Volume Five

No. 4  


December, 1964

Published by the Batavia Historical Society

Fortunately the past never completely dies for man.  Man may forget it, but he always preserves it within him.  For take him at any epoch and he is the product, the epitome of all the earlier epochs. -

“The Ancient City” by Fustel de Coulanges






An illustrated talk on antique automobiles by Mr. Vernon Derry of Aurora, Illinois.

Mr. Derry is editor of “Thrift Corner Yarns,” now in its fourth year, a monthly pamphlet gotten out by the Aurora Savings and Loan Association. He has written many articles about the history of Aurora and the surrounding area. Now just a note about Batavia's early cars and car owners.  In September of 1900, according to the Batavia Herald, A. D. Mallory was the first auto owner in Batavia. He bought a double seater model and ran it from Detroit to his home here. Other early auto owners were Dr. A. A. Fitts, E. C. “Ned” Brown, L. A. Parre and Thomas Snow. Batavia's first horse1ess carriage was made right here by Edwin K. Meredith. He was an inventor, and was Superintendent of the Batavia Light and Water Plant, preceding L. A. Parre.  


He entered his homemade car in the first auto race to be held in America, November of 1895, the course running between Chicago and Milwaukee. Mr. Parre said, “The car started for the Chicago race alright, but soon overheated and never reached its destination.”I a1so have the following quote from the Batavia Herald for the year 1909:  "Railroads killed 196 persons in Chicago during the first nine months of the year, street-cars 106, teams and wagons 48, and automobiles only 10." The following Nominating Committee was appointed at the last Board of Trustees meeting on November 10th: Bruce G. Paddock, Chairman William B. Benson William Wood Mrs. Pauline Campbell Mrs. Eldora Hoover They will report at our Annual Meeting to be held next January.

Our membership and meetings  are open to all.  


We do need workers, people who will interview some of our old timers, people who will look up the history of our old homes, store and factory buildings.  Also people to make a record of the inscriptions on the old stones in both the East and West Batavia Cemeteries.  We do have, at the last count, 319 members. The "Then and Now" Booklet Committee had a three hour meeting on November 6.  We matched up the photos, then and now, that we have, and decided on what we still need.  Then captions will have to be written before the job can go to the printers. Mrs. Pauline Campbell and Frank Elwood are our photographers. We need a photo of one of the old hose carts. We have one of the firemen posed in front of the hose cart, but not much of the latter shows.  We would like to borrow a photo of the old Henry Kahlke coal office which preceded the present Thorsen Lumber Co. office.


The Museum Committee, Miss Eunice Shumway, chairman, met on November 16.  We discussed several possibilities in buildings which might be converted into a museum but, as yet, no definite decision was arrived at. Both Mrs. John G. Strange of Appleton, Wisconsin and William VanNortwick of New York City, have sent us $50.00 each. Both are being sent Life Membership cards and the balance of the gifts is being entered in our Museum Fund. Mrs. Strange has sent us a box of clothing (scarfs, stoles, etc.), originally owned by the early VanNortwicks.  Mrs. Margaret McGee of Oberlin, Ohio, has sent us a hair wreath composed of locks of hair of Judge and Mrs. Lockwood and their descendents.  


We are most grateful for these gifts. Miss Mary Anderson (W. L. Anderson Shop) used some of the VanNortwick gowns, given to us earlier, in her window display during her recent store anniversary. We congratulate Mrs. Miriam H. Johnson, our esteemed librarian, on 25 years of devoted service in that office. The Society owns several histories of Kane County as well as the books, "Legends and Lore of Southern Illinois" by John Allen, "The Great Third Rail," "Illinois Negro Historymakers" and others.  Any of these books can be borrowed by the members. Regarding my query about C. A. Brooks & Co. on another page, Mrs. Margaret Allan told me since I wrote that article, the 1850 census shows Brooks as a resident of St. Charles. Then did he have a store here and live in St. Charles? We still have some copies left of the book, "Historic Batavia." They would make excellent Christmas gifts.  Prices are paperbound $2.00, clothbound, $4.00.  We also have a few large photos of a birdseye view of Batavia in 1869, price $2.00 each.


How little we know, after all, about Batavia's early affairs - there are so many "blanks.”  So frequently people want to know the history of a house, a store, a business or the biography of a person, and we have to say that we just don't know. We are learning more and more about Batavia people, places and things through old newspapers, books, etc. that you good people have given to the Society from time to time. For example, here are some of the things that we have learned recently: We didn't know that there was a Henry McCray, along with John Burnham and Daniel Halladay, who formed the Halladay Windmill Co., forerunner of the U. S. Wind Engine & Pump Co., until we got a copy of the Batavia News for December 23, 1881. This had a spread of a page and a half of history of Batavia industries. We also learned that there was an intermediary company between the Halladay and the U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Co. called the Western Windmill Co., which bought windmills from the former company to sell in the Midwest.


Another thing we learned was there was a man named Thomas O. Perry, employed by the U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Co., who made the first steel windmill, who made the first scientific test on mills to determine the right curvature and the correct number of slats in the wheel and who worked out the proper gear ratio between the wheel and the pump for the greatest efficiency. He really did as much as Halladay did for the advancement and popularizing of the windmill, but who knows anything about him?  He is just one of our forgotten engineers. When Mr. Harold Bunker gave us the book of reproductions of the Kane County map for 1860, he brought us two old ledgers for us to see and to copy what we wished. One was an old ledger for 1871 of John McGuire, a blacksmith of Batavia.  


Mr. McGuire was the father of the late Mrs. Hazel Pratt.  The other ledger was more remarkable since it was the ledger of C. A. Brooks & Co., Batavia for the years 1845, 46, 47 and 48. That firm sold nearly everything and did a tremendous credit business. Their customers must have included nearly everyone living in the Batavia community at that time.  The year when these customers started trading with C. A. Brooks & Co. is a good indication of when they came to Batavia.  We copied the entire list of their customers with their first and last entries. Now, who knows anything about this firm, C. A. Brooks & Co.? Where were they located? How long were they there? Who was C. A. Brooks? And who was the “ & Co.?” In a copy of the booklet "Superior Facts" for May, 1932, sent to us by Mr. John Van Nortwick about the Van Nortwicks and the paper industry in Batavia, Mr. H. N. Wade is quoted. He mentions Frank P. Crandon as bookkeeper of the original paper mill company.  He also mentions a "picturesque old gentleman, Dan Cornell, who had been a contractor on the Erie Canal, and it was quite interesting to hear him swear.  He was associated not only with the Batavia Paper Manufacturing Co., but also had been, I think, with its predecessors." Does anyone know anything more about either of these two men?


The Society has a postcard view of

 “Old Mill Ruins, Mill Creek, Batavia, Ill.” 


It pictures an old frame building along the creek.  What was this used for?  Who ran it and where was it located on the creek? The Society also has a Hotel Howell register giving the names of guests staying there from June 15, 1885 to March 30, 1889.  This was lent to us by Mrs. Karl Collins before she and Karl went to Phoenix, Arizona to live. Some of the names in the register are beautifully written in Spencerian script, other signatures are not legible.  The names of the casts of various show companies that played here were usually written by one person and were well written. Edward (Doc) McAllister must have boarded or worked at the hotel from June 1885 on.  He wrote in a lot of fictitious names as well as his own several times.  It is rather hard sometimes to tell which names were authentic and which were not.  

I was able, after studying the signatures, to recognize his handwriting.  He wrote in such names and places as: Dublin Daniel, Ireland; Thulamoil, Willison., Minn.; Carter Harrison and Wife, Chicago; Big Charles, Aurora, Room 29. I have my doubts about the authenticity of the name of Adelina Patti, Florence, Italy, entered Sunday, November 11, 1888.  It might have been written as a joke by the man whose name precedes hers, H. Conklin.  The handwriting is very similar. The hotel itself was a frame building at 20-24 S. Van Buren Street about where Walt's Super Market is today.  It must have contained about fourteen rooms.  

The building was torn down about 1901. Does anyone remember the singer, Adelina Patti, as being here in November of 1888?  If she was here, did she sing in our Music Hall?  Why did she come to Batavia, a comparatively small town? In the book, "Legends and Lore of Southern Illinois" by John W. Allan, he has a section on livery stables of bygone days.  Do any of you remember our livery stables well enough to describe them? Batavia had several, both on the East and the West Side.  What were they like inside? Who owned them?  Who drove the hacks at funerals?  What was the average number of horses kept in a stable?  Can you describe the vehicles used?  Who patronized the livery stables?  Also, who remembers the blacksmith shops well enough to describe them? When I was a youngster, I just wasn't interested in livery stables or else was warned to keep away from them.  

However, I do remember that sometimes I would pause at the open door of a blacksmith shop and watch the smith shoe a horse.  I remember the sparks, the ring of the anvil when struck, the smell of burning hoofs as the smith fitted the hot shoe to a hoof of a horse.  That was fascinating to me. Then I had to hurry home to do my chores. Have I started memories in your mind, questions that you want answered?  A roundtable discussion of some of these "way back when queries" may be an excellent program for one of our Society meetings.