News Items - Philo Belden

Burlington Free Press, June 19, 1901, Reminiscences by L. O. Whitman, covering a Period of Eighty Six Years, Chapter XXXIV.


"Philo Belden was a man of large business accomplishments. On the 26th of October, 1839, in company with Martin C. Whitmore, Levi Godfrey, Obed Hulburd and Hiland Hulburd, Belden caused to be platted all of the village property on the west side of the river and that portion on the east side south of Main street. In 1840 he built and carried on a saw mill as successor to Martin C. Whitman, who built the first saw mill in 1838, which was unfortunately destroyed by fire in a year or two later, when Mr. Belden purchased the site and erected the second mill.

In company with Jeremiah Ford, Mr. Belden established an iron foundry in connection with the saw mill and as the building of the grist mill progressed they produced the castings needed for its completion. After the mill was finished Mr. Belden operated it as sole proprietor for a time, having compromised with Mr. Ford for his interest. From that time until 1846 he conducted the mill with reasonable success and then sold it to Hiland S. Hulburd and Abraham Hoagland.
After Mr. Belden abandoned this enterprise he turned his attention to the building of the Fox River Valley railroad, which has been elaborately described in a previous article.

Mr. Belden was the father of four children, all sons. Henry W., the oldest, married Miss Emily F. Brown of Rochester. He enlisted in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry and from that position he was promoted to the second lieutenancy of the 37th Regiment and later became captain of a company belonging to the same regiment. Edward J., who enlisted in the Heavy Artillery, was stationed in Washington, D. C. during his term of service and at its close located in Stockton, California. Albert O., enlisted at the age of fifteen years on President Lincoln's call for sixty day men. Allen H., who completes the list, resides in Racine.

After abandoning railroad building Mr. Belden turned his attention to politics. He was an ardent Republican and held many offices of honor and trust. He was for many years Supervisor of the town of Rochester. In 1862 he was elected to the state legislature and again in 1865. In 1870 he was the People's candidate for state senator and served two years in that capacity. In 1884 he was appointed by Governor Ruck to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Probate Judge Bronson, and in 1885 was elected for the ensuing term of four years without opposition. He served until September, 1889, when he resigned on account of failing health, and died a week later on the 9th of the month. In the death of Judge Belden, Racine county lost one of its oldest and most respectable pioneers. But more especially in Rochester, where he first settled an where he was so well known, and for many years had been identified as one of her most devoted and loyal citizens. But few men have left a better record than he has, so peace to his ashes is the cherished desire of the writer. "

Grassroots of Racine page 249.
"Rochester Mill
1842 to 1977
The first Gristmill in this territory was built in 1842 on the west shore of the Fox River in Rochester by Messrs. Philo Belden, Jeremiah Ford, and Timothy Green.

The third mill building on that site which was ninety-three years old, was demolished this year (1977) to make room for new development.

The original water wheel was built in England. Breakfast foods, flour and feed were stone ground at first.

The first mill burned in 1858 and was rebuilt the same year. To accommodate the business the four story wood building was built in 1884. This business existed until 1976 when the last owner, Mrs. Henry Davis, sold to Ray Kempken who, razed the building in 1977." From Grassroots of Racine page 249.

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