Hon. James Jerome Belden, "of Syracuse, N.Y., son of Royal Denison Belden, was born in Fabius, Onondaga county, September 30, 1825. He is a direct descendant of Richard
Belden, of England, who settled in Wethersfield, Conn., in 1636, founding a family which has numbered among its members officers of the American Revolution, judges, legislators, and successful business men. Mr. Belden's great-grandfather, Moses Belding, of Northfield, Mass., avenged the death of his twin brother, Aaron, who was scalped by the Indians; and Augustus Belding, a generation later, marched in the first company to Cambridge at the Lexington alarm. Among Mr. Belden's ancestors were Capt. Benjamin Wright, Joseph Chamberlain, and Stephen Belding, of the Colonial wars. The original spelling of the name (Belden) was restored by Dr. Joshua Belding in 1772, but not by this line of the family until 1820.
Mr. Belden was educated in Fabius, and at an early age became a clerk in a store in his native town. He immediately showed unusual business ability, and soon left Fabius for wider fields. In 1850 Mr. Belden went to California, where with keen insight he engaged in commercial affairs instead of mining. He returned to Syracuse in 1853 and married Anna, daughter of Robert Gere. He then turned his attention to the construction of public works and was first associated with Robert Gere, later with is brother, the late A. Cadwell Belden, and Dr. Henry D. Denison. Among the most important contracts were the first street railways of Detroit and other cities, the enlargement of the locks on the Welland Canal, the Syracuse Northern Railroad, part of the West Shore Railroad, the Croton Reservoir, the Hell Gate improvements, dredging New York and other harbors, and improving the canals of the State.
The Robert Gere Bank, founded by Mr. Belden and his brother, the late A. C. Belden, in 1880, moved into its present handsome building in 1894. In addition to his property in Syracuse he has large real estate investments in New York city, notably the Manhattan Hotel now in process of erection. He is trustee in the Oakwood Cemetery Association, trustee of Syracuse University, and president of the Syracuse Gas Company.
In 1877 the people of Syracuse showed their confidence in Mr. Belden by nominating him for mayor without his knowledge or consent. He was elected by an unusual majority and gained lasting admiration for the vigor and ability with which he discharged his duty. He was re-elected the following year by a very largely increased majority. He was elected to the 50th Congress and re-elected to the 51st, 52d, and 53d Congresses, and then declined a renomination.
Mr. Belden accepts criticism with good nature, defends his convictions with determination, has great force of character and tenacity of purpose, and is as well known for his quiet benevolence as for his political prominence and financial success." Source: Bruce, Dwight H. (Ed.), Onondaga's Centennial. Boston History Co., 1896, Vol. II, pp. 170-171, Biographical.