TURN OF THE CENTURY 1900 (City/Gov’t): First steps led to city improvements

Hiram Beck succeeded Hillsboro founder John G. Hill as mayor in 1900. William F. Schaeffler was chair of the city council, which included J.K. Janicke, John Gaede, John Bachus and Jacob J. Entz.

City government operated out of a small wooden building just west of the alley between Main and Washington streets, facing north on Grand.

Hillsboro had street lights before it had electricity. Henry Letkeman, a pioneer plumber, constructed the first mantle gas lamp shortly after 1900 and placed it in the center of the Main and Grand intersection. Electricity as a power source for street lighting came in 1912.

The streets themselves were mostly native dirt, making for dust in the dry periods and mud during wet periods. Gravel and sand wasn?t added until just before World War I, when the first horseless carriages appeared. The city?s first large-scale paving and guttering program began in 1922.

From 1888 to 1900 the volunteer firefighters used an old man-powered water pump mounted on a two-wheeled wagon. The pumper was of only limited value in the Great Fire of 1897, which destroyed six buildings on the west side of North Main.

When John G. Hill?s coal sheds burned to the ground in 1900, the city decided to buy new fire equipment later that year.

One of the victims of the 1897 fire was the local post office. The area which surrounding what eventually became Hillsboro had mail service since 1873; the first post office in town opened in 1879.

Jacob D. Hirschler was postmaster in 1900. Under his direction, five rural free delivery routes were established in 1904 or 1905. Five rural routes was the most ever established by the Hillsboro post office and reflected the large rural population in the area.

Adapted from Hillsboro: City on the Prairie by Raymond F. Wiebe.

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