Clayton William BATCHELOR was born on 4 Mar 1898 on Miller Brick Hill outside of Rising Sun, Ohio County, Indiana1, the fifth of seven children born to George and Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Knipfer Batchelor.
He appeared in the census on 19 Jun 1900 in Randolph Township, Ohio County, Indiana.2 Later that year, the family moved to Petersburg, Boone County, Kentucky, where the Batchelor family had been living for several decades. In 1903, the family moved to a farm called "Split Rock" at the mouth of Woolper Creek and the Ohio River.3 Clayton's father, George, was sharecropping the farm. It was called Split Rock because of a huge rock split by nature which became a tourist attraction. The rock is a couple of miles east of Petersburg, just off shore in the Ohio River, but it has been under water since the river was dammed. Today (1999), it is part of a private property and cannot be accessed by the public. It is apparently no longer of any interest - the younger folks in Petersburg have never heard of it. (2006 Update: Apparently the guy who owned the property has sold it to Wildlife Conservation Kentucky, Inc., which has created the Split Rock Conservation Park. See source text below for more info.)
Clayton appeared in the census on 27 Apr 1910 in Petersburg, Boone County, Kentucky.4 He was 12 years old and his mother, Lizzie, had recently died. Grandpa and his sister, Addie, always said that she died in childbirth, but in 2003 the last living spouse of one of the Batchelor kids told her great granddaughter that Lizzie had actually died of a self-inflicted abortion. Lizzie's mother, Catherine Barbara Disque Bauer Bender, moved in with the family to help Clayton's father, George, raise all the kids. They called her "Grandma Bender."
Clayton was baptized on Easter Sunday, 23 Mar 1913, in the Ohio River by Rev. Fisher, pastor of the Christian Church of Petersburg.
He dropped out of school after 8th grade in order to help his father on the farm.
Clayton and a friend worked on a big river freighter on the Ohio River for two weeks in 1915. They spent one night in Cincinnati to see a show and had their picture taken. See photo above.
On 23 Jun 1916, Clayton enlisted in the U.S. Army atiCincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. (Granpa said he enlisted at Cincy, but the Enlustment Record letter from the Adjutant General's Office says he enlisted at the Columbus Barracks in Columbus, Ohio.) He lied about his age - said he was 22. Apparently, 21 or 22 was the youngest they would accept people into the Army back then without his father's signature. He wanted to serve in Mexico but, instead, was sent to Columbus, Ohio and then to Savannah, Georgia.
On 14 July 1918, he and his fellow soldiers shipped out from Hoboken, New Jersey. arriving at Liverpool, England on 26 July 1918. Clayton said that he threw up one meal during the trip. From Liverpool, they went to Southampton from where, on the evening of July 30th, they travelled across the English Channel to Le Havre. and on to St. Nazaire and Angiers. When crossing the English Channel, the third ship in his group was bombed and, that night, LeHavre was attacked.
His outfit was the 34th Artillery Brigade, 64th Regiment CAC (Coast Artillery Corps). They used British 8-inch Howitzers and French 75's. Grandpa was an instructor on the French 75's. They mostly had cooks who made regular meals for them, but for emergency rations, they ate hard tack: crackers and canned beef. On Thanksgiving Day in 1918, he broke ice on the Loire River to take a bath. He was at Metz, at the front, when the armistice was signed. He got drunk the night after the armistice was signed - bought champagne for $2.50 a quart. He said it wasn't too cold in France, that he'd been billeted for a couple of months with a French family, and that he liked the French better than the English!
On 11 Feb 1919, Clayton left France from St. Nazaire on the USS Huron. The ship travelled through the Azores on the way back to the United States. Grandpa said he got seasick and threw up most of his meals. He also ran into an old friend from Petersburg on board -- a Navy mess chef named Frank. He ate all the rest of his meals with the Navy guys. They hit a huge storm and lost four men overboard before they managed to get all the hatches closed. The trip home only took about a week. They landed at Newport News, Virginia on 24 Feb 1919.
He was discharged from the Army on 1 Jul 1919, after his father wrote a letter saying he was needed on the family farm. He arrived home at the Split Rock farm on 4 July 1919.
In 1988, Grandpa received a certificate from the government of France for helping to defend that country against Germany during the 1st world war. He was a member of the Aurora Keith Ross American Legion Post # 231. He was the last surviving World War I veteran of Dearborn County, Indiana when he died in 1999.
So, he was discharged because his Dad needed him on the farm. Clayton had other ideas. He got home on July 4th and on July 15th, he went to work for the Royer Wheel Company across the Ohio River from Petersburg in Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana. Obviously, one week back on the farm was enough! During the war, Royer made wheels for the Army and, after the war, for the Ford Motor Company. Clayton boarded at the Aurora home of Frank Smith's mother. Frank became his best friend and, later, the best man at his wedding.
Clayton appeared in the census on 14 Jan 1920 in Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana.5 He was 21 years old, living with his sister and brother-in-law, Kate and Fred Gilb, and working with Fred at the wheel works company.
Shortly after that time, Clayton started a career as a baker that lasted from 1920 until sometime in 1936. He served his baker apprenticeship at Huff's Bakery in Aurora. After that, he worked at the riverfront Dearborn Bakery where he had a bread slicer and two big ovens. In 1923, he worked at the Domestic Baking Company in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, just to the east of Aurora.
In 1924, while back working at Huff's, Clayton made the first devil's food cake in Aurora from a mix (the 1st) he bought from a traveling salesman. He got flour poisoning on his hands while working there. He was also the manager there when the Huff's went under, but Clayton said it wasn't his fault; he said the owner was over-extended on his credit.
In 1929-1930, Clayton was working 60 hours a week for $30/week to support his family of four. (More on the family below, after we wrap up his bakery career.) On 7 February 1935, Clayton was made manager of the Dillsboro Bakery. He worked as a baker or bakery manager for 14 years, ending by owning his own bakery in Aurora. He finally gave up the bakery business and sold his bakery to Slick Lambert (who later sold out to Willard Watts) after he got asthma from all the flour.
Clayton married Minnie Belle ("Ted") GOODRICH on 16 Jun 1923 in Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana.7 They were married by Rev. William E. Fisher at 11 am in the Aurora Methodist Episcopal Church. Witnesses were their best friends, Blanche Rushworth and Frank Smith, who later married each other. Clayton had joined the Methodist Episcopal Church on 26 Mar 1922. Grandmother already belonged to the church. Grandpa was active in the men's fellowship, choir, and all church activities and was a regular financial contributor to the church up until his death.
We asked Grandmother how she and Grandpa met. She told us that the movie theater in Aurora used to be up on the second floor of a building. After seeing a movie one day, Grandmother was standing in line on the stairs to leave the theater. Some young men were standing to the side, trying to get in line. Grandmother turned to one of them and said,"You can get in line behind me." Grandpa's comment: "And I've been one step behind her ever since!"
Grandmother said their dates back then mostly consisted of afternoon outings in the presence of family and friends. Their best friends, as noted above, were Blanche Rushworth and Frank Smith and many of their "dates" were with Blanche and Frank. One strange date was to a Ku Klux Klan meeting back in 1921 or 1922 before they were married, "just to see what it was like," Grandmother told us.
Grandmother's name was Minnie Belle, but Grandpa always called her "Ted." I asked her why once and she just laughed and said that her girlhood nickname was "Teddie." This was the same woman who always insisted upon being called "Grandmother," not "Grandma," at least by her oldest grandchildren. If we slipped up, she was very quick to correct us! Her nieces and nephews on Grandpa's side of the family always called her "Aunt Ted."
When they first got married, Clayton & Minnie lived in a rented house or apartment on Vine Street in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. They bought and moved into their first house at 113 West Conwell Street in Aurora about 1924. Clayton and Minnie began their family in 1924, too, when daughter Martha Jean was born. She was followed in 1928 by another daughter, Phyllis Anne. The Conwell Street house was big enough for this growing family, but it didn't have a bathroom - just an outhouse. Behind the house, Clayton tended to his garden, fox grape arbor and a cherry tree. They had a summer kitchen with a wood-burning cook stove upon which they canned all summer long.
Grandpa began his political career about this same time. His first elected office was as city councilman in 1933 in Aurora. Around 1934, he served as acting mayor of Aurora. He refused to run for mayor, although asked to do so frequently over the years, because he was ashamed of his lack of education. Nonetheless, he held several other elective offices during his lifetime: city councilman (12 years), chair and precinct chair of the Aurora Democratic Party (12 years), county councilman, and chair of the city park board. Clayton was a lifelong, active member of the Democratic Party in Indiana. He was well-known in the party as a good fundraiser and as the person to know in Dearborn County if you were running in any kind of a statewide election.
Clayton was also very active in the business community. He joined the Aurora Chamber of Commerce early in his career, serving as a director for 18 years and as president for five years. In 1987, he was made a lifetime director of the Chamber. He was instumental in numerous developments in and around the City of Aurora, including construction of the first apartment building specially designed for senior citizens.
In May 1936, the Batchelor family moved to a modern and relatively new brown-shingled house at 306 Harrison Street in Aurora. The house was owned by a Mrs. Hinman who didn't like it and wanted a bigger house. She and Grandpa worked out some kind of deal in which they traded houses. The new house had gorgeous hardwood floors, a built-in ironing board in the kitchen, and an alcove in the hall wall for one of those old tall telephones with the speaker at the top. There was a little door under the alcove where the phone book was kept. Their phone number was 243J. They kept that same number until well into the 1960's. All calls were placed through an operator. (I can remember Grandpa kidding with the operator whenever he was making a call.) The house was also their first with an indoor bathroom.
The new house had lots of modern conveniences, but it wasn't big enough for them, so Grandpa added a room built up on concrete block stilts at the back of the house which served as Mom's and Aunt Martha's bedroom. In the 1937 flood, the water came all the way up to the floor of that room. The roof of a house downtown had come off and floated all the way up to their house. Mom said they laid in bed at night hearing that roof banging against the concrete blocks. She said it scared her to death. They tied boats up alongside the house when they came to get them to take them across the athletic fields and then up to Aunt Min's for safety.
The water from the Ohio River rose so high that it was up on the second floor of the Methodist Church. Townspeople went to the gym of the elementary and junior high school to get bread and other emergency supplies. Grandpa was working at Seagram's when the Lawrenceburg levee broke, so he couldn't get home for a couple of days.
Clayton had gone to work for Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons, Inc., in Lawrenceburg, Indiana in 1936. He worked for them first doing construction on a new plant, but then moved to their Police Department and to their Fire Department, before returning to the Police Department to stay. Most of his employment was with their Police Department. During his tenure with Seagrams, he was promoted to sergeant, 1st sergeant and midnight chief. He retired in 1964 after 28 years of service. According to Mom, sometime during these years (when they lived in the brown house), he once worked as a security guard at the Kentucky Derby because Seagram's provided the guards & rotated the assignment among their plants. He brought Mom home a cardboard periscope with mirrors in it that was used to see up and over the crowd. He received his Social Security number and card on 3 Dec 1936 while working at Seagram's.
On 7 June 1944, the Batchelors moved to 405 Harrison Avenue in Aurora. This was a big, two-story white house about a block away and around the corner from the brown house. They rented out a couple of rooms in this big house to boarders, including the high school band director.
Clayton and Minnie moved next door to 403 Harrison Avenue on 18-19 April 1953. This was a more modern home with kitchen, bathroom, large living room, two bedrooms on the first floor, and two bedrooms under the eaves on the second floor. Grandpa built the first carport in Aurora on the side of the house. The house also had a large, concrete basement that contained a workroom for Grandpa (in which he built a shower in the corner), a root cellar in which all of Grandmother's canned goods were stored, and a room in which Grandmother did laundry and ironing. From the basement, you could walk out onto a patio of sorts. It was all across the back of the house, and was surrounded by a low stone wall. At one end, there was a stone fireplace and chimney covered with honeysuckle vines. On the other side of the stone wall was a steep hillside down to Grandpa's garden, about 10-15 feet below the patio. There was a stone staircase that went down to that level. They lived the rest of their lives together in this house.
In 1964 after he retired from Seagram's, Clayton was appointed by Indiana Governor Mathew Welsh to manage the state motor vehicle licensing station in Aurora. He managed the Aurora License Branch for eight years.
On 16 Oct 1988, Clayton lost his beloved wife when they were both 90 years old. In Aug 1989, Clayton sold his home in Aurora and moved tothe Pine Knoll Retirement Home in nearby Lawrenceburg.
In 1991, the Aurora Park Board named the pavilion in the city park the "Clayton Batchelor Pavilion" and held a special naming ceremony and dinner which Clayton and his daughters attended.
In 1992, the 107th Indiana General Assembly honored him via House Concurrent Resolution 45 for his "immeasurable contributions to the people of Dearborn County and the City of Aurora."
Clayton was described as 6' tall, 208 lbs, with blue eyes and gray hair (originally brown), on his last Indiana driver's license in 1993. Actually, he went bald fairly early except for a white fringe around the sides. Even his earliest pictures show him with a very receding hairline.
In 1997, Clayton moved to the Woodland Hills Nursing Home in Lawrenceburg. On 7 Mar 1998, his family gathered in Lawrenceburg for a celebration of his 100th birthday. In addition to many family members and friends, the party was attended by the mayors of Aurora and Lawrenceburg, State Senator Johnny Nugent, State Representative Bob Bischoff, and Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton. As the last living World War I veteran in Dearborn County, Clayton was honored at his party by a number of veterans' organizations, and his birthday party was covered by a Cincinnati (Ohio) television station.
Clayton died of bilateral pneumonia on 20 Feb 1999 in Lawrenceburg, Dearborn County, Indiana, just a couple of weeks short of his 101st birthday. He was buried with his wife in Aurora's Riverview Cemetery. Rev. Jean Frable officiated at the funeral which was held at Rullman's Funeral Home in Aurora. Her husband, Dr. Frank Frable, gave the eulogy. Pallbearers were five of his grandchildren and a grandson-in-law: Dick Suit, Jr, Kim Watson Roser, Sue Watson Voelkers, Lissa Taylor Holsclaw, and Nancy Watson Mahle & Paul Mahle.
1. Clayton Batchelor, birth certificate no. Vol. I, page 196 (4 Mar 1898), Ohio County (Indiana) Health Department,.
2. George Batchelor, 1900 U.S. Census, Randolph Township, Ohio County, Indiana, Dwelling & Family # 205;. Age 2, born Mar 1898 in Indiana. Paremts born in Missouri (father) & Kentucky (mother).
3. Split Rock Conservation Park Website, owned by Wildlife Conservation Kentucky, Inc.,
http://www.splitrockpark.org/index.html. "Split Rock is named for the unique glacial formations deposited in the area thousands of years ago. This awesome feature and the beauty and diversity of the surrounding area have been a destination for exploration and wonder for generations. The land is a mosaic of woodlands and meadows surrounded by Woolper Creek and the Ohio River (with an abundant wildlife resource). Archaeological evidence of past cultures gives testament to the rich bounty of this area that has supported human communities and endures today."
Directions to the park: From 275 West in Northern Kentucky: take I-275 west to Petersburg (KY 20) exit (exit 11). Bear right from exit onto KY 8 South. Go straight on to KY 20 West. Follow KY 20 west for 5.4 miles into Petersburg. At the stop sign in Petersburg take a left (still KY 20 West). Go 3.2 miles to Split Rock Conservation Park on the Right.
4. George Batchelor, 1910 U.S. Population, Petersburg, Boone County, Kentucky, Dwelling # 197?, Family # 199?;.
5. 1920 U.S. Census, Aurora, Center Township, Dearborn County, Indiana. Dwelling # 209, Family # 222. Age 21, living at 124 East George Street in Aurora, IN with sister, Catherine (Kate) & brother-in-law, Fred Gilb. He and Fred, age 43, both worked as laborers at the wheel works, presumably, Royer Wheel Works. Others in the household included Catherine, age 32 (father b IL, mother b IN - same as for Clayton); George, age 10; Clarence, age 8; William & Lillian, age 5. All the kids were born in IN except George who was born in KY. (Dist. 36, Sheet 9, Center Twp, Aurora).
6. United States Social Security Administration, application for a Social Security Number and Card.
7. Clayton Batchelor & Minnie Goodrich, marriage license no. n/a (1923), Dearborn County Clerk of Courts, Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
8. Clayton Batchelor, 1930 U. S. Population, Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana, 113 West Conwell Street Dwelling & Family # 18;.