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Village of Bellwood

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First You Need a Name

The first meeting for incorporation was held February 3, 1900 in the school building at 27th and St. Charles Road. According to Phillip H. Korrell, in the same Tribune article, there were 26 votes cast for Bellewood, five for Lovedale, three for Bottleville, and one vote each for Manure Park and Hogs Alley. Korrell explained the last two proposed names:

The most interesting mystery about the name of ‘Bellewood’, is why this name ever came into existence.

The abstract owned by Mrs. Leitz lists Bellewood as being the name of a subdivision. The Glos's subdivision was listed as being "1 addition to Melrose".  How was Bellewood more official than Melrose?

Five possible explanations about the source of the name Bellwood:

But it was the name ‘Bellewood’ that was selected for the new village, not Bellwood. The lost of the second "e" was an accident.

After the February 3 meeting, an attorney was ordered to prepare the necessary incorporation papers.  According to an outline drawn up by a long time village clerk, William Miller, the petition for incorporation was filed February 5, before Honorable Orrin N. Carter, county judge and judge of the County Court of Cook County, Illinois.  According to Miller, the attorney accidentally dropped the "e" in Bellewood and to save the trouble and expense of another vote to reincorporate the village, it was left out. The Leitz abstract corroborates the official incorporation name by showing the spelling as Bellwood in a 1903 title search.

On February 24, 1900, an election was held at the school house on 27th Avenue to determine if incorporation as the Village of Bellwood would go forward. William Miller reported the vote results as 86 in favor and 5 against.  Phillip Korrell claims only 88 votes were cast.

According to Miller's account, the report of the election was submitted to the County Court on February 27, and Judge Carter ordered that on March 24 an election was to be held to select six trustees. The trustees elected were Neal F. Daugherty, Emil Grassman, David W. Gillespie, Phillip H. Glos, Gottlieb Hegele, and Charles Hohnke.  However, another election had to be held.  This board met on Tuesday, March 27, and proceeded to complete the incorporation of the Village.

On April 17, 1900 the first election to choose a working and official slate of trustees and other officials was held. The results are as follows:

Jacob Schelling was appointed as treasurer, and Chris Boldebuck was chosen as the Village marshal.

According to official papers at the Village Hall, the Village of Bellwood was officially registered in Springfield as being incorporated on May 21, 1900.

By Tuesday, May 27, 1900 the completion of more organizational procedures was completed.  According to an outline by a Village Clerk William Miller the appointed election officials were:

A village hall was set up in a little store on St. Charles Road just east of Eastern Avenue.  Mr. John Fippinger pinpoints the location as being between the Korrell blacksmith shop on the corner, and the first Korrell house on the other side.  Police and fire protection began sometime in 1900.  The primary duty of the police chief was the care of the street lamps, lighting, filling and cleaning them. He usually used a two-wheel cart, but during the spring floods a raft often had to be used.

More Interesting People

The stories from the 19th Century of the Fippingers, Puschecks and other early area resident are described in the articles Early Settler History (1833 - 1850) and Life in Proviso (1850 - 1900), but more interesting people deserve mention from the early years of the Village.

Philip H. Korrell played many roles in the young Village.

Joseph Hagemeister was an active Bellwood policeman for the first 22 years of the Village's incorporation. His main duties in the early years of the Village were lighting the street lights and taking care of the sewer system.

In 1903 Nick DeRose, proprietor of a saloon at 28th and Saint Charles Road, became famous for his Italian spaghetti. He purchased his place of business from one of the Glos family.  According to early residents, many dances and good times were had at his establishment.  Years later Mr. DeRose purchased the southeast corner of Mannheim and Saint Charles Road from John A. Fippinger for $500.  There he would built a gas and service station. Later he turned the operation over to his sons Harry and Nick Jr.

George Fenhouse moved into Bellwood in 1906 and lived in a house located on 28th Avenue. Mr. Fenhouse recalls many aspects of the of young Village.

Tom Pods owned a saloon at 25th Avenue and the Northwestern tracks.  In 1907 he sold the tavern and took a trip around the world. By 1910 he was back in Bellwood operating a saloon at Bellwood Avenue and the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin tracks.

Erwin Lange (originally of Forest Park) was considered major league material in 1911.  He was thought to be the best spit ball pitcher next to Ed Walsh of the Chicago Cubs. He signed with the Chicago White Sox, but later rejected the offer.  He was a star pitcher with the Chicago Federals of the Federal League in 1914.  After baseball Lange returned to Bellwood to live and work. In 1938 he was proprietor of Lange's Corner Service Station at Bellwood Avenue and Washington Boulevard.

In 1940 another local boy appeared as a baseball star on the Chicago sports scene.  A resident of Bellwood since 1928, Orville Grove attended Roosevelt School and Proviso High. At age 18, "Lefty" Grove became a rookie pitcher on a White Sox farm team in Dallas, Texas.  He later pitched for the Sox.

In 1934 the Eugene Cernan was born in Chicago.  The Cernan family moved to Bellwood before he entered sixth grade. Cernan attended Lincoln and McKinley schools, Proviso East, Purdue and received his M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering in U. S. Naval postgraduate school, Monterey, California in 1963.  Astronaut Eugene Cernan is probably the most recognized person from Bellwood.

And the Village Grew

The young Village purchased a hose reel and started a volunteer fire department.  The hose reel had many homes in those days, but the last ‘home’ was in Kannenberg's coal shed.  A story goes that on occasion, a fire could not be put out until the firemen dug the coal away to get to the hose reel. George Fenhouse remembered the coal yard itself burned down in 1906, but was rebuilt.

The firemen in the early days were:

One of the first major fires, before the coal yard burned down, was a bonfire set by Alfred Wolff in John Fippinger's haystack. Unfortunately it was dangerously close to some of the Fippinger farm buildings on St. Charles Road, west of Eastern Avenue Bucket brigades were organized, and through the efforts of the townspeople and the fire department, the buildings were saved. (Alfred Wolff go on to became Chief of Police in 1937.)

After the post office and the necessary police and fire protection, one of Bellwood's first political functions was the development of its water system. Between 1906 and 1913 well water was purchased from Melrose Park.  In 1913 the first well was drilled at 30th Avenue and Grant.  Though early reports indicate that the first well was sunk to a depth of only 900 feet, it now reaches to 1,952 feet. In fact, all of the wells sink to about that level.

Bellwood's water is based on an artesian well system, one of the last in the area to do so.  This simply means the water is naturally filtered through the underground levels of rock and sand.  One village resident claims his mother had told him that the water was once bottled and sold.  This report cannot be confirmed. However, Dr. Jackson Fletcher, a teacher of dentistry at Northwestern University, says he moved to the village precisely for its water.  According to a report he once read, Bellwood's water was one of the two best in the country, in fact, the village has one of the lowest incidences of cavities anywhere.

Early employers of Bellwoodians included Lathrop Steel and Coupler which later became National Malleable and Steel Castings Company in Melrose Park.  Others residents were employed by Chicago Tire and Spring Works, which manufactured tires and springs for railroad cars.  The Norton Brothers Company began manufacturing metal containers in Maywood in 1885 and later merged with another firm to become American Can Company in 1901.  Solar Sturges began operating in Bellwood in 1913.

In 1905 Bellwood's neighbors to the west formed the Village of Hillside.

Street lights started to replace the oil burning ones in 1906. Soon after the gas company began supplying gas for cooking and lighting purposes in the homes.1

By 1910 the population was 943 with the concentration of people was still in the area east of the Indiana Harbor Belt tracks. The "West-end" of town, the old Bellewood subdivision, remained sparsely populated. George Fenhouse recalls no more than a dozen homes in this area although Mrs. Ermentine Leitz remembers about twenty homes. Other than the Fippinger, Daugherty, and Barsema families, some of the other families living in this part of town were the Dressanders, Loucks, Liebermans, Flanagans and Thoens.

A bank was needed to provide financial security for the growing village.  In January of 1914 Henry G. Glos, E. Walter Wilson and Charles Reinke received permission by the Illinois State Auditor to sell stock to finance the establishment of the Bellwood State Bank.  A charter was granted in June and the bank was opened in the Rowe building on 26th Avenue and Saint Charles Road.  A portion of Glos' Apple Orchard was purchased in 1916 for construction of a bank building.  In 1941 it moved to Melrose Park to become the Melrose Park National Bank.

The first Board of Directors of the Bellwood State Bank consisted of Albert F. Amling, Edward Burgdorf, William. G. Heidemann, P. H. Korrell, George Soffel, John Soffel and Herman Weiss. John Soffel had taught at the old Bellwood school at 26th Avenue and St. Charles as early as 1883, and was later killed in a bank holdup in 1919.

As late as 1916 John Truchan (who first lived on Linden Avenue and Washington Boulevard) recalls much of the land was vacant. "There were several homes in the area ... it was all subdivided, but vacant. I believe most of it was purchased or owned by Hetzel's Real Estate.... When we moved into Bellwood, everything east of the Indiana Harbor Belt... that was where all the more or less old timers, that were known as the German and Russian people. West of the Harbor tracks were more or less the Polish people. The northwestern part were people like the Serbians."

Charles Backhus recalls the floods in the early days.

"In the 1920's and prior, Bellwood had a lot of floods. There was a creek which runs though ... it crossed Mannheim Road at the approximate location of 400 Mannheim and came (south) east to Butterfield Road, at about halfway between Bohland and Linden. It then followed Butterfield to Eastern Avenue, down Eastern to the Great Western Railroad tracks, and entered Addison Creek around where the tower house used to be on the Indiana Harbor Belt (around Cernan Drive and Madison)." He continued, "Now this creek would overflow considerably, and living a half block south of Butterfield, our basement would flood, in fact (in the winter) it would freeze over. Then in a day or so it would recede, and the ice would all give way, and the crack would be like a bomb hitting the house."

By 1920 Bellwood boasted over 1800 residents, and many Civic improvements took place. The year was ushered in with a cyclone on Sunday, March 28. The "big wind" caused extreme damage in Melrose Park, Maywood, and Bellwood. It was the third tornado on record in the Chicago area, killing 11 people and injuring 28.

The 1920s was the decade that also saw a vast amount of development.

John Truchan recalls by 1923 sewers and lighting were installed throughout the village. The village hall was completed in 1927 and a new fire truck was purchased. St. Charles Road and Washington Boulevard were paved in 1924 and 1925. The land lying west of Mannheim Road, known as the Jones and Hulbert subdivision which included the area called "Garden Home", was annexed to the village in 1926, at that time Bellwood achieved its present boundaries.

The 1920's saw the expansion of the Proviso yards to 1,250 acres at a cost of $16 million. The Chicago Westchester and Western Railroad was formed. The Bellwood station for the new line and the Chicago Aurora and Elgin was built with the new ‘interurban line’ going north into Westchester.  (See Rapid Transit Line to Westchester).  Perry Woods products began operation also. And one resident remembers the "dust plant", a name given to a brick manufacturing plant south of Madison by Addison Creek.

A second well was owned and drilled in 1928 by a private concern close to Saint Charles Road and Eastern Avenue. The village purchased it in 1936. Three other wells have been sunk:

According to Mrs. Ermentine Leitz, where the last well was sunk was once a watering hole and rest stop around the 1900's for travelers proceeding west.2

In 1928 T. H. Hulbert developed and subdivided farm land west of Mannheim Road and north of Oak Street, building several homes in this area.

Bellwood had its brush with the gangster activity from Chicago. Mrs. Josephine Luurs recalled the night of January 5, 1933. She was working as a waitress in the Bellwood tavern when Jack Klutas entered. Mrs. Luurs said he looked like some kind of official checking to see if the bar in back would be closing at the proper time. However, he had only stopped in for some food. She served him his last meal -- chili. Early the next morning Mr. Klutas was shot at 619 S. 24th Avenue, by the State's Attorney's police. "Handsome Jack", as he was called, had been a bank robber, kidnapper and killer.

The depression hit Bellwood as it did the world….hard, but as the 1930s crept along there were signs of hope. The reopening of the Bellwood State Bank after the National Bank Holiday was one such sign. It was the only bank in Proviso Township to survive the "Bank Holiday" and remain open during the depression. Mr. Arthur Mesenbrink who had been associated with the bank at the time, and later became vice-president, credited the success of the bank to the confidence of the local people. "The bank asked that people keep money in their accounts and they did," he said.

During the 1920's and Depression 30's one business serving customers was Louis Boldt's Grocery and Meat Market on Bellwood Avenue.  He was born August 8, 1894 in Melrose Park and attended parochial school at Peace Church.  He left school at an early age and was employed by Mr. Julius Abel at the grocery business on St. Charles Road.

By 1930, the population almost reached 5,000. The old village hall close to St. Charles Road and Eastern Avenue was torn down. Said to have been standing for 55 years, it was in its history a jail, saloon, book store, temperance hall and a temporary church.

In 1931 Jefferson Electric was built on 25th Avenue, south of Washington Boulevard. In 1935 Vulcan Tin Can, founded in Chicago in 1916 to manufacture pieced and seamless tin cans and steel barrels, built an expansion into Bellwood.

By 1940, the population was officially listed at 5,220. According to John Truchan, the village developed very slowly until after World War II. "Up to World War II, there were a number of vacant areas here, in fact everything on the south end was vacant, until the Lincoln School was built there, and it sort of mushroomed and developed over night."

Paul Meyer recounts "During the time 1945 to 1949 . . . many of the industries that came to Bellwood came at that time. The people of Bellwood were a little unhappy about too many industries coming in, but the land was zoned for industry. As a matter of fact, a strip of land 400 feet east of the Indiana Harbor Belt was zoned for heavy industry. Well, of course, we were successful in keeping heavy industry out of Bellwood. Most of the industries are "light industry". Mr. Meyer explained that the industries filled some of the vacant parcels of land and greatly increased the village's tax base.

It was the year of 1950 that was significant for the further growth of Bellwood. Construction began on the Northern Illinois Gas Western Division plant on Eastern and Washington. Also the telephone building on 23rd and St. Charles was begun. A factory began on 31st and Randolph and the large business district started on the south end of Bellwood Avenue around the 1100 block.

By 1950, the population was 8,746. A special census in 1953 showed 12,527 residents, and another special census in 1957 showed the population had increased to 17,933.  By 1960 the population would grow to 20,729, by 1970 the population was 22,096.

In 1953, factory construction began on the Autogas Company as well as the Wirecloth Products Corporation.  In 1959 King Bee Manufacturers, formerly American Automatic Devices moved to Washington and 26th. Later in the year the Bank of Bellwood applied for establishment on 219 S. Mannheim, and in 1960 Bellwood Savings and Loan was established at 405 S. Mannheim.

Since 1960, most of the vacant land has disappeared. In 1975, very little if any land is available for development.

The Post Office

The history of the post office predates the formation of the Village. The first one was established in 1893 at the passenger station of the Chicago and Great Western Railroad at Bellwood Avenue. Miss Eileen Cate was post mistress. Wolcott H. Evans succeeded her in 1895 and held the position until November of that year when Lucien J. Rice was appointed.

The post office was moved to a store in the vicinity of St. Paul and Bohland.  In July of 1899 Mary Ciesielski was appointed postmistress.

A second post office, Lovedale, was opened on April 7, 1900. It was located in a small room of the Glos General Merchandise and Grocery Store. Henry Glos was postmaster. The source of the name Lovedale is unknown, but its location was closer to the majority of the Village’s citizens, still concentrated on the northeast end. The Lovedale post office was discontinued in 1904 when the difficulties between the two offices were settled. However, the Bellewood office was moved to the Glos store. The post office did not officially change the spelling by dropping the second "e" until 1929.

Henry Deckert's first job was working for the post office. He picked up the mail twice a day at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad depot on 19th Avenue. "If you missed the pick-up time you would be docked $1.00 for being late," Deckert said.

Mrs. Alwine E. Rowe became postmistress in 1919 and the office was moved to W. Rowe's dry goods store. Paul Meyer says that when he first came to town he remembers Henry Glos as being the postmaster. Later he can remember Judge Rowe as being in charge. Mr. Meyer's father then became the postmaster and the office was moved back to 25th and Saint Charles Road but not in the same building, the original was torn down.

In 1933 George Engleman became postmaster.  In 1953 the new post office was opened on Mannheim Road.

1Star-Progress Year Book of 1937

2There are three pumping stations with the one at Eastern and St. Charles handling three of the wells. The water from the wells is pumped into reservoirs at the pumping stations. Booster pumps at the stations pump the water into the street system of water mains. Before the water is distributed to residents it is chlorinated.  A water main connection hooking the village with Chicago is maintained in case of emergencies. In 1971, two of the village's wells had to be repaired, and for three months in the summer water was purchased from Chicago.

Recommended background reading:

Sources were used in the compilation of this entry include but are not limited to:

Last Modified:  09/24/2003