Founding of Belpre – Samuel H. “Henry” McKibben – Belpre Cemetery, Belpre, Edwards County, Kansas
The McKibben family from Belpre, Ohio would not have come to Kansas if it was not for the poor health of their son, Edwin. At the age of 16, Pvt. Edwin McKibben enlisted in Co. F 36th OH Infantry. He served 16 months and was discharged on July 27, 1865. During his time in service, he was shot in the face and was left on the battlefield for 48 hours before his wound was treated. Pvt. McKibben also developed an asthmatic condition from the wound.1 He received a $16/month pension.
His doctors said his condition would gradually become worse and suggested a change to a drier climate. Edwin and his father traveled by train to Larned, Kansas in 1878. They purchased a quarter section of land in Wayne Township which is in the northeast corner of Edwards County.
Henry and Edwin chose to build their home on the highest point of their property. A shipment of pre-cut lumber arrived and they started building a house for the family who was to arrive in 1879.
Henry’s wife, Susan, and three of their children arrived by train at Larned in the spring of 1879. As you might imagine, Susan had a difficult time adjusting. The luscious green grass of the Ohio River Valley was replaced by the windy, dirty, blowing dust of Kansas.
The family brought their household goods, livestock, and chickens which served them well during those lean years. On January 7, 1879, the first post office was opened in Henry’s home, and he was the first postmaster.
Henry believed his home in Kansas was just as beautiful as their home in Ohio. Thus, he bestowed the name of his home in Ohio to his part of Kansas – Belpre.
Henry passed away in 1881 at the age of 61. His second wife, Susan died in 1910. They share the same stone in Belpre Cemetery.
The rest of the story: Wayne Township was organized in 1878. The first settlers crossed over the Arkansas River from Kinsley. How did people from the eastern and western states learn about the opportunities in Kansas? Yes, the railroads were advertising and recruiting, but also brochures/pamphlets calling Kansas “the promised land.” Henry W. McKibben, from Ohio, decided to see what all the fuss was about.
1 Kearney, David M., Belpre, Kansas The Story of a Small Town 1978 The Lewis Press, Inc. pgs. 10