Many people don't realize that the City of Belmont, NC was formerly known as the Town of Garibaldi. Belmont still recognizes that heritage today with it's annual Garibaldi Festival which is held every year on the third Saturday of May. Garibaldi Realty is pleased to share these excerpts from the book "Between two rivers: The centennial of Belmont, North Carolina", Sally Hill McMillan and Associates (1996) Belmont, Written by: Ross Yockey, Help to explain how the name was changed.

  Abbot-Bishop Leo Haid, Founder of Belmont Abbey College, petitioned the Richmond and Danville Railway Company to schedule regular stops at Garibaldi Station.  That way students and monks, as well as other residents and visitors to the community, would be assured of transportation.  Not only did the company vice president refuse the petition, he also denied the abbot a railroad pass, which was a standard courtesy to members of the clergy.
  Haid had more luck with the local authorities.  In 1885 he asked the county to re-route the road that led from Garibaldi to the abbey.  According to R.L Stowe, this road was unquestionably “the worst in the county.”  The abbot’s immediate concern, however, was that northbound wagons, mules, horses and people who used the narrow, muddy lane, traveled directly to the main college building.  The road took them to within a few yards of its lower-story windows, and people were forever gawking through them at the monks and their students and disturbing the people inside.  On one occasion, Haid wrote of a boisterous group of picknickers who “made such a noise before the college that we were badly scared.  One was shot a little down the road and one nearly stabbed to death.  Five others were hurt.  You see we must remove the road.”  The county agreed to move the road, but only if the monastery accepted the major burden of the work and expense.

This was the beginning of a mutual respect between Leo Haid and the leaders of the Point’s economic, political and social affairs.  So, when Haid asked for a meeting with those gentlemen in the spring of 1886, they agreed.  His agenda contained but one item, a name change for Garibaldi.

According to the recollections of monks who were there at the time, quoted in Baumstein’s My Lord of Belmont, the abbot delivered “an impassioned speech regarding the need of a city to have a name of dignity and distinction.”  No one seems to have recorded exactly which “town fathers” constituted the audience for this impassioned speech.  However, it is unlikely they responded favorably to the abbot’s first suggestion for a new name, “St, Mary’s.”  Father Paschal theorizes that Haid may have put forward “St. Mary’s” for the sole purpose of giving his Protestant cohorts something to which they could object.  That way, his second recommendation, “Belmont” could be accepted as a “compromise.”

A correspondent for the Philadelphia-based Catholic Times visited the Abbey in March of 1893.  He traveled “from Belmont, a station on the Piedmont Air Line, eleven miles west of Charlotte,” over “an incarnadine road” to find “rolling acres of cultivated land, the alleys of trees, the vine-covered hillsides, the huge and perfect barn, the unexcelled stock, the complete college, and the solid monastery crowning all. “We were ushered into a salon that would outshine the reception rooms of many colleges nestled in the breast of luxurious cities.  And this was but a fitting vestibule to what lay beyond – the clean, sweet dormitories, the airy and well-lighted classrooms, the cheerful refectory, the finished playground (they have a grand stand for the base ball field) and the fortunate boys to enjoy all this.”

As for the students, they were “a hundred and twenty-five of the heartiest college boys we ever laid eyes on… Why, boys you live like the sons of princes, compared with what we had to put up with in our college days.”

There is no sense to the stories that Belmont was named in honor of New York financier August Belmont, nor that of his son, Perry Belmont, a wealthy Democratic congressman and diplomat.  The subject is treated fully in Baumstein’s My Lord of Belmont and Father Paschal’s efforts to find some logical connection between those individuals and our North Carolina city continued fruitless to this day.  Neither can we find evidence that the name “Belmont” appeared painted on the sides of freight cars that rumbles past Garibaldi, as has been suggested by at least one citizen.

The plain truth seems to be this:  Father Leo Haid was unhappy with the name of Garibaldi, the people who lived in the neighborhood were not particularly attached to the name, so they accepted a name which sounded pleasant to all and offended none.  There is no deeper truth to the name of Belmont.  That the Benedictines’ opinions were considered important by others in the area may be judges from the fact that, by the 1890’s, the reputation and fame of the college had grown considerably, so that the name “Belmont, North Carolina” was beginning to be heard around the United States.