Community Batavia History The People

The People

The first to settle in Batavia was Christopher Columbus Payne. Christopher was born in Pennsylvania in 1786, moving to Ohio when he was fourteen. He served as a scout in Indiana during the Indian Wars of 1812. Moved to Naperville in 1831 with his wife and six children.

A large forest named Big Woods, three miles wide, that ran from what is now Aurora to Batavia on the east side of the Fox River.A little woods ran from South Elgin to Batavia on the west side of the river.

In 1833 Christopher Payne settled at the head of Big Woods, That's why Batavia was first known as Head of Big Woods. The Paynes spent two years in Big Woods, moving then to Belvidere, IL and then on to Wisconsin. Christopher died in 1871 at the age of 85.

1800s CabinFamilies came to Big Woods for various reasons; to begin a new life, an opportunity to claim free land, not many laws,or to make money by using natural resources. James Nelson arrived in 1833, just three miles west of Christopher Payne, others soon followed.

In 1834 Colonel Joseph Lyon arrived from New York with his wife along with William Vandeventers and family. The Vandeventers were to have the first baby born in Batavia.

John Gregg built a blacksmith shop two miles east of the Fox River. Titus Howe built a cabin on the NW corner of Main and Water Streets. He also began to build a dam and sawmill at the south end of the island, but before they were finished part of the mill was lost in a flood. Not having the money to make repairs he sold them to William VanNortwick and his son John.

Joel McKee built a home and the first store in Batavia, the store was located near the river between what is now Illinois and McKee Streets. Joseph Churchill arrived as Batavia's first lawyer.

James Rockwell arrived to build a large house just south of where the Congregational Church stands today, later he owned a candy store, and was the first in Batavia to sell ice cream.

Elijah Town arrived, he was a leader in the first church of Big Woods. Captain Charles Dodson settled near the mouth of Mill creek building the small trading post and sawmill.

Judge Isaac Wilson arrived in 1835 buying Christopher Payne's land. Isaac changed the name of Big Woods to Batavia after his home in Batavia, NY. In 1842, Isaac was the postmaster of Batavia's first post office. Until then people had to go to Naperville or Geneva to get their mail, some even going so far as Chicago.

Charles Ballard came, building the first hotel and tavern. It was at 131 and 133 S. Batavia Ave. The hotel was called Batavia House and later the Revere House.

In 1839, Dr. Dennison Town arrived to help the sick. After families settling and liking it, it wasn't long before friends and relatives soon joined them, Batavia was growing.

Starting in the 1850's the first black pioneers started arriving. Among them were William and Betsey Stewart and family from Chicago, Steven and Susan Smith and family from Kentucky, John Ozier and family after their home was destroyed in the Chicago Fire.

People of many races and nationalities have come to make Batavia their home. The Irish and Germans in th 1850's, Norwegians and Swedes in the 1860's and the English in the 1890's. Hispanics and Asians in the 1960's. People from all parts of the world have moved to Batavia to work at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. In 1988, Batavia had a population of 15, 684, we currently have approximately 24,000 and still growing!