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The city is located within the boundaries of Ionia County's Belding Area Schools. The area that would become Belding was first settled by European Americans in 1849, when James and John McLean built a sawmill on the banks of the Flat River near its confluence with Pine Creek. The settlement became known as "McLean's Mill", which later shortened to "Millville". In 1852, Henry Crapo purchased land nearby and constructed a flour mill along Pine Creek; this led to more settlers moving into the area. By 1870, there were enough residents for Millville to incorporate as a village; it had about 1,000 residents at that time. On April 6–7 of that year (Easter Sunday), an F4 tornado struck what is now downtown Belding: four people died from injuries sustained during this storm. A post office named "Belden" opened on May 19, but closed less than two years later in November 1872.