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

April 2018: Newsletter 2 Volume XXXVIII

Posted by Jason W on Sunday, 01 April 2018 at 1:00 AM

A Letter From Our President

Rob Powell

Things are changing on Main Street in Belton! When Pam and I moved back to Belton 4 years ago we lamented that Belton’s Main Street had lost grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, and other varieties of businesses in the 40+ years we had been away (even though Pam had never lived here, she was a frequent visitor starting in 1973).

But things are looking up! For those of you who have not visited Belton for a while, we now have a cookie store and 3 restaurants; legal, accounting, insurance and related businesses; computer consultants; motor vehicle registration; doctors, veterinarians, and health products; beauty establishments; and a variety of stores featuring antiques, gifts, plumbing supplies, furniture, and ‘neat junk’! 

Despite the movement of Belton government away from centralization, we still have City Hall and the City Annex on Main Street, as well as a fire house, churches, a bank, and the Eagles (club, not the band). You can again accomplish most of your business just strolling along 4+ blocks!

We also now have 2 groups concerned about Main Street: Belton Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Belton Main Street. 

Of course, central (in our opinion) to Main Street is the Belton Museum. Owned by the City of Belton and maintained by Belton Community Projects, Inc. (BCPI), the Old City Hall (1906) houses the museum, which is still the place to find everything there is to know about Belton’s past and present (we’ll also predict the future!). A recent addition to Old City Hall is the Main Street Theater, which is currently renting the back ½ of the building and just finished a nearly sold-out first performance (9 showings of “The Red Velvet Cake Wars”). (Disclaimer: Pam and I are the owners of Main Street Theater.)

So, when you visit Belton next time, make sure you stroll up and down Main Street to see the changes!

Briefly, during the last 3 months the Society has seen:

-a dedicated scholarship team narrow down a large list of applicants to 9 for formal interviews

-proposals from contractors to fix water damage to the museum and carriage house (last year we fixed the roof, but now it’s time to correct the damage)

-a dedicated crew of docents take training and start our 2018 season

-a museum staff of volunteers design and create several new displays

-a new US flag (the ‘new’ cotton flag we received last summer disintegrated within 6 months, so now we’re trying nylon)

-discussions with the Belton Park Board regarding veteran honors (see related article in this newsletter)

One thing we’d like to see more of is: YOUR STORIES! Please send us any reminisces about Belton and the surrounding area. It’s the easiest and best way for us to learn about our history!! 

Mark Your Calendar!

April 22, 2018

2:30 pm

Belton resident Christine Faltynowski of The Kansas Bee Company and MO-KAN Honey

Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors—pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming and more. Many of these causes are interrelated. The bottom line is that we know humans are largely responsible for the two most prominent causes: pesticides and habitat loss.

Many of our ancestors were farmers, so learning about bees is integral to the history of our community. Also important is the potential extinction of bees as pollinators of our food sources for the future generations.

If the weather permits, Christine will bring bees to our program! We’re especially hoping she brings honey!! YUM!

January Program Grows to a Museum Exhibit! 

A thank you to Christopher Beal and Martha Frasher for sharing their wealth of information about the history of the Belton Fire Department. The exhibits that Chris shared with us have become an exhibit in our museum along with artifacts about the Belton Police Department. We are thrilled that Linda Blum Medlin contributed photos from the BPD. Linda’s father was Chief John Blum, long time Chief of Police. Come by the museum and see what’s new!! 

Enjoy this article in The Star Herald for Belton’s 125th Anniversary (1997) by Mary Kelly:

In Belton’s early years, law enforcement consisted of a lone marshal. In 1910, it was Sheridan Whitaker. His photograph shows him wearing bib overalls, a battered hat, and a “don’t mess with me” look. A gun in a holster worn over his chest and a big cigar complete the picture.

There couldn’t have been much crime because in 1923, Pearl March was city marshal, tax collector, local seamstress and single mother with two daughters.

Over the years, Jim Lewis, Kinney Feeback, Mark Jacoby, Vernon Morris and Temple Forrest also served as marshals.

In 1968, the city had a population between four and five thousand and comprised an area of four square miles. John Blum was Chief of Police. The department had one officer, one patrol car and was stationed at city hall. There was no record system and no accident reports were kept.

A second patrol car was acquired in 1960 and there were two patrol officers. Two more were hired in 1964. A radar set became operational. By 1968 there were five officers. A breathalyzer was purchased.

A police station was built in the back of city hall and a computer was installed in 1971.

Patrolman Jim Luster was elected Chief in 1979. He served until 1988. During his tenure emergency number 911 became operational.

James Person is the present Chief of Police. Because crime incidences have grown with the population the department moved to larger quarters in 163rd Street, east of US 71. Thirty-two patrolmen are now on duty. And new sidearms have been added the arsenal.

Help us update this story!! If you have information about the development and history of the Belton Police Department, please consider loaning or donating items to our museum. Call the museum 816-322-3977 and leave a message!

On the Lookout for Local Sports Memorabilia!

Our Museum Committee is on the lookout for sports memorabilia for a new exhibit! Some of you remember that Karen Calvert’s father, Glenn Coombs, was a Belton High School coach for many years. We have recently obtained a girl’s basketball uniform from Mary Ann Tabor and we are looking for other uniforms, photographs, advertising, schedules, etc., to create a new exhibit for the museum. It’s spring cleaning time, so start digging though your attics and basements and see what you can find to share. You can leave a message on the museum telephone and it will be forwarded to Karen Calvert and Jackie Kreisel, our new Museum Committee Chairs.

Scholarship Committee News

Under the leadership of Karen Calvert, the Scholarship Committee has been very busy since the first of the year. Committee members Jackie Kreisel, Janna Dillon, Sally Smith, Sherry Durham and Rob Powell, ex officio, worked together to make improvements to the application to more accurately reflect the students’ strengths. Also updated was a rubric to compare each applicant to the rest of the group. The application was available and completed online. A total of 17 Belton High School seniors applied for the awards. The committee is currently interviewing the top 9 applicants. 

The Historical Society’s budget for scholarships is $5,000. Thanks to the generous donations of Society members, another scholarship of $1,000 will be made available this year, The total awards will be six $1,000 scholarships. 

Providing scholarships to local students has become one of the main activities of the Historical Society. In 4 years the program has grown from one $500 annual scholarship to six $1000 scholarships (5 are budgeted, and worthy candidates always seem to lead to donations for 1 extra). At the Belton High School awards ceremony last spring, the Society awarded more scholarship money than most of the non-profit groups awarding scholarships.

The process for determining scholarship winners has also evolved. Past-president Norma Nelson has an intense love for the scholarship program, and for several years she almost single-handedly ran the program. With the evolution of a committee for the selection process, we have systematized many of Norma’s criteria and added several more. The selection process includes computer-generated Google forms, constant internet monitoring for applicants, several meetings to develop criteria, and a detailed checklist to pare the applicant list to a reasonable number for interviews. The interviews last up to 45 minutes with each of the up to 12 finalists, and take 2-4 evenings. Throughout the process every member of the committee feels bad at some point at having to drop deserving candidates to obtain a final group of recipients. Grades, test scores, school activities, volunteerism, work loads, essay answers, and family needs are all considered. In the end, we’ve helped students attending colleges across the country. Best of all, the students leave the process with a greater appreciation of their ties to their hometown, Belton. Thanks again, both to the committee AND the Society’s generosity!

Belton’s Fallen Veterans

Many of you are aware that Belton had several local heroes who lost their lives in US wars. These veterans are memorialized on a plaque in Memorial Park, and pictured on the walls inside Memorial Station.

Currently there are 14 honored veterans from WW1 through the Vietnam War. Recently Society members Woody Dick, Bill Brady, and Rob Powell petitioned the Belton Park Board to add 2 more veterans, James Pillow and Garnett George, who had been identified through Woody’s work at on WW1 veterans. When presented to the Board the question arose, “what were your criteria, and can we use these criteria to consider future veterans?”

James Pillow served in WW1, WW2, and the Korean War, dying in Korea in 1954. Garnett George (related to Society member Kibby George) died in 1918 soon after leaving Belton for training at a naval training station. A large crowd turned out for his funeral service as Belton considered Garnett “the first from this neighborhood to make the great sacrifice in service to his country.”

Rob, Bill, and Woody developed a set of common factors for fallen veterans that showed the only 2 similarities between all 16 veterans were that they died during a war and that they had close family connections to Belton. The Park Board committee accepted these criteria and the recommendation for the 2 additions. If the full Park Board approves the committee recommendations, the Society will help host a ceremony later this year. Stay tuned!


After our brief winter break, the museum is open again on Tuesdays, Thursdays from 1-4 pm and Saturdays from 10 am-1 pm. We welcomed a new docent this year, Bernita Bogar. While we have a faithful group who tend to the museum, we would love to add YOU to our group! We can always use alternates (substitutes) to help when the regularly scheduled workers are away or ill. Please consider sharing your time and your story with us! Call Jackie Kreisel at 816-331-1571!

Don’t forget our Quarterly General Meeting!

Sunday April 22nd at 2:30 pm

We will have a brief meeting, a program and refreshments. If you would like to share in refreshment preparation, please call Pam Powell, 816-331-6710. It is time to restock our supplies, so if you can contribute coffee, creamers, sugar, coffee cups, napkins plastic utensils, etc., it would be appreciated, too.