Contra Costa County












WILLIAM FORSYTH BELDING.Owing to his prominence in public affairs, his connection with many of the largest mining concerns in the country, and his position as candidate for various political honors, the limelight of public investigation has been often turned in the direction of William Forsyth Belding in its most searching form.It is safe to say that no other prominent citizen of Contra Costa county has stood this test with greater fortitude, or emerged with the expectations and hopes of his friends more nearly realized.Mr. Belding represents the strong, virile, resourceful, and progressive spirit of the west, the man of large affairs, of splendid reputation, and utter fearlessness.He comes of the farming and trade stock of the far east, and has depended upon his hands, his heart, and his honor, to cement his opportunities in a compact and forceful whole.


Born in Caughdenoy, Oswego county, N.Y., January 3, 1842, Mr. Belding is a son of Oren and Jane (Culver) Belding, natives of Oswego and Tompkins county, N.Y., respectively.His parents were seventy-four years old at the time of their death, his father passing from earth in California in 1888, and his motherís death being occasioned by an accident in San Francisco in 1897, owing to her effort to save the life of a child.Mr. Belding inherits his mechanical ability from his father, who was a millwright by trade, and who came to California in 1850, locating near Placerville, Eldorado county, where he started and ran a sawmill.In 1854-55 he came to San Francisco and worked in the Minersí Foundry, and later engaged in contracting and building quartz mills throughout the state.In 1861 he moved to Nevada and erected the Sucker Mills on the Carson river, and also mills at Gold Hill, and during 1863-64 erected the Delmonte silver mills at Aurora, and a number of others in Nevada.He was the inventor of the Belding amalgamating pan for reducing gold and silver ore, and for many years he erected and ran the machinery for mines and reduction works in different parts of the west.Of his two sons and three daughters, Charles, now deceased, was older than William Forsyth;Anne E. lives in the Sandwich Islands, the widow of the late Charles Eldridge; Mary L., is an educator in the public schools of San Francisco; and Josephine is deceased.


William Forsyth Belding was seventeen years old when he arrived in San Francisco in January, 1860.Thus far his education had been acquired chiefly in the school of experience, for his attendance at the public institutions of Oswego county had necessarily been irregular and unsatisfactory.He was strong of body, and had already evidenced that determination and perseverance which have accomplished his success in life.His first field of activity in the west was the old Minersí Foundry, where he served an apprenticeship of eighteen months, at pattern making, receiving for his labor $1 a day.When it is known that the cheapest board and lodging procurable was $7 a week it is not supposed that he was able to save anything, yet through his indefatigable energy, and his willingness to work overtime making models for inventors, etc., he amassed $400, and was the master of a paying trade.His next employment was at the Pacific Foundry at $4 a day, and in 1861 he went to Nevada with his father and assisted him in the construction of the Sucker silver mills at Gold Hill.It was while in Nevada that he became acquainted with David E. Buel, a well known mining man, and brother-in-law of the late G. W. Terrill.This association resulted in advancement for Mr. Belding, for he was identified in business with Mr. Buel for a period of eighteen years.In 1863 he went to Austin, Lander county, Nev., and took charge of the Pioneer Silver Mill for Mr. Buel, and later of the Big Creek Silver Mill, where the ores of the celebrated Whitlatch Union Mine were reduced.In the spring of 1865 he went to Aubrey City, Ariz., as assistant constructor of a smelter for a New York copper company.At this time Mr.  Buel became the owner of a large silver mine at Belmont, Nye county, Nev., and Mr. Belding was sent for to assist in its development and had charge of the reduction works.After this he became associated with the Hidden Treasure Mining Company of White Pine District, Nevada, having direct charge of the reduction of their ores.Seven silver mills were working their ores under his charge, and his duties were of such a nature that they could be performed only by the most capable of metallurgists.Later he went to Utah as superintendent of the Wellington Smelting works of Little Cottonwood Canyon, owned by David E. Buel.His next work was as superintendent of the reduction works of the Camp Floyd Mining Company.All of the work of this company, in the assaying and reduction department, passed under his inspection and he was held responsible for the quantity of work done and the quality of bullion produced.It was while he was at this reduction mill that the Camp Floyd Mining Company shipped five bars of silver bullion to the Bank of England through the Wells Fargo Express Company.The silver, tested by the expert assayers of the bank, was pronounced chemically pure, that is, one thousand fine.This degree of purity had never before been known in the great bank without refining.After severing his connection with the Camp Floyd Mining Company Mr. Belding became manager of the quartz mill of the Mammoth Copperopolis Gold, Silver & Copper Mining Company in the Tintic district, then returned to Salt Lake City and was with the Spriggs Coal Mining Company, at the head of which was David E. Buel and I. C. Bateman.He then took charge of the reduction works of Mr. Batemanís mine called Northern Belle, in Esmeralda county, Nev., and at the same time superintended the construction of two large quartz mills of twenty stamps each.He was with this company from January 1, 1875, until January 1, 1884, a period of nine years, during which time the property paid to its shareholders over $2,000,000 in dividends.During the last four years of Mr. Beldingís management Capt. G. T. Lawton was president of the Northern Belle Company, and at the time of his death was president of the California Powder Works.For several years after leaving the Northern Belle Mining Company, Mr. Belding was identified with George W. Terrill in the San Francisco Produce Exchange, and sixteen years ago sold out his interests and came to San Pablo, where he entered into partnership with Mr. Terrill in a mercantile establishment under the firm name of Terrill & Belding.Ten years ago Mr. Belding became sole owner of the mercantile business, and since then has conducted the store alone, his sagacious management resulting in a doubling of the business.In the meantime he has been a member of the Producersí Oil Exchange of San Francisco, serving as treasurer for two years, and defeating Henry J. Crocker, the millionaire of San Francisco, for the office.He is one of the organizers and vice-president of the Bank of Richmond, a monetary institution which reflects distinct credit upon the intelligent financiering of the west.He is vice-president of the Contra Costa board of Trade, and president of the Point Richmond Chamber of Commerce.


In Salt Lake City, in 1882, Mr. Belding married Herma E. Pratt, who was born in Utah, and who, upon her death in Salt Lake City, left a son, William F., Jr, at present a merchant of Point Richmond.The second marriage of Mr. Belding was contracted in San Francisco, with Emma V. Taylor, a native of Kentucky.For more than a third of a century Mr. Belding has been a Mason, holding membership in St. Johnís Lodge of Perfection, of Salt Lake City, and now a member of McKinley Blue Lodge No. 347 of Point Richmond; the Alcatraz Chapter No. 83, of Oakland; and the Oakland Commandery No. 11, of Oakland.He is also connected with the Ancient Order of United Workmen, the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Knights and Ladies of Honor; in most of which he has held high honors, and with few exceptions has served as treasurer.His political affiliations have been with the Democratic party since the beginning of his voting days, but he favors rather the old Jeffersonian school, than that established by latter day enthusiasts.While in Nevada in 1880 he was elected to the legislature in a strong Republican community, and his service evidenced his keen appreciation of the duties and obligations resting upon the legislator chosen by the people.Of the high character, noble aims, and unquestioned integrity of Mr. Belding too much cannot be said.His best years have been spent in the mines, and every position held by him during these years of activity have entailed great responsibility, and a wise conception of everything pertaining to the science of metals, and the best means of extracting them from the virgin ores.His political services have been entered into with the same degree of thoroughness and knowledge of his ground, while his social obligations have met every requirement of noble and capable manhood.There are few religious or charitable organizations which have not profited by his generosity in Contra Costa county, and elsewhere where his home has been, and to himself only is known the number of people who have been helped on their pilgrimage by his timely assistance.His friends have been recruited from the ranks of the most brilliantly successful men of the west, and the associations thus formed have stood the test of years of closest intimacy.



[Inserted by D. Toole]

1913 Jan 28, Oakland Tribune, P5, Oakland, California

Richmond Notes

The funeral of William F. Belding, prominent San Pablo and Richmond capitalist and old-time resident, who died here early yesterday morning, took place today at 2 p.m. from the mortuary parlors of the Curry Undertaking company and was strictly private.A wealth of beautiful floral tributes was sent by hundreds of friends.Interment was at Sunset View cemetery.


Transcribed by Donna Toole.

≠≠≠≠Source: History of the State of California & Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., Pages 963-964. The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

© 2016Donna Toole.







Contra Costa County Biographies

Golden Nugget Library