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Guide to the Josiah Belden papers, 1832-1903
BANC MSS C-B 878  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Josiah Belden Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1832-1903
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 878
    Creator: Belden, Josiah, 1815-1892
    Extent: Number of containers: 24 v. in 2 cartons and 3 boxes Linear feet: 3.75
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Mainly concerning his business, property and mining interests. Included also are diaries of travels in Europe, the Eastern Mediterrnaean area and Alaska; incomplete reminiscence of Bartleson Party's overland journey; and papers for the settlement of Belden's estate. Carton 1: vols. 1-17; Carton 2: vols. 18-24.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Josiah Belden papers, BANC MSS C-B 878, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Potraits have been removed to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library
      Identifier/Call Number: (14772-14774)


    Josiah Belden, born in Connecticut of 17th century colonist stock, was a member of the first planned emigrant party to cross the plains to California. A member of the Bartleson Party, Belden left Missouri early in May and arrived in California, after considerable hardship, in November, 1841. Settling first in the Santa Cruz area, where he managed a store for Thomas O. Larkin, Belden also operated a small store in Monterey. Upon acquiring Mexican citizenship he received a grant of land, the Barranca Colorado, on the upper Sacramento River, which he later sold to William B. Ide.
    In about 1846 Belden managed a store in Yerba Buena for Captain John Paty, later was associated with William Heath Davis, and in 1847 established a store in San Jose in silent partnership with Henry Mellus and William D. M. Howard. With the gold excitement this enterprise first languished as the inhabitants left for the mines, but prospered greatly as they returned with gold to spend, and new residents also came to the town. Belden retired from this operation in 1849, about the time he married Sarah Margaret, daughter of Zachariah Jones, an 1846 arrival in California. They continued to live in San Jose where Belden took an active part in civic affairs and property development until 1881, when they moved to New York City where Belden died in 1892.
    By astute investment, including San Francisco real estate, Belden became a wealthy man for his times. The papers reflect his merchandising operations, particularly his association with Mellus and Howard, and some of his investments, including the San Francisco property. He was interested in quicksilver mines, particularly the New Almaden and the Guadalupe, and in mining property in Mexico. The accounts contain many names and signatures of the early pioneers. Unfortunately, there is not much correspondence. Diaries kept by Belden and Mrs. Belden on their travels to Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean area and to Alaska are included. Also, papers for the settlement of Belden's estate and a copy of Mrs. Belden's will are with the papers.

    Scope and Content

    This collection of Belden's papers was a gift to the Bancroft Library from Clyde Arbuckle in January, 1963. A few items from other sources (so noted, including the T. W. Norris Collection) have been added. Photocopy of letter from Charles J. Belden to Mr. Arbuckle has been placed in Box I. Portraits cataloged as portraits 14772-14774.