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Bill Thayer

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The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Sixth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 17th, 1875.

 p32  John Beach
No. 699 — Class of 1832.
Died August 31, 1874, at Agency City, Iowa, aged 62.

The following notice of the late Major Beach was kindly furnished to the Secretary by Mr. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George Wilson, of the class of 1830.​a The sketch was communicated to the Burlington (Iowa) Gazette, by the Hon. A. C. Dodge, late U. S. Senator from Iowa.

The deceased was born at Gloucester, Essex county, Massachusetts, on theº 23d day of February, 1812. He was sent when of tender years to college at Portsmouth, N. H., and placed under the guardian­ship of his venerable uncle, Thomas W. Penshallow, Esq., who still lives in the 86th year of his age.

Here the subject of this notice made rapid progress in his studies, winning numerous prizes both in Greek and Latin, and receiving a thorough classical education.

At the age of sixteen he entered the Military Academy, at West Point, and graduated in 1832. Among his classmates may be enumerated Generals Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.E. D. Keyes, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Randolph B. Marcy, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ewell, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Crittenden, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Tilghman, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Humphrey Marshall, and others who became distinguished in our late war.

In July, 1832, he was appointed a Lieutenant in the regular army, and assigned successively to duty at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., Rock Island, Ills., and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, these being then the important military posts along our western frontier. For many years  p33 he served as Adjutant, and was a member of the military family of the late Zachary Taylor, afterwards President of the United States, whose confidence and friendship Major Beach enjoyed in a marked degree.

In 1838, he married the second daughter of General Joseph M. Street, who was greatly distinguished in the early history of the north-west for his integrity and ability as an Indian agent, and soon thereafter Major Beach resigned his commission in the army. He subsequently filled a place conferred upon him by Ex‑Senator George W. Jones, then Surveyor General for Wisconsin and Iowa.

In 1840, on the death of General Street, who had long filled the place, Major Beach was appointed by President Van Buren agent for the confederated Sacs and Foxes.​b These Indians then owned nearly all of Iowa, and resided in large numbers along the Des Moines river, particularly in Wapello county. Their "agency" was, during many years, on the grounds in which are deposited the mortal remains of General Street and Major Beach.

In 1842, Major Beach was an able auxiliary to Governor Chambers, in the garden of the treaty made in that year, by which the Indian title to all the lands claimed by them in Iowa was extinguished.

In 1843, he retired these Indians to "Raccoon River," now the capital of Iowa.

In 1846, he led the remnant of this once fierce and formidable tribe to their final exodus toward the setting sun, and settled them upon the lands they now occupy west of the Missouri river.

In 1848, he resigned the office, in the discharge of whose duties he had displayed great energy and ability, and returning to Iowa, engaged in mercantile and agricultural pursuits.

In 1863 his health, never vigorous, rapidly declined, and he was constrained to retire from all active business. Thereafter he devoted his time most industriously to literary occupations, not for profit, but as a source of enjoyment. He even translated the greater portion of Virgil for the edification of his children, of whom he left four sons and an only daughter.

Major Beach was a zealous and enlightened Mason, and at one time became Deputy Grand Master for this State. When Henry Clay died, he delivered, in the Lodge in Agency City, an eulogium upon the life, character, and public services of that great statesman, worthy of the graceful and polished pen of Wm. Wirt.

 p34  He died in the full and undoubted faith of his fathers, and the liturgy of the Episcopal Church, which he so loved in life, was chanted over his grave. May he rest in peace.


Thayer's Notes:

a The husband of his sister-in‑law: Major Beach and Capt. Wilson married sisters, daughters of Gen. Street.

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b He has left an entertaining account of his years at Agency: it is onsite.

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Page updated: 16 Jul 10