Early History of Blue Rapids

In the fall of 1859 a preliminary meeting of those interested in Kansas was held at LeRoy, Genesee Co., New York. 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. A. Parmalee, Treasurer
C. J. Brown, Secretary

During the winter of 1869-1870 about 50 families traveled west to the present town site and immediately proceeded with improvements. A 287 acre town site with water privilages was purchased at a cost of $15,000 and 8,000 acres of farm ground was secured.

The water power was surveyed and found to be capable of producing 1500 horespower for manufacturing. The Blue Rapids Town Company constructed a 10 ft dam at a cost of $50,000 in 1970. A King's tubular wrought iron bridge was completed at the site of the dam in the spring of 1871. A hydro-electric power plant was installed and the electricity it produced was used to operate the Electric Plaster Company and provide electricity to the town. The power plant was destroyed by a flood in May of 1903.

The power of the river was also utilized for the Holly system of waterworks in the mid 1870s. C.E. Olmstead attached a pump to his Flouring Mill machinery and laid the main water pipe to the public square. Side pipes carried water to the residents along the route. Residents paid $1 a month for their water use. In the center of the square a fountain was built in 1876. During the hot summer months the fountain sent forth a cooling stream of water and streets were sprinkled regularly to afford comfort and health at no cost to the community.

Fountain Park, located in the center of the Public Square, was planned as the "hub" of the city as it is today. A bronze Memorial Tablet was erected on a boulder in Fountain Park in the spring of 1920. The upper part of the table depicts a battle scene, with the names of soldiers listed below. Over time, three different bandstands were erected in Fountain Park. The last one was remodeled and served as the City Clerk's office for many years. The building is now utilized by the Blue Rapids Police Department.

The Blue Rapids Town Company set aside 36 acres of land for a park. For many years there was not much use of Riverside Park. In 1902 a barn was constructed for use by the Marshall County Hereford Association. In 1908, the first of a series of Chautauqua assemblies was held in the north end of the park. These continued for about 15 years and Blue Rapids was the smallest town in the U.S. to put on a Class A Chautaugua. In 1916 the Marshall County Stock Show and Fair Associaiton was organized and made many improvements to the park. Riverside Park remains the location of the Marshall County Fair.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s there were 4 gypsum mines in the area. The Georgia-Pacific Corporation Gypsum Division plant is the only mine in operation today.

Information gathered from the "Blue Rapids Centenial" book

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Last modified: March 7, 2001