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From foundry to football, Belgians influenced St. Charles area

ST. CHARLES – The Moline Malleable Iron Company began operations in St. Charles in 1893. Before 1893, the company was in Moline. While operating in Moline, many Belgians began working at the iron company, which was established in 1869. A disastrous fire in 1892 destroyed the Moline-based foundry. Company officials were lured with incentives given by the city to relocate in St. Charles, which was a highly regarded location because of its proximity to rail lines and Chicago.

With the relocation of the company, employees and their families also moved to St. Charles. For many years, Moline Malleable would sponsor workers emigrating from Belgium to St. Charles. If workers had no family here, they would reside in a local boarding house.

The new foundry was situated on the north side of Dean Street, just east of Randall Road. Most of the Belgians who worked at Moline Malleable also lived near the foundry. The area west of Seventh Street along both sides of Main Street, as well as Dean Street, became known as Belgium town. Many of the homeowners laid out neat lawns and unique flower beds, which contributed to the overall beauty of the neighborhood.

Belgium town was also where these new residents brought their culture to the city.

Young workers from Moline Malleable organized a semi-pro football team in 1916 known as the Belgian American Club. The players held games on Sundays. In 1917, the team merged with another area semi-pro team and practiced on a field near west Main Street. The field had a rise in the middle, which was referred to as “Dead Man’s Hill.” After the merger, the team stormed through the competition and went undefeated at 7-0-3.

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