Kane County History: James Prindle Jr’s. Roll Top Desk Returns to Batavia

Kane County History: James Prindle Jr’s. Roll Top Desk Returns to Batavia

  • Editor’s Note: This article, part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history, was contributed by Batavia Depot Museum Interim Director/Curator Amber Foster.

U.S. wind engine and pump company 1898. All photos courtesy of the Batavia Depot Museum.

James Prindle Jr.’s roll top desk has made its return to Batavia.

In the early 1980s, Dr. Rodney Nelson purchased Prindle’s roll top desk and matching chair for his medical practice at 127 Hamilton St. in Geneva.

The desk was bought from an antique dealer located inside the Newton House at 11 N. Batavia Ave., which happened to be the home built in 1875 by James Prindle Jr.’s uncle, Capt. D.C. Newton. This building also served as the Batavia Public Library from 1921 to 1981.

‘The Desk Followed Me’

This particular roll top desk stands 43 inches tall — 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep. Its sliding roll top or “tambour” encloses the working surface. It features small cubby holes, shelves and drawers for easy storage.

“The desk followed me from the 1856 William Conant House on Hamilton Street to the new cancer center on the campus of Delnor-Community Hospital in the ’90s,” Nelson said. “The desk ended its service to me in 2015 when I retired. I lacked the foresight of James Prindle and did not create a space for my desk in the 1867 Rystrom House, where I live. So, the desk was returned to Batavia.”

Dr. Rodney Nelson on transfer day Aug. 27.

Last month, the desk was transferred to the care of the Batavia Historical Society collection at the Depot Museum.

James Prindle Jr. was born in Batavia on June 27, 1876. He is the third son of James P. and Mary (Cornell) Prindle.

His father, James P. Prindle Sr., spent 20 years as superintendent of Newton Wagon Company and eventually purchased interest in the company. By the early 1890s, Newton Wagon Works was one of the largest wagon factories in the United States, making between 4,000 to 5,000 wagons per year.

His aunt, Mary Prindle, married Captain Don Carlos Newton, who served as president of Newton Wagon Company from 1879 to 1893.

The Prindle family were active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the children were taught “no effort too great when made in the interest of temperance, morality and necessary improvements.”[1]

James Pearl Prindle Jr.

James Prindle Jr. received his preparatory education in Batavia and later attended Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, graduating in the class of 1898. He married Elizabeth Patton in Oct 1901 in Meadville and spent several years in Europe before finally resettling in Batavia.

James and Elizabeth had two sons: James P. Prindle III, and Robert C. Prindle.

Upon returning to Batavia, he became employed at the United States Wind Engine and Pump company. He retired around 1943 and bought a house located at 148 N. Washington[2]. In this home, he built an alcove in his bedroom especially designed for this handsome roll top desk.

James Prindle Jr. passed away on March 19, 1960, at age 83. He is buried at West Batavia Cemetery.

  • [1] S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. The Biographical Record of Kane County, Illinois. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1898. p. 573
  • [2] Until 1967, the north-south street now known as Lincoln street, just a block west of Batavia Avenue (Route 31) was called Washington Street.

About the Depot Museum

Batavia Depot Museum is now open! Updated Hours are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

The Batavia Depot Museum first opened in 1975 as a joint effort between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was the first of its kind, built in 1854, and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside, the city’s past comes alive through exhibits detailing the history of rail transportation, manufacture of windmills, agriculture, banking, commerce and a brief stay by Mary Todd Lincoln at Bellevue Place.

Suggested donation: $5. Your donation will benefit the development of museum exhibits and educational programs.

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