THE BATAVIA HISTORIAN
KEEPER OF OUR HISTORY
The Batavia Historical Society and Batavia generally have been fortunate to have had a series of talented, dedicated individuals who have researched and recorded Batavia's history. The first of these, of course, was John Gustafson, a member of the family for whom our research center is named. Bill Wood, who served many years as the society's Historian, distinguished himself as a major repository of knowledge about Batavia and its past. Then there has been our mayor, Jeff Schielke who, along with Marilyn Robinson, edited and updated John Gustafson's Historic Batavia. Many people, however, especially our school children, have come to think of Marilyn Robinson whenever Batavia's history is mentioned. And, after Bill Wood's death, the society officially named her Historian, a role that she had shared in fact with Bill in his later years. The story that follows is the result of an interview with Marilyn that Jim Hanson and Bill Hall conducted on August 21, 2007.
The tape of the interview, together with the transcription provided by Carol Miller, which contains additional information, is available in the Gustafson Center. "Marilyn," Bill began, "we know the you are not a native Batavian. Will you please tell us a little about your background before coming here?" "I was born in El Paso, Illinois," Marilyn replied, "which is just north of Bloomington, Illinois. I went to school there and four years after graduating from El Paso High School I entered Illinois State University. After receiving a teaching degree there, I began teaching at a little school called Tower Hill, south of Decatur. I taught there for four years and then two years in Cornell, Illinois.
"Then I came to Batavia in the fall of 1965 to teach business education. My first year here was the last year that the high school was in the old building in downtown Batavia; then we moved to the new high school out on Main Street. I taught business education subjects until 1988, when I had to quit for medical reasons. "After I got my health back in order, one day Lydia Jean Staffney, a retired teacher, mentioned that she was very busy at the museum. I asked why,and she said that all the third grade mothers were down there helping with their children's reports. One of them, she said, suggested that what this town needed was a book for third graders on the history of Batavia. John Gustafson's history was too advanced for them to use. "I had always wanted to write a book: now I had a subject and a readership, soI wrote Little Town inthe Big Woods. After all these years, they are still using it as a text book for their community reports." "What kind of research did you have to do to write that book?" Marilyn was asked.
"I had already done a lot of it. While Batavia was celebrating its sesquicentennial, I had been asked to write a pageant. Although the pageant never came off, I had done a lot of research. I used John Gustafson's material, of course, and what was available in the museum. It took me about nine months from when I started writing the book until it was finished. "Shortly after that book came out, I met Arlene Nick, publisher of the Windmill Herald, one day at one of the fall festivals, and she asked, 'Well, what are you going to do next?' I replied, ' I think I am going to write about some of the old houses on the block I live on - I am very interested in those.' 'I have been looking for someone to write articles about houses,' she said. 'Well, we can talk about that some day,' I responded, and that was the end of the conversation. "About two or three weeks later, I got a call from Arlene: 'Where's your article?' And I had always thought there was more to a job interview that that! Fortunately I had some information about log cabins, the first homes here after the Indians. So that started my career of writing about houses for the newspaper, and it led to my second book, Batavia Places and the People Who Called Them Home. " "What was your next book?" "It must have been the Historic Batavia book that Jeff Schielke and I brought up to date.
I remember saying that they would have to wait until I finished the house book, and then I was interrupted by my first heart attack. "After that I helped Dr. Barnes [Christopher Payne, American Pioneer, 1786-1871]and Helen Anderson [Memories of a Childhood] get their stories into book form so that we could sell them at themuseum. I remember Bob Barnes saying to me, 'How can I give you that little bit of paper, and you make a 64-page book out of it?' That's a secret - no, I shouldn't say a secret, rather a skill that comes with experience. "Next was Batavia, Illinois: Pastand Present. The original of this was written in the 1960s, with early pictures of a building alongside a thencurrent picture. I tried to find all the old pictures used in that book so that I could update it to 2000.
That is why the picture of the library is just a pile of lumber - it was just being started. It was my intent to show things just as they were in 2000. "In the interim, I wrote for the newspapers. I wrote for a long while for Arlene; then after she passed away and the Windmill Herald was gone, I wrote a weekly column for the Chronicle. Sometimes when I am looking for something, or when someone comes in with a question, I can go directly to my old articles and find the answer right away. "In my latest book, I figuratively left town. The Village of Elburn commissioned me to write its history. That book, finished in 2005, is entitled The Sidewalks of Elburn.''
"Have you any other books in mind?" "Well, I have a novel for middle school age children set in Batavia. But I am not a good story teller, so I don't know if I will ever finish it. When I was teaching, I was used to writing technical things for school - "educationaleze," Jim knows what that's like, a language all its own. Then I wrote for newspapers for a long time, and that is a different style. When I began writing books, I tried to get out of the journalistic style, but it was still nonfiction. When you go to fiction, creating a story and using dialog, it's an entirely different thing." "Marilyn, you do a lot of research. How did you get into that?" "I learned some of my research skills when I had to write a thesis in my master's degree program - something that isn't required as much today. But it really started with genealogy. A very close friend of mine w< doing her genealogy, and we woud go in the summer to places where her family came from. On our first trip, we went to North Carolina, and she sat me down in front of some books and said, 'Now look for this name.' Well,
I got so interested in the stories, cases involving runaway slaves, that I forgot what I was supposed to be looking for. My friend came and said, 'You're not doing your work.' "Later, researching my family, I had to go to the places where I thought they came from. I would go on vacation for two weeks, and when I came back people would ask, 'What did you do, and what did you see?' I would reply, 'Well, I saw seven courthouses and seventeen cemeteries and two libraries" - things like that. I met some wonderful people that way. ''That's how I got interested in the research part. To me, history doesn't mean a thing if it isn't about people.
It's not necessarily the dates. As you know, Bill, from the things that I give you to print, it's the people and the' stories.""Tell us about the work you do with third graders," Marilyn was asked. " I go to Batavia's third grades, all or most of them, every year to tell them about Batavia history. And then they come down to visit the museum - I am always there for that. Carla does the upstairs, I handle the downstairs, and Chris takes care of the outside. We work as a team to tell the children about all the things we have there. Some of them don't stay long enough to get much out of it, but some of them come back right away with their parents. One Sunday I could see a kid in the hall showing me to his parents - I was one of the relics they were looking at! And, of course, I went out and introduced myself."
The Depot Museum's research capability really came to life with the opening of the Gustafson Research Center in 2000. Before that, the society's archives were stored in a room on the second floor of the museum and were not readily accessible t( the general public. Today is a different story. And from the opening of the center, Marilyn has coordinated its operation. We asked Marilyn to descnbe generally what is available and what people look for. 'The beginning of our collection came from John Gustafson's notebooks - I think there were eighty in all. We have all of those in the form he left them - items pasted in and sometimes other items pasted on top.
They're in the hall cabinets. "Our books are separated by topics - not the Dewey decimal system because most of them are history books and they would all have the same number. We have a lot of biographies and family histories on the north wall. I think we have a fairly complete set of Batavia High School yearbooks. And we do have a complete set of Junior High School year because Sam Rotolo, the only pnnc1pal, gave us his collection. "We have a complete set of the early city directories. Then we have early county histories and books on Illinois and other towns, as well. There are histories of the railroads that served Batavia and, of course, a lot of material on windmills. We also have books on how to judge the history of houses and on architecture. And genealogical research books, too.
"The entire west wall contains our collection of photographs, a great collection sorted by subject matter. We have an index of people, showing which binder they are in. We have such a tremendous number of indexes that I jokingly say that we need an index of indexes. We have over 84 scrapbooks. Many have been given to us, and others have been compiled by us. Over the years, high school student interns Julia Spalding and Ben Winter have helped us index those and other miscellaneous items that we have been given. There's more than I can begin to describe. "And in the back room, the vault, we have the probate records. Do you remember, Bill, when we started that?"
"Since I didn't start right at the beginning, I'm not sure." "I don't know," Marilyn resumed, "but it was over ten years ago that the State of Illinois gave the local courts permission to microfilm probate records - deaths, wills and things. Then they could toss the original into the landfill. But someone in the state decided that maybe the historical societies would like to have those. "We worked on them every Thursday except holidays - a morning crew and an afternoon crew. Batavia
was in the afternoon crew. We would sort through the documents, determining which society they should go to. Every week we would bring home a box, index the contents, and put them back in the box. It took almost five years, and we ended up with 70 or 80 boxes of those records. As an interesting aside, that afte rnoon crew is still meeting, five or six years later, for lunch once a month. We became fast friends through that project." "What arepeople usually looking for when they come to the Gustafson Center?" "There's a wide variety.
Of course, Mary Lincoln was a big thing for Batavia. We get a lot of requests about her. Not long ago we had one from London. A lot of people must be writing novels about Mary Lincoln and want pictures of the hospital. One novel did come out - a lady who was in here once said she wrote a book just called Mary. It was a big book- 2 inches thick. I bought it to use as a door stop - not really, but I haven't read it yet because of its length. "Early on, we decided we wouldn't charge for our time, but we do for copies. But if someone is going to write a book or someth ing, we don't just hand the stuff out. And the same way with our pictures: if they are going to use it to make money, they have to pay. Chris Winter takes care of all that. 'We get a lot of requests over our web site about windmills or where they can buy Campana balm. They send us orders for Furnas parts since the name is on our web site." "Of course," Jim remarked, "you have a lot of people looking up their families. There's a lot of interweaving of families in Batavia that people want to learn about." "Yes, and the difficult ones are for people who were here for only a short time, maybe in the 1840s and 1850s. We don't really have much in forma· tionback that far because not muchwas recorded.
We don't have the newspapers or a lot of the obituaries. But we do later on, and we have the probate records and family biographies I mentioned earlier. While we will help people's research with what we have, we will not go beyond our records here. Wejust can't do that. But then we refer them to other places, like the Kane County Genealogical Society, where someone will do research for a charge." "Many people come to the research center asking about the history of their houses. I think it is a misconception that we have every house in town recorded - and of course we don't, and can't. It is very difficult to find the history of an older house if someone hasn't done it earlier. Nowhere is it recorded when a house is built. Yo u can track the land, who owned it from the beginning, but you cannot always find the answer for the house, especially before there were building permits. "I am always glad to tell people how to find as much about their houses
as we can. We have books about the style of architecture; sometimes you can kind of date of house from that.
We think of subdivisions, with many houses alike, as a new thing, but it's not.
If you go out McKee Street toward Van Nortwick, you can see how they built the houses. There will be three or four alike, the basic house although they may have been added to, with a new roof line or a new porch, maybe different windows. Then you go to the next three or four which are the same, and so one." ' As Marilyn points out, she certainly does not handle the research center alone. "Sandy Chalupa and Dorothy Staples help with the recording. And Marilyn Wenberg is a regular; she is our Swedish specialist. She can read the Swedish records that we have from Bethany Lutheran, records on tape. You and Dot are helpers, Jim. Others such as the Dellesasses. Kathy Fairbairn, Margo Cooper, Ror Gilkerson, Patty Rosenberg and Leonard Wray are frequent volunteers. And, it hardly needs saying, our museum director, Carla Hill, and Chris Winter, the coordinator, provide indispensable support." But in the end, although she might not admit this, Marilyn Robinson has been the glue that holds the Gustafson Research Center together. We are lucky indeed to have had her following in the footsteps of earlier Batavia historians and, in fact expanding this vital role.
Batauia Quilt & Textile Show a Success!
The first annual Batavia Quilt & Textile Show, held last July in the East Side Community Center, was well received by the community and other visitors. The show, sponsored by the Batavia Depot Museum and the Fine Line Creative Arts Center, welcomed over 600 visitors, who enjoyed the special programs, demonstrations, appraisals, vendors, and - most of all -- the display of over 120 quilts in Shannon Hall.
Among the many beautiful quilts was one shared by our Society Historian, Marilyn Robinson. Upon her retirement, Dolores Haller created a quilt that was signed by fellow teachers at the Batavia High School. And you may be surprised to learn that our Historian editor, Bill Hall, has a talent for quilts! Bill displayed a quilt that he designed for his wife, Barbara, and hand pieced, more or less on a dare, in 1990. His previous sewing was limited to replacing buttons
while in the service.
The museum staff would like to thank the many volunteers who helped make this show a success - such a success that it is being repeated next year. We invite you to join us at next year's show on July 11-13, 2008. Mark your calendars now!
Letter from the Editor -
The January 2008 issue will be my 1st as editor of the Batavia Historian. ( reached the decision to retire with
great reluctance, but I concluded that it was time. It was in December 1995 that I volunteered to get out the next couple of issues, on a quarterly basis, until we could find a permanent editor. I little dreamt that I was destined to become that permanent editor -- it just sort of happened. I found that I enjoyed doing it, much more than serving as treasurer, the job I sloughed off onto Jerry Harris so that I could continue working on the Historian. I could never have accomplished what I have without lots of help. Contributors continued to show up when needed, most frequently Marilyn Robinson, Helen Anderson and, recently, Marj Holbrook. And there were the interviews with longtime Batavians, which originated with Elliott Lundberg; later Bill Wood stepped in, and currently Jim Hanson has carried on. .For help with pictures, I could always count on Carla Hill and Chris Winter when I needed them.
Alma Karas kept me up to date on membership, as well as providing mailing labels, and JoAnn Stevens handled our Marilyn Robinson retirement quilt. As you can see, it has been a team effort. From time to time I included articles about early Batavia, such as tracing the history of the VanNortwicks, telling the story of Elijah Gammon and his house, and relating the long life of the Shumway foundry. Some of this required original research; more often it involved putting together material from the research of others. For a publication of a historical society, I regarded it as important to offer something more substantive than a mere recitation of news. I recount the foregoing to give a clue concerning what my successor will want to consider, although I do not expect him or her to follow too closely in my footsteps.
Each person has his or her own talents, style and perspectives. Indeed any publication such as the Historian needs a fresh viewpoint from time to time, so we should welcome the prospect of a new editor. Although I shall no longer act as editor, I shall be glad to work with my successor for a smooth transition. And I plan to continue conducting interviews and possibly writing other stories - I don't intend to fade into the sunset! President Patty Rosenberg has appointed a committee comprised of herself, Marilyn Robinson and me to screen candidates to serve as the next editor of the Historian. Please give us your suggestions. I shall describe briefly what I view as the primary qualifications for the job. It goes without saying that the editor should be able to write, although he or she will not do all the writing and certainly does not need to be an English or journalism major.
A candidate shouldhave a deep interest in and love for Batavia history. And a sense of commitment to get each quarterly issue out on a timely basis is essential; this is the "nitty gritty" - pulling all the pieces together and giving the printer a finished product- that is key to a successful publication. In conclusion, I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity of serving as the editor for the past twelve years. I have enjoyed the unstinting support of the board and have derived great pleasure and satisfaction from my tenure. It's been fun.
Rachielles Pharmacy Closes after 68 Years
The electrifying news crackled through downtown Batavia on March 20, 2007, as if sizzling along invisible wires. Rachielles Pharmacy was closed! A sign in the window said prescriptions had been transferred to the Osco Pharmacy, part of the Jewel Supermarket on Randall Road on Batavia's far west side. If there were no tears, there were lots of people trying to ease that hard lump in their throats. Rachielles Pharmacy had been a Batavia tradition for 68 years. Some of pharmacist Ron Royce's customers were third generations of the same family who depended on the personalized service and trusted the confidential advice dispensed at 12 E. Wilson St. It wasn't an easy decision for Royce, 58.
He had owned the drug store since June 1, 1980, when he purchased it from William "Bill" Rachielles and promised to keep the Rachielles' name. The closure marked the end of an era of independent druggists in Batavia. Just three years earlier, The Daily Herald, in a story about Royce and his contributions to the community, listed four other independent pharmacies in the Tri-Cities and Elburn. One of them, Gliddon's in Elburn, closed about the same time this spring. The owners sold their business to Osco and were joining that pharmacy in the new store at Routes 47 and 38. "I'd had offers before," Royce says of the sale. "But with the (Wilson Street) bridge closed for construction, the changes in traffic, I decided it was a good time. I couldn't tell my customers in advance; my contract with Osco wouldn't permit it."
His customers' disappointment was palpable. Many considered Royce almost a family member. He knew them by name, knew their illnesses and recoveries. For 27 years, he had discussed new medicines and drug interactions as well as tips on when to take the drugs and how to monitor side effects. A Fox Valley career Royce grew up in St. Charles and started college at the University of Illinois - Chicago as a chemistry major. But his roommate was a pharmacy major and his enthusiasm intrigued Ron; he switched to pharmacy.
At the time, Ul - Chicago was the only pharmacy school in Illinois. He graduated in 1971 and immediately began working parttime for many pharmacies in the Fox Valley including Morse Drug Store and Munch's in Elgin, Rachielles in Batavia and Carroll Pharmacy in North Aurora. "I wanted to learn as much as I could from each place I worked," he says. "When Rachielles came on the market, I scraped together $10,000 to buy the business. He had moved to Batavia two years earlier. Later, he contracted to buy the entire 12,000 square foot building. (The building which dates to1914 was known as the Geiss Block for owner John Geiss, a two-time mayor of Batavia. Until 1 936, the second floor had housed the Geiss Cigar Co. where 10-12 employees hand-rolled cigars for discriminating gentlemen. Various men of the community would climb the stairs for a smoke and discussion of political and municipal concerns.)
"I had worked Wednesday mornings and Friday evenings for Bill (Rachielles) and admired his rapport with customers," Royce says. "He had been here since 1939 so I figured he was doing something right. I emulated him in every way I
could." After purchasing the business, Royce worked 70-hour weeks while Bill Rachielles came in part-time about five hours a week until his death in 1983. "I intended to get paper work done while Bill was in the store," Royce says. "It didn't always work that way. Everyone who came in knew Bill and wanted to chat. I'm not sure either of us got much work done." (Bill's wife, Doris, now lives in Bristol, Conn., near her son Paul.) A Batavia tradition The drug store had been in existence long before 1939. Rachielles purchased the business from druggist Glenn Oppfelt.
At that time, it was at 8 E. Wilson St., now the site of Instrument Exchange. Royce has a copy of the first prescription Rachielles filled after buying the store. locally. The guidelines have changed to conform to the Illinois Circuit breaker program. Through the program, many Batavians receive assistance in paying for drugs. When Royce sold his business to Osco, he insisted that the RSVP drug program be part of it. Thus, low-income Batavia seniors are still getting financial help with their prescriptions. Royce says the program would never have been created without Jean Chevalier; his widow continues to work with RSVP. Decades of change Royce says pharmacists - and pharmacies - have changed during his career. "When I first began working, we never put the name of the drug on the label. It was well into the '70s when we began doing it. I was working part-time at an Elgin pharmacy and I remember one doctor up there who came in and demanded that we NEVER include the drug name on any prescriptions he wrote. That continued until about 1978 and I think he retired then."
When Royce started, he remembers that 60 percent to 70 percent of all prescriptions were compounded by the druggist. "We'd mix liquids in volume and make capsules when we could. If we weren't busy, we were expected to go in the back and make capsules. "Very little of that is done today. A few pharmacies - there's one in Naperville -specialize in that, but most drugs are ready to dispense. Pharmacies don't carry the raw ingredients to compound prescriptions." When Royce began his pharmacy career, all work was done by hand: Labels for prescriptions had to be individually typed; all book work, pricing, etc. were tedious and labor intensive. "We had big stacks of paper to calculate drug prices and every store had its own stack," he says.
"By the end of the '70s, stores started using calculators. I still have the receipt for my first one: It cost $80. "We put in a computer in 1984. I remember Bob Fondriest (owner of Johnson's Drugs at that time) had purchased a computer a few months earlier. He told me to be prepared for a big transition. "But even with that first computer, we kept a 'paper trail' just to be sure." Another change in pharmacy business is the influence of insurance companies and suppliers.
"These days, all the drugs come ready to dispense," Royce explains. "When that happens, the pharmacy's fee, per prescription, goes down. "Drug manufacturers, suppliers and insurance companies dictate the prices and the pharmacy's profit. You have to fill more prescriptions to make the same profit. It's gotten very complicated." But he insists this has benefited customers. ''Today's computers screen for patient interactions and alerts a pharmacist if there might be a drug interaction. I think pharmacists are more patient oriented; they spend a lot of time counseling patients, especially when a new drug is prescribed. I think patients get better service."
Participants Enjoy Our
Caboose's 1OOth Birthday Party
The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Caboose #14662 was built in 1907, was retired in 1973, and has been a landmark at the Depot Museum site since 1975. This favorite artifact, especially for children visiting the museum, was completely refurbished for its 100th birthday party. On Sunday, September 23, the museum staff offered tours, light refreshments, and family entertainment by Steven Keefe. His fun and interactive performance had the audience not only singing along, but playing washboards and other hand-held instruments.
Steven is a master teach and entertainer, who has preformed at the old Town School of Folk Music, Navy Pier, Dupage Children's Museum, and the Chicago Folk and Roots Festival. The Batavia Historical Society took advantage of this occasion to dedicate the William J. Wood Bench near the entrance to the museum, honoring its former historian and beloved Batavia educator.
Since the last issue, we received five new life members (from Batavia unless otherwise noted), all gifts of John and Rosemarie Dillon: John K. Dillon (Elburn), Michael Dillon (Richmond, WA), Kathleen Klehr (St. Charles), Sharon Nakamura (Mililani, HI) and Patricia Richardson. Other new members include Madelyn Bast (TX, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Wyllie), Frank and Char Kreuz, Muriel Samuelson Mowry (Delray Beach, FL), Barbara Rappaport (Boston, MA), and Virginia Samuelson Snyder (LeCanto, FL, gift of Muriel Mowry).
We regret to report the deaths of two longtime members. James E. Hubbard, a lifelong Batavian, died August 9, 2007. Another lifelong Batavian, Clifford V. Anderson, died on September 1 8 , 2007, only a few days after he and his wife, Helen, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Our sympathy goes to their families and many friends.
We received gifts in honor of Ben and Nancy Jewison's 50th anniversary from Frank and Sue Blazek and in honor of Cliff and Helen Anderson's 70th anniversary from Lillian Brown, Robert and Lois French, Bill and Barbara Hall, and Florence Olson. We received gifts in memory of Clifford Anderson from Bill and Barbara Hall; in memory of Marian Powers from Joan Spang; and in memory of Ken and Jacqueline Upham from Mr. and Mrs. Rex Casstevens, Ralph and Jean Johnson, and David K. Upham. As a preferred charity of Marilyn Robinson, the Hansen-Furnas Foundation contributed $1 ,000 to the Society.
Mike Gaspari, Batavia's Citizen of the Year
and High School Football Coach
The society was fortunate to have Mike Gaspari, Batavia High School's athletic director and coach of its football team, as well as Batavia's Citizen of the Year, speak at the society's general meeting on September 9. The meeting was held in the city council chambers. Mike traced the development of the football program over the last 20-25 years, paying special tribute to the role of Batavia's citizens in their support. But his remarks were not limited to football; he discussed the wide range of athletic programs available in Batavia.
In particular, he called attention to the academic accomplishments of our student athletes. Preceding Mike's presentation, the members elected officers and directors for the year beginning October 1 , 2007. These included Patty Rosenberg, president; Carole Dunn, recording secretary; Georgene Kauth O'Dwyer, corresponding secretary; and directors Norman Freedlund, Alma Karas, Gary King and John White.
The following officers and directors will serve the remainder of their terms ending September 30, 2008: Robert F Peterson, vice president; Gerald Miller, treasurer; Marilyn Robinson, historian; and directors Lucy Anderson, Philip B. Elfstrom, and Christine Winter. Following the program, members and guests had an opportunity to enjoy refreshments and visit with Mike and one another.
Visit by Jason Emerson
Author of The Madness of Mary Lincoln
Sunday October 21
September 2007 will see the publication of Jason Emerson's first book, The Madness of Mary Lincoln. The book is a new examination of Mary Todd Lincoln's insanity case and her son's motivation for having her committed to Bellevue Sanitarium in Batavia in 1875. It is based on Emerson's discovery of Mary Lincoln's "lost" letters, eleven that were written during her stay at Bellevue, as well as numerous other unknown and unpublished items unearthed during his research. Batavia is fortunate in having Emerson visit us on Sunday, October 21 , for two events sponsored by the Batavia Depot Museum and the Batavia Public Library. Between 1:00 and 2:30 at the Depot Museum, visitors will have the opportunity to meet Emerson and have his book signed.
The Lincoln Room exhibit will be open, which features a history of Bellevue Place and the furniture from Mary Lincoln's room during her stay at Bellevue. A history brochure will be available, and visitors can then tour the grounds of Bellevue during the afternoon. At the Batavia Public Library from 3:00 to 4:30, Emerson will share details of his research in writing her book.
The presentation will include copies of the hand-written letters that he discovered through descendants of a Lincoln family lawyer. He will again be available for book signing after the program. Books will be available for purchase at both locations on Sunday.
House's Move Made It Famous, at Least to Schoolchildren
by Sammi King
Did you know that Batavia also has a home that was featured in a book? Wondering which one it is? Here's a clue. It wasn't designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact no one knows for sure who designed it. It is a home that many know, nevertheless.
The noted house is the home of Dennis and Kathy Morgan on Franklin Street. It was the former Baptist
Church parsonage and was originally located at 1 5 N. Washington. It was moved to the present location on October 26, 1976. The move was quite a big day for
the city of Batavia. Many citizens came out to watch the difficult task of moving the large house. Other homes had been moved in Batavia but this one was not only large, it was also made of brick. It would present
quite a challenge to the movers.
Louise White School students were able to spend some extra time outside on moving day, standing behind the fence, watching the house move north on Washington to the new location four blocks away. In Mrs. Hill's fourth grade class was Tim Schmitz, who now serves as our representative to the Illinois General Assembly. He remembers the move and the days preceding the move.
"I remember them getting the house ready to move," said Schmitz. "It took quite a few days and we were all pretty excited to watch what was going on. One of my friends joked that maybe it would just go up in the air like the house in the Wizard of Oz.
"On the day of the actual move we got an extended recess to watch," he said. "We really didn't want to go
back in because we didn't want to miss it." Scott, Foresman Company, a publisher out of Glenview, brought out a Basics in Reading textbook called Racing Stripes in 1978. Featured in a 7 page photo spread was the former parsonage. In a chapter titled "How to Move a House," author Michael Gross explained the basics in preparing the house for the
move, moving the house and placing the house on its new foundation The reason for moving the house
is unclear. Some say the growing church needed the space for parking. Some say that the pastor didn't like the home being so close to the church. It would be too easy for members of the congregation to run over to the parsonage at any hour. If you look closely at the house you notice the number fifteen which seems to be indented in the wood.
Undoubtedly it is what remains of the previous house number.
The Morgans purchased the home from Reverend Watts in 1996. At the end of the closing, Reverend Watts offered a prayer and a blessing for the house. The realtor commented to Kathy Morgan that it was the first time anyone had ever said a prayer at a closing. The Morgans thought that the prayer was appropriate."It seemed to be the right thing to do," said Kathy. "The house was very special and it made us feel good to have it blessed."
Don't Miss the Christmas Potluck!
Sunday, December 2
The Christmas Potluck, a high spot of the Society's year, will be held at 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 2, at Bethany Lutheran Church. Although you will receive a notice in the mail, be sure to mark your calendars now As usual, you are to bring your own table ser vice and a dish to pass. Meat, rolls and coffee will be provided. The musical group "Freedom" will be the entertainment.