THE BEGINNINGS OF BELLWOOD



J. D. Bell owned and operated a flourishing general merchandise store in Woodhull, Illinois, during the 1860s and 1870s. There was much advertising and publicity in those years about the vast amount of good farm land available in the new state of Nebraska.

After corresponding with a former friend, Mr. Mowy, who had settled in the Platte Valley southeast of Columbus, Mr. Bell decided to go west and look over the land in the Platte valley. He arrived in the small town of Columbus on the recently completed Union Pacific railroad. Mr. Mowry met him there with a team and wagon. They crossed the Platte river on a wooden trestle bridge and went directly to Mr. Mowry's farm which was just north of the present Bellwood Cemetery

The two men made an inspection trip of the land in the valley and Mr. Bell decided on section 19 in Savannah Township. The entire section was a solid sea of tall waving grass, as was all the land in the valley. Back in Columbus he went to the banking house of Gerrard and Reed and learned that a large amount of the Union Pacific land in northern Butler County, including the section he wanted, had been sold to Seth Richards of Van Buren County, Iowa. However, the land was for sale and on June 5, 1872, Mr. Bell purchased the entire section for $3800. He paid down $2430 and signed a 2-year note for the balance, which he paid in full on July 3rd the following year.

After returning to Woodhull he arranged with his brother-in-law, Charles W. Derby, to go west and start developing the land. His basic outlay was a team of horses a mower, a hay rake and a breaking plow. He would clear off a plot of grass and plow the sod, then start on another plot. Charles stayed with the Mowrys the first year.

Mr. Bell came back to the area in the fall of 1873 and arranged to have a house built on the south side of the section. He had been raised in timber country in Indiana and was very fond of trees. There were no trees at all here so year after year he ordered hundreds of young trees and shrubs from the nursery in Bloomington, Ill. These were planted in belts around the entire section and across the section both ways on the half-mile lines. He also had many varieties of trees and shrubs planted in and around the farmstead. These included a large circular grove northeast of the house, a large selection of fruit trees and 3 acres of grapes. Also, on the northwest quarter he put out a commercial orchard of 20 acres of apple trees. He found that with some careful nurturing during the first two or three years nearly all varieties of trees grew well here on the plains. An inventory of the trees and shrubs growing on the farmstead in 1920 showed there were over 50 varieties.

Charles Derby stayed on the farm and in November 1873 married Capt. Miles Warren's daughter, Ida, who lived across the road south from the new Bell farm home. Charles and his new bride moved into the new home.

On April 10, 1878 J. D. Bell, his wife Hattie (Derby) and their daughter Lorena moved from Woodhull to the home on his farm in the Platte valley. At this time a new railroad was being surveyed to run from Lincoln to Yankton, S.D. by way of Columbus. Mr. Bell wished to have the railroad run through his land as he wished to start a town on the southeast quarter. He offered the railroad the right-of-way free of cost if they would build a station on his land. On Sept. 18. 1879 he reached an agreement with the Lincoln Northwestern, as the new railroad was named, when they agreed to these stipulations. However they needed a 200 ft. right-of-way (as compared to the standard 100 ft) for a 1000 ft. length to locate the station and sidings. For this they paid him $400. The station was built on the northeast side of the track directly across from the present Farmers Co-op Grain Co. office.

Following the transaction with the railroad, Mr. Ben made plans to layout a townsite as soon as possible. The first train came into the station (then called Platte station by the railroad) in February 1880. The original townsite, consisting of 19 blocks was surveyed by Mr. E. C. Dickenson on Jan. 5, 6, 7, 8 and Febr. 26 and Mar. 3, 4, 5, 6, 1880.

A distinctive feature of the layout of the town was a row of park areas on the main street of the business district. Overall the street was 200 feet wide with the 3 park areas down the centerline, each being 75 feet wide and one block long. These were planted to several varieties of trees and now, 100 years later, many of them are still living and of great size. Most of them are catalpa, but there are also hackberry, sycamore and black locust. The many very large American Elms succumbed to the Dutch Elm disease in more recent years. These trees provided shade for the horses at the hitching rails along main street in the earlier years and for the autos in more recent years and for the people through-out all the years.

In about 1915 a well designed bandstand was built in the north park. This was well lighted and enclosed with screen. The Bellwood band held concerts every Saturday evening during the summer. This was open night for all the stores and the business district was usually quite crowded with people and the hitching rails with horses.

The first street lights in the business district were acetylene gas. The gas generator plant was located a short distance north of the present Co-op service station in Block 2. These were installed some time in the late 1880's or early 1890's.

About 1900, Biney Curtis constructed the first electric plant. This set at the south end of the north centerpark. The plant was a 110-voIt direct current dynamo run by a flat belt from a gasoline engine. This did not provide continuous service, but was started up at dusk and shut off at 10:30 p.m. Service was provided for all the homes and business places in town who subscribed for it. This plant burned to the ground in the early morning hours in about 1915. Shortly thereafter the village erected a larger generating plant, also 110-volt DC, which was housed in the concrete block building on the NW part or Block 2 now used for the city water pressure equipment. When the Iowa-Nebraska Power Company ran a high voltage line into town in the early 1920's, this electric plant was taken out of service.

When the townsite was laid out and building got under way, the Ladies Aid Society was asked to propose a name for the town. Mary Finch proposed the name of Bells Woods due to the great many trees that J. D. Bell had planted. Shortly thereafter, the name of Bellwood appeared on the new depot and Bellwood it stayed.

People in the locality had been getting their mail at a post office called PATRON that was located on the east side of the section road directly east of the present grain elevators. The first post office in Bellwood was located in the front of E. F. Hutchinson's general store and Mr. Hutchinson was the first postmaster. This store was located on the southeast corner or Block 13 where Chris and Viola Kamenske now live.

The town got off to a quick start with construction of homes and business places. Lots were selling for $20 to $50. In the fall of 1881, J. D. Bell erected a large 2-story general merchandise store on the southwest part of Block 2 where the Co-op Service Center is now located. The second floor was designed for gatherings and was used for meetings, church, Sunday School and social events. A number of rather prominent entertainers appeared on the stage there before the turn of the century.

The J. D. Bell store was quite successful from the start, attracting customers from a broad area. At times the business required 7 clerks to wait on customers.

The town grew rapidly and in 1883 Mr. Bell had a new addition of 22 blocks surveyed and were soon ready for sale. The following tabulation of U.S. census figures for Bellwood is of interest.  1880-zero, 1910-397, 1940-434, 1970-361, 1890-413, 1920-369, 1950-389, 1980-401, 1900-410, 1930-391, 1906-361.  The drop in population following the first World War was partly due to the returning soldiers finding opportunities elsewhere. Also due to the rapid increase in the use of automobiles and improved roads the population everywhere became more mobile, The peak of 434 in 1940 was, no doubt, due to the great depression of the 1930's and the consequent lack of opportunities in the cities.

Mr. Bell had a number or plans to enhance the business opportunities of the community, but his untimely death following a brief illness in 1889 brought most of his plans to a halt.

This BELLWOOD page, on another site, has more information and photos.


BELLWOOD - IDEAL HOME OF THE FARMER

Nov. 13, 1896 - Bellwood, Nebr., a progressive little city of 500 population situated on the B & M Railroad. A lively little city with an excellent reputation as a trading post, is this town of Bellwood. Its merchants and citizens are a hustling and enterprising group with a determination to succeed in their work.

Crops

Corn is King and the average yield's 60 bushels per acre and of the best quality. Oats are superior and yield is 50 to ?0 bushels per acre, wheat and rye do especially well, too.

Soils & Streams

Geological writer, Owen, described the land as resembling the loamy deposits in the Nile Valley, famous the world over for its richness. The principal stream is the Platte River which affords a most excellent water and drainage system.

Public Schools

Bellwood had a fine two-story frame school building erected at the cost of about $5,000. Professor C. E. Shea is in charge of the school with his assistants, Miss Friend and Miss Stork. There are 117 pupils.

Churches

Various religious denominations are established here for the spiritual good of the families of our city. The Methodist, Catholic, and Baptist Churches are all flourishing.

Shipping Facilities

J. Francis and W. H. Garwood are in charge of the shipping company's business for the past four years. Mr. Garwood is also operator for the Western Union Telegraph Co. and is the agent for the Adams Express Co.

The Gazette

Under the name, The Gazette, a neat, well-edited and creditable newspaper is issued weekly

Banking Interests

The Platte Valley State Bank was established here in 18?? by Dave Belsley and in 1885 was purchased by H. R. Gould. Officers were H. R. Gould, Pres., A. H. Gould, Cashier, and R. C. Gould, Assistant Cashier. A judicious, conservative banking business was carried on, interest was paid on time deposits, good bankable paper was negotiated, and insurance was written. The bank would also buy and sell land and made available farmn loans. It was noted to be a solid and reliable monied institution and worthy of unlimited public confidence.



BUSINESS DISTRICT

These are some of the people who were instrumental in providing the basic groundwork for Bellwood as we know it now. Everything has a beginning and they helped make Bellwood's.

C. J. Knutzen

He owns the leading and largest store in the city and came here from Saunders County, where he had 14 years experience. His general store has groceries, dry goods as well as boots and shoes for the family.

J. C. Hager

Mr. Hager is a carriage maker and carpenter. He assisted with the erection of the Bellwood depot in 1880. He also is an agent for Butler Co. lumber dealer, W. A. Wells of David City. The Bellwood yard has the largest shedding capacity in the Platte Valley. He handles hard and soft coal, bared wire, sashes, doors, mouldings, etc. He is also serving as mayor.

Harris & Co.

Chas. Kellogg is the manager and the elevator has a capacity of 14,000 bushels of grain and is equipped with dumps and latest machinery, They buy and ship $3,000 to $5,000 worth of grain per month

Postmaster

W. B. Rochon was appointed Postmaster in 1893, The office has 300 lock and call boxes and is a money order office. He is an old pioneer of the county having come here from Wisconsin in 1867.

Miss Lillie Paige

Miss Paige has been here two years and has a fine millinery stock and as well does plain and fancy sewing.

J. W. Grisinger

He is engaged in the General Merchandise business A choice line of groceries, dry goods, boots and shoes, and country produce is offered. He has adopted the cash system.   He is a member of the city board.

Leopold Joe Bock

L. Bock first worked in the Mohler shop. On April 19, 1896, he opened his own blacksmith shop equipped with two forges. He made a specialty of horse-shoeing. He operated the business for 33 years in the building east of his home. His residence was the home of his daughter, Mamie, and her husband, Ora A. Brandenburgh, after Mrs. flock passed away.

Dr. A. A. Rittenhouse

Dr. Rittenhouse was known as a good physician and surgeon who practiced in the Bellwood area for 13 years. He was a graduate of the Chicago Medical College. He was also the town druggist and as a partner of C. Belsley had his office in that building.

Peter Kurt

He is the proprietor of the leading restaurant and hotel which he started in 1881. It was a good business and was popular with hunters.

J. E. Kellogg

He had a general mercantile business with a complete line of groceries. Salt was kept in carload quantities. Mr. Kellogg responded to Uncle Sam's call and became a volunteer to help crush the rebellion in the south. He was a member of the brave body of men known as Co. K, 136 N.Y. Infantry.

B. Taylor

Mr. Taylor ran a large livery barn. He made it a point to keep good horses and vehicles. When the war broke out, he left his home to fight for his country. He was in the Andersonville prison for 15 months.

Suddarth & Yates

These two men owned the Bellwood sorghum factory. It has the capacity to turn our 60 to 70 gallons of good syrup per day. Mr. Yates is a carpenter and contractor by trade. Mr. Suddarth owns one of the largest leading wagon and repair shops in the city.

H. T. Benedict

Mr. Benedict was a horse breeder and had a Clydes and Belgian stallion, as well as a fine Mammoth Sack, Spanish breed.


Laverne Schmit Post NO 327 American Legion

Laverne Schmit Post NO 327 American Legion Auxiliary

Fire Department


VILLAGE ORDINANCES OF 1886

Following are excerpts from a nicely printed and bond booklet "Village Government 1886".

Chairman Board of Trustees - F. M. Young
Clerk - T. B. Mend
Treasurer - H. I. Converse
Marshal - Robert Devoe
Street Commissioner - Jerry Wagoner
Attorney - W. T Callaway

Board of Trustees

F. M. Young
David Belsley
E. L. Carpenter
T. B. Mench
Peter Kurt

General Ordinances of Bellwood

Billiard & Pool Tables, Sec. 1

It shall be unlawful for any persons or person to keep or rent any billiard or pool tables for hire or to play games, to see who shall pay for any drinks, cigars, or anything whatever within the incorporated limits of Bellwood. Any person found guilty shall be liable to a fine of not less than ten or more than fifty dollars for each offense.

Billiard & Pool Tables, Sec. 2

It shall be unlawful for any person or persons who are engaged in the sale of malt, spiritous and vinous liquors within the village of Bellwood to allow the use of Billiard & Pool tables within or adjoining their place of business where such sale of intoxicating liquor is conducted.

Preservation of Order, Sec. 1

That all persons who shall conduct themselves in such a manner as to be obnoxious to others, making any hideous noise transferring from or upon the sidewalks, without the consent of the owners, any goods, boxes, or articles of any nature. Being a nuisance, exposing in a lewd manner, their person or persons, indulging in boisterous, lewd & obscene talk, or creating disturbances of any sort. All such persons shall be fined not less than $2.00 nor more than $20.00 and shall stand committed to jail until paid.

Missiles, Sec. 1

It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to fly any kite, to play at ball of any kind or to throw or cast any ball, stone, snowball or other missile in any street, highway, or public place where there is danger of frightening horses or other animals, or any passenger or person.

Nuisances, Sec. 1

That all manure, straw or rubbish of any kind laying around adjacent to and on the outside of any buildings and all manure piles, hay or straw covered buildings, and all stove pipes running through the roof of buildings are hereby declared nuisances and that the owners there of within the city limits are required within one week after the publications of this ordinance to abate said nuisance under the penalty of $5.00.

Offenses, Sec. 4

If any person shall play at any games of cards, dice, or any other games of chance on which money, drinks, cigars or any article of value or the representation of either, shall be staked or bet within the corporate limits of Bellwood, they shall upon conviction thereof, pay a fine in any sum not less than $10.00 nor more than $50.00.

Offenses, Sec. 6.

Any person or persons who shall, within the limits of Bellwood, keep any bawdy house, or house of ill-fame for the purpose of prostitution, and any person who shall rent a house, or room for this purpose shall be fined in any sum not less than $10.00, nor more than $100.00 for each and every offense.

Offenses, Sec. 7

If any person or persons shall without lawful authority and intentionally cut down. injure, mutilate or destroy any living tree or ornamental shrub or bush within the limits of Bellwood be fined a sum not less than $5.00 nor more than $25.00 for each free or shrub destroyed.

Sidewalks & Crossings, Sec. 1

That it shall be unlawful for any person or persons to ride, drive or lead any horse or other animal or drive any vehicle on any sidewalk within said town and any person or persons violating any of the provisions of this section, shall be liable to a penalty of not less than $1.00 nor more than $5.00 for each and every offense.

Domestic Animals, Sec. 1

The running at large of mules, horses, sheep, swine or cattle of any kind upon the streets, alleys or public grounds in the corporate limits of Bellwood is hereby prohibited and declared a nuisance.

 

Mayors Of Bellwood

1904-05 Joe Rose		1934	A. C. Kosch

1907    C. D.  Burch		1937-39 S. J. Demuth

1908-l1 F. M. Young		1940-49 Ben Baer

1912-13 C. Miester		1950-51 L. M. Wagner

1914-15 F. C. Judevine		1951-54 Carl Carson

1916-17 P. W. McDermand		1955-59 W. Hoshor

1918-20 0. A. Brandenburgh	1960	Robert Raric

1921-22 A. Nanktes		1967-68	Robert R. Bell

1923    J. M. McNally		1969	Jack Selzer

1924    Z. E. Matheny		1970-73	Robert E. Wilson

1925-26 0. A. Brandenburgh	1974	Floyd Sherman

1927    J. J. Kirchner		1975	Bill Macoubrie

1928    W. T. Randolph		1976-78 Dean Kallenbach

1929-30 A. P. Fair		1979    Gary McDonald

1931-33 C. H. Smith

Modern addenda quoted here for genealogical reasons 2002

Copyright Omaha World Hearld, online edition, Published Nov 12 2002

A shrinking bit of tiny Luxembourg lives on in Butler County

NEAR BELLWOOD, Neb. (AP) - No spooky old castles surrounded by moats. Nary a royal prince running around in a funny-looking crown.

Heck, even all the road signs are in English.

There's little to tell passing motorists along Nebraska Highways 15 and 64 that this little valley once was the hubbub of the state's Luxembourg community.

It was so entrenched with descendants of the tiny European grand duchy, or constitutional monarchy, that the valley was even locally known for the longest time as Luxembourg.

"The Platte River valley, it kind of looks like Luxembourg. Maybe that's why they stopped here," said Don Medinger, 73, who still lives on the land settled near the river by his great-great-grandfather from Luxembourg.

Nearly a third of Luxembourg's residents in the early 19th century were driven by poverty from the tiny European country, which is about the size of Nebraska's Dawson County, said Robert F. Schaeffer, the honorary consul general of Luxembourg based in Kansas City, Mo.

He says they left a little too soon.

"Shortly after they left, we discovered iron ore and became a very well-to-do country," he said in a thick accent. Luxembourg's native language is close to German.

Many of those that came to the United States settled along the Mississippi River because it also reminded them of home, Schaeffer said.

P. N. Meysenburg left his home in Sandweuer, Luxembourg, in 1863 but didn't think the climate was right at his first two stops in Iowa and Kansas. But in 1869 he paid $400 for 160 acres of land near the Platte River in Butler County.

Friends and relatives from the tiny nation soon followed to this valley, six miles north of David City and five miles east of Bellwood.

The center of the Luxembourg farming community was St. Mary's Presentation Parish, a Catholic church that sits at the intersection of Highways 15 and 64.

The close-knit community extended for a five-mile radius from the church, said Medinger, a lifelong church member.

"They were strictly farmers and liked doing it the hard way," Medinger said.

Looking through old photographs of early Luxembourg settlers, Medinger says it's hard to find even one who is smiling.  "They were tough people in tough times," he said.

And they liked only their own kind, he said.

"The Luxembourgers were a real strict clan," he said, "When the Czechs came, they wouldn't have anything to do with them. It was like oil and water."

The early Luxembourgers also socialized together.

"They played cards a lot and had dances, barn dances and house dances," Medinger said, "And they liked their whiskey."

And they were dedicated to their Catholic faith.

Medinger and his wife, Irene, enjoy a dubious distinction for the parish. They are the last couple in the parish with pure Luxembourger heritage.

Irene Medinger, 76, said they get little recognition for the honor.  "No parades, no nothing," she joked.

The valley started to lose its Luxembourg identity in the early 1940s, when the church added a school. One of the last vestiges of the area's past is printed annually on calendars from a local mortuary.

"It has 'Presentation Church' and still has after the address 'Luxembourg,'" said the Rev. Leo Kosch, parish pastor.

Enough Nebraskans claimed Luxembourg ancestry in the 2000 Census that the state ranked 12th nationally. Butler County claimed 109 people of Luxembourger descent. Only the state's two most populated counties - Douglas and Lancaster - could claim more, with 252 and 202 respectively.

That's a pretty impressive representation for Luxembourg, which has a population of 439,500, about one-third of whom are foreigners.

And state officials soon may become experts on the European nation bounded on the north and west by Belgium, on the south by France and on the east by Germany.

Schaeffer plans to tout the economic opportunities provided by his nation's businesses in a meeting with the governor Dec. 3 in Lincoln.

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