Volume Twenty-One

No. 1





Sunday, March 9, 1980 at 2 p.m.



H.C. Storm Elementary School

Illinois & Van Nortwick Ave.





The Batavia Schools of Today

Dr. James Clark


Vignettes of Batavia Educators


Miss Grace McWayne

Mrs. Jane Elwood

Miss Louise White

Mr. Harold Maves

Mr. J. B. Nelson 

Mr. Tom Mair

Miss Alice Gustafson

Mr. William Wood

Dr. H. C. Storm 

Miss Lydia Stafney (Leigh & Penny Tracy, Program Co-Chairpersons)


A short business meeting will precede the program with Jeffery Schielke, President, presiding.


A social hour will follow the program.



Batavia has a long history of educational responsibility to the children of our community. Trees destined to become pioneer homes were spared while others were suddenly turned into a schoolhouse in this tiny community that was not yet two years old.  First records indicate that schooling was under the supervision of a school master Mr. Knowles/Mrs. Claghorn with a class size of nine pupils.  There were a teacher and pupils, the only absolute requirements for schooling. Such was life in 1834/35.


By 1850 there were 185 families in the Batavia area, along with some single adults and children to make up a township population of 892. By now there were enough children for their parents to think about taking time to build fine limestone schools. The west siders erected a school for $1200 in 1852 (later bought by the Swedish Lutherans for a church).  


The east siders built a finer building completed in 1860 for a cost of $9000 (this was the structure that burned in 1893). Not to be outdone, the west siders built an imposing edifice in 1867 at a cost of $27,100. (Note the increasing costs of building construction a century ago or more.)  


The 1867 census states that there were 216 pupils· on the west side with five teachers plus a principal while across the river there were 472 pupils in attendance with six teachers plus principal. O. T.·Snow. Local residents assumed the responsibility of secondary education with the establishment of a private seminary called Batavia Institute (now Fox Hill Home, alias Bellevue Place) at a cost of $20,000, with the passage of the state law establishing high schools in 1867, the Institute was sold to Dr. Patterson, who established Bellevue.  


In 1971 Batavia High School celebrated its 100th birthday. The town grew. Now in 1980 we have a school system operating from seven educational buildings, each local schoolhouse filled with "kids," as Dr. Storm used to call them.  


Batavia has always supported the construction of schools at local expense because the people of the community traditionally look with favor on their schools. But our local residents have always known that education is ultimately induced by the quality of the teachers who guide our youth. Five of the greatest of the many talented teachers that have blessed Batavia are rightfully honored by having elementary schools named for them. At our March 9th meeting, we shall learn more during short remembrances which shall recall Dr. Storm, Miss Louise White, Mr. Nelson, Miss Gustafson and Miss McWayne. You are invited to learn more about some of the most-memorable-Batavians ever to walk our land and excite our minds. Each an individualist in their own right, the Batavia Historical Society is proud to offer such a program at this time.  


Remember, the meeting is Sunday, March 9th at 2 p.m. at the new H.C. Storm School at Illinois and Van Nortwick Avenues on the city's northwest side.





Many of us did not know Harold Bunker too well.  Yet, he was a loyal member of the Society. He was a big, kindly man of a rather prominent farm family . . . note Bunker Road off Main Street west of town. He was a collector of tractors, certainly not an item that could be displayed on a library shelve where he spent much of his time. He was a lover of research, study and presentations. He spent many hours in libraries around the area. 



Putting thought into action, his will presented the Society with a $5,000 gift. No strings! Beatrice Finley, wife of Ralph Finley, died recently. Our sympathy is with the Roger Finley family in Lily Lake. Ralph Finley was long a member of the Society, having given various items to the museum.  His father was one time president of the Northwestern Railroad.  


The family home was originally the Italianate house on the present site of Avenue Chevrolet on Batavia Avenue. The house was moved a number of years ago to 231 North Jackson St. 


Word has been received of the death of Harry Strain, long associated with the Society. Since he moved to California he has made frequent return trips to visit oldtimers such as Brayton Weaver and John Gustafson.  He was a fine gentleman. His father was a purchaser in Chicago. Each day he would travel by train to Chicago to buy goods needed by retailers and small businesses in Batavia.  



The Strain was the attractive house where the Walter Kauth's reside. As for memorials, Dorothy Hillburg has made a generous contribution to establish a memorial for Alice Gustafson, preferably something for the Lincoln Room at the Museum. Students and faculty at the Alice Gustafson School have achieved an innovative memorial. They have had a copy made of the beautiful 1869 map of Batavia.  



They had money left over and can you guess what they did with it? They had small 5x7 inch reproductions of the map made so that every child in the school was presented with a copy of it. Alice would have been delighted.  



Three things the Depot Museum needs badly: An old chest in which to place our most precious costumes. (We shouldn't keep them on hangers, the experts say.) Copies of Batavia city directories that date before 1960 and any old Batavia telephone directories before 1964 would also be nice. We also need a Victorian bed table for the Lincoln Room. Near the beginning of the century, Tracy Holbrook and Madge Grimes Spencer took a great number of snap shots that were all compiled into a unique album known as "Batavia Celebrities.  


The Society owns one of the original copies and thanks to some professional camera work by Police Chief Bob Popeck a couple years back, some new reproduction copies have now been made. Several of the original photos recently appeared on the front page of the Chronicle along with a story on the book.  


Bill Wood, our resident researcher, is compiling information concerning the men featured in the book on 3x5 inch cards. He is anxious to hear any biographical information you might be willing to share on the over 400 faces found on the negatives of Tracy's camera. Speaking of Tracy's camera, news that the Holbrook/Spencer book was being researched brought out a genuine historic find when Jennie Larson, a familiar face in many circles of Batavia life, recalled some artifacts which Leslie Holbrook, Tracy's brother, gave her to keep some years back.  


Among the artifacts now in the Society's collection from the Holbrook family is the original negatives of Tracy's book. Another good note to report is that the huge collection of filing cards that John A. Gustafson compiled are being reproduced on 5x7 cards for future use by historians, students and all interested persons. It will be good to have a duplicate source of this material as a safeguard and to further make them more available for use, as the first copies are about worn out.


At the most recent meeting of the Society Board a decision was reached to improve the audio portion of our meetings. Thus a new sound system with speaker's stand has been purchased and will be used for the first time on March 9th. With our new "amp" there should no longer be any problem with anyone hearing what is said during our meetings or programs. Lucile Gustafson, Historian.



Some nice things are happening to Batavia and to the Batavia Historical Society lately. The generous remembrance left us from the estate of Harold Bunker has been invested by Treasurer Elliot Lundberg until a suitable determination can be made on what the money should be used for. Noting Mr. Bunker's love for research and libraries, the Board of Directors at their last meeting discussed setting up a memorial to Mr. Bunker which would promote his interest in local history and research with library and reference materials.  


The Batavia Chamber of Commerce has just issued a 48 page full color book on life and times in the Windmill City of today. The book covers all phases of community life and contains some fabulous color photography of the Batavia area.  I had the opportunity of representing the Society on the local committee which worked with the book's publisher in producing the final product.  


It was interesting to hear the publisher relate that no other town in the Chicago area he had worked in seemed to have as much local history as Batavia did. Thankfully, we were given the opportunity to promote a lot of local history in the book's final product.  The front cover shows the Western Avenue windmill beneath an orange sunset.  


The professional shot was the product of Ron Dickenson and is a true prize winner. Copies of the book are on sale at the Chamber of Commerce office at the Bartholomew Civic Center, 327 West Wilson St. They are also being sold in local stores. Hopefully, we shall have the opportunity of having a few at the Depot Museum gift counter in the near future. As Dr. Lucile already mentioned, the Board of Directors acted at their last meeting to improve the audio portion of all general meetings of the Society. We have purchased a combination speaker system and lecture stand that should provide many years of listening enjoyment for the Society.  


There should be no future problem with hearing any of the speakers or business portions of Historical Society meetings from now on. The new system is completely portable and folds up to suitcase size when not in use but it sure can send out the sound, believe me. It also has a built-in feature which allows for the tape recording of all meetings and programs straight off the microphone of the system. Cooperation with the Batavia Park District at the Depot Museum continues to be very good. 


Museum Director Carla Hill has been responsive to our requests and is going to help us plan some sort of a 5th birthday party celebration for the Depot later this spring. Hard to believe that it has been five years since Pat Verderbar and a proud contingent of Batavians got the whole thing together and swung the door open to the public for the first time. That memorable date was April 13, 1975.  


The continuing flow of visitors who stop in to see what Batavia has created at the Depot Museum is a great tribute to all the volunteer hours or labor, money and time which went into the start of the Depot. But volunteer aid did not stop when the initial job was done, we are most fortunate to have many talented hands who continue to serve the Depot project with dedication. 


The newly published Chamber of Commerce book on Batavia makes mention of the never ending civic spirit in our city which produces projects like the Depot, Sheltered Workshop, etc. Speaking of the Batavia Park District and the Depot, we are currently working with the park board administration to determine a long-lasting replacement for the memorial tree plaques which were destroyed last year by vandals around the memorial trees at the Depot.  


At the moment some sort of map layout which could be kept in a safe place at the Depot site is being investigated. The map would be designed to show each tree on the site and would carry information about each person that a tree is dedicated to. Vandalism around the Depot has dropped somewhat but not entirely and the value of our alarm system there has been good protection and a real bargain. At the last meeting of the Board of Directors all were in agreement that we should endorse the requests by the owners of both the old Louise White School and Grace McWayne Annex (alias Valley Exceptional School on First St.) for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.  


We have received word that the application for the Louise White building will be heard formally on March 14th in Springfield before the Illinois Advisory Council on Historic Sites.  We have sent a letter of endorsement for this nomination and further offered some historical information regarding the building. I had the opportunity to tour the old Louise White building during its present remodeling and reconstruction work now in progress.  


Richard Marker, a Downers Grove based architect, is one of the partners in the venture and has been in regular contact with the Society on the project. Many of the interior walls in the 1893 portion of· the building (the limestone section) have had the plaster removed and underneath some beautiful red brick, circa 1893, has been found. In fact, all the interior walls have been found to be red brick except for coatrooms. Work has been started on the installation of an elevator into the building which will open up access to the attic where the owners hope to open a restaurant. 


Plans at present call for the old classrooms with red brick walls to be divided up into commercial shops. Special interest has been shown on the part of the owners for attracting antique shops into the complex.  Much of the blacktop on Washington Avenue and State Street sides of the building is to be replaced by green grass and trees.  Entrances and parking will be off Van Buren.  


The city has rezoned the property to allow for business use and the owners say that their project will be a unique attraction to the community.  If past performance is any indication we may well have something good going for us.  One past project of the Louise White owners is the restoration of an old brick blacksmiths shop in downtown Downers Grove.  


Located at 5300 So. Main Street in downtown Downers Grove, the building is one sure attraction in that community.  If the same sort of job can be done on Louise White that has been done in Downers Grove, Batavia may have a big new attraction on its hands in one of its older historic buildings.  Here's hoping we are about to enjoy great things at the old east side schoolhouse! I continue to have the pleasure of talking with Miss Eunice Shumway, our first President and one of our founders. Her aid and counsel on many topics is much appreciated.  


She continues to express concern for the appearance of Batavia, especially our downtown area, where we certainly need more working together among all factions of the community to brighten our days ahead . . . . I also have the privilege to talk with John and Arnold Gustafson frequently. Here too, I find a love and concern for Batavia that is second to none. Their sentiments about the people of Batavia are a community tribute of the first order and their concern that our city grow and expand in an orderly fashion, while never forgetting its proud past, are thoughts we all should take note of.


Jeff Schielke



By Dr. Lucile


Mrs. Ethel Bartelt recently mailed us her 1980 dues for membership in the Batavia Historical Society. A life-long resident of our city, Mrs. Bartelt now resides at the Roosevelt Square Retirement Center on Fabyan Parkway. She has always been a very loyal member to the society and most generous in her gifts to the museum.  


One of the most interesting artifacts we own is a handmade bread pan used by her mother.  


(She also contributed her beautiful wedding dress.) 


Her mother, Mrs. Clark Lewis, was the first woman ever to serve on the East Side School Bord, and her brother Bob was one of the students at the school the day back in 1893 when it burned down. Ethel's father was Clark Lewis, editor of the Batavia News which began here in 1869.  The museum owns many issues of that newspaper.  


By the way, the Lewis home still stands on the southeast corner of Van Buren and Spring Streets.  


The prompt action by Mrs. Bartelt in paying her dues leads us into the following headline for your immediate attention





1. Crane and Swan "Let These Birds Feather Your Nest" . . . .

2. "The First Nighter" radio program sponsored by Campana . . .

3. Johnny Ozier telling Civil War stories . . . .

4. Charlie Bird's Hat Shop . . . .

5. The "Victory Gardens" of Batavia . . . .

6. The Green Pheasants . . . .

7. Radio station WORD . . . .

8. The Frame . . . .

9. Murray's News Agency . . . . .






Made from an original glass negative, this photograph of "the old pond" and the West Wilson St. bridge was taken in about 1894 by the father of Carl Harrold. Mr. Harrold gave the negative to Police Chief Robert Popeck who printed it up for the Society. Hard to believe that McDonald's stands today where the "City of Batavia" paddle wheel boat sits in tow.