Volume Fifty-Two

No. 1


March, 2011




The Batavia Christian Church:

The Way It Was, and The Way It Was Before That.

Steve Leadabrand



The Batavia Christian Church began in 1852, nineteen years after the city itself was founded. It met in various rented locations until 1866 when a stone house (location unknown) was purchased. In 1867, land was purchased for a new building (at what is now 316 East Wilson Street) for $100. It was built and the first meeting held May 17, 1868. A basement was added in 1890.


1.jpgIn 1890, the beautiful stained-glass window was donated by the Bible school. The rear addition was dedicated on Oct 26, 1890. The building was damaged by fire in 1917, making it necessary to refurbish the auditorium due to smoke and water damage. In 1933, the 80th anniversary was observed. The centennial was held in 1952 which included publication of a booklet, "The Centennial Herald - Batavia Christian Church". This contains names of many of the congregation’s ministers and early members. There are also many pictures of members and the interior of the building. (This 24-page booklet is in the collection of the Batavia Historical Society.) 2.jpg


Pictured (at left) is the original building (about 1930) with its spires and steeple with bell. Sometime in the 30’s or 40’s the spires and steeple fell into disrepair and were removed. Denese Clark Leadabrand began attending about 1942 or 43 and remembers that the steeple had been gone for some time. The next picture is the building as it was at the time of the centennial in 1952. I started going there about 1951 and remember that they still had the bell (moved to the lower tower) which they rang by a rope for Sunday School. Mrs. Fern Buelter was still playing the piano. Denese and I were married there in 1958 by Fred Blakley, a former minister.


Denese started attending the church through the Thursday afternoon "church school" program. In those days, the kids were released from their schools to receive religious training at the church of their choice. Otherwise, they had to stay for study hall.


There was a baptistry in the center of the platform which had hinged doors to cover it. One Sunday service, it was open. The deacons had to walk around it and stand behind it for prayer after the offering. One of them fell backwards into the baptistry and threw the collection plate and money back into the congregation!


(This was before I started going there. I’m sorry I missed that!)

Members of the church from that period included Ray & Ethel Fitzgerald, Leora Stone, Woody & Helen Sipes (their daughter, Patsy Pittman still lives in Batavia), Ken & Arlene Isbell, Dean & Nona

Schrock, George & Dolores Dickenson, Charlene Kramer, Bertha Coester, Esther Johnson, Mrs. Weisenborn, Barbara4.jpg Lofthouse, Zela Welchel, Ruth Polko, Brother W. B. Proviance (a true bass singer), Thelma Palm, Joe & Betty Leadabrand, Myrtle Pittman, and Walter & Hattie Dickenson.


I used to come over on the "roaring Elgin" from Wheaton on Sunday evening to attend the youth group. I climbed up the wooden stairs from the station by the river and walked to the church. In the group were myself, Denese Clark, Roy Edwards, Van & Doug Needham, James Benson and Francis Cunningham (they later married and lived in Batavia), Barbara Hurt, Stuart Smith, Jeanette McDonald, Chuck Clark, Barbara, Cornelia & Junior Hurtt, Doris Schrock, and Kenneth Schneider.


Some of the children were Patsy, Dan, & Tim Sipes, David, Mary, & Ruth Dickenson, Connie, Marian, Nancy & Karen Isbell, Ron, Paulette, Henrietta & Elaine Pittman, and Beverly & Denise Polko.


When I first attended the church, we had old theater seats that were varnished. There was no air conditioning, of course. I remember sitting in those seats, fanning with cardboard fans from the funeral homes, and having my shirt stick to the varnish. I pulled loose like pulling two sheets of fly-paper apart. It ruined the shirt. A great improvement was the replacement of the seats with real pews!


5.jpgThe next picture is that of the building today. It is now "KON Printing" and only a shell of the original building remains. I have no idea as to what happened to the beautiful stained-glass windows. Denese and I now tell everyone we were married in a print shop! Time marches on. What used to be is past and mostly destroyed before we even get to it. Now, even what we remember is gone and only a few pictures remain.






Steve Leadebrand’s connections to Batavia: Lived in Wheaton. Parents and family attended Batavia Christian Church from about 1949 to about 1968. Married in 1958 to Denese Clark who lived in Batavia most of her younger life. Met Denese at Batavia Christian Church. Denese's family was Alo and Gladys Clark of 613 Church Street. Brother was Charles Clark. Sister was Arlene Clark Isbell (married to Kenneth Isbell), children Connie, Marion, Nancy, Karen. All but the oldest and newest pictures of the church taken in 1952 by Steve Leadabrand.





















Remembering Jeanette Anderson

Sammi King



Back in December, I received a phone call late at night from a woman of the Historical Society, complaining that she hadn't gotten her latest news letter. I explained that it was "in the mail," literally, and that she would be receiving it soon. She then went on to tell me that she had a special interest in a murder case that had taken place in the 1920s and she wanted to know if it had ever been solved. I assumed that she had read about the case previously and that she just wanted more information. I told her that I would look through old Batavia Heralds to see what I could find in the old newspaper accounts.


A week later I got another call from this woman, asking me if I had solved the case yet. I told her that I hadn't had the time since I was trying desperately to get ready for the 16 people who were coming for Christmas. She then said that the murder case had caused quite a fury in the 20's and that, at the time, everyone was interested, since "in those days, everyone knew everyone in town."


All of a sudden I realized that I was talking with someone much older than I originally thought. "Did you go to Batavia High School?" I asked. "I did," she said. "I graduated in 1927." She was Jeanette Anderson, one of our charter members. She was 100 years old and told me all about people in her class and what life was like at the high school in those days. She even went on to sing the entire Batavia Loyalty for me! Jeanette passed away not long after that call. When I heard from her son, Ron, that she had died, I was reminded of her final words to me in the last call, "I haven't lived in Batavia for years but the town will always be close to my heart."



Membership Renewal

Does Your Mailing Label Say 2009 or 2010?


It’s that time of year again. Membership renewal time. If your newsletter mailing label has "2009" or "2010" in the upper right-hand corner, your membership needs to be renewed. If you want to keep receiving the Batavia Historian, please detach or copy the renewal form on the back of the newsletter and send your membership in to the address indicated. We look forward to continuing to hear from you. If not, this will be your last issue of the Historian.


Memories of Troop 3

Michael J. Johnson



Michael J. Johnson spent the first 27 years of his life in Batavia. He offered his remembrances of being a member of Troop 3 under the direction of Bill Bowren, scoutmaster, during the forties.


Troop 3 met at a scout cabin near the athletic field. It was comprised mostly of boys from the west side of Batavia. We met at the cabin once a week and paid our dues of 10 cents. Most of our time was used to learn various outdoor skills and included knot tying, which I still use. We also played different games. Our meetings always began with the scout oath and ended with the pledge of allegiance, or sometimes with the troop song which I will put down before they fade into history.


"We are the boy scouts of troop number 3.

We stick together like bark on a tree.

Wherever we may go, wherever we may be,

We are the boys scouts of troop number 3, Yeah."


If the weather was nice and there was light, we played outside. Otherwise we stayed inside and worked on our merit badges. I think David Miller was the assistant scoutmaster. His mother had a fantastic antique shop in her home, in fact her whole house was an antique. Gene Rundle was a member of our troop along with the Anderson Brothers, Jackie and Jimmie. I can’t remember the others but there were about twenty at each meeting.


One summer we went to Camp Rotary McQueen for a week. Two memorable things happened for me there. I saw foxfire for the first time. It was an illuminous fungus that grew on old tree stumps and glowed at night. I also remember being sent to get 25 feet of shoreline which could be found by the Kishwaukee River. (I actually went there.)

My brother, Kenneth (Goepel) was also a scout. He belonged to Troop 6. Fritz Carlson, who repaired radios for a living, was their scoutmaster. He was the father of Marjorie Carlson, one of my classmates. I don’t know if they had a cabin. I doubt that they had a troop song.


Connie Pierce lived next door to us in the Hassell house on First St. Connie was with Troop 12, whose members were mostly east side boys. After the war, Connie came home with a large number of army down sleeping bags for his troop. I don’t think he stole them. I think he got them as war surplus. He was a good man, had a nice family, and took care of his scouts.


Unrelated to scouting, I have a vivid memory of the day that Bud Carney came home from the war (WWII). Bud had been a football star in high school and joined the marines. He was badly injured at Iwo Jima, the meat-grinder of the pacific.


Bud lived near us on Jefferson St. The day he came home from the war he arrived by taxi. He used a cane and limped slowly up to the door. It would be great if the Historian could research these families and share their stories before they fade from memory.


The Historian welcomes stories from Batavians and former Batavians about their memories of Batavia. Please make sure that you include information about dates and times. Most importantly include a phone number or e-mail address so that we can contact you to answer any questions we might have.



Current Museum Exhibits

Marj Holbrook


A display at the Depot Museum is marking the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. Chris Winter of the museum staff says she was already planning a Civil War exhibit when a request was received from the Illinois Historical Society asking museums across Illinois to schedule displays this year. The Civil War began with the firing on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in 1861 and ended in April 1865. The depot display also tells about Batavia’s home front response in World War II. The 70th anniversary of that conflict will begin Dec. 7.


1.jpg"We really have very few Civil War artifacts," Winter explains. "But we do have the mess bowl that John Ozier carried with him throughout the war. Ozier, a Negro, enlisted in the Union Army; after the Great Chicago Fire, he settled in Batavia, and a street in the city is named for him. We have a photo of Mr. Ozier in his GAR uniform. (He died in 1919 at the age of 100. The GAR – Grand Army of the Republic – was a veterans’ organization formed after the war.)


"We have a Union uniform hat, a pistol and a bayonet from the war in our display," Winter continues. "And we have a muster roll of units from Batavia and several photos of the GAR memorial in town." Batavia’s impressive GAR memorial, a gift from the Capt. Levi and Mary Newton, is at the entrance to the West Batavia Cemetery at Batavia Avenue and Morton Street. It was dedicated May 30, 1919; a rededication service was July 4, 1986, after the memorial was refurbished and lighted. The Depot exhibit also has several items from the personal collection of Dan Hoefler, a retired history teacher who lives in Batavia. These include two original cabinet cards and two replicas of Lincoln’s masks. "Dan brought the items with full descriptions typed out," Winter says. "We are so grateful to him for his generosity in loaning these for our exhibit."


The World War II portion of the exhibit includes a Marine uniform and a nurse’s cadet uniform. "World War II was a patriotic era and this exhibit tries to show how Batavians were part of that," Winter says. "It’s not so much a military exhibit as a home-front exhibit to show how Batavia supported the war effort." It also includes ration books, a World War II service flag flown in homes where family members were in the Armed Forces. Blue stars showed family members in service; a gold star showed that someone from that home had died in service.


After the war ended, there was a giant rally at Memorial Field on Illinois Avenue in July 1946. Each member of the Armed Forces was given a medal from Batavia signifying participation in the war. There’s one of those medals on display along with the huge photograph that shows every Batavian who served in the war. The Depot Museum at Houston and Water streets is open from 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at other times by appointment.


New Collaboration between the Batavia Historical Society and the Batavia Public Library


The Batavia Historical Society has signed a new agreement with the Batavia Public Library to make more information about Batavia History readily available on the Internet. The new website,, provides links to both organization’s web sites in addition to bringing to one place, all currently available online data. Of interest to Historian readers is the availability of the first 50 years of Historian newsletters at this site, in a fully indexed manner. Almost all of the years are now available. Future newsletters will be posted to this site a year after publication, so one of the values of your membership remains intact. Please check it out!





We would like to welcome the following new members who have joined since the last newsletter:



Donna Kalina Koladycz, The Woodlands TX

Jerry Thomas, Batavia IL

Eileen Pinelli, Batavia IL

Patricia McMillan, Anchorage AK

Tom & Nancy Reed, Hinsdale IL, gift of Katherine Reed

Reggie Alvarez, Carrollton TX, Carol Noren Lovekin

Sherry Cowan, Batavia IL, gift of David King

Hope Terrazas, Batavia IL



Do You Know What This Is? - Followup


In the November 2010 issue Kyle Hohmann asked if anyone might know what the item was at left. Steve Leadabrand, of Irving, Texas and the author of our lead article this month, quickly replied that it is a wooden handled hammer and tack puller that appears to be missing the tack removal part, and therefore incomplete. A sketch of what it probably looked like, taken from a patent application, is shown below. Thanks, Steve, for the quick and accurate response.



















Our Apologies – A Correction



In the last newsletter I wrote about Bob Kalina and the Senility Club, a group of local gentlemen who got together to research questions that came into the Historical Society. I said that Bob Kalina had been the last surviving member. Jim Hanson a charter member of the group, assured me that he was alive and well when he sat next to me at the Christmas meeting. He also told me that in the later years many members of the Historical Society would join the group from time to time to help out. I apologize for the error and am glad that Jim is looking well.



Proposed Depot Museum Expansion

By Gary King


At the most recent General Membership meeting of the Batavia Historical Society, John White, the chair of the Society’s Long Range Planning Committee, made a presentation about an idea to provide the Depot Museum with additional display and storage space. Mike Dixon, an architect who was responsible for the design of the Depot’s Gustafson Research Center, was asked by the Society’s Board to develop an expansion that would be attached to the existing facility and would provide additional storage and display capabilities.













The proposed expansion is hoped to be located to the north of the existing museum, connecting to the existing structure through the Van Nortwick Room. The location will cause the caboose, Coffin Bank and water tower to be moved across the bike path.


The main entrance into the museum would be relocated into the new section and the courtyard will provide a stunning entrance into Batavia from the bike path. 


The two-storied structure totals about 5600 square feet. The upper level would provide a large display area with access to the bike path area to allow larger exhibits to be brought into the building. It relocates the Volunteers counter and Gift Shop into the "crook" in the building with an elevator to allow access to the lower level. The lower level provides storage and curatorial space and connects through the existing lower level restrooms (removed, of course).


The new structure is intended remind the viewer of a freight warehouse and would provide a large overhang along the bike path for users of the bike path to escape bad weather. The view of the structure from the Depot Pond would extend the existing board and batten look with quarry stone details




Presentations have been made to the Batavia Park District’s Board of Directors and the City of Batavia’s Community Development committee with positive responses. The Board of Directors will be looking at the next steps in developing this project, and of course, fund raising for this new structure will be needed. If you would like to help with this project or learn more about it, please feel free to contact any Society Board member or contact us at