A stroll through Beloit will reveal much of our history is preserved for the future. Whether its the Native American Indian mounds preserved at historic Beloit College campus, or our lovingly restored historic homes and city center buildings, or our Heritage Day Festival, you'll find we celebrate our history on every corner.
At the beginning of the 1800s, several hundred Native Americans of the Winnebago tribe lived in a village called Ke-chunk-nee-shun-nuk-ra, or the Turtle, where the Rock River and Turtle Creek join. The last tribe abandoned their setlement in 1832 when Black Hawk and his followers were pursued through the area during the Black Hawk Wars. A young Private named Abraham Lincoln was among the troups of General Atkinson and camped in Beloit on July 1, 1832 while pursuing Black Hawk. The first known white man to settle in the area alongside the Winnebago was Joseph Thiebault, a French trapper who came to the area in the 1820s to trade with the tribe. To the right is a sample of the type of lodging the Winnebago's might have lived in.
When Caleb Blodgett, a proper New England Yankee, and his son drew their ox cart up to the cabin of Joseph Thibeault, Blodgett decided that this was “the place” and named the price he was willing to pay for the land he sought. Thibeault said that such an amount was good for three "looks", a standard Indian unit of measure. Standing in a clearing, Blodgett looked north up the scenic Rock River valley as far as he could see. After hiking to that distant point, he looked again as far as he could see. After one more trek, he took his third "look" and on that historic day in 1836 thus purchased the land from Thibeault that eventually became Beloit, Wisconsin.
With the arrival of the New England Immigrating Company in 1836, the future of the fledgling community was assured. This group came from Colebrook, New Hampshire, and was led by the able scout Dr. Horace White. They bought land from Caleb Blodgett, started developing it, and soon family and friends were moving to the area. Only eleven years later the cornerstone of Beloit College was laid. Churches and schools were planned, mills were running using the water of the Rock River, and business took root in the village to be named Beloit. To the left is the Rasey House, a cobblestone house built for the first president of Beloit College. Click here for "A Neighborhood Stroll" - a self-guided tour of Beloit's East Side Historic District.
Although the exact origin remains disputed, it seems that the name Beloit was coined from a French word to mean "handsome ground"; the spelling was then fashioned after Detroit, a city that the settlers saw as a great symbol of trade and growth.
The early settlers were comprised of many European nationalities, and Beloit's role as a way-station on the Underground Railroad helped seed a very early and hard-working African-American population. Considering the historical diversity of Beloit's demography, it's easy to understand how the noted anthropologist Margaret Mead came to call the community "a microcosm of America”. Today, with approximately 100 industrial firms and another 1000 businesses, Beloit prosperity continues to draw a large and diverse population to the city.