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BATAVIA, ILLINOIS

On their way west in the mid-1830s, settlers found a fertile valley created by the Fox River-a valley rich in farmland, quarry stone, timber, and water power. Christopher Payne arrived in the valley in 1833, staking a claim.

The new settlement, known as "Head of Big Woods," was renamed "Batavia" by Judge Isaac Wilson after his hometown in New York. Wilson purchased Payne's land claim when Payne moved on only two years after his arrival.

Nearly from its beginning, Batavia was an industrial city (See Batavia Industries). Farm implement and windmill factories provided employment for many. The first products manufactured in Batavia (flour, ice, lumber, paper, stone) found markets in Chicago.

The Newton Wagon Company, which began in 1854, was the first large factory to take advantage of the area's natural resources. Three major windmill factories, the Appleton, the Challenge, and the U. S. Wind Engine and Pump Co., were so productive that by 1890, Batavia was recognized as the leading windmill manufacturing city in the world. The output of these companies served an important role in settling the West.

In the 1830s, wheat grinding mills provided large quantities of flour for Chicago.

Following the great fire in 1871, Batavia quarries shipped massive amounts of Niagara limestone to help with Chicago's rebuilding.

Many Swedish immigrants, who lost their jobs because of the fire, came out of the city to work the quarries. These families made an indelible mark on the culture of the community, joining the English, Irish, and Germans already here.

In the last quarter of the 19th Century, papermaking became an important industry in the village. (See other Batavia Industries)

In 1867, Dr. R. J. Patterson, a well-known mental health expert, turned an old private high school into Bellevue Place, a sanitarium for women. His most famous patient was Mary Todd Lincoln, widow of the assassinated president.

In the past decade, residential growth has increased Batavia's population to over 22,000. Its many styles and designs of architecture range from the 1850s farm house to the 2000s townhouse. The city is bounded by projects that keeps urban sprawl to a minimum, including the National Accelerator, The Loyal Order of Moose's International Headquarters and Mooseheart, and the Fabyan Forest Preserve.

When two new elementary schools are completed in the fall of 2001, the city will have six elementary schools, one middle school, and one senior high school.

Inhabitants of the city are proud of the completion in 1998 of a downtown Riverwalk built entirely with volunteer help and funding. This remarkable community project took seven years to complete.

See Batavia Industries

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