Volume Forty-eight

No. 1

January 2007

East Meets West

Reminiscences of Two Boys Growing Up in Batavia


In 1951 the Board of Education, recognizing overcrowding at the Louise White School, transferred a number of east-side seventh graders to the Grace McWayne School on the west side. This was a traumatic 1.jpgmovefor those students since, in those days, more than the Fox Riverseparated residents of the east side and the west side of Batavia; it was almost a cultural thing. Jerry Miller was one of the students moved, and then and to this day, he has never lived or worked more than one block from the Louise White School.


What made the move, perhaps, more difficult for him and for similarly situated east-side seventh graders was that the school board, in its wisdom, drew a circle around LouiseWhite and transferred those students who were the closest to their old school. One bright side of the move developed, however; in his new school, Jerry met Norm Freedlund.


Thus began a friendship that has continued to this day.To get their story, not only of the move but of growing up in Batavia, Jim Hanson and Bill Hall interviewed Jerry and Norm on June 3, 2006. The story that follows is based on a transcription of that interview by Carol Miller.


The tape is available at the Gustafson Research Center. Acontinuation of Jerry's and Norm's reminiscences will appear in the next issue. "In sixth grade, Alice Gustafson was our principal at Louise White," Jerry began.


"She came into our class and announced that there were just too many kids in the Louise White district, and that some kids were going to be transferred to Grace McWayne the next year. What they did was to take a compass and draw a circle around Louise White School, and the kids that lived the closest to the school had to move over to Grace McWayne. I cried for a week, knowing that I had to go over and be in school with the likes of Freedlund.


"It sounds silly talking about it being traumatic to go to the other side of town to school, but when I grew up I seldom went over to the west side for anything. The only thing we ever went over there for was the library.


Our church was two blocks away; the grocery store was two blocks away; and downtown was two blocks away. Everything was accessible to us; we had no need to goto the west side." "Even though he was an east-sider," Norm broke in, "I did feel sorry for him, having to come over here when he lived just across the street from his old schooL" "It was tough," Jerry agreed. "I had been able to get up late in the morning and walk across the street to school. Now I had to do some planning. There were no school buses then, except for the kids out on thefarms. So we had to walk, and then back home for lunch.


We had an hour for lunch - then back. So we walked it four times a day. "But in retrospect, we had a chance to meet all the kids from the west side one year earlier. When we got into the junior high the next year, we knew all the kids already." Norm, of course didn't have that problem. When asked about his west side background, he said, "The Freedlunds have been around here since about 1889.


They came over from Sweden and lived on Houston Street - had eleven kids -- my father was one of the eleven. All the Freedlunds stayed in town except one, and he was the city clerk of Wheaton for 42 years. I lived on Houston with the rest of Freedlunds and Strans and Klings. The principal at school used to call it the Houston Street Madhouse because we had so 2.jpgmany kids. In fact the old F&H Food Store was right across the street, run by my uncle a long time ago. I live just three blocks from there now, so I didn't get very far myself." Asked about early memories of school,


Jerry recalled probably one of the fondest memories I had at Louise White was at Christmas time. Each room had a decorated tree, which of course you can't do today. The whole school would meet at the west end. In the upstairs, kids gathered around a tree in the hall, and the same thing downstairs. And they would sing carols back and forth, taking turns. It has always been a fond memory of Christmas time at school. "And we were always over in the playground, just across the street.


We always had a baseball or basketball game going. The teeter totters and the swings were there, and marbles - we played marbles all the time. You never see kids play marbles anymore." "We played marbles, too," Norm joined in. "I went to the old Grace McWayne School, where the Bethany Lutheran parking lot is now. We did the same thing at Christmas time; we would get on the steps and sing carols back and forth. And we used to used to sing to Mr. Glenn, the janitor, who lived next to Bortner's store. He was old  then -- I don't know how old.


Mrs. "Then they tore the old school down and built new Grace McWayne just to the north. I was in the sixth grade there. I had Mrs. Averill, who was so little. Everett was there, and Ace Hapner. "I think we had Ace Hapner the first year he taught in Batavia," Jerry re called . "He went on to become the principal of the school. And we had Ruth Seiler; Ruth Seiler and Ace Hapner were the two seventh grade teachers." "Then we went to junior high, eighth grade," Norm resumed. "Eighth grade was in the basement of the high school." "Mr. McCloud had his history class there," Jerry said. "And so did Mrs. Palm" Norm recalled. "She had her English class  there. Thirty five years later my wife, Nancy, taught English in the same room when the school had become the junior high school "I had Rachel Palm for a teacher, too" Jerry said."That was a good old school," Norm remembered.


"The study hall in the old high school-" "Yeah," Jerry interrupted, "the antics that went on - marbles - That someone put on the floor: they rolled past 400 desks, maybe more," Norm continued. 'We used to hang a bra on the window shades every so often, just to get things going," Jerry laughed. "You put your books in the desk," Norm said. "Someone would put pigeons in them, so you would come and open your desk and birds would fly out- crazy things like that."


Norm continued his recollections, "We had Mr. Schneider for a principle at the time - we called him Duke Schneider. I remember he used to stand out in the hall and watch people go by. He looked at me once, and I asked, 'What did I do?'

He said, 'Get in my office. And he said, 'Why do you do these things, Norm?' I replied, 'What did I do?' He said, 'You're not wearing a belt. I know your parents; they are good people, and you are not like your parents.' So he chewed me out for not the wearing a belt."


That reminded Jerry, "When I was in high school, I worked for Pinoke Johnson in his clothing store on East Wilson. I guess I was a sophomore in high school when Bermuda shorts made their debut. They became big for men. So I naturally had to buy a pair, and of course In 1951 you wore knee socks with them. Probably about that much of your knee was showing so that  was the extent of it. I convinced two my friends also to buy Bermuda shorts, and we all wore them to school one day. Well, by nine or nine thirty Mr. Schneider was there, corralling us over and telling us we were out for the day and never to wear those to school again. And when I see what kids are wearing to school today-they are half naked.”


After discussion of the types of fun kids had back then, Jerry recalled, 'My brothers were big into buying fireworks always had been - would send to Ohio and get them shipped in by Railway Express." "Banner?" Norm asked. "Yes, Banner Fireworks Center. That's what it was. They would go down to Clark Island and set up these big pieces of fireworks. They would light a cigarette, and put it on the wick; then they would drive up and stand on the bridge to watch them go off.

And they couldn't be blamed because they had been on the bridge all the time. We would get all the noise assortment," Norm recalled, "and have come in by Railway Express up in Geneva because they couldn't mail it to us at our house. We would take the big repeater bombs with a cigarette and put them in front of police station. Then we would go up and sit at the library, watching them go off."


"And you didn't have the number of police out there," Jerry interjected. "Ruck Clark was the chief, and he had about three guys working for him - O.T. Benson, Gene Glasco and Levi Johnson. I think that was about the extent of the police force back then. And I think they only had two police cars. Eventually they got O.T. Benson that motorcycle so he could mark tires." "Doc Anderson used to work for the electric department," Norm said. "Did you know Doc Anderson? He used to have one of the police motorcycles, an old four-cylinder Henderson with a sidecar on it. He would stop when we were coming home at lunch from Grace McWayne if we were lucky. He would pick up two kids and put them in the sidecar and go in first gear, as fast as he could for a block or so, and then we would jump out.


"On a typical summer day, it was playing baseball in the morning, not organized, up at Memorial field the Athletic Field we called it. Run home and eat and then go to the Quarry and swim all afternoon. Season pass was a buck. I passed my test in second grade. You would go over and back and over and back. I dove off the top, lay on my stomach and walked home - that was it.


The nice thing was, at the Quarry, you could go down in the morning if you didn't play baseball, and you could fish there, or to the north where there were two ponds. "If you got thirsty, you could go behind the checkroom, the bathhouse, and the water would come down over the rocks, nice and cold and clean. I think it ran down from the cemetery up there."

"Yeah," Jim interjected, "Coming from right next to the sewage plant." "It sure was good water," Norm insisted, "and there was a knothole in the girls' bathhouse. The east-siders told us about it, and we used to check to see if the girls had their pedal pushers on right.


And there was a trestle that you could walk " ''There was one time, "Jerry interjected, "that I convinced Ann McClurg, who lived next door, to try it. Her dad, who was the mayor, always insisted that she go down Water Street and all the way around the factories there. Well, we started across to the Quarry, and it was fine until a train came along. Luckily they had ladders that went down the side so we had to climb down. When Ann got home she told her mother and her mother about killed me for dragging Ann across that trestle. It was scary to see a huge steam engine9.jpg coming down the track toward you when you were stuck in the middle."


'We used to ride the one that went up and down, the old 911," Norm recalled. "It would stop at the Alexander Lumber Company, for lunch or whatever, and we would jump right on and s o m etimes ride it up by Fabyan's and jump off again.


"We played by the river all the time. That was our entertainment. And we  fished in the river. "Remember the River Rumpus and the Boat Club? People today don't remember this stuff. They had boat races right here on the pond. And there was a water ski jump. Bill Schrauth and Trapper, Bosco Hall and Bill Montgomery, those guys all had boats. Bob White had a boat with skis. The big treat was to see Bosco come down on a saucer, in a swimming suit, sitting on a stool, right down the river.


"There were probably ten piers down where the Fifth Third and thr Harris banks are now. Roy Feece and lots of other people kept their boats down there. You could ski from here all the way up under the bridge at Fabyan's and back to Wilson Street. "In the wintertime when it froze, we ice skated. They had about, maybe, three strings of about four light bulbs each; that's all for skating at night.


And someone always lit a big bonfire there. Les Bex would come over and shovel it off at the Body Company. They would okay the ice right up by Duck Island; it used to be an open area. Ruck Clark, the chief of police, would say if it was safe. "One time Dave Mettel and Larry Ridgeway skated into there and went in. I just happened to be skating there that day, and Les Sex's father and I tried to get them out. We lay down on the ice trying to reach them, and then Wally Benson skated right up to the hole and grabbed those guys. It made the front page of the Beacon." Jim observed that winters then were a lot colder.


"Yes, Jerry agreed, "when you think back in the early days, they used to harvest ice, right up to where the Boat Club was. My dad did for a while, working for Adolph Swanson. He was the iceman." "We had ice delivered," Norm recalled. "When the guy would get to the house, we used to chip off the ice while he was delivering. Whatever his name was, I think it was Nelson, was he mean! He came out once and grabbed the ice pick and threw it - stuck it in Bill Garleff's farm." "We had a nicer one when I was a kid," Jim remembered. "He chipped the ice for us." "They still had horses," Norm continued. "So did Batavia Dairy.


And those horses knew the whole route. They'd take ten steps and stop, ten steps and stop. I t just ran by itself. There was an old milk barn up by the Vasa Lodge across from the Masonic Hall. There is a gray four-flat; that was the old milk barn. The horses were always kept there." "But the dairy was always on McKee Street?" Jerry asked. "Yeah, in the middle of the block. We used to take milk out of there at night - chocolate milk. They would load those they were never locked. We would all get up and take chocolate milk and sit on the trailers, drinking the milk and eating apples we stole out of somebody's back yard. Well, we didn't have any money. It was entertainment."


(We'll leave off for now, picking up more of Jerry's and Norm's reminiscences in the next issue.)


Batavia Greenhouses

Operated as Early as 1875



The last two issues included the history of the Sykora Greenhouse Company, predecessor of today's Shady Hill Gardens at 821 Walnut Street, and the G & E Greenhouse at the southwest corner of SouthHarrison and Garfield streets.


Although these are the greenhouses we know most about, they were only two of many that operated in Batavia from 1875, and perhaps earlier, until the latter half of the twentieth century. In this story, we shall focus on these other greenhouses.


Two 3.jpginterviews with Bob Kalina, the last owner of the Sykora Greenhouse, and research by Jim Hanson at the Gustafson Research Center provide the basis for this story. In the captions, we shall use the addresses rather than the names of the greenhouses in all but one case since most of them changed ownership and name at least once over the years.


Batavia Avenue and Main Street The 1875 census lists the Ogden & Williams Greenhouse at the north- 3ast corner of Batavia Avenue and Main Street, now the site of the Chase Bank.


Although there well may have been earlier greenhouses in Batavia, this is the first recorded history of one that we could discover. Six years later we find H. H. Williams & Sons, presumably the Williams of Ogden & Williams, operating at the same location.


We know nothing further of any greenhouse operation at that location until 1910, when we find the Batavia

Greenhouse listed there in the city directory with Henry Wenberg as the owner. Some time later, according to

Bob Kalina's recollection, it became known as the Conlon's Greenhouse. "It was a green building with a big plate glass window, and they ran a small retail establishment.


The one greenhouse ran straight back from this building, going east; then they had another greenhouse, hooked on this one, which went straight south and wound up on Main Street." In 1920, the business at that location is listed in the city directory as the Illinois Plant Co., a name that continued through 1940. By 1943, the greenhouse had been torn down and replaced by the A & P grocery store. Batavia Avenue and Morton Street We find the Moore & McAllister greenhouse operating in 1904 at the northwest corner of Batavia Avenue and Morton Street, now the location of the Morton House apartments.


By 1910, Andrew Anderson owned this greenhouse. As Bob Kalina recalls, "They had, I forget what it was, two or three greenhouses there, and they had a small boiler room shed and a potting shed. And this was a retail establishment. On  the south side of the greenhouse, fronting Morton Smtreaellt , ftiehledy whahed rea  they used to grow "Andrew Anderson was an old-time Swede; he lived to a ripe old age in the 80s.


After he died, his son, Eddie Anderson took over, along with a sister who was the wife of Jack Wagner, who used to be a barber up in Iris' pool hall. The one thing I remember most of all was that on the Route 31 side, they had a big plate glass window in the retail shop, and in this window they had a big goldfish bowl. It had a little fountain in the middle, and this thing was full of goldfish. As a small grade school kid, I used to go to the Blaine Street School, and we used to walk down there and watch those goldfish. Jeez, I can remember that just as plain."



Some years later, Herbert Schuldt and his wife acquired and operated the business as the Batavia Avenue Florists. In 1 953 their son-in-law, Charles H. Johnsen, Jr., and his wife, the former ldelle Schuldt, bought the greenhouse and operated it for anumber of years.


By 1970 it was gone, replaced by the present apartment building. Jackson, Elm and Walnut Streets Bellevue had a greenhouse at Jackson, Elm and Walnut streets; for how long, we don't know. Besides serving Bellevue, it sold to the public. Bob Kalina has vivid recollections of the operation: "At one time, Bellevue owned the whole two square blocks; there was no road going through - Jackson Street was broken off. They used to grow crops in the field, and vegetables and stuff like that for thepeople they had in the sanitarium.


They had about five or six greenhouseslocated there - one of themran the length of their property onWalnut Street. The rest of them rannorth and south and butted into the one on Walnut Street. They had twoboiler rooms there - an old one that

was on the end of the greenhouse on Walnut Street and another on the north end of the other greenhouses.


This is where they packed the flowers. "Immediately behind the sanitarium was a small greenhouse that served as a conservatory. They had a great big pond in there with a lotus plant that would stand up with great big flowers; this was for the benefit of the patients in the sanitarium. They used to come in there in the wintertime, I guess, and see the flowers there. "The original man I knew who ran the Bellevue greenhouse was August Johnson. After that two men by the names of John Swanson, who lived over on Jackson Street, and Birger Nystrom, who was the father of Ray Nystrom, ran it. They ran it during the depression days."


The 1940 city directory still listed them as the owners, but by 1947 the greenhouses were gone. Gustafson Gardens The Gustafson Gardens may have started earlier, but the first record we could find of them was at 1117 WestMain in 1920 with N.P. Gustafson the owner. Although John and Arnold Gustafson were shown as owners by 1932, Arnold was the grower. As Bob Kalina recalls, "they had a small greenhouse where they did retail business. Arnold used to buy flowers off us [the Sykora Greenhouse] wholesale.


''The other thing he did in those days was truck farming. On the south side of Main Street, right across from where they lived, they had a big field that must have been 10 or 15 acres. They used to plant that whole thing with mostly vegetables. In the middle of it they had a shed that housed a big onelung gasoline engine and a big pump for irrigating the fields. When it got real hot in July and August, I can remember as a kid hearing these pumps go all night long - chug, chug, chug.


''They'd get a whole bunch of kidsI did it myself at one time - to come over there with coaster wagons. They would fill them up with tomatoes, carrots, beets, watermelons, you name it. And we would go out and peddle, house to house. I don't remember what we got, whether it was 10 percent or 25 percent. Anyway we didn't get rich - and neither did they, I think" 218 Hamlet Street Thompson's Flowers, whose owner lived in Wheaton, was located at 218 Hamlet Street in 1932. Bob Kalina recalls it as a small establishment that sold flowers retail.


Eight years later, this greenhouse was operated by the Heinz brothers, "who did a pretty good job until they left for the service during World War II. After they came back from the war, somebody else was running it, so they built up an establishment in St. Charles." Henry Wenberg's son Roger took over this greenhouse in 1946, running it as a retail operation until 1956. By 1958, the greenhouse was gone, replaced by houses.


With the closing of the Sykora Greenhouse in 1974, the discontinuance of the G & E Greenhouse operation in Batavia around 1990, and the demise of these other greenhouses and commercial gardens, the cut flower and vegetable industry ended here, as it did in the whole area. The growth of air freight, bringing with it competition from not only the south

and west but also other countries such as Holland, Israel and Mexico forced the local businesses to close - an early example of the outsourcing that we hear so much about today. Shady Hill Gardens, successor to Sykora, continues to run a thriving greenhouse operation here, but in a different line of business -- potted plants.




We Lose a Leader

Robert V. Brown






With the passing of Bob Brown on October 2, 2006, the community and our society lost a valued leader.


While best known, perhaps, for his earlier service as Batavia's mayor, Bob's participation in a wide variety of organizations continued throughout his life. The society was privileged to be included in that list.


Bob served for a number of years as a director of the Batavia Historical Society, and at the time of his death was chairman of its long-range planning committee.


His knowledge of government was particularly valuable in helping the society receive several of the substantial grants that have made expansion of the Depot Museum possible.


Bob's counsel and leadership wil be sorely missed by both the society and the community at large.




Christmas Meeting Was a Festive Event


As always, a delicious potluck dinner, including the traditional Swedish meatballs, got the society's Annual Christmas Meeting off to a great start.


Despite slippery conditions following the year's first snowfall, more than one hundred members and guests were in attendance.


A brief business meeting followed dinner, during which President Patty Rosenberg paid tribute to the services of Dick Benson, the outgoing president, and introduced the officers and directors elected at the September meeting.


The evening's entertainment featured singer Julie Ann Vickers, who sang a number of Christmas songs and led the audience in traditional Christmas carols.


It was a great way to get the Holiday Season under way.


An Immigrant Story

The Messerklingers of Batavia

Marj Holbrook


There are only three Messerklingers in the United States, "says Joe Messerklinger proudly. Then he adds, evenly more proudly, "and one in Japan!" Joe explains that a man in Seattle Googled his last name on the Internet and found Joe Messerklinger in Batavia. That 1944 man and his father, who lives in New Jersey, are both tool-and-die makers, Joe says. And the one in Japan? That's Josef Messerklinger Jr., son of Joe the and Gudrun Messerklinger of Batavia. But the name is very com­mon in the southeast corner of Germany and in Austria," Joe explains. The story of how Joe and Gudrun came to Batavia in the 1950s parallels accounts of other Batavians who arrived from the 1880s onward from Germany, Sweden and other European nations.


Joe and Gudrun met when both were studying agriculture and home economics on a German teach­ing farm after World War II. Joe was 19; Gudrun was 16. Joe explains that this was a working farm, run by ex­perts just to teach important farm and home economics techniques to stu­dents. Both received certificates pro­claiming their skills; Joe's framed di­ploma proudly hangs in their living room.


Gudrun says hers was lost dur­ing moves. "The farm had a little bit of every­thing," Joe says. "Crops, animals. It grew potatoes for seed potatoes. A professor at the farm developed the electric fence for pastures and tech­niques for growing better hay." Joe also helped plant and tend the apple orchard.


'We're from an area known for its hard cider," he explains. 6.jpg"It was big business; close by were two dis­tilleries where hard cider was distilled into schnapps." Farm-home economics meant learning everything about the farm and home, Gudrun says. "You helped with farm chores, making sausage, planting and tending crops. She also helped preserve and can the harvest, cook and do other chores.


Growing up during World War II Joe grew up on a farm near Vilshofen, Passau County, Germany Gudrun grew up in the village of Ortenburg. Both Villages are near the German border with Austria and the Czech Republic. Gudrun'sancestors moved from Austria to Oltenburg gen­erations earlier to continue to practice their Lutheran faith.


At the time, Aus­tria insisted everyone must be Catho­lic. Her father's family were needle makers; her mother was a licensed midwife who had taken classes in Munich to earn her license. Joe, a Catholic, says Ortenburg was an oasis of Lutheranism in the midst of a sea of Catholics. "Lord Ortenburg was Lutheran so everyone in the village was Lutheran," Joe says. In school, the Lutherans were out­numbered.


The public school - with separate entrances for boys and girls - also had separate grade classrooms for Catholic students, but the few Lutherans were grouped together in a single room. "But after school, everyone walked home together," Joe adds. Both were young students during World War II and remember the glow in the night sky when the Allies bombed Munich. "We heard the bombs, butthatwas 100 miles away," Joe says.


The couple also remem­ber occasional Allied bombers over their homes. "Sometimes, the gunners would shoot at cows or pigs," Joe says. "We figured they were just practicing. They really wanted to hit the train locomotives and put them out of commission."

"When we were in school and the bombers came, we were told to run home," Gudrun recalls, shaking her head. "That doesn't make sense." Joe says when his school was used for a hospital in 1945. 45 classes were taught in the beer cellar of the local tavern. Despite the hardships of the war, both agree their families were better off than those in devestated cities.



Coming to America



Joe came to North America in 1955. After graduating from the farm's agriculture program, he had difficulty finding work. "There were still German POWs (prisoners of war) look­ing for work and they got prior­ity," he says. "A friend told me he was going to Canada so I decided to go with him. We went to the Canadian consulate to get visas. I had no idea where Canada was. "My friend went to Saskatchewan to work in the wheat fields. I landed in Brampton, Ontario, about 20 miles from Toronto, working on a grain and dairyfarm for $50 a month plus room and board. We milked 32 cows every morning and evening. "That same year, the owner sold the farm and retired to Florida. 7.jpg
He sent me on the milk truck to Toronto and I found a job in a slaughterhouse." He says his parents had lived in the United States from 1926 to 1931 and returned to Germany. " had a sec­ond cousin who owned two farms near New Hampton, Iowa. He sponsored me to come down."
(All that time, im­migrants needed sponsors who would guarantee financial support so new­comers would not become a burden on the states and federal govern­ment.) "I took the train to Chicago," Joe says, "and then took a Greyhound bus (toward Iowa). But I stopped off in DeKalb.
My parents had friends in Cortland and they were waiting at the bus stop for me "They said they would give me a job on their farm for the same money my cousin offered so I took it. After a while, I wanted to make more money, and the farmer had connections with Driessen Construction in St. Charles. He helped me get a job as a laborer and later I became an operating engineer (running heavy equipment) with Union Local #150." Joe found room and board with Max and Marie Striedl of Batavia. Nine months later, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent 13 months in the United States and 11 months in Germany. He returned, got his job back and went back to living with the Striedls. A life together Joe had been in North America a little more than four years when Gudrun left Germany for the United States on Sept. 19, 1 959. Joe met her in New York and brought her back to Batavia where he had rented an apartment and had completely furnished it with new furniture, stove and appliances from Sears.
His sister had helped him choose the items. "His sister asked me if I was upset because Joe had already bought everything - even the cleaning supplies," Gudrun remembers. "She thought I would want to choose them myself. I was just so happy to be here, to have everything done and brand new, I didn't mind." They were married Oct. 17, 1 959. In the 47 years since, they have kept their individual faiths ; Joe is a member of Holy Cross Church and Gudrun a member of Immanuel Lutheran. "That would not have been possible in Germany," Joe adds with a smile as he shakes his head. "Society would have frowned on it so much it just wouldn't have been possible. But here in the United States, it is accepted." Translating church records In the past year, they've worked together translating the original records of Immanuel Lutheran Church. They have sorted through fragile 120-year old pages of embellished German script and translated minutes of meetings from the 1880s to 1912.

'We still have 20 years to go," Joe says, "before we get to the English versions." Gudrun says the translating has been tedious at times but they both enjoy it. She doesn't find the elaborate script too difficult. "My father wrote to me in a hand like that," she says. Joe is ready with a German dictionary to look up unusual words. He also comments that the early records often spelled names differently depending on who was recording the minutes or official pastoral acts. "I just wonder why it has taken the church so long to get these records translated," Joe asks. A good place to live But it's clear that their mutual focus is on their family. The couple has lived in their modest Laurel Street home since Feb. 24, 1962. They repeat this date in unison, just as they often say things together. Their three children grew up there and attended J.B. Nelson and Batavia Middle schools and graduated from Batavia High School.

Daughter Sylvia, born in 1960, and husband Dave Piggott live in Winfield. She works in the laboratories at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, doing tissue typing for organ transplants. Son Joe, born just a year later, is a professor at the University of Asia in Tokyo. He has two master's degrees, one from National Louis University and one in linguistics from the University of Surrey, England. He and his wife, Hisako, have a son, Johji. Daughter Lydia and husband Mike Hughes live in Naperville with their children, Tyler and Emma. Lydia is a computer programmer. Though retired, the Messerklingers find plenty to keep them busy.

Their early experience on the farm is reflected in a large garden each summer, geraniums blooming at the front door, and a swath of blooming African violets on a shelf above the kitchen sink. Both enjoy walking, often strolling the Riverwalk. There are grandchildren to see, more Lutheran minutes to translate, letters to relatives in Germany and e-mails to son Joe in Japan. "I've lived in Batavia for 50 years, Joe says proudly. "It's been a good place to live."

New grave unearthed at Fermilab's Pioneer Cemetery

D.A. Venton

The following story appeared in Fermi Today and is reprinted with the permission of the editor. "In a few more years we won't be able to read this," said Bob Lootens. Joel Howe's identity might have been lost if not for the discovery of a Boy Scout. Discoveries are a feature of Fermilab, but rarely do they take the shape of a headstone. During a recent restoration of Fermilab's Pioneer Cemetery, volunteers repaired and reset grave markers, and made an effort to locate unmarked graves. Adam Rea of Batavia organized the workday for his Eagle Scout project. Fellow Scout Kevin Millen was working near a burial site, probing the ground, when he found a fallen headstone, hidden beneath mulch. "It was really cool," Millen said. "It's not every day you get to find a new grave." 8.jpg


During the next week, Geoff Eargle and Katie Kosirog, ES&H, and Bob Lootens, Roads & Grounds, pieced together the inscription. They found "Joel Howe, Age 69" but were unable to make out all of the stone. Searching for clues, they examined a nearby grave, weathered to near illegibility. Eargle poured water over the stone. The sheen cleared some of the letters: "Noah Sabinah: Son of Joel S. and Sally Howe." Joel Howe's grave is part of a family plot; he is buried next to his son.


Rea has designed and built a new "Pioneer Cemetery" sign, which includes a directory of the gravesites. Fermilab's cemetery records, last drawn up in 1 967, will be updated to include all known graves and epitaphs. Rea's project attracted the attention of John Heider, a graveyard enthusi- ast from Monticello, Ill. who drove to Fermi lab to aid the group with materials and expertise. He commented, "Locating all the unmarked graves in the cemetery might be compared to what Fermilab does. We know something .is there, we look for it, find it, and then becomes part of our daily lives. On Saturday we found pioneers who, 150 years ago, walked on and worked this earth. Fermi is definitely a place of discovery.


Membership Matters


Since the last issue the society has welcomed Elton E. Pearson, Sr., as a new life member.


Other new members, from Batavia unless otherwise noted, are as follows:


Gloria Anderson (Tallahassee, FL),

Patrick and Nancy Bell,

Marjorie Bortner,

Sue Ellen Douglas and Tom Tyloran (Aurora, gift of Harold and Marj Holbrook),

J. Wendell Johnson (Geneva) and Joan McKinney (Glen Ellyn, gift of sister Diane Engstrom).


We regret to report the deaths of Robert N. Johnson and Vernon G. Schroeder and extend our sympathy to their families. We wish to express our appreciation for the following memorials and donations:


in memory of Ray Bristow from Jerry and Helen Anderson,

Eleanor Barbour,

Richard and Lois Benson,

Ted and Ellen Bergeson,

James and Pam Brennan,

David and Rochelle Countryman,

Steven and Diane Felt,

Donna M. Foelske,

Kenneth and Frances Formas,

Tom and Stephanie Gosselin,

Elizabeth Johnson,

G . Richard and Deanna Kaiser,

Ray and Helen Maurer,

Alan and Nancy McCloud,

Harvey and Lois McClurg,

Ernest and Nancy Mueller,

Robert and Rhonda Nelson,

Roger and Jean Nepstad,

John and Georgene O'Dwyer,

James and Patricia Saum,

Jerome and Marsha Schuster,

Michael and Elmarie Stiers,

Edward and Katherine Symons,

Marlin and Janet Tevis,

Geoffrey and Diane Upton,

Evon Wedemeier,

Kathryn A. Wilson,

Lori L. Wilson,

Joseph and Gale Yagel,


and the 6:00 A.M. Park District Exercise Class;

in memory of Bob Brown from James Anderson,


Lorraine Baxter,

Richard and Lois Benson,

Paul and Ethel Bergeson,

Mr. and Mrs. R. V. Beth,

Pearl Blass, Karen Bohr,

Nick and Sue Bohr,

Greg and Sharon Cryer,

John Cuff and family,

Alan and June Daw,

Philip B. Elfstrom,

Eldon and Jo Frydendall,

John and Rosemary Gasper,

Phil and Karna Gladd,

Pauline Green,

Bill and Barbara Hall,

James and Dorothy Hanson,

Frank and Pam Harshman,

Dick and Sue Heidelberg,

Jon and Aija Horton,

Doris Justice,

Larry and Kathi Langston,

Van Larson,

Don and Carrie Lumbert,

Karl and Edith Madsen,

Joe and Addie Marconi,

Clem and Janet Martin,

Mary McCarter,

Alan F. Mead,

Gerald and Karen Miller, the Miller Family,

Mooney & Thomas,


John and Georgene O'Dwyer,

Doris Perna,

Bob and Sue Peterson,

George and Jeanine Prack,

Milton and Kaliope Russ,

Donn and Joan Scherer,

Mike Schrauth,

Fred and Marj Schroeder,

Todd and Kathi Schroeder,

Eleanor Courtright Smith,

Dan and Lynn Stevens,

Roger Stoneberg,

Raymond Theis,

Chuck and Andi Van Gilder,

Don and Elaine Verner,

Scott and Pat Vidlak,

Deborah White,

Jaimi and Julie White,

John and Mary Lou White, and Ruth Witschonke;


in memory of Neal Conde from Gerald and Karen Miller and Georgene Schramer;

in memory of Barbara Conde Hopkins from Marjorie Bortner,

Hazel Harrison,

Linda Harrison and Konrad Mauch,

Ralph and Jean Johnson,

Marjorie and Glendon Morgan,

Georgene Schramer,

Evelyn Seto,

Kathryn Seto,

Kenneth and Jacqueline Upham. and Marilyn Woo;

in memory of Robert Johnson from Dennis and Nancy Bowron,

Ralph and Jean Johnson, and Brenda and Rafael Rivera;

in honor of Raymond J. and Dorothy E. Patzer on the occasion of Dorothy's 80th birthday from Steve Patzer;

and in honor of Ann Spuhler's 90th birthday from Stephen and Anita Nelson.



Museum Director Learns Juggling Skills

Chris Winter, Museum Coordinator


1.jpgThe volunteers who attended the annual Museum Volunteers Christmas Lunch on December 7 were treated to more than a wonderful catered meal. Cheney & Mills, a husband and wife juggling team, provided the entertainment this year. Our own museum director, Carla Hill, was chosen (involuntarily) from the audience to become part of the show. Much to our amazement, she learned how to spin a plate on her finger tip! Who knew she possessed this talent? Once again, we would like to thank our current museum volunteers for their service.


Anyone interested in joining in on the fun of being a museum volunteer may contact the museum at 630-406-527 4. We would love to see you at next year's Christmas Lunch.


Lincoln Dinner Theater

February 18, 2007


On Sunday, February 18 , 5:30 p.m,. Donna Daniels will present "The Last Years of Mary Todd Lincoln" at the Lincoln Inn, 1345 S. Batavia Avenue. Tickets at a cost of $26, including dinner and the performance, are available at the Batavia Park District, 327 W. Wilson Street. For more information, call the Depot Museum, 406-5274. Mark your calendar now! You won't want to miss this event.



Who Was J.T. Montague?

Marilyn Robinson


On Wednesday, July 26, 1 899, a stranger came to Batavia to make inquiries about another man. The stranger was about town most of the day and occasionally went into the saloons, but he never showed signs of being intoxicated. Thursday morning at 5:30, a freight train from Aurora found the stranger, lying dead in the middle of the railroad track between Batavia and North Aurora. He had not been run over by a train.


He had no broken bones in his limbs, but his neck was broken as was his nose and jawbone. His scalp was cut badly, and his left arm was pulled out and lay outside the tracks. The stranger was about 35 years old and weighed about 170 pounds. He had identification saying he was J. T. Montague and was a member of the Boilermakers and Iron Ship Builders Union, No. 38. Representatives from the Aurora Union found that No. 38 was in Omaha, but telegrams there failed to show any record or information of such a member or a membership card. Adding to the mystery were twelve strange men who were camped on the Fox River, north of Aurora Brewery. They claimed to recognize the dead man and paid for his burial expenses.


They told conflicting stories about who they were, but all said the dead man was J. T. Montague of Omaha. One of the men, who claimed he was Mr. Stone, went to the East Side Cemetery and purchased a half lot, paying $15 for it. He bought a $15 coffin, paid $2 for a hack and $3 for digging the grave. Five Aurora Boilermakers witnessed the burial. Some of their actions were peculiar. They ordered the grave dug north and south instead of the usual east and west, and the man was buried feet to the north. There were no services. Stone told the sexton he would be back in two weeks to erect an iron fence about the lot.


If a fence were built, it is gone today. Someone did erect a very large monument with only his name on it to mark the gravesite.