The People

Christopher Columbus Payne

The 1st to settle in Batavia was Christopher Columbus Payne. Christopher was born in Pennsylvania in 1786 and moved to Ohio when he was 14. He served as a scout in Indiana during the Indian Wars of 1812. He then moved to Naperville in 1831 with his wife and 6 children.

A large 3-mile wide forest ,named Big Woods, ran from what is now Aurora to Batavia on the east side of the Fox River. Another small wooded area ran from South Elgin to Batavia on the west side of the river.

In 1833, Christopher Payne settled at the head of Big Woods and that is why Batavia was first known as Head of Big Woods. The Paynes spent 2 years in Big Woods but later moved to Belvidere, Illinois, and then on to Wisconsin. Christopher died in 1871 at the age of 85.

New Life in Batavia

Families 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 3 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 his family. The Vandeventers were to have the 1st baby born in Batavia.

A black and white photograph of a log cabin

Early Businesses & Communities

Joel McKee built a home and the 1st store in Batavia. The store was located near the river between what is now Illinois and McKee Streets. Joseph Churchill arrived as Batavia's 1st 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 1st in Batavia to sell ice cream.

Elijah Town arrived and he was a leader in the 1st church of Big Woods. Captain Charles Dodson settled near the mouth of Mill Creek and built a small trading post and sawmill.

Judge Isaac Wilson arrived in 1835 through buying Christopher Payne's land. Isaac changed the name of Big Woods to Batavia after his home in Batavia, New York. In 1842, Isaac was the postmaster of Batavia's 1st 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 1st hotel and tavern. It was at 131 and 133 South Batavia Avenue. The hotel was called the Batavia House and later the Revere House.

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

The 1st black pioneers starting arriving in the 1850's. Among them were William and Betsey Stewart and family from Chicago, Steven and Susan Smith and family from Kentucky, and later the John Ozier and family after their home was destroyed in the Chicago Fire.

Batavia Through the Decades

People of many races and nationalities have come to make Batavia their home. The Irish and Germans in the 1850's, Norwegians and Swedes in the 1860's, English in the 1890's, and 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. Today, we currently have approximately 24,000 citizens and still growing.