Between 1865 and 1900, the landscape of rural Kansas changed dramatically. Settlers rushed into the state and spread from border to border. Veterans of the Union Army and European emigrants started towns such as Belleville. A county agricultural society was organized in 1871 and the first county fair was held that fall but both ended in 1878 when a drought and recession forced county commissioners to withdraw their financial support.
Along the northern border of the state, corn was the dominant crop. By 1890, however, winter wheat became more profitable and a pattern of diversified farming was established in Republic County. Farmers produced corn and wheat, cattle and hogs, horses and mules, as well as alfalfa, sorghum, milk, butter, eggs, and produce. During this period, Republic County hosted a Corn Carnival that was held from 1879 to 1904.
Towns like Belleville became the local market for crops and livestock. Local tradesmen and manufacturers also provided implements, repairs, and services to area farmers. County offices and the court held in the Republic County Courthouse brought farmers to Belleville for business and legal matters. The "Golden Age of Agriculture" from 1900 to 1914 supported local investment in city infrastructure, buildings, and institutions in Belleville. Republic County's population was 18,248 in 1900.
Reoganized in 1905, the county fair in Belleville began receiving a county tax levy after 1919. The North Central Kansas Free Fair became the third largest agricultural fair and livestock show in Kansas by 1930. Beginning in 1910, auto racing entertained fair-goers. In the 1930s, a high-banked clay oval was constructed and auto racing remains an important attraction for the Belleville community.
By 1964, local historian Louise Carstensen commented that "in less than a hundred years, a miracle has come about in the farm houses and on the homesteads of Republic County." Modern agriculture has made America a "Land of Plenty." With the decline of railroads, local businesses depended even more on the farmers' trade and that is reflected in the success of downtown Belleville throughout the community's history.
[Photo captions, from left to right, read]
· Rose Creek Township entry in the Corn Carnival in 1899 in Downtown Belleville. The floats were made entirely from grains, grasses or produce. It was estimated that 12,000-15,000 attended.
· Jorgensen Produce Company north of square ca. 1940's.
· Christie Hatchery east side of square. One of many Ag related businesses in downtown Belleville.
· Fair postcard from 1909. The fair now known as the NCK Free Fair combined with the auto races that started in 1910 are both still very significant to Belleville.
· The Grandstand and race track located at the Fairgrounds started with horse races and has evolved to be the fastest half mile dirt track in the world.
· Delegation of Farmers and Businessmen in front of the International Harvester and Farmall dealer on North side of square in 1955.
|Placed By||Republic County Historical Society, Kansas State Historical Society, Republic County, City of Belleville, Belleville Main Street, & Kansas Humanities Council|
|Marker Condition||No reports yet|
|Date Added||Friday, December 26th, 2014 at 5:01pm PST -08:00|
|UTM (WGS84 Datum)||14S E 617293 N 4409097|
|Decimal Degrees||39.82378333, -97.62943333|
|Degrees and Decimal Minutes||N 39° 49.427', W 97° 37.766'|
|Degrees, Minutes and Seconds||39° 49' 25.62" N, 97° 37' 45.96" W|
|Driving Directions||Google Maps|
|Which side of the road?||Marker is on the right when traveling North|
|Closest Postal Address||At or near 1800-1898 N St, Belleville KS 66935, US|
|Alternative Maps||Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap|
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