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The Belk Family

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Date: 2021 [unknown]
Location: United Statesmap
Surname/tag: Belk, Doster, Laney, Knight
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All things Belk, starting with immigrant John Belk Esquire.


Belk Name Origin

The Anglo-Saxon name Belk comes from the family having resided at or near a bank or ridge. Further research showed the name was derived from the Old English word Balca which means dweller by the bank or ridge.[1]

Department Store

The Belk empire started shortly after Reconstruction when brothers William Henry and John Belk opened their first general store in Monroe, North Carolina. Their business philosophy: keep costs low, expand conservatively. The Belk family stuck to it, and as a result, could afford to regularly buy failing, indebted rivals for pennies on the dollar. The family became entwined with Charlotte, North Carolina, where the headquarters lies, when John Belk, son of founder William and onetime CEO, became mayor in 1969, a position he held for four terms. The Belks are still fixtures in the city. Belk
The Belk Department store was founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk using a $750 investment and $500 loan to open his first store in Monroe, North Carolina. It was originally called The New York Racket, but once Belk brought his brother, Dr. John Belk, into the business, they began trading under the family name. By 1943, the Belk name was on 195 stores across the South. Belk

The Belk Family

Transcription of undated handwritten biography by Alice Belk Broome

The progenitor of all the Belks in America was one John Belk Esquire (1710-aft.1804), who came from Middleborough, England, in 1745, and settled on Buffalo Creek in Buford Township, Union County, North Carolina.

He secured large tracts of land in the eastern section of Buford Township through a grant from the King of England. He built a home and married a young lady by the name of Mary Ann Muckle. By this union there were seven children – four sons and three daughters.

He seems to have been a very prosperous man, owned many slaves, and was highly respected in his neighborhood.

This original John Belk is mentioned in the first census of the United States as John Belk Esquire, from which we gather that he was an English Squire.

His will is still preserved in the Hall of History in Raleigh, North Carolina.

All of John Belk’s sons, John Jr., Darling, James, and Britain were soldiers in the war of the Revolution. Britain was wounded (Britain was my great grandfather) by a soldier under the command of Lord Tarlton, and died several months later from the effects of his wound.

After the death of Britain, little James, Britain’s only child, went to live with his grandfather, the original John Belk.

When the war of the Revolution was over two of Britain’s brothers, John Jr. and Darling, went over into South Carolina and settled in what is now Lancaster County. I am told that Mr. Henry Belk, of Charlotte North Carolina, is a descendant of the John Belk who settled in South Carolina.

James Belk, son of Britain Belk, was born in Buford Township, Union County, North Carolina, in 1765. He was present with his father at Charlotte when Mecklenburg declared her independence on May 20th, 1775. He was in Charlotte again on May 20th, 1875, at the Centennial of the Declaration.

He died the following year, 1876, at the ripe old age of one hundred and eleven years. I can remember very distinctly when grandfather, accompanied by my father, the late John W. Belk went to Charlotte to attend the Centennial Celebration of the Mecklenburt Declaration of Independence May 20, 1875. I was seven years old at that time.

Charlotte was twenty-five miles away and they had to travel in an open buggy over rough roads. They also had to ford all streams, as there were no bridges in those days. However, grandfather was in fine spirits when they returned home. He talked about his trip for days – how he had been invited to sit upon the stage among all the “High Lights”, and how he had answered all their questions.

He was in his usual good health until the end of his life. We found him sleeping his last sleep one morning about a year later.

Grandfather was twice married. His first wife was a Miss Liggett. His second wife’s maiden name was Nancy Hargett. She was my father’s mother and my grandmother. My father said she was very beautiful and that she possessed a lovely soprano voice.

My grandfather was the father of sixteen children – five sons and eleven daughters. His sons were Britain, James, John, Julius and Washington.

Britain died while still in his youth and unmarried.

James’ children were Alf, Britain, Julius, Harvey, Billy, and Margaret. Harvey and Billy were deaf and dumb. They were educated at the deaf and dumb institute in Raleigh, North Carolina. They were interesting characters and were very intelligent.

John’s children were Ellen, Rettie, Sam, George, Addie, Darling, and Alice. Julius’ children were Thomas Jim, Hugh, Iola, Fannie, and Mamie.

Uncle Julius was a Methodist preacher of some note in his day and time.

My father’s youngest brother, Uncle Wash, was killed at battle of Vicksburg, Mississippi, during the Civil War. He is buried in the Confederate Cemetery, Vicksburg. Brother Sam visited his grave while on a lecturing tour several years prior to his death.

My grandfather’s daughters were Esther, Lucy, Colly, Sally, Rebecca, Hannah, Mary Anne, Nancy, Betsy, Malissa, and Camilla. Camilla was the mother of Phredole Belk.

My father said that Polly married a Mr. Bibby and Hannah married a Mr. Laney, and they both went with their husbands to Arkansas, and never returned to this county. We may have Bibby and Laney cousins scattered all over the state of Arkansas (!)

The rest of my father’s sisters married and settled in different sections of North and South Carolina.

My grandfather was a man of considerable means before the Civil War. He owned a large plantation and, also, a large number of slaves. But when the war was over and the slaves got their freedom – he lost nearly all the rest of his property by signing worthless notes for his friends.

My great, great grandfather, John Belk, my great grandfather, Britain Belk, and my grandfather, James Belk, are buried side by side in Old Antioch Graveyard, in Buford Township, Union County, North Carolina.

My own father, John W Belk, is buried in the cemetery at Tiszah Presbyterian Church in Jackson Township, Union County, North Carolina.

He died Jan. 24, 1900, at the age of 74 years.

The Belks are now spread over many states, and number some several thousand, but they are all descendants of John Belk, Esquire, who came to America from Middleborough England, in 1745, and settled in Buford Township, Union County, North Carolina. Alice Belk Broome

Family Tree

John Belk Esquire (1710-aft.1804)

  1. John Belk JR (1742-1822)
  2. James Belk (abt.1743-)
  3. Brittain Belk (1746-1780)
  4. Sarah Belk (1748-)
  5. Nisham (Belk) McCorkle (1753-)
  6. Frances (Belk) Montgomery (abt.1754-bef.1820)
  7. Darling Belk Sr. (1763-1835)
  8. Grace (Belk) Calvert (bef.1765-)


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