Volume Three

No. 3

 

September, 1962

Published by the Batavia Historical Society

 


“If America forgets where she came from, if the people lose sight of what brought them along, if she listens to the derniers and mockers, then she will begin to rot with dissolution.” - Carl Sandburg

 

NEXT MEETING

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16th, 1962 at 3:00 P. M.

BATAVIA CIVIC CENTER

 

PROGRAM

EARLY MILLINERS, FURRIERS, DRESSMAKERS, AND TAILORS OF BATAVIA

By Miss Erma Jeffery

 

She will be assisted by the following local people:

 

Milliners 

Mrs. Frank Pierson Tailors Ralph Benson

 

Furriers

Neal J. Conde, Jr.

 

Dressmakers   

Miss Erma Jeffery

 

The items in the cases in the Memorial Room of the Civic Center will carry the theme of Miss Jeffery’s program.  Don’t forget to look at them.  Mrs. C. J. Kruger did the arranging assisted by Bill Benson. Our treasurer Bob Phelps’ report at the last board meeting, showed that many of our members are in arrears in their dues.  A reminder is enclosed with this newsletter.  If you are behind please see Bob at once or mail him your dues.

 

Our “History of Batavia, Illinois” will be on sale at the September meeting.  The book contains 168 pages, is paper bound and includes eighteen local views.  It is indexed and is right up-to-date in its contents.  Back about 1950 the League of Women Voters made several copies of the history, giving two copies to the Library.  These have been in nearly constant use since and are now worn out.  They will welcome the books to replace these manuscripts. May we suggest that the histories will make excellent Christmas gifts? There are still some portfolios of Batavia views obtainable.  These will be on sale at the meeting for $1.00. Recently your historian has been able to help three reporters with information on varied subjects from his clipping files.  One wanted data about Mr. J. B. Nelson, another about the Fabyan Forest Preserve and the other about Bellevue Place and its intriguing stories about its mysterious tunnels.  Then we helped Ollie Johnson with his story about the Memorial for Batavia soldiers killed in World War I, II and the Korean War.  We are most happy to do this, and if you have an questions about Batavia history maybe (note the “maybe”) we can help you.


Harry Strain, former Batavia, and now living in Santa Barbara, California, wrote me about a month ago.  He will be in Batavia from the 15th to the 20th of September.  Harry made a trip around the world last year and wants to show us some of his slides, if it can be arranged. Bethany Lutheran will celebrate their 90th Anniversary this coming October.  We congratulate them on reaching this ripe old age and wise them “Many Happy Returns of the Day.” Where can we store our mementos given to the Society by you good people?  Storage space should be fireproof, easily accessible, dry, heated in winter and cheap.  

 

At present Eunice Shumway has some material stored in her home and I have a lot of small stuff stored in drawers in cabinets in my room.  But I have about reached my capacity. Since the last newsletter, the Society has received gifts from the following: The Furnas Electric Co., Mrs. E. P. Wade, Mrs. Carl E. Marcuson, Mrs. E. G.. Rogers, Mrs. Luella Richards, Mrs. C. P. Hobler, Mrs. Frank Smith, Mrs. Edith Hannon, Philip R. Elfstrom, Paul Richter, the Batavia Herald, and George Gunzenhauser.  We thank all of these donors. Its always a pleasure to receive letters from former, as well as present, Batavians.  


 

We try to answer the letters at once.  Recently we have heard from the following people: Bill Davis, Ralph Finley, Harry Strain, Mrs. Bessie Stimple Foland, Theodore S. Daniels, Francis J. Carr and Mrs. J. W. Eckert. About a month ago we received a request from Mr. E. Gustav Johnson, secretary and editor of the Swedish Pioneer Historical Society of Chicago and Quarterly, respectively, asking for a brief history of the Swedes in the Batavia area.  Erik Ridderstedt had told him about my talk to the Society last September on the “Early Swedish Settlers in Batavia.”  I have sent him a copy of this paper. To date we have had 103 articles in the Batavia Historian column of the Herald.  We have been most grateful for your help in writing these.  The column has been carried on since March 24, 1960 and we do hope that it has been worthwhile.  We will carry it on again as soon as we get a little time to write some more articles.  We would appreciate your suggestions and help. A workshop will be held in Springfield from October 25th through the 28th on “The Materials of the Civil War.”  

 

The workshop will deal strictly with those things found in historical collections such as guns, uniforms, letters, field equipment and soldier’s mementos.  The entire program sounds most pleasing.  Anyone interested please communicate with Eunice Shumway. The bell that hung in the Louise White school for so many years and that was finally retired and given to the Society by the Board of Education last fall, is now in the Shumway foundry.  The standard is being welded and the entire frame is being cleaned and painted.  A drawing has been made for the concrete pedestal.  It will be erected in the East Side Park soon for all to behold.

 


OUR PRESIDENT’S COMMENTS 

 

We hope that you can all attend the September meeting.

Erma Jeffery has worked hard to make the program interesting and instructive.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF NINETY YEARS BETHANY LUTHERAN CHURCH

By Mrs. Angeline (Lindholm) Schomig - 1962

 

In writing this paper, consideration has been made of the fact· that many present today are not interested in statistics or many details.  Therefore we will endeavor to give some history and just a few highlights in the period of each pastor.  Also, after reminiscing, we have selected a few anecdotes that should be of interest to all.  Being activities of the people, these are interwoven with the history and would be soon forgotten unless written down.


AUGUST ANDERSON FAMILY

The last time the Batavia Historical Society met here you heard about the organization of our church in 1872, and that there were fifty-three adults and twenty three children, all of Swedish descent.  1872 was the year after the Chicago Fire. During that historic night in October, the August Anderson family had to escape across the Chicago River, later coming to Batavia. The former Mrs. David P. (Lily) Anderson is one of their children.  Mr. Anderson was a carpenter by trade, and. at that time was working on the court house in Chicago.  He built the house at the present 15 South Jefferson Street, where the church was organized.  Later this became the home of the Lars Bengtson family, and is now owned by Miss Freda Lundberg.

ANDREW W. ANDERSON FAMILY

Following is an excerpt from a letter dated December 19, 1932, written to Mrs. Elof Anderson by her mother, Mrs. Andrew W. Anderson, Mitchell, S.Dak. 

 

“It is 63 years since I heard Mrs. Emmy Evald's father, Pastor Erland Carlson, preach in uncle August Anderson's home. The meeting was held upstairs in the same house where we also lived.  There was no Swedish Lutheran Church in Batavia then and sometimes we walked to Geneva to attend services.”  Old-settlers had to clear timberland in order to do farming, and this entailed much labor in order to eke out a living.  Those were rugged years and it is interesting to contemplate their problems and our problems of the present day -- feeding the needy abroad and the threat of Communism.  In 196l, last year, a paper was written about the Lars Bengtson family, old settlers in Batavia, as follows:


LARS BENGSTON FAMILY

“Mr. and Mrs. Bengtson were born in Veddige, Hallandslän, Sweden.  They emigrated to America in 1867, coming in three different groups.  The first group comprised Lars,·the father, and the eldest son Andrew; the following group, Frederick and John; and finally the mother, Anna Britta, and the fourth son James, and the daughter Anna, who later became Mrs. John Lundberg.  They could not all come at once because their home had to be sold.  Their reason for emigrating was that there were hard times in Sweden, and America seemed a more promising land in which, to make a living and raise their family of four sons and one daughter. Batavia was their destination, where they had friends who welcomed them into their home.  They finally settled on a 15-acre farm, timberland, 3 miles southeast of Batavia, doing farming and cutting timber. This was in the region called Big Woods.  They led a primitive life, living in a log cabin; and as they had no clock, the mother nicked the window sill by the sun to tell the time of day.  The first year they walked one mile to a neighbor's to obtain drinking water.  Kerosene was used in the lamps.  They united with the Geneva Lutheran Church, and many times walked all the way from the farm to Geneva.  The Bengtsons were one of' the three families who took the initiative in organizing the Bethany Lutheran Church in 1872.  The place of organization was at the present number 15 South Jefferson St., where the Bengtsons subsequently resided for many years.  Three of the sons became pastors, and the fourth son James started as a decorator in 1887.  He founded the Company, known as Bengtson Decorators, which included his two nephews Arlie and Earl Lundborg, sons of Anna (Bengtson) and John Lundborg Mr. and Mrs. Lars Bengtson lived to a ripe old age, Lars passing away in 1900 and Anna Britta in 1905.  They were sturdy, hard working Christian pioneers.  They are buried·in West Batavia Cemetery.”

CARL MICHAELSON FAMILY

Many of the Swedish immigrants came directly to the Carl Michaelson home.  This house is still standing and is located behind Hubbard's Home furnishings building.  The Michaelson's must have been a most hospitable family.
There were three sons, John, Charles and Martin.  They were known as the "Micholson" boys.  John, later in life was Superintendent of the Kane County Home.  Charles, together with Swan Johnson, had a grocery and general merchandise store in the Buck Building at the southwest corner of Batavia Avenue and First street.  Old-timers remember the crockery, glassware, china and gift items displayed in their store.  Martin was a mail carrier for many years on the west side, until he retired.

FIRST CONFIRMATION CLASS

Worship was held in an old remodelled school house, which was later torn down, and the present church built in 1887 on that same site.  The following were in the first confirmation class in 1876, Pastor Ternstedt: John Bengtson, Swan Alfred Johnson, John Micholson, Mrs. Anna (Thorson) Beem - Mrs. Grace Pierce's mother; August Hendrickson - was City Policeman; Mrs. Anna. (Swan) Anderson - Mrs. Mabel Pahnke' smother; Andrew Berntson (Benson) - the father of Wm. B. Benson and Miss Cora, and Mrs. Florence Graham; and Mrs. Minnie (Hanson) Nelson, Ernest R. Nelson's mother.

SUNDAY SCHOOL

The Sunday School has also been an important part of the church.  It had its beginning in 1872.  During the earlier days, the Sunday School was held in the afternoon, and the lessons and songs were in Swedish.  One of the early books from which the children studied had a picture of a rooster in the back of the book.  If the child had studied his lesson well on Saturday evening, he would find a penny or other coin on the little verse that went with the picture, as follows: Nar tuppen börjar muntert gala I dagningen hvar morgonstund, Till barnen vill han liksom tala stig upp, ty flit har guld i mun. Translated, this means that when the rooster crows it is time to get busy because the morning hours are golden.  There was a scramble on Sunday morning to see whether the rooster had a coin there.  Nor can we forget the large pail of water with dipper that stood in the hall.  The water supply was obtained from a pump on a wooden platform, usually soaking wet at the time of Sunday School.  This pump apparently provided a means of releasing the usual pent-up energy of youth.  One day a mouse was present during the singing and actually poked his head out of the grill work in the reed organ.  That was a new experience.  Then there were the Sunday School picnics, which were always held on the Fourth of July in the early days, sometimes in a meadow on north Batavia Avenue.  We were a big happy family!  A program was always given, which usually included a patriotic reading and all joined in singing.  The little reed organ was also with us, having been transported by wagon.  Tablecloths were spread on the grass and all sat down to enjoy the food. There were plenty of big round layer cakes and pies, and we can't remember about the meat; but one thing is certain, there weren't any hamburgers or weiners.  And how did the children thrive without them?  Later on the picnics were held in out-of-town parks, such as Riverview (Aurora), Lord's Park, (Elgin), Mill Creek (south of Batavia); and we really enjoyed those open air trolley cars!  During the summer we had "Swede School."  In later years students from Augustana College drilled us thoroughly in reading and writing academic Swedish.

ANNUAL AUCTIONS

One of the highlights of the year in the early days was the annual auction, and supper held at Thanksgiving, put on by the Ladies', Society. One could have chicken or oyster stew.  A young lad newly from Sweden, who had never tasted oyster stew, was asked the next day how he liked it. The boy answered that it was good, but he didn't like the "dumplings" in it.  As children, we looked on with eyes aglow, as the very eloquent auctioneer held up his wares, announcing "how much am I bid for this" - - and so on.  Some of the auctioneers were Frank Engstrom, Mary's father; Alfred Bergeson, and Charles Johnson, Anna Ayers' father.

SOCIALS, ANNUAL MEETINGS

Lawn ice cream socials, with colored Japanese lanterns, and the Northern Sons band furnishing music are well remembered.  The yearly meetings were thrilling.  Hard problems connected with the church were threshed out.  It was a good example of free speech. Various Societies were active and following is a list of them, also date of organization: Bethany Soc. (Ladies Aid) 1873, Young people's society 1889, Luther League 1904, Missionary Society 1915, Bethany Men's Society 1916, and Willing Workers 1916. From 1872 to 1878 there were three pastors: Lindell, Edgren (1873-1875) and Ternstedt (1876-1878)  Sunday School and Ladies’ Aid were organized during those years.

PASTOR GUSTAF EKEBERG

The next pastor was Gustaf Ekeberg (1878-1886) who was here eight years.  He served the Aurora and Batavia churches, and started the first Young People's Society.  He made Plans for a pipe organ and a new church. He resided here. Pastor Andrew Challman (1886-1898) was here for twelve years, and he served the Aurora and Batavia congregations for six years.  He was chairman of the building board for the present church, erected in 1887, at a cost of $9,223.  Among the specifications were a steeple and a balcony.  He encouraged the young people to work for a pipe organ.  Regular social gatherings of the young folk are especially recalled because of the good times they had.  A group of young girl "pre-teenagers", members of two Sunday School classes decided to work for a new baptismal bowl. They organized a sewing circle and made articles for a bazaar.  

 

In due time they had dressed dolls and made small gifts, and made a coverlet of white muslin squares embroidered in red.  This last article was raffled off and, together with the money thus earned and from the bazaar, they purchased a footed silver bowl which replaced the white crockery bowl.  This silver bowl, long forgotten, was found safely stored, together with the old communion service.  These three pieces are displayed today in this, room.  The bowl was long ago replaced with a baptismal font.  Pastor Challman was also living in Chicago at the time of the big fire, serving as assistant to Dr. Erland Carlsson, pastor of the Immanuel Church.  This congregation was considered the mother church, and was situated on the near north side.  The night of the fire, the family along with neighbors, piled their furniture against a gas tank and fled.  That night David Challman was born on one of the five fire boats crossing the river, each had a doctor aboard.  Incidentally, the furniture was still intact, four days later.


PASTOR CARL P. EDBLOM

Pastor Carl P. Edblom (1898-1905) served for eight years, and was the husband of Anna Chal1man, oldest of the four sisters.  She played the reed organ which was in the balcony, and after her marriage Miss Gerda Peterson became organist.  She continued as organist until 1950, when she retired with a record of fifty-five years, of faithful service.  In 1898 the first pipe organ, a Moeller, was purchased for $1,200, a gift of the Young People's Society organized in 1889.  For the first few years, the organ was hand-pumped by various nephews of the organist.  Once in a while they didn't respond to the buzzer, just as she was ready to play.  

 

The nephews were often found outside with various activities, playing ball and other games.  One of their stunts was to explore the belfry, and that necessitated walking on a board about ten inches wide above the ceiling.  The light in the belfry guided them going; but coming back, that was different.  Now, one of those boys tells the story and says that he shudders when he thinks of what might have happened had they missed the board and gone through the ceiling.  An older relative, was always ready to pump the organ when the buzzer would sound in vain.  That access to, the belfry is no longer possible.

 

In those days Christmas trees were decorated with candles, which are now considered to be very hazardous.  The large tree in church, the generous boxes of French creams, and the Christmas programs are fondly recalled.  In 1899 our first parsonage was completed at a cost of $2,519; and an addition was made to the church, including a new boiler for $3,854.  Through the efforts of the Church Bell Society, organized in 1901, a bell was purchased for $900, and dedicated Dec.25, 1904.  The bell is still in service.  It is in the key of E and, incidentally, a reminder of the name of the pastor serving at that time, Carl Edblom.


PASTOR PHILIP THELANDER

Pastor Philip Thelander (1906-1931) was here for a period of 25 years. This was during the First World War. In the Spanish American War, there were only a few in service, and in World War I there were 92 that answered the call to military.  There were four casualties, namely Julius Anderson, Andrew M. Anderson, Victor Benson, and Elmer Peterson.
REVEREND THELANDER started the program of having two morning services, also initiated the Thursday church school in 1919.  The first educational unit was built and in 1927 the church was renovated and the chancel changed at a cost of $5,200.  

 

The Brotherhood acquired the property just north of the church in 1927 for $5,000, and the house on it was later demolished.  A trained vocalist, Rev. Thelander promoted singing.  Here is an interesting story connected with Mrs. Thelander.  Mrs. Betty Thelander was one of the many survivors of the Chicago conflagration, which destroyed $196,000,000 worth of property.  She was thirteen years old at the time, and she, her brother and mother were living with another sister and brother-in-law.  The father, Peter Victor, a Civil War veteran, fell at Vicksburg, and the family had made Chicago their home after his death.  Shey escaped without any possessions except the clothes that she wore. Later the family moved to Batavia, where the mother owned a house, where they had lived earlier.

 

PASTOR HERBERT NORDLANDER: Pastor Herbert Nordlander (193l-l944) was here for thirteen years.  In 1937 the original glass windows were replaced with memorial windows of stained glass containing Biblical illustrations, valued at $10,000.  He designed the two grills on the east wall of the main auditorium.  The Dorothea Society was organized in February, 1933 by Mrs. Nordlander (Dorothea).  The parsonage was renovated; and new blue carpeting was laid in the church auditorium.

 

At this time World War. II was raging, and there were 130 young men who answered the call.  Nine of these gave their lives for their country: Arnold Anderson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Anderson; David Robert Anderson, Carl Edward Christensen, Jr., A. LeRoy Erickson, Everett Stenman, Pendril Stenman, Kenneth Edward Swanson, Clare B. Conde and Donald D. Wicklund.  Alan Ronald Olseon died in an airplane crash while in service on May 12, 1955.  For six years an active Red Cross sewing group met weekly, turning out many well-made garments for men in the service and for others in need.  The Bethany Messenger was first issued in January, 1934, and Willing Worker circles were organized Pastor Nordlander appeared as vocalist on many programs. PASTOR G. ERIK HAGG: Pastor G. Erik Hagg (1945-1953) served Bethany for eight years.  

 

A new organ, a Skinner, cost $18,000, was a gift of the Willing Workers in 1953.  Reverend and Mrs. Kenneth Dale were commissioned as missionaries to Japan on July 15, 1951, sponsored solely by Bethany Church, and this work is still going onward.  Miss Bernice Olson, our present church and financial secretary, joined the staff on April 1, 1949.  Mrs. J. O. McConnaughay (Edith Lundberg) has been our organist since February 12, 1950.  Mr. Warren Felts has been choir director since 1942.  During this period extensive remodelling was done with the aid of volunteers, also other improvements were made.  The original red brick facing was replaced by light colored brick, and the tall steeple was torn down.  The Busy Bees was a group of young girls who started October 10, 1949 the baby sitting nursery on Sundays while the·parents were attending services.  

 

Pastor Hagg's last service was the note burning on Dec. 31, 1953. PASTOR WALDO EKEBERG: Reverend Waldo Ekeberg served as interim pastor from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1, 1954.  He was the son of Gustaf Ekeberg, our former pastor and is well remembered for ministering to the sick and elderly in addition to his other duties.  PASTOR GUSTAV LUND: Gustav Lund, our present pastor (October 1, 1954) has been instrumental in organizing children's choirs, making them more music conscious; and he has put forth much effort in youth activities.  Since October 1, 1959, radio services have been broadcast to shut-ins of our parish and others who wish to listen.  

 

He organized the Co-Weds (April 24, 1955) and the Jr. Hi League·(Sept. 20, 1956), is furthering the Church Scholarship Fund (Nov. 13, 1955), and has encouraged parish calling.  In the auditorium, modern benches of light colored wood replace the original ones and a new pastor’s office furnished.· Pastor Lund was sponsor for one of Bethany's sons, Reverend Earl S. Johnson who was ordained in 1957.  He is the only member of this congregation born here, baptized and confirmed in this parish who became a minister.  He is still serving his first parish at Tucson, Arizona.  Miss Ruth Glad, our Parish Worker, was added to the staff in 1958.  On February 29, 1960, the four women's groups consolidated and became a part of L.C.W. (Lutheran Church Women). In Detroit, June 28, 1962, the Lutheran Church in America was formed - - - a merger of 3,200,000 members.

 

These are only a few highlights and anecdotes.  For growth in membership, special fund and benevolences, see Statistical History Summary.