Transcribed by: Ellen Booth.Page 328
CORNELIUS T. BEEKMAN, who is filling the position of postmaster of Petersburg for the second term, was born in Menard county, April 13, 1854, and is a representative of one of its old and honored pioneer families. His ancestors in the paternal line resided in New York, his great-grandfather, Samuel Beekman, and his grandfather, Cornelius T. Beekman, having both been natives of the Empire state. William T. Beekman, the father, was born in Somerville, New Jersey, February 23, 1815, and in 1837, when about twenty-two years of age, he came to Menard county, settling in Clary’s Grove district. That was the period of early development, when the county was just emerging from frontier conditions and taking on the improvements of an advanced civilization. Much yet remained to be done in that direction and Mr. Beekman bore his full share in the work of public improvement. He settled upon land which he secured from the government and which is still in possession of the family. It was then wild and uncultivated, but he at once began to transform it into tillable fields and in due course of time garnered rich harvests there. He remained upon the old homestead until 1861, when he became interested in the construction of the old Petersburg & Tonica Railroad, now a part of the Chicago & Alton system. After its completion he was made its superintendent, which position he filled for fourteen years and was thus actively associated with the era of early railroad building and operation in Illinois. He also became one of the owners of the Home Woolen Mills, of Jacksonville, which were destroyed by fire in 1871, and he then returned to the old homestead and devoted his attention to agricultural pursuits until 1896. In that year he established his home in Petersburg, where he lived in honorable retirement from further labor until his death, which occurred August 14, 1899. He had long figured prominently in public affairs in Menard county, both by reason of his activity in business and also because of his influence and labor in political circles. He twice represented his district in the state legislature and by giving careful consideration to each question which came up for settlement and by stalwart support of the bills in which he believed, he left the impression of his individuality for good upon the legislation enacted during those sessions. He was indeed a public-spirited man and in his death Menard county lost one of its valued and worthy citizens. In early manhood he married Miss Mary C. Spears, who was born in Clary’s Grove, Menard county, and the records go to show that she was the first white female child born in the county. In the family were ten children, five sons and five daughters.
Cornelius T. Beekman, the sixth in order of birth was educated in the district schools and in Knox College, of Galesburg, Illinois, and Shurtleff College, at Alton, Illinois. He spent two years in the former institution. Of the latter his father was a trustee for many years and held a life membership. On completing his education Mr. Beekman returned to the old homestead farm and devoted a number of years to farm work. He also engaged in dealing in stock from 1879 until 1886, after which he turned his attention to school teaching, following that profession for seven years, gaining a creditable reputation as a successful educator, whose schools were noticeable for good discipline and satisfactory mental progress. In 1893 he was appointed a member of the reception committee in the Illinois building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where he spent the summer. He afterward engaged in bookkeeping in the agricultural implement store of William L. Wilms, and in 1897 he was appointed postmaster, while in 1902 he was re-appointed to that office by President Roosevelt. He is therefore serving for his second term and the citizens of Petersburg find him an obliging, courteous official, prompt and faithful in the discharge of his duties and the administration of the affairs of the office.
On the 22d of April, 1880, Mr. Beekman was married to Miss Lula Kuechler, of Springfield, Illinois, a daughter of Dr. C. F. Kuechler, a native of Germany. They were the first couple married in the Cumberland Presbyterian church of Petersburg, Rev. R. D. Miller, the writer of this history, officiating. Miss Beekman’s parents were also the first couple married in the old Baptist church, which stood on the southwest corner of Adams and Seventh streets, Dr. Bailey officiating. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Beekman are: Carl O., at home; Harry E., who is assistant in the postoffice; Ferdinand K., Meta Louise and William T., also under the parental roof.
Mr. Beekman is a member of the Knights of Pythias fraternity. His interest in his native county is manifest by his active cooperation in many movements for the general good, yet he is content to do his duty as a private citizen. Many who have long known him prize his friendship, which indicates his life to have ever been honorable and upright.