Volume Eight

No. 1


January, 1967

Published by the Batavia Historical Society

Prepared by John A. Gustafson


Therefore when we build, let us think that we build forever.  Let it not be for the present delight, nor for present use alone.  Let it be for such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon our labor and wrought substance of them, "See, this our fathers did for us." - Ruskin in "Bridges and Their Builders."




SUNDAY, JANUARY 29, 1967 at 3 P.M.

in the Bartholomew Civic Center





The following people will each talk, write or read about one phase of the subject: Mrs. Erma Jeffery, Mrs. Horace Jones, Mrs. W. C. Spencer, Mrs. B. S. Snow, Carl W. Johnson, Robert Larson, Ralph Benson, John Gustafson and maybe others. Mrs. Eunice Shumway will MC the program.  Each speaker will have a time limit.


This program will be preceded by an election of officers.  


The following slate is proposed by the Nominating Committee:



Vice President



Trustee for Two Years

Trustee for Two Years

Miss Eunice Shumway

Mrs. C. J. Kruger

Miss Joan Kane

Ralph C. Benson

Carl W. Johnson

Mrs. Carl W. Johnson


Mrs. Jos. A. Burnham is chairman of the committee on refreshments; Mrs. John F. Masters and Mrs. Evan D. James will assist her.


The two hold-over Trustees are Philip B. Carlson and Stanley Lenart; the two completing their term of office are Arnold Benson and Angelo Perna.  They have given much time and thought to their office and the problems of the Society and we thank them.


The program as well as the attendance at our last meeting on December 4th was excellent despite the weather. Mr. Willey with his chorus of twenty High School students and soloists were outstanding.


We have had a good year. It is a lot of work to keep an organization like ours functioning smoothly.  We appreciate that our last year's officers have consented to run again this year. This is the beginning of our 8th year. Possibly this year we will find a building in which to store our increasing number of mementos.

What was Batavia like a hundred years ago?


The following is a partial answer and is taken from the Kane County Gazetteer for 1867:


"This large village is beautifully situated on both sides of the Fox River and possesses great advantages of water power for the several mills erected at this point. Improvements on an extensive scale have been made, and many large and substantial buildings erected for business and for residences which will compare with any in the West of its size. The surrounding district is not only beautiful but well adapted for the successful operation of any manufacturing purposes requiring water power for propelling machinery. Here also are inexhaustible quarries of the best limestone and abundant supplies of valuable timber from the Big Woods, which tend to render this location permanent and flourishing.


"The interest in the cause of Education had been carefully fostered by its citizens, till they could boast of having as good schools as any town in the State.  Among others we may mention the Batavia Institute more prominent than any of the rest, which is the pride of the village, and, indeed, of the whole county.  The interests of religion have also been carefully nourished, till now six churches is the result of the united efforts of a few good men. The improvements of this place are large and attest the enterprise and activity of the citizens; which, together with its manufacturies, foundries, etc., tend to make all that should be asked for in a live and rapidly growing town."


These things happened in Batavia in 1867:


The Challenge Windmill and Feedmill Co. was started by Nelson Burrand Hugh M. Armstrong to manufacture the Nichols windmill, also feedmills, corn shellers, pumps and a host of other products.


A. N. Merrill started a small foundry here that year and the next year took D. R. Sperry as partner.  In 1869 Mr. Sperry bought out Mr. Merrill thus starting the D. R. Sperry & Co. organization on its way.  The Merrill & Shumway Foundry Co. was organized in 1872, this developed into the present C. W. Shumway & Sons foundry. Thus one man, Mr. Merrill, was instrumental in starting two businesses which are still going strong today.  That is something of a record.


Two literary societies, the forerunner of our library, were formed by the students of the Batavia Institute. The young ladies called themselves the Sigournean Society and the young men, the Laconian Literary Society. Later they started a small library, circulating the books just among themselves.  When those two societies disbanded, the small nucleus of 200 books was turned over to a Library Association. This, in 1873, became our Batavia Public Library.


The Batavia Paper Mill was sold to the Chicago Fibre & Paper Co. of Chicago.


In 1867 Newton & Co. were advertising all kinds of buggies and wagons as well as two types of hearses for sale. They built the front three story stone office building this year at a cost of $12,000.


The Christian Church built their frame edifice.  They were organized in December of 1852 as the Disciples of Christ with ten members.

These people arrived in Batavia in 1867: Whitely Shaw blacksmith and Grand-father of Mrs. Ruth Shaw Logan; Dr. Richard C. Patterson and son John C., the founder of the Bellevue Place Sanitarium; Barton E. Sperry, one of the early officers in the D. R. Sperry & Co. foundry.


There were many important events happening in l892, 75 years ago, but these will have to wait until the next newsletter.


Did you see this item in the Chicago Tribune?  It is disturbing to say the least. "The National Thrift Committee, Inc., which has been promoting regular savings and thrifty habits for 49 years, went out of business last July 1. Its members, including 725 financial institutions of all types, began to reduce their contributions about eighteen months ago, and this year the board was unable to raise its budget of $50,000.


"This means the end of promoting National Thrift week, a national thrift essay contest, and other efforts by the committee to teach school children to be thrifty.


“The days of saving for a rainy day, or for old age, are over. Eat, drink and be merry. The government will provide for you.”


The following Amendment to the Fire Ordinance was passed in the Town of Batavia, May 18, 1867:


"The Fire Department shall consist of one Engine Company and one Hose Company. The Engine Company shall not exceed fifty members. The Hose Company to be boys under the age of 21 years and not to exceed twenty-five in number."


That year, also, the Town Board found that a Fire Engine would cost from $1500.00 to $2000.00. Thus, the town fathers said it was not expedient to get an Engine then.


The same week that Mrs. Quentin Blewitt died, we received a request from Miss Virginia E. Lampson of Philadelphia, Pa., a relative of Mr. Blewitt, for information about Mrs. Blewitt. We wrote her immediately giving her copies of the obituary notices of both Mr. and Mrs. Blewitt.


We thank the Furnas Electric Co. for their kindness in printing our newsletter. They not only print it, but furnish the paper and address the letters.


Membership dues are $1.00 per year and are payable to Ralph C. Benson, 207 N. Washington Avenue.


Don’t forget


When buying a gift for a friend, that our book, Batavia Past and Present makes a good gift and can be purchased for $1.50.


We want to write an article on the bells of Batavia and we are going to need help.  There are, or were, church, school, factory and alarm bells; hand, sleigh, locomotive and cow bells; dinner, bicycle, street car and Christmas bells.  You may remember others.  Please let us know.


In view of the recent improvements of Houston Street, here is an interesting note from the Town of Batavia record books: In February, l873, Houston Street was extended east of Batavia Avenue down the hill to N. Water Street.  The West side C & NW Ry. came to town the preceding year primarily to get stone to build its shops in West Chicago and at Crawford Avenue in Chicago.