Blue Rapids is a city in Marshall County, Kansas. The population was 1,088 at the 2000 census. Blue Rapids is home to the oldest library west of the Mississippi in continuous operation in the same building, pictured at the right, on the left.. The city is located on highway US 77/K-9,about 11 miles south of Marysville. On Oct. 24, 1913, more than 3,000 fans watched the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants play baseball in Blue Rapids.
The Early History of Blue Rapids
by William G. Cutler (1883)
The manufacturing city of Blue Rapids, the second in size in Marshall County, is located two and one-half miles below the junction of Big and Little Blue Rivers, and ninety-five miles west of Atchison on the Central Branch Missouri Pacific Railroad. The town site is laid off on a beautiful level slope extending from the railroad to the river, which is skirted with heavy belts of timber, forming a background of exceptional beauty. It is acknowledged as being the most beautiful and possessing the finest water-power of any town in the State.
In the fall of 1869, a preliminary meeting of those interested in Kansas was held at LeRoy, Genesee Co., N. Y. At a later meeting held in Batavia, N. Y., a colony was organized with the following officers: Rev. C. F. Mussey, President; T. Holbrook, Vice-president; S. H. Parmalee, Treasurer; C. J. Brown, Secretary. A location committee, consisting of C. F. Mussey, H. J. Bovee and J. B. Brown came out and located the present town site of Blue Rapids. During the winter of 1869-70, the colony, numbering about fifty families, came out and immediately commenced improvements. A town site of 287 acres, embracing the water-power privilege, was purchased of R. S. Craft and others at a cost of $15,000, and 8,000 acres secured in farming lands.
Among the members of the original colony and a greater part of whom located here were: S. H. Parmalee, T. Holbrook, R. Robertson, M. T. Coe, D. Fairbanks, S. Smith, J. T. Smith, H. S. Hurlbert, J. B. Waynant, C. J. Brown, G. R. Brown, T. F. Hall, J. B. Brown, C. E. Olmstead, J. L. Freeland, J. V. Coon, R. S. Craft, John McPherson, J. E. Ball, Y. Douglass, H. A. Parmalee, J. Yurann, V. R. North, H. Woodard, E. L. Stone, J. S. Fisher, C. F. Roedel, C. F. Mussey and others.
Improvements were carried on on an extensive scale. The water-power was surveyed by a competent engineer and found to possess manufacturing facilities of over 1,500 horse-power. At a point where the rapids commence, the current of the river strikes an abrupt rock bluff on the right bank about forty feet high; the river then turns to the left and ripples over a solid rock bottom for a distance of 800 feet. At the above mentioned bluff the town company constructed the dam running over the lime rock bed to the opposite shore. Built of cut stone, sunk into and keyed to the underlying solid rock, it affords great strength. A King's tubular arch wrought iron bridge was completed in the spring of 1871.
Each town lot was sold or distributed on the fixed condition that it never was to hold the foundation for a grog shop or a gaming house of any kind.
One of the first enterprises set on foot in the spring of 1870, was the sinking of a public well on the Public Square. The work was carried on by several parties, but after the drill was put down over two hundred feet and no water found, it was given up. Subsequently, the people accepted a proposition submitted by C. E. Olmstead, one of the enterprising business men of the town, to supply the city with water from the Blue River, by the Holly system of water-works, which have been in successful operation up to a recent date.
H. A. Parmalee and Yates Douglass established the first general stores in 1870. W. W. Stevens followed with the first drug store. W. H. Goodwin was the first to represent the profession of law. Dr. R. A. Wells was the first disciple of Esculapius to locate permanently in the place. The manufacture of brick commenced in May, 1872, by Mr. Seip. A marriage ceremony was performed in Irving, in June, 1870, by the Rev. E. H. Chapen, the contracting parties, Miss Lottie Hoit and the Rev. J. Williams, being from Blue Rapids. The first birth was that of a child of a Mr. Van Dusen, -- a member of the Town Colony -- in August 1870. The first death on the town site was that of Mary, the wife of H. S. Halbert, in the summer of 1870.
On the arrival of the colony at Blue Rapids, as there were no buildings on the town site, with the exception of a small stone building erected years before, a large two-story frame structure was erected by the colonists and termed by them -- "Colonial Hall," but by the "natives" or the old settlers, as the "Ark." This building was used by the colonists until other structures could be erected, and in it were held the first religious services and the first school. All public meetings were held there, and at one time a portion of it was used as a hotel and the other part for school purposes. The building was finally moved down to the river and is now incorporated into a building used by the Buell Manufacturing Company.
Incorporation and Local Matters
In response to a petition signed by a majority of the legal voters in the village of Blue Rapids, A. S. Wilson, Judge of the District Court, in accordance with the laws of the State of Kansas, incorporated Blue Rapids as a city of the third class, on March 20, 1872. The first city election was held in Colonial Hall, April 2, 1872, with J. L. Freeland, J. S. Fisher and G. Fitzgerald, Judges of election. The following is the official roster of the town.
Mayor. -- 1872-3, C. E. Olmstead; 1874-5, John McPherson; 1876-7, A. E. Sweetland; 1878-9, W. A. Briggs; 1880, John McPherson; 1881-2, A. J. Loomis.
Councilmen. -- 1872, Mimium, H. Armstrong, J. E. Ball, John McPherson, J. B. Waynant; 1873, J. E. Ball, A. W. Stevens, J. McPherson, H. Armstrong, D. Mimium; 1874, J. Allerdice, W. Burr, G. Fitzgerald, D. W. Hinman, J. S. Wright; 1875, W. Burr, G. Fitzgerald, C. W. Farrington, C. J. Brown, W. D. Cook; 1876, C. W. Farrington, A. J. Brown, W. D. Cook, G. B. Stocks, D. Fairbanks; 1877, A. J. Brown, G. B. Stocks, D. Fairbanks, H. McGrew, A. E. Benedict; 1878, A. E. Benedict, J. A. Loban, H. McGrew, F. Cooley, G. Marshall; 1879, J. Brown, W. A. Smyth, F. Cooley, G. W. Marshall, John A. Loban; 1880, M. N. Shoecraft, E. M. Brice, F. Cooley, D. Mimium, I. D. Yarrick; 1881, J. Brown, I. D. Yarrick, W. A. Smyth, J. D. Price, James Allerdice; 1882, John Brown, J. V. Coon, J. G. Crawford, S. Hill, D. Fairbanks.
Police Judge. -- 1872-3, C. E. Olmstead; 1874-6, T. F. Hall; 1877-9, H. W. Chapman; 1880, E. J. Coon; 1881-2, J. L. Eldridge.
Clerk. -- 1872-5, C. J. Brown; 1876-7 W. H. H. Freeman; 1878-9, M. C. Holman; 1880, E. W. Waynant; 1881, A. J. Brown; 1882, H. G. Reynolds.
Treasurer. -- 1872-3, J. L. Freeland; 1874-6, F. C. Scott; 1877-9, W. Burr; 1880, C. W. Farrington; 1881-2, J. A. Loban.
Marshal -- 1872, E. Colmstock; 1873, L. B. Doten; 1874, J. Sargent; 1875, S. M. Swan; 1876-7, A. Sharp; 1878, W. J. McAtee; 1879-81, A. W. Kimball; 1882, W. W. Spencer.
Schools. -- The first school in the vicinity of Blue Rapids was taught by Lucy A. Palmer, in November, 1861. The school, numbering twenty-five scholars, was held in a private dwelling one-half mile west of the present town site. Up to 1871 the following teachers took charge of the school in the order mentioned: Miss Emma Thompson, Rev. P. Duncan, Harriet Whitmore, Emma Cooley, A. Smith and Rev. Charles Holmes. In the summer of 1870, the first school taught in town was held in Colonial Hall by Rev. Charles Holmes, who was succeeded the next year by Charles Palmer. A. Griffin and C. M. Brydges succeeded Palmer in the order mentioned.
In 1873, a two-story brick building, 30x50 feet with stone trimmings, was erected at a cost of $8,000. Mr. Brydges, who was the first teacher in the new building, was succeeded by W. Philbrook, W. B. Dimon, H. N. Halle and Prof. J. W. Quay, the present incumbent, in the order mentioned, as principals. Owning to an increased number of scholars, a new building, 20z30 feet, was erected in the immediate vicinity.
Churches. -- The First Presbyterian Church was organized May 1, 1870, by Rev. C. F. Mussey, D. D., with twenty-three members. Services were held in the Colonial Hall for some time, and after moving from one public hall to another, a stone edifice, 32x56 feet, the latest and finest building of its kind in the county, was erected in the fall of 1874, at a cost of $4,000. Rev. Mr. Mussey remained in charge over the church until 1875, when he was succeeded by Rev. G. R. Hutchinson, who remained but six months, and was succeeded by Rev. W. N. McHarg, D. D., in March, 1876. The organization under its present pastor, Me. McHarg, numbers fifty members.
The Congregational Church was organized January 1, 1872, with twenty members, Rev. S. A. Van Dyke being the first pastor. Services were held in different public halls for a number of year, when a church edifice 25x48 feet, was erected at a cost of $1,300, during the summer of 1882. The organization has been in charge of the following named pastors; Rev. S. A. Van Dyke, C. A. Richardson, D. C. McNair, and Edward Skinner, the present incumbent. The church is in a prosperous condition, and numbers sixty-five members.
Baptist Church. -- An organization of the Baptist persuasion was perfected December 1?, 1872 by Rev. G. Gates, with twenty-three members. In April, 1873, Rev. W. A. Briggs took pastoral charge of the congregation, and immediately commenced efforts towards the erection of a church edifice. In July, 1873, the corner-stone was laid with appropriate ceremonies, and the church was dedicated in October of the same year. The building, a brief structure, was erected at a cost of $1,800. The Rev. W. A. Briggs remained as pastor until July, 1880, when he was succeeded by Rev. George Brown, the present incumbent, in April, 1881.
Methodist Episcopal Church. -- A partial organization of the Methodist Church was perfected in the winter of 1870-71, by Rev. M. D. Tenney, with sixteen members. Occasional services were held during the year 1871 by Rev. Messrs. Tenney, Spencer and Smith, who held meetings in different public halls in the city. In 1873, Rev. W. H. Underwood took charge of the church, and remained two years; he was succeeded by Rev. E. W. Van Deventer, three years; Rev. J. G. Green, one year; Rev. G. W. Miller, two years; Rev. S. L. Hunter, one year; Rev. C. S. Freark, the present incumbent, taking charge of the church in 1882. A church edifice of limestone was erected in 1876, at a cost of $2,200.
The Press. -- In the latter part of June, 1871, W. P. Campbell, and C. E. Tibbetts, purchased the material of the Netawaka Herald and removed it to Blue Rapids, where, on the 4th of July, 1871, they issued the first number of the Blue Rapids Times. On the 8th of July, 1872, Campbell sold his interest to Frank Hall, who remained in the concern, but a few weeks, when he retired, leaving Mr. Tibbetts sole proprietor. The latter conducted the paper until October, 1877, when E. M. Brice, of Ohio, became a partner, and on the 3d of October, 1878, Mr. Tibbetts retired, leaving Mr. Brice alone in the office, which he still controls as the editor of the Times. The Times since the issuing of the first number has been Republican in politics and devoted to home interests. Under the management of its present editor, it has grown to be one of the leading papers in the county.
The Postoffice. -- A postoffice was established a short distance from what is now known as Blue Rapids, in 1859, with William Thompson as the first postmaster. Mr. Thompson remained in office three years, and was succeeded in 1862 by D. Palmer. In 1865, Miss Emma Lee received the appointment as postmistress, but remained in office but six months when she resigned in favor of S. Craft, who after a short period turned the office over to John Weber. During Weber's term, 1869, the office was discontinued. When the Genesee Colony came out and located a town site and commenced improvements, the postoffice was re-established in the spring of 1870, with S. H. Parmalee as postmaster. Mr. Parmalee was succeeded in 1875 by C. E. Tibbetts, then editor of the Times. In 1876, Mr. Tibbetts resigned. In December of that year A. J. Loomis was appointed, and has officiated as postmaster up to the present time. Under Parmalee's administration the office was made a Money-order office in July, 1882 -- Money Order No. 1 being remitted by W. H. Goodwin.
A Great Fire -- Blue Rapids, in its existence of twelve years, has singularly escaped serious conflagrations common to Western towns, with the exception of a few instances. The existence of Blue Rapids, as a town, was nearly wiped out, April 10, 1872, by one of those events that frequently occur in a newly settled country -- a prairie fire. About noon of the day mentioned a dense cloud of smoke was seen to rise back of the bluffs, south of town, and as a strong breeze was blowing from that direction, an apprehension was felt that the town was in danger, which was soon realized by the appearance of flames that came surging down the bluffs with great velocity. The citizens turned out en masse, and seizing everything that would stop the progress of the flames, rushed to the scene. The fire first passed over the railroad track and swept along the west side of town to the river, which alone could check it, leaving a lateral column approaching the town at right angles, which monopolized the exertions of one hundred men to keep it in check. The flames also crossed the track on the east side of town and passed on to the river. Here the same efforts were needed, and after all danger was over the gallant fire brigade returned to their homes, blackened, scorched and burnt, but satisfied with their endeavors to save their homes.
Societies. -- Blue Rapids Lodge, N. 169, A. F. & A. M. -- Was instituted under a charter dated October 18, 1872, with the following charter members: S. Hill, A. J. Brown, C. W. Farrington, W. N. Halstead, C. Holman, D. Minium, R. S. Craft, D. W. Hinman, W. Burr, I. A. Chandler, A. N. Taylor. The first officers were: A. J. Brown, M.; W. W. Farrington, S. W.; S. Hill, J. W.; W. Burr, Treas.; D. W. Hinman, Sec'y.
Present officers: C. W. Farrington, M.; W. Barrett, S. W.; R. S. Craft, J. W.; S. C. Holbrook, Treas.; S. Hill, Sec'y. Present membership, eighteen. Regular meetings are held on the first Monday of each month, in Masonic Hall.
Blue Rapids Lodge, No. 2,793, K. of H. -- Was organized under dispensation, July 27, 1882, with nineteen members. Following were elected; J. B. Miller, Dic.; G. B. Stocks, V. Dic.; R. S. Craft, P. Dic.; C. Farrington, Rep.; C. G. Reed, Fin. R.; G. B. Vroom, G.; I. D. Yarrick, Treas.; O. A. Cole, Chap. The society, but recently organized, is in a flourishing condition.
Prospect Hill Cemetery Association -- Was incorporated June 17, 1879, with the following charter members, who also constituted a board of directors: R. S. Craft, T. F. Hall, Ed. W. Waynant, John Brown, William Coulter. At the first regular meeting R. S. Craft was elected President; T. F. Hall, Vice-President; E. W. Waynant, Secretary and Treasurer. A tract of land located one and one-half miles north of the city, on the southeast quarter of northeast quarter of Section 17, Township 4, Range 7, was purchased, and improvements made. Present Board of Directors; R. S. Craft, T. F. Hall, John Brown, E. W. Waynant, H. D. Calkins, A. Sharp, E. M. Brice, W. McGrew, G. B. Stocks. At the last annual meeting the following officers were elected: R. S. Craft, President, T. F. Hall, Vice-President; E. W. Waynant, Secretary; G. B. Stocks, Treasurer; H. D. Calkins, Superintendent.
Blue Rapids Cemetery Association -- Was incorporated under that name, with a capital stock of $1,000, July 4, 1879, with the following charter members: F. Cooley, C. A. Freeland, M. C. Holman, W. A. Barrett, J. D. Fields. F. Cooley was elected President; W. A. Barrett, Vice-President; C. A. Freeland, Treasurer; C. C. Holman, Secretary. A site of ten acres, located in the northeast part of the city, was purchased during the same year. At the last annual meeting the following officers were elected: John McPherson, President; S. Hill, Vice-President; J. A. Loban, Treasurer; C. E. Tibbetts Secretary.
Ladies' Library Association. -- In 1874, the ladies of Blue Rapids conceived and carried out the plan of establishing a circulating library. In May of the same year an incorporated association was perfected, with the following officers: Mrs. J. E. Ball, President; Mrs. J. S. Wright, Vice-President; Mrs. C. E. Tibbetts, Recording Secretary; Mrs. M. E. Reed, Corresponding Secretary; Mrs. C. F. Roedel, Treasurer; Miss Lizzie B. Hall and Miss Mary Wright, Librarians. Board of Directors: Mesdames Hall, Stocks, McPherson, Beach and Sweetland.
Books were contributed and purchased, and in a few months a nucleus was formed for the library that gave gratifying results. The library was thrown open to the public for the first time, June 27, 1874, it then occupying a part of D. W. Hinman's store. During the same year efforts were inaugurated toward the erection of a library building. Through the liberality of C. E. Olmstead and others funds were raised and building operations commenced. In 1876, the building, a two story stone structure, 24x40 feet, was completed at a cost of $2,000, and now stands as a monument of the laborious but praiseworthy efforts of the association.
Present officers are: Mrs. A. B. Tibbetts, President; Mrs. C. Y. Reed, Vice-President; Corresponding Secretary; Mrs. John McPherson and Mrs. George Heathman, Librarians. The catalogue of the association shows nearly 2,000 volumes in the library, which list is rapidly increasing.
Hotels -- The Old Colonial Hall, the first building erected by the Blue Rapids Town Company, was occupied as a hotel for several months, when Messrs. McPherson & Reed erected the present building now occupied by them, in 1870. This building, known as LaBelle (beautiful) House, is a three-story frame, 38x40 feet, with an extension 24x26 feet. After being in successful operation for twelve years, the hotel was closed August 28, 1882, and the partnership between McPherson & Reed dissolved.
The Arlington House was opened in the Winter of 1882, by W. Coulter, Jr., who is the present manager. The building, a two-story brick, was erected in 1873, by W. Coulter, Sr., at a cost of $7,000. In 1881 it was fitted up and used as a hotel, under the name of the Fairchild House, managed by C. R. Fairchild, formerly proprietor of the Tremont House, Marysville. The "Arlington," though comparatively a new enterprise, is securing the reputation of a first-class hotel.
Bank. -- The banking house of Olmstead, Freeland & Co. was established in May, 1871. The building occupied by them was built in 1870, by D. Fairbanks and J. L. Freeland, who bought out Fairbanks' interest during the same year. The building is of limestone, two stories, 25x30 feet, erected at a cost of $3,500. In the fall of 1872, owing to the death of one of the firm (N. B. Olmstead), the two remaining partners, C. E. Olmstead and J. L. Freeland, conducted business under the firm name of Olmstead & Freeland until 1879, when C. E. Olmstead, having larger business interests in Burlington, Iowa, retired, leaving J. L. Freeland sole manager, who changed the name to the "Bank of Blue Rapids City." The bank is supplied with modern banking conveniences, including a Hall's safe in a fire-proof vault. A general banking business is transacted by its manager, J. L. Freeland.
Manufacturing Interests. -- Since Blue Rapids came into existence it has been noted throughout the State for its superior water-power privileges, and has been termed by some enthusiastic writers the "Lowell of Kansas." With it sixteen' hundred horse-power, its fine dam, its two span bridge, and its numerous building sites for mills and factories, it will in a few years be justly entitled to that appellation.
Woolen Mills. -- In 1872, a four story woolen mill, 10x80 feet, was completed and supplied with necessary machinery at a cost of $50,000. On inducements offered by the Town Company, Messrs. Cook & Chandler, of the Wathena Woolen Mills, transferred their interests to this place and immediately commenced operations with a force numbering forty-five hands. In 1874, owing to financial difficulties, the firm was compelled to make an assignment. In the fall of 1877, the woolen mills were purchased by the Buell Manufacturing Company, of Saint Joseph, Mo., who started the mill and ran it to its full capacity until December, 1879, when it was destroyed by fire. It was immediately rebuilt and remodeled, and filled with the latest improved machinery, and is now employing one hundred hands. An addition was built, 20x60 feet, four stories high, and other improvements made at a recent date. The mill at present is a model institution, lighted by gas, run night and day, and uses 300,000 pounds of wool annually. Yarns, woolen cloths, flannels and blankets are manufactured in immense quantities.
Flouring Mill. -- Situated on the east bank of the river and adjoining the woolen mill on the south, is a four-story stone building, 54x83 feet, which was erected in 1871, by C. E. Olmstead, at a cost of $30,000. The mill was originally intended for seven run of burrs, but only five were used, which gave it a capacity of grinding 1,200 bushels per day. The mill was run for some time under the firm name of Olmstead Brothers, when J. S. Wright became a partner and the firm name was Olmstead & Co. Mr. Olmstead retiring in 1879, R. S. Craft purchased and interest, the firm name being then known as J. W. Wright & Co. until the spring of 1882, when Messrs. Upham & Son purchased J. S. Wright's interest, and remodeled the mill into the "Roller Process," at an expense of $50,000. A car load of wheat could be used each day, or three hundred barrels of flour manufactured. The Roller Mills of Upham, Son & Co. were totally consumed by fire November 26, 1882; loss, $60,000, insurance $40,000. The mills are to be rebuilt by the same firm in the spring of 1883, and restored to former capacity.
Paper Mill -- This mill is located on the west side of the river, and was completed in the early part of 1873. The building, a four-story stone structure, 40x60 feet, was erected by Messrs. F. & J. Green, at a cost of $20,000. The financial crash of 1873 caused the mill to be closed until Rix, Hale & Co. obtained it, and have run it under different managers, at different periods, up to the present time.
Gypsum Mill. -- The gypsum mill is located on the west side of the river, south of the paper mill, and is a three-story stone structure, 40x60 feet, erected by Messrs. J. V. Coon & Son, at a cost of $12,000. The mill was run with a capacity of eighty barrels of plaster of Paris per day until 1877, when the interior was destroyed by fire, which was rebuilt again put in operation for a short time, when it ceased running. The gypsum used is found in exhaustless quantities two miles up the river, from which point it is transported in flat-boats.
Foundry and Machine Shops -- Are located on the west side of the river, south of the gypsum mill, and were established by Messrs. Price Brothers, in 1877, since which time they have been in successful operation. The motive power in this foundry is supplied from the river by means of an iron shaft running across the street under ground.
Blue Rapids is located in northeast Kansas near the junction of the Little Blue and Big Blue rivers, at 39°40'54N, 96°39'34WCoordinates: 39°40'54?N, 96°39'34?W. Its elevation is 350 meters (1150 ft). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.4 km² (2.1 mi²), which is 99% land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,088 people, 439 households, and 295 families residing in the city. The population density was 204/km² (529/mi²). There were 494 housing units at an average density of 93/km² (240/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.07% White, 0.18% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.09% Asian, 0.37% from other races, and 1.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.55% of the population.
There were 439 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.3% were married couples living together, 6.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.8% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.1% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 23.1% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 22.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 94.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,682, and the median income for a family was $37,273. Males had a median income of $30,066 versus $18,214 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,859. About 9.3% of families and 13.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.2% of those under age 18 and 4.4% of those age 65 or over.