knew him he would be the last man selected as commander of the post. He however was everywhere looking after the welfare of the troops placed in his care, seeing that the camp was kept in proper order and cleanly, and that the men were well fed, in fact exhibiting all those qualities that afterward made him so famous. He seemed to see and know everything that was going on at all points of the extensive camp. A good story is told of his contact one day with a mule driver who hadgot stuck with his load in the sticky mud for which a St. Louis winter is famous. We all know the characteristics of a typical mule pusher; how far from chaste was his language and what feartul imprecations he could formulate. Suffice it to say, that this fellow was one ofthe most accomplishedof his class, and was making the surroundings fairly blue with his oaths, curses, etc. Just at this time the General came along and proceeded to reprove the fellow for his profanityand the abuse of his team. Quick as lightening he turned, his face white with passion, and blurted out, "Who the Hell are you?" The reply came cooly, "I am General Sherman commanding this camp." Quick and sharp came from the excited mule driver,"Oh Hell".


That's played out. Every old cuss that comes along with a slouch hat on tries to play the General Sherman dodge. You go to the Deviland I'll get these damned mules out of here." And get them out he did. The future commander of the Army of theTennessee was non-plussed and compelled to retreat; a thing he very seldom did. Soon after arriving at St. Louis an inspection was called on the Belgian muskets with which the regiment had been armed. By the board that examined them they were at once condemned as totally unfit for any use to which the soldier could put them. So they were stacked with barrels and bayonets bent in all shapes and orders were issued for rearming the regiment. When the next day new arms came down, in formidable looking, well made boxes, the feeling prevailed that now the command was to have something commensurate with its merits. However when the boxes were opened the arms were found to be identical with those which had been condemned and a new protest was made, which met with only th is reply, ''There are no other arms here and take them you must." These Belgian muskets were said to be some of the purchases of General Fremont and were reported among the boys to be more dangerous to those in the ranks than to any enemy in front. In fact, their facility for shooting around a corner was claimed to be marvelous.


Almost immediately the command was ordered to Cairo to report to General Grant, then preparing for the move on Forts Henry and Donelson. On arrival at Cairo the Belgian muskets were stacked on the levee and the next day, without arms, the Command moved to Fort Holt, a narrow strip of high ground across the Ohioon the Kentucky shore . A few days here were enlivened by contact with other regiments, drill. dress parade, etc.


Here a laughable incident occurred in Oglesby's regiment which so far as I know has never been told. There were very strict orders against appropriating any of the property of the loyal Kentuckians to the use of the loyal soldier, but one day as "Uncle Dick's" regimental band was out in the edge of the wood practicing, a plump, good looking pig came along and so tempted the boys that they could not resist. The pig was soon killed and dressed. Then came the question as to how they could get him into camp without detection. The big bass drum was finally suggested as furnishing the best solution to the problem, as the quarters were ample for a pig of that size. The head was quickly taken out, the pig loaded in, the head replaced and the move on camp commenced. During all this ceremony time had slipped along so rapidly that on reaching camp they found the regiment all formed for dress parade and the colonel looking very impatiently for his music.


Here was a state of affairs. The drummer was equal to the occasion, and moving quickly up to the side of "Uncle Dick" he said in an undertone, "Colonel, while we were out in the woods practicing, a very disloyal pig came along which we killed , dressed, and put in the big drum. We were going to send a quarter up to your mess." "Sick?," broke in the colonel, "Why in Hell didn't you say you were sick without all this parley? Go to your quarters. Balance of the band will go ahead with the music." After a few days sojourn here the command was sent to Smithland, Kentucky, and soon afterward armed with Springfield and Enfield rifles.


While at Smithland this portion of the army took its first real lessons in that accomplishment for which the Army of the Tennessee was afterward so famous. They were camped just at the edge of the town in a cold, bleak, field. It being midwinter the problem of how to get sufficient heat to make themselves anywhere near comfortable was a formidable one to solve. One squad of the captain's company solved it. Up in town was a small country hotel with a wide hallway and a door opening there from into a room which was dignified by the name of "The Office." This was usually filled with the ordinary town loafers discussing the war, and the Yankees in particular. One day when the discussion was hot and all thoroughly occupied, this squad walked down the hall and going into a recess under the stairs found and carried off a pretty good sized cook stove, getting it up to thecamp without detection. Here they dug a hole in the center of their tent into which they sunk the stove; thenconstructed a tunnel reaching outside the tent to carry off the smoke, covered the top with a piece of sheet iron and awaited developments.


Complaint of the depredation was soon made to the post commander who ordered a search through the camp for the stove. This was made by anofficer and two enlisted men accompanied by the landlord of the hotel. Arriving at the particular tent in which the stove was located their inspection failed to show up anything of a stovelike character and the captainassured them that he was certain the stove was not in any of his company'stents. They did not succeed in finding the object of-their search and soon gave up in despair. It is questionable whether any of the detail wanted to find it. After their departure one of the sergeants came up and said, "Captain, they were not very sharp were they? That stove is in our tent." "Where?" said the captain,"I did not see it." Entering the tent with the captain, the sergeant said, ''The stove is under that old piece of sheet iron." And lifting it up there was the whole heatingand cooking outfit.



A day or two afterward while walking uptown the captain spied just ahead a soldier climbing down from a farmer's wagon that was hitched in front of a store, with a small cheese which he proceeded to chuck into a pile of sand nearby. Rising up with that kind of innocent face which a good soldier could always put on, he saw that his escapade had been witnessed, and with an inimitable wink said, "Don't say anything, Captain. I'm going to send a quarter of it over to your mess." The quarter came. Here as elsewhere at that time orders against foraging were very strict but rations as usual were not very satisfactory and any little additions that could be quietly obtained were very welcome. Quite a number of innocent looking pigs, that were in better health and flesh than was usual for pigs in that section, were wandering around the town looking very lonesome. Near the edge of the town was an old distillery building set up on posts Southern fashion, the sides of which had been covered with boards, part of them off now.


The boys having found that these pigs roosted under this old building soon decided that but slight repairs were needed to make it good foraging ground. These they proceeded to make by quietly nailing on a few boards, leaving two holes big enough for a soldier to go in and for a pig to come quickly out. Then when the little town was quietly slumbering, and the pigs ditto, a few of the boys would steal away down to the old building armed with large-mouthed gunny sacks. Two good stalwart fellows could place themselves with their sacks in front of each hole. Then one or two more would go under and stir up the animals, which would rush for out-of-doors through the holes and land much to their surprise, in the bags; so astonished when they did that they forgot to squeal and, before they got used to their new quarters, would be on their way to the piggy's happy hunting ground. With such easy lessons it is not difficult to understand how the Army of the Tennessee became such proficient foragers later on in the war.



A Granddaughter's Memories of

The Patrick Borg Family


Marjorie Carlson Withers


Several months ago the author of this story, a former resident of Batavia, gave the Depot Museum a fascinating package of material dealing with her maternal forebears in Batavia. It included bills for acquiring the land and building of the family home in the late 1880s and early 1890s - the subject of two stories in the last issue. After she returned home, she sent a story about her family that, with some abridgment, follows. Even though the holidays are now over, readers will find her description of the Borg family Christmas celebrations particularly interesting.


My maternal grandfather was fourth out of five children in the family of Johannes Isacsson and Petronella Bengstdotter. Patrick William, like thousands of others, left home and family in Sweden and immigrated to the United States in 1883. Born in 1864, he grew up with the prevalent vision of jobs and riches in America. One sibling, older brother Ben, had already made the move, so Patrick was not alone in his new country. At immigration, Ben had adopted the surname "Borg" - a reminder of Gothenborg, Sweden-the area from which he had come. And so, his young brother became Patrick William Borg. Ben and Pat settled in Batavia, soon building houses next door to one another on South Jefferson Street.' Information is sketchy, but it seems Pat worked at the Appleton Company in Batavia. There are notes that he also worked at a paper bag company led. note: another VanNortwick company] and that he was a woodworker. In his later years, he became custodian at Bethany Lutheran Church in Batavia. My grandmother, Anna Charlotte Carlstrand, was born near Gothenborg, Sweden, in 1862-fifth of the seven children of Carl Korth and Johanna Fredriksdotter.


She immigrated to the United States in the 1880s. Settling in Batavia, she found work as a housekeeper/cook for one of Batavia's wealthiest families-the VanNortwicks. Patrick and Charlotte, or Lottie as she was often called, were married in Batavia on June 25, 1892. Following the formal ceremony at Bethany Lutheran Church, Charlotte, now an experienced cook, prepared her own wedding dinner in their brand-new home, which Patrick had had built for them [see stories in previous issue]. It was a charming, two-story white frame house with front porch, located at 113 South Jefferson Street (later renumbered by the city to 227). This home was where they lived out their marriage of 54 years-except for 11 years spent in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, at the turn of the century. The move was vital, as Pat was offered a job there-something he couldn’t find in Batavia at the time. There is no record of where he worked in Kaukauna [ed.note: in view of the fact that Patrick had worked for the VanNortwicks at the Appleton Manufacturing Company and the paper company, it is likely that he worked in Wisconsin at the Kaukauna Paper Company or one of the other VanNortwick enterprises there.] After this “interruption” and back in his beloved house once more, Patrick lived on to spend the rest of his life there, living to celebrate his 96th birthday.


The Borgs had the first of their seven children in 1893-Dorothy Winifred, born in their home. She was followed by Anna Theresa in 1895, Frances Natalie (my mother) in 1898, Richard Carl, 1900, Arthur Samuel, 1902, Louise Josephine in 1905 and Edith Christine, born in 1907. The last three children were born in Kaukauna.


My mother, Frances, was a member of the graduating class of Batavia High School in 1916 I still cherish her graduation gift-a gold watch (an "Elgin," of course) that I enjoy wearing as a necklace. She worked at Mooseheart-as a comptroller operator and office worker.


In 1923 she married Fritz Evert Carlson of Batavia and they had three daughters-Jean, Marjorie (me) and Joyce. My sisters are now deceased. My parents had a fantastic honeymoon trip. Back in 1923, they actually drove their Model A Ford to California! The trip was quite adventurous in those days, taking them several weeks to accomplish. After visiting with relatives in the west, they rode the train back to Chicago. During WW II mother took a job, a la "Rosie the Riveter," to "do her bit for the war effort." This involved assembly-type work at Furnas Electric Company. Like her parents, she never learned to drive a car. One of my grandfather's routines as custodian of Bethany Lutheran Church was to ring the church bell at specified times. Located high in the steeple, the bell was activated by pulling on a heavy rope in the church's balcony.


One of my fondest childhood memories is swinging from that rope on Saturday evenings.-a weekly ritual, as the bell was always rung at 6 p.m. (The task of ringing the bellslowly- at noon, following the death of a church member, was always Grandpa's alone-a somber occasion.) On Saturdays, Grandpa would help as I struggled to pull the rope. But hearing the bell ring, because of what I considered my effort, was a real thrill! And on the last peal of the bell, I'd be lifted way up off the floor, Grandpa supporting me. That was more fun for me than the Tilt-a-Whirl at the amusement park when the carnival came to town! Holidays when I was growing up in Batavia were always very special.


Our family spent nearly every one of them at the Borg house, and with Aunt Dorothy and Aunt Louise living at home, everything was done "to perfection." Elaborately, too. For them, nothing was "too much work". Here I'll describe my most memorable holiday.


Christmas Eve was very traditional. Each year the entire family, nearly all of us living in Batavia, gathered together about 5 p.m. in the beautifully decorated Borg home.


The tree was usually placed in the living room's window alcove, along with many other decorations, of course, in that room and in the adjacent parlor. Before long, with all women and girls pitching in, a repast of Swedish foods was heaped upon the dining room table, spilling over to the buffet-pickled herring, lutefisk (a smelly Swedish fish - not for me, thanks!), Swedish sausage, Swedish meatballs, sylta, jellied veal, rice casserole, Bond-Ost cheese (a Swedish-type cheese with caraway seeds), brown beans (containing one almond that signified good fortune to the lucky recipient), green beans, cranberries, homemade Swedish rye bread and coffee bread, homemade Christmas cookies-the same, fantastic menu every single year!


And after lengthy table prayers, we were allowed to dig in. After my sisters and I helped wash and dry every one of the "best" dishes by hand, it was almost time for Santa. Precisely at 9:00, we heard the longawaited knock on the front door. "Who do you think that could be?" my aunts would cry-building up the excitement. "Better go see!" So we children would open the door to the front porch, only to find no one there. But how could we miss the pile of gailywrapped gifts on the floor! "Santa Claus was here!" was the shout. "There he goes, just around the corner- see?" But we kiddos never did see Uncle Richard, of course, as he crept beside the house to the back door. The anticipation and thrill never left us. After the always exciting gift-opening, we walked the few short blocks to the traditional Christmas Eve midnight service at our church - Bethany Lutheran on Washington (now Lincolnshire) Street. Snow was almost always on the ground-but quite often, as we walked, the flakes came drifting down. Beautiful! The family was always involved at church, so greeted many friends as we entered. As teenagers, Jean, Joyce and I were allowed to sit high up in the balcony with our own friends. Cousins Louette and Georgene Sandell were always there. A bit of whispering, comparing gifts received, etc. went on. What fun and what freedom for us-finally away from a long evening with the adults.


At home on Christmas morning, my parents rose early. Every year they sang in the church choir at the Swedish Julotta service at 6 a.m., of all things! I'll never know how they handled that short night's sleep! Jean, Joyce and I would sleep in-or sometimes we, too, would excitedly get up to start playing with our new dolls or whatever. Later in the day we had dinner at the home of Aunt Anna and Uncle Ernie. Or else we ate with soml'" of Dad's family in the Sandell hom~ on Jackson Street. Batavia in those days had only about 5,000 residents and to me exhibited small-town living at its best. It offered a lot of freedom for kids to enjoy. And with close family ties, my childhood memories are good ones.


Ed. note: Marjorie's unabridged story, which is available in the Gustafson Center, includes details about her Borg aunts and uncles that readers acquainted with the family might wish to examine. Ben's only granddaughter, Pauline Johnson Carlstedt, is a lifelong resident of Batavia.




Some participants at Volunteer Luncheon Every December the Depot Museum staff, Carla Hill and Chris Winter, host a luncheon for the Depot Museum volunteers. And every year, it seems, the event gets better - the food, the entertainment, and the chance to visit with other volunteers. This year's attendance at Shannon Hall on December 8 was about 70. After an excellent buffet lunch, the volunteers were entertained by an outstanding barbershop quartet known as Kensington Road. Following that, Chris announced that each volunteer would receive, as a gift, this year's Christmas ornament (also available to the public for $9 at the Park District office).


This year's ornament, part of a series honoring Batavia buildings no longer in existence, features the Batavia Body Company building. In addition, special gifts were passed out to certain volunteers who had made exceptional contributions to the museum's operations. A chance to attend one of these luncheons should, in itself, be enough to entice members to volunteer, but the big advantage is the fun one will have in doing this work with fellow members. Anyone who is interested in volunteering should call Carla or Chris at (630) 406-5274.



Windmills and Wagons


Ruth Johnsen



Member Ruth Johnsen has provided us with the following brief history of Batavia that is a part of the memoirs she is preparing. Chancing the possibility of being plucked off by an Indian arrow, Christopher Payne, in 1832, hurried about nine miles from the small settlement of Naperville, Illinois west to what is now the east side of Batavia, stakedhis claim for the free land there, and planted potatoes. Speeding back to Naperville to his wife and five children, he waited until spring, when Chief Blackhawk and hisIndian tribe were finally defeated, before returning. The potatoes were soon ready for eating.


He built a spacious log cabin along what is now called Mahoney Creek, dug a well, lined with bricks he made from clay dug along the Fox River nearby, started the first school and church in his home, and hospitably welcomed newcomers who followed close behind.


Payne, the first settler in Batavia and even Kane County, led the way for many other rugged souls from the east to come here for the free land to farm on or on which to build industries. Huge windmill and wagon factories were eventually erected, spread outalong both sides of the Fox River where a dam was built to supply power. The factories, and many homes as well, were built of local limestone, quarried from over 14 quarries in the town.By the 1890s Batavia, Illinois was a thriving town where more adventurous settlers, on their way further west, were purchasing those windmills and wagons.


The windmills would be in·stalled on their claims somewhere beyond the Mississippi River to pro· vide them with water, or perhaps grind the grain they would eventually har· vest. The wagons would be covered to carry all of the family's belongings to their newly established farms and ranches out west. Shops in the busy city of almost 3,600 citizens were kept busy supplying the needs of those new settlers and the older residents as well. The Batavia Herald newspaper, established in 1892, began to carry adver· tisements for clothing, carts, animals and services. Factory jobs were plentiful so Swedish and German began to be heard in the streets as new immigrants came for jobs and settled in on their own sides of the river. Swedes on the west side and Germans on the east. Occasional fights ensued on the connecting bridge if boys from one side attempted to date girls from the other side.


Mary Todd Lincoln, the dead president's widow and Mark Twain had both been here - Mary for almost four months as a patient in Bellevue, a private sanitarium, after being judged insane by a Chicago court, and Twain, overnight atter delivering a lecture sponsored by the Batavia Laconian Literary Society. The Woman's Club of Batavia began its educational and philanthropic work, which continues to this day. Well-kept flower gardens graced the front yards of the homes, protected from the possible meandering cow by neat picket fences. Often wildflowers from the nearby "Big Woods" and the sunny prairies were tamed into graceful designs but seed com·panies were beginning to supply more exotic specimens from Europe and even Asia.


A flower shop and green· house where those seeds were grown, flourished. I have a suspicion that the sundrops, woodland poppies, ferns and wild geranium still growing abundantlyin the old garden of the house at 34 West Elm Street were dug from the woods surrounding Batavia soon after that house was built in the mid 1800's.


Today, in 2005, Batavia is a city of over 25,000 citizens. Many of thebuildings that housed those shops and factories have been preserved. The city hall and police station are located in one of the restored old limestone windmill factories. Offices, manufacturing companies and even a theater are housed in another former windmill enterprise. A bridal shop prospers where The Anderson Shop on "the Avenue" once sold dresses with bustles and huge veiled hats. One of the stone quarries has been magically transformed into a huge public swimming pool, complete with mushroom-like fountains, water slides and sand beaches for sunning and volleyball. Antique windmills, some like huge wooden flowers that open to the wind have been put on display at the Riverwalk, completed in 1998; a park along the river, built completely by volunteers. Those windmills were built by four different companies during the 1800's, giving Batavia the nickname, "Windmill City." Fast disappearing in the wild, native plants have been preserved by the Batavia Plain Dirt Gardeners in a Wildflower Sanctuary at the north end of their city's Riverwalk. Volunteer gardeners began planting and weeding that large woodland garden just below a dam on the Fox River in 1992.


Now, beginning in early April, bloodroot and hepatica appear, followed by swaths of woodland poppies, wild geranium, trillium, wild blue phlox and Solomon's seal. Ferns and wild ginger have multiplied into great groups and the club has planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs where only European scrub buckthorn, invasive weeds and box elder trees grew ten years ago. Gracing the shore of an inlet from the river, called locally "The Pond," is the Depot Museum. Once the oldest train depot on the Northwestern Railroad line, the Batavia station was purchased and moved to its present spot by local citizens and now contains a large collection of local artifacts including one of those wagons built by the Newton Wagon Works, later named the Batavia Body Company. The furniture used by Mary Lincoln during her stay at Belleview is also on display there. The Native Americans who first called this area home are also respectfully depicted. A new railroad exhibit opened in September 2004 as the town celebrated the 150th birthday of the wooden depot itself.


The lower level of the museum houses a modern genealogy research center with computer ports and color copiers and usually has volunteers on hand to assist visitors who might want to know more about their earlier relatives who settled here. Outside, there are: a small wooden building that housed the first Batavia bank; an old wooden railroad caboose; and an ancient railroad water tower to give visitors a small taste of "the old days." However, just north of this enclave of history dwell over fifty families in modern condos and townhouses, enjoying the waterfront they overlook. These expensive dwelling units were built over the past eight years, proving that Batavia is still a thriving city, appreciatedand considered choice by the people of today. Don and I came to Batavia in 1957 with Cherie, 13, Scott, 10 and Suzanne, two. We were seeking a house bigger than our 976-squarefoot ranch home in suburban Lombard that we had built following Don's return from the Navy Air Corps after WWII.


We found it at 106 South Jefferson Street - a Queen Anne, twostory frame house with "eyebrow" windows, built in 1867 but beautifully restored by Elly Dunlap and her husband. Shaded by huge old maple trees that turned to gold in the fall, it had two inside stairways, five bedrooms, two baths and a portable dishwasher - all of which suited us perfectly. Under the front stairway was a closet in front of a built-in storage area, which immediately became the kid's "secret fort". Our nearby neighbor, J.B. Nelson told us that at one time"Coalie" Johnson, who delivered coal, was a boarder in this house. We felt more than welcome when we discovered four other families named Johnson within eyeshot of our corner house, one of them even a Donald. However, because all of our new neighbors were Swedish, we kept our Norwegian spelling of Johnsen under wraps until we felt friendly enough with them to divulge our intrusion into their all-Swede neighborhood. Now, after 48 years, we're the oldtimers.


It sure feels good.



Bert Johnson



Many of us remember Bert Johnson as the smiling dispenser of medicine for many years at Johnson's Drug Store on Batavia Avenue. Others recall his easy manner in presiding over the meetings of the Batavia Historical Society for six years from 1996 to 2002. Still others think backon instances when they encountered Bert on the street and exchanged greetings and news. As one person said recently, UI don't think there is anyone who didn't like Bert Johnson. So all of us were saddened when we learned of his death, after a long illness, on Sunday, December 11 . But most of all, we were thankful for his life. Bert presided over the affairs of our society for six years-the longest consecutive term in the society's history. His tenure was marked not only by its length but also by its accomplishments. During his term of office, the membership of the society almost doubled. And he' was president during the planning for and the completion of the Depot Museum's addition, the Gustafson Center, which was dedicated on June 11 , 2000. Our sympathy and best wishes go to his widow, Ruth, and to all of his family.



A Tribute to Bert Johnson


Sammi King


We included, in this issue, a brief obituary for Bert Johnson, the Society's immediate past president  who died on December 11. And our July 1998 issue carried Bert's own story "Johnson Drug Store and Its Predecessors." Neither of these, however, caught the essence of the man as well as Sammi King's tribute that appeared in the December 13, 2005, Daily Herald. We are including it with her permission as an insert in this issue.









What It Took to Get

An 8th Grade Education in 1895



Someone sent us the test that follows by e-mail. Even though it isn't about Batavia, it is history and too good not to share with our readers.


The e-mail begins: Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education?

Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895? This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.


8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS -1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)


1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.

2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.

3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph

4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie," "play," and "run."

5. Define case; Illustrate each case.

6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.

7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that

you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.


Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)


1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.

2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?

3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 Ibs., what is it worth! at 50 cts/bushel, deducting 1050 Ibs. for tare?

4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per

month, and have $104 for incidentals?

5. Find the cost of 6720 Ibs. coal at $6.00 per ton.

6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.

7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre? ....b

8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.

9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?

10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.


U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)


1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.

2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.

3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.

4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.

5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.

6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.

7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?

8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.


Orthography (Time, one hour) Do we even know what this is??


1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology,


2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?

3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals,

diphthong, cognate letters, linguals

4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)

5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under

each rule.

6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.

7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis,

pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.

8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign

that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.

9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign,

vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.

10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by

use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.


Geography (Time, one hour)


1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?

2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?

3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?

4. Describe the mountains of North America

5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba,

Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.

6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.

7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.

8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?

9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources

of rivers.

10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.





Membership Matters


Since the last issue, we have added as life members the following persons (from Batavia unless otherwise noted): Catherine Overton (gift of Sally Trekell), Phyllis M. Thelander (Geneva) and Jerry and Marjorie Withers (Chesterfield, MO). Other new members include Gayle Bridger, Susan Fous, George R. Hickman, Ann C. Jaschob, Sandra McDuffee (Aurora; gift of William Ahlgren), Elaine Schimelpfenig, Betty Weideman (Salem, SC), and Myrtle Wilke (Parkton, MD).


We received gifts in memory of Mary F. Mullen from Sonya Cunningham, Rolert and Lois French, Matthew and Tania Miller, and Marlene C. Probst; in memoy of Wilbur Peterson from Matthew and Tania Miller; and in memory of William J. Wood from Eric and Michele Nelson and Rodney and Clara Ross.



Annual Christmas Potluck

and General Meeting



Chris Winter, Secretary


Approximately 100 members gathered at the Batavia Historical Society annual pot luck dinner on Sunday, December 4, at Bethany Lutheran Church. In addition to the many tasty dishes that the members shared, we were treated to a large sheet cake that was prepared to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Batavia Historical Society, the 30th anniversary of the Batavia Depot Museum, and the 5th anniversary of the Gustafson Research Center. In honor of the anniversary, President Dick Benson announced the names of the charter members of the Society, asking those present to stand.


Museum coordinator, Chris Winter, asked the museum volunteers to stand to be recognized. The Depot Museum is fortunate to have nearly 100 voluntee rs who help with a variety of duties, from greeting visitors to assisting with research re quests. For more than 10 years,Kathy Fairbairn has done an out standing job of scheduling our volunteers each month. She recently retired from this position to have more time to dedicate to other activities. The Society appreciates her many years of service and isseeking a replacement for this important position.


If any member isinterested in learning more about filling this position, please contact Carla Hill or Chris at the museum. The final honor of the evening went to Bill Hall, editor of our newsletter. President Benson presented Bill with a plaque in appreciation of the 10 years he has dedicated to producing The Batavia Historian.


As a result of his hard work and expertise, the newsletter was the recipient of an Il linois State Historical Society's Award for Superior Achievement. After the business meeting, Patty Rosenberg introduced the female barbershop quartet Voices. They performed a mix of holiday music and familiar melodies from the 19308-19608. A special thank you to the program and set-up committee for arranginganother memorable holiday event.


1880 - Methodists off to a Poor Start


Marilyn Robinson


In February 1880, the Batavia Methodist Church had a bit of trouble. The ladies of the Church gave a social and oyster supper in the basement of the church on Wednesday evening. It was well patronized, and the net receipts were $26. It was discovered, however, that between Sunday night and Wednesday afternoon, someone had entered the church and cut off the locks of the case in which the Sunday School library was kept.


The inside and outside doors were all locked and all the windows securely fastened. The marauders could only gain admission to the basement through the air passageleading to the furnace and raising a trap door in the basement floor. It was thought the burglars wanted either the new carpet that replaced the one stolen last fall or the books of the church library that had just been organized.