Planned kayak trip to re-create Beloiters' 1894 journey

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  • William Hansen

  • 1

    Conrad Hansen

  • 2

    Ryan Silvola/Beloit Daily News Pictured is the boat used by William and Conrad Hansen to row down the Rock River in 1894. The boat is in the possession of the Beloit Historical Society.

  • William Hansen

  • 1

    Conrad Hansen

  • 2

    Ryan Silvola/Beloit Daily News Pictured is the boat used by William and Conrad Hansen to row down the Rock River in 1894. The boat is in the possession of the Beloit Historical Society.

BELOIT - Two men will launch a Rock River kayak journey on June 3 from Beloit to the Mississippi River in Rock Island, Illinois, as a way to commemorate the grand opening of the Rock River Trail.

They're not the first two to make the journey.

During the summer of 1894, brothers Conrad Martinus Hansen and William Oscar Hansen, of Beloit, traveled down the Rock River from Beloit to the junction of the Rock and Mississippi rivers just below Milan, Illinois. The boat they used to make the journey is still preserved at the Beloit Historical Society.

Gary Meier and Perry Folts, of Beloit, will take approximately seven days to complete the 163-mile journey with overnight stops at camping areas that have been established along the water trail.

Folts started kayaking eight years ago and said this is a preparation trip with his friend Meier. Upon retirement, he plans on taking another trip the same route, then following the Mississippi River and traveling all the way to New Orleans.

Conrad and William Hansen took the boat that was built by their father, Charles Hansen Sr., in May 1892, according to documents given to the Beloit Historical Society by Conrad Hansen. The row boat was built and completed in one day and was meant to be used as a camping, fishing and hunting boat.

Karen Clark-Hansen, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is the great granddaughter of William Hansen. She said at the time of their trip, William was about 34 years old and Conrad was 17. Clark-Hansen said she and her husband often visit relatives in the area, taking a similar path to the one her ancestor used.

"You can still see the places he talked about," Clark-Hansen said. "The road takes you right through there. It makes the trip more interesting."

During their trip, Conrad and his brother passed through Rockford and passed through an "old village" called Grand De Tour and several other municipalities before finally making it to Rock Island, Illinois, according to the documents Conrad wrote. There, they shipped their boats back and ended up using a steamboat and train to make it back to Beloit. Their whole trip took nine days.

Clark-Hansen said she has enjoyed learning about her relatives.

"I've always had an interest in history," Clark-Hansen said. "When I moved back to the Midwest after retiring from the Navy, I had the opportunity to study it."

Conrad Hansen passed away on Nov. 4, 1962, in Beloit. Born and raised in Beloit, Conrad Hansen was a mail carrier. He is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Beloit.

William Hansen passed away on Oct. 10, 1930, in Beloit. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Beloit. He spent some time in Chicago before returning to Beloit to work as a banker.

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