Volume Ninteen

No. 1



Batavia, II. P.O. Box 15

Regular Open Meeting


February 12, 1978


Sunday, February 12, 1978, 3:00 P. M.


Bartholomew Civic Center



Speaker: Dr. Peter Koehler . . .



3:00 P.M.

Dr. Koehler from the Fermilab will speak of the involvement of the Fermi experiences in the Batavia community.  See below for further information. Business Meeting and Reports  


3:30 P. M. Social Hour    


4:00 P. M.


Dr. Peter Koehler brings a new approach to our understanding of the community of Batavia, and perhaps to our realization that Batavia must remain a community. What has happened and is happening on the 600-acre site occupied by the Fermilab is of great significance to all of us. Their anthropologists have informed us of the archaic Indians who frequented that site ten thousand years ago searching for livelihood by harvesting a bounty of acorns. Again, the east side of Batavia was largely wooded but the west side was covered by rough prairie grass that grew ten feet high or more.  

Once buffalo roamed here in the Valley. Now prairie and buffalo can be found only on the Fermilab site. We can understand wagons and windmills more readily than we can protons and quarks and charms. It may be enough for us merely to realize their existence, which is tantalizing.  


But Dr. Koehler aims to present not a scientific lecture but chiefly to describe the cultural and social roles of the whole Fermi project in our area.According to Yvonne Autenreith, program chairman, he comes well prepared to speak on any phase of the subject. Our speaker was born in Germany but migrated to the United States in 1957, twenty years ago.  He continued his education apace.


First he enrolled at George Washington University but was graduated from Harvard.  He received his Master's degree from George Washington but his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. His paychecks have come from various institutions. First he taught at the University of Maryland. Then he went into research, first at the Argonne Laboratory and then in 1973 at the Fermilab. He was formerly head of the Meson Laboratory but is now chairman of the Physical Laboratory. Hearing him cannot help but be an exciting experience.  


Come yourself but bring a newcomer, an old timer, a student, or whomsoever!


Future Meetings


April 9 . . . . . Easter in Batavia.

Waubonsee Madrigal Singers.

May 29, 30 or 31  . . . . . . Civil War Presentation Do most of you know Dr. Rodney Ross? He is an historian· and archivist located in Washington, D.C., who spoke in '75 at the dedication of the Batavia Depot Museum. His father, Dr. Ross, psychiatrist, bought Bellevue


Civil War Presentation - continued  in 1947 and established a mental hospital there once again. Consequently son Rodney and his sisters were in Batavia and attended Batavia schools.  (Mrs. Ann Ross spent regular hours as a volunteer librarian after Dr. Ross' death.  She also spent hours helping at the museum).  All this is background for the statement that Rod has a deep interest in and affection for Batavia. He has long been an active member in the Batavia Historical Society. Sometime before Christmas he wrote, offering to speak at an historical meeting about Batavia's contribution to the Civil War. Apparently, the average percentage of volunteers in the state was 9%; in Batavia it was 19%, a total of 298.  Most of the men enrolled either in the 52nd or the 124th infantry.  


In his discussion Dr. Ross will incorporate five diaries by Fred Morris that he has transcribed, one that Mary Matteson has deciphered and any material that you readers may offer, into a history of the 124th that he has found in Washington. (Mr. Morris lived at 335 Union Avenue and was employed by the U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company.  He lived on McKee Street). When will he speak? It may be at a specially called meeting of the Batavia Historical Society May 29 or it may be in connection with the regular city Memorial service sponsored by the VFW.  When we talked with him, Commander James was pleased with the suggestion, but must discuss it· with his men. We shall let you know at the February meeting. We had a conference last week with Dr. McFeeley, High School principal, to offer our assistance in the writing of research papers and whatnot.  He was extremely interested in having Dr. Ross speak to upper level classes as a consultant.  By the way, Dr. Ross is the authority on Mrs. Lincoln's stay in Batavia.


July or September . . . .




Illustrated Talk on Preservation


Dave and Barbara Sawitoski and Walter and Georgene Kauth heard W. Lockwood Martling, Jr. speak about the preservation of the inner city. They were enthusiastic about his talk and anxious that he come to Batavia to speak. He charges more than we are accustomed to pay ($75.00) but with our downtown looking like an old crone with two missing teeth we believe that we can get support from at least two other organizations. Supporting such a project is, of course, part of the raison d'etre for an historical society; such a talk would, of course, be free to the public. What is your reaction, please?  


Memories of Winters


This is being written January 27, 1978, the night after we "weathered the weather" as the commentator stated. Various times we have heard that this blizzard is the celebration of a similar extravaganza exactly eleven years ago. It is surely one to remember. Will there be a repeat performance eleven years from now? Our Batavia Bank calendar informs us that 137 years ago Batavia's first church building was dedicated on January 31. This was a small wooden structure costing $411.38.  


One can imagine the churchgoers arriving wrapped warmly in buffalo robes with the women's skirts tucked around little punched metal boxes containing hot coals which were later taken into the church. We hope the sermon wasn't too long! Will VanNortwick in 1836 in a letter to his son John (who was still in New York) said that winters back home were more mild than here for there was not even enough snow to haul cut logs to the newly built sawmill. Our present members recall a variety of winter experiences. One remembers the fierce Knights of Pythias fire (DeLuxe Cleaners) when she was a little girl. Some of you may remember Erma Jeffrey's account of the burning of the East Side School, a limestone building, one cold night in 1893.


She told how while Albro Prindle was hauling the fire hose from down on the Island it stiffened with the cold so that it stuck out like a pole! What a raconteur Erma was! Memories of fun outweigh those of catastrophes.  Without exception those who trudged daily from the “Northend” to Blaine Street School in Jericho remember with delight the snow that piled up in front of the board fence at Bellevue Sanitarium (Fox Hill). It crusted over so that youngsters could climb young mountains three feet high.  


West side kids took daring sled flights down Smith (Houston) or Paper Mill (First) Street hills. They did not share their parents' concern about a possible collision with the fast Northwestern train on Water Street.  (No one remembers an accident). The feeble, palsied train that now crawls the tracks would today probably be frightened by a kid on a sled!  


East siders slid down Buttermilk Hill (State Street) plunk into Kee and Chapel Dairy (Elfstrom Publishing House). A few remember ice cutting that was recently described in the Chronicle but most memories cluster around skating in the days when one had to squat on a log and fumble with a cold key to screw on old-fashioned iron skates to old-fashioned stout shoes. (How grateful they would have been for the luxury of the warming shelter built "under” the Museum under the auspices of the Batavia Park Board). Then up and away. Young and old.  


The scene of the skaters caught the imagination of artists. John Falter's painting of that scene appeared as a Saturday Evening Post cover in February 1958. The Batavia Woman's Club owns the original oil painting, which has been placed in the Museum for safekeeping and display. A Florida artist, using antifreeze in zero weather, produced a lively water color which Mr. Eckman saw, recognized, bought, and presented to the Historical Society. Today's experiences are tomorrow's memories. Today's children may not be hauled home on a wooden sled after Christmas services, but they will remember being driven around town to see the beautiful luminaria lit to guide the steps of the Christ Child.


No one can remember the winter of 1878-9 when the snow was so deep and had drifted so much that sleighs could drive over the tops of fences. But everyone will always remember the blizzard of 1978 when winds reaching 70 miles in gusts halted motorists and then proceeded to cover abandoned cars so that they were disguised as snowdrifts. 


There will be many tales of hardships and worries these last few days even though in this valley there have been no bad fires, no deaths, no catastrophes, but there will be many more memories of repeated kindnesses and services. Warm and comfortable in our homes we listened to Jeff Schielke on the radio as he told about fifteen firemen gathered at the station in case there should be a fire.  


They "circumnavigated" the periphery of the town regularly in order to search for and aid stranded motorists. It was reassuring to learn of sanctuaries opened in the various towns to give shelter and food to stranded motorists. But what was most inspiring was the almost heroic roles played by young people such as the young fellows who plowed out our own driveway and kept our sidewalks shoveled several times a day. And the little papergirl who stuffed the Beacon inside the door!  



Sentences Rather than Paragraphs


All goes well at the Batavia Depot Museum. Carla Hill and Charles Ohlsen have been invited to report at the February meeting. Dues payable February 12, or send to Batavia Historical Society, Box 15, Batavia, Il.The Society would be happy to receive any April 13, 1975 "covers" (envelopes) the present owners do not wish to keep 

More Sentences . . . .


The Society would appreciate any copies of HISTORIC BATAVIA by John Gustafson that are not in use or desired. The libraries and schools need them. Both do a masterly job teaching about Batavia. A pleasant close to this issue of the Historian . . . special thanks for generous donations to our Society from the Luminaria Committee, Batavia Rotary and the Batavia Centennial Committee.


Looking forward to seeing you February 12 at 3:00 P.M.


Lucile Gustafson.