THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Fifty-Seven

No. 2

Summer 2016


 

EASTHILL DAIRY FARM
By Bob Dahlstrom and Chris Winter
 
Farms have all but disappeared from the landscape in Batavia. As recently as fifty years ago, farm land was abundant in this area; many of them dairy farms. Bob and Lois Dahlstrom were kind enough to visit the museum and share the history of the Dahlstrom’s EastHill DairyFarm, onPine Street.

Frank Dahlstrom, Bob’s grandfather, was a Swedish immigrant who had first farmed with his brother in the Lily Lake area. That farm was too small to provide for the brothers’ families, so Frank and Mathilda bought thirty-three acres on Pine Street in Batavia in 1907. They were attracted to the community because of the large Swedish population and the Covenant Church (then the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant Church) where they worshipped. The farm property had a barn and an old house which they toredownandbuilt anewone. 

In ordertobring hisshare
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ofthe cattle to Batavia, Frank hired cowboys to herd them the sixteen miles from Lily Lake to their newhome. As time passedand asthey could affordit,twenty-three additional acreswere purchasedalong HartRoadfor$150anacre. Inthe 1940s,Bob’sfather, Alvin,boughtthe pastureacrossPineStreetalongSouth Forest Avenue.
 
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Working onthe farm wasa family affair. Bob’sgrandmother andaunts(Elsa andHazel) milked cows by hand. Alvin transported the raw milkbyhorseandwagonto sellintown. The horse knew all the stops. They delivered to homes and to the factories where men would get pint bottles of raw milk for their lunch. They would return them the next day when a new delivery was made.


The family had a vegetable garden where they grew enough produce to can and enjoy during the winter months. They grew an acre of strawberries. When the berries were ripe, they hired kids from town to help pick them for a penny a box. Sometimes the kids would cheat by putting straw in the bottom of the box and cover it with berries to make it look full to fill more boxes.

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Alvin worked on the farm all his life. He married Hilda Wenberg in 1937 and they continued the family traditions of hard work on the land. In 1950, he purchased some new equipment - an Allis Chalmer’s rotobaler, a new mower and rake. The baler was one of the first of its kind. The bales were 36 inches long and weighed about 50 lbs. each.
During the summer time, instead of going to the Quarry, Bob and his sister, Carol, and their cousins, Wendell, Marge, Lorene, and Ken Anderson who also lived on the farm, would all help with chores. They worked together to bale the hay and do whatever else was necessary. Bob and Wendell also worked baling hay on Roger Bartelt’s farm which is part of Fermilab today. In 1954, Alvin bought a New Holland square baler that saved a lot of time for everyone.


As a working dairy farm, there were between fifteen and twenty cows to milk each day - morning and night. They also had about fifteen young stock as well. Milk was sold to Batavia Dairy. In 1963, after Bob returned from six months of Army Reserve training, he and his dad built a new milk house which had a bulk tank to cool the milk. This was required by the Board of Health for Grade A milk.

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In 1973, at age 75, Alvin decided to sell the cows and semi-retire. He leased part of the land to Merton Miller. He and Bob continued to still bale hay for a few more years. The cow pasture on South Forest Avenue was divided up. Bob and Lois built their home at the far end, and his cousin, Ken and Cheri Anderson, built next door. Eventually, the rest of the pasture and farm land was sold to a developer, Equity Builders. The family sold 7 % acres to Immanuel Lutheran Church on Hart Road.


In 1985, the story of East Hill Diary Farm came to an end when Alvin sold 41 % acres of the land to a builder who renamed the farm, The Knolls Subdivision. Alvin continued to live in the farm house for nearly five more years when he then moved in the Bob and Lois. He lived with them for about a year and a half, and then went to reside at the Michaelson Health Center where he died in July 1993, at the age of 95. The farm house remains at 704 Pine Street as a reminder of times past.


 

Batavia Fire Department Celebrates 150 Years of Service
By Chris Winter, Curator


The Museum is excited to present our fall exhibit honoring the Batavia Fire Department and their 150 years of service to the community. The exhibit will be on display Sep 7 - Nov 20.


On September 18, 1866, an ordinance was passed by the Township Board to set up a fire department consisting of 20 or more men who would serve under a captain and one assistant. With no equipment, these men fought fire by the bucket brigade method.


After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the department purchased a hand-operated pumper, a hose cart, and 500 feet of hose. In 1872, a building was constructed on the Island next to the stone jail for storage of the equipment.
During the 1880’s, East and West Hose Companies were established on the grounds of the East and West Side Schools and the “central” building contained a third hose cart.


The City purchased a motorized fire engine and constructed the fire station at 24 S. Island Avenue in 1917. At that time the east and west side hose companies disbanded.

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The current east side fire station at East Wilson and Branford Avenue was completed in November 1980. In 1986, another referendum was passed to construct a new west side fire station on Main Street across from the Batavia High School. Once completed, the new stations lead to the closing and eventual sale of the long-standing Island Avenue station. The old station was torn down as part of a major remodeling program of the old city hall facility.


Many thanks to Chief Randy Deicke and the Fire Department for sharing their collection of artifacts with us, and to Mayor Jeff Schielke for sharing his vast knowledge of Fire Department history while developing this exhibit. Mark your calendar for September
18 when the public is invited to attend an Open House at the West Side Fire Station, 1400 West Main Street, from 11 am to 2 pm. Come to celebrate and thank them for their exceptional dedication to the Batavia community.


 LIFE IN GLENWOOD PARK
By Doris Sherer, BHS Class of 1957

It was May, 1950 and I was a 5th grade student at Sumner Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas when my father announced I would not be returning to Sumner in the fall because we were moving to a place called Glenwood Park, south of a town in Illinois named Batavia. I cried!


The moving van came and packed our house while we packed our car for the trip north. Six of us climbed into a 1948 Studebaker, three in the front seat and three in the back--with the windows rolled down to let the wind in as the car moved--no air conditioning in those days! Twenty-four hours later we arrived at Glenwood Park.

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As I stepped out of the car I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Through the eyes of a 10-year old child it was like heaven on earth--acres of woods, a river, and a long, meandering creek. There was not only our house and my grandparent’s house, but many buildings filled with lumber left over from the WPA projects, and 24 apartments in buildings scattered throughout the property. I couldn’t wait to begin exploring.


From morning until night we played outside. We were cowboys and Indiansshooting at each other with our cap guns (a gold colored Roy Rogers cap gun was my most prized possession). The trees were our hiding places. We built forts in the woods with the lumber left over from the WPA projects. We caught bullheads and sun fish with the bamboo fishing poles we bought at Swanson’s Hardware. The creek wove its way from Highway 25 down to the river. In some places it was about a foot deep with lots of rocks where crawdads hid. At first we were afraid of them, but it didn’t take long to learn that you picked them up with your finger just behind the head where the long pincers and curled tail couldn’t reach. There were small ones (2-3 inches) and long ones (6-7 inches).

 

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Summer ended and school began the Tuesday after Labor Day. At first we had to take the 3rd rail (CA&E) into town and walk to Louise White School. Finally, my parents secured a contract with the bus company, and all the students living in Glenwood Park were picked up each morning at the top of the winding road. The start of school meant it was fall. In Glenwood Park, fall brought thousands of migrating blackbirds. Before going south, these birds spent a week in our woods where their deafening noise never ever stopped. It was weird when we went into town and it was so quiet.
It began snowing the day after Thanksgiving, and we never saw the ground again until the middle of March. Sledding and ice-skating were tons of fun, but it was not fun traipsing up the hill to wait for the school bus in the cold and snow.


The days warmed up and before we knew it, the end of the school year was just around the corner. Batavia celebrated Memorial Day very differently than what was done in Topeka. Louise White School marked us absent if we didn’t show up for the parade that went from the school to the cemetery. In 6th grade we walked to the west side after stopping on the bridge where two Navy mothers dropped wreaths into the river to honor the sailors who died in the war. After listening to the reading of “In Flanders Field” and “Logan’s Orders”, speeches by several veterans, the playing of taps, and a 24-gun salute, the ceremony was over and we were free to go home. The sun was warm but the water was cold when we waded along the river edge up to the dam. At the base of the dam we discovered that the wreaths from the bridge ceremony were caught in the weeds. Very carefully we retrieved them while deciding what we should do now. We knew it would not be right to keep them so we waded to the swift water in the middle of the river and sent them on their way south.


School was out shortly after Memorial Day. Once again we were playing, swimming in the river, and catching fish and crawdads. This summer my parents let me cross the two dams and walk to the quarry to go swimming. It was an idyllic life, but all too soon it was time for me to begin the trek up the hill again to catch the school bus into town for the start of 7 th grade.


The beautiful red and yellow leaves of fall turned brown and the noisy migrating blackbirds came back for their annual week in the woods. We didn’t have much time to play after school because the sun was setting so early and the woods got very dark.

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Halloween was so much fun. We put on the scariest costumes we could find and went into town to school for the big parade. Nearly all the students showed up and there was a lot of laughing and pushing as we scrambled for the candy and other treats people tossed our way as we made our way through downtown. When the parade was over we headed back to Glenwood Park and went trick or treating at all the apartments. We collected a lot of candy that night!


I was terribly disappointed when snow did not begin falling the day after Thanksgiving! But, the river froze and we could skate. At long last, it snowed enough for us to build snow forts and have snowball fights. By the end

of February the weather warmed up enough to turn the forts into ice and the snowball fights were not as much fun!
In the early spring when nature was getting ready for summer, my father announced that we were leaving Glenwood Park and moving into town. I cried!

 


 

 The Batavia Historical Society has always had a shared partnership with the Batavia Library

and this important notice is another example of this alliance:
Batavia Civil War letters digitized and available for public use.

 

In its continuing effort to preserve local history, Batavia Public Library recently completed a Civil War Letters and Diaries Digitization Project. The project included the transcription and digitization of letters and diaries written by Batavia soldiers, chronicling their experiences from 1861 to 1865, as well as letters from family and friends to the soldiers, which provide perspectives from the home front.


The collection contains numerous letters between Captain Don Carlos Newton (52nd Illinois) and his wife, Mary M. Newton, providing an intimate look at their lives. There are also letters between the Newtons and others during the War. Newton’s regiment was involved in the Battle of Shiloh, Sherman’s March to the Sea, and many other engagements. The collection also contains the letters and diary of G. W. Young (124th Illinois), and three diaries by Fred Morris (124th Illinois). Young’s diary reports his experiences during the historically significant Vicksburg Campaign. Morris’s diary covers 1864-1865, during which time his regiment saw action in Mississippi and Alabama.

 

Excerpt from a letter from Capt. D. C. Newton to his wife, Mary M. Newton:


On Steamer Tecumseh 30 miles to St Louis

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12 o clock Thursday 20th Feb 1862

Dear Mary
I have got along first rate guarding my prisoners They behave well and I have had no trouble But have kept all the time on the alert I have only slept about 4 hours in the past 3 nights I keep them very strict but don’t misuse them Col Brown one of my prisoners is a brother of Gov Brown of Tennessee ... I have 54 Rebel Officers aboard and 700 privates quite a family. The officers feel very bad about having to go north they fear the cold so much ...


Digitization provides 24/7 access to the letters and diaries—which are in fragile condition—to Batavians, Civil War researchers, and people interested in the actions of Illinois regiments. Over 150 years after the Civil War’s end, interest in the topic remains high among the general public. The letters and diaries are full-text searchable. The project is a collaboration of the Library, the Batavia Depot Museum, and the Batavia Historical Society; the latter organization owns the letters and diaries. It was supported in part by an award from the Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board, through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), National Archives and Records Administration.


The labor-intensive proofreading of 1,195 pages of material was completed by a number of volunteers from the Board of Library Trustees, Friends of the Batavia Public Library, the Batavia Public Library Foundation, and the Batavia Historical Society.


The letters and diaries also were microfilmed, for the purposes of preservation. To take a look at these personal and historical documents, visit BataviaHistory.org > Local History > Batavia’s Civil War History.


Library contact: Stacey Peterson, Adult Services Manager, Batavia Public Library, (630) 879-1393, ext. 250; speterson@BataviaPublicLibrary.org.

 


 

News from the Museum

by Chris Winter

 

 

The Quilt Show was another success. We had over 150 quilts on display and the quilt appraisers were busy and very knowledgeable.

The Batavia Fire Department will be celebrating its 150th Anniversary in September and we plan to have an exhibit using the fire related items the museum has collected over the years.


Carla Hill has informed the Park District and the Historical Society of her planned retirement on January 27, 2017. Her 40 years with the District and the Museum has flown by so fast. She feels that with the museum’s new expansion adventure, that new leadership should also be involved. She plans to continue to serve on the Long-Range Planning Committee and to be an active volunteer on the Capitol Campaign Committee. Her friendship and leadership will be missed by all the people who have worked with her.


From the President

Bob Peterson

 

We welcome the following new members:
Nancy McCloud, Michail DeBlock, David King, Jamie Schmidt

We want to thank the following for donations received since the last newsletter:
Robert Mednick, Frank & Sue Blazek, William & Arlene Weldon, Darlene & Dave Landsittel, Lois & Dick Benson, Andrew Hall’s in-laws, Donald & Beth Flannery, Ernie & Lois Mareske, and the Jane Peterson Trust.


Exciting news about our expansion program. We have finally secured title for the land on the west side of the bike path. After a decade of legal maneuvering, we will be able to proceed with beginning the expansion plan. Our long-range planning committee and the Park District have been meeting with an architect and we should have a definite plan to present to all members at the Potluck Dinner on December 4, 2016, at the Bethany Lutheran Church.

 

 

 

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