Volume Six

No. 2 

                                                                                                              

June 1965

Prepared by John Gustafson.

Published by the BATAVIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

 

It is not how much you know about life but how you live your life that counts.  Those who can avoid mistakes by observing the mistakes of others are most apt to keep from sorrow.  In a world full of uncertainties, the record of what has gone before human-experience·is as sure and reliable as anything of which we know. - Ray Lyman Wilbur

 

NEXT MEETING

SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 1965 at 3:00 P. M,IN THE BARTHOLOMEW CIVIC CENTER


 

 

PROGRAM

BATAVIA - "THE WINDMILL CITY"

 

Speaker J. Harrold Blair

 

Our February meeting was unusually interesting as evidenced by our larger-than-usual attendance. The program was in keeping with Negro History Week. As an extra bonus with this Newsletter we are enclosing an augmented copy of the paper, "The Negro in Batavia," which was read by Mrs. Jennie Prince. The typing class of the high school, under the leadership of Miss Beatrice Hodgson, did the printing; Mrs. Mary Williams did the liaison work. Our grateful thanks to all who helped, and to the Furnas Electric Company for printing and distributing our Newsletter.

 

 


We have received several mementos from Bellevue Place Sanitarium through the thoughtfulness of Mrs. Ross and her son, Rodney. Also a pair of wool carders from Miss Helen Brauns and mementos from Richard Butcher, Mrs. Wayne M. Johnson and Mrs. Wilbur J. Cannon.

 

We are saddened by the death of Mr. Ray E. McDaniels, 82; and Mr. Elmer R. Swanson, 65. The passing of Miss Louise White at the age of 90, an educator in this area for 43 years, she will be long remembered.  To know her was to love her.

 

Following are some of the requests that we have received recently.  We have tried to answer them regarding people, homes; businesses, etc.

 

From San Francisco, California, about the Grimes Family and the early history of Batavia

From San Bernardino, California, about Col. Joseph L. Lyon and his family.

From the Smithsonian Institute about the U. S. Wind Engine & Pump Co.

From Aurora about the early history of the Congregational Church.  (Originally the Church of the Big and Little Woods),

Three different families have asked for information about the age and early history of their homes;

From the "Then and Now" book committee about information about Batavia.

Information about the Railroad Right-of-Ways in Batavia.

 

Raymond Patzer, our Treasurer, is working up a history of the telephone companies in Batavia and would appreciate hearing from anyone who can help him with information. He wishes especially information about people who worked for the Chicago Telephone Co, at 2 E. Wilson Street from 1900 to 1917. Following is a list of names that he has. Can you supply the missing parts?

 

John Blake

Viola Loker, 423 Garfield Ave,

Helen Miller, assistant chief operator, 29 Franklin St.

Katherine Heath

Kate M _____.

Lydia A _____

Alice McBreen, 134 S., Prairie St, Hazel S. Sova, 22 S. Prairie St.

Myrtle L. Fredendall, night operator, 197 N, Prairie St.

Bertha D. _____

Ed E. _____

 

Were there any other people who worked for the Chicago Telephone Co, here?

 

The following worked for the Interstate Telephone Co., 16 E Wilson St:

 

Nellie A. Rachielles, manager, 285 Main St.

Delia L. Murray, 172 S, Prairie St.

Elizabeth Plautz, South St.

 

Were there any others? The first telephone was installed in Batavia August 5, 1882.  

 

Now the Bell Telephone Co. is putting up a $7, 000,000 laboratory building at the intersection of the Warrenville and Wheaton Naperville Roads,

 

Here is an interesting note on telephone history taken from “The History of Kane County, Ill.” Vol. 1, 1908, written by E. Waite and Frank W. Joslyn, page 596.

 

"In Aurora, as in most of the towns, telephones met a lot of resistances. A Mr. Hord was anxious to have the telephone line extended to the mill at Montgomery in which he was interested, and volunteered to go around with the solicitor from Chicago to help get subscribers for phones in Aurora. He says it took ten days to get ten subscribers. "What use would this be to us?" said the president of one of the banks, "I can’t imagine what good one of them things could do a bank.”  

 

A member of a big dry goods firm said: “I wouldn't have one of them things in the store if you would put it in for nothing. The clerks would neglect their business and be fooling with the thing all the time trying to call up their friends around town."

 

The following are new B. H. S, members:

 

Erd, Svea, 204 N, Batavia Avenue

Colberg, Isabell, 711 McKee Street

Lewis, Mrs. Richard, 405 W. Wilson Street

McConnaughay, Mr. James, 26 N. Harrison Street

Humbles, Mamie, 902 N. Park Street.

 

We welcome you to our Society


 

THE NEGRO IN BATAVIA, ILLINOIS

By Mrs. Jennie White Prince

 

(Read by Mrs. Prince at the Batavia Historical Society meeting, Sunday, February 14, 1965. Augmented by some further comments and answers to questions asked her.)

 

I do not know who the first Negro settler was in Batavia, I only know of the families who my grandfather, John Ozier, knew in his lifetime.  He came here after the Chicago fire of 1871 by way of Turner Junction, now West Chicago.  He told me after that he left behind him four lots in the burned-out area.  Here he dug in at the corner of River and Gore Streets and built his cabin, as he called it, one room at a time.  He then was one of the not more than fifteen families, some of whom, like he, had wandered here, coming with other families, or who sought a home free from slavery or with better working conditions.  All prospered and became owners of what is now valuable property in different sections of the town.  

They lived mostly on the east side of the Fox River, but one, Mr. Thomas Guyder, lived on the west side.  Others owned or had businesses in the downtown area, later three or four families lived south of Wilson Street.

 

On North River Street, starting from Gore Street to the corner of Buttermilk Alley (State Street), on both sides of the street, the early families were:

 

1.  John Ozier, my granddad, was gardener, cook, handyman and owned the first candy, tobacco and what-ever-he-could-sell store, just outside Laurelwood Park at the time of the park years.  He was a Civil War veteran.  His name does not appear on the Newton Monument in the West Batavia Cemetery because the papers given him for recognition of service came from Rhode Island.  He told me often that he was in the battle of Bull Run and remembers filling his canteen with water where a horse had been killed.  He drank from it and was glad to get it, and also anything he could get to eat.  He left his home with the armies that came through Tennessee.  He evidently was sold with his mother for he often said that he saw her and other slaves beaten and salt and pepper put in their stripes.

 

The Batavia Herald for the week of June 12, 1919 carried an article about him.  He died on June 4, 1919, after living to be 100 years and five months old.  One article that I read in a Kane County History said that Negroes had to have a guardian in Illinois.  That is why Mr. Marley, editor of the Batavia Herald, became his guardian.  The bowl and some other articles that he used in the Civil War are upstairs in the Library.

 

2.  Tom Duke lived on the corner of Gore and N. River Streets, across from John Ozier, on the present Wm. McDonald property.  Some of his family live in Aurora and Elgin.

 

3.  Where the Clint Maves family lives at present, 909 N. River Street, lived Lewis Smith, who was part Negro and part Indian.  He was janitor for many stores in town.  I especially remember that he worked for Thompson and Shaw.

 

4.  Jordan, or Jerry White with his wife Lena and children lived next south.  He worked for the City, the Challenge Co., and the Creamery.  Later he hauled garbage, was handyman, gardener until blindness finally forced him to retire.

 

5.  An old lady lived just south of us.  I don't know her name but she did sewing and mending.  I spent many hours watching her.  Oh yes, she owned a sewing machine.

 

6.  The Jordans lived across the street.  They had at least three boys and one girl.  Charles, or Chuck, was a fighter and hunter.  George was janitor for the Aurora and Elgin Railroad.  William was a handyman and plasterer. Lizzie Riggs,
the girl, married a man who drove horses for a company in Aurora.

 

7.  Chas. Corbett lived in a house owned by my brother, now torn down, with his wife and several children.  Some of the children now live in Maywood.  He was a handyman and worked on the ice.

 

8.  James Watts lived at the corner of N. River and Lake Streets, in a real log-cabin.  He had at least two boys who I remember, Jim and Mott.  They hunted, fished and worked on the ice.  They liked to fight with bare knuckles.  Maybe they helped give Gore Street its name.  So far as I know that's where most of the fights that started ended up or in Buttermilk Alley.

 

9.  Just opposite the Watts family, on the corner, lived George Martenas and his two boys and two girls.  George Jr. went west, then came back and died here.  Garfield was a polisher for the flat-iron company in Geneva.  He also played for dances and did some fighting on the side.  Eva Taylor Caldwell, the first wife of Wm. Caldwell, also worked for Howells in Geneva and was one of the first lady foremen.  Miss Hattie lived in the old house, now torn down, on the site of the present Fred Wessling home, 112 Lake Street, her father lived with her.  Later she went to work in Park Ridge but came back here.  Some of the Martena heirs live in Aurora.

 

10.  The Thurston sisters, Carrie and Julia, lived in back of the Martena home, in the house where Alfred Gibson now lives, 118 Lake Street.  Carrie worked for the George Spooner family and Julia worked for Dr. Anna Spencer.

 

11.  Stephen Smith lived next south where Carl Osland lives today, 109 Latham Street.  He lived here with his son nicknamed Pickles, otherwise he was known as Peck's Bad Boy or so the neighbors and the kids of his time said.  We had no water, so got it here from an open well.  Later a pump was put in.  We used to view the shows on the lot nearby and saw the parades come and go.  I saw Uncle Tom's Cabin there.  Either Ethel Waters or Mamie Smith was one of the later Negro artists seen there.  I remember also Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show which mostly wound up with nearly all races.

 

12.  Down the street, where the new apartments are now, just about in the center of the block, was a house that I called the old French house.  Here lived a Mrs. Decorcey, who later became Mrs. Jones with her granddaughter Janey.  We played together and I often spent week ends in that house.  It usually wound up with both of us getting licked and not speaking to each other, as the old lady did not spare the rod.  It hurt then, but I'm grateful to her now.  She lived on a pension of some kind.

 

13.  On the corner of N. River and ______ Streets, in later years, lived Dixie Brown who moved here from the Pigeon house on Washington Avenue.  He was janitor of the U. S. Wind Engine & Pump Co., also for the bank and some of the stores.  His wife did some cleaning for the N. F. Reckards which he said she did not have to do as he invested her money.

 

14.  At 208 N. River Street, in the house where the Robert Buckner family now lives, Grandpa or Abram R. Hall lived.  I don't know how large his family was.  I know his son Perry went to Washington, D. C. and worked around the Capital.  

I was told this by one of the daughters, Susie Hall Lippings, wife of the proprietor of the restaurant and boarding house in the basement which was under the Jules Morris Store, the present Phipps Department Store.

 

15.  Others in the downtown area of that period were James Stewart who had a barber shop on East Wilson Street when I was young.  He lived in the house back in the yard, which, I believe, he left to a Batavia newsboy who did chores for him.  I believe his father lived with him.  I know that he had three sons; James, Jr. who married a woman from Chicago, John, and McKinley who died young.

 

16.  Other well known names include Claybourne Turner, janitor of the now Louise White School.  His daughter, Rosa Slater Jordan, was one of the King's Daughters, the first Negro girl graduate of East Batavia High School.  His brother was blind James Turner.  There was also Mrs. Nero Norcross and family, son George and daughter Queen V. Thomas. She was the mother of Mrs. Mae Humbles of North Park Street.  Mr. Thomas was one of the deacons in the torn down Methodist Church.  Also there were Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Buckner, Mr. and Mrs. C. Ballard, Mr. and Mrs. Otis Barton, and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Jackson.

 

Time has erased from my memory nearly all of the old timers, but good luck to the present group who are making their homes here and may they hold high the torch of success passed on to them in their different fields, be it church, school, hospital or science.  May the God of all men walk beside them each day to make and keep us a united city.