THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN

Volume Fifty

No. 1

 

www.bataviahistoricalsociety.org
January, 2009

  Ben Hansford’s Story
(The basis for this story is an interview with Ben Hansford conducted Nov. 6, 2007, in the home of Sandy (Hansford) and Rick Eckblade.  Bill Hall and James Hanson conducted the interview which was audio taped.  Mr. Hansford’s wife, Florence, was present, along with his niece, Sandy Eckblade, her husband Rick, and grandson James of Batavia.) 

Ninety-five-year-old Ben Hansford loves to tell stories about his younger years.  Though he’s lived in Elgin for many years – and before that in Huntley – most of his stories center on his years in Batavia and surrounding communities.

A short question can trigger a tale of growing up, going to school, building houses, buying and selling cars, and working for 20-cents an hour.

Ben was born Nov. 18, 1913, on the Rowcliff Farm on Deerpath Road, west of Batavia.  He was the second son of Pauline and James Hansford. His brother, James, was born two years earlier and two other brothers, George “Johnny” and Glen “Spid” were born a few years later.

“It was a long time ago,” he says about his birth. “Mrs. Tillie Rowcliff was in attendance at my birth.”

When he was 2 years old, the family moved to a 160-acre farm on Krecher Road, about one and a half miles south of Long Grove in Lake County.

“That house was old and had a dirt floor in the basement,” he remembers.  “No electricity, no telephone, no running water.  There was a privy in the back yard and a hot coal stove in the parlor; we had a cook stove in the kitchen.

“All the farm work was done with horses and we milked 45 or 50 cows by hand.”  Like many youngsters of the era, he began working early: “When I was 6 years old, many times my dad would be busy in the fields. He would load the cans of milk in a spring wagon, pulled by a team of horses and I would deliver the milk to the creamery in Long Grove.”

He walked a mile and a half to a one-room school on Arlington Heights Road.  “I did good in school,” he says.  “When I was in the third grade, we had a spell-down and I lost to an eighth grader.

“When I was in fourth grade, we moved back to Batavia and I went to the (old) Louise White School (at Washington Avenue and State Street).  I was doing fifth-grade work; I was way ahead of the kids down here.”

The family lived on a small farm on the northeast side of Batavia.  “It was called the Eastview Place,” he remembers; the Bowron family had been living there.

“My dad milked nine or 10 Jersey and Guernsey cows and delivered the milk in town with a 1914 Model T pickup.  I learned to drive this truck when I was 10 years old and did minor repairs on it.”

Three years later, the family moved to Good Templar Park in Geneva.  “I was in the seventh grade and went to the Sixth Street School in Geneva,” he recalls.  “I graduated from there on June 8, 1928.  Then I went one year to Geneva High School.  We moved back to Batavia before the school year was out, so I used my brother’s car to finish the year in Geneva.

vol_50_1.jpg

 

“I told my dad I didn’t want to start the second year of high school in Batavia.  Dad said if I quit school, I had to go to work, so I got a job at the Howell Company in Geneva.  I was 15 years old and the law said you had to be 16 to work in a shop, so I told them I was 16 and got the job.

“I didn’t quit school because I couldn’t learn.  I was always smart in school.  I quit because I didn’t have any spending money and that’s why I went to work.”

 

Going to work

“I worked in the machine shop for about a year. Charlie Hanson was the boss. I earned 20 cents an hour and we worked nine-hour days, six days a week. My weekly pay was $10.80.”  He worked overtime on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights and this added $1.80 to the week’s wages.

“After about a year, the foreman in the sad iron department was going to retire.  I was asked if I wanted the job; I would get a 5-cent an hour raise, to 25 cents an hour. I said ‘yes.’  There was one other worker in the department, Sophie Yusk of Batavia.

“I would shift weights in the foundry in the afternoon to help them out.  Then they closed the foundry and they were making metal plates in the foundry room.  My department was terminated. I worked in the plate and hand-paint departments at different times.

At age 22, he got work at Burgess Norton in Geneva.  “I started in the hand screw department,” he says.  “Evar Lindgren was the foreman.  I worked there about a year and told Evar that I had to make more money.  He said, ‘You’ve worked at every job in the department and made top money.’  All the pay was piece work in that department, so the only way I could make more money would be for me to get a job in the grinding department.

“I started by grinding the ends of piston pins and rough grinding on a centerless grinder.  I did that for about a year and a half and then got promoted to be a finish grinder on a centerless grinder.

“And that’s when I started working nights every-other week until I left Burgess Norton in 1946.  I told

my superiors that I wanted to quit working nights; they said I couldn’t work days.  There were two grinders who’d worked longer than me and they were still working nights.

“I told them I was going to leave and they told me to take a leave of absence so I could come back at any time.” vol_50_2.jpg

 

Other jobs

Mr. Hansford was always looking for ways to make money:

“Ray Collins and I hunted clams in the Fox River,” he says.  “We would walk in the river in bare feet, feeling for the clams.  When we found one, we would reach down and get it out.  We sold the clam shells to a button factory in Batavia.”

“Once, we went to Savannah, Illinois, and bought a truck load of watermelons.  We tried selling them house-to-house but didn’t sell very many.  There was a carnival on the west side so we got a booth and raffled them off.”

In 1933, while working at the Howell Company, a number of workers were laid off. Mr. Hansford thought of a way to work. “I borrowed money to buy a Diamond T truck,” he says, “and hauled coal from a mine in Wilmington, Illinois, to Chicago.  When the winter was over there was no more coal to haul, so I was out of a job again.

“Ray Collins (who later became a Batavia alderman) and I decided to dismantle cars for the metals and whatever parts we could sell.  We did the dismantling in Val Fitch’s gravel pit on South Van Buren Street.  We didn’t have a torch to cut up the cars so we used a cold cut and sledge hammer.

“At the same time, I was buying and selling cars at home.  Whatever work was needed to get them saleable, I did it.”

 

A wife, family and place to live

“In 1934, I was working at Walker Laundry in Aurora as a night watchman.  I married Lillian Hotopp and we lived in an apartment in Aurora,” he says. “Our daughter Janice was born in 1937; our daughter Sharon in 1939 and our daughter Carolyn in 1942.

“In 1940, we were living at the corner of Park and Madison streets in Batavia. I built a house at 446 Madison Street.  I dug the basement with a team of horses and a slip scoop.

Al Shandor had the horses and helped me dig the basement.”  

 

(Editor’s note: Mr. Shandor lived near Eola Road and in the 1930s collected Batavia’s garbage.)

 

“My father-in-law helped me make the forms for the basement walls. I borrowed a cement mixer from George McDonald and with some help from friends poured the basement walls on a Sunday.  I did all the building except the plastering, the fireplace and the chimney.  I did the hot water heating and hard wood floors in all the rooms.”

Bill Hall recalled that the house built by Ben Hansford had been identified as a Sears House in a previous issue of The Historian. Mr. Hansford called him to say that he had built that house himself with a hand saw, a hammer and a square.

 

A love affair with autos
Mr. Hansford’s early experience with automobiles laid the foundation for much of his working life.  While he had other jobs, cars were

In 1934, after he was married, a friend, Julius Carlson, offered to him a chance to sell used cars on one end of a lot he owned at New York and Ohio streets on Aurora’s east side.  “He offered to let me sell my used cars at one end and he would sell his newer cars at the other end,” Hansford recalls.  “So I sold there until 1936 when I went to Burgess Norton.”

In 1940, he rented Bustard’s Gas Station on North Washington Avenue and also sold used cars there.  He also was working as a grinder at Burgess Norton.

“In 1943, I bought the gas station which included land from Washington Avenue west to the Fox River.   Later, I built a house down on that property and did all the work myself.”

After World War II, he also built a new gas station and garage along Washington Avenue.  He sold the old station vol_50_3.jpgand Belding Movers moved it to Pine Street in Geneva, where it became a residence.

“A fellow from St. Charles laid the blocks and Sandy’s dad, Johnny, had gotten out of the service and helped mix the mortar and stuff.  We put the roof on ourselves.

“After I quit Burgess Norton in 1946, I ran the gas station and bought and sold cars but still wasn’t making as much money as I wanted.  So I rented the gas station and went into the used car business.

“In the summer of 1947, I bought out two brothers who had a used car lot at Spring and Lincoln streets near downtown Aurora and moved my business there.”

He needed cars for his lot so he went to an auction in Dyer, Indiana, and bought an Oldsmobile with an automatic transmission.  “I had the car a few days and the transmission went out. That was my first – and last – car purchased at auction.  From then on, I went to small dealers in the vicinity to buy cars.”

 

Settling in Huntley

 

One day, I was in Huntley and bought a 1940 Plymouth from George Dolby who owned a dealership.  I asked him if he might want to sell out and he said, ‘Yeah.’  So I bought him out in October 1950. I sold the dealership in Aurora and the garage and gas station in Batavia but kept the Batavia house.

“In 1954, a man offered to sell me land on Route 47 in Huntley to build a Chevrolet dealership.  I drove from Batavia to Huntley for a year and a half and Chevy put pressure on me to live in Huntley.  That was their policy.”

His wife didn’t want to move and they were divorced in 1957; Mr. Hansford said it was a friendly divorce.

In 1960, he bought a farm west of Huntley, built a house on the land, dug a lake and a couple of ponds.  He married Florence in 1969; they had known each other for about four years.

In 1983, after he’d had a heart attack, he sold the business. He and Florence continued to live in rural Huntley until 1989 when they moved to a house they built in rural Elgin.
A man of many talents

Though he worked hard – often at two jobs – Ben Hansford had many pastimes.

As a youngster, a lot of his free time was spent near – or in – the Fox River.

“Table Rock was at the end of Lathem Street,” he recalls.  “It was a limestone slab that tilted into the river.  We used to go there nights, sometimes before I’d go home, and go skinny dipping in the river.”

He also was baptized in the river.  “I was about 9 or 10 years old and we were living in Batavia and went to the Brethren Church and I was baptized in the river.”

Niece Sandy Eckblade asked if he ever swam in the Quarry.   “No, our place was the river,” Hansford remembered.  “We used to ice skate on the pond.  In 1933, when I was laid-off from work, we did a lot of ice skating there. 

“And, I used to take my ’26 Chrysler down to Table Rock in the winter and drive it out on the ice and go up and down the river in the car.” vol_50_4.jpg

He remembers ice houses along the river, too. “Swanson had one and Mr. Parse,” he recalls.  “I don’t know if Parse owned the ice house but he stored his ice in there.  I remember they had a team of horses out on the river cutting the ice and that’s when I decided I couldn’t drive the car on the ice.

“The ice houses were on the river at the end of Gore Street, between the railroad tracks and the river.”  (Editor’s note: At that time, the Chicago & North Western Railway tracks came down on the east side of the river from Geneva.  That right-of-way is now part of the Fox River Path.)

 

“They used sawdust on the walls of the ice houses to keep the ice from melting.  Joe Kresser had an office in one of the ice houses for quite a while and I remember when he tore them down, but I’m not sure of the year.  In the summer of 1927, Jerome Parse – his dad owned the business – used to come with the horse-drawn ice cart.  We used to get chips of ice from him.”

 

Ben, the athlete

Mr. Hansford bowled for many years.  “I was bowling with the Moose team starting in 1942,” he remembers.  “I bowled with Johnny Kielion, Paul Stone, Johnny Ramus, Ray Rogers and Rod and Raymond Kielion at the Bowling Alley in Batavia.”

When he began bowling on the Moose team he was not a Moose member.  “I joined the Moose in 1943 because you had to be a member to bowl on the team,” Hansford says.  “I was a Moose member for 59 years.”

He notes that he never had a perfect 300 game, but had some good ones.  When he was in Huntley, he was entertaining some Chevrolet personnel at a restaurant and they had several drinks that afternoon.  About 5 p.m., someone asked if Ben wasn’t supposed to bowl that night.

“I went home, changed clothes and bowled almost a 300 game,” he says with a smile.  “It was the best bowling I ever did in my life.”

 

He started playing the accordion when he was 80 years old and in his earlier years, sang with a group.  “I sang with Lenny Guth, Will Schimelpfenig, Beets Schimelpfenig, Red Bowron and Cully Carlson,” he adds.  “But we sang just for the fun of it.”

He and his wife, Florence, go dancing about twice a week.  They used to go three or four times a week.  “We love to dance,” Ben says.  “We danced all over Wisconsin and got to Iowa, Minnesota and Arizona.”

As a teen-ager and in his 20s, Hansford played ball on some Batavia teams.  “I played softball on the Vanity Theatre team and hard ball with the Kenny Peddy team,” he explains.  “We had a softball league and played on a diamond on Delia or Hamlet street on the east side and on the football field on the west side sometimes.  One time we played the American Legion team and they beat us something awful.

On May 6, 1932, he and some friends were planning a pick-up softball game on the east side field.

“We went over to the diamond and I remember getting out of my car and walking to the diamond and coming back and telling the boys it was too wet to play.  Harry and Bob Schroeder were with me.  I got back in my car and that’s the last thing I remember.”

He says he drove his car to pick up Harry Schroeder’s 1929 Chevy Convertible Coupe and the men were driving down Van Buren Street.  At the intersection with Spring Street, the coupe collided with Glenn Crane’s car. Schroeder’s car then hit a tree and Hansford was thrown from the car taking the side door with him.  “I lit on a picket fence and got a hole in my side and a brain concussion,” he recalls.

“Harry Sloggett and Mr. Rumsey put me in a police car – it was a 1930 Ford two-door sedan – and took me to Community Hospital.  Sherm Frydendall was the cop.  The guys said I was lying on the sidewalk bleeding to death.  The car had a rumble seat and Bob Schroeder and Ralph Beebe were in the rumble seat but nobody else in the car got hurt.

I came to at the hospital the next morning and was in the hospital about five days.”

Fortunately, he recovered completely – that’s why he’s still remembering his Batavia years and sharing his stories. 

 


In the last issue, I asked readers to send in stories about winter fun in Batavia. 
Here are my recollections along with those of former Batavian, Steve Nelson.
From the Editor 

A recent trip to Fabyan Park brought back many memories for me.  With the windmill standing tall against a beautiful blue sky, it was a picturesque morning accented by the sounds of children sliding down the hill, giggling, laughing and in some cases, squealing all the way.It made me think of my own childhood experiences of sledding down the beloved hill.  Fabyan now has a winter fence to keep the sleds from going into the river.  That was always the goal when I was a kid.  My grandfather would sharpen our sled’s blades each winter so that we could go down the hill fast.  Little did he know that distance was also part of the plan.  The sled that went the farthest onto the river was the sled that truly had blades of steel that could go the distance.  We would also sled on the street in front of our house.  It was a nice hill and we would barricade the block off and all the kids in the neighborhood would come.Sometimes my mom would let us hook our sleds to the back bumper and she would pull us around the block.  What was she thinking?  It was a much slower time then and there wasn’t much traffic, but no excuses.  vol_50_5.jpg
However, it sure was fun.  We skated on the river and it was a great place to meet friends.  There always seemed to be a fire in an old oil drum but I never saw anyone tending the fire. 
On very cold days, some parents would stay close by so that the car heater could warm numb hands and feet.  It was always nice to have an audience to see newly acquired skills, like skating backwards or doing a challenging figure eight.At home, we would build snow men, the bigger the better.  As we got older our snow men turned to sculptures, a bulldog, a teddy bear.  Some adventuresome kids tried their hand at snow architecture.   My mom worked for Erik Ridderstadt and we often spent time at the Ridderstadt home. 
One winter, the Ridderstadt sons, Stephan and Lars were building an igloo and asked my sister and me for help.   We carefully shoveled the snow into boxes and made the large cubes for the igloo.  Then we dragged them to the igloo and the boys stacked the cubes of snow to construct the snow structure.  They taught me a lot about building igloos, especially when Lars announced, “No girls allowed!” after the igloo was done.
In our last issue, I asked Historian readers to send in their recollections of winter fun in Batavia. 
Steve Nelson was kind enough to share his memories.  “I grew up in the forties and fifties and I remember great times skating on the pond and even venturing all the way up to Fabyans.  The ice would crack and make noise and we would quickly skate to shore.  This often happened on the wider part of the river just north of the dam.“We would also play games such as “Crack the Whip”.  Sometimes the “whip” had 20 or
more people in it!  You didn’t want to be at the end.
vol_50_6.jpg
“Ice hockey was another game we played on the north end of the pond. We really didn’t know the rules of hockey but we still played the game.  We would “borrow” wooden sticks (Used to make slotted floors on refrigerated trucks) from Batavia Body Company.  Some of the sticks were six to eight feet long.  The puck was a chunk of ice.  The object of our game was to knock down as many people as we could without getting wiped out by the other guys.“One winter, probably in the early 50's, Denny Swanson, Norm Freedlund and I decided to take a toboggan down the old quarry steps.  There was a landing halfway down which entailed a right then left turn. 
We couldn’t manage this maneuver and we smashed the toboggan.  If I remember right, Denny broke his arm in the process.“Denny managed to get another toboggan from the hardware store that his dad owned, and soon we were right back at it but we didn’t try the quarry steps again.  “We often took our sled to Wolcott’s hill and sled from Rt 31 all the way down, over the railroad tracks, down the pier and a final drop to the river, sometimes reaching the mid-point of the Fox.  We would sled and skate all winter long and it seemed like we had endless days of snow. 
 These are my memories of winter in Batavia.  It sure was a whole lot of fun!” 


 

Helpful Hints

 

      You can trace who lived where in Batavia by researching the City and County Directories.  These were in place of the phone books we know today, and not only listed people by surname, but also included a numerical listing, street by street, so you can follow the change in neighbors over time.  The City Directories obviously only covered the families within the city limits, but companies also occasionally printed county directories that listed the homes in the townships outside the city limits.  These directories are available in the Gustafson Research Center.  Directories go back to 1911.

 

When trying to track down a previous residence or do a history on a Batavia Home, remember that Lincoln St was previously known as Washington.  Also, the streets in Batavia were re-numbered about 1949.  To find the house prior to that time, it helps to check the Directories just after the number change, identify the names of the neighbors, and then follow those same names back in time. 

 

Membership Renewal Time
It’s that time of year again.  Enclosed is an envelope for you to send in your annual dues renewal.  Memberships expire each year on December 31.  Those who joined after June 30 last year, your membership is current for 2009.  Please use the renewal form on the last page, or download the membership renewal form from http://www.bataviahistoricalsociety.org/memform.pdf.
Membership News - October to December 2008
New Members 
Carol Johnson, BataviaKenneth Johnson, Lee, IL - gift from Don CarlstedtGene Baum, Lanark, IL - gift from Shirley PetersonNicholas Bratherton, Batavia - gift of Rose BerndtsonEarl D. & Arlene Martenson, No. AuroraMark & Kathy Neely, Batavia - gift of Bob & Sue PetersonGloria & Fred Holbert, Lincoln, NE - gift of Bob & Sue PetersonBob and Barb Sinclair, Batavia - gift of Mike and Carla HillStanley & Karin Johnston, Batavia - gift of Phyllis Thelander
New Jr. Member
Kyle O’Dwyer, Batavia – gift of Georgene and Dr. John O’Dwyer 
New Life Members
David Peebles, Batavia - gift of Rempe-Sharpe Consulting EngineersRev. Michael Rasicci, Batavia - gift of Sally Trekell, Batavia

 

Save the Date
Next General MeetingApril 5, 2009 “Writing Your Life Story”Sammi King
Please help us with the next issue of the Historian.  Send us memories of the Quarry.  Please send your thoughts to the editor at king60510@aol.com, or mail them to The Batavia Historian, P.O. Box 14, Batavia, IL 60510. 

The City Electrician – Fred Jahreiss
By Marge Holbrook

Fred Jahreiss, one of Batavia’s early city electricians, was a German immigrant who learned “on the job.”

He was born in Germany in 1883. When he was just 16 years old, he immigrated to the United States with his 18-year-old brother; their parents refused to leave Germany.

 

vol_50_7.jpg
Fred and his brother entered the United States through Ellis Island where they were quarantined for quite a while.  His brother traveled to Western New York state where he bought a vineyard and sold grapes to wineries. Fred decided to come to the Midwest and the two brothers never saw each other again after they parted.

Fred learned to read and write English and began working with men who were electricians. A book about electricity which he used often, is well-marked with his notes, and signed with his name and dated.  It has been donated to the Batavia Depot Museum by his granddaughter, Charmaine Myers of Aurora.

 

The years that Fred Jahreiss was the Batavia electrician are not precisely known. But it is known that he wired the first house in Batavia to have electricity.  The house, at Main and Washington Street (now Lincoln Street) was owned by D. Burnham.

 

“He wired many homes that were marking the transition from kerosene or gas lights to electricity,” his granddaughter says. “And he wired most of the downtown buildings, including Schielke’s store.”  (This three-story limestone building, originally Kinne and Jeffrey, was at the intersection of Wilson and South River streets, directly east from what is now Valley Community Bank. Mayor Jeff Schielke’s grandfather, Herman Schielke, owned the store for many years.) Fred Jahreiss also wired some new homes built in Batavia.

 

 

 

Much of the information about Mr. Jahreiss’ electrical skills was written in a 50th wedding anniversary story which appeared in The Aurora Beacon-News in 1945.

On May 14, 1895, Fred Jahreiss married Caroline Berberich who had been born in Batavia; she was seven years younger than her groom.  The couple traveled to Aurora by horse and buggy to be married by Pastor Ernest Buhre, a Lutheran pastor who had once served Batavia Lutherans.  (When he served part-time in Batavia, Pastor Buhre sometimes traveled from Aurora to Batavia by handcar on the Aurora Branch Railroad.  The handcar was pumped by his Aurora parishioners.)

After their wedding, the couple returned to their home on Cleveland Avenue in Batavia where they lived their entire married lives. Caroline Jahreiss had been born in a house in the same block and lived her entire life on Cleveland Avenue.

The anniversary account called Fred Jahreiss a “civic-minded man whose hearing is impaired and his knees are not too limber, but in good health and good spirits.”  He told reporter Jeannette Smith that “I never thought I’d live to be this age.”

After he stopped working for the city, Fred Jahreiss worked for The Challenge Windmill Co. and also as custodian for the Knights of Pythias Hall in the 100 block of South Batavia Avenue.

“Even though his knees were bad, he walked from his home on Cleveland Avenue over to the KP Hall,” Myers recalls.  “And he mowed his own grass. When I was a child, I used to walk beside him while he mowed, and then when he stopped to rest, we would sit on the porch and drink lemonade.”

 

Myers remembers her paternal grandfather as “six-feet tall, a big, broad-shouldered, handsome man with a mustache. My dad was disappointed because he was short like my grandmother.”

Fred Jahreiss died in 1946, about 10 months after his 50th wedding celebration; his wife lived until 1955.

Often referred to as the city of Energy Batavia was one of the first cities in the area to have electrical power.  Batavia Historian Marilyn Robinson writes this story from Batavia City Council minutes by Edwin Parre in 1966.
WHEN ELECTRICITY CAME TO BATAVIA
Condensed by Marilyn Robinson, 2008  

It was March 30, 1891, just 8 or 9 weeks before Batavia became a city.  A city hall and the dynamo building had been built as well as the machinery installed, poles erected, wires strung and electric light bulbs screwed in their sockets.  All was ready for the critical moment when electricity would come to Batavia. It had been two years since the dream first came to Batavia.  The town had had kerosene street lamps for some time.. These lights might have been better than no lights at all, but their weak gleams couldn't have lighted the path of the traveler very far. vol_50_8.jpgAurora had electric lights as early as 1875.  This may have influenced Batavians. 
Aurora had installed 2000-candle power lamps on the top of ISO-foot towers, sixteen of them.  The lights on these high towers lit up the skies better than the streets, so in 1886 the city lowered them.  Batavia chose the lower poles from the beginning. A vote taken on April 16, 1889, on whether Batavia should install electric lights resulted in 614 ayes, and 44 nays.  Citizens evidently realized the value of these new-fangled lights. The Town Board of Trustees immediately went into action, appointed a special visitation committee to visit other cities that had electric plants and recommended a plant similar to the one at Clinton. (Mr. Parre didn't say which Clinton, in which state.) 
The Street Lighting Committee was instructed to draft specifications for a plant like the Clinton plant.  This committee had oversight over the plant for a number of years.  Its highest priority seemed to be "not to spend the public's money." First, a place near a railroad in which to build a plant was needed.  A lot owned by John VanNortwick on Island Avenue at the foot of First Street seemed ideal.  Another committee was appointed to confer with Mr. VanNortwick to see if a lot that the City owned elsewhere (location not disclosed) could be exchanged for his Island Avenue one.  It could, with $300 to boot, so the lot was acquired. 
In August of 1889, a contract was let to James F. McMaster, a local contractor, for a city hall and dynamo building for $4,018, plus foundation walls for $12.50 per cord." One thing worried the city fathers for several years.  There were no private concerns that made and sold electricity at the time.  This meant towns had to make their own, and that brought on problems such as "Did the village have the authority to do electric lighting for commercial uses?" Finally the town board decided to go ahead even if they might be challenged later as to their right to produce electricity.  In September of 1892, a motion was carried to determine if anyone could legally file an injunction against the city causing them to cease the selling of commercial electricity. 
In 1901, the council passed a resolution that said that since Elgin had decided that the law allowed them to operate a public utility to furnish light for commercial purposes, it would be all right for Batavia to do so as well.  They would quit worrying. Plans and specifications had already been drawn in July of 1889 for the steam engines and two boilers for the plant.  In August, a contract was let to the Westinghouse Company for an electric light plant; they were to put in 115-132 candlepower streetlight incandescent lamps for $6,800.  Since lighting of the streets had been the main purpose for building the plant, it was only run for a few hours each evening at first. In October 1891, the Street Lighting Committee reported the cost to be too much to make extensions to light the new Swedish Church (Bethany Lutheran).  The city made no heed to their recommendation.
That same month H. N. Wade and S. A. Wolcott requested that the city plant run all night.  The Challenge Co. asked the city to furnish lights for their shops.  Later other factories followed suit. Now the city was furnishing commercial electricity and going beyond their original purpose of lighting the streets. In March of 1892, the City emphatically stated that if anyone wanted the plant to run after midnight for their private benefit, they would be charged $1.00 for the first hour and $2.00 for each additional hour. Two months later the Street Lighting Committee recommended that the City make extensions to the electric light plant from time to time as was necessary to furnish commercial light to parties wishing them, provided the expenses of any connection was not too great. 
They also recommended that a limit of 3,000 lights be set as the present capacity of the plant.  At this time, F. Jaheriss, was the fireman at the plant.  His salary was $55.00 per month. The use of electricity increased quickly. In June of 1893, the Street Lighting Committee was instructed to extend the street lines on all streets to the city limits.  The next month, the plant was run until 2:30 a.m. to accommodate persons returning from the World's Fair in Chicago.  By November, the plant was run all night.  At that time, Allie Parre was appointed fireman at the City plant with a salary of $35.00 per month.  He eventually became plant superintendent. The voltage of the lights at this time was only 50. 
Some of the customers changed their house voltage to 100.  This necessitated a change in transformers and sometimes meters.  It was decided that in such cases, the customers had to pay the cost of the changes. In 1900, more extensive uses of electricity were requested.  Some of the customers, especially the factories, wanted to use it for power.  The Electric Lighting Committee recommended that power for running motors, elevators, etc., in factories should not be approved. In November 1900, the Appleton Manufacturing Co. located their factory in Batavia.  As a concession, the City furnished them drinking water and electric lights in their buildings for five years for $1.00 per year for each of the utilities. In March 1901, the City requested that the Chicago Telephone Co. give Batavia the right to attach to their telephone poles at least one cross arm, pins, and insulators and to string them with electric service wires that belonged to the city-and for free.
Finally on October 15, 1906, fifteen years after the initiation of the first electric light service in Batavia, the Council granted the request of forty petitioners asking that the City furnish both electric light and power to those desiring it during the day as well as the night. Batavia still operates its own plant and sells electricity to its citizens.
vol_50_9.jpg