THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Thirty-Eight

No. 1

 

January, 1997



When War Profiteering Hit Batavia

The Garsson - May Connection

 

In 1992, John Hamilton-Dryden, a Batavia history teacher, prepared an interesting paper, The Garsson-May Connection: An Account of War Profiteering in Batavia, Illinois for a history course at Northern Illinois University. The following article is condensed from that paper, which is available at the Batavia Library. During the summer of 1946, the name of our city repeatedly hit the na­tional headlines as a result of one of the more sensational defense procure­ment scandals that arose out of World War II. In the aftermath, three persons, one an influential United States con­gressman, went to prison, and Batavia, then with a population of 5,000, lost almost 1,000 jobs. And it never would have happened if Dr. Henry Garsson, holding a tainted contract for manufac­turing shells, but with no production facilities, had not happened to meet Allen B. Gellman, the owner of manu­facturing plants but with no contract, in a representative's Washington, D.C., waiting room.

 

Henry Garsson was a true Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Recognized as a brilant metailurgical engineer, he claimed degrees from both St. Lawrence and New York universities. But he had a seamy side; earlier bribery allegations and a brother with whom he worked closely, Murray Garsson, who had a long record of arrests and reported association with such gangsters as Dutch Schultz and Al Capone. He was described as tough, crude and with­out manners.


 

vol36_1.jpg
U.S. Wind Engine Factory that became Batavia Metal Products

 

In 1940 Louis Segal, of the Segal Lock & Hardware Company, employed Dr. Garsson as a consulting engineer, specializing in manufacturing set-up and reorganization. Although the em­ployment contract specifically forbade his negotiation of contracts on Segal Lock's behalf, shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor Garsson wrote the Chemical Warfare Service in Washing­ton, requesting a contract to manufac­ture 300,000 4.2 inch chemical mortar shells. He wrote the letter on Segal Lock's letterhead, and the facilities he described for manufacturing the shells were those of Segal Lock. The com­pany bidding for the contract, he iden­tified as Erie Basin Metal Products, a Segal Lock subsidiary organized un­der the laws of the State of New York.

 

!n fact, Erie Basin Metal Products did not exist -- but the Chemical Warfare Service, unaware of that, issued Erie Basin a letter of intent in January, 1942, to manufacture 15,000 shells. Erie Ba­sin was required to accept the order by May 1 or iose the contract. That was where Allen Gellman fit in. He and his partner, Joseph Weiss, owned and operated the Illinois Watch Case Company in Elgin, manufacturing compacts and cigarette lighters, and the U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company in Batavia, making farm equipment. With the government restricting com­mercial production in order to allocate material and manpower to war produc­tion, Gellman and Weiss needed a gov­ernment contract to avoid closing their factories' doors. Gellman was in Wash­ington, without connections and lost in the crowds of businessmen seeking war work, when he met Dr. Garsson outside a representative's office. When Garsson described his requirements for the manufacture of shells, a deal was struck. Garsson would provide the con­tracts; Geliman would provide the means to fill them.

On the day the Chemical Warfare Service issued Erie Basin its letter of intent, Dr. Garsson incorporated the company in New York. Five days later he incorporated Erie Basin Metal Prod­ucts Company of Illinois. Geilman was give the position of president of the Illi­nois company, with the two Garssons as vice presidents. Erie Basin of Illinois then contracted with Gellman's Illinois Watch Case Company to rent manufacturing space for approximately two percent of tFhe gross products invoiced by Erie Basin plus $120,000 to cover reconversion costs once the government contract work was over. When the Chemical Warfare Service later came to inspect the operation, it had no idea that the plant it was approving was not in fact Erie Basin's. Indeed the very start-up capital required to begin operations came from a million dollar government advance on the original contract.

 

InJuly, 1942,Gellman, Weiss and the Garsson brothers incorporated Batavia Metal Products Inc. Almost a year later, Batavia Metal Products purchased the real estate and personal property of the U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company of Batavia, a company owned by Gellman and Weiss. The new company not only performed subcontract work for Erie Basin but ultimately obtained direct contracts in excess of $30,000,000.

 

In three years Henry and Murray Garsson, having started with no capital of their own, would be the owners of the Batavia Metal Products Company, with assets valued over $800,000. From 1942 to 1945, they would be paid over $370,000 in salaries by their network of companies, Gellman and Weiss would collect almost $1,000,000 in sala­ries during the same period. The latter two would also make a substantial profit in the sale of their Batavia Metal Prod­ucts interest to the Garssons and would recoup their entire investment in the Il­linois Watch Case Company.

 

At this point, one might ask: Granted that the contracts were illegally obtained under false pretenses, where is any rea! beef if the government obtained the war products it contracted for, on time and at agreed-upon prices? Was not the fact that Erie Basin and Batavia Metal Prod­ucts continued to get new contracts for different products evidence that their performance was satisfactory?

 

As eventually came to light, deliver­ies were not on time. In February, 1943, the Chicago Ordinance Department found it necessary to cut the Garssons' contract by half. Of the ten companies building the M66 shell fuses at that time, Erie Basin's production record was one of the three worst. But in spite of Erie's poor performance, many more con­tracts followed. General Hammond in the Chicago District office later testified that Erie Basin was a slow starting, high-cost producer, with inadequate facilities and inept management. If it had been up to him, he claimed, he would never have dealt with the company. Even when he turned the company down for a contract, though, the Chicago District Award Board would overrule him and give the contract to Erie Basin anyway.

 

This is where we begin to see the machinations of the shadowy Murray Garsson, operating in Washington. Prior to the war, Murray Garsson had estab­lished a relationship with the influential Representative Andrew May, a Ken­tucky Democrat who chaired the House Committee on Defense Affairs. As early as April, 1941, Murray Garsson had re­ceived a $5,000 loan, which he never repaid, on a note signed by Andrew May. Because of his position, the eight-term congressman was in a key position to pressure the War Department on behalf of the Garssons -- and he did so time and again. And he was not even subtle in applying pressure: one colo­nel informed his superiors that Dr. Garsson "uses Congressman May con­siderably, and Congressman May goes beyond the limits of propriety in getting things done . . . Garsson has quite a sizable contract over there and he's one of the high priced producers and yet whenever we do anything to htm quite a fuss is made." It was May who even pressured the War Department to award the coveted "E" Award to Batavia Metal Products in spite of the fact that the company was not meeting production schedules.

 

Representative May got at least a major part of his payoff -- and that is clearly what it was - in the Cumberland Lumber Company scam. Claiming that Batavia Metal Products and the Chal­lenge Company (another Batavia enter­prise that had become a Garsson inter­est) needed a reliable source of lumber for shell boxes and tent poles, a Garsson representative made inquiry of May, May responded that he knew of an excellent stand of lumber in his district in Kentucky and that he expedite the deal. Through a transfer to May of $10,000 charged against Garsson's personal account with Erie Basin, Cumberland Lumber Company was formed, with Dr. Garsson as Presi­dent and May as the registered Wash­ington agent. No stock was ever issued, nor was any lumber ever cut. But money continued flowing into Cumberland, and hence to May, A paper trail of almost $50,000 ultimately led to Representa­tive May.

 

While May was the principal recipi­ent of the Garssons' largesse, they did not neglect those in other positions who could help them. It later turned out that a civilian consultant for the Chemical Warfare Service, responsible for han­dling millions of dollars worth of con­tracts, was on the Garssons' payroll for $20,000 a year. The Garssons' Wash­ington office was generous to general officers who had been helpful -- a silver vanity case here, another vanity case there, and a case of liquor somewhere else. Even the name of then Senator, later Vice President, Alben W. Barkle came into the picture. He promised to help expedite the release that would permit the Garssons to convert from war manufacturing to commercial manufac­turing at the end of the war. One per­son close to the situation, while not al­leging any sort of payoff, did note that Barkley's son, who had been employed by the Garssons, did not get his job on any merits of his own!

 

Much of this came out in the investi­gations that followed the end of the war. While the government had been willing to pay whatever was necessary for des­perately needed material during the conflict, it began to question some of the payments after the war was over. Besides the corruption outlined above, the government began to get into the allegedly excessive salaries paid and the subcontracting duplications of over­head, all of which were included in the claimed production costs (or which the Garssons had been compensated. It was found that the government had even been billed for $19,000 of "gifts."

 

In July, 1946, the Senate Committee on Defense Affairs (the counterpart of May's House Committee) called for hearings on the Garsson companies. Eventually, the Justice Department, with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, took over, and the Garssons and May were indicted on war-bribery charges. With such govern­ment witnesses as Generals George C. Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of War Robert Patterson, the final record ran to 6,000 pages. At one point the presiding judge quipped, "We ought to have a conveyor belt for the evidence."

 

The jury found the Garssons and May guilty of conspiracy to defraud the gov­ernment and war-bribery. They were sentenced to Federal prison for terms of eight months to two years. By this time the Garssons were broke since their companies had been forced into bankruptcy when the War Department reclaimed excess profits.

As for Batavia, the bankruptcies of the Garsson companies shut down the industrial complex they had put together - just as the conversion to peacetime work was getting underway (see Elliott Lundberg's relevant comments in the story on the Challenge Company that concludes in this issue). And the 1,000 jobs mentioned earlier were perma­nently lost.

 

As an interested footnote, the late Arthur Swanson, who had been produc­tion manager at Batavia Metal Prod­ucts, said that Dr. Garsson had called him after he got out of prison and asked if he would be well received if he came back to Batavia. Swanson told him that he did not think it would be a good idea, and nothing more was ever heard from Dr. Garsson.

 


 

The Challenge Company... and Its People

Personal Reminiscences

by Elliott Lundberg

 

Challenge Foundry Workers -1935 (Identification of those pictured available at Depot Museum)


In the last issue, Elliott filled us in on his background with the Challenge and introduced us to some of the Batavians who worked there in the 1930s. We conclude his recollections -- with names that wiil be famiSiarto many of our readers - in this issue.

 

The area between the rows of build­ings on the east and west sides was referred to as the Yard. The spur of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad ran up the middle of the Yard from the south. Joe Hermes was the foreman of the Yard. Movement of parts and equip­ment between departments was handled by hand trucks, and of course, railroad cars were loaded in the Yard.

 

The row of buildings on the west side of the Yard backed up to the Fox River. The north end of the buildings had some different uses, one of which was the grinding and chipping or cleaning up of the castings from the previous day's foundry production. Also in this area was the Pump Room, Ed Miller being the foreman, aided by Charley Sloggett and Ed Apps - some more in­teresting old timers. The hand pumps were produced here.

 

The Machine Shop was located in the lower level of the building adjoin­ing to the south, and was somewhat below ground level. Emil Kalis was foreman of the Machine Shop, where machining of the castings for use in the windmills was done. Windmill heads were also assembled here, and windmill towers were made here. Also, the Paint Department was located here. The Machine Shop was large, though not as large as the Foundry. I remember Luke Montgomery and his brother, Del Montgomery, worked here. At the time I thought they were in their 80s, but though they were old, they were probably not that old. They performed relatively simple tasks. I always thought that they were prob­ably kept on because of their years of service. This was probably true, Social Security was only a year or two old. I believe the old companies had hearts. In their dealing with their employees - they sure didn't have much money.

 

The second floor above the Machine Shop was not as large an area as the lower floor. J. August Lund was Mas­ter Mechanic (Chief Engineer) and his office was here, together with toolrnak-ers Arvid Soderhoim, Henry Senft and Axel Anderson. Werner "Pickles" Phanenbecker worked here also and was the pattern maker for the patterns used in the Foundry. Al Hermes was the Superintendent of the plant and had his office here, and Electrician Ture Andrews and Maintenance Man Arvid Johnson also worked out of here.

The Stockroom was located on the north side of the second floor, and Frank Anderson was the man here, where parts of all kinds were kept, in­cluding parts and supplies for dealer and farmer customers.

 

The third floor of this building con­tained the Office, which was just as old fashioned as the rest of the plant. En­trance from the street to the office was from a doorway on River Street, a stair­way to a walkway which crossed over the Yard to reach the Office.

 

There was a small glassed-in waiting area with a bench. Hazel O'Boyle was the receptionist and telephone operator, as well as having other duties. Frank Snow, the President, had a private office in the northwest corner, and there were two glassed-in offices, one of which Alan Larson used. The rest of the of­fice force had desks throughout the room. It was a good group of people and it was really a wonderful experi­ence to have worked with these men, many of them 30 or 40 years older than I was.

 

The next building to the south of the Machine Shop was a somewhat newer building in which were the Shipping Department, the Foreign Packing De­partment and some warehousing, all on the first floor. Ray Feldman was the Shipping Clerk, aided by Howard Engstrorn. Hal Miller was the foreman of the Foreign Packing. Asher High, father of Fern Anderson, worked here - a different name.

 

Lest it be thought that the many Swedes predominated, though there were many, there were quite a few oth­ers. Al Herrnes was Superintendent, brother Nick was foreman of the Core  Room, brother Joe was Yard foreman, brother Matt worked in the Steel Tank Room and brother Joe also worked in the Core Room. Hal Miller was fore­man of the Foreign Packing, brother Ed was foreman of the Pump Room and brother Bill was truck driver. Then there were Phanenbecker, Maves, Kielion, Kline, Stroebel, Thrun, Kalis, Doty, Hambel, Danielak, Schielke, Miller, Krause, Cronk, Seeiey, Uberle, Stone, Bortner, McCurdy, Kouzes, Nurnberg, Rasimaucus, Regelbrugge, Milroy, Hansford, Tornberg, Gebes, Shipman, Schroeder, Brookings, Chapps, Hoovey, Treest, Batey, Read, Cook, Ahrens, Rudd, Bricher, Cleland, Krieger, Fry, Ernzen, Harker, Buckner, Thomle, Hall, Lewis, and others. Come to think of it, maybe there weren't so many Swedes. Perhaps I should list all the Swedes.

 

On the second floor above the Ship­ping was the Gas Engine Room of which Walter Stone was the foreman, a real fine man. There were probably half a dozen employees, and at this i time I don't believe they were still manufacturing gas engines. This was another machine shop, but I don't re­member exactly what parts they ma­chined.

The Hoop Room was located in the building at the south end of the west side buildings. Adolph "Snus" Erickson was the foreman and had a small force. In addition to the hoops for the wood tanks I believe they also made the steel towers which were used to support the wood water tanks.

 

The steel lowers and the wood tanks were erected on location. The parts were shipped to the location, and con­struction crews from the Challenge were sent to erect the tanks and tow­ers. Harry "Pawnee" Redborg, David "Gam" Anderson and Eric Coleman were the erectors in the early 40s. Another building was the wooden warehouse built on piers over the river. This building burned down a number of years ago as noted below, but the piers are still there (1996).

I'm sure there were plenty of problems among employees at the Challenge Company before the war as with any company. However, I remember it as one of the best places I ever worked as far as the people and their helpfulness and trying to get along with each other and make the best of some tough times.

 

After the war I went back to work at the Challenge Company, which had been acquired by the infamous Garsson brothers. In early 1946 Art Swanson, then manager of the Chal­lenge Company, announced that ac­cumulated back orders from the war years were to be canceled. The pow­ers that be had decided to go into mass production of the windmill for sale in foreign countries where demand would be great in the aftermath of World War II. When I left the company shortly after this, the old warehouse over the river, which later burned, was full of assembled windmill heads awaiting completion of the wheels and vanes. To my knowledge none of these were ever shipped as the United Stales Gov­ernment closed down the Batavia Metal Products and the Challenge Company and brought an end to the Garssons' enterprise and windmills in Batavia.

 

With the great built-up demand for products of all kinds after the end of World War II and the Depression, I of­ten wonder what the impact of the clos­ing of the U.S. (Batavia Metal Products) and the Challenge in 1946 was on Batavia. To remove two factories with 400 or more employees from the city at a time when they could hardly have helped but prosper certainly hurt the local economy.

 


 

Depot Museum Happenings

 

The fall has been a very busy time at the museum. We have started to see some of the third grade classes as they start the Batavia History unit, and a couple of scout groups that are work­ing on their "community badges."

 

The fall museum volunteer trip, on October 23, to the Lee Rollo museum in Shabbona and the Elwood House in DeKalb was well attended, and ev­eryone had a good time despite the weather.

 

All of the painting is now complete with the exception of the caboose. A new roof and a few other minor repairs on the caboose have been finished in anticipation of the final work and paint that will be done in the spring.

 

The museum volunteer Christmas party was held on December 5, and was a great success with 56 volunteers in attendance - again despite the bad weather. (There must be something about the volunteer events that causes a weather change!) A catered lunch was was served, and the participants were entertained by "Regis and Ms.T," a lo­cal duet that put on a wonderful Christ­mas show. All of the volunteers re­ceived the 1996 Christmas ornament as a gift for their dedication to the mu­seum.

 

We now have a new alarm system installed at the museum, which in­cludes badly needed smoke and heat detectors. The safety of our collection, which continues to grow in size and value, is very important.

 

While the museum is closed for the winter season, Chris Winter and I hope to continue working on the upstairs storage area, and we will be making some additions and repairs to our ex­hibit areas.

 

As I close, I want to thank all of the dedicated volunteers and Society Board members for their continued support in 1996 and look forward to another successful year in 1997.

 


 

United Methodist Church of Batavia Its First 16O Years

 

This is the second in a series of histo­ries of Batavia's churches. For the United Methodist church of Batavia's sesquicentennial celebration in 1986, Lydia Jeane Stafney prepared a fas­cinating 46-page history. That history provides most of the information that appears in this article about happen­ings prior to 1986, Anyone who has an opportunity would find it worthwhile and enjoyable to read the entire his­tory, which mentions names of many persons who are an important part of Batavia's history.

 

In 1836, newly arrived Methodists in the Fox River Valley organized a church in the home of William Van Nortwick - the first religious organi­zation within the present city limits. It continued to meet in the Van Nortwick home until 1852 when the growing congregation built its first church. Al­though there have been several changes over the past 160 years in the name of the church now located a 7 North Batavia Avenue, and of the de-lomination to which it belongs, the Methodist Church of Batavia is a direct descendant of that simple be­ginning.

 

Although knowledge about develop­ments in the church to 1844 is limited, some of the Quarterly Conference record books make interesting read­ing. Misdemeanors within a congre­gation were quickly and severely pun­ished by the local church, with the Quarterly Conference as the final judge of the accusation and the pun­ishment. In 1844, for example, Lucy Sibly was charged with two counts: first, "Evil Speaking," and second, "Im­morality" in making false statements. Mr. Sibly was called and agreed that his wife talked too much, for which he had reprimanded her but to no avail -- but he said she was not the only tat­tler. Be that as it may, the church Council agreed that Mrs, Sibly was a troublemaker and expelled her. The Quarterly Conference failed to act upon the appeal.

 

The first Board of Trustees in the 1850s included C. H. Brown, William Van Nortwick, Benjamin Smith, F .H. Warner, and H. Hoyt. Lev! Newlon, fa­ther of Don Carlos Newlon, was a steward, and James Rockwell served as Sunday School Superintendent. The Sunday School, which seemed to be the center of the church work, re­ported an average attendance of 85.

 

In 1852 the congregation erected its first church building, a native lime­stone, two-story, Greek Revival struc­ture1, at a cost of $5,141. This sum was partially raised by subscription, but an indebtedness of $1,700 that had not been provided for reportedly caused the trustees considerable con­cern for a number of years. Soon after the building's completion the congre­gation, which had been served by a series of itinerant and part-time minis­ters, was eager to have a full-time pas­tor. The Rev. E. H. Gammon was ap­pointed, with an annual salary of $560.90 (it is not evident how this odd amount came into being). He served for only one year before being ap­pointed presiding elder (a position now known as district superintendent) - but more about him later when he played an even larger part in the life of the Batavia church.

 

In 1857 the furnace in the new church was removed because it did not heat sufficiently, and stoves were pro­vided to take its place. By this time, the church had apparently become prosperous enough to build a library and to sponsor an orphan boy in India (no mention being made of the exist­ence or disposition of the construction indebtedness that had concerned the trustees five years earlier). In 1860 the children of the church sent $4.92 to help educate the orphan.

On October 18,1864, while the Civil War was stilt in process, pews were relet. Pew #20 sold for $30 while pew #31 rented for $10 a year, and pews #13, #30, #46 and #48 went for $6 a year. The basis for this pricing is unex­plained, and we do not know how the other pews were disposed of. It is interesting to note that pews were still assigned after the present church was built, as the brass numbered plate that is still attached to the end of each pew attests. As late as 1895, a committee was appointed to assign pews and in­structed to prepare and hang in the vestibule a diagram showing the names of occupants. While pews are no longer formally assigned, it has been noted that some people still take a proprietary interest in their Sunday seating arrangements.

 

By the 1880s as reported in a news­paper account, there had been "con­siderable talk among the Methodist people, especially among those resid­ing on the East Side of the river, about their church not being central for the people who wished to attend, and a great many wishes were expressed that one might in some way be provided that would meet these wants." These wishes apparently iell on listen­ing ears -- those of two brothers-in-law, Rev. E. H. Gammon, the church's first minister, and Don Carlos Newton.

After leaving Batavia and serving as a presiding elder, Rev. Gammon had been forced to retire from the active ministry because a chronic bronchial condition made public speaking diffi­cult for him. He returned to Batavia and entered the farm machinery business, which made him very wealthy; he was the owner of the large Queen Anne house now known as Gammon Cor­ners. Capt. Newfon, who built the house that later served as the public library and is now called Newton House, was the owner of the Newton Wagon Company, one of Batavia's leading enterprises.

 

These two men offered to build a church and give it to the congregation if a suitable lof could be obtained. Although the lot selected, just north of the intersection of Batavia Avenue and Wilson, may not have an­swered fully the East Siders desire fot convenience, it may have been the*" most central site available and was closer for them than the existing church. Ground was broken in 1887, and the new church was dedicated, with elaborate services, in March 1888. The formal presentation was made by J. P. Prindle, in the name of the direc­tors - besides himself, D. C. Newton, E. H. Gammon, F. K. George, H. N, Wade, E. S. Smith, L. J. Carr, James Mair, and D. W. Sterling. The church was built at a cost of $35,000 -- a vast sum for those days.

 

Many people have heard that the new church was copied after one in the south of France.This is apparently true, at least in its general inspiration if not in all details. In the early 1880s, Capt. and Mrs. Newton toured Europe for eleven months. The Batavia Historical Society has a book that contains the second half of his dairy and expense account for that trip. Unfortunately the Newtons had already been in the south of France before this second book started so it contains no impressions of the church that he liked so much. I is known, however, that he handed ovef^ the plans of the French church to the man who designed the Batavia Church, S. S. Beman, one of the lead-ig architects of the country.

 

The church, which has been main­tained in essentially its initial form (ex­cept for the compatible addition at the rear discussed later), was entered in the National Register of Historic Places on July 28, 1983. Architect Michael A. Dixon, who helped gain its nomination to the National Register, wrote that it "is characterized by a grand scale, intricate massing, dy­namic contrasts, complicated three di­mensionality, a richness of texture and opulent detail. The integrity of total design, from overall concept to the in­tricate details of the stained glass win­dows, pews and selection of materi­als can be seen at the United Meth­odist Church of Batavia."

 

The pipe organ that had been given to the old church by Mrs. Gammon and Mrs. Newton was moved to the new church. At that time it was pow­ered by the pumping of a young boy. In 1909 the board voted to purchase a rotary water motor; eight years later, an electric motor was installed. This organ served until 1952 when it became too difficult and expensive to repair, and the church purchased an electric Kimball organ.

 

In 1906 Batavia had no gymna­sium, and the church's board voted to build one behind the church. Al­though people laughingly referred to this as the "cracker box gym" (the balcony was too narrow to accommo­date many spectators), it was home to the 1912 Batavia High School bas­ketball team that won the state cham­pionship. When the new high school was built in 1915, it included a gym­nasium, and the church gave the equipment to the new high school. Two years later, Hubbard and Johnson's bought the old gym for $450 and attached it to their store. Under the carpeting of the northwest corner of Hubbard's store today, all the old basketball markings are still on the floor.

 

From its prosperous position up through the 1920s, Batavia Method­ist fell on extremely hard times when the Great Depression of the 1930s - struck.Yearbyyearthesituation grew worse. The endowment funds left to the church were shortly cut in half and later became worthless. The estimated cost of operating the church was $64.44 per week while pledges received were about $50 per week. Large sums were owed to Kahlke Lumber and Coal Co., but fortunately Henry Kahlke was both a generous and a patient man. After 1933 the church decided to have a student from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston serve as pastor.

 

vol38_5.jpg

 

With the 1940 union of three princi­pal branches of Methodism in this country, the combined denomination shortened its name, and what had been known locally as the First Meth­odist Episcopal church became First Methodist Church. In that same year, board minutes mention the arrival of numerous newcomers, three of whom soon became particularly active in the church's affairs: Carl Furnas, J. Maynard Dixon, and George Erdman. Carl and Leto Furnas had moved the Furnas Electric Company from Wis­consin to Batavia and brought with them a number of families who were also Methodist. Coming as they did when the war was about to start and the Depression was ending, they gave the church a needed financial stabil­ity and a renewed involvement in many activities. One direct result was the decision to employ a full-time min­ister rather than relying on a student pastor as had been the case since 1933.

 

In 1969 came another change in the name of the church. When the Evan­gelical United Brethren Church in this country united with the Methodist Church, the word "United" was added, and the name of the Batavia church became the First United Methodist Church. Although the local E.U.B, Church did not join the First Method­ist church in Batavia, several families came from that church to join the United Methodist Church. Then, two years later came another name change when the McKee Street United Methodist Church, originally or­ganized by Swedish immigrants in 1971, and the First United Methodist Church united; with only one Method­ist church in Batavia, the "First" in its name was no longer necessary. The McKee Street church building is now the home of the New Life Assembly of God in Batavia.

 

In 1985, looking toward the next year's sequicentennial celebration of the church's founding, the trustees borrowed $45,000 to improve the ex­terior of the church and the grounds. After the exterior walls were spray cleaned with an acid and tuck point­ing had been completed, everyone was amazed to notice the various col­ors of the boulders - something to which the builder had given special attention when he carefully selected them, mainly from his own farm, in 1887,This, in addition to landscaping and floodlighting, greatly enhanced the church's outside appearance.

 

By this time, the church was facing a growing need for expanded facilities. Michael Dixon, the architect who had earlier assisted with obtaining the church's National Registry listing, de­signed a 13,000 square foot addition at the rear that would be architectur­ally compatible with the existing struc­ture and almost double the usable space. Ground was broken for this ad­dition on June 25,1989, but problems including the discovery of a buried oil tank under the proposed building site delayed completion. The new space, which provided for a large meeting hall, kitchen, and classroom and of­fice facilities at a cost of approximately $1,200,000, was dedicated on Eas­ter Sunday in 1992.

With this addition, the United Meth­odist Church of Batavia is well posi­tioned to continue serving the religious needs of its growing membership for the foreseeable future.

 

1When the present church was built in 1887/8, the old church became a school and continued as such until 1975. In 1977, the Board of Education sold it to an insurance agency, which tastefully renovated it to serve as office space. The building is located at the intersection of First Street and Lincoln Avenue.

 

'Beman is best known for his work as commissioned by George M. Pullman in 1879 for designing the complete in­dustrial town of Pullman, 14 miles south of the heart of Chicago, Other Beman designed structures include Chicago's 1889 Grand Central Station (demol­ished) and the 1884 Studebaker Build­ing at 410 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.


 


 

 

My Biography - Mary B. Chapman

"Always a Batavia Girl in My Heart"

1906 - 1996


Mary B. Chapman, a descendant of the Batavia pioneer Van Nortwick and Burton families, died September 29,1996, leaving the Batavia Historical Society nine paintings and a music box with an appraisal value of $17,000. Among her papers, Robert O. and Lucy Anderson found the following autobi­ography that Mrs. Chapman had written not long before her death.The Andersons, who made this available to The Batavia Histo­rian for publication, surmised that she may have even had the Historian in rnind when she wrote this brief story of her life.

 

I was born September 8, 1906, to Mr. and Mrs. John Van Norlwick Bur­ton at 25 N. Batavia Avenue. My fa­ther, known as Van, was the son ot Mary Ellen Van Nortwick, daughter ot the industrialist John Van Nortwick, and Amos Burton, the son of Joseph Burton of Wakefield, England, who came to Chicago to build a department store. Because Mrs. Joseph Burton did not like Chicago, they moved to Batavia where there was activity in the stone quarries. My mother, Blanche Wait was the daughter of Henry and Laura Wait. Henry Walt had a lumberyard and built the Walt Block on east Wilson Street. Laura came from Elgin as a seam­stress to sew for the ladies.

I attended the Grace McWayne school and middle westside school. My first year of high school was in the then new building on the corner of Wilson Street and Batavia Avenue. At that time I was fifteen years old and, because I was an only child, my parents decided to send me to boarding school where! would have the experience of sharing with children my own age. ! was sent to The Principia in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

I won a music scholarship and gradu­ated at seventeen. The next two years I studied the organ at the Sherwood Music School in Chicago. I played the organ in the Congregational Church of Batavia and gave piano lessons. Mrs. Raftery invited me to work for The Little Traveler shop in Geneva. It was a thrilling experience because I bought for the shop in Chicago and New York and went to Europe with Mrs. Raftery.

 

In 1936 I married Reginald B. Chapman of Aurora. He was a chemi­cal engineer and worked forthe Ameri­can Well Works. In 1937, the depth of the depression, rny father died leaving me a farm on west Main Street. My husband lost his job when the Well Works went bank­rupt and closed. He had spend sum­mers on farms as a teenager. There­fore, we decided to become farmers on my farm. It was quite a job for both of us. With the help of friends and neighbors, we made a go of it. After ten years it was time to retire. I let the county have my thirty-nine acres of woods next to Nelson Lake. We named it "The Burton Wildlife Preserve" in memory of my father. People may study birds and plant life, but no par­ties or picnics are allowed.

 

After thirty happy years, I lost my husband. He died in 1966. I am a widow and still live in the house we bought at 717 Peck Road in Geneva. However, I shall always remain a Batavia girl in my heart.

 


 

BATAVIANS 1 HAVE KNOWN - Stanley A. Johnson

by Elliott Lundberg

 

Not long after the TITANIC was sunk on April 14, 1912, 15-year old Stanley Johnson sailed for the United States, accompanied by his grandfather.

 

When the ship arrived at a point near where the TITANIC had sunk, it slowed. Ail passengers had been in­vited to be on deck for a memorial ser­vice during which Mrs. John Jacob Astor, who had survived the sinking, threw a wreath of flowers on the ocean in memory of her husband. After the service, Mrs. Astor greeted passengers and kissed the young children. Stanley thereafter pro­claimed with pride that he had been kissed by Mrs. Astor, one of the wealthiest women in the country at the time.

 

Stanley was born February 18, 1897, in Yorkshire, England. When he arrived in Batavia, he resided with his uncle, Edouard Coreay. Mr. Coreay found a job for Stanley as an office boy at his place of employment, the Appleton Manufacturing Company. Stanley started at the salary of 5 cents an hour, $2.00 a week for a 40 hour week, although at that time he prob­ably worked longer than 40 hours.

 

It didn't take Stanley long to find out his salary was not sufficient to support much of a lifestyle. He approached Mr. Hobler, the office manager, and ad­vised that he just couldn't get along on 5 cents an hour. Mr. Hobler took this request under advisement. In Stanley's next pay envelope, he found that his salary had been increased to 8 cents an hour, $3.20 for a 40 hour week, or a 60 percent increase. Stanley often referred to this as the biggest raise he ever received.

 

Including his time of service in the U.S. Army during World War!, Stanley worked at the Appleton for 25 years or more. He then worked at the Burgess Norton Manufacturing Company in Geneva until retirement. He was fi­nance officer of the Batavia Post #504, American Legion, for over 50 years. He was married to Hattie Swan for many years, and he nursed Hattie at home for some years before her death.

 

After her death, he lived a number of years at their house at 720 Houston Street, where he escorted neighbor­hood children to school and generally managed the affairs of the neighbor­hood.

 

Stanley A. Johnson died July 5, 1989, at the age of 92.


Dues Are Due -Please Help!

If you did not pay your 1997 dues either at the December meeting or by mail, we would appreciate your sending them in with the notice on the outside of this newsletter. We want to keep up the record-setting pace that we established in 1996.

 


A Park Name Batavia Has Restored -- And a Park That Batavia Doesn't Have

 

"Park District revives Laureiwood Park name" -- a headline in the De­cember 12, 1996 WindmillHerald.The accompanying story described the restoration of a bit of community his­tory when the Batavia Park District recently adopted that name for the area adjacent to the Boat Club, fol­lowing a presentation by Steve Lusted, a member of our Society.

In 1893, the Chicago and North­western Railroad constructed a line from Geneva to Batavia along the east side of the Fox River. Finding that it had a number of idle cars on Sunday, the management saw an opportunity and constructed a resort named Laureiwood on a 30-acre wooded site on north River and Logan streets. The park boasted a dance pavilion, dining facilities, an ice cream parlor, and a variety of other attractions.

 

The project was immediately successful, attract­ing thousands for such events as the Odd Fellows of Chicago picnic. On June 25, 1899, the Swedish National Association hosted a mid-summer festival that drew more than 20,000 people.

 

It all ended when a fire of unknown origin destroyed the grandstand and other buildings on July 10,1901. Be­cause of competition from other parks including Mill Creek and Riverview, Laureiwood Park never reopened. But now, thanks to Steve Lusted and the Park District, Batavia again has the name on the old park.

 

Unfortunately, a park that Joel McKee offered Batavia never got that far. As described in a July 9, 1925, Herald article that Jim Hanson brought to our attention, McKee tendered the deed of about seven acres of land opposite his home {located at what is now 345 North Batavia Avenue) to the Park Board to be used as a public park.

 

The land offered had a 700 foot frontage on Batavia Avenue, extend­ing east to the river. Intended partially as a memorial to his pioneer Batavia parents, McKee's offer included sev­eral restrictions; apparently the most troublesome oi these to the Park Board was a requirement that $500 a year should be expended in policing, improving or other upkeep of the pre­mises.

 

An August 8,1925 report stated that the Park Board had turned down the offer because it felt that it could not make the financial commitment!



 

More New Members

 

Since the July issue, we have added a number of new Society members. We welcome the following persons (all from Batavia unless otherwise noted) who took out annual individual or family memberships through the end of the year:

 

Barbara C. Balfour

Jeanne E. Bernhardt

Gust and Mary Flodstrom

Arn and Susan Johnson

Melvin Johnson

Janet R McGurn

Mary F. Muntz

M.S. Pierson

Ed Reeder (Aurora)

Gerald Schramer (Bellingham, WA)

Jacqueline Shanahan (Sugar Grove)

Dick Shewalter (St. Charles)

Nancy E. Springborn Randak (Thousand Oaks, CA)

JoAnn Stevens

William F. Springborn (Leland)

Duane & Ellen Stone

Clayton Totz (Geneva)

and Joyce M. Zahay.

 

In addition, the following persons, all from Batavia, have become Life Members:

 

Robert B. O'Connor

Michael A. Krischler

and Mrs. Robert Wormwood.

 

In recent months, several persons have given memberships to their children or friends who no longer live in Batavia. This is a thoughtful, and inexpensive, way to help these persons maintain old ties. You might want to consider doing this for someone you know.


 

Pot-Luck, Entertainment and Election of Officers at Christmas General Meeting

Patricia Will Vice-President and Program Chair

 

Our general meeting and pot-luck dinner was held on Sunday, December 1, at Bethany Lutheran Church. Even though Old Man Winter had reared his ugly head, close to 90 members turned out for this annual event.

 

Following dinner the follow­ing members were elected to office at the business meeting:

 

Bert and Ruth Johnson   Co-Presidents
Kathryn Fairbairn  Recording Secretary
Jerry Harris   Treasurer

Bill Hall and Marilyn Robinson    Directors


Continuing their terms in office were:

 

Patty Will   Vice-President
Georgene Kauth   Corresponding Secretary
Carole Dunn, Tim Mair and Bill Wood  Directors

 

Special thanks are due Bob and Francine Popeck and Ray Anderson for their years of commitment and service.

 

Roger Dayton of Pedals, Pumpers & Rolls, Ltd. provided our entertainment. Along with music boxes donated to the Society by the Van Nortwick and Chapman estates, Mr. Dayton brought a few from his personal collection. Each had its unique history, but what beautiful music came from these fascinating pieces.

 

We wish you all a wondrous New Year.


Society Loses Members Through Death

 

Since the issuance of the July 1996 newsletter, the Society has lost the fol­lowing members through death (date of initial membership and any offices held shown in parentheses):

 

Herbert Carlson (1968; Treasurer);

Mary (Mrs. R.B.) Chapman (Life mem­ber) - see her brief story of her life in this issue;

Pauline Faeth (1981);

Helen (Giff) Johnson (1961);

Miriam Johnson (Charter/Life member, first Secretary, Vice President, and long-timeTrustee) -- a story about her when she moved to her niece's home ap­peared in the last issue;

and Carl Wicklund (Honorary member).

 

We may occasionally miss learning of a member's death and would ap­preciate having any omissions called to our attention so that we can make corrections.

This information is par­ticularly important for our many out-of-town members.

 



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Highlights   of   Board   Meetings

 

October   24,    1996

 

Approved    historical    plaque    for    Bill    Huber's    home    at    321     Spring street.     This   home  appears   on   1869   map.

 

Received   report   of   Marilyn   Robinson   on    status   of   update   of   Batavia history   book.

 

Approved   purchase   of   new   alarm   system.

 

Informed    that    Carla    Hill    has    acquired    a    room    at    Park      District property   at   State   and   Prairie   for   additional   museum   storage.

 

December    17,   1996

 

Approved    financial    statements    for   fiscal    year    ended    September   30, 1996,   subject   to   satisfactory   completion   of   financial   audit.

 

Approved   historical   plaque   for  Joe   Marconi   for   Anderson   Block.

 

Informed  that  an  appraisal   had  been   received   for property   left   to   the Historical   Society   by   Mary   Chapman.

 

Authorized    Marilyn    Robinson    to    preserve    some    of    World    War    II memoirs   prepared  by   Batavia   High   School   students   in   booklet  form.

 

Discussed   need   for   review   of   Society's   insurance   coverage.

 

Directed    President   to   appoint   a   committee   to   review    Society's   by­laws.

 

-------   Set   next   meeting   for  February   4,   1997.



Structure: $5 $10 $1

Contribution: $5 $75 $125

Life: $10 $100

 

Mail to:

Treasurer Batavia Historical Society

P.O. Box 14 Batavia, Illinois 60510

This membership is being given as a gift


Prompt payment of dues is appreciated!

 

If you would like to give a membership as a gift, send the above information and dues to the Society and indicate in the box above that it is to be a gift. The gift membership card will be mailed to you so that you may enclose it with a personal card or note.