Volume Fourteen

No. 3


September 1973

Published by the Batavia Historical Society


Therefore when we build, let us think that we build forever.  Let it not be for the present delight, nor for present use alone.  Let it be for such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have, touched them, and that men will say as they look upon our labors ---- "See, this our fathers did for us".


- Ruskin in Bridges and their Builders 


Next Meeting


Sunday, Sept. 23, at 3 P.M.

Bartholomew Civic Center


"Early Batavia People in stories and photographs"

With three of our members on the panel.

Members, friends and new-comers welcome. Refreshment committee: Mrs. V. Anderson, Mrs. Neal Conde, Sr. and Mrs. Earl Judd.


The May meeting was well attended and members enjoyed John Glenn's talk on "Orchids".  His pictures and comments made all want to start raising the lovely plants.


We extend our sympathy to the family of Elva Micholson who died June 2nd.


The Society has received many pictures since the last meeting.  


You may have seen some of these in the Herald in past weeks. Mrs. James Hall sent seven pictures of groups of Batavia people.  She also sent a copy of the Herald dated 6-23-1904.  Miss Eunice Shumway brought 109 small pictures from Mr. Schacht, mostly for the NAL area. Mr. Orville Sandvick gave the society two large photos of the Challenge Co. office about 1898.  Mrs. Harry Duffy gave us four pictures of the East Side School classes. Many artifacts have come from the library - too numerous to list here.



I have just finished listening to an album in the talking books titled "The Village Blacksmith" by Ivatson. He gave the history of iron after its discovery about 2000 B.C.  Three kinds of iron resulted; cast, steel and wrought. The latter was a carbon free iron that could be easily bent and welded. Hooves of draft animals were continually being injured and in time wrought iron shoes proved to be the best protection. After many years the trade of shoers, especially horse shoers, sprang up. They had many problems to solve.  Later shoers took upon themselves other work, making irons, fences, wagons, carriages and sleighs. Blacksmiths came with the first settlers to this country.  John Gregg settled two miles east of the Fox River.  His first shop was in the open air, his anvil on a tree stump and his forge and bellows nearby. Those early settlers needed many things made of wrought iron.  


One thing especially needed was nails for the new buildings. Many farmers in the east, during the slack time of winter, set up a forge in the kitchen, brought home iron rods and with heat from the forge, cut the rods into nail lengths, hammered one end to a point and upset the other end to form a head. These were shipped to Boston, Philadelphia and other cities. Making nails by hand was a job for all the men and boys in the farm family. Batavia in the early days, must have had 65 or 75 blacksmiths. Our four major industries must have used an average of 12 blacksmiths, other industries used some and the four or five independent shops had as least two smiths each. Blacksmithing was a skilled craft.  In the 1800's and early 1900's nothing was thrown away that could be repaired.  


Anything of iron was taken to the smith to be repaired. Some smiths even made wagons and carriages.  Smiths also sharpened the drills used in drilling the holes in the stone in our several quarries. I remember as a youngster, looking wide eyed through the open double door of a blacksmith shop.  It was full of mystery and smells. A huge horse was standing quietly, and the blacksmith had one of his hind hooves between his knees fitting the new shoe to the hoof. Other horses were tied to the rings on the wall. Farmers and other men were standing around or sitting on nail kegs, gossiping about politics or the farm crops. The air was filled with the peculiar pungent odor of smoking hooves. The shop was an intriguing place for young boys.  


The list of blacksmiths in Batavia history would be too long so I will mention just a few. 1834 - John Gregg 1860 - C. B. Conde - A carriage shop on River Street. 1850 - There were 14 shops according to our records. 1867 - The Gazeteer lists 12 smiths (one was Hennick & Co.). 1898 - Charlie Pomp joined the Peterson Shop.  - Charles and James Bird - shop on River Street.


And today? Where are the horses and blacksmiths? Mrs. Osborne of the Osborne Stables on Main Street Road answered my questions. She said today the blacksmith has his forge in a van or truck and goes to shoe the horses when he is called. A smith in North Aurora even flies to shoe fancy horses at race tracks and horse shows. The smith has a supply of shoes made at home and fastens the forged shoes when needed. Mrs. Osborne said it might be interesting to note that there are more horses in the 50 mile radius of Chicago than in any other 50 mile radius in our country.


J. G.