Volume Twenty

No. 2


May, 1979

Regular Meeting of the Batavia Township Historical Society


Time  May 20, 1979 at 3:00 P.M.

Place   City Chambers . . . note change . . . not Civic Center




1. Welcoming remarks 


2. Mayor Archie Bentz Memoirs of the old Appleton Company


3. Phil Becker Tales and Tour of the Batavia City Chambers


4. President Walter Kauth Social Hour.   


Financial Report


David Sawitoski prepared a financial statement. I have put it somewhere in a safe place.  

Where?  I shall see you get a copy at the next meeting.

Comments on the Meeting


This promises to be a most interesting and informative meeting, not only to the members of the Society but to the total citizenry of Batavia, old-timers and newcomers. The intertwining of Batavia and Appleton history is itself interesting. When the writer was speaking to a group of guests from Holmstad last year one woman said, "I am from Appleton, where there is a big VanNortwick house. Is there any connection between the families?" There certainly is.  


John VanNortwick, the great industrialist (old Home Economics building) had two sons. The elder, Wm. Mallory (note the placque to Pattie Marie Mallory VanNortwick, the mother, in the Calvary Episcopal church) stayed in Batavia, to run the local interests. Many of you remember the huge limestone manor house where the schools now park their fleet of yellow buses.


One of his chief involvements was the making of paper in the building now occupied by the Batavia Container Company. Well, the supposedly inexhaustible supply of wood in Big Woods (Woodland Hills) was fast being exhausted by the woodburning railroads as well as by the paper industry. As I understand it, the paper interests, consequently, were moved to Appleton, where lumber still existed as trees.  


John Smith VanNortwick, the younger brother, sold his Batavia home (1893) to assume this business and others in Appleton. (His home here had been bought by the family for $1.25 an acre in 1842. In 1857 it was sold to Captain Leonard Carr for $1500.00 and bought back in 1873 for $5000.00.  


Now known as the Gustafson home). Now, just about the time that the paper company was moving to Appleton, an Appleton company (again, a VanNortwick interest) that manufactured farm machinery moved to the Fox Valley, locating in Geneva, southwest section, appropriately named VanNortwick. Fire soon damaged the building, so a new one was erected in Batavia in 1894, the present City Council building.


Phil Becker will tell more about the industry at the next meeting, May 20. We are so happy that Mayor Bentz can attend. We especially welcome the attendance of the aldermen. 


Our Society as educators.


Every time one of you acts as museum guide, you are educating, aren't you? The pamphlets you distribute as free literature are educational documents. (By the way, we have just reordered 1000.updated copies of the historic map of Batavia and 1500 copies of Jeff's brief resume of Batavia history. If any of you wish copies, they are yours for the asking). 


Also, we have presented the new H. C. Storm Elementary School with a copy each of John Gustafson's Batavia Historian and Past and Present and a set of Old Batavia, a reprint of 19 - 20 pages about Batavia from the 1888 History of Kane County. Wm. Wood continues to serve the school children and others as guide on bus tours of Batavia.  


The month of May will be busy for him. I don't know how frequently he speaks but he is busy spreading the gospel of Batavia. It is interesting to note that the significance of such activities is not lost on the youngsters. In a thank you note from a third grade boy, one child said, "When I grow up I want to be like you, telling kids about Batavia!"


When children visit the museum, as they will in droves now that spring is here at last, one of the Society members tells about Batavia in the recreation room downstairs while Carla Hill, frequently with Society assistance, tours the museum upstairs. When I am speaking to them I always show them chunks of limestone containing fossils. I trust they look at our venerable limestone buildings with new respect.


Also, I always have them touch the tomahawk that Alice Storer donated some years back. It may be the only time they will have an opportunity to do so. (Carla has prepared the museum for the children's spring onslaught. I wouldn't be surprised if she has once again put up a low-placed TOUCH display for them). The school libraries and other interested persons keep asking for copies of Batavia Historian.  


We are contemplating having copies made on the instant press temporarily to meet the need until the book can really be updated. One of the most dramatic and significant contributions to our education can well be our local story as told in pictures and statements of the various phases of Batavia life.


Carla will coordinate the displays in the beautiful new multiple display unit recently donated by the luminaria-selling corps. (This is certainly a marvelous gift . . . all Batavia thanks them, as does the Society).


Carla will place her charts on the schools immediately if not sooner.  


Stop in to see the charts . . . twenty pages 30"x40". That turns a small museum into a big one.  


Please offer your assistance to Carla.  


It should be in beautiful order by the time of the Windmill Festival the end of July.


Windmill Festival


The Chamber of Commerce would like to feature the main events of this year's festivity around the museum and Windmill Curve. We need a series of fun activities going on outside the building and in the basement. They may be as nostalgic as apple-peeling or as rowdy as ?.  


Some men may set up a horseshoe-throwing contest or popcorn balls for kids. If you have ideas on fun-energy, please contact your co-president, Georgene Kauth, 879-5290. Featured around its sales activities, the Society expects to set up an old-fashioned stationery shop featuring local art, etc. Carla no doubt will have windmill material on grand display.  


What ideas do you have?


As Historian


My most important job is probably to answer questions from various newspaper reporters about Batavia . . . some weeks I am just swamped.  The last inquiry was for someone from Joliet who is preparing a manuscript in re Kane County. She wanted a story about some outstanding structure in Batavia . . . I told them about Fox Hill. Inquiries about Roots would keep me busy if I let them. The last was from someone in Alaska wanting information about possible relatives in Redland. No stamped envelope enclosed.


Another from Minnesota, frustrated because I hadn't answered the first inquiry.  As John says, almost no one says thank you. Another major project is the preparation of elementary materials. We are using Furnas Foundation monies to assist in the preparation of such materials, principally John's, but not entirely. With two librarians on your Board, with the assistance of a typist and the advice of Sally Bast, city librarian, we ought to get some uniform system. All materials that we have typed will be duplicated for the Batavia Library as well. We need an assistant historian, a second, third, fourth, etc. Carla is requesting the hosts and hostesses to list materials in the filing boxes at .the museum. That helps and there is almost twenty years of material that John has collected here. Help!


Sympathy and Condolences


As some of you may know, death has taken a life member, Harold Bunker. And a fine, honorable man he was.  It was his family, of course, that gave Bunker Road out off Main Street Road its name.  He was a collector of tractors, of all things . . . not a dainty article.  The bank informs us that memorials in his name may be sent to Batavia or Geneva Historical Society.  One out-of-state donation has already been received.  I understand that we shall also receive a bequest.  I do hope it can be for a special project with his name attached.  Condolences may be sent to his cousin, Irwin Allen, Kaneville Road, Elburn. Miss Eunice Shumway, presently confined to Community Hospital (home address 232 S. Batavia Ave.) deserves continuing gratitude for her service in the formation and constant support of the Batavia Historical Society.  We may show our love and respect for her by dropping her a card or note.


Nice Tidbits


The Chamber of Commerce honored the Society with an "Ole" because of the windmill erected on the bank of the pond across from the museum and the plantings around the building.  For the first project Walter Kauth, Dave Sawitoski and the three Eagle Scouts who helped them should take a deep bow . . . maybe a couple of them.  As for the plantings, they were paid for chiefly ($1000.+) by friends who gave memorial gifts to the Historical Society. Dan Halladay and Jeff Schielke have both completed books, one on cabooses and the other concerning fire engines and equipment.  Congratulations! Remember the weather conditions when I wrote the last newsletter? Well, May is something to brag about, so let's brag!


Please accept this letter in a generous spirit.  At least it carries the best wishes of the Society and the Gustafsons. Lucile Gustafson, Historian. P.S. Georgene Kauth wants me to thank all the volunteers! We all do.