Volume Twelve

No. 2


May, 1971



“. . . Now when everything moves so fast, it is a sobering thought that what is built today may be around for a long time: that which is demolished can never return again; In the frenetic rush toward a new city, when time-pressured decisions are made in haste, it might be good to look around and hopefully keep some bits and pieces of the past to break the monotony of the modern patterned streets and to remind a new generation of the efforts of those who have gone before and create a happy mixture of the best examples each era has contributed to her growth."


Caroline Williams in Louisville Scenes. Along the same line John Ruskin wrote: ". . . .when we build let us think that we build forever.  Let it not be for the present use only, let it be such that our descendants will thank us and say; ‘See, this our fathers did for us.’”




SUNDAY, MAY 16, 1971







Refreshments will be served by Miss Mary Anderson, Miss Freda Lundberg and Mrs. Mary Ann Judd. Mrs. Sindt is a member of the Naperville Heritage Society.  She has been a promoter of the Prairie Path since its inception. Bicyclists, horseback riders, nature lovers, bird watchers, biology classes, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, in fact, anyone interested in preserving the ecology of this area, should be interested in this program.  All are invited.  Contributions for the work of the Prairie Path will be accepted at the meeting.  The Batavia Park Board is planning to extend the Prairie Path north to the Fabyan Forest Preserve for bicyclists, using the old C&NW Ry. Right-of-way. At the February meeting Miss Mary Snow discussed the Depot-Museum situation.  This was well covered in the newspapers so this won't be repeated here.

Mrs. Hiebert of Geneva talked about Col. George Fabyan and the Preserve, originally part of his estate.  This was followed by many anecdotes, questions and comments from the audience. Since completing our last Newsletter, we have received artifacts from the following people: Mrs. Elfreda Olsen, Robert L. Phelps, William J. Wood, the Leslie M. Langley Family and Mrs. Rudolph Kopecky, Geneva.  We are most grateful to these donors; they have all been thanked by letter. As a reminder, we would like copies of any special programs or histories of any and all churches, clubs and lodges or any other organizations.  Preserving these items is part of our job.  


The following is from our By-Laws: ARTICLE II - OBJECTIVE

The object of this Society shall be the discovery, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge about the history of Batavia Township, Kane County, Illinois.  To collect and preserve books, pamphlets, papers, photographs, relics and other historical objects.  To receive by gift, grant, devise or purchase books, museums, moneys, real estate and other property.  To encourage the preservation of historical monuments and buildings and to suitably mark them.  To publish historical material in the newspapers and in pamphlets and books.  To hold meeting with addresses, lectures, papers and general discussions.


Seemingly, we continually need help from you good people.  Does .any one have any cigar boxes that originally contained cigars made by John Geiss or James Russell?  The former made San Tonio, Old Plantation, Select, Geiss' Best Five, Electric Light and White Statute.  He undoubtedly made other brands.  James Russell made the Batavia Bell (or Belle) in 1898.  Do you know of any other brands or do you have any boxes that held any of these Batavia brands that you will give to the Society?  John Geiss joined his father, Jacob, in the manufacture of cigars in 1880.  When did Jacob start?  How many men did they employ?  Can you write a history of this industry or tell us any facts about it in Batavia? Periodically we discover buildings made of Batavia limestone.  Robert Barclay stated that the Universalist Church building, built in 1866 and now the Aurora Woman's Club building is made of Batavia stone.  This he stated in an excellent article in the Aurora Beacon News recently.


Do you have more than one copy of the book Historic Batavia?  Will you part with one?  Several newcomers to Batavia have expressed a desire to buy one but there is none available. We have an ample stock of Batavia: Past and Present at $1.00 each.  Use these as gifts to your friends and new neighbors.


We will need lots of help later on in renovating the interior of the Depot-Museum.  Can we depend on you to help? Please let Mrs. Mary Ann Judd or Miss Mary Snow know when and what you can do to help. The Batavia Public Library was one of several organizations who recently received an award from the Illinois Audubon Society for their efforts to beautify their immediate landscape.  Congratulations! We received an interesting letter from Mrs. Pauline Campbell recently.  You will be glad to know that she is well and is most enthusiastic about her work.  She is on a 760 acre ranch in Colorado on which are 99 head of Herefords, so at times she turns cow-girl.  Naturally she is doing a lot of photography in that beautiful country.



By Kenneth O. Wolcott


Kenneth O. Wolcott was the youngest son of W. A. Wolcott, the other two sons were Laurens E. and Walter. W. A. Wolcott, druggist and grocer, had a store in the Batavia Body Co. building on the Island.  Kenneth was born in 1885 and, after receiving his education, moved to Rochester, New York eventually.  He and L. E. Wolcott wrote a biographical sketch of their lives and called the book, "Life in the Good Old Days." The book is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Oliver M. Wolcott.


Their memories of Batavia are most interesting as the following extracts will attest: They have given me permission to copy. "May I here add a couple of notes on the advent of the telephone into Batavia. The first “Central” switchboard was located in Micholson & Johnson's store at the corner of Batavia Avenue and First Street. Initially, of course, there were very few subscribers-principally manufacturers, some of the professional men, doctors, lawyers, etc., and maybe a dozen or so residences. At this time, when I was about seven years old, as I came out of school to go home one afternoon, I met Father on the street.  This was unusual, as he rarely left the store on the Island during the day, except to go home for his meals, then always going “the back way” via Water Street. I ran up to him demanding to know where he was going. He replied, "I am going to talk to a man in Chicago. Do you want to come along?"  


I did of course. I knew vaguely what a telephone was but could scarcely imagine that it would carry as far as Chicago, forty miles away. I watched and listened as he shouted into it, finally getting his message across. It was an emergency order to his wholesale drug house for some special drug urgently required to fill a prescription, to be delivered immediately by special messenger to a pick-up desk maintained near the old C&N W Ry. station on Wells Street, by Ed Strain.  


Ed was a professional errand-boy in Chicago for Batavia people, commuting daily, matching a spool of silk for the dressmaker, exchanging a pair of shoes, getting theater tickets, performing all sorts of errands for local merchants, factories or anyone else.  It was then nearing four o'clock; if delivered immediately as ordered, Ed would pick it up at his office at five, would arrive in Batavia and be delivered to Father's store soon after six, - a remarkable record for that era.”
Kenneth goes on to say: “My Father had two Assistant Pharmacists.  One was C. C. (Charlie) Stephens and the other was Rush E. Winslow.  A visitor would have had difficulty in finding the latter by asking for him by name-Rush E. Winslow.  He was always known by young and old, all over town as “Kerney.”  Although I had known him well from early childhood, worked with him during my boyhood, liked and respected him, I was a grown man before I learned the origin of that peculiar nickname.  It seems that soon after the end of the Civil War, when his father married and had a son, he named his baby after an officer he had served under and greatly admired, Col. Rush Ellsworth.  As a small child, he was sometimes called "The Little Colonel," - thence Colonel and Kerney.  The name stuck with him the rest of his life."


Have you visited any of the nearby museums?  If you haven't you should. Your Board discussed recently the advisability of hiring a bus and going to some museum as a body, each passenger paying his share of the transportation.  Would you be in favor of this?  Please let your officers know what you think of this.We congratulate Mrs. Elma Hettinger on reaching the grand age of ninety years.  She has lived a life of service to the community.  We honor her.  She passed away March 24, 1971.


Four months of 1971 have gone by, and we aren't any closer to opening our museum than we were on January 1.  We believe that we have the SUPPORT of most of the members, but we need active, inspirational, direct physical help. (volunteer architects etc.) The combined committees, from the Park District and the Historical Society have not met or been organized, to figure out the mutual problems and benefits of the ownership of the building, being transferred to the Park District, to manage, for us Taxpayers. Maybe someone, would like to donate a memorial gift, to move the “Q” Depot over to Laurel Street Park, which would make an ideal spot for a museum and a beautiful setting for an antique building.


Did the word, "FOREVER" in one of Jeff Schielke's news items, make you stop and wonder, ponder, or concentrate on what "forever" really means. Thanks for your interest in our News Letter and attendance at our quarterly Batavia Historical Society meetings. Comments from Program Chairman, H. Patterson