Volume Thirty-Seven

No. 4


October, 1996


The Challenge Company . . . and its people 

Personal Reminiscences by Elliott Lundberg






Do you know where this building is?







This building is on Thresher Square, 208 S. Third, Minneapolis, MN. Like the Challenge Company in Elliott Lundberg's article in this issue, the Newton Wagon Company maintained an office in Minneapolis to serve the vast farming area north-west of us. As shown in the accompanying picture, provided by Bob Popeck, the building remains in excellent condition.







In the mid 1920s to 1929 the U.S., Challenge and Appleton windmill companies and the Newton Wagon Works were probably at their peak of employment and manufacturing. As the Great Depression followed, they never did recover, although World War II brought employment through war work. Well over 1,000 people were employed at these plants and the population of Batavia was a little over 5,000. Almost all workers lived in Batavia and walked to and from work. It was quite a sight at quitting time to see the hundreds of workers carrying their lunch buckets heading home, most of them walking east and west on Wilson Street.


This was before the repeal of Prohibition so there were no tavern stops. As with many Batavians, windmills were in my family's blood. My grandfather, August Lundberg, had arrived in Batavia from Sweden in 1887. Most of his working life was spent at the U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company. My father, John Lundberg, also worked at the U.S. (as it was called) most of his working life. My aunt, Freda Lundberg, started working at the U.S. in 1920, fresh out of high school. She became secretary to H.N. Wade, President of the U.S., and after his death worked there until the mid 1940s, about when it closed down. One of my sisters also worked at the U.S. for a time. In the mid 1920s we lived on Water Street, just south of the U.S. and I remember walking a couple of blocks to the U.S. to meet my father at quitting time to explain my misadventures of the day to him on our walk home so he could determine what punishment was required.

In 1938 I started work at the office of the Challenge Company.


By then business had improved some from the depths of the Depression, but there still were many 4-day weeks. Frank Snow was President and the old timers in the office were Maurice Marcuson, Bob Lewis, Art Clark, Sam Thomle, Ray McDaniels, and Frank Nelson, and a few younger men, Alan Larson, Harry Pierce, Charles Hoag and Ralph Ernzen, and also five women and three real young men, including me. No doubt very little, if any, of the machinery had been upgraded since the 1920s. Water power from the river was the main power source. The plant was electrified but water power was used wherever possible due to its low' cost. Money was in short supply. The average worker in the shop was paid 55 cents per hour. The Wood Room and the Foundry and Core Room were union, and at that time foundry molders made 92  1/2 cents per hour.


Electricity was being provided to many farms by this time so that in our area there was more demand for the #30 pump jack and the #45 deep well pump than windmills. Windmill production was still a big part of the company's business but mostly for the southwest and western parts of our country and for foreign shipment to Australia, South America and other places. Still there were plenty of windmills in operation in the country surrounding Batavia and also it was expensive to buy a new electric pump, and the depression had not really ended. Local farmers could not afford to buy new electric pumps or new windmills. As a result there were still a lot of old windmills being used, and many farmers came in to get repairs for their windmills, no matter how old.


Many repair parts were kept in stock, but if not a part could usually be provided. George Thrun (I believe he was the father of William Thrun, fire chief of Batavia for many years), worked in a room below the machine shop, which itself was below ground level. When a repair part could not be found in the stock room, I would take the farmer with his part down to see George Thrun. He was a short man with a large mustache and a German accent. He would usually find the part, but if not, he'd say that he would find the pattern and have one cast in the foundry. In 1940 parts were being provided for 50 year old open gear windmills. Any business was acceptable in those days.


Until production ceased, Challenge Company was selling a revised version of the Challenge 27 windmill, like the one recently erected west of the City Hall by the cut. Arnold Hall worked in the machine shop at the Challenge, where windmills were assembled, and he erected windmills which were sold by the company in this area. He recalled that the last windmill he erected was on the Charles Gould farm on Nelson Lake Road, probably in the early 1940s.


The Challenge Company had branches in Minneapolis and in Lubbock, Texas. Shipments of windmills and allied products were made to these branches by rail. There was a spur of the Chicago Northwestern Railroad into the Challenge yard. Many of the windmills going to Lubbock were for the customer Burdick and Burdick, and their name was stenciled on one side of the vane. The self-oiling windmill, whereby the windmill motor ran in a bath of oil, all enclosed in the head, was a great improvement and made its appearance in the 1920s. The Aermotor Company of Chicago was one of the first manufacturers of this type of windmill, and the most successful.


 The Challenge Company was slow in their development of the self-oiling windmill, and when the Model 27 came out, they were sued by the Aermotor Company for infringement of patent. The Aermotor Company won their suit, and I used to hear that it cost the Challenge $100,000, though I've not seen this amount verified. The Wood Room was located in the large two-story building at the north end of the factory. Staves and other wood parts of cypress and redwood were produced here for use in the manufacture of large wood water tanks which were sold mainly to companies and to municipalities and other institutions for water storage. John Carlson, a Swedish immigrant, was foreman of the Wood Room.


He was also 2nd Ward alderman. Almost every noon he would come up to the office before lunch hour was over for a discussion with some of the office men, in which he was usually defending his positions on affairs of the city council or a politi-cal discussion would ensue. I believe all of his workers in the Wood Room were Swedish, except Mike Kouzes. The Plating Room was located at the north end of the row of buildings which fronted River Street.


George Glasser was in charge of plating and had one or two other employees. South of the Plating Room, the Foundry and Core Room were located. Oscar Anderson, a Swede, was foreman of the Foundry, but he was more often referred to as the boss. More than once he literally picked me up and threw me out of the Foundry. He didn't always like the questions I raised, in line of duty. He was the boss. His son, Erik Anderson, worked in the Core Room - Erik's son is Kenneth Anderson of Cincinnati Bengal fame. Nick Hermes was foreman of the Core Room which adjoined the Foundry in the same building.


John Kershules was the cupola tender in the Foundry, Faith Rice (a black man) was his helper. In later years Faith Rice worked up at John's Tap in Geneva. When he came in the bank about the time of the Geneva Swedish Days parade, I always told him he should lead the parade in Geneva as he probably could speak more Swedish than anyone else in Geneva. He couldn't, of course, but he had picked up a bit of Swedish working in the Foundry since so many Swedes worked in the Foundry.


In addition to molding all the castings for use in the manufacture of Challenge products, the Foundry did a lot of work for other companies - the Chicago Pump Company, the Aurora Pump Company, the American Well Works, the Lindsey Light and Chemical Company, the Red Devil Tool Company and others.


Therefore, this was a very important unit of the Challenge, and the Foundry quite often had work when the rest of the plant did not. The Steel Tank Room was located just south of the Foundry. Gust Johnson was foreman and there were three or four men working there. They produced galvanized steel water tanks for use mainly by farmers for livestock.


I believe they also made the galvanized steel parts for the wheels and vanes of the windmills.


(Elliott's reminiscences - with names of many more old-timers - will conclude in the next issue. The Windmill Herald carried the introductory material in this article during the Windmillers Trade Fair last June.)


Don't Miss Out on The 5th Annual Cemetery Walk


The 5th Annual Cemetery Walk sponsored by the Heritage Committee of Access and the Batavia Historical Society will be October 6, with guided tours every half hour from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the West Side Cemetery. A rain date is October 13.


Congregational Church of Batavia - A Brief History


This is the first in what we hope will be a series of histories of the many churches in Batavia. Fortunately, as part of its Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1985, the Congregational Church published A History of the Congregational Church of Batavia, Illinois, 1835-1985. With the help of Ruth Burnham, who chaired the Sesquicentennial Committee, your editor has extracted from and abridged the wealth of information that booklet contains. Anyone who has an opportunity should try to find and read the fascinating story in full. Addressing the semi-centennial celebration of the Congregational Church of Batavia in 1885, Dr. William Coffin observed that the church was organized in 1835 "in another locality, was known by another name, and had a different denominational connection." He pointed out that the church "was formed in a log cabin, on the farm of Mr. Thompson Paxton, southeast of us, outside the limits of our township, outside the limits of our county even. It adopted the Presbyterian form of government and worship, and took, for a name, The Church of the Big and Little Woods."


14.jpgSince no church had been established by 1835 in their newly settled area, five early families met in a large room in the Paxtons' log cabin to organize one. Except for the Paxtons, all had recently arrived from New England, New York and Indiana. The Paxtons had been driven from their home in Tennessee because of their strong stand against slavery. As Dr. Coffin observed, their home was thus a fitting place for the organization of a church.


But why a Presbyterian church? Under an 1801 Plan of Union, the Presbyterian and Congregational churches had agreed to send mission-aries jointly into the frontier. Because of a prevalent notion that the Presbyterian mode of government was better suited to frontier life than the Congregational, missionaries came with specific instructions to establish Presbyterian churches unless a local congregation had strenuous objections. Although most of the founders of the Church of the Big and Little Woods had Congregational antecedents, they apparently did not have "strenuous objections" to becoming Presbyterians, as evidenced by the record of organization: "On Saturday, the 8th of August, 1835, Rev. R.W. Gridley and Rev. N.C. Clark visited the vicinity of the Big and Little Woods for the purpose of organizing a church of Christ.


The following per-sons presented testimonials of their good and regular standing in the Presbyterian church and gave a relation of their Christian experience: William J. Strong, Carolyn Strong, Elijah S. Town, Hannah E. Town, John Gregg, Thompson Paxton, Cynthia Paxton, Maria Paxton, Margaret Paxton, Thomas N. Paxton, Elizabeth Maxwell (married daughter of Mr. Paxton), John Sawyer and Elvira Sawyer. William J. Strong and Elijah S. Town were elected ruling elders. Sabbath, August 9th, after a sermon and short intermission, the elders elect were set apart to the office by ordination of E.S. Town, and installation of William J. Strong over this church. The church was then declared to be duly organized with the name of 'Big and Little Woods.' Thus a Christian church was organized and families, until recently strangers, were united in Christian fellowship and friendly sympathy to last through life."


From 1835 to 1840, the church had no house of worship and no regular, fulltime minister. The elders, however, seem to have been faithful in their work, and by August, 1840 the membership totaled 29. During that same period, considerable development had taken place in Batavia, and a dam and bridge had been built there. Accordingly, the members decided, in a meeting at the house of Sylvanus Town, to build a church at the river, near the bridge, in the village of Batavia.


The plans appear in the subscription paper: "We, whose names are hereunto annexed, do hereby agree to pay to Elijah Town, Sylvanus Town and Joel McKee, trustees of the Presbyterian Church and Society of the Big Woods, the sums set opposite our names for the purpose or erecting a house of worship for said society, to be located on the east side of the highway (now Batavia Avenue), a few rods north of Dr. Town's office, said house to be twenty-four by thirty-two feet.


This subscription paper payable one month from date, Batavia, Illinois, October 7, 1840." The sums subscribed, aggregating $401, ranged from two dollars to seventy-five dollars. Although the amounts may seem small today, those subscribing were mostly living in log cabins, with little furniture and only a few hard-earned dollars. Some eighteen months after the decision to move and twelve months after the dedication of the new church in Batavia, the Paxton family, along with several others, were dismissed to start a new church in the Big Woods. This latter church is Big Woods Congregation Church, which stands today on Eola Road, just south of Butterfield Road. During this same period, five other members were dismissed to start a new church in Aurora. On March 7, 1843, the Society was formally organized under the name of 'he First Presbyterian Church and - Society of Batavia, but the new name was to enjoy a very short life.


Issues that would ultimately lead to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery were , coming to the front. With churches in the South as well as the North, the Presbyterian church did not take an unequivocal stand on what, to those members of a largely New England origin, was a pressing question. On September 2, 1843, the Batavia church issued a strong statement outlining its position, with copies to various newspapers, including those in New York. In the same year, the membership voted to withdraw from the Ottawa Presbytery (Which was sympathetic to the Batavia views) and to seek fellowship with the Fox Valley Union of Congregational Churches. Although the church continued to grow during the remainder of the 1840s, it had difficulty recruiting and retaining ministers. A story told by Rev. G.S.F. Savage of St.


Charles that John Gustafson quoted in "A Supplementary Historical Statement" at the ire of the church's Centennial makes this abundantly clear:


"(The Batavia church members) were greatly divided on the question of old school and new school, pro-slavery and anti-slavery, old mission and new mission boards and could not agree in calling a pastor. To solve the difficulty they subscribed a $400 salary and sent to Andover Theological Seminary agreeing to accept any man the professors should send them, without a question as to his personal beliefs. The man they selected came, with his recently wedded bride, spent one Sabbath with the church, and the next Tuesday was in Chicago with his wife and goods on his way back to Boston." By about 1850, however, the church had grown enough. to be able to attract and support full-time ministers. Indeed it prospered enough that, by 1855-6, it needed and was able to erect the present church west of Batavia Avenue, between Wilson and First, that is familiar to all Batavians.


The lot was purchased for $960, and bids were solicited for construction. When the bids were opened, the lowest one exceeded the estimate by $2,000; however, the membership voted to proceed, lowering the height of the basement by one foot and deferring completion of the basement until a later time. Within a few months, the trustees were instructed to procure specifications and proceed with the construction of a spire if enough money could be raised. Evidently funds were forth-coming, and the church had a beautiful white steeple, similar to those gracing New England churches, until 1877 when a high wind toppled .it onto the Rockwell house to the south. A blind Rockwell child, who had been playing the piano just where the spire fell, only moments before the crash, escaped unharmed. The tower was rebuilt without a steeple.


The entire church, with appointments, cost $13,401.52. It was dedicated on September 1, 1856.


A History of the Congregational Church of Batavia, Illinois, 1835-1985 includes names and pictures of numerous persons who, over the years, played important parts in Batavia's history. Today we find their familiar names on buildings and streets throughout our city. A 1908 picture of particular interest showed nine church members, dressed in Grand Army of the Republic uniforms, who were among the survivors of the twenty-five from the congregation who had served in the Civil War. Sixteen members of the Sunday School had enlisted in one company.


At the time of the Centennial, John Gustafson wrote: "The record of this century of Christian service is one of men and women who have been devoted and loyal to the church and her Master. On January 27, 1929, a memorial service was held for Miss Alice M. Williams organist for sixty-three years and Miss Amelia E Brown clerk for forty-seven years. Former pastors, the Reverends Ira D. Stone, J.M. Hulbert and John EC. Green were present and gave tributes. Messages were read from the Reverends T.W. Harwood and T.M. Higginbotham. "


"To the names of these and other devoted women may be added those of Nelson Wolcott, Judge Samuel D. Lockwood, E.S. Bradley, I.S. Stephens, J.G. Brown, N.S. Young, L.A. Des Rosier, Wm. J. Hollister, E.C. Bradley, Wm. Coffin, S.W. Fowler, Joseph Felver and Joel McKee who so faithfully served the church in the last half of the century."

John Gustafson modestly neglected to include mention of his family, members of which had faithfully served the

church and the community since 1888 when Alice and Peter Gustafson moved to Batavia from Big Rock.


In 1963, the church purchased for $35,000 land north of the existing building for an addition consisting of classrooms, a general purpose meeting room, a chapel, church office and pastor's study. Chairman of the Capital Funds Campaign, which secured pledges for half of the cost, was Joseph Burnham. It was an exciting day for the church's 344 members when the cornerstone, enclosing the fingerprints of 138 church school members, was laid.


The next major change in the church's appearance came in 1974 when a crowd of several hundred people gathered to watch the lifting by crane and placement on the tower of the new spire, similar to the one toppled by the 1877 wind. It is the tallest point in Batavia and can be seen for miles, rising as a symbol of faith in the beautiful Fox Valley.


News and More -  Small but Important


Our Society, and Batavia in general, recently lost the day-to-day presence of one of our best loved members, Miriam Havighurst Johnson, who has moved to Evanston to live with her niece. Batavia's long-time librarian, its Citizen of the Year in 1966, and a Life Member of the Society, Miriam regularly attended all Society events and was a faithful volunteer at the Depot Museum up to the time of her move. We know she would welcome hearing from friends at 9310 Hamlin Avenue, Evanston, Illinois 60203.


As you have undoubtedly noticed, the Society uses a non-profit bulk mail permit in sending out meeting notices and newsletters. New requirements for sorting and labeling bulk mail are so complicated that the person in charge of that area at the Batavia Post Office wrote to those with permits: "To be honest with you, you will need to become a professional bulk mailer or take your mailings to a professional bulk mailer." He gave the names of three in our area, and we contacted the one in Batavia, Compulist Mailers at 879-5949. JoAnn Stevens, who operates Compulist, generously offered to handle our mailings at no charge other than postage. Only someone who has worked on the mailings in the past, even before the recent changes, can appreciate the effort involved. As a small token of our appreciation of JoAnn's contribution, we have extended her a family membership.


We regret to report that we have lost, through death, two long-time members, Helen Johnson (a member since 1961) and Esther Sloggett (a member since 1960). Our deepest sympathy goes to their families. Does your address label have a yellow dot? If so, it means that, according to our records, you have not yet paid dues for 1996. We would appreciate your current support of our growing program. Didn't you enjoy Helen Anderson's and Elliott Lundberg's reminiscences in this issue? Surely you have some of your own to share with our readers. They can be long or short; we can even start a "Letters to the Editors" column if you want to follow up on someone else's story that we have printed. Send whatever you have to Bill Hall, 345 N. Batavia Avenue, or call him at 879-2033.


In summarizing the accomplishments of the late Arthur Swanson in the last issue, we stated that he was mayor "during the years in which the groundwork was laid for what is today our Government Center and the River Walk." Jim Hanson, who was then an alderman, has written us that this gave Art Swanson the wrong -- and possibly too little -- credit. As Jim informed us, "The property on which the Government Center, Riverain and the River Walk are located was purchased ... during Bob Brown's first term as Mayor, four years after Art left office.


"Among Art's achievements while Mayor one could list the development of the shopping plaza (Walgreen's, etc.); redevelopment and filling in of the area now occupied by Pinnacle Bank, Harris Bank, McDonald's and the Batavia Professional Office Bldg.; annexation of the large industrial area along Fabyan and Kirk Roads; and being instrumental along with Phil Elfstrom in securing the financial support of a number of businessmen to save what is now the Depot Museum for Batavia when it was about to be sold and moved out of town." A historical society should be accurate, and we are glad to clarify Art Swanson's accomplishments -- and, at the same time, to give Bob Brown his due.

Museum Doings

by Carla Hill, Director


The museum has had a very successful summer. Attendance has been very high, and we saw a great number of families who were participating in the Museum Passport program. This is a very successful program which is sponsored by the Kane Dupage Regional Museum Association, and it continues to grow each year. We have over 45 museums and historical sites participating this year. The museum now has a computer on site which will help us with the prepara-tion of label text and information for the various displays. We are making many changes upstairs and will be working throughout the fall and winter to get things re-organized.


Our new sales items have been a great success. I have also purchased a few copies of the book, "Great American Railroad Stations". The Depot is among the stations listed in the book. On Monday, August 5, Georgene Kauth and Marilyn Robinson hosted a group of residents from the Holmstad at the museum. This was a very successful open house and gave us some new members. Georgene has already mentioned the possibility of scheduling an-other tour for those who were unable to get on the bus. The painting is continuing at the museum and many of you have probably noticed the new walls that were being constructed on the lower level of the building. This project will be followed by some new landscaping which will give the museum and the area a very fresh new look.


I am currently scheduling third grades from the Batavia schools, and we have recently completed a new exhibit entitled "A Peek At The Past", the history of the early Batavia School system and the one room schools. This year's Christmas ornament, which each of the museum volunteers receives at the Christmas Party, will feature the Congregational Church. The additional ornaments will go on sale November 1. The museum volunteer fall bus trip will take place in October and we will be sending out the announcements in the next few weeks. Anyone interested in becoming a museum volunteer, can contact either self at 879-5235 or Kathy Fairbairn at 4069041. Come join your friends -- it's fun!

Historic Records Project Needs Your Help

A Plea by Marilyn Robinson


Volunteers are still needed for the Kane County court records project at the Campana Building. We are making progress, but still have 85 boxes to sort (about 6-8 months of work.) Here's the good news. The 85 boxes are from the 1880s and 90s and are very interesting. The bad news -- they are almost all handwritten and slow to sort. Our summer crews have been sparse. With fall, it's hoped that all our regulars will be back on the job. New people are welcome. It takes only a few minutes to learn how to do the work. We work every Thursday (except holidays) on the third floor of the Campana Building.


It's a long climb, but a good aerobic workout. Batavia's shift is from 12:30-3:30 p.m. However, you'd be welcome at the 8:30-12:30 shift as well. This has been a long chore for all the Kane County historical societies but well

worth it to preserve and index these materials for future researchers. Every town has learned some interesting his-tory that was buried before we began. We've learned the history of the short-lived "Batavia Tribune" and the exact birth of the town's water system -- a date that can't be gleaned from governmental records.


Our regular summer volunteers have been Kathy Fairbairn, Bill Hall, Elliott Lundberg, and myself. A non-society member, Marian Heiser of Batavia, is present every week. We've met some great people from other societies and learned a lot of Kane County history.


If you can help on a Thursday, even for only part of a shift, we need you.


Hope to see you one Thursday soon. Dress casual.


Highlights of Meetings Held Since Last Reported in Newsletter

Submitted by Francine Popeck, Secretary




A short business meeting was held prior to the start of the Spring, 1996 Program. Business in brief on May 19th, 1996:

--Minutes of 12/3/95 Annual Meeting were approved;

--Auditor's Report was accepted;

--Announcement of IL State Historical Society Award

to Batavia Historical Society for Windmill Preservation Project;

--Bill Hall commended for Newsletter coordination;

--Current Board of Directors announced and introduced

(listed in previous publication).


With an eye to the then much anticipated Windmillers Trade Fair (held in Batavia June 12th through 15th), Marilyn Robinson provided a well-researched historical look at Batavia's rich windmill history. Batavia can boast that it was home to at least 6 windmill manufacturing companies. Danforth, Mole, and Nichols were the least renowned owners of windmill firms, although Nichols was linked with the Elgin Windmill Company after he moved from Batavia. Batavia's world recognized windmill companies were the Challenge Co., the Appleton Manufacturing Co., and the U.S. Wind Engine &

Pump Co.


Some famous Batavia family names were involved in the windmill business. In the 1850's, the U.S. Wind Engine & Pump Co. was founded by John Burnham and Daniel Halladay in Connecticut. Van Nortwick, then President of the CB & Q Railroad, convinced them to move their enterprise closer to where the growth market was for windmills--newly homesteaded farms and railroad expansion. Thus the start of the windmill industry in Batavia in 1854. After the Challenge Co., begun in 1857, was reorganized after a fire in 1872, James Mair, Thomas Snow and Mary Snow bought the company. The Appleton Mfg. Co., founded in 1872 in its namesake Wisconsin town, was purchased by Van Nortwick in 1883. Did you know that he built his own factory town near Geneva and called it Van Nortwick? He then moved to Batavia's Western Paper Bag Co. building and later built the Appleton factory which now houses Batavia's City Administration and Police Department.


Society members Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kline donated a Challenge Co. pump to the Society. Mr. Kline, a former employee of the Challenge Co., also generously shared his memories of his employment there for the many interested Windmillers Trade Fair attendees who toured the Challenge and U.S. Wind Engine & Pump buildings and listened to the stories told by former employees of the bygone Batavia windmill manufacturing days.




Copies of the 5/31/96 financial statement were distributed.

Motion was approved that Historical Society, one of the sponsors of the Windmillers Trade Fair, would contribute $1,000.00 toward the expenses of the event.


President Bob Popeck requested Society fund a professional videotape of the Windmillers Trade Fair activities. Citing the historical value of this footage to the Society's archives, the request was approved for raw footage versus an edited version.






Help with the Revision of Historic Batavia


Our Society's book, Historic Batavia, by John Gustafson and Jeffery Schielke' is out of print.

The Board has commissioned Marilyn Robinson to bring it up to date before it is reprinted.


Marilyn has completed reading the local newspapers for the years 1980-1996. Still there are undoubtedly items that should be included in the book that might not have been reported in the press. If you know of someone whose hometown is or was Batavia and whose achievements were significant but accomplished away from here, we should hear about them. Some Batavia graduates have achieved fame in the arts, music, television, movies, literature, sports, military, or political arenas. We'd like to honor them in the chronicle of our history.


All topics of historical significance need to be recorded -- business openings, closings of long-time firms, passing of civic leaders, significant anniversaries of organizations, etc. Please help the Society by writing a short, but detailed account of anything you feel should be included. There is no guarantee that everything received will be able to be used -- space is a consideration -- but you can help see to it that nothing noteworthy is inadvertently omitted.


Please send items to Marilyn Robinson, 1418 Clybourne Street, Batavia.


Pow Wow Marks Start of Fall

by Patricia Will, Vice President - Program Chairman


Our annual fall meeting was held on Sunday, Sept. 15th in the Bartholomew Room at the Batavia Civic Center.

As part of the entertainment portion of the meeting, an oral history on Capt. C.B. Dodson and Col. Lyon was given. The presentation centered on their relationships with the Native American Indians in and around Batavia.


The Fox Valley Order of the Arrow Indian Dancers, headed by Norb Kurlek, then performed dances of the Northern Plains Indians and held a mock pow-wow. The dancers were all members of local Boy Scouts of America troops who have a special interest in Native American history. All of the performers were dressed in authentic costume.


All members and guests were then invited to stay for refreshments. The meeting was sure a great way to end a summer and to look forward to the cool, crisp days of autumn.

Students Undertake World War II Project


Through a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education, the American Studies class at Batavia High School is conducting a research project entitled The Effects of World War II on Batavia. Each student in the class under the direction of English Instructor, Robert Kummer, and John Hamilton-Dryden, History Instructor, will be conducting a project relating to the topic. Some of the students plan to interview veterans of the war, and some will be interviewing persons on the home front. Each will supplement their interviews with written accounts of war time activities.


There are 60 students in the class, and they will need to do a complete study of the community in order not to have duplicate reports. You may be asked for your memories of the war years by a young person who knows you. The students may present their results as a term paper or a video or audio presentation. When the project is done in mid-December, the stories will be placed on an Illinois history web site on the Internet. Other schools will conduct similar studies in their area, which combined with ours will provide a state-wide record of Illinois during the war years.


If the project is successful, a different time period or subject will be covered in future years. Marilyn Robinson is the historical research consultant for the project. Jim Nies of the high school is the technology consultant. It is encouraging to see high school students becoming interested in local history.

 Christmas on the Farm


by Helen Bartelt Anderson


Earlier issues of The Batavia Historian carried parts of Helen Anderson's "I Remember Holidays on the Farm." The final installment covers Christmas at the George and Della Bartelt family farm on Warrenville Road in Batavia Township.


About the middle of December we began thinking and dreaming about Christmas. We colored and cut out Christmas trees, stars and bells to decorate our schoolroom. We even had red and green chalk to draw designs like holly on the blackboards. We had a program on an evening before Christmas so that parents and families could come.

Our school did not have electricity.


Parents brought kerosene lamps to light the room. Mrs. Perrow gave us each a little decorated box of candy that had handles for carrying. One of the department stores in Aurora (either Sencenbaugh's or Wade, Leitz) had a long shelf on their south wall where each year an animated Santa Claus sat in his sleigh, which was pulled by several reindeer. Santa sat bowing and waving to everyone amid the sounds of tinkling sleigh bells attached to the reindeers' harnesses ... Pure magic!


Kinne & Jeffery's was another magic place that we visited. There were so many beautiful toys -- dolls and buggies, fire trucks and trains, puzzles and games! If I remember right, the toys were on the third floor. Christmas Eve at home had its share of magic, too.


As always, certain foods stand out in my memories. On Christmas Eve it was oyster stew, with home canned fruit and cookies. The cookies could have been soft molasses or sugar cookies, which Mama had baked. Sometimes she would send to Sears for this big five pound box of as-sorted cookies.


They would come in a flat cardboard box, each kind packed in a neat row. There were Mary Janes with frosting, plain ginger cookies, oatmeal with raisins, sugar cookies and best of all, a row of round cookies with a mound of marshmallow topping, covered with coconut. Some were pink and some white. Chocolate chips were unheard of. 15.jpg 


I believe we always had a Christmas tree, with ornaments and icicles hanging down. In our home there was a front room and a parlor. The parlor was a much smaller room. It was in this room that each year a beautiful Christmas tree with gifts underneath came into being.


Roger and I were not allowed to enter the parlor the last few days before Christmas. Mama said Santa Claus might be peeking in the windows and he wouldn't like it if he saw us. We tried awfully hard to be good.


On Christmas Eve, while we still sat at the supper table Papa may have said, "Mama, did you hear a noise, like a bell or something?" Mama may have answered, "I thought I heard something, too."


With that Mama would jump up from the table and run into the parlor, calling out, "He's been here." Then, a mad scramble for the parlor. Gifts were few in number. They were unwrapped and looked wonderful to us.


One special year, Roger received a little steam engine that really ran. It was powered by a small alcohol burning lamp. Another year a hired man made a wooden barn for Roger.


From that time on our play time was mostly spent in making cardboard horses, cows and pigs. Never mind that I wanted to play with my doll or my butterfly transfer pictures. Roger made harnesses of string for his horses. He made stanchions and feeding troughs of cardboard.


One year I found under the tree a beautiful, large doll with a pink dress and bonnet. She was sitting in a buggy, waiting for me to pick her up. Years later I learned that my Sadie was bought by Mama's cousin, Sadie, and dressed by another cousin, Oma. At the time Santa got credit for all these gifts. The same year that I received my Sadie, Roger got a team of wooden, dapple-grey horses with bright red harnesses. Roger told me a short time ago that Papa had made these little harnesses of red leather.


One year Roger and I both had the measles. We spent Christmas Day in bed with no lights and all the shades pulled. It was believed that light would cause blindness to anyone with the measles. We were both too sick to play with our new toys, anyway. I do not remember how many days we had to spend in that hot, dark room. Another year Santa couldn't get to our house on Christmas Eve, but after Papa came in from milking Christmas morning, we all ran into the parlor to see if Santa had been there during the night. There were real candles on the tree which Mama and Papa carefully lit. I will never forget that sight, although I was very young.


For several years after that we did not have lights on our trees. Eventually, electricity came to the country.

Our lives and our celebrations were simple and fun. We learned and have never forgotten that people do not need a lot of things to make them happy.