Stephen E. Beach. In searching for the facts of history concerning any community, the mind of the chronicler turns naturally to the first things or the initial work accomplished in the formation of that community into a social and political body. An interest always attaches to these first things which is not to be found in anything else historic, and when there has been found the first settler, or the first house, or the first institution, it is looked upon with more than ordinary respect, and an endeavor is instinctively made to retrace the history of the subject of our interest to its or his beginning. The first things of fifty or sixty years ago are frequently difficult to ascertain, because of the death or removal of the actors and the absence of authentic records concerning them. But occasionally the chronicler has the rare privilege of coming into personal contact with one who has lived through the period of the beginning of things, and who still remains as an active factor in the life of the community. In this connection interest centers in Stephen E. Beach, of Chanute, a resident of Neosho County since 1859, and a witness of the wonderful development of the county since that time.
Mr. Beach is a native of New England, having been born at Wallingford, Connecticut, November 25, 1837, his parents being Nathan and Lucy (Pierpont) Beach. He is a member of a family which traces its ancestry directly to one of the Pilgrims, John Beach, who was born in 1618, was at New Haven in 1643, was married in 1650, was at Stratford in 1650, signed the Wallingford Loan Contract in 1670, and is spoken of as deceased in 1680. While at New Haven he was fined five pounds for carelessly felling a tree whereby the cow of one George Smith was killed. John Beach’s son, Thomas, was born in 1650; Thomas’ son, Nathan, was born August 8, 1692; and the latter’s son, William, was born November 18, 1716. Steven Beach, the son of William, was born October 25, 1760, and died November 17, 1821. He married Miriam Parker who was born July 26, 1753, and died June 25, 1823. Jason Beach, son of Steven and Miriam, and grandfather of Stephen E. Beach, was born December 27, 1775, and died at Wallingford, Connecticut, May 28, 1830. He married Susannah Hotchkies, April 17, 1800, she born November 12, 1777, and died October 25, 1847. Mr. Beach followed farming throughout his life. The children of Jason and Sarah Beach were: Lucy, born January 29, 1801, died June 29, 1801; William, born May 26, 1802, died October 2, 1853; Roger N. born February 12, 1804, died August 1, 1831; Norman, born March 17, 1806, deceased; Susan, born November 19, 1808, deceased; Lucy, born November 19, 1808, died September 11, 1868; Nathan, born May 17, 1811, died October 3, 1882; and Eliza A. born February 10, 1816, died in 1908.
Nathan Beach, father of Stephen E. Beach, was born at Wallingford, Connecticut, May 17, 1811, followed farming all his life there, and died October 3, 1882. He married Lucy Pierpont, who, like her husband, was a member of an old and honored New England family, and they became the parents of four children, as follows: Joel, who during a long career was engaged in farming, merchandising and the manufacture of anoons, and is now a retired resident of New Haven, Connecticut; Stephen E.; Zerah, who resides on the old home farm at Wallingford, Connecticut, where he has an extensive peach orchard; and Esther, who is the wife of Rienzi Stone, of Wallingford, Connecticut, a retired farmer with a large income derived from his rentals and investments.
Stephen E. Beach passed his boyhood on the home farm, and was afforded excellent educational advantages in one of the best literary institutions of Connecticut. Shortly after reaching his majority, he responded to the call of the West by joining some neighborhood youths in a trip to the Rockies, which venture resulted in his final settlement and residence in Kansas. In 1859 he came to what is now Neosho County, where, after more than half a century has passed, he is still an active spirit in the life of the community. His first experience with the frontier began at Kansas City, upon his arrival there from St. Louis by boat, in company with Elmer Johnson, an eastern friend. Their objective point had originally been Leavenworth, Kansas, but abandoned their original intention upon reaching Kansas City, and, instead, purchased a horse and light wagon and started across the plains for Denver, Colorado, in company with a caravan. Also making the journey with Messrs. Beach and Johnson was Sam Purdy, a youth who joined them at Kansas City. When well out on the plains, near the Arkansas River, they left the caravan and drove on alone, intending to make a camping ground in advance of their erstwhile comrades. While young Beach and a companion were exploring the bluffs for game, keeping their wagon in sight, however, they came to a high point overlooking the river, and were dismayed and disconcerted to see their wagon surrounded by Indians, the whole party retreating from the direction of the two young men and the horse on a trot, a gait that was a usual sign of danger on the plains. The two footmen broke directly for their wagon and decided to give battle when discovered, if it came to the worst. As was expected, a few of the Indians approached, but every time young Beach raised his rifle to shoot, they would yell and make signs and motions for him not to do so. The young men were undecided whether these gesticulations were for a friendly purpose or designed to entrap them alive, but as they did not harm the Indians the adventure ended with no more serious consequences to the young men than a marked reduction in their supply of sugar and other articles comprising their commissary. They joined the or train from there on to Pikes Peak.
Eventually the little party reached Pikes Peak, but found the country overrun with gold-seekers and settlers, and, as nothing encouraging presented itself, the “one horse tourists” struck the trail for Leavenworth. On their arrival there Mr. Beach and his partner opened a grocery store, which they conducted for two months. Then, loading their stock of goods into two wagons, they moved into what is now Neosho County, where together they established a grocery business at Osage City, later called Rogers’ Mills. This was the initial step in a career that from that time to the present writing has been idenified with the formation, development and growth of that community as a social and political organization. Thereafter the supplies for the store were obtained at Kansas City, which point Mr. Beach visited as frequently as he needed goods or as was necessary as a freighter for others. The store not proving very profitable, however, he gave it up for other pursuits and purchased his first claim on Beach Creek, which was named in his honor as the first settler upon its banks. This quarter-section he abandoned in 1865, and settled on another tract, bordering on the Neosho River, which tract he deeded, proved and still owns. At this time he possesses 240 acres of farming land, his own residence at No. 801 West Main Street, Chanute, 5½ acres directly opposite his residence in the heart of the city, another dwelling at No. 512 West Third Street, Chanute, and a dwelling and two vacant lots at Colony, Kansas.
Mr. Beach early engaged in the cattle business, and in partnership with Benjamin M. Smith, another pioneer, grazed cattle all over the site of what is now Chanute, the partners having for the salting grounds for their hard that portion which now forms the center of the city. Mr. Beach removed his family to Chanute in 1885 in order to secure better educational advantages for his children. In later years he was identified with the Bank of Commerce of Chanute, was its president for two years, and is still a stockholder therein.
During the Civil war Mr. Beach was a member of the Kansas State Militia and was commissioned ensign by Governor Robinson and third lieutenant by Governor Carnsy. He was commissioned by Governor Carney a member of Neosho County’s first board of commissioners and at the first election called by this board and the county clerk, Mr. Beach was elected superintendent of public instruction for Neosho County, in which capacity he served two years. The first man elected to the office of county treasurer declined to serve, whereupon Mr. Beach was appointed to that office, and by appointment and election continued to fill it for five years. He served as trustee of Tioga Township for four years and has also served as a justice of the peace in that township. He was one of the townsite company which established the Town of Chanute, and it was largely through his efforts that the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad located a station at the junction of that road with the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line.
Mr. Beach has always cast his ballot in accord with his convictions. The Pierponts, his mother’s people, were whigs, and the Beach family, although not partisan, have inclined to support the principles of the democratic party. Mr. Beach cast his first presidential vote for a republican and remained with that party until 1872, when he voted for Horace Greeley. Since then he has been identified with no party in particular, voting as an independent. As an independent candidate he was elected mayor of Chanute in April, 1911, by a majority of 676 votes in a republican city. This may be taken as an expression of the high esteem in which he is held in that city, where throughout a long, busy and useful career be has ever been known as a man loyal to truth, honor and right, one whose self respect, probity and integrity have controlled his every act. Mr. Beach is a thirty-second degree, Scottish Rite Mason, and belongs to Cedar Lodge No. 103, Ancient Free and Accopted Masons; Channte Chapter No. 21, Royal Arch Masons; and Chanute Commandery No. 44, Knight Templars, and has been master of his lodge and high priest of his chapter. He also holds membership in Chanute Lodge No. 96, Ancient Order of United Workmen. He has long been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he is now serving as a trustee.
Mr. Beach’s first wife was a Miss Sarah Sinclair, whom he wedded February 17, 1862, and who died August 31, 1865, without issue. On March 11, 1866, Mr. Beach was united in marriage with Miss Tressa. Burch, who died February 21, 1871. Three sons were born to this union: Elmer, who died May 22, 1888; Charles, an engineer at the cement plant at Iola, Kansas, who married Nellie McKeever; and Harvey E., who has inherited the wanderlust, probably from his father, served a number of years on a revenue cutter in Puget Sound, has taken a whaling voyage up toward the North Pole, and is now a resident of California. On August 3, 1873, Mr. Beach married his third wife, Mary A. Brooks, who died without issue, March 2, 1874. On December 24, 1874, Mr. Beach married Miss Sarah Stanfield, and to this union there were born three daughters and one son: Leona, a graduate of Chanute High School, and valedictorian of her class of twelve students, married Dr. Johanues Rudback, a practicing physician and surgeon of Seneca, Kansas; Sylvia E., a graduate of the Chanute High School, where she was valedictorian of her class of eighteen graduates, attended the State Normal School at Emporia, Kansas, and taught for several years in the Chanute public schools prior to her marriage to W. E. Wilson, a clothing merchant of Chanute; Eunice D., who died young; and Don C., a graduate of the Chanute High School, who later attended Baldwin University, and now a resident and prominent young business man of Chanute, where he is district manager for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Telephone Company.