Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

October 26, 2006

The Rock Island comes to Numa

By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent

There had already been a town named Bellair as far back as 1854 less than a half mile to the north of the future town of Numa. Both the town of Bellair and the township of Bellair had been named for the Ohio River town of Bellaire in Belmont County, Ohio, five miles below Wheeling, West Virginia. The name derives from the French phrase “bel air” meaning good air.

Bellair was founded by Alexander Jones on Oct. 7, 1854, Early establishments were the J. L. Matkin general store in 1855. blacksmith shops, millinery shop, druggist and a post office in 1859.

Some village landmarks were the white frame Methodist Church, (later a residence), the dilapidated Fisher Store, the house where the Joiner family lived, and the white frame Christian Church at the end of the lane, where E.E. Harvey preached on Sundays. Another old landmark was the hotel called the Holshouser house, formerly the Johnson Inn.

The famous, old school house was built in 1857 north of Main St. It was a tall two-story frame building around which centered the intellectual life of the community. The Brayton House was the village inn on the east end of Main St. The Braytons had a son, Andrew, who was killed in the Civil War at the Battle of Marks Mills.

Bellair was a bustling town for seventeen years. Then, in 1871, the Chicago and Southwestern Railroad (later called the Rock Island) found its way to the Bellair area . G.R. Huston and E.E. Harvey then established the town of Numa, which eventually absorbed Bellair as well as Hibbsville, two miles to the south. Commercial buildings and churches were moved to Numa.

The new town of Numa was surveyed by J. F. Stratton in 1871. Early Numa had a square with many businesses around it. The name of Numa was suggested by Captain E.E. Harvey, a local Christian minister. It is a shortening of Idumaea, a Biblical name.

In the first years of the 1870’s, Numa experienced the boom that naturally follows the building of a railway. The Post Office was moved from Bellair to Numa with John Wynn serving as postmaster, as well as the first railway depot agent. The old high school of Bellair was moved to Numa and used for the first hotel. Businesses developed around a public square, which was at the south end of Main St. and just north of the depot. Blacksmith shops and a drug store were quickly established.

Numa was incorporated in 1909 with 1000 residents. Dr. Dukes was a practicing physician. There was a 2-story general store on the N.W. corner of the square. James Hibbs eventually transferred his merchandising operation from Hibbsville to Numa and he became mayor for a time. In 1923, and new school was built on the north side of the highway leading into town from the east. This became the pride of the town. There were three churches, Methodist, Catholic and Christian.

The first coal used in the area was from the Joe Hall mine slope. The first mine was the Huston Mine, N.W. of Bellair. The first railway mine was sunk by Al Jones and B.F. Bradley near the west edge of Numa. Two large mnes dominated the Numa scene the Diamond mine on the west edge of town from 1893 to 1928 and the Numa Block mine just east of town from 1908 tp 1915.

After the decline of the coal mining and the increasing ease of transportation by automobile, Numa gradually went into a decline and many of the prosperous businesses began to leave. The school was used for only about 35 years before consolidation into Centerville. Later it was used for various purposes such as a wholesale outlet and an archery range. Eventually the top story was removed. The Rock Island Railroad discontinued passenger service and then removed its tracks in 1978.

Some of the Churches discontinued holding services and only the Christian Church on the east side of Main St. remains. The Post Office is gone. There is still a gas station on the south end of town. The once prosperous coal mining community now has a population listed at 151. Numa still maintains a City Park where the square had been located and still has its share of community pride. A monument has been erected in the park to declare the history of the town.