California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
ROBERT C. BELT. — California is a land of great wealth, wonderful scenery and remarkable opportunities, and to those willing to exert themselves nothing is impossible. As the years go on new openings arise in this vast domain, and not only are the Native Sons enthusiastic over its possibilities, but the outsiders also share in the universal hymn of praise. Not for nothing has it been given the significant name of "Golden." Everywhere abounds the chance for the acquiring of ample means, while at the same time opportunities for enjoyment are afforded which seem too good to be true. Of recent years a new avenue of endeavor ha^ been opened in the development of Big Bear Valley, oftentimes called the Playground of Southern California. Here have come some of the most enterprising and competent men of the country, whose energies and genius are expended upon making this one of the wonder spots of the world. One of these successful business men and ideal hosts is Robert C. Belt, owner and operator of Duck Lodge and other mountain camps in Bear Valley, an old cowboy and typical cattleman, with all of the fine characteristics of that calling.
Robert C. Belt was born at Quincy, Illinois, May 30, 1886, a son of David M. and Sarah I. Belt, natives of New Jersey. David M. Belt was a merchant, and a man of prominence at Quincy, and met his death in a railroad wreck at Buffalo, New York, while on his way to an encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, to which he had been sent as a delegate from Los Angeles, California, where he had been residing for several years previously. His widow passed away at Los Angeles. They had nine children, namely : Maggie, who is the wife of William Griffin, of Los Angeles; Frank; David, who lives at Pasadena, California; Roy, Bertha, Susie, Martha and Wilbur, who are all deceased ; and Robert C, who is the youngest in the family.
After completing his course in the Quincy grammar schools Robert C Belt took one in the Union Business College of his native city. He then secured, under Governor Yates, the appointment as guard at the state penitentiary, and served as such for one year, following which he spent six months at Kansas City, Missouri, and then came to California. From 1904 to 1906 he was in a contracting business at Los Angeles, but becoming tired of city life he came into San Bernardino County and homesteaded land at Seven Palms, which was at one time an Indian village. Here he developed his property, sunk a water well, erected necessary buildings, and succeeded in securing the first flouring mill in that section. While engaged in homesteading he was in the employ of Talmage & Clark and later of their successors, Talmage Brothers, serving as foreman on their White Water ranch, and remained with the two firms for six years, riding range in Big Bear Valley, Seven Palms and Warren Wells, and later went into the cattle business for himself, in all spending fourteen years in this industry and becoming an efficient cattleman. In roping, riding and endurance he can prove himself the equal of any man, and is physically fit as a result of his outdoor life.
After he had made his homestead a valuable property he traded it for seven acres of land in Big Bear Valley to Talmage Brothers, who had large holdings in the Valley, where they were among the pioneer cattlemen. In 1915 Mr. Belt began the construction of his home, which now is one of the most artistic places in the Valley, and occupies a very picturesque location overlooking Metcalf Bay and Lake. After he had provided for his own needs Mr. Belt put up fourteen permanent cabins on his property, all of which are illuminated with the Dielco light system, and are most modem in their furnishings and design. He is also the owner of one and one-half acres of the North estate, which is lake front property and especially desirable, on which he controls the exclusive concession and privilege of boating, supplying all kinds of motor and row boats, and affording storage for privately-owned boats. Mr. Belt owns and maintains his own home boating camp on Metcalf Bay and Duck Lodge at Baldwin Lake, where he has a modern brick clubhouse and restaurant, and a fleet of forty boats. At the latter resort he specially caters to sportsmen of the day. He will eventually fill his estate with additional cabins. As a builder Mr. Belt is a pioneer in his section.
Mr. Belt has witnessed many changes for when he first came to the Valley all supplies were brought in by pack-trains over difficult mountain trails, or with a buckboard drawn by two horses, the load being limited to 400 pounds. Now countless automobiles and motor trucks roll over the magnificent roads, and aeroplanes land in front of his estate so frequently as to cease to cause comment or awaken unusual interest.
In 1915 Mr. Belt married Miss Cora S. Hayden, who was born in Indiana, July 21, 1891, a daughter of Elmer and Nancy Hayden, both of whom were also born in Indiana. Mrs. Belt was educated in the Indiana public schools, and Valparaiso, Indiana, University, from which she was graduated. She is an accomplished musician, and from 1912, when she came to California, to her marriage she was supervisor of music in the public schools of San Bernardino and Chino. Mr. and Mrs. Belt are very well suited to each other, as his hardiness is only equaled by her courage. In 1917 they decided to visit the San Bernardino Orange Show. It was in February, and their only way out of the Valley at that time was over the frozen lake to the upper end, and thence along the desert road, as there was five feet of snow between their home and the head of the lake where the road was open. In spite of the almost unsurmountable difficulties they made the trip to San Bernardino and return successfully, and have the record of being the first and only ones to do so. It is somewhat remarkable that Mrs. Belt's father also met his death by accident, he having been killed when a train struck his automobile at Rialto, California, in 1915. His widow survives and makes her home with Mr. and Mrs. Belt. Mrs. Belt has a brother, Floyd S. Hayden, of Azusa, California, who was the eldest born in the Hayden family; and a sister. May Hayden, who, born in 1889, died in 1890. Mr. Belt is living the kind of life he loves. It would be impossible for him to confine himself to an office or within any set confines, for he needs the great outdoors, and close association with nature in its wildest moods. He is big of heart and mind, quick to respond to any demand upon him, and thoroughly competent in business. His holdings are increasing in value, and he is adding to their improvement all the time. Guests who visit his camps once are very anxious to return the following season for here they find not only ideal surroundings, but the congenial companionship of the kind-hearted westerner, who knows how to make them comfortable and give them the best kind of sport.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011