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Biography of William Benson Beckett
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© 1996-2003.
Daniel G. Beckett, Jr.
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Geneology
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Our father, William Benson Beckett, fourth child and second son of William Beckett and Caroline (Logston) Beckett, was born on the 2nd day of September, 1845, in the County of Marshall, State of Virginia (now West Virginia). When he was 7 years old, he moved with his father to another farm in Belmont County, OH, just across the Ohio River. When he was 15 years old, he moved with his father to a large farm at Washington Bottom, Wood County, VA (now WV).

Up to this time, his life had been uneventful, just going about his daily duties common to an American farm boy of 90 years ago, chores, farm labor, attending church on Sunday and, after attaining the age of 6 years, attending, during 4 or 5 months of each winter, the meager country schools.

Upon the outbreak of the Civil War in the spring of 1861, all was excitement and tension for the young lad, who, like his father, was a foe to slavery and an ardent Union man. His elder brother, Thomas, enlisted in the Union Army early in the second year of the war. Father has told me many times how impatient he was waiting until he was old enough to enlist. Soon after he was 18 years of age, near the end of 1863, he enlisted in the Union Army. This was quite an exciting experience for him and the rigors of army life were, so he said, much beyond his expectations and at times almost beyond his endurance.

Soon after his basic training, he was assigned to the cavalry and served with the units under the command of General Philip Sheridan in the theater of Western Virginia up and down the Shenandoah Valley and areas immediately east. At the close of the war, in the spring of 1865, he was given an honorable discharge and returned to his father's home at Washington Bottom, Wood County, West Virginia.

Here he resided, assisting his father on the farm, until about the year 1870, exact date not known, when he decided to go West to seek adventure and fortune. Being influenced, no doubt, by some distant relatives who had moved earlier, at least that is the story as I remember him telling it, he landed after some days of travel by rail, at Carthage, a little town in southwestern Missouri where he proceeded to work at farm labor and later the operating of a large ditching machine used to drain the natural swamps and marshes found in this part of the country. In my opinion, then, as now, southwest Missouri held no greater chances for adventure or fortune than the state he had just left.

William Benson and Dorcas (Hanes) Beckett

Let us see what he found in the way of romance, adventure and fortune. Well, it is a rather sad tale. On or about 1874, he married Catherine (Hays) Crow, a widow with three sons. To this union was born a son, Thomas Franklin Beckett, on September 18th, 1875. When this son was 18 months old his mother died, in April 1877. For the next two and a half years our father made his home with his deceased wife's people. Then, when Thomas was 4 years old, in 1879, he married his second wife, a Miss Arrie E. Butler. To this union was born a daughter, Orpha Caroline Beckett, March 29th, 1881. Nine days after this child's birth, April 7, 1881, his second wife died. Thus we find him, now past 35 years of age, twice widowed, with two small children, a long ways from close relatives and no friends staunch enough to offer a home for a widower and two small children, and he soon found that he was unable financially by hiring caretakers to care for these small children.

When Orpha was 6 months old, he returned to the home of his father in West Virginia, after an absence of 11 years. At this time, September 1881, grandfather Beckett resided at Mole Hill, Ritchie County, WV. Here he resided for the next six years, at which time he married for the third time.

On October 23rd, 1887 at the home of Rev. S. Loveall in Tyler County, WV, he married Dorcas (Hanes) Duckworth, the widow of one Irvin Duckworth and the daughter of Calvin and Edith Hanes.

To this union were born eight children: three sons: Irving, Russell and Averal; and five daughters: Lura, Edith, Mary, Alice and Florence.

He now, with his two orphaned children, Tom and Orpha, and his new wife, settled on a small farm he had purchased on Middle Island Creek near the little settlement of Joseph Mills, Tyler County, WV. Here were born his son Irving and daughter Lura.

Becoming dissatisfied with this location because of a disastrous flood from the overflow of Middle Island Creek and the possibility of future floods, he sold this place to one Lem Talman in the spring of 1892 and moved to a small farm which he had rented for the summer, located near the settlement of Mole Hill, Ritchie County, WV.

In early October, 1892, he moved to a small farm he had purchased from Alfred Hendershot located 2 miles west of the small village of Deep Valley, Tyler County, WV. This farm joined the farm of our grandfather Hanes on the south, located on the divide between Short Run and Mud Lick Run. It consisted of 86 1/2 acres of hill land of which 60% of it, at time of purchase, was cut over timber acreage, leaving a mere 34 1/2 acres for farm and pasture land. The improvements on this little farm were indeed meager, one small hewed log house of 5 small rooms and a few small out buildings of undressed logs.

Here on this farm we lived for the next 13 1/2 years and as I look back on it, I believe the happiest years of our lives. Here was born the remainder of father's family, the last six. Here we all labored and loved, clearing new land for crops and pasture, frugally and carefully farming and pasturing every acre. Here we had orchards with all kinds of fruit in abundance and a mammoth garden wherein we raised every vegetable that we could use.

Soon father was able to build us a new frame house from timber cut from the farm, a house of six large rooms with ample porches. We thought it a mansion and so did many of our neighbors.

This is the farm home built on the hill farm in Tyler County, WV about the year 1900. Picture taken about 1920 some 14 years after we had left it to the mercy of share renters.

In the spring of 1905, grandmother Hanes, still living at the original Hanes homestead only a quarter of a mile from our home, passed away. This, coupled with the idea that West Virginia was not providing adequate educational facilities in the way of high schools, etc., induced father and mother to purchase a small farm in Athens County, OH, in the fall of 1905. This farm is located in Lodi Township some 11 miles southeast of the city of Athens, the county seat and the location of Ohio University, the oldest state university west of the Ohio River.

Possibly you remember how we migrated to Ohio in the month of March, 1906. Father and brother Russell drove a team hitched to a new farm wagon from our West Virginia home to our new home in Ohio and a few days later the remainder of the family arrived by rail. Here father resided until his death seven years later, March 15, 1912, aged 66 years, 6 months and 13 days. He lies buried at Asbury Church Cemetary located in Lodi Township, Athens County, OH, about 4 miles south of Guysville, OH.

Our father, a stern man of deep religious and political convictions, a Methodist and a Republican. He never knew much but hard work and his Sabbath worship and believed that others should know but little more. He was at times emotional and had great love for his family but kept his love and emotions generally well covered up. He ruled generally by direct action rather than by persuasion. He was liberal with the rod to which I can personally testify. He provided well for his family of the essentials but did not condone and could not afford luxuries.