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Early Batavia History

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Pages 495-498, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.



This village of five hundred people, is situated in the extreme southwestern part of Locust Grove, on the line of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, and twelve miles west of Fairfield.


Batavia was first called Creaseville, and was laid out on the 26th day of August, 1846, by David Switzer, County Surveyor, for William M. McKee, Henry Crease and Elijah O'Bannon, proprietors. The plat was recorded under date of September 26, 1846.

Besides the proprietors, the first settlers were Henry Punnybecker, Joseph Crease and Benjamin Abbertson. The first cabin on the town site was erected by McKee and O'Bannon. This cabin was used for the double purpose of a dwelling and a store-room. Mr. McKee lived in the rear part of the structure, and goods were sold in the front part. The dwelling was divided from the store department by sheets or pieces of muslin suspended from the joists. William James served as clerk for McKee, who owned the stock in trade. The first building erected exclusively for store purposes was built by William Hambrick. This building is thought to have been erected in 1860. The next one was built by Caspar Durr, who is now one of the leading merchants of the village.

The first hotel was built on the old town site, about the year 1857, by William Freeman. It is now occupied as a dwelling by T. W. McDill.

A blacksmith-shop was built and a forge opened by a man named DeWitt, in 1862. Previous to that time, the nearest blacksmith-shops were at Agency City, in Wapello County, and Libertyville, in Jefferson County.

The first Justice of the Peace in the old place was John Sloan, whose "courts" were held in a old log hut, without a window, and which was afterward made to do service as a schoolhouse. The first deed acknowledged before Justice Sloan was for Freeman Wright, June 27, 1849, H. D. Gibson, as witness. Mr. Wright is still a resident of Batavia. Mr. Justice Sloan has been "gathered to his fathers." William McKee was the first Postmaster, and held the office under appointment from President James K. Polk. The mail was deposited in a shot-box and an old shoe-box placed in convenient positions, for general delivery. The next incumbent of the post office was David Laughery, who was appointed under President Fillmore's administration. The present Postmaster is Mr. Hiram Greenland, who was appointed by President Lincoln, in 1861. His daughter, Miss Maggie A. Greenland, is his deputy.

The name was changed from Creaseville to Batavia, under special act approved January 19, 1853, in answer to a petition presented by William F. Hambrick, who secured the unanimous consent of the people of the town for that purpose.

The first train of cars on the Burlington & Missouri Railroad passed Batavia in February, 1854.

An addition, known as Whitwood's Addition, was made to the south side of the town, bounded by the line of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (B. & M. R.), embracing about forty acres, in the year 1859. Whitwood was the agent of a Boston company, who purchased eighty acres of the land lying south of the original town site, which was divided into equal parts by the railroad.


Batavia was incorporated as a town in the year 1868, and the first election was held March 13, of the same year. M. S. Frisbie was elected Mayor; Caspar Durr, Recorder; C. W. Chase, Treasurer. The following-named gentlemen were elected members of the first Council: V. S. Carson, H Chase and a Mr. Graham. At the first meeting of the Council, W. P. Webb was appointed to serve in the double capacity of Marshal and Street Commissioner. He resigned, however, and John Brown was chosen to fill the vacancy.


At the last city election, March 10, 1878, J. B. Kent was elected Mayor. He resigned soon after the election, and, on the 14th of November, 1878, C. W. Nutting was chosen to the vacancy. The board of city officers is now as follows:

Mayor, C. W. Nutting; Recorder, William R. T. Boggs; Treasurer, Caspar Durr; Marshall, John Burnaugh; Street Commissioner, Adrian Baines; Assessor, W. S. Alexander. Councilmen - J. T. Stephens, Dr. H. W. Shaffer, C. W. Chase, John Lapp and V. S. Carson.


In the center of a field, on the old town site, somewhere about the year 1849, stood a round-log cabin, which had formerly served some settler for a dwelling, but was now unoccupied. This primitive domicile was utilized by Elijah O'Bannon, who here opened the first school in Locust Grove Township. He taught a three-months subscription school, charging $2.50 per scholar, and is spoken of by those who attended his school as a good, kind-hearted man, and as an excellent teacher. Among the lads who composed the first school were William Jones, Henry Crease, Columbus Lafferty, Richard Jones, Jefferson Lafferty, and one or two others. The lasses were Virginia O'Bannon and her younger sister. These have long since grown to manhood and womanhood, and are verging into the "sear and yellow leaf."

Speaking of this primitive school, one who attended states that the cabin contained no window, and that in order to let in a better supply of light and air, the taller boys would rise up and shove aside the loose clapboards on the roof, and protrude their heads through the aperture, opening their mouths for air like a fly-trap. The door was swung from wooden hinges, and whenever it was opened, creaked with a soul-harrowing howl that echoed for a quarter of a mile.


The independent school district of Batavia was organized in the year 1862, but as the records of those times were very imperfectly kept and eventually lost, it is found impossible to obtain much accurate information about it. The original district was divided in 1866, and the portion now known as the Batavia District purchased the schoolhouse then in use, and moved it to its present site. It is a commodious building, capable of comfortably accommodating all the pupils of the district. J. H. Hilton, W. H. Bartholomew, B. C. Sawyer, W. L. Alexander, Caspar Durr, C. W. Nutting and M. S. Frisbie compose the present School Board; J. H. Hilton, President; C. W. Nutting, Secretary. Three teachers are usually employed. At present, however, as a measure of economy, only two are engaged.


The Methodist Church was the first regular religious society organized in Batavia, the first meeting having been held in an old round-log schoolhouse which stood in a field now owned by Dr. Baldridge. The first sermon was preached by Rev. Joseph Herington, while the town was still called Creaseville. The first regular church structure was erected and dedicated in the year 1865, and cost about $1,200. The lot was donated to the society by the Burlington & Missouri Railroad Company, and the house was built with money raised by subscription. The first sermon in the new building was preached by Rev. James Wilson. A Sabbath school was organized soon after, and is still in a flourishing condition. Rev. Mr. Swanson is the present Pastor.


The Presbyterian Society was organized in 1858. It worships in a very handsome and commodious church edifice, which was erected at a cost of $1,300. The lot on which it is built is in McQuery's Addition, from whom it was purchased. The first sermon rendered in the new building was preached by Rev. Mr. Caldwell. The present Pastor is Rev. James McIlroy. The congregation is in a prosperous condition, and maintains a good Sabbath school.


The Baptist Church edifice was built about the year 1868, at which time the affairs of the society began to take rank among the other religious societies of the village. Rev. James Wilson, a Free-Will Baptist, was the leading spirit, and by his energy and perseverance raised money sufficient to build the church, and was chosen as the first Pastor. He was an untiring solicitor and a good financier. From some cause, however, he did not succeed so well in winning popularity as a Pastor as he did in raising money to build the church, and finally gave up the pastorate. After Mr. Wilson retired from the pastorate, other ministers came occasionally to preach to the society, but at present the Church is without services.


A society known and called Bible Christians was organized by Rev. Henry Phillips in 1855, who came here from Fairfield for that purpose. Among the original members of the society were George W. Troy, Gannon Bradshaw, Mrs. Sarah Jones, Elder Long, and others of the old settlers to the number of 100 persons. The services of this society, until about 1861, were attended by the whole people of the country roundabout; but at the commencement of the late civil war, there was such a diversity of opinion on war points that the society fell to pieces. In 1863, Rev. Mr. Fordice came and undertook to re-unite the inharmonious elements. He labored most earnestly to accomplish the purpose of his mission, but, at the end of one year, the seeds of discord, previously sown, took new root, or had grown so strong that he saw the fruitlessness of the undertaking, and abandoned the field.


Killomy Lodge, No. 198, A., F. & A. M., was organized August 30, 1856, under dispensation granted to Joshua Wright by Grand Master Peck, of the Iowa Grand Lodge. Charter granted in June, 1867. Charter members -- Joshua Wright, A. D. Griffin, Jacob Collins, J. D. Kirby, M. D. Baldridge, T. A. Robb, William Templeton, J. M. Rust, Andrew Smith, J. Wilson, John Stansbury, Henry M. Smith, William Pratt, R. B. Wright, George Allen, James M. McClelland, H. M. Henderson, J. S. Mount, M. S. Crawford, J. A. Willis and Thomas Shively.

Present officers -- W. W. Whitaker, Worshipful Master; E. A. Collins, Senior Warden; E. T. Winsell, Junior Warden; D. B. Clarke, Treasurer; M. S. Frisbie, Secretary; T. A. Robb, Senior Deacon; H. Grover, Junior Deacon; C. S. Hill, Senior Steward; George Whitmore, Junior Steward; W. H. Howell, Tiler.

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