Beacon History

Beacon was a village located in Section 26 of Garfield Township, two and one-half miles southwest of Oskaloosa. It was laid out in 1864 under the name of Enterprise. On the completion of the Keokuk and Des Moines Railroad it was called Oskaloosa Station. About the year 1863, when Hiram Ethridge was postmaster at Given, he opened a coal shaft at Beacon and quite a community sprang up. They applied for a Post Office but were denied one because of their nearness to Givin and Oskaloosa. As Mr. Ethridge’s interests were mostly at Beacon it had the prospect of growing more rapidly, he decided to use his authority as Postmaster and without any consultation or petition he went down to Givin one Sunday on a handcar and took the Post Office effects from the home of Harry Brewer, where it was kept, and brought it up to Beacon. The Givin community reported the matter to the Post Office Department and in a short time received a second commission which deprived Beacon of an office.

Beacon was a coal mining town. Mining boomed shortly after the Civil War. In 1865 Benjamin Roop moved from Oskaloosa to Beacon and built a mill, called “Eureka Flouring Mills.” One article I read said the building was one of the largest mills in the state of Iowa, built at an expense of $55,000-$66,000. This was a five-story building of brick and stone.

Eventually the name was changed from Enterprise to Beacon and Beacon was incorporated in 1874. Articles of Incorporation are recorded in the Corporation Book 2, Pages 34-38, Mar 5, 1874 at the Mahaska County Courthouse, Oskaloosa.

The land on which Enterprise was located was formerly owned by Ezekiel Mendenhall. The town was platted by E. J. Evans.

The first cabin was owned by a man named Miles. Some prominent citizens included Iowa Governor William S. Beardsley who was born in Beacon. His father ran a drug store which was located east of the current Post Office. Coal king John L. Lewis, who was born in Lucas, Lucas County, Iowa, spent some time in Beacon with his parents. John Ruan, who owned the Ruan Transport Corp and The Ruan Center in Des Moines, was born in Beacon, the son of a medical doctor. John moved to Des Moines with his parents when he was 14 years old.

Businesses in Beacon included: The Beacon Battle-Axe, a monthly newspaper published by Eli Robinson, between Sep 1874 and Apr 1875. Subscription: Single copies, one year, twenty five cents, in advance. No reduced rates. Advertising very cheap. Also coal mining and railroads, mills, drug stores, grocery stores, three churches, livery stable, hotel, Masonic lodge, boy scout troop, An electric cable car, called Interurban Electric Railway, which ran between Beacon and Oskaloosa, gas stations, roller skating rink, auction house, the Post Office and City Government.

Today, Beacon has a population of less than 500.