HISTORY OF BRITT
THE FIRST GLIMPSE
Prior to the year 1870 the site of Britt was nothing but a blank space of prairie and mire, inhabited by various animals of this territory and crossed occasionally by travelers. E. N. Bailey wrote a paragraph in the Tribune at one time, in which he says: "The first time the writer was ever on the ground where Britt now stands was in June, 1874, when hunting curlews. There was a little grocery store just opened up by someone and we succeeded in getting in from the prairie south by dismounting from our horse and wading through water that was 'boot top' deep right on ground that now contains some of the finest gardens and residences in Britt." This experience of "wading" into Britt actively describes the appearance of the village then. However, from this humble and discouraging start Britt has grown to be the largest town in the county and the center of a large trading and farming district, a town of prosperous and modern stores, strong financial institutions and civic excellence.
The plat of the village of Britt was filed for record at the county seat on June 20, 1878, by John T. Stoneman and William H. Lorimier, proprietors. John T. Stoneman surveyed the ground and named the site of the village as: the south fifty five acres of the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter and the south half of the southwest quarter of Section 28, Township 96 North, Range 25 West, all of the said tracts lying south of the Calmer branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. Several additions have been filed since, which have added territory to the original plat. The more important of these follow: Anderson's second addition, January 14, 1879; Lattimore's addition, June 10, 1880; Stubbin's addition, January 3, 1881; Maple Hill addition, December 8, 1885; McGraw & Fish addition, December 25, 1886; Stubbin's second addition, March 13, 1886; Brown & Treganza addition, January 6, 1892; Brown & Hill addition, February 18, 1892; Stubbin's third addition, September 24, 1892; Stubbin's fourth addition, same date; Castle's addition, August 31, 1895; Grace Fisk addition, January 27, 1897; Way's westside addition, November 17, 1897; Brown's addition, May 8, 1902.
It is said that the first building erected upon the site of Britt was the depot of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, which was put up in 1870. The second was a section house, or shack, about sixty rods east of the depot.
The first residence erected was that of J. H. Burdick. This stood on the south side of the railroad track, opposite the above mentioned section house. Burdick came to this place in 1876.
From the first paper ever published in Britt, December 19, 1879, there is taken the following list of business men: D. R. Putnam, William Finch, grain; Thomas Hymer, K. K. Liquin, lumber; Andrews & Young, hotel proprietors; S. F. Benson, postmaster; E. S. Ross, Ira Fay, coal dealers; Thomas Daylor, G. B Martin, merchants; F. B. Rogers, hardware; E. Hales, groceries; Doctor Fort, physician; Young Brothers, meat market; J. E. Anderson, Brockway & Elder, C. C. Way, real estate; Farley & McKinney, billiards; William Breeze, blacksmith; Treganza Brothers, wagonmakers; L. N. Miller, shoemaker; A. Moir, druggist; Genie Couper, milliner; Young & Yawney, livery.
The postoffice at Britt was established in 1870 and Robert Lattimore was commissioned postmaster. He was succeeded by S. F. Benson and then came E. E. Adams.
The town of Britt was incorporated June 23, 1881. The petition to the district court judge for incorporation was duly drawn and signed by the following legal voters of the town: W. E. Bradford, C. C. Way, Jesse Wooliscroft, S. F. Benson, H. F. Fort, K. K. Liquin, A. D. White, W. H. Breese, A. C. Breese, Alex Moir, F. B. Rogers, William Dunaway, E. E. Adams, J. R. Grover, Benjamin Hudson, I. W. Sprague, E. S. Ross, J. E. Young, A. M. Tuttle, John Johnson, Rodney Hill, John Anderson, G. M. Byerly, J. H. Burns, C. W. Young, J. F. Edwards, B. MeArdle, S. A. Healy, M. M. Johnson, R. B. Pope, T. H. Treganza, J. G. Strong, L. J. Miller, J. D. Smith, L. D. Andrews, E. W. Deyoe, Nels Holmberg, E. Hales, G. B. Martin, C. McQuaick, H. E. Hill, E. Blick, H. F. Arnett, William Wright, M. Nugent, C. B. Howe. The petition was acted upon according to the state law and the incorporation granted. J. G. Strong and W. E. Bradford drafted the ordinances first used by the city officials. The first officers chosen for Britt were: George Stubbins, mayor; H. H. Ellsworth, recorder; S. F. Benson, assessor; J. D. Smith, marshal; B. Hudson, street commissioner; Thomas Daylor, John J. Clemmens, H. E. R. Hill, Joseph Treganza, P. S. Ellsworth and D. W. Farrer, aldermen.
The first hotel built in the town of Britt was the Star Hotel, which was erected by S. F. Benson in October, 1876. A. D. White, J. W. Ball and F. B. Rogers were later proprietors. Edwin Hales started a hotel known as the Hales House in the spring of 1880.
In the way of municipal improvements Britt has really just started. Although the city has bonded itself to the limit and assumed obligations which will take years to fulfill, the improvements are worth the cost and add to the attractiveness and efficiency of the community. The first water plant in the city was started in 1894, and at first was a decided failure, going through the hands of many managements. Now the city is well supplied with artesian water, sufficient for private consumption as well as fire protection.
The Britt Light & Power Company was organized October 15, 1914, thus adding another municipal feature to the city. Articles of incorporation, however, were filed July 21, 1900, and signed by R. H. Walker of Hancock, A. J. Ashby of Humboldt County and L. M. Goodman of Decatur County.
Another factor which has assisted greatly in the betterment of Britt in the Business Men's Association. This organization for the exploitation of the city was founded in March, 1900.
Adequate sewerage has been laid in the principal streets of Britt and in the summer of 1916 extensive paving was done.