Volume Thirty-Three

No. 3


May 1992




Our vice president, Marilyn Robinson, has planned a most interesting program for our meeting next month.


Date:               Sunday, June 7, 1992

Place:              Bethany Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall

Time:               2:00 p.m. (Note change from the usual 3 p.m.)




"Tragedy on the Oregon Trail" in which the grandson of Christopher Payne, Batavia's first settler, sacrificed his life to help save victims of the Oregon Trail's longest Indian attack.




Dr. Robert Barnes, a Batavian and member of the Society, has had a long-time interest in western history which lead him to investigate a little-known story involving Geneva residents and their disastrous trip along the Oregon Trail.  This dramatic presentation tells of the longest Indian attack on the trail and the part that descendants of Christopher Payne played in the attack.

The public has been invited to this program so bring your friends and neighbors.  As the program lasts about two hours and we hope for a larger than usual turnout, the earlier starting time of 2 o'clock and the change in location to Bethany Lutheran Church seemed wise.  

As usual, refreshments will be available following the program.




to all those who volunteered to help sell tickets at the Antique Show; to Bob Popeck for offering to share the task of winding the old high school clock at the Museum; and to the new Museum hosts and hostesses.


Remember, May Lundberg always is in need of additional people to act as Museum hosts.  


If you can spare two hours every month or two, call May at 879-3660.




Mary Anderson


I was the third generation of the family that operated the Anderson business at the corner of Batavia Ave. and Wilson St. It was started in 1882 and lasted until 1972 --- a span of ninety years: Oscar for 31 years, William L. for 31 years, and Mary for 28 years. My grandfather, Oscar Anderson, was born in Sweden in 1845 and came to this country when he was twenty-nine. He first worked on the Burlington Railroad tracks.  


He married Anna Samuelson who came from the same part of Sweden and they built a home in Big Rock as the Burlington went through that village. A son, William L., my father, was born in 1878. After several years they moved to Batavia and built the home on West Wilson St. where their daughter, Stella, was born.


Oscar had a sister who married a John A. Anderson, and the two men (brothers-in-law) were in business---side by side for many years.  John sold groceries and Oscar dry goods. In his book, Historic Batavia, John Gustafson wrote that it was rumored ten men put in a dollar each to start a business venture, but after much bossing and controversy it failed.  


Oscar and John A. rescued what was left of the venture and established the business they operated for years under the name of Anderson Brothers. They did a lively trade on the west side as the "Swede Store." They first built a small frame building on the corner of Batavia Ave. and Wilson st.


After ten years they moved it to the corner of Houston and Harrison streets and then built the red brick building which still stands. My grandfather, Oscar, ran the dry goods business in the south half of the main floor.  He often went to Chicago on the Northwestern Railroad from its depot in Batavia.  


He not only bought supplies for his store but also made special personal purchases for customers. Many Swedes came to this country during this time and family members sent for their relatives. Both my grandfather and my father were agents for the Swedish-American and Cunard Steamship lines.


I was only five years old when my grandfather died in 1913.  I remember him only slightly such as when he gave me a set of doll dishes for Christmas or when I asked him for a nickel. At the time of his death, my father was the Assistant Cashier at the First National Bank. He left the bank to take over his father's business.  He had married Emily Harleen and had moved into the house on Wilson St., as Oscar had built a house across the street.


"Emily & Will" had nine children---six boys and three girls---and I am one of them. My father worked in the store during World War I, the great depression, and World War II. My sister Virginia and brother Leonard worked in the store with my father during the depression when jobs were hard to find.


John A. Anderson operated his grocery business in the north half of the main floor as he needed to be near the alley to load the delivery wagons. There was a freight elevator in the building as heavy sacks of flour and sugar, etc. were stored on; the second floor. There were many other businesses in the building through the years both on the upper floors and in the three stores that fronted on Wilson St. Some of them were Benson Furniture, Moore's Market, Dr. Hubbard, Dr. Downs just to name a few.  


David and Edgar, sons of John A., carried on his grocery business after his death for some years. I was employed at the Batavia National Bank at the time of my father's death in 1944.  I left the bank to run the business for my mother.  At this time she bought out the John A. Anderson heirs' half interest in the building.  When I first took over the business I carried on with many items, but as time went on I dropped items and concentrated on women's wear only.  


Through the years I had gone to Chicago with my father to the wholesalers to buy and had worked in the store on Saturdays when I was in high school. I carried my father's name for the business, "W. L. Anderson Shop," but townspeople called it "Mary's." When my mother passed away in 1961, I bought out her heirs interest in the business and continued it on my own until I retired in 1972.


Mr. Joe Marconi, a salesman from whom I bought several lines of clothing during a period of about twenty years, told me he was interested in buying the business, which he did in 1971.  


During the many years that I ran the business, I always seemed to be blessed with having many wonderful and faithful employees.






The predecessors of what present-day Batavia congregation:


1.  built the first church in Batavia?


2.  built its first church on a lot donated by Isaac Wilson located just north of its present building?


3.  built the first stone church in Batavia which later was sold to be used for a school?


4.  bought an old school for $800 to use as its first church?


5.  had its first church blown down by a tornado a few years after it was built?


6.  bought the original Congregational Church to serve as its first church after that congregation had built a new building?





In Lucille Carlson's "Memories of Batavia School Days" in the last issue, she shared her remembrance of Dr. Storm with us.


I am certain many recall how startled, if not frightened, students were when his voice boomed out on his visits to our classrooms. Bert Johnson has shared the following letter he received from Dr. Storm.


It shows his kinder side that we students did not see but a side Lucille Carlson conveyed in her article.







1.   Batavia's first church was built in 1841 by what then was called the Presbyterian Church & Society of the Big Woods. It was located where Hubbard's store stands today. The congregation changed its name a few years later and is today's Congregational Church. Fifty-three subscribers contributed $471 in money, materials, or labor by signing a subscription to erect the building.


2.   In 1850 the first Baptist Church as built on the lot behind the present church. Prior to this, the members had met in various homes, a school, and in the Congregational Church.


3.   The Methodists built the stone building at the corner of First St. and Lincoln to serve as their first church.  It cost $6000. The building was later purchased by the West Batavia Schools and used at various times for elementary, high school, and vocational training classes. Today it houses an insurance office.


4.   Almost immediately after organizing in 1872, the Swedish Lutherans purchased a former school situated next to where their present building stands. It was no .longer needed by the school district as the old McWayne School (then called the West Batavia School) had been constructed to serve the west side.


5.   The Episcopalians built a church on the southeast corner of Houston and Lincoln on a lot donated by Jospeph Orr McKee in 1856. Within a couple of years it was totally destroyed by a tornado and the congregation did not have another church building until its present facility was built as a donation by John vanNortwick.


6.   Fifteen years after organizing, the Catholic parishoners purchased the original Congregational Church (see #1 above) in 1860. The building was enlarged and improved. It served the parish until the present Holy Cross was erected.


Note:  Data for this quiz was derived from the notebooks of John Gustafson. Prior to having a facility in which to worship, the members of churches met in private homes or rooms in various business buildings.


Another quiz on other early churches is planned for a future issue of the newsletter. 


What weighs about 11b -- can travel 50-60 miles per hour -- and can find its way home from 500 miles away without a compass, a road map, or by asking directions of anyone?


Hint:  It's covered with feathers. Answer: a Racing Pigeon!


In a recent issue of this publication we told you about a Batavia Racing Pigeon Club. John Michelson, a former Batavian now living in Florida has furnished us with further information. Read on. "The club was called the Aurora-Batavia Pigeon Club. Batavia members included Carl More, John Van Burton, William Eckblade, John Van Nortwick, three brothers, Sherman, Gene and Francis Anderson, Bert Hunt, Al Hunt and John Michelson.


Another member was the caretaker at the Fabyan estate. His name was Tony so he was called Tony Fabyan. His pigeons flew from a loft which still stands near the crossing of Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway. Mr. Michelson continues, "We had birds start racing at 5 miles -- then 10, 15, 20 and 35 miles. We would take them out ourselves.  


The first real race was 65 miles. We would take the birds down to Ditman's Grocery.  He had a club room there and we would register them -- put on numbered rubber countermarks on their legs. Then when the birds came home from the race, the owner would put the countermark in a clock which registered the time telling who had won the race. Diplomas were given for 1--2-- 3 places -- also whatever money had been bet." "Races of 100--150--200--300-400-500 600 and 1000 miles followed.  


I won 2nd place in a 500 mile race -- the bird came home that evening after being released that morning." Mr. Michelson concludes by saying that he was in the Signal Corp in World War II. Pigeons were used by the Air Force and he took a flock of them by train from Baltimore to Bakersfield, CA -- feeding them and taking care of them all the way.


John Ramos, a current Batavian, informs us that a Pigeon Club still exists and has a total of 18 members. Official races of 600 miles for old birds and 400 miles for young birds are held every year.  


The above article is from our most frequent contributor, Joe Burton. You can look forward to yet another in one of the next issues.



Do you recall the days of this type of "free enterprise"?