The end of an era in the village of Batavia

Batavia is celebrating its bicentennial this year, and The Clermont Sun is publishing a series of historic vignettes. The late Rosanna Hoberg, author, was a columnist and reporter for The Clermont Sun. This column was published in 1964.

By Rosanna Hoberg

By the 1930s, there was a new concrete bridge at the foot of town, and Main Street was widened all the way up, rousing the ire of the tree lovers and causing the demise of the lawn swings. The pedestals in the middle of the street were gone, and stop lights were soon to come.

Finally, it was decided that Mr. Dimmitt’s Court House, built way back in 1827, had outlived its usefulness, and that it was time to tear it down. Thus the last tangible link with our first settler, Ezekiel Dimmitt, was gone from our sight forever, and on Saturday, December 19, 1936, a new Clermont County Court House was dedicated.

This seemed to be the signal for further changes in town. The year 1938 saw the erection of a new jail and the chartering of the Batavia Rotary Club and the birth of the Junior Woman’s Club.

In 1939, the town held a huge celebration in honor of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the village. September 15th, 16th, and 17th were set aside for union church services, a parade, a pageant, a homecoming ball, and just a general good time for everyone. The Clermont Sun and The Clermont Courier got together and published a gigantic centennial edition.

Little did the people know at this time that they were in reality saying goodbye to a familiar era, and that they stood on the threshold of an experience that would soon change the lives of them all, for just two short years later brought Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II.

It would be many years before most of the men and the women from Batavia who left to serve their country would again see the sycamore tree on the Court House corner, and some of them — Donnie Walker, Warren Wilkie, Burl Brooks, Jack Paschal, and Thomas Schneider —never would see it again.

All at once, after the war, it seemed like it was in the very beginning. People began to migrate to the valley, like they did long ago. First they came in a little trickle, and then in great numbers. True, the village itself didn’t grow much, but it became completely surrounded with people, and the town was no longer isolated by farm land stretching between it and the city or the next village. Naturally, this changed the complexion of the town. New businesses were instigated, and new people came, needing places to live. Subdivisions sprang up, particularly in the locality of Old Boston Road, and north and south of the village on Route 74, which was soon to be made into a four-lane highway and changed to Route 32.

The Korean War also touched our village, taking away one Batavian, Jake Noll, who died in the service of his country.

The Methodists and the Presbyterians built additions to their churches. A new municipal building was erected in 1960, at the site where the old Town Hall had reigned for many years. Also in 1960, a group of citizens met and organized the Batavia Life Squad, a group that renders valuable service to our village (now part of the Central Joint Fire-EMS District). There was a new sewage disposal plant, and after so many years, garbage collection became an absolute necessity.

Supermarkets gradually eased out the family grocery store, and nobody got sacks of candy when they paid their monthly grocery bills anymore; and Lt. Milton Jamieson would have had the shock of his life if he could have looked back on the valley from the hill once again to see all the TV antennas sprouting up from all the housetops.

The businessmen got together in 1946 and formed the Batavia Business Men’s Association, and up at the top of the hill on Main Street, where Bob Jones and his family lived for many years, the Ridge Club swimming pool was built in 1956. People quit washing at home and began to use the two laundromats; a bowling alley was built; Main Street changed from a street half-business to an almost solid business block with parking meters spreading to its side streets.

Today (1964) our town is a mixture in ideas, a blending of the old and the new, in our buildings and in our people. Some have lived here all their lives; some over 70 years of age even live in the same houses in which they were born — Mrs. Marie Young, Mrs. Evalinda Tom, Miss Elizabeth Hoerner, and Mr. James Dial. Others have joined our midst over a period of years, and many others have come just recently.

Our streets are alive with memories of those who have been before us — Batavians who were a vital part of the life of the village while they were here — such people as P. F. Jamieson, Lady Sprague, Mrs. Minnie Griffith, Orie Frazier, S. L. Larkin, Judge and Allen Nichols, Earl Fishback, X. Waits, Uncle Allen Glancy, John Lenin, Grandpa and Jack Buerkle, General Penn, Eli Speidel, Ruck Griffith, Dr. Van Horn, Jimmie Sutton, Dr. Jim Ashburn, Mr. and Mrs. John Huntington, Miss Townsley, Andy Burnett, Judge Roudebush, Milt Kain, and Frank Schieszler, to name a few. These are men and women from the past 50 years, but there were more before them, and then, more, too, to be remembered way back to the first settlers, and there will be more to come. After all, it is the people who make the town.

No more fitting finale to the history of Batavia could be written than the final paragraphs of an article written by the late Mrs. Minnie Griffith back in 1939:

“The customs and habits of us in Batavia, in many ways, are those that have been instilled in us since our earliest recollections. Conversation at times is very glib in relating town gossip — a romance, a baby that’s coming, loss of money, sickness, tragedy, death is freely discussed. It is not that we delve into these personal affairs to criticize, slander, or be just idly curious. It is because in a way we are one large family, and we have a feeling that we owe to one another benevolence, forgiveness, and a desire to help those in the depth of sorrow or misfortune, and we wish to rejoice with those whose lives seem filled with joy, rather than ever be inclined to be envious of their prosperity. We are progressive, although we have not relegated all the rocking chairs to the attic. We are cosmopolitan enough to meet any situation with poise, intellectual reasoning, smart attire, polite manners.

‘‘A person, driving through our village, going on and on, into the deep shadows of the afternoon, has probably forgotten the little village he passed through. It never occurred to him that there was anything of interest or note in that little village, but to the person who was born here, or who has spent most of his life in Batavia, there is much interesting history and beauty all around. The hills, the rocks, the East Fork with its beautiful valley, even the little creek where gold lies deep.

“Villagers, it is not just a question of brick and mortar, wood and stone — it goes far deeper into the life of each one of us. It is our village — it’s Batavia.”

Rosanna Hoberg, November 2, 1963.

Excerpted from History of Batavia, Ohio, 1814–1965, by Rosanna Hoberg. Some references are added to reflect 2013 circumstances.