A city so fair, whose residents so true,
Delight to tell people far and near
The beauties of their hustling city here.
For on Flat river’s hilly banks she stands,
And sends her products to most distant lands;
At home, abroad, in Italy, France and Spain,
In inland marts and on the raging Main.
From Ode to Belding, in Belding In Verse: A Souvenir of the Silk City, Devoted to its Enterprising Business Houses. (Available at the Belding Museum)
The Belding family was involved in the silk manufacturing business for two decades. The Belding family name came from an earlier name, “Baylden”, then changed to “Beldon” in 1643. In 1825, it changed again to “Belding.”
The Belding family has been known historically as being “distinguished” for longevity, business thoroughness, and mental power and activity.” Meaning they were intellectual and ‘do’ers.’
Hiram, the youngest child of John and Pricilla Belding, taught school, which included his children. Folks did not consider him to be a robust man. He ran a merchandise store that sent salespeople door to door peddling “Yankee Notions.” He built his store in the old settlement of “Beldingville” in Ashfield, Massachusetts.
In 1856, Hiram moved his family to Otisco, where land was “wild and void.” They traveled through Kalamazoo by railway then by stagecoach 28 miles to the north to Broas Rapids/Patterson Mills. With help from his sons, Alvah, in particular, who drove up to six oxen at a time, Hiram cleared the land in Belding’s present-day city. After trying to farm, with some, not enough success, Hiram set up a small mercantile store business and ran it until his death in 1866 at the age of 64. He was a Republican but declined public office. He and his wife Mary were devout Baptists and were instrumental in forming Belding’s Baptist Church.
Mary is from Shelbourne, Massachusetts. Her father died when she was very young. Her mother became the second wife of Dimick Ellis (of the Ellis family that moved to Belding). A Christian woman, Mary married Hiram Belding and raised her sons with love and discipline to succeed in life. In all, she had six children and lived to see her sons become successful.
Her son David (eldest) died in Chicago in 1907. He ran the family business there.
Hiram Hulbert, III, managed the Chicago office. He traveled back and forth to Belding, and he knew a lot of people. He was good friends with Richard Hambrook of the Hambrook Furniture store. Probably drew other business people to Belding. He died in Chicago in 1890.
Daughter Mary Jane married Jerome Vincent. She died in Belding in 1872. Frank never married and died at age 40.
Mary’s youngest died in infancy.
All of the family was involved in the silk industry somehow.
Milo Merrick was born in 1833 in Ashfield, Massachusetts. He grew up and attended a district school there. By age 14, Milo started work on a farm. He impressed his supervisors so much that he earned pay raises. He started at $7.00 a month during summer months, then to $9.00 (summer rate), then $9.00 (full time), and at the end, $15.00. Between production times lulls, he peddled notions. He peddled other products very little and made up his own sales pitch until one day, a customer who knew more than he gave him a class on the products. He was so ashamed that he vowed to know everything about every product he sold form thereon out. He became head of the New York company, and when he had had enough, he gave the director position to his son Milo Merrick, Jr. He purchased a home in New York City in 1888. His other endeavors are many, but some notable ones are:
President of the commonwealth fire insurance company in New York. (prominent: they were one of the first because of fires and employee families suing management).
Director of Genesse and Wyoming Railroad.
Director of International Salt Co of New York (prominent: one of the salt mines that supplied the country). He was a democratic man, genial, and compassionate.
Alvah N. Belding (1802-1925)
Alvah was the youngest of four brothers. As a teen, Alvah worked at neighboring farms to earn money. There he earned 12.5 cents per day. Wanting to advance his earnings, he started working for W.W. Root & Brothers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, selling jewelry. This job was a traveling position taking him on the road and away from his family. He was meticulous in his attention to detail of his earnings, making him an expert record keeper.
He came to Michigan with his father, Hiram. He was not afraid of hard work and enjoyed learning new tasks. He enjoyed helping his father clear land for farming and drove oxen (labor-intensive task: see above). He helped build the dam at Patterson Saw Mill. For that, he received 87 cents and a dinner. During winter, he attended school. His father kept all of his earnings until Alvah was 21. At that time, Hiram gave Alvah a choice: continue school or take what money he has and forge ahead on his own. Alvah did not have to take long and decided his passion was business management. He used his earnings to reinvest his money into his silk selling business.
By 1857 Alvah and brother Hiram became moderately successful with their business. Alvah took over a failing silk supply business in Rockville, Mass. In 1890 he took over the Belding Brothers & Co. business when Hiram passed away.
Hiram passed down his expertise in record keeping to Alvah, and Alvah, in turn, demanded all of the manufacturing operations managers did the same. He was a job provider and insisted on the finest work of his employees. Alvah took care of his employees in return, furnishing them with the best equipment and best working conditions. He created mill towns around the mills to give his employees the most refined living conditions with modern amenities.
In 1870 He married Lizzie Merrick. They had two children, daughter Florence and son Frederick. He moved to Rockville, Connecticut, in 1869 and lived there until he died in 1925. His wife died in 1860. They are both buried in the family plot in Rockville, Connecticut.