Rapidly the ranks of those who took active part in the Civil War are thinning. One after another the gray haired veterans are going to join their comrades in a land where bloodshed and suffering are unknown. Few of the defenders of the flag in the sixties are now left who are able to hold their own in the keen struggle of present day commercial life. Physical infirmities, have with few exceptions long since compelled the great majority of the survivors to drop out of the race. Yet here and there are exceptions. Now and then a sturdy old warrior is found whose eye is as bright and whose step is as firm as that of the younger generation and who yet finds keen enjoyment in a struggle in which he is pitted against the sons and the grandsons of his comrades of other days.
Such a man is William H. Bean, the pioneer merchant of Rock Island. Though whitened by sixty-five winters he continues in active charge of the grocery store he established thirty-two years ago. He has not fallen be-hind in the rapid march of American progress.
Mr. Bean was born at St. Louis, Missouri, February 10, 1842, the son of J. L. and Marilla (Smith) Bean. His father was a native of Palmyra, New York being born January 8, 1814, and died March 28, 1890, in Rock Island. His mother was born in Parkman, Ohio, May 24, 1818, and died May 1, 1898, in Rock Island. The parents were married September 24, 1838, at Parkman, Ohio, and came to Rock Island for permanent residence when their son was two months of age. Mr. Bean, the elder, was a contractor and builder and followed this vocation for a number of years. Then he engaged in the manufacture of wagons. He was a member of the City Council in the early days. When Ben Harper was mayor, and served the City of Rock Island in several capacities. He was the father (while in the council) of the first street opened in the City-Ninth Street, running north and south. In the early sixties he hauled freight by oxteams to Pike’s Peak. From 1870 till his death he lived a retired life. Three children, other than the subject of this sketch, were born to the couple: Louis H. M. Bean, born October 10, 1839, and died January 15, 1861, at Black Hawk Mills. Pike’s Peak, Colorado; John Liberty Bean, junior, born October 21. 1843, and now living at LaPlata, Missouri, and Marilla Jane Bean, born January 26, 1846, and now the wife of W. L. Minchen, living at Seattle, Washington.
Our subject attended the public schools and the Rock Island high school. He left the latter to become salesman in a general store in 1860. Then came the call to arms, and August 8, 1862, he enlisted in Company I, One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Illinois Infantry, and served till July 12, 1865, when he was mustered out and returned to Rock Island. He then resumed his place in the store and remained there two years. Later he spent three years on a farm, and in 1875 he opened the grocery store he now owns at 1201 Third Avenue.
November 25, 1880, Mr. Bean was united in marriage with Mrs. Sarah A. Cameron, a native of Scotland, but for sixteen years prior to her union with Mr. Bean a resident of Rock Island. Their wedded life has been childless.
Mr. Bean has always been a Republican, but has not actively engaged in politics. He has not been a seeker after the spectacular but has kept the even tenor of his way. He has been content with the ordinary rewards of a quiet and well ordered life and thus it is that we find him today one of the few of his generation who are still able to continue the routine of daily business.