History of Belmont, California
From: The Story of San Mateo County, California
By: Roy W. Cloud
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company.
Chicago, Ill 1928


Belmont, located twenty three miles from San Francisco and on the Southern Pacific Railroad and the state highway, is one of the most attractive sections of San Mateo County. The name Belmont is taken from the French (Belle Mont-beautiful hill) and the hills to the west of town certainly entitle the settlement to its name. Steinburger and Beard settled there in 1851 and owned large tracts of land which they purchased from the Pulgas owners. The first settler so far as records go was one Angelo who in 1850 built a hotel known as Angelo's Hotel and it was in this building that the first seat of government for our county was located, and here Hon. Benj. F. Fox, judge of the county court heard the cases which decided the election of the first county officials and also decided the contest as to the site of the future county seat. (Belmont did not make any fight for the location of the county seat, and after the court decision calmly accepted what had been decided and passed uneventfully along its quiet way.) Angelo kept his hotel for several years, going from here to Victoria, British Columbia, where shortly after his arrival he was arrested as a defaulter, but after trial was acquitted on the crime of which he was charged.

Mr. S. M. Mezes who had charge of the Pulgas estate and was one of the owners made his home in the Canada Diablo just back of the town proper. Others who lived there in the early days were Governor John McDougal, and Col. Cipriani who left California in 1859 to take part in the war for independence in Italy and who commanded a brigade there with great distinction and afterwards returned to Belmont.

The hill from which the community got its name early became the property of Mr. Fonda who for years resided in the section and one of whose sons is now a resident of Redwood City. Mr. William C. Ralston, probably the best known financier of San Francisco, purchased a large holding in the Canada Diablo and there erected one of the show places of San Mateo County and to this home he drove from San Francisco nightly, having relays of horses along the way, changing his team at intervals when the animals which he was driving became exhausted, because it is recorded that Mr. Ralston was a very rapid driver. Mr. Ralston was probably one of the greatest entertainers that the county has ever known and his home was the scene of great gaiety practically every week end. A bon vivante and a man who desired the good will and respect of all who knew him, Mr. Ralston was unable to face his friends after the failure of the bank of which he was an official, and committed suicide.

The Sharon home, property of Ex-Senator Sharon, was also located in this section. The home which Governor McDougal occupied became known as Belmont Park and here on Sundays and holidays the picnickers from San Francisco with their brass bands and their barreled lager beer made merry throughout the summer. The Park was the property of Mr. A. Janke and it was from this park that Annie Mooney, the heroine of the most celebrated kidnapping case of California wandered or was carried away and no trace of her was ever found. A. F. Waltermyer was the proprietor of the Hotel Belmont for years and had most of the hostelry business until the advent of Mr. H. Rowell, who opened a hotel there which was conducted for many years by his widow and his son John, and his daughter Elizabeth, who were probably as well known as any residents of San Mateo County because of the popularity of their place. The first general merchandise establishment was conducted by Janke & Carston. This continued for years and later W. A. Emmett conducted the store, Mr. Emmett being succeeded by his son Walter Emmett who is now actively engaged in the management of the business. J. N. Oliver and H. Hammersen were the village blacksmiths and M. J. O'Neal conducted for a time the livery stable of the community, afterwards engaging in the store business, which business was taken over by Eugene O'Neal, who is still a resident of Belmont. For years the soft drinks of the county were furnished by William Janke in his Belmont soda works which was opened in 1875. Of the pioneer residents of the community Mr. Flashner, Adam Castor, Michael Daley, Peter Faber, David Barre, C. C. Bollinger, Steven Powell, H. Schaberg, Frank Yount, H. Newhall, John Schmoll, and H. Elmes were well known throughout the section. In 1892 Mr. William T. Reid was commissioned by the Congregational Church of California to open a school for boys with money which had been contributed for the proposition by Mr. Moses Hopkins. Mr. Reid selected Belmont as the scene of his activity and purchased a large tract of land just across the highway from the old Mezes home. Here he established the Belmont School, a semi military institution from which many of the prominent business men of California were graduated. This school because of the expense of tuition and board was patronized only by the very wealthy and long had a very high standard, the graduates being admitted to the universities of the east and west without examination. After the death of Mr. Reid his wife and son, William, who until he came into the management of the school was the athletic director of Harvard University, took over the management and Rev. W. A. McDougal, son of Governor McDougal, acted as principal. Upon the death of his mother William Reid, Jr., desiring to enter into the brokerage business in New York, discontinued the school, the property being sold to the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco who shortly thereafter reopened the school as a Catholic boarding school, and Father John Ryan is now in charge of the institution. The old Ralston home passed through several hands and finally came into the possession of Dr. Gardener who opened a hospital there for mental cases which he continued with great success for several years. Upon the death of Doctor Gardener which occurred eight years ago (1919), the institution was continued with varying success until four years ago when the property was sold to the Sisters of the Notre Dame and the old Ralston home has since been turned into a day and boarding school under the management of that religious order. Just back of the old Reid school property Doctors Rothchild and Warren opened sanitariums, and the California Sanitarium for tubercular patients is one of the largest in this section of California. Part of the old picnic ground, which for a time belonged to Sheriff Robert M. Chatham was sold to Miss Alexander, who has built there a large and well equipped sanitarium for mental cases.

Among those who have been in Belmont for a considerable period of time, and who may almost be rated as old timers there, are the Penningtons, Roussels, Shermans, Hansens, Centers, Riches, Vanniers, Johnsons, Bottos, McGowans, Smiths, DeRoachs, Burdettes, Spivalos, Hacketts, and DeNivernais. R. H. McGowan is postmaster and the post office is located on the highway in the central section of the village.

A petition for the incorporation of Belmont was filed with the supervisors of San Mateo County, September 7, 1926. Finding that the petition was in order and that the required signatures to the same had been secured, an election was called for October 18, 1926, and on the official tally being made it was shown that there were 126 for and 72 against the proposition. The returns were made to the Supervisors and October 25, 1926, Belmont became a city of the sixth class.

The officers elected were: Trustees, Henry C. Warren, C. J. Jordan, Columbus Messner, Lewis C. Vannier, and Thomas Pennington; clerk, D. W. Callan; treasurer, S. J. Cook. The appointed officers were, chief of police, Clayton Caldwell; city engineer, George A. Kneese.

Shortly after the incorporation, John W. Burdette, the owner of thirty acres of agricultural land within the boundaries of the incorporation, who had not given his consent to the inclusion of his property within the municipality, brought suit to have the whole proceedings declared void. He accordingly brought the suit for disincorporation before the superior court, Judge John L. Hudner, of San Benito County, presiding. The matter was submitted on briefs and on Friday, September 15, Judge Hudner declared that the incorporators had exceeded their rights in the matter of the inclusion of agricultural lands and declared the town disincorporated.

Just adjoining Belmont, and taking in all of the waterfront and marsh lands a new project called the Port of San Francisco has recently begun operations. Dredgers have been at work digging canals to deep water, factory sites have been sold and spur tracks laid and claims are made that this section will in a few years be the chief industrial section of San Mateo County.

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