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Alfred Horatio Belo was born in Salem, North Carolina on May 27, 1839. He grew up in a devout Moravian community and was the eldest child of Frederick Edward Belo and Caroline Amanda Fries. Alfred’s father was a leading merchant in Salem having a very large wholesale and retail business. Alfred had three brothers and two sisters and attended The Bingham School, a preparatory school in Chapel Hill and graduated from University of North Carolina.

During the Civil War Alfred H. Belo served in every major engagement of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from Manassas to Appomattox. He earned his colonel's rank as a member of the North Carolina Volunteers in the War Between the States. Wounded in the leg at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, he rejoined his command in time to receive a severe wound in the left arm at the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864.

In 1865, saddened by Lee's surrender in Virginia, Colonel Belo and fellow officers rode west to continue the fight. Discovering that the Confederate cause was lost, at the age of 26, he eventually found his way to Texas, and tutored children of a planter in Waller County(Southwest of Conroe, Texas) for his room and board.

In August of 1865, Colonel A.H. Belo became a bookkeeper in Galveston at the most powerful newspaper in Texas, The GalvestonDaily News and one of the first newspapers to be distributed statewide by railroad. Soon Belo was put in charge of the business office and became a partner in the company now known as Richardson, Belo and Company.

In 1868, at the age of 29, Colonel A.H. Belo met and married 22 year old Nettie Ennis (1846-1913), whose father, Cornelius Ennis (1813-1899) was Mayor of Houston (1856-57) and an incorporator in the Houston and Texas Central Railway which began in 1853. The town of Ennis was named in his honor. They had two children, Jeanette (1871-1951) and son Alfred Horatio, Jr. (1873-1901).

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