|George M. Beckwith was born Sept. 14, 1794, at Washington, on the Juniata
river, Pennsylvania. When quite a lad his people emigrated to the then
so called Gorham and Morris purchase, buying land near Newark, Wayne county,
New York. From here George M. and his brother Dan W., went to Olean, in
that state, in 1816, and thence down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers and
up the Wabash river to Pt. Harmon, now just above the northern suburbs
of Terre Haute. About the same time Harry Luddington, well known in Danville
as “Uncle Harvey,” and Malchia Vredenburg, appeared in the same vicinity,
all being from New York state. The Beckwith brothers, and Luddington boarded
with Mr. Vredenburg and his wife.
The next year the Beckwith’s crossed the Wabash over into Illinois territory, and entered and put a sod fence around 80 acres of land some four miles northeast of Paris on the so called North Arm prairie. At time Jonathan Mayo and two or three other families composed the most northern settlement on the east side of the state excepting, of course, Ft. Dearborn, now Chicago The brothers boarded with Mr. Mayo and his excellent wife that year, when Dan W. came up to the Vermilion river country and built a cabin on its northern bluff, a little west of south of the present “old red seminary” on West Main street, near an oak tree, which is still standing.
In 1819, immediately after the land in this neighborhood was ceded by the Kickapoo Indians to the United States, George M. came up from below with Seymour Treat, the two Blackman brothers and Ira Whitcomb, to a salt lick just above the mouth of the Middlefork. Luddington followed, and thus began the digging and boring for salt water, from which the manufactured salt gave this country a wide notoriety lower down and on both sides of the Wabash and northwest to the settlements on the Illinois river. It was a wild unbroken prairie then in all the country between.
George M. was a carpenter by trade, to which the skill of a millwright and cabinet maker was added. A frame house which he built, and in which he lived, is still standing on the north side of Water street, just across the alley from the present county jail. He built and ran a sawmill on the North Fork of the Vermilion, northwest of the present Lincoln park. The mill site,
|until within a few years past, was well known to the old settlers as
Beckwith’s mill. Here his wife died with milk sickness, in a log cabin
of one room.
In 1827, at the time Ft. Dearborn was threatened with an attack by the Winnebago Indians, a company of volunteers was raised in this county to go to the relief of that post. Among those who went was Peleg Spencer, Hezekiah Cunningham, Othneil Gilbert, son of Solomon Gilbert, and Richard and Orlando Gilbert, sons of Jesse Gilbert, and the two Beckwith brothers. Achilles Martin was selected as captain. George M. was also out in the Black Hawk War.
He was a man of some education, his father having been a school teacher, and was a man of sterling integrity and energy. He held a very warm love for his friends and was quite as independent of those of whom he did not like. He was over 6 feet high, broad shouldered and straight as an Indian. He had great physical strength and courage, and was quite temperate withal. He had no controversies on his own account, but was swift to vindicate the wrongs of his friends. He was a prominent and highly esteemed charactere along the Kankakee, as he had been in the Vermilion river country.
The first wife of George M. Beckwith was a Miss Gilbert, daughter of Jesse Gilbert, who died Feb. 10, 1831. On July 30, 1835, he married Miss Phoebe Barden. She was a relative of the Bicknell’s, and lived in Solomon Gilbert’s family, with whom she emigrated from New York to Danville. Shortly after their marriage they moved to the north side of Kankakee river, a mile below the mouth of Rock creek, then in Will county, this state.
George M. Beckwith died at his farm in Will Co., May 9, 1845. The town of Georgetown, Vermilion county, was named after him, as was also the town of Danville named after his brother Dan. He had one daughter by his first wife who is deceased, and has two daughters and one son by his second marriage all living viz: Mrs. Hannah Ackerman, Mrs. Harriet Kelly of Kankakee and Guy Beckwith who still occupies a part of the old homestead. Their son was named after Guy Merrill, long judge, master in chancery and county surveyor of our county. He was also guardian of Hiram W. Beckwith, son of Dan W., aftere his father’s death and until his majority.
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