Welcome to Belleville

Belleville was officially founded in 1851 when Mr. Frederick had the area surveyed and platted. He named the settlement Belleville after his home in Belleville, Ontario. The name means "beautiful village" in French, and no doubt seemed an apt name for this attractive area along the Sugar River. In 1851 a wagon shop, hotel and dry goods/ grocery store all opened in Belleville, and the next year a post office was established.

Meanwhile there were other settlements being established in the area. The Mahland Lewis family were the first settlers in West Dayton, arriving in 1844, and in 1849 M.T. White settled across the Sugar River in what was to become East Dayton. P.P. Havens was responsible for platting West Dayton in 1853, and Mr. White platted East Dayton in 1854. Eventually the two settlements became known simply as Dayton, a community located about three miles southeast of Belleville.

Paoli had been the first settlement in the area to be officially platted. Located about five miles north of Belleville, it was settled and platted in 1849 by Peter Matts who had purchased 600 acres of land and rights to the water power. He went on to develop this power and built the community's first saw mill.

The first school in Paoli was built in 1850, and the Methodist Church was organized that same year, meeting in the school house.

In 1850 Jean Roy, a native of France, settled in an area just a few miles northeast of Belleville. Within a few years, over 30 other French families joined him. Most were originally from St. Germain in eastern France; many had been living in relative poverty, farming 20 acre plots of land. Like most immigrants they were eager to better themselves in their new country and so were grateful for the opportunity to purchase 80 acre tracts of land near Mr. Roy's farm. Soon the area around his farm came to be known as Frenchtown. The St. Raphael's French Cemetery on Frenchtown Road is near the heart of that area.

During the 1850s several churches were established in the area, beginning in 1850 with the establishment of the Methodist Church in Paoli. In 1853 a Baptist Church was organized in Belleville, but it only lasted a few years and was replaced in 1856 by another Baptist Church. This group along with the Methodists and the newly created Advent Church jointly constructed Belleville's first church building in 1858.

The first Catholic mass recorded in the area was offered in the home of John O'Reilly in 1853. This arrangement of a priest offering mass in the homes of parishioners continued throughout the 1850s and through most of the 1860s.

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