The Early History of Beloit
by William G. Cutler (1883)
On permanent organization of the county in 1870, Beloit was selected as the county-seat by a vote of nearly two to one. Beloit receiving 143 votes, Solomon Rapids 43, and Glen Elder 36. The town site of Beloit was first settled by A. A. Bell in 1868, and for some time was known as Willow Springs. Mr. Bell anticipated then the improvement of the water-power at this point; also that the natural commanding location would in time be improved for a town. Owing to the continued hostilities of the Indians referred to in the county history, nothing permanent was done until 1869, when T. F. Hersey purchased the mill-site of Mr. Bell, and commenced getting out timbers for a dam. Notwithstanding two heavy floods Mr. Hersey had the saw-mill in operation the following September 1880, and completed the grist-mill the next season.
The first township election was held April 4, 1871, and the following ticket elected: Wm. Bickle, Trustee; E. M. R. Blanchard, Clerk; D. E. Sedgely, Treasurer; Jeremiah Baldwin and J. W. Elliott, Justices; John Hyde, Road Overseer; Vinton Whitehurst and Magnus Munson, Constables. In April, 1871, through the enterprise of Hon. T. F. Hersey and a few others, a school building was erected on the lot where Mr. Roberts' furniture store now stands, and Rev. O. N. Fletcher took charge as first teacher of the first school in Beloit.
Mr. Fletcher also held religious meetings in the neighborhood, and was mainly instrumental in organizing the Baptist Church in this city. During this summer of 1871, many meetings were held by the Baptists in places not usually devoted to divine worship. For instance, Rev. George Balcom stepped into one of the early saloons on Mill Street, and taking a violin from the hands of a player, stepped behind the bar, and played and sang, then gave out a text, and for nearly an hour held his audience in close attention. Elder Balcom located a claim in the west part of the county where he resided until his death in 1880.
Nearly every building erected in town during the years 1870 and 1871, was opened by a dance as soon as completed, and services held by some traveling preacher the following Sabbath when the building was allowed to fall into its owner's hands for the legitimate purposes of trade or residence.
In the winter of 1873, an iron bridge was built across the Solomon within the city limits at an expense of $10,000, for which the bonds of the township was given. The town of Beloit was platted March 26, 1872, and the original description as found in the recorder's office covers all of section 9, and the south half of the southeast quarter and south half of the southwest quarter of Section 4, Town 7, and Range 7 west.
The proprietors of the town were T. F. Hersey, A. A. Bell, George Campbell, Alexander Campbell, C. H. Morrill, Edward Valentine, W. C. Ingram, and Daniel Kepler. The town grew very rapidly, and in July, 1872, was incorporated as a city of the third class, an election held, and the following city officers were chosen: Mayor, T. F. Hersey; Councilmen, W. C. Ingram, M. R. Mudge, H. H. Lyon, Joseph Baughman, J. R. Vaughan. The Mayors have been T. F. Hersey, G. W. Elliott, Alex. Campbell, E. Valentine, W. S. Vreeland, John S. Rogers and W. S. Vreeland. On the 10th of March, 1879, Gov. John P. St. John proclaimed Beloit a city of the second class.
In 1872, the school district in which this town is situated, which was the second district formed in the county, voted $5,000 bonds to build a schoolhouse, which was completed in the spring of 1873. In 1878, this building was found to be too small to accommodate the scholars, and a $3,000 addition was built thereto. In 1880, a frame building valued at $2,000 was erected in the Second Ward and is known as the Second Ward schoolhouse. Four hundred pupils are in attendance during the present (October, 1882) term under the supervision of B. S. Hutchins, principal, and seven assistants. Five hundred and forty-two pupils are enrolled in this district, and nine months school held per annum. The current expenses per year amount to $3,752.70. It is one of the largest and best schools in the county.
The School Board is composed of the following named gentlemen: W. H. Mitchell, President; Samuel Thanhouser, Treasurer; J. H. Roberts, George T. Finnell, H. T. Rogers.
A. A. Bell was appointed postmaster July 1, 1870 and held the office for several months with Joel Miley as assistant at a fixed salary of $12 per annum. In April, 1871, H. H. Lyon was appointed, vice Bell, resigned, and held the office until the spring of 1873, when C. H. Long assumed charge. On the 7th of September, 1875, the present incumbent, W. H. Mitchell was appointed, and the following year built the handsome post-office building on Main Street, and moved the office therein where it has since remained.
Beloit has two large three story hotels. The Avenue House was built in 1875, by Frank McGrath and H. Bramwell, on the corner of Main Street and Hersey Avenue. It is a stone building three stories above a well finished basement, and the roomiest house in the county. The Reeder House is of wood, and is on the corner of Hersey Avenue and Court Street. It was built by A. Reeder, and is now run under his management. Both houses are very popular and are a credit to the town and county. Several smaller hotels are also kept busy.
The first newspaper to behold the light in Mitchell County, was the Mirror, whose initial number was published April 5, 1871 by A. B. Cornell. The proprietor was not wholly unknown to fame before he dawned upon the Kansas prairies. In Minnesota, he had been a representative in the Legislature from Steele County. The state of Missouri knew him as an attorney and newspaper man. His advent in Beloit was made under difficulties, and his first paper was printed in the open air. After a few months of real earnest hard work on the frontier, the Mirror suspended, and Mr. Cornell removed to Russell County, where he has since ascended the ladder of fame, at least a few rounds, by publishing the Kansas Plainsman and the Russell Hawkeye, representing his county in the State Legislature, and serving the Federal government as a mail contractor. For completer details in this little particular the reader is referred to the history of Russell County.
About a year after the birth of the Mirror, Messrs. J. J. Johnson & A. B. Chaffee commenced the publication of the Gazette, the first issue appearing on the 11th day of April, 1872. On the 25th of June Mr. Johnson became the sole proprietor, and continued the publication of the Gazette alone until September 3, 1874, when his brother, W. H. Johnson purchased a half interest in the business, and remained with it until the second of the following April, when J. J. Johnson resumed complete proprietorship. Justin J. Johnson was one of the pioneers of Kansas, who served State and country in the Seventh Kansas Cavalry during the war of the rebellion; an earnest Republican and a successful pioneer publisher.
In 1876, February 11, he sold the Gazette to an early settler of Solomon Rapids Township, named G. W. Anderson, who in turn sold the same to Brewster Cameron. Mr. Anderson removed to Lincoln County, where his further history will be recorded. Mr. Cameron took possession of the Gazette October 1, 1879. John Coulter was employed as editor; the paper was enlarged at once, and has since been the largest paper in Mitchell County. In May, 1880, S. H. Dodge, the present editor and business manager, assumed charge of the paper, and is, at present writing, occupying the chair. The proprietor is special agent of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Brewster at Washington, D. C.
During the first week of December in 1874, G. W. McBride, of Iowa, arrived in Beloit with new material fresh from the foundry, and commenced the publication of the Beloit Index. This paper chanced to drop in the field in the fall of "grasshopper year," and the people not being able to give it the necessary support, it survived only three months, when its editor returned to his native State, and the material of the office was shipped to S. P. Rounds, of Chicago.
The Beloit Record, a sprightly real estate monthly, was the next candidate for public favor in Beloit. Its first issue appeared February 15, 1877. In August of the same year it was made a weekly and shortly passed into the hands of the junior partner, Mark J. Kelley, who bought the interest of G. Webb Bertram. Mr Kelley conducted the paper for a few months, and then sold it to W. H. Caldwell, who changed the name to the Courier. Mr. Caldwell was a member of the Thirty-sixth Iowa Infantry, an old publisher, a thorough printer, and he has staid by his paper persistently, until he has now the satisfaction of knowing that he has an established business and reputation.
October 1, 1878, the Western Democrat was started by J. B. Chapman who had just arrived from Tama City, Iowa. Mr. Chapman made the Democrat a success, and in 1881, October 14, sold it to F. W. Hiddleson, who changed its name and politics. The paper is now called the Western Nationalist, and advocates the principles of the national, or greenback party.
Churches and Societies
Methodist Church. - This society in this city was the second church organized, and has enjoyed quite a marked degree of prosperity. It is now cared for by Rev. J. M. Davidson; has 120 members, and a thriving Sabbath-school of seventy-five members. The church building is of stone, erected in 1874, and is valued at $2,000. Beloit is the headquarters of the Beloit District, and the presiding elder, now Rev. J. H. Lockwood, makes this city his home.
The Catholic Church, known as St. John's Congregation of Beloit, was organized by Rev. Henry Temphans in 1876. In 1878 their church, which is the largest in the county, was completed. The congregation numbers 400 members, and is in charge of Rev. Frederick Schalk. The church property is valued at $5,000.
The Presbyterian Church was organized March 17, 1872 by Rev. Charles Higgins, pastor. The first trustees were: D. F. Eakin and J. S. Schwartz. A building committee composed of H. T. Walker, Joel Holt, George McKinney and D. F. Eakin were early appointed to build the church on Main Street. It is one of the most elegant houses of worship in the county, valued at about $5,000. It was dedicated December 1, 1878. The church roll shows a membership of 100, the average attendance at Sabbath-schools numbers 140. Rev. J. A. Pinkerton the present pastor, reports the church to be in a flourishing condition.
Baptist Church. - In the spring of 1871 the Baptists organized a church in Beloit. The charter members were: Ira O. Pierce, C. H. Long, H. A. Sutton, G. W. Simpson, E. N. Thomas. The first pastor was Rev. Geo. Balcom. They have a handsome church on the corner of Campbell Avenue and Second Street, which was built in 1875, at an expense of $4,000. The Rev. H. H. Branch is the present pastor; the membership numbers eighty-five, and the average attendance at Sabbath-school, 125.
Mount Vernon Lodge, No. 145, A. F. & A. M., was organized June 10, 1873, and chartered November 29, of the same year. The membership now reaches 100, and the lodge is in a healthy state, with property valued at $1,200. The offices are: G. S. Field, M. A. Manifold, S. W.; T. J. Morris, J. W.; H. Casey, Treasurer; W. C. Ingram, Secretary; Geo. Frazier, S. D.; David Perdue, J. D.; Wm. Powell, Tiler.
Beloit Chapter, No. 47, was organized on the 25th of April, 1880 - under dispensation - and was chartered February 16, 1881. The lodge at present has fifty-five members, and property valued at $1,500. The officers are: G. W. Port, H. P.; W. C. Hoffmeister, K.; A. H. Ellis, S; Duane Freeman, Treasurer; W. C. Ingram, Secretary; Sam. Thanhouser, C. of H.; W. S. Search, P. S.; C. A. Norton, R. A. C.; C. J. Wynkoop, G. M. Third Veil; S. H. Dodge, G. M. Second Veil; W. A. Usher, G. M. First Veil; Wm. Powell, G.
Beloit Lodge, No. 130, I. O. of O. F., was organized the 31st of December, 1876. The present officers are: J. P. Hoffman, N. G.; Perry Wynkoop, V. G.; T. J. Culver, P. G.; John Mehl, D. D. G. M.; E. M. R. Blanchard, Secretary. The lodge contains something over fifty members, and is in a prosperous condition.
Iron Cross, No. 13, Knights of Pythias, was organized in April, 1879, and now numbers seventy members. The officers are: Daniel Bramwell, P. C.; Chris. Weldon, C. C.; Chas. Bozell, M. in R.; J. H. Calderhead, K. of R. and G.; A. J. Kinsley, V. C.; A. T. Rogers, M. of Ex.; J. Hamilton, M. of F. This lodge is in a very prosperous condition, and owns property to the value of $650.
Library and Historical Association was chartered September 4, 1879, with twenty life members, who subscribed $25 each. Among the donations was a fund of about $50, which was a balance left after The Soldiers' and Sailors' reunion was held at Beloit July 4, 1879. Dexter L. Ruggles was the first librarian, and W. C. Ingram is the present official. The library contains about 800 volumes, valued at $1,000, and is located on corner of Main and Mill Streets.
Beloit is at present a busy broom corn and wheat market. Thirty car-loads of broom corn were shipped from this station during the month of October, and about fifteen of wheat and flour. There are three grain warehouses, one of which is an elevator of 10,000 bushels capacity.
In 1873, F. H. Hart came to this city and erected a handsome stone building on Main Street, where he commenced a banking business. This business has increased every year. and he has twice added to the size of his building. Mr. Hart also bought an interest in the town company, and has done much toward improving and building up the town. On east Main Street he has built one of the most elegant private residences in the western part of the State. The Bank of Beloit, A. N. Schuster, president; H. T. Walker, vice-president, and J. W. Walker, cashier, with a capital of $50,000, built an elegant two-story bank building, on corner of Mill and Main Streets, in 1880; they also have branch banks in adjoining counties. M. S. Atwood owns and manages a bank opposite the court house on Court Street, which is in successful operation. Nearly every branch of mercantile business is well represented, many of the houses doing quite a large wholesale trade, and all of them carrying stocks, which indicate an immense business. There are three grain warehouses that are in constant use by the different local buyers; that of Denton & Co. being a steam elevator of 10,000 bushels capacity. Each of the above at present writing, is chiefly engaged in handling corn, although a few car-loads of wheat are bought each day.
Foundry. - Messrs. Derby & Puffenburger built a stone building in 1878 for foundry purposes, and until 1882 were engaged in the manufacture of every variety of castings, many of the handsome iron fronts in the Western towns bearing their mark. In March, 1882, they sold the business to S. H. Smith, who now employs several hands and continues the business.
Marble Works. - The business under the above head, in this city, is conducted by R. F. Wilcox, a practical marble-cutter; he employs several hands in the shop, and men and teams constantly on the road. The value of the manufactured goods which left his factory during the past year reaches well up into the thousands. The business was established in 1878, and has grown steadily.
Flouring-Mill. - The largest and most complete flouring-mill in this part of the state is located at Beloit, and has grown from the little concern begun by Hon. T. F. Hersey in the fall of 1869. It is now owned by Messrs. Vreeland & Sheldon, and is valued at $25,000. The mill proper is a four-storied frame building. The engine house is sixty feet north of the mill, and contains an engine of eighty horse-power, which united with the water power on the south side, operates two roller mills and seven run of stone. The flour manufactured here has a good reputation and finds ready sale all over the State.
Beloit is located at 39°27'46N, 98°6'34W (39.462700, -98.109531). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.4 km² (4.0 mi²). 10.3 km² (4.0 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.04 mi²) of it (0.75%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,019 people, 1,623 households, and 994 families residing in the city. The population density was 390.9/km² (1,012.2/mi²). There were 1,851 housing units at an average density of 180.0/km² (466.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.94% White, 0.77% African American, 0.35% Native American, 0.37% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.17% from other races, and 1.34% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.07% of the population.
There were 1,623 households out of which 27.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.9% were married couples living together, 5.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.7% were non-families. 34.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.3% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 22.3% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 21.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $33,227, and the median income for a family was $43,030. Males had a median income of $26,099 versus $20,694 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,713. About 5.5% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.2% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over. Farming is a popular source of income.
Gene Keady - college and professional basketball coach
Waldo McBurney - oldest living worker in the United States
Rodger Ward - professional race car driver