History Belton, Cass County, Missouri
From: History of Cass County, Missouri
By: Allen Glenn
Publisher: Historical Publishing Co.
Topeka Cleveland 1917

(By D. C. Idol.)

Belton was founded by George W. Scott, who still lives in the town. During the construction of the old Pleasant Hill & Lawrence railway in 1870, a town called Rankin had been projected a mile west of Belton. Rankin was the highest point in the state, west of the Ozarks. Nothing was erected there except a boxhouse which served as a base of supplies for the construction gang. Mr. Scott then lived at Lee's Summit. He had owned a farm here before the war and was familiar with the country surrounding. He learned about the enterprise at Rankin and decided that the present location of Belton was topographically a better place for a town. Lacking capital to promote the project, he interested W. H. Colbern, a Lee's Summit banker, in the enterprise and they bought the land on which Belton was built. A railway blacksmith named Belt had a forge with a shelter over it near the northwest corner of the town. As this shelter was the first semblance of a building on the ground the town was named Belton.

Belton was platted in 1871, and in nine years was incorporated as a city of the fourth class with 1,000 inhabitants. Several parties have claimed construction of the first building. Keith and Thompson built the first business house, which was soon purchased and enlarged by J. V. Robinson & Son, who still own the property which for forty six years has been known as "Robinson's Corner." The first dwelling was moved here from High Blue by Frank Dresser, long since dead. The old house remained on the corner of Main and Walnut streets until 1884, when it was sold to D. C. Idol, who moved it to the east side, where it is now occupied by J. R. Campbell as a residence. On the lot from which this building was removed the Bank of Belton was established in 1884.

Among the early settlers of the town still living are George W. Scott, J. V. Robinson and wife, J. E. Mullen, J. H. Young, H. H. Grimes, Isaac J. Holloway, Mrs. L. P. Muir, John Thomas Keeney, J. M. Aker and others.

Schools. - The first school board was organized in 1875. Two of the members of that board are still living: George W. Scott and J. V. Robinson. The school district has been enlarged by the addition of territory on the north. The school grounds include six acres now in a forest of trees planted in the prairie twenty seven years ago. One of the best public schools in America is being maintained and plans are under way for a larger and better school building.

Churches - The Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Christian Churches all have good houses of worship and large and growing congregations. The spirit of brotherhood among the ministers and laymen of the different churches has advanced a long way toward unity within the last thirty years.

City Government. - James R. Parrish was the first mayor of Belton. He died twenty eight years ago. The present mayor, W. P. Houston, is serving his fourth term. During his administration many miles of concrete sidewalks have been laid and more than two miles of macadam streets have been made. The city is well lighted by electricity, and the general morals of the town in cleanliness and orderliness have been improved. The city calaboose has been entirely free of prisoners for two years. During the administration of W. J. Bradford as mayor, in 1905, a beautiful town hall was erected at an expenditure of ten thousand dollars, and the cost of all these improvements has been paid.

Beneficient Institutions. - In addition to schools and churches, Belton has also a number of flourishing societies which are effective in the promotion of good citizenship. At the head of these means of community training in betterment and solidarity stands the Masonic Fraternity. Belton Lodge No. 450 was organized May 21, 1872, and George W. Scott was the first worshipful master. Other officials of the charter membership were B. T. Muir, S. W.; S. B. Rider, J. D.; W. B. Crabtree, treasurer; W. C. Miner, secretary; S. D. Muir, tyler; G. L. Love, S. D.; Clayton Bane, J. D.; Hamilton Willis and G. W. Case, stewards. All are dead except Mr. George W. Scott.

Newspapers. - L. D. Connely began the publication of a four column, four page paper in 1878. The paper was printed at Lee's Summit, but was mailed in Belton. It ran a few months and was discontinued. In 1880 John H. Tritt, formerly of Ohio, came here and established a weekly newspaper which he named the Belton Mirror. Tritt was a Republican, but he published an independent newspaper. In 1882 he sold the paper to C. M. Williams, a young lawyer then, who came here from Harrisonville. Mr. Williams changed the name of the paper to the Cass County Leader and made it red hot Democratically. He sold the paper to R. J. McNutt within a few months. In 1886 McNutt transferred a half interest in the Leader to W. A. Hail, then a boy who had been trained to newspaper work in the office. In 1890 Mr. McNutt sold his interest to D. C. Idol. In 1893 Mr. McNutt returned to Belton and founded the Belton Herald, which he published for a year and sold to Mr. Idol. Soon afterward the Leader suspended publication and the Herald became the only paper. In the fall of 1904 the Herald plant was burned and for several months the paper was printed in the Democrat office at Harrisonville. In the spring of 1905 J. R. Devoy of Seneca, Kansas, bought the Herald and put in a good plant. Two years afterward he sold to L. B. Harris, who in 1911 again transferred the paper to D. C. Idol. Mr. Tritt is now in the printing business in Kansas City. Mr. McNutt has been in the internal revenue department of the government at Kansas City ever since he quit the newspaper business. Mr. Hail is dead. Mr. Devoy is at Republic, publishing a newspaper. Mr. Harris passed away December 21, 1916. C. M. Williams, third in this list of journalistic prodigy, is a prominent lawyer at Hutchinson, Kansas, has been a judge on the bench, and rides by Belton occasionally in an eight cylinder touring car.

Banks. - J. N. Hargis and his son, B. F. Hargis established the first bank in Belton and they built the first brick building, which is still standing and in good repair. They sold to Scott & March, who associated W. H. Colbern with them in the business. The Bank of Belton was organized in 1884, and a few years thereafter bought the Scott & March bank. Originally the Bank of Belton was capitalized at twenty thousand dollars. Now the capitalization is fifty thousand dollars and a surplus fund of twenty five thousand dollars has been added. The last financial statement set the value of assets and liabilities at $400,000. Frank Huber is president, J. F. Blair is cashier. The Citizens' Bank of Belton is only twelve years old but is building rapidly. The stock sold at par now has a book value of two dollars for one and none in the market. The twenty thousand shares have been widely and wisely distributed. J. M. Shouse is president and Alonzo L. Burch is cashier.

Belton has six grocery stores, two dry goods stores, two hardware stores, two drug stores, three restaurants, two garages, two millineries, two real estate offices, one lumber yard, one tin shop, two furniture stores, one variety store, one harness shop, one blacksmith shop, one carpenter shop and one livery stable. All of this varied service is at harmony with its patronage in one of the most fertile agricultural sections in the world.

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