PETER BELCHER. - During more than forty years of continuous association with the business life of Eureka, Peter
Belcher has had various interests here, and for some time has been giving a large share of his attention to the
affairs of the Eureka Pavement Company, of which he is president. In its operations at Eureka this concern has
laid enough pavement in the town to have its workmanship and reliability thoroughly tested, and the fact that it
continues to receive a good proportion of the contracts in that line is a substantial recommendation. In 1886 Mr.
Belcher started the abstract business which was later incorporated as the Belcher & Crane Company, abstracters.
When their business was taken over by the Redwood Land & Investment Company he remained as manager of the abstract
and insurance department until he repurchased the entire plant and is now sole owner, having the largest business
of the kind in northern California.
The Belchers have been established in America from the Colonial period, several generations of the family having
lived in New York state, where one of the name started an iron foundry in 1766, at what was then known as "Belcher's
Forge," on the Ramapo river, now included in Tuxedo park. John Belcher, father of Peter Belcher, was horn
in Orange county, N. Y., and was there reared and married. After his marriage he followed farming and teaming in
that county for a number of years. In 1857 he went out to Wisconsin and obtained possession of a pine timber tract,
but sold it after three or four years. Meantime his family had moved to Paterson, N. J., where he joined them,
and he passed the remainder of his life at that place, dying in 1903, at the advanced age of eighty seven years.
He did mason work after settling there, became a contractor and builder and was one of the most popular men in
his line, getting a large share of the public work. At one time, late in life, he was superintendent of the sewer
system in the city. His family consisted of fourteen children, of whom Peter was the eldest.
Peter Belcher was born December 23, 1839, at Sloatsburg, Rockland county, N. Y., and had very limited school advantages.
His parents having a very large family it behooved him to support himself and assist them as soon as possible,
and when he was fourteen he left home to begin work for others, beginning as a farm hand. By self study he was
enabled to pass an examination entitling him to a teacher's certificate when he was eighteen years old. During
the two winters preceding his immigration to California he taught district school in Passaic county, N. J., at
what is now known as Hewitt, so named for Abram S. Hewitt, of New York City, Peter Cooper's successor in the ownership
and control of the iron works located there. In 1860 Mr. Belcher came to California, armed with recommendations
from influential people in New York as to his reliable qualities. But he had to make his way on his own achievements,
every man being judged in the new country by what he was worth to the community and standing on the merits of his
conduct in his relations with his fellow men. He began work in the employ of Adams, Blinn & Co., of San Francisco,
burning lime in Margin county, and was thus engaged through the summer of 1860. In the fall of that year he moved
to Knight's Ferry, Stanislaus county, and for the several years following mined during the winter months and worked
on ranches in the summer. He visited various mining fields in the hope of bettering his luck, working on the Reese
river, in Nevada county, and on the John Days river in Oregon. For one summer he farmed in the Willamette valley.
In 1864 he returned to California, mined that winter at Mameluke Hill, in Placer county, and in the spring of 1865
went to work on the Central Pacific Railroad, near Auburn. His health having been affected by the vitiated air
of the mines and tunnels in which he had operated he contracted fever and had to give up railroad work. For some
time he was engaged as a miner in the Union mines at Copperopolis, Calaveras county, and when they closed down
he went to Telegraph City and kept store for a year. Subsequently he did a commission business at Stockton, Cal.,
and was again attacked by fever, which made him decide to get nearer to the coast, where he could have the benefit
of sea air. On October 1, 1870, he arrived at Eureka, in Humboldt county, where he began his business career as
a clerk for R. M. Williams & Co., wholesale grocers and commission merchants, with whom he remained one year.
He and Thomas Cutler then entered into partnership and purchased the stock of R. M. Williams & Co., and for
some time did a wholesale commission business as Cutler & Belcher and Cutler, Belcher & Co. They handled
large quantities of potatoes, the principal crop of Humboldt county, but the unstable values and unfavorable market
conditions proved the undoing of the firm, and Mr. Belcher disposed of his interest therein. During the next ten
years he was in the employ of W. H. Johnston, a leading hardware dealer of Eureka, as manager, beginning business
on his own account when he severed that connection. He founded the business afterward conducted by the Belcher
& Crane Company and the Redwood Land & Investment Company, making abstracts of title and dealing in real
estate and insurance. After doing business alone for six years he formed the association with A. T. Crane, under
the firm name of Belcher & Crane, which lasted for four years, and in February, 1890, Belcher & Crane became
an incorporated concern, under the name of Belcher & Crane Company. On June 1st of the same year they sold
all their interest in the abstract, real estate and insurance business to the Redwood Land & Investment Company,
in which Mr. Belcher purchased a one fifth interest, becoming one of the directors of the new organization. However,
the abstract business was conducted as the Belcher & Crane Company as of yore. He was also appointed manager
of the abstract and insurance department, and held that position until the company discontinued business in 1906.
Mr. Belcher then purchased the old corporation and abstract business of the Belcher & Crane Company from the
Redwood Land & Investment Company, and since then has continued as sole proprietor. He is president of the
company, while his son I. R. is secretary. They hold most of the patronage in this part of the state, being the
largest abstract company on the Pacific coast north of San Francisco, and require the help of over twelve assistants
in the conduct of their extensive business.
The Eureka Pavement Company, in which Mr. Belcher's chief interest now centers, enjoys a high reputation in this
region as the result of substantial construction work in its line. For a number of years Mr. Belcher was financial
manager of the concern, in which he is one of the principal stockholders, and he is now its president. This company
has had contracts for fifty five blocks of paving in Eureka, and also did the paving on Main street, in Ferndale,
Humboldt county, as well as eleven blocks in Marshfield, Ore.
In the prosecution of his private business Mr. Belcher has naturally become familiar with industrial and commercial
conditions in Eureka to an extent not possible to many, and he has great faith in her future. He has been public
spirited in the encouragement and substantial support of all projects looking to her improvement, whether from
the material or social standpoint. His progressive stand on questions affecting the general welfare has been shown
by his fidelity to the best interests of the town in settling matters pertaining to education, and the improvement
of living conditions. He is respected for his own creditable career, which has been successful because of his untiring
industry in whatever he undertakes, continued sometimes in the face of discouragements which would dishearten a
man of weak spirit. He has taken considerable part in the administration of city government, having been a member
of the board of education one term, a city councilman for one term, and chief of the fire department for two terms.
Though a Republican on questions regarding the national policy, Mr. Belcher is thoroughly nonpartisan in local
affairs, believing that the city is best served by the man best qualified, without taking any account of his political
associations. Fraternally he holds membership in the Masons (belonging to Humboldt Lodge No. 79, F. & A. M.),
which he joined in 1879; the Odd Fellows (Humboldt Lodge No. 77, I. O. O. F.), which he joined in 1866, and the
Knights of Pythias (Lincoln Lodge No. 34); altogether he served about twenty five years as Master of Exchequer
of the local organization of the last named and during this time Pythian Castle was built on Fourth street. He
is past officer in the Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias, and served as trustee of I. O. O. F. Hall Association
at the time of the building of the I. O. O. F. hall, corner of Second and F streets.
Mr. Belcher was married at Telegraph City, Calaveras county, in 1868, to Miss Ella Breckenridge, a native of Kentucky.
They have had a family of five children: George H., who is vice president of the Bank of Eureka; Frank W., who
was connected with the Savings Bank of Humboldt and now engaged in the real estate and insurance business; Lottie,
wife of David W. Evans; I. R., manager of the Belcher & Crane Company, Eureka; and Merton, who received his
higher education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Mass., and is now assistant cashier of the
Humboldt County Bank.
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915
Humboldt County, CA
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