BeloPlotSalemCem

The Belo plot, Salem Cemetery

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Belo Garden, Dallas, Texas

Everything is connected. The Salem Moravians knew that. That is why their annual review of events began, not in Salem, but on the world stage, moving ever narrower from Europe to the United States to North Carolina and finally to their beloved home.

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The protest in Dallas that was interrupted by the murder of five police officers began at Belo Garden, a spectacular new downtown park that opened in 2012, just a stone’s throw from Dealey Plaza. The park was funded by the A.H. Belo Corporation, the Belo Foundation, Maureen and Robert Decherd, and the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department. The Belo Corporation owns several television stations and newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News, which has the 11th largest circulation in the US. The Belo Corporation was founded in Galveston in 1857 as The News, publisher of two weekly newspapers. Shortly after the Civil War, it was renamed Richardson, Belo & Company. When founder Willard Richardson died in 1875, the surviving partner renamed it A.H. Belo & Company. Who was A.H. Belo?

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Frederick Edward Belo was born June 27, 1811 in Salem, NC, the second child of John Frederick and Maria Strupe Belo [Bölow]. After graduating from the Salem Boy’s School, he was apprenticed to the cabinet maker Petersen, eventually taking over the business. But unlike most other young men in Salem, he was not satisfied with a single income. Soon he was operating a linseed mill and a foundry, then another mill, building dams, finally opening a general merchandise store. In 1849 he completed a new building, two stories with 150 feet of frontage on Main Street. The first floor became his wholesale/retail merchandise store, “E. Belo’s Leviathan”, the largest such operation in the region. The family lived on the second floor. In 1860, a third floor, to house employees, was added. That building today is a national register property known simply as the Belo House. Later, Edward Belo would become the president of the local company that began building the first railroad connection to the towns of Winston and Salem, the single most important event in Twin City history.

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Belo House, spring, 1861

In 1837, Edward married Amanda Fries. They had three daughters and four sons, the eldest of whom they named Alfred Horatio Belo, born May 27, 1839. After being educated at the Salem Boys School and elsewhere, Alfred went to work in his father’s business. In the spring of 1861, North Carolina reluctantly seceded from the Union. A few days later, on Salem Square, Alfred, about to turn 22, founded the first local company for the Confederate army, the Forsyth Rifles. He was elected captain of the company. A few weeks later, in Danville, VA, the Rifles were assigned to the 11th Regiment, NC Volunteers. They were placed near the center of the line at the Battle of Bull Run, but saw no real action.

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Left to right: Edwatd Belo, Alfred Horatio Belo, Robert Belo

When the army was reorganized in early 1862, the Forsyth Rifles were assigned to the 21st NC Regiment, Infantry. But Alfred was not reelected as captain. The 21st would go on to fight in nearly every battle in the eastern theater of the Civil War. Alfred came home briefly, and eventually ended up in the 55th NC Regiment, Infantry. He was wounded in the left leg at Gettysburg and cited in battle reports. He was wounded in the left arm at Cold Harbor and furloughed for the duration. He attempted to return to the regiment more than once, but his wounds prevented his remaining on duty. According to the official records, his final rank was lieutenant colonel. In 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Nathan Bedford Forest, who would later become one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan, sent out a call for all Confederate diehards to join General Kirby Smith who was still fighting in Texas, where they would continue the war, possibly as a guerrilla struggle. Alfred Horatio Belo answered the call.

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The official records tell us that Alfred Horatio Belo attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, but in this portrait he is wearing the three stars of a full colonel.

Once in Texas, the men realized that to continue the war was futile. At this point, things get a bit confusing. Several “official” sources, including the Texas Historical Society and another in Montana (?) present biographies of Alfred, but each one contradicts the others. For instance, NCPedia says that Belo became a partner in the Galveston News on March 4, 1866. If so, one wonders why the 1870 US census shows him living in his wealthy father-in-law Cornelius Ennis’ household in Galveston, working as an office clerk in Cornelius’s corn brokerage.

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What we do know is that Alfred ended up working for a company called The News, which published the Galveston News and the Texas Almanac, and soon became a partner in that firm, renamed Richardson, Belo & Company. When Willard Richardson died in 1875, Alfred retitled the firm A.H. Belo & Company. For the next decade, employing the latest technology, including what may have been the first telephone line in Texas, Alfred built the News into the most important newspaper in the state. But he already knew that Dallas was the place he needed to be. Having failed in an attempt to purchase the old Dallas Herald, Alfred sent his best man, George Bannerman Dealey, to Dallas to start a new paper. The first edition of the Dallas Morning News hit the streets on October 1, 1885. The Dallas Morning News and the Galveston News were the first newspapers in the United States to publish simultaneous editions. Although the Belo interests sold the newspapers in the 1920s, the parent firm is still known as the Belo Corporation.

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The Galveston News, a historic landmark, built by Alfred Horatio Belo in 1885

On June 30, 1868, Alfred married Jeanette “Nettie” Ennis. Their son, Alfred Horatio Belo, Jr. would succeed his father briefly as president of the Belo Company before his own untimely death in 1906. At that point, George Dealey became the general manager of the Belo Company and publisher of the Dallas Morning News. Dealey Plaza, shown on the map above, was named for him.

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Left to right: Alfred Horatio Belo, Jr., Nettie Ennis Belo, Jeanette Belo, Alfred Horatio Belo. Nettie’s mother was also named Jeanette, so that name carried down for three consecutive generations.

But Alfred never fully recovered from his war wounds. The Texas heat aggravated his misery to the point that for many years he summered in Asheville, NC. He died in Asheville on April 19, 1901, just a few weeks short of his 62nd birthday. He was buried in the Salem Cemetery. At the funeral, the Forsyth Rifles, the local well regulated militia, fired a salute over his grave.

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Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texa

 

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