THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Forty

No. 1 

 


How Hubbard's Ethan Allen Gallery Grew from Benson & Carlson Furniture Store

 

The Hubbard name has been synonymous with homefurnishings in Batavia for most of this century, with three generations of the family operating the business since 1910.

 

Recently Elliott Lundberg and your editor interviewed brothers Jim and Paul, the remaining members of the second generation that ran the operations from 1947 to 1984.

 

The other brother, Warren, died in 1995. The following history of Hubbard's - a real success story - is based primarily on that interniew.

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Since 1910 the Hubbard name has been on the building now known as Hubbard's Ethan Allen Gallery, at 16 North Batavia Avenue.

 

It was in that year that G.E. ("Ed") Hubbard and his brother-in-Iaw, Charles Johnson, pur­chased the furniture business that for some years had operated as Benson & Carlson.

 

The beginnings of Benson & Carlson are not entirely clear. A few years earlier, it had also occupied space in the W.L. Anderson building on the northeast corner of Batavia Avenue and Wilson Street. Co-owner John Benson was the father of Arnold Benson, who later became a banker, owner of the Batavia Herald weekly newspaper and printing company, state senator, and Director of Agricul­ture for the State of Illinois. 

 

At some point, co-owner John Carlson pur­chased Benson's interest and, after a periodasthesole owner, took inaMr. Elfstrom (believed to be the brother of Phil Elfstrom's grandfather) as a partner.

 

Hubbard & Johnson's Building The front part of the building that Hubbard & Johnson, as the new busi­ness was called, had originally been built around 1840 by the Congrega­tional Church. After the church moved to its present home on South Batavia Avenue, the old church building was occupied -- although not simulta­neously -- by the First Baptist Church and the Catholic Church.

 

The deed to the property shows that its first non­church use came when the Catholic Church sold it to Benson & Carlson. A few years after Hubbard & Johnson bought the property, a disas­trous fire destroyed much of the back area of the store. Mary (Burton) Chapman remembered the fire clearly, as a barn to the rear of the house to the north also caught fire, and the horses escaped and were running free. After the fire, Hubbard & Johnson bought the Methodist Church's gym­nasium at the rear of the church for $450 and moved it to replace the area lost in the fire.

 

With much remodel­ing in later years, there is little evi­dence of the gym; however, under the carpet in one of the sections is the original hardwood floor with the clear markings for the free throw areas as well as the center jump circle. High in the attic, the members of the 1912 state championship team put their names in chalk on the roof trusses.

 

The Early Store's Business

 

Ed Hubbard's sons spent much of their childhood in the store. Over the years they had on-the-job training in most aspects of the store's operations. Hubbard's Home Furnishings --1965 As with most stores of that era, Hubbard & Johnson was for many years something of a "general store."

 

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In addition to home furnishings, it car­ried a full line of paints, wallpaper, win­dow shades and window glass. In the lower level, screen wire was replaced, pictures were framed, and new tires were put on wagons, tricycles and baby buggies. The rubber came in spools of different sizes. With the aid of a machine, Ed Hubbard put on the framed pictures --as Jim and Paul recollect, hundreds and hundreds of them.

 

Renting out wooden folding chairs was a continuing activity. The store would get a call, say, from the Knights of Pythias lodge on South Batavia Avenue, requesting 125 chairs. So, Paul recalls, "We would load the chairs on the truck, drive them to the K.P. hall, and haul them up the stairs; then, the next day, we would carry them down the stairs and take them back to the store.

 

People who had something going on in their homes would call us and want, say, forty since that was the only day Redlund was available. The paint and wallpaper depart­ment was always busy. In addition to homeowners, painting contractors were major customers. Since most of them did not own trucks, the store's delivery included picking up their lad­ders, scaffolding and other equipment and taking them to the job site. The exterior house paint was usually white. Dutch Boy, Eagle and Ana­conda white lead (this pre-dated the fear of lead poisoning), came in a hundred pound kegs, and the painters had to mix it with five gallons of boiled lin­dseed oil, which the store bought in fifty-five gallon steel drums. Jim and Paul recall lugging those hundred pound kegs up stairs.

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A few years ago, a member of the Shumway family brought into the store an old sales ticket for wallpaper pur­chased by C.w. Shumway in 1912. The room required eight rolls of wall­paper at thirteen cents per roll ($1.04) seven rolls of ceiling paper at eight cents per roll ($.56), and nineteen yards of border at two cents per yard ($.38) .-a total of $1.98. Three rolls were returned, however, for a credit of $.39, reducing the net sale to $1.59. Hubbard's now has this sales ticket framed and hung in the office. Hubbard & Johnson used to sell refrigerators, stoves and washing machines. Paul and Jim remember the time they were delivering a refrig­erator and found they could not get it through the door.

 

Eventually they got a couple of ladders and some rope and brought it in through an upstairs window. Before World War II, Hubbard & Johnson sold "furniture made by a manufacturer in Chicago. As Paul re­called, "We would buy a sofa and very often two chairs, maybe a regular lounge and a matching rocker. We sold the sofas for $52 apiece."

 

Succession of a new generation In 1937 Paul and Jim were seniors in high school when their father died. Upon graduation, Paul went to work at the furniture store, half of which was now owned by his mother, and re­turned there after World War II ser­vice in the Marine Corps. Jim, who graduated with Paul, went to work for Arnold Benson at the Batavia Herald printing shop and continued there for a number of years, except for time in the Army Air Corps.

 

In 1949 he told Benson that he was leaving to work in the furniture store, but when Benson told him that he would pay him the same salary if he would work for him half time, he agreed to continue on that basis --and he did so until 1953. Jim's and Paul's younger brother, Warren, graduated from high school in 1939. He went to work for the North­ern Trust Bank in Chicago and re­turned there after he got out of the Army. Later he worked for the First National Bank in Batavia until 1949, when he joined his brothers at the store. In 1947 the three brothers pur­chased Johnson's interest, and changed the name of the store to Hubbard's Home Furnishings.

 

The first years of owning the store were very demanding, both of time and of effort. With Warren working at the bank and Jim spending half-days in the printing shop, the three of them would return to the furniture store af­ter dinner. In those days they did ev­erything at the store; cleaning, or­dering, delivering, and keeping the books. For some time they had no car, but later the three of them shared a Plymouth, which they bought from Larry Favoright. Jim explained, "In the early days when we had only one truck, we would go back down to the store at night to get deliveries ready for the next day and load the truck. We came down the next morning at six o'clock and would maybe drive to Oak Park and deliver furniture up to the third floor, then drive back to Batavia in time to open at nine o'clock."


The store was open six days a week, with no vaca­tions the first years, and very little time off. But, as Paul made clear, "None of the three of us ever worked on Sun­day. We didn't care what happened but we wouldn't work on Sunday." One of the first things the new own­ers wanted to get rid of was the "hot stove league," which had long been a part of Hubbard & Johnson, like many "general stores."

 

Back when they were young, they recalled, "the town's notables, including Joel McKee and Van Burton, would come in to discuss politics and whatever else needed to be discussed. Our father and uncle would take part if they were not busy. There was a pipeless furnace in the basement with a metal grate over it, and those sitting on the long green bench next to the grate could look down and see the furnace. One of the first things we did was to take the bench out so the visitors had to stand up. We just didn't think this type of thing was conducive to running a re­tail business, although it had been fine years before -- when the store was also a polling place where people came to vote."

 

After Paul joined the business, he went to the floor-laying school Armstrong had in Lancaster, Pennsyl­vania. He laid floors for a long time. That was back when times were tough, and they would lay floors for almost nothing--just to sell the floor covering. Later they hired Jiggs Anderson; he did a lot of floor and tile work, much of it in Wheaton and other places. Hubbard's never had its own carpet layers; they contracted for that.

 

Each morning before the store was opened, the three brothers would meet over coffee, in later years at McDonald's. repeatingAwardPic.jpg

Much of the planning and many of the decisions took place there, often recorded on paper nap­kins. People used to kid them because they bought only one roll--and War­ren would perform the surgery to di­vide it into three parts. Warren was especially good at the financial end, but the three talked over everything. No decisions were made without them all participating.

 

They added to the store five times. Ernest Gabrielson put the first addi­tion on --about 4,000 square feet on the south side fronting Batavia Av­enue. The next two additions were to the back, with a second story. Then they bought a house in back, to the east, and tore it down; this gave the store a driveway to Water Street. Later they bought a building owned by Frank Pierson of the Batavia Dairy Company. Paul said, "You couldn't bargain with Pierson on price. We asked him about it, and he told us what he wanted. We thought it was a bit much, but we found out there were other people in the wings ready to jump in, so we bought it."

 

This building was first used as a warehouse and later as the "lemon" shop. It now houses the highly successful business interior operation, which is run separately from the home furnishings store. With these additions, the property now takes in all the space behind the store down to Water Street except for the building that houses a small print shop.

 

Gradually, after the three brothers took over, Hubbard's narrowed its se­lection to furniture, carpeting and win­dow treatments supplied by many dif­ferent manufacturers, including Ethan Allen based in Danbury, Connecticut. In the beginning, Ethan Allen would only sell them end tables. Later, see­ing potential in the area, Ethan Allen expanded its offering to include a va­riety of furniture styles, accessories, carpeting and draperies, and in 1969 Hubbard's made the commitment to carry exclusively the Ethan Allen line.

 

The initial order involved several car­loads of furniture; they arrived at the old CB&Q depot on the east side, which has since been moved and is now the Depot Museum. Gone are the days when "shirt­sleeved salesmen" sold the furniture. Hubbard's hired its first interior de­signer, Ellie Dunlop, in the 1950s. To­day there are six designers who help customers, often with the aid of com­puters. Some of them have been em­ployed by Hubbards's for as long as fifteen or twenty years. Presentation is the key element of Ethan Allen Gal­leries, and walking through the store is like taking a tour of a 45-room man­sion.

 

Initially business came primarily from Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles, but the market has expanded greatly over the post-war years. Jim started keeping track of customers by their zip codes, so they could tell where their business was coming from and where to spend their advertising dollars. The number of zip codes cov­ered had passed 60 when the store still had one truck and a van.

 

Today, the separate business interiors opera­tion is multi-state, having done, for example, offices for Aldi all over the country. Another Generation in Charge A new generation has now taken over the Hubbard's operation. Ronald, Jim's son, joined the firm in 1972 after finishing college. Paul's son Robert came aboard in 1977 after complet­ing college, a few years in the Army, and five years in Ethan Allen's corpo­rate offices in Danbury.

 

In 1984, Bob and Ron purchased the corporation. It seems safe to say that Batavia will continue to have a Hubbard's as we pass the millenium and beyond.


What's Doing at the Museum

by Carla Hill, Director

 

What a great year we had at the museum--wonderful groups, in­creased attendance, especially on weekends, and an ever-increasing group of volunteers!

 

The museum would never be able to operate without our volunteers. We had a great fall trip and anticipate a won­derful Christmas Party. Chris Winter and I are working on many projects this winter. The Society has entered into an agree­ment with Gerry Dempsey of Batavia Enterprises for a storage room in the Newton House base­ment.

 

This area will give us a place to move may of our non-archival items such as extra storage boxes, books, pamphlets and sales items that take up so much needed space upstairs at the museum.

 

We will also be working on a display using the Ruble donation and the many rail­road artifacts in our collection.

 

We have ordered the microfilm printer/reader and are finishing up the information for the history plaques that will be placed around the Riverwalk in the spring. We look forward to an exciting year in 1999, with many new and exciting exhibits and programs.

 

I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and look forward to a great new year. If you are interested in volunteer­ing at the museum, contact me at 879-5235 or Kathy Fairbairn at 406­9041.

 

The museum will reopen Mon­day, March 1, 1999.

 


Our Library over the Years

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With the recent approval of bonds to build a new Batavia library, we thought it would be interesting to look back at the history of our library over  the years.

 

For much of the story that follows, which reveals that controversy regarding the library site is nothing new, we are indebted to the late Roberta Campbell for articles in her book Batavia. 1833-1983 and to John Gustafson's Historic Batavia.

 

A story published in the December 18, 1904, issue of the Batavia Herald tells us that the library had its origin with a group of students at Batavia Institute, which was housed in what became Bellevue Place.

 

In 1860, these students adopted a resolution as follows: "The undersigned, S.L. Coffin, Weston McCullough, C.H. Starkey, Mary L. Wolcott, Marion E. Canfield, Salem B. Town, Aaron Hageman, Amelia T. Brown, D.W Bradley, D.W Starkey, P.B. Smith, WA. Wolcott, Eliza J. Partridge, Ella J. Osgood, Howard Mann, Maggie Rockwell, L.C. Johnson, Olivia C. Patterson, Wm. H. Burnham, Ida G. Thomas, LM. Voorhees, S.A. Wolcott, J.e. Patterson, Ellis A. Beach -- do hereby certify that they are anxious of forming a Library Association for mutual improvement and the purpose of acquiring and holding such property as shall be necessary to carry out pursuance of an act entitled 'An Act for the Incorporation of Benevolent, Educational, Literary, Musical, Scientific, and Missionary Societies, including societies for mutual improvement and for the promotion of Art.'"

 

Despite the name of the new association, it appears that the early years of its existence were devoted prima­rily to literary pursuits, "though there was some property, consisting of Appleton's Cyclopaedia and a few other books." A succeeding library association was formed in 1869, with prominent Batavians in charge --S.L. Coffin, president; J.C. Patterson·,· vice-presi­dent; M.E. Canfield, secretary; and WA and SA Wolcott, librarians. Life membership dues were $5, with a yearly tax. With this money, books began to accumulate, stored initially in an upper room of the Harvey Block on South Batavia Avenue (the home until 1989 of Johnson's Drug Store).

 

Meetings were held in the residences of the members, and a librarian was elected each year. Later, when the matter of a free li­brary and a reading room came up, the library was moved to the Buck Block (on the Batavia Avenue site of what is now Windmill City Discount Liquors), with F.H. Buck named librar­ian and Emma Bristol his assistant. These developments in 1873 marked what the library considered to be its real beginning. The library then had 384 volumes; by 1882, after the Good Templars donated their library, the number of books had grown to 1,040.

 

J. Van Nortwick, A.T. Snow, D.C. Newton, N.W. Young, W.S. Burnham, and F.P. Conde were elected direc­tors. The first money received from town taxation was at the rate of one mill. The library was moved in 1885 to the Van Nortwick frame building on the island. Margaret Twining became the librarian, in charge of the collectio' that then totaled 4,436 volumes. The next move in 1902 became embroiled in the City Council's plans to extend Wilson Street west of Batavia Avenue to Lincoln Avenue.

 

It is worth digressing a bit to provide the background of this controversy. The home of the late Levi Newton, founder of the Newton Wagon Company (see story in January, 1998, issue), stood proudly at the head of the Wilson Street hill, on the west side of Batavia Avenue, blocking the street's exten­sion to the west. Immediately to its south was what is now Gammon Cor­ners, while adjacent on the other side stood the present Newton House, built by Levi Newton's son, Don Carlos. With Levi and D.C. Newton both dead, the two Newton residences were in the hands of the heirs, chief of whom was Mrs. Don Carlos (Mary) Newton.

 

As reported in the Daily Herald, "a Com­mittee (of the City Council) was ap­pointed to ascertain from Mrs. Mary Newton the price of her property that would have to be vol40Num_1_4.jpgtaken (to extend Wilson Street west). The Commit­tee reported to the council that they had spoken to Mrs. Newton in regard to the matter and that she asked $10,000 for her property. The Coun­cil regarded this high, and therefore further negotiations were dropped."

 

The community, Campbell reports, was not happy about the barrier to the street's extension, and the Council must have reopened some

discus­sions. Apparently, however, it delayed action too long because in Septem­ber, 1902, the Herald announced: "Mrs. Mary Newton carried out the wishes and plans of her husband, the late Capt. D.C. Newton, by present­ing [the Levi Newton home] to the li­brary Directors.

 

The gift was accepted with thanks." So here the library stood, blocking the extension of Wilson Street because, as Campbell tells us, "once established in the 'neat, spa­cious, brick structure with modern conveniences,' it stayed for 20 years." We can well imagine the growing frustration over the years of those who believed Wilson Avenue should and must be extended westward. But nothing happened until May, 1921, when the township held a special election to approve $8,000 in bonds to buy the library building.

 

The result: Men for 281, against 138; Women, for 212, against 41. "One cannot help wonder­ing why the votes of men and women were tabulated separately -- and speculating whether the vote showed that women cared more than men about the cultural opportunities that a library afforded. Or, could it be, that men were more concerned about what the $8,000 in bonds would do to their property taxes?

 

In any event, the new library was opened to the public in November, 1921. And where was it located? Next door, in the former home of Don Carlos Newton. Apparently there was more to the acquisition than the $8,000 raised in the bond issue. On January 4, 1923, the Herald reported that "a trade was made with one of the New­ton heirs [in connection with the move] to the present spacious quarters." As far as we know, the details of the en­tire transaction are, as the saying goes, "lost in the mists of time."  

 

Batavia now had a new library that would serve it well for the next sixty years. And, the Herald proudly re­ported, "This magnificent structure is owned and paid for by the Township of Batavia and is not a gift from Carnegie or any other millionaire, with a lot of 'strings' tied to it." Pride is fine (especially after the fact), but it occurs to us that some Batavians, especially the large number of men who voted against the bond issue, might have been willing to accept a library as a gift, "strings" and all.

 

Following demolition of the former library, a headline read: "WEST WIL­SON STREET OPENED TO PUBLIC AFTER BEING CLOSED OVER 50 YEARS." As an aside it is interesting to note that, according to an an­nouncement, "the parkway will be used for ordinary traffic only and heavy trucks will not be allowed the use of the new street for the present." We wonder how long that lasted. Probably during Cassie Stevens' tenure as librarian (1911 to 1938), her sister Clara was in charge of an east side branch. According to our Histo­rian, Bill Wood, this branch was ini­tially located in the basement of the DuFour/Peckworth house at 114 North Washington Street, which had a walk-in entrance on the south side. Some time between 1940 and 1942, it had moved to a frame two-story building on the East Wilson Street hill, next to Pinoke's Men's Wear store.

 

When it was closed in 1955-56, the branch librarian, Harriet Chamberlain, transferred to the main library. The next main library move, in 1981, was to the present building on the cor­ner of Wilson and Lincoln streets, where it has operated for the last sev­enteen years --and will continue to do so until the planned and recently ap­proved library, greatly enlarged, will return to Batavia Avenue, occupying the site of the former junior (and be­fore that the senior) high school.

 

As Campbell noted, librarians have, for the most part, found steady em­ployment in their jobs. In the 125 years since 1873, there have been only seven. Following Buck and Twining Cassie Stevens served from 1911 to 1938. Miriam Johnson, succeeding Stevens, was the librarian, beloved by all, until 1973 --35 years! After Jane Gray Morning's two-year tenure, Sally Bast served from 1975 until 1991, when she was succeeded by the present librarian, Margot Cooper.

 

Wherever it is located, whatever changes will be made, and whoever is in charge, Batavians can look forward in the years ahead to the same high level of service that our library has provided for the past 138 years.


 


 

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

by Helen Bartelt Anderson

 

We are again fortunate to have one of Helen Anderson's always popular stories about growing up on a farm in Batavia township in the early 1900s.  The subject of winter and snow is particularly timely for this issue.

 

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In the bleak mid-winter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard
as iron, Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter,

Long ago. 

 

Christine Rossetti 1830-94

 


 

 

I remember a winter around 1920-21 when zero degree weather with much snow and icy winds seemed to be the norm. This meant pure misery for all of us. One fairly warm place to be was in the cowbarn where the large animals' body heat and warm, moist breath warmed the frigid air, but the odor of their breath combined with the odor of wet and messy straw discouraged long visits. The cattle were kept most of the time in the barn, only being out long enough for Papa to clean the barn and put in fresh straw bedding.

 

This was also a problem because the straw stack was covered with ice and snow. This procedure was a twice-a-day necessity so the cows would be clean for milking. Papa gave all the animals extra food, especially corn. Horses did not mind the cold so much, nor did the pigs and chickens, but cows would stand in the barnyard with their backs humped up waiting for the door to open, so they could get back into their warm barn to munch on hay or silage.

 

 Water was also a serious, difficult problem. Ice in the water tanks had to be chopped out and fresh water put in for all the animals. Papa or Fred (who lived with us) had to pump the water by hand. (No electric pumps nor heaters.) Papa had a Challenge Windmill, but the fan often frozen on real cold days. Papa bought a gas engine to pump the water, but one of the first times he used it, it kicked and broke his arm.

 

In the mornings Papa loaded the milk into the bobsled and covered the cans with horse blankets. Then he wrapped Roger and me in heavy blanktest and dropped us off at school on the way to the dairy in Batavia, a mile and a half away. Papa wore a wool stocking cap and a wool scarf wrapped around his neck and across his nose and mouth. His breath caused his eyelids and brows to be covered with frost. Also, the frisky horses had frost around their nostrils  as they trotted through the deep snow (no snowplows).

 

At that time in a one-room school the teacher had to do everything; however in frigid weather a school board member or neighbor would come at night and "bank" the coals in the heater with coke and nearly close the damper so the fire just smoldered all night. By the time my brother and I got to school, early each morning, we would find teacher, Agnes Nelson, already there putting kindling wood in

 

the heater and blowing on the glowing coals to coax a blazing fire. Then she would add chunks of wood and coal. If the strong wind blew snow into the woodshed through the cracks, it covered the chunks of wood. It took a lot of kindling wood and corn cobs to get a good fire going. Children wore long underwear, usually part wool, buttoned down the front with dropseat in the back. The dropseat was fastened with three buttons. It was very hard for little fingers to get those three buttons unbuttoned "in time" when it was bitter cold and they had waited until the last minute to make that trip out back to the outhouse.

 

At school the plain wood floor, seats and desks were so cold that we stood around the heater and read our lessons. Trouble was the front part of us would be boiling while the cold from the rest of the room chilled our backs. On such cold days Miss Nelson would make creamed macaroni or hot chocolate on top of the heater. It sort of made up for other discomforts. School was dismissed early because of very dark days. Teacher helped bundle us up for the walk home. The hardest part was putting on those black, cloth overshoes with four buckles.

 

Even though the teacher helped us, it was still a struggle because they had to go over our shoes. When the snow had drifted and the wind had packed it really hard along the fence lines, we were able to walk on top of the snow, which was great fun. School Helen, her brother Roger, and friend was only about a quarter of a mile from home. Some children had to walk much farther.

 

At home the wind seemed to come right through the walls. Mama rolled up towels and laid them on windowsills and pulled the shades down. Rag rugs rolled up by the doorsills helped to keep the cold out. (We do the same today.) The kitchen stove helped to keep us warm as we ate soup, sitting by the open oven door. The smell of Mama's good vegetable soup, corn muffins and ginger bread made us forget about the icy wind and snow drifts higher than either Rogeror I.

Life was better at home than at school.

 

For one thing there was a commode decorated with roses, at one end in Mama's long closet. That was a real blessing even though Mama had glued flannel around the two holes in our little outhouse with the crescent moon on the door. Mama's closet had a door at the front that led to Mama and Papa's bedroom. The door at the back led to the hallway.

 

We seldom have those frigid, blizzardy days anymore, but the memories we old timers carry in our minds and hearts are very real and precious.

 


 

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What Was Batavia Like in 1896

 

Marilyn Robinson recently found a piece describing Batavia, in Swedish, in a November, 1896, Batavia Herald. The

paper's editor thought that Swedish-born Batavians might wish to send the article "across the Ocean to their 'FatherLand.'"

 

Because most Batavians today, even those of Swedish extraction, would have difficulty reading the original,

Dorothy Patzer, with the help of a cousin from Sweden, provides us with this translation.

Batavia is one of the beautiful towns next to the Fox River, situated at the river's romantic and fertile shore, surrounded by rich and fertile land, in the southeast part of Kane, one of the exclusive places in Illinois with numerous and well-being

population.

 

Batavia is situated 35 miles west of Chicago, seven north of Aurora, has gravel roads, electric lights, excellent water pipe

system with an artesian well at 1,300 feet deep and with a water supply of 300 gallons a minute. Furthermore, we find

excellent schools, fourteen churches, beautiful and comfortably furnished homes and stores, apartments, and a good public library.

 

Batavia's commercial and manufacturing advantages are big, and there are 120 commercial shops and seven industrial

factories, that employ over 1,000 workers. The town lies on fine stony ground, and there are actively six good stone mines.

Good train connections being the C&NW and CB&Q railroads. Batavia has intelligent and forward ambitious authorities and its inhabited by hospitable and energetic people.

If you therefore wish a pleasant home and a good place to establish an industrial enterprise that shall offer many profits,'-come

to Batavia, where you will find valuable assistance and be heartily welcomed by inhabitants and the Herald.


BATAVIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY 1998 ANNUAL REPORT

 

History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we

are. History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstances. We are not makers

of history. We are made by history. The unrecorded past is none other than our old friend, the tree

in the primeval forest which fell without being heard.

 

Not so for Batavia. Batavia was settled by Christopher Payne in 1833 and much has transpired from then to

today. Fortunately, John Gustafson did much to research and report the events of those formative years.

The Batavia Historical Society was incorporated on April 30, 1960 to carryon this work .. The

purpose of the Society shall be: to discover, preserve, and disseminate knowledge about the City of

Batavia and Batavia Township, and the region in their immediate vicinity; to collect and preserve

papers, books, records, photographs, and other items of historic interest; to encourage the

preservation of historic buildings and monuments and provide for the suitable identification thereof;

to publish articles, pamphlets and books related to the history of Batavia and its immediate vicinity;

to receive by gift, bequest, purchase or other means, monies, property and historical artifacts; and to

hold meetings and other activities to provide for the dissemination of information of an historical

nature; and to foster interest in the history of Batavia.

 

We thought it would be of interest to you to hear of the activities of your Society during the past year. Your

board has held 5 meetings during the year and members have spent many hours on projects.

There are currently about 360 Memberships, consisting of individual, family, junior, business or

institutional memberships--some being Life memberships. Memberships come from Batavians and those

who have moved to other parts of this country and thereby retain an interest in Batavia. About 110 new

memberships have been received during the past year.

 

The Depot Museum, moved to its present site in 1973, is open 5 days a week from March through

November displaying artifacts from Batavia's past for viewing by the public. Behind the scenes, members

also are busy storing, identifYing and maintaining records on the many artifacts, records and pictures that

have been donated to your Society. They maintain obituaries of Batavia's citizens for future use. Books

and artifacts concerning Batavia are on sale in the Museum.

 

The Historical Society participated in the Cemetery Walk in conjuction with the Access Committee. People

acted out the lives of seven people from the Civil War who are buried there.

 

Members of the Society assist with requests that come from other parts of the state and nation to help with

genealogy requests where there are roots in Batavia. An example from last year was a Dr. Brandon Clifford

from California who had a diary of a Capt. John Hedges and was looking for Capt. Hedges' brother, Isaac,

who was indicated to have been a civil war soldier and buried in Batavia. With the help of a member and

the Cemetery Staff, the head stone was located, showing date of death and age and a verse about this

soldier.

 

A major project was undertaken to go through old probate records of the county to remove records

pertaining to people who lived in Batavia, primarily probating of wills and estates, which records are now

located in the Museum. This was a 5 year project completed in 1998.

 

We are grateful that Batavia's Arlene Nick has donated a complete set of The Windmill Herald, which she

published, to the Society. It is the intent to microfilm those for future reference. During 1998, your society

has received over 50 donations of money, artifacts or pictures. One of the members is writing an article on

Batavia History for the Chronicle every third week under the caption of the Batavia Historical Society.

The Society continues top plaque homes in Batavia and has revised the procedure to make it easier for those

with homes over 100 years old to qualify.

 

A slide presentation has been prepared and is available for presentation at other organizations showing 60 homes in Batavia that have been so designated. There were three Junior membership activities which involved participation from about 12 members. The activities they participated in were to help set up the medical display in the Museum, learning how to preserve artifacts and acting as docents at the museum.

 

Your Society is having historical plaques made to be placed on the RiverWalk showing views and

descriptions of businesses that were once located there and had a place in Batavia's History. A microfilm

reader and printer are also being secured as an aid in maintaining and using historical records. A grant for

these two items has been applied for and approved by Kane County from the Victoria Boat Funds.

The long range planning committee recommended that there be a committee structure established to do the

work of the Society and to seek more participation.

 

As a result, program, public relations, finance and membership committees are in the process of being established and members are being asked to participate. Plans are being made to hold "Heritage Round Tables" to discuss aspects of the history of Batavia with those who have input and interest. This committee is pursuing expansion possibilities for the Depot Museum for much needed display and working space, but remaining in the present area.

 

The Batavia Historian is the society's newsletter which is published four times each year and contains

articles of historical interest about Batavia. In late 1997, the Society issued the book "John Gustafson's

Historic Batavia, written by Marilyn Robinson and Jeffrey Shielke, and sales continue.

 

Copies are available.

 

Three membership meetings were held this past year, beginning with last years annual meeting, a meeting in

June with Marilyn Robinson and Jeff Schielke speaking on their experiences in writing the book just

mentioned, and a meeting in September regarding the plaqued homes, a narrative and picture.

 

There will be 4 Membership meetings in 1999 as follows:

 

March 21 Grand Forks Restoration Trip

 

June 13 Batavia Main Street Program

 

September 19 To be announced

 

December 5 Acorn Coffee Shop (A Band)

 

We thank those who have participated in the activities this past year and believe that 1999 will be a very progressive year for your Society. As the days go by, history is being made each day. It is important that this history not be lost. It is important that yesterday not be lost. A society that wants to build the future must know its past, its real past, as it was.

We hope this has informed you as to how your Society is working to accomplish the purposes for which it was established. If you have any friends or neighbors who are not members, Jerry Harris has application blanks which you can give to them.

 

Thank you and have a happy holiday season

 

Richard A. Benson

Vice-President.

 


HIGHLIGHTS

General Meeting

 

December 6, 1998

 

- The nominating Committee, consisting of Georgene Kauth, Ollie Wolcott, and Gladys Larson presented a slate of officers as follows: President - Bert Johnson; Recording Secretary Kathryn Fairbairn; Treasurer - Jerry Harris; Trustees - Alma Karas, and Marilyn Robinson, They were elected by unanimous vote.

 

Vice-President Richard Benson presented a year-end report of the activities of the Society.

 

Future meetings were announced as follows: Sunday, March 21, 1999, "Grand Forks Restoration Trip;" June 13, "Batavia Main Street Program;" and September 19, topic to be announced later.


Board of Directors Meetings

 

October 8, 1998

- Jerry Harris reported there are 360 members of the Society. The following committees were established: Public Relations, Membership, Finance, Museum Store, Plaquing, and Program with subcommittees--Special Events and Heritage Roundtable. Approval was given to lease space in the lower Swanson House for $50.00 per month for a one-year period.

 

December 8, 1998

- Plaque was approved for the Buttrey Wolfe office building on First Street.

- Approval was given to publish a manuscript written by Robert Barnes, entitled Christopher Pavne, 1786-1871, American Pioneer, A summary of his life and times. The manuscript will be available for sale by the Society under generous terms set forth by Mr. Barnes.

- Heritage Roundtable on memories of experiences in the Batavia Schools prior to 1970 will be held on January 19, at 2:00 p.m.

- Proposed new By-Laws were discussed. No action was taken at this time. The By-Laws will be presented to the entire

membership for consideration and action sometime in the future.


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Batavians I Have Known -Alma Hendrickson

by Elliott Lundberg

 

Alma Hendrickson was born in Sweden in 1874 and came to Batavia with her parents in 1882. Her father was a tailor and found a job in Aurora to which he walked every Sunday and walked home every Saturday. Her mother stayed home, took care of the family and also dug the basement for the house they built.

 

When Alma first came to Batavia and did not yet speak English, she got a job with Miss Fanny Partridge, who took in teachers as boarders at her home at the South East corner of Main and Water Streets. Alma re­ceived 50 cents per week and learned one lesson which she never forgot when she was caught running her fin­ger around the edges of a newly frosted cake and licking her fingers.

 

When she grew up she married Paul Hendrickson, and they had three children -Richard, Carl and Paul. Her husband, Paul, died in April of 1901 leaving Alma with two boys 5 and 3 years old and a six-month old baby who died in 1903. Alma took in boarders, worked as a cook and baker and raised her two sons. She also helped raise her grandson Paul Hendrickson, as he lived with her for some time. She became the cook at the Little Traveler, ­where she worked for many years.

 

She also catered the Kiwanis Club dinners and other gatherings. My mother worked for Alma at the Kiwanis Club during the Depression and we would wait up for her to come home, as she brought home some of the left­overs, quite a treat.

 

Alma died in 1967 at the age of 93, having been a widow for 66 years and having spent a very productive life.


 

Fun for All at Annual Meeting

by Richard A. Benson, Vice President & Program Chairman

 

The annual meeting of the Batavia Historical Society was held on December 6, 1998 at the Bethany Lutheran Church. A potluck dinner was enjoyed by all. About 140 members attended. Co-president Bert Johnson called the meeting to order after dinner and sociability had been enjoyed by all. The minutes of the last general meeting of the Society were read by

Marilyn Robinson, secretary pro-tem, and approved by voice vote.

 

Georgene Kauth, chairperson of the nominating committee, presented the following slate of officers and directors for election, to serve for the next two years:

 

Co-presidents Bert and Ruth Johnson

Treasurer Jerry Harris

Secretary Kathryn Fairbairn

Director Marilyn Robinson

Director Alma Karas

 

All were duly elected to serve. Richard Benson, vice-president and program chairman; Georgene Kauth, corresponding secretary; and directors Carole Dunn, Tim Mair and William J. Wood have one year remaining on their terms of office.

 

Co-president Johnson related that William Hall would be retiring as a director at the end of 1998, with Alma Karas replacing him in that capacity. Bill has also served as editor of the Batavia Historian and has done an excellent job in seeing that an interesting and informative issue comes out four times each year. He will continue in that capacity. The Society expresses gratitude to Bill for a job well done.

 

Vice-president Benson presented the Annual Report, relating the activities of the Society during the past year and plans for the future. The entertainment for the evening was "An Organ Christmas Sampler" by Karl Bruhn on the newly renovated and expanded organ at Bethany Lutheran Church.

 

He described the features of the Aeolian-Skinner organ, how it was acquired in 1953, and the basics of how the organ operates. He favored the Society with Christmas numbers demonstrating the various features of the organ.

 


A Batavia Alderman's Badge in Texas

by William J. Wood

 

As many of you know, the Society's His­torian, Bill Wood, handles many requests from those seeking genealogical or other information from Batavia's past. And, as some may know, he records in a weekly bulletin what has happened to him during the course of that week.

 

Here is an inter­esting excerpt from a recent bulletin, ex­actly as Bill noted it. A retired lawman in California col­lecting police badges and shoulder patches bought (in Texas!) a police­style badge (star) reading "Alderman, City of Batavia, 1926-1932" and en­graved with the name "Edouard Coreay" on the back.

 

He sent photo­copies to the Batavia Police Depart­ment; they passed it on to the Mayor, who said, "I have a job for you," as he passed it on to me. Both he and I recognized the name immediately -­ E.C., of Spanish heritage, born in England in 1879, came to Batavia in 1910 to work for the Appleton Wind­mill Company as cost accountant / de­signing engineer / superintendent - ­retired in 1933.

 

Served several terms as alderman; president of Batavia Savings and Building for 20 years. He lived in my block until his death in 1965. No children, no relatives other than a nephew in Batavia --how did the badge wind up in Texas?

 

If only it could talk!

 

 


 

Join Your Friends and Reminisce

Tuesday, January 19

 

On Tuesday, January 19, the Batavia Historical Society will host its first Heritage Roundtable.

What time? 2 p.m.

Where? The Bartholomew Room in the Civic Center.

 

What Is the Heritage Roundtable?

 

It is a gathering of persons interested in reminiscing about the topic of the

day -- one that relates to some aspect of Batavia's history. Anyone who wishes

is invited. The topic for our first meeting will be "Batavia Schools before 1970."

Topics of later meetings will depend largely on suggestions from attendees.

 

What Will Be the Structure of the Meeting?

 

The meeting will be loosely structured. There will be a moderator, and we

will ask a few people to kick off the discussion by relating their experiences.

From that point, the meeting will be open to stories -- classes, teachers, classmates,

etc. -- or questions by those in attendance. It might be characterized

as a loose but focused bull session.

 

How Often Will We Have These Meetings?

 

That depends on you. You might call this first meeting an experiment. If

there is sufficient interest and attendance and enough topics suggested we

can have one every two or three months.

 

Why Are They Scheduled in the Afternoon?

 

We think these Heritage Roundtables will be of primary interest to seniors,

many of whom no longer work and prefer meetings during the day, especially

in bad weather or during the winter. We plan to make transportation available

for those who would otherwise be unable to attend. We will cover this in the

mail announcement you will receive.

 

Will a Record Be Made of the Meeting?

 

We plan to tape the meetings so that a transcript can be made for the

Society's archives. Although we are primarily interested in providing informative

entertainment for our members and anyone else who wishes to attend,

an important by-product will be a permanent record of recollections about

matters discussed.


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