Kane County History: Batavia Museum Finds a Little Treasure in Capt. Carr's Spyglass

Kane County History: Batavia Museum Finds a Little Treasure in Capt. Carr’s Spyglass

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written and submitted by Batavia Depot Museum Curator Amber Foster.

When considering object-related stories in the collection, Batavia Depot Museum staff came across a long rectangular wooden box with small brass clasps on each side.

Inside the box was a naval spy glass about two-and-a-half feet long through which staffers were able to observe a piece of Batavia history belonging to Captain Leonard Jarvis Carr.

Carr was a retired sea captain who commanded his own ship prior to settling in Batavia in 1839. This piece of maritime history was presented to the museum by Leonard Carr’s grandson, Francis Carr, on Feb. 21, 1966.

Popular from the mid-18th century until the mid-19th century, spyglasses were mostly used for nautical terrestrial observation and were either hand held or portable. A spy glass is different from a telescope due to its lower magnification power.

This spy glass traveled with Carr throughout his naval career, from 1825 to 1839.

Leonard Jarvis Carr was born in Bangor, ME, on June 10, 1807, to James Carr and Betsey Jarvis Carr. He got his first taste of aquatic adventure and adversity in 1816 when, at just 9  years old, his family decided to “go west” and relocate to Missouri.

At the time, westward expansion was considered inevitable and destined. The surge was also due to the country’s rapid growth in all directions, as six new states joined the union between 1816 and 1821: Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Maine and Missouri.

The first half of the family’s journey was on a boat traveling to Baltimore from Maine.

Once they reached Baltimore, due to topography, the second half of this journey was made by stagecoach over the Allegheny mountains from Baltimore to Pittsburgh. At Pittsburgh, Carr’s father built a boat to finish the journey via the Ohio River to St. Louis.

Tragedy struck a few days later on the river, when Carr’s younger sister, Mary, fell overboard. His father jumped in to save her, but they both unfortunately succumbed to the water. Heartbroken, the family returned to Ellsworth, ME.

Carr returned to sea life in 1825 where he spent the next 14 years engaging in the mercantile trade. He followed the sea serving through different ranks from foremast hand up to captain. As captain, he commanded his vessel to many European ports and the east Indies.

After retiring from the sea life, Carr came to Illinois with his brother, James, originally settling in Nelson Grove, two-and-a-half miles west of Batavia, in 1839. He married Laura Snow of Bucksport, ME, in 1841 and had three daughters and a son. The family built a house about half a mile west of town and lived there until 1872.

He spent the last 20 years of his life living with his daughter in the city. During his time in Batavia, Carr became one of the earliest stockholders of the CB&Q railroad, Old First National Bank, and U.S. Wind and Pump company.


  • Carr, Francis J. Captain Leonard J Carr 1907-1892. Working paper. Batavia, IL: Batavia Historical Society, 1966.
  • Francis J. Carr to Batavia Historical Society. Jan. 7, 1966. Clearwater, Florida.
  • “Western Immigration.” Conner Prairie. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.connerprairie.org/educate/indiana-history/western-immigration/.

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