George L. Beard is an Arkansas City business man of thirty years’ standing, and owned and directs the largest exclusive athletic and sporting goods house in the State of Kansas. Mr. Beard first came out to Kansas in the early ’70s, and there is no one who knows the history and the people of Southern Kansas better than this veteran merchant.
Mr. Beard is a native of Illinois, born at Naperville, about thirty miles from Chicago, on August 8, 1846. His father, Charles Beard, was one of the early pioneers in that section of Illinois. The Beard ancestry goes back to colonial times in New York State. The family is of Scotch-Irish origin. Mr. Beard’s grandfather, Abel Beard, spent his life in New York State and his activities were those of farming. Charles Beard was born at Steubenville, New York, in 1800, grew up there, but when a young man went to Boston, Massachusetts, where he married. Not long afterward he moved west and acquired 370 acres of raw land at Naperville, Illinois. Part of it was his homestead, and he developed it as a high class farm, made his prosperity as an agriculturist, and finally retired to the nearby City of Aurora, where he died in 1874. Charles Beard became a republican on the organization of that party and was one of the active supporters of the People’s Church of Aurora. He married Theoda Corsan. She was born in the State of Maine in 1806 and died at Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1878. There were seven children in the family: Charles, who became a gold miner in California, where he died; Jane married Hiram Hawkins, both now deceased, she having died at Fresno, California, where her husband was a fruit farmer; Jason was an Illinois farmer, but for the last eighteen years of his life lived retired and died at Aurora, Illinois; Ellen, who died at Worcester, Massachusetts, married Augustus Harmon, deceased, who for a number of years was editor of the Temperance Tocsin; Julia died at Worcester, Massachusetts, wife of Dr. R. O. Woods, a physician and surgeon, and she had also been licensed to practice as a homeopathic physician; Murray died on the farm at Naperville, Illinois, at the age of fourteen.
The youngest of this family, George L. Beard, grew up in the country district of Northern Illinois, attended public school at Aurora, completing the high school course there in 1863. He was still very young, but his services were accepted as a soldier in the One Hundred and Thirty-second Illinois Infantry and he saw seven months’ of service before the war closed. He learned the machinist’s trade and worked at that in Aurora until 1869, following which he was in the grocery business for two years.
On coming to Kansas Mr. Beard located at Americus, in Lyon County, in 1871, and was an early farmer and dairyman in that section until 1879. In 1880 he entered the Indian service, and for five years was connected with the Ponca agency at Ponca, Oklahoma. For three months of that time he was agent in charge, and the rest of the time directed the farm operations of the agency.
On retiring from the Indian service Mr. Beard returned to Aurora, Illinois, in 1885, and again resumed his trade as machinist for 2½ years. Since 1887 he had been in business and a resident of Arkansas City. In that year he established a store for athletic and sporting goods and had developed it as a prosperous business, supplying the trade of a large section both in Southern Kansas and Northern Oklahoma. As already stated, it is the largest store of its kind in the state. Mr. Beard owned both the business and the building in which it is located at 303 South Summit Street. His home is at 102 South B Street.
Mr. Beard is a stanch republican, and is equally active in the affairs of the Congregational Church, serving as trustee and chairman of the board. He is affiliated with Canal City Lodge No. 352, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and Inaugural Camp No. 867, Modern Woodmen of America.
Mr. Beard was married at Aurora, Illinois, December 31, 1867, to Miss Frances L. Smith, daughter of Alexander C. and Eliza Smith. Her father was a blacksmith. Mr. and Mrs. Beard have four children: Myrtie married Will C. Ireton, a millwright for the Arkansas City Milling Company, and they reside at 222 North B Street in Arkansas City; Jesse was a blacksmith and died at Arkansas City in February, 1911, at the age of thirty-nine; Charles S., who owned and operates a foundry and machine shop at Arkansas City, is married and resided at 426 North First Street; William Ray, the business partner of his father, is married and resided at 327 South Third Street.