The Belton Historical Society
P.O Box 1144 | Belton, MO 64012 | 816-322-3977

April 2017: Newsletter 2 Volume XXXVII

Posted by Jason W on Sunday, 23 April 2017 at 1:40 AM

A Letter From Our President

Rob Powell


Did Your Ancestors Have Slaves?


Did your ancestors have slaves?

Why do you see so many Confederate flags around here?

Do you feel a ‘tinge of history’ every time you drive into Kansas?

Was William Quantrill a terrorist, an outlaw, a local hero?


To be honest, I did not consider any of these questions until I returned to Belton 3 years ago, after a 43-year absence. Why? One major reason is that very little about Cass County area history was covered when I attended Belton High in the 1960’s. And why is that? I’ve heard various reasons: feelings are still raw regarding Order No. 11, Blue vs Grey choices still spark heated family conversations, standardized history textbooks ignore ‘minor’ Civil War skirmishes in this area…


Why consider these questions now? First, since participating in the Belton Historical Society, I don’t view history anymore as a boring subject but as something I need to know to understand myself, my family, and my neighbors. Second, racism is still a major US tragedy that has yet to be fully addressed by any section of the country. Third, while digging deeper into my ancestry, I want to understand the forces that made my forefathers slave owners, or share croppers, or land owners, or …?


So, how am I doing? First, I have not found confirmation, but at least one cousin thinks our ancestors DID own slaves. Second, I was surprised when I found that some of my relatives fought for the Confederacy – however, I still think that flying the Confederate flag is denigrating to African Americans. Third, there’s nothing wrong with Kansas (that a balanced budget wouldn’t solve!), but (seriously) I still reminisce about border battles when I’m there. Fourth, Quantrill (in my opinion) was a terrorist who went way overboard in avenging the deaths of his brother and 4 Bushwhacker women in a Kansas City jail collapse.


What’s my point? I have two. First, the Belton Historical Society is NOT resting on its laurels – it’s conducting research and providing education for all Belton residents interested in the good and bad in the history of Belton and the surrounding area. Second, learning more about YOUR history may allow you to correct your relative when they use the “n” word, or may spark a conversation with your neighbor about their Confederate flag sticker on his/her truck bumper.


I am impressed with the strides we’ve taken toward improving the museum: money donations, story sharing, artifact gifts, and most important, a dedicated board of directors that is committed to expanding and financing a top-class museum.


Finally, I continue to receive accolades for the newsletter you are reading right now. I’ve got to give all of the kudos to my wife Pam, who edits the newsletter. She is committed to getting the newsletter out on time, lining up all the text boxes, and most importantly, reporting important Belton stories and memories. Thanks Pam!


April General Membership Meeting


The General Meeting of the membership of the Society will be held on April 23rd at 2:30 pm in the meeting room behind the museum. This month’s program will feature the stories of our townspeople who served during World War I. Historical Society LIFE member and local historian Woodrow Dick will present these wonderful stories.


Too often history is boiled down to the names, dates and places for rote memorization. The greatest role of our Historical Society is telling the stories of our people in human terms to appreciate what our ancestors did to make our lives better today. Woody’s program will focus on our soldiers, their families and their stories. Woody, a natural story teller, shares the stories of these folks in order to make them seem more real to our minds: real people whose lot in life was to live through the first global war, the first world-wide depression, the first outbreak of world-wide fanaticism and the only people ever to experience two world wars. These people were told that the United States would never enter the “Great War” only to have loved ones, or themselves, drafted out of their homes and off their farms and shipped off to France-- several of them never to return.


The timing for this program is simply perfect as the nation remembers the 100 year anniversary of World War I. Before our program this month, you may want to peruse the Belton-specific site: Woodrow started this site to remember and honor Belton’s WWI veterans. You will enjoy scrolling through the list of veterans and looking for your family names. The website is exhaustive in presenting as much information as possible about the brave men and women from our part of the world and the sacrifices they made for us.


(ed. note: It is suggested that you NOT use Chrome. For some reason it is very slow. Internet Explorer, Edge and Firefox seem to work better.)


Front Page News!


A special thank you to Allen and Laurie Edmonds for the excellent front page coverage given to our January general meeting. The North Cass Herald has generously covered our news over the years, helping to share our stories and events with the community. You don’t want to miss any of our news! Consider a subscription to the North Cass Herald!

Call Laurie if you would like to subscribe! 816-322-2375. And, welcome Allen, a new LIFE member!




Record Breaking Attendance!


Our January general meeting attracted people from all walks of life to our Historical Society. The Blondie Radio program was very popular and well received. Our cast of voice actors was thrilled at the response from the community. The meeting “high” continued with our refreshments. Large, delicious “Dagwood” sandwiches were a hit! Thank you Ed and Debbie Maurer for your efforts to feed the crowd!

Young Girl’s Autograph Book Update


We received a note from docent Joan Hill saying, “my mother, Tillie Thompson Quick, worked for the Hawthorne's (Maude Yost) all through high school in the 20s and then at their clothing and grocery store in the 50s.” Meanwhile, while researching artifacts in the carriage house, Bill Brady and Pam Powell came across the Last Will and Testament of Maude Yost Hawthorne. The owner of the autograph book, Maud Yost, married Edwin E. Hawthorne. Her descendants included nieces and nephews living in the southwestern part of the United States.


Mark Your Calendar!!

General Membership Meeting In the Meeting Room behind the Museum

Sunday April 23 at 2:30 pm The Public is Welcome!

Brief business meeting, Remembering Belton’s WWI Veterans, Refreshments

Bring a friend along for an interesting afternoon!


Recent Donations

We are so grateful for the following donations to our Historical Society. Five hundred dollars from Renee and Peter Kerckhoff A gift from Mrs. Shafer for $100.00 was given in memory of John Lillard Robinson who passed away on Dec 30, 2016. It is noted that he was the last of the Robinson line. What a wonderful way to remember those whose lives made a difference in the Belton story. Thank you!



Easter Basket Ideas!


Easter will be observed on April 16th this year. If you have children’s baskets to fill, consider purchasing historically authentic toys from the Historical Society. Most of the items will fit perfectly in a basket and be fun and educational, too! Early American tops, quill pens, corn-husk and yarn dolls, dominoes are just a few of the fun toys we have available. Come by anytime the Museum is open, our docents will be happy to help you. Tuesdays and Thursdays between 1 and 4 p.m. and Saturdays between 10 am and 1 pm.




Featured Board Member — Janna Dillon


Janna Dillon was the oldest of three sisters born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. She was a music and English education major at Friends University where she met and married her husband Ron in 1968. They moved from Wichita to Ron’s hometown of Burr Oak, Kansas, in 1969 where he taught for two years and where their son Jim was born. In 1971 they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where Janna worked for the NAIA and Forrest T. Jones Group Insurance Administrators before joining Black & Veatch in 1974 for an almost 40-year career. She used her hours from Friends University to attain an AA degree in Business in 1978. Janna and Ron moved to Belton in March 2006. They were married for almost 48-1/2 years when Ron passed away in October 2016.


Janna has always been community-minded, both through her position at Black & Veatch and personally. She is a strong supporter of the American Cancer Society and Christmas in October, having served on the Boards of Directors for both, as well as the United Way and Family Resource Center of Cass County. She has been a BHS member for nine years and has served as a docent and on the Board of Directors as a member-at-large, chair of the Audit Committee, member of the Financial and Museum Committees and currently First Vice President. She also serves as Board Secretary of the Fairway Ridge Estates HOA; as a member of the Belton Tree Board; the Cass County Non-Profit committee; and is wedding coordinator, Benevolence Committee chair and Young at Heart Co-Coordinator at South Haven Baptist Church. Janna works part-time as the client coordinator and marketing support for Right at Home in Home Care & Assistance in Raymore. She enjoys home décor, entertaining, floral design, reading mysteries, birding, and her companion cat, Shortypants.


Paul and Peggy Wyatt Reminisce


The Elea Wilhite family lived on Mill Street (named for a mill that Elea's father built down on Spring Street.) Elea was a very quiet man who rarely spoke of his photography during WWI.  The Wilhite family published several books of these photos (ed. note: The Museum has copies), which include photos of Elea, his fellow soldiers and of the mobile lab they used to develop the film.


Elea built and operated the Belton Ice and Locker plant located off Main Street. I remember getting to sit on a gunny sack on a big block of ice as it came down the chute to the dock.  They crushed your block of ice right there for you.  Back then not everyone had a refrigerator with a freezing compartment or they needed more freezer space.  Particularly in the days of WWII, people froze lots of home produce and game.   You didn't need your food rationing coupon for food if you froze your own. Some people could get food on the "black market."  -  it fell off the truck - repackage it and freeze it.  Mom's frozen applesauce eaten when there were still crunchy ice crystals in it was delicious. 


To use your locker space you carried a coat (or just stayed for a minute), walked into the locker plant, asked for your key from the peg board, put on your coat, walked into the cold room, found your numbered locker drawer and put in or took out rectangular blue quart frozen food boxes.  You put cellophane sacks (not plastic) in the boxes first. Elea had a long time and loyal employee, Gwenn Coombs who was father of our football coach Gwenn Coombs, Jr. (ed. note: Lots of ‘old-timers’ loved playing hide-and-seek in the ice plant especially on a 100º day. Gwenn Coombs, Jr. is the father of our Board member, Karen Coombs Calvert).


Safety Deposit Boxes


Thank you to Jack Dryden for the safety deposit boxes from the Citizens Bank of Belton, formerly housed in the Missouri Division of Motor Vehicles on Main Street. Part of the display is a photo and brief description of safety deposit boxes, a photo of the vault in Joplin, MO after the tornado hit a few years ago, showing the safe deposit boxes remained after all else had been destroyed, and the large brass sign that was on the Belton Citizens Bank. This is a another great opportunity to teach children!


It Pays to Answer the Phone!


Recently the phone rang in the Powell’s kitchen. Neither Rob nor Pam recognized Caller ID, but decided to take the call. It was Mary Cummings from Belton High School. Mary shared that she supervises students in the Service Learning Leadership Program. She has a group of students who are very interested in the history of Belton. Her question: Could we put these students to work? You bet’cha!


Pam Powell has worked with Bryce Goodall, Jessica Kuhn and Jackson Latini at the museum for several weeks. First they are photographing current exhibits, then removing the artifacts and cleaning the cases. Second, based on research they did independently, they are sorting through archives uncovered by the research committee (chair, Bill Brady) over the winter break. Their goal is to locate any items that were stored away in the carriage house that might better tell the stories of existing exhibits. Their first job has been the Richards-Gebaur exhibit.


We are hoping that a student may want to volunteer for a Saturday shift as a docent or volunteer for the in depth computer work being done to catalog all our exhibits. One student may enhance some notebooks available for researchers. And, perhaps, looking into the future, these students will want to apply for our scholarship in the year of their graduation.



Memorial Gifts


We are truly honored to have been remembered by Dodie Maurer. Gifts in memory of Dodie may be sent to the Belton Historical Society at P.O. Box 1144, Belton, MO 64012. We will find a way to appropriately honor her memory with the monies donated in her memory.


In Loving Memory of Dodie Maurer


The townspeople of Belton received their copies of the Belton Star Herald on March 10th and were saddened to learn of the passing of Dodie Maurer. Described as a “newspaper woman, community leader, wife, mom, friend, mentor, she raised a generation in her adopted hometown.”


At the time of her death, Dodie was a member of the Board of Directors of our Historical Society. She had a large role in the start up of the Museum as we know it today. Our condolences are extended to her children, their spouses, her grand and great-grand children. She was preceded in death by her husband, Joe, in 1985. The funeral mass was Monday, March 13th at St. Sabina Catholic Church.


The family graciously named the Belton Historical Society as a recipient of any memorial gifts. (Also: St. Sabina Catholic Church or Serenity Care Hospice in Harrisonville). We will strive to use her memorial gifts in an appropriate manner.


She will be sorely missed in the community.


Down Memory Lane

(Originally published by the Belton Chamber of Commerce and the Tri-County Art League in 1995.)


This month we feature the drawing of the building we call home. The Old City Hall. The text accompanying this drawing says, “The original City Hall building at 512 Main Street was built in 1906 and served Belton in various ways over the years. Originally a “town hall”, school plays, declamatory contests, spelling bees, the town band, other performing groups and basketball games were held there. Still later it housed city offices, including the police and fire departments. In the early seventies it was in danger of being demolished when the new city hall was built. Community interest prevailed and it was renovated and preserved. Today it houses a museum and a mini community center…” “The Carriage House was built in 1992 by Belton Community Projects, Inc to house the horse-drawn hearse which is said to have brought Carry Nation to Belton for burial in 1911. The hay fork which hangs at the peak of the roof comes from the home that Harry Truman lived in as a child.”


About the artist: “ Ruby Williams of Kansas City, MO graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1950 and married a few months later. Her artistic bent was put on hold until her husband’s death in 1983. Having never worked outside the home her job skills were minimal. She chose instead to take some art lessons from Carolyn Hughlett, primarily in watercolors and then in pen and ink which is her favorite medium. Her innate talent took hold and before long she was showing in various mall shows and was commissioned to do local paintings for the McDonalds Restaurant in Paola, KS.”


As is our custom, if you know anything about this artist. please share your information with us. We’d love to learn more.



In Loving Memory of Dr. Harold Calvin


Earlier this year, Patricia Calvin gave a gift for $500.00 in loving memory of her husband, Harold Calvin. Harold served in WW II in the Army Air Corps and was stationed in Germany. Harold moved to Belton in the fall of 1962 and served the community as a chiropractor for 50 years. He was dedicated to his wife, Pat and his four children. In his free time he enjoyed motorcycling, boating, square and round dancing. He passed away in July 2012. We hope to purchase an item for the museum with this designated gift. Thank you, Pat.


Remembering Bill Powell


Wasn’t it great to welcome Kent Powell back to Belton at the January meeting of the Historical Society? Kent lent his voice to Dagwood Bumstead during the program featuring the 1939 radio show Blondie. Focusing on that family tree, the research committee recently found an article about the naming of Powell Parkway in Belton. Local resident Jack Lindberg, a LIFE member of our society, wrote articles for the local newspapers in the mid-eighties and here are some quotes from his writings at the time.


A road near Cedar Tree Square had been named for the banks that operated in that area for several years, but as banks do, the names changed often. Featured in his article called “Lindy’s Takeoffs” Jack mused: “But what have the aldermen done this year that is really important? Well, here’s what the aldermen have done…After a week of discussing financial matters, codes, zoning, annexation, complaints, waste removal, water leaks and whatever it is that aldermen do, the group went eyeball-to-eyeball and selected a name for the (street). Powell Parkway. William V. Powell, citizen. Bill Powell has done as much, or more, for Belton than anyone—except the group that selected the town’s name. The aldermen can now return to doing whatever other matters they do. It won’t be near as important.”


And in another article, Jack wrote: “Besides being mayor, Powell has been involved with the Belton Community Projects, the Belton Historical Society, the Lions Club and the American Legion. Powell also was a member of the first city zoning commission and was president of the first Base Community Council at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in 1960. Powell was mayor in 1955, when the base opened.”


Thanks, Jack, for the trip down memory lane!



Spring Cleaning!


After our brief winter closing, the museum and research committees are very pleased to introduce enhanced exhibits in the museum!


Don Peters, Cass County Historical Society, loaned us a display about the log cabin that was recently discovered when an old house was being demolished. The log cabin is slated to be reconstructed at Belton’s Memorial Park. The story of this cabin is currently on display .


Arnetta Johnston donated her huge collection of dolls and toys from “mid-century America”. Boy, doesn’t that make our childhood years seem like ages ago? The collection is displayed in the large cabinet facing the exterior doors of the museum and it continues around the corner where large toys are on display. Children should especially enjoy seeing these toys, since now most childhood play is done online.


The Carry A Nation exhibit was moved to the carriage house. Now Carry’s story is all in one building. New frames were purchased to show off the early black and white portraits of her family and her artifacts are much easier to see in the new area.


The spinning wheels are prominently displayed in the window of the carriage house as is a goat cart donated by Martha Walton. Thank you very much!


The back wall of the museum features all the wars that Belton residents have served. A recent donation from Gene Ray is a WWII US issued compass owned by Sammy Feeback. Also of note: one case is nearly empty as we prepare to feature the wars since Korea. If you or anyone in your family has small artifacts from Korea, Viet Nam, the Gulf Wars or Afghanistan, please consider donating or loaning them for our exhibit.



Bring children to visit! Ask them to explain these things:


How did a log cabin get inside an old farmhouse?

What could the Tiny Tears doll do that other dolls could not do?


What is a goat cart?

How much does a Civil War cannon ball weigh?

Why did Carry Nation use an axe to destroy saloons?


Why did Carry Nation enter and destroy saloons with an axe?


Bylaws and Steering Committee


The bylaws are currently being rewritten to accommodate today’s life styles and amend rules that are dated or not working as we try to be an integral part of the Belton community. Committee members include: Rob Powell (ex officio) Bill Brady, Janna Dillon, Renee Kerckhoff, Sally Smith and Pam Powell.


Hand in hand with the bylaws is the Steering Committee. Where do we want to be in the future? Do we want to provide more interactive displays? More computer information available at each exhibit? Do we want to continue outreach into the community in the form of participating in the local festivals, parades, etc.? Do we want to continue to award scholarship to Belton’s youth? Do we need more room? What do we want to be? If you have comments or concerns about the Historical Society, please get in touch with President Rob Powell who will make sure your notes get to the committee.








The new year in the museum officially began the first week of March. Docents reported for training and learning about the new exhibits. We have a real need for docents on Saturdays. We like to have two docents in the museum during each shift. We only have one docent on the first, second and fifth Saturday of each month. You could help us a great deal if you could come one Saturday during each month, from 10 am – 1 pm. Please call Pam Powell at 816-331-6710 to lend a hand! If a steady position is beyond what you can give, please consider serving as a substitute docent. It’s always good to have someone to call to help when a docent must be absent due to illness or personal reason. Thanks!


Scholarship Committee


The scholarship committee is well underway towards awarding three $1000.00 scholarships to worthy Belton High School graduates from the class of 2017. Committee chair Karen Calvert led the group in making the scholarships available online through the high school counselors. She also created a form to be used to evaluate the responses to the applications. It is hoped that the best of the best applicants will be interviewed so that the best decision can be made. The committee hopes to present the scholarships during the Scholarship Awards night at the high school in May. We hope that this increases our visibility in the community and helps youth from Belton to excel in college.


If you support the idea of the Historical Society awarding scholarships for worthy Belton High School Seniors, please

consider making designated gifts to the Historical Society for scholarships!


Committee members include Karen Calvert, chair, Rob Powell (ex officio), Bill Brady, Janna Dillon, Sherry Durham, Jackie Kreisel, Sally Smith and Pam Powell. (At the time of publication, we have received 27 applications for the scholarships!)


Don’t forget to join us at our Quarterly General Meeting on April 23 at 2:30 p.m.

We promise an interesting afternoon hearing the tales of the men and women of Belton who served in World War I. One hundred years have passed and we need to hear their stories.

Featuring Historical Society member and local historian, Woodrow Dick.