The Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library celebrates its centennial anniversary in May of 2018, an event that surely factored into my decision to join the ANBL team last last year. As a historian, I always jump at the opportunity to be a part of something that not only will become part of history, but is also history itself. The Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library is no exception.
As a member of the planning committee for the library’s Centennial Celebration, my recent duty has been to gather history of both the library and the man whose name adorns the building.
Just who was Alvah N. Belding, anyway, and why did he build a library here?
I found answers to these questions in the many resources available here at the library, including published histories, newspaper archives, photographs, and paper files. Most of the information detailed here can be referenced in the publication Belding Bros. & Co., 1863-1913.
Alvah N. Belding was born in 1838 in Ashfield, Massachusetts, to Hiram and Mary Belding. He was the youngest of four boys, all of whom possessed an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit.
In 1855, Alvah Belding traveled with his father to Michigan, where he cleared land for his father’s farm, and helped build the dam which furnished water-power for the Patterson Saw Mill. In those days, Belding was called “Patterson’s Mill,” not taking on the name of “Belding” until 1871, after Hiram Belding purchased a great deal of land from Levi Broas, the original pioneer of the area. (The section of land Belding purchased from Broas was the area north of Liberty and east of Broas streets.)
The Belding brothers’ entrepreneurship led them to manufacture and sell silk, beginning as a partnership in 1857, then establishing the Belding Brothers & Company in 1863. The brothers sold silk across many states, and were regarded as fair and decent businessmen who employed many, and treated their workers with the utmost respect.
Business aside, the Belding brothers exhibited a great many values, including community pride, family togetherness, and belief in the importance of education. Because of their dedication to education, Alvah Belding and his brother Milo each gifted money for the establishment of a public library. Alvah’s library was in their adopted hometown of Belding, Michigan; Milo’s library was in their original hometown of Ashfield, Massachusetts.
This year marks the one-hundredth year of the Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library. A Centennial Celebration is currently being planned for May 19, 2018, from 1pm to 6pm. We invite the community of Belding and any others who wish to attend and share in our gratitude for Alvah N. Belding and his commitment to the future of the city which bears his name.