This is the sixth in a series of articles about the other communities, located east of the Rocky Mountains, that are named “Batavia.” This one is about Batavia, Iowa, an incorporated city of around 500 people located west of Fairfield in Jefferson County. The city (no, that is not a typo) is governed by a mayor and five councilmen.
According to local records, Batavia, Iowa, was laid out in 1846 by David Switzer, a county surveyor, for William McKee, Henry Crease, and Elijah O’Bannor, proprietors. Besides the proprietors, other early settlers included Henry Punnybecker, Joseph Crease, and Benjamin Abbertson. At that time, the community was named “Creaseville (or Creeseville)."
Seven years later, in 1853, in response to a petition presented to the State by William Hambrick with the unanimous consent of the people in the town, the name of Creaseville was changed to “Batavia.” Who Hambrick was, where he came from, and how he persuaded fellow residents to change the name is lost in history.
In a later Federal census, the same apparent Hambrick shows up in Western Iowa. In this census, he is identified as a German immigrant. This leads to the speculation that William Hambrick may have been a native of Passau, Germany, a city once named “Batavia” after the Batavii, the same Germanic tribe that temporarily gave its name to the Netherlands and, thus, indirectly to Batavia, N.Y. If this is correct, it would explain why Hambrick liked the name, but it still leaves a major mystery. How did Hambrick persuade the residents of Creaseville to change the name of their town, named after two of the first settlers, to the former name of a city in Germany?