Friday, January 18, 2013

History of Appanoose: Ghost Town of Bellair

Daily Iowegian - 15 April 2004
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By Bill Heusinkveld, Correspondent
  Bellair was a quaint little village created in 1854 by Alexander Jones. The village and the township of Bellair were named after the Ohio town of Bellaire, on the border near Wheeling, West Virginia. Bellair was surveyed and platted by John Potts. It was in Section 18 of Bellair Township between the waters of Shoal and Cooper Creeks.  There were just 20 lots. The principal streets were Main and North Streets running east and west and bisected by Washington and Jackson Streets going north.
  Gradually the town began to take shape.  J. Markin  built a store in 1855. There was a lime kiln and a saw mill. There were two blacksmith shops on the south side of Main St.  Two boot and leather workers also operated on the street.  Mrs. Tibbets ran a fancy millinery shop. Jim Cunningham was the first druggist. There was a general store, which also handled overland mail. No record of a saloon in Bellair has been discovered.
  The first Bellair school, in 1857, was a subscription school taught in a home, the seats being made of split logs. A post office was established in 1859. The Methodist Episcopal society was formed in 1857 with a stone building purchased in 1864 and converted into a church. The Christian Church was formed about 1858 with E. E. Harvey as one of its earl ministers. A house of worship 24 x 36 feet in size was erected at Bellair in 1871 at a cost of $1200. At one time here were about 300 members.
  The Bellair Masonic Lodge No. 133 was formed in 1857 and met in the upper story of the schoolhouse in Bellair. E. E. Harvey was a member. Later the lodge removed to Numa in 1871 and eventually to Cincinnati.
  The second school on the north end of Jackson St. was the most pretentious school house built in Appanoose County. It was a tall two-story frame building around which centered the intellectual life of the community. It became the first high school in Appanoose County and was conducted by Professor L. N. Judd, who was very capable and efficient. Wonderful entertainments were given at the school. The Bellair school had such a reputation that it drew young men and women from neighboring counties to seek knowledge they could not gain at home. Some of these students would have to board in various homes in Bellair.
  Later the school spirit seems to have moved to a more central location. The high school was abandoned and later became the barn on the well-known Jake Norris farm. A one-story building was built on the same site, later destroyed by fire. The third building was a frame one-story building with four rooms, but later it was sold.
  Finally a fine two story school was built for all twelve grades, he site being moved to the north side of Main St. I can remember it still being there when we first moved to Centerville. I asked John Broshar about it. He thinks the high school was discontinued sometime in the 1950s It may have stood vacant for a time, but Jerry and Betty Marshall have used it for some years as a combination archery school and for ceramics work.
  At the end end of Main St. stood the village inn, called the Brayman house. One son, Andrew, enlisted in the Civil War in Co. I, 36th Iowa Infantry and was killed at the battle of Marks Mills. Later the house became the Johnson Inn. Still later it was the Holshouser House (the home of the village capitalist). [1]
  One of the outstanding characters of the town was the beloved Dr. Ball who was a very present help in the time of trouble. He helped bring most of the youngsters into the world and smoothed the pillow for many a dying sufferer. Elijah E Harvey was also an influential citizen of Bellair. He and his brother Wallace M. Harvey had come to Appanoose County in 1855. Elijah was the well-known pastor of the Christian Church. He enlisted with the 6th Kansas Cavalry in August 12, 1862 and was Captain of Co. B. Later he helped lay out the town of Numa.
  In the early life of Bellair, the social life was quickened by music from the accordion.  Miss Nannie Fox was an artist on this instrument and was in great demand for her musical and vocal talents. Early fiddlers were also in demand. The singing ability of the Dukes family was noted, and the Hudsons were silver voiced singers.
  Bellair was a bustling town for seventeen years. Then in1871, the Chicago and Southwestern Railroad was built from Unionville to Centerville, then went, passing south of Bellair by almost one mile.  Coal mining activity and business began to develop and flourish along the railroad. The town of Numa was established.  Bellair had begun its long decline into oblivion. 
   In 1875 the people of Numa and Bellair met to have a picnic. Three hard cases, denizens of Wayne County named "Bud" Bland and William and Milton Richardson came to the picnic under the influence of liquor. hey picked a quarrel with C. M. Morrison, the manager of the celebration. He was assulted by the thugs and badly maltreated before the rowdies could be removed from his back.     A warrant was issued for their arrest, but they fled to Missouri for a few days so that it could not be served. The Richardson brothers, believing they were safe, returned to Seymour.  The Marshal there, John McCoy had instructions to arrest them, but was forced to resort to his revolver., In the melee that ensued, he shot and killed both of them. Then, as today, there were always people who would not accept the authority of the law, but the price was high. Just as the youth of today, who flee from the police, often meet with dire consequences.
  Today, tHere is almost nothing left of Bellair except that Main St. still exists as part of J-46, the entrance road into the north pamort of Numa  O. R. Parks and his crew have placed a monument in the fenced-inor playground park area in the south part of Numa to commemorate the former existence of the old ghost town of Bellair.
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Editor's Notes:  [1] Andrew Brayman's brother, Barney, later enlisted as a cavalryman in the Eighth Iowa Cavalry.  Orr Kelly and Mary Davies Kelly wrote Dream's End [Kodansha-America, Inc., 1998] which is a history of the Brayman family, mostly of Andrew's and Barney's experiences during the Civil War.  
  [2[ Bellair was platted and settled before Jerome.  In the early days of Bellair, it was the primary village in the vicinity of Lincoln Township before Jerome was founded.  The western edge of Bellair was on the Bellair-Lincoln border.  My great-grandparents' family, the David H. Hawkinses, lived in Bellair before and during the Civil War while David H. Hawkins served in Company B, 6th Kansas Cavalry.  When the Masonic Lodge was organized in Bellair, several Lincoln Township residents were key members of the Bellair Lodge (James Hagan, Peter Sidles, Gavin Morrison, John V. Criswell).  
[3]  There are two books which detail the history of Bellair and Numa: (a) Anna Langford (Mrs. Harold) Sayres. History of Numa, Iowa, Including Hibbsville and Bellair, 1850-1960[Centerville, IA: Iowegian Printing Co., May, 1960] and (b) Anna Langford (Mrs. Harold) Sayres. Homecoming, Bellair 1854 and Numa 1864 [S.N.: S.I., 1964].

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