DAVID DUNBAR BECK, a veteran Union soldier, also a veteran school man, was one of the homesteaders of Scott County and one of the first county superintendents of schools there.
He was born in Wayne County, Indiana, near Centerville, February 7, 1847, and in 1850 his parents moved to Putnam County, Indiana, locating near Bainbridge. Mr. Beck grew up on a farm in Putnam County and attended the common schools.
He was seventeen years of age when in 1864 he enlisted in the Eighteenth Indiana Light Artillery. He was in the company commanded by his brother, Captain M. M. Beck, who is now publisher of the Holton Recorder in Kansas. This regiment was a part of the Army of the Tennessee, and D. D. Beck was under the command of Pap Thomas at the battle of Nashville. His first engagement was at Selma, Alabama. He went through the latter months of the war, and at the time of the final surrender was at Mason, Georgia, engaged on a raid through the northern part of that state. He was finally mustered out at Indianapolis July 2, 1865.
After the war he entered old Asbury, now Depauw, University at Greencastle, Indiana, and in 1866 began his career as a teacher, which he followed almost continuously for fifteen years. While living in Putnam County he served as township trustee, an office which involved the active business administration of the schools and the employing of teachers according to the township government in Indiana.
Mr. Beck first came to Kansas in 1869, in company with his brother Moses Milton Beck. They both located at Holton, where his brother changed from merchandising to newspaper work. David D. entered teaching, remaining a year at Holton, but in 1872 returned to Indiana and took up teaching there.
When Mr. Beck came to Kansas in 1886 he located at Scott City. He was a member of a small party that came to Western Kansas, one of his companions being his brother-in-law, Melville Selvey, who was soon afterward joined by John Selvey. For the first year Mr. Beck managed the R. B. Irvin store at Modoc. In 1888 he was elected county superintendent of schools, being the second to fill that office in the county. After one term he lost the office on account of the populists gaining control of the local government. He then re-entered merchandising, and for a year managed the business of C. W. Livingood and then continued clerking and in other lines until 1902, when he was appointed postmaster while Mr. Roosevelt was president and filled that office for eight years. Since leaving office he has enjoyed retirement. He also served as a member of the City Council of Scott City for two terms, and was a member of the local government during the period of hard times.
On coming out to Western Kansas Mr. Beck homesteaded in July, 1886. His quarter section was in section 31, four miles north of Modoc. As an improvement he built a frame house with one room and basement, broke up some of the sod land set out some trees, and kept his home there until he had proved up. While he was living on his claim his wife engaged in teaching. Her first school was in the little Methodist Church at Modoc, but she finished the term in the commodious new schoolhouse there. She also taught a country school in a sod house, and subsequently taught in various parts of the country, including schools at Grigsby and Scott City. In Scott City she was primary teacher for six years, and left that work to become assistant postmaster under her husband.
Mr. Beck has been affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic since its organization, and for several years was commander of Winfield Scott Post at Scott City. He attended the National Encampment at Denver, and has been a delegate to various reunions. He began voting after the war as a republican, and there has been only one deviation from strict republicanism. In 1912 he voted for Roosevelt, but in 1916 resumed his allegiance and cast his ballot for Mr. Hughes. He was a delegate to the state convention nominating A. W. Smith for governor, who was defeated by L. D. Lewelling.
The ancestry of Mr. Beck is traced back to three brothers, Englishmen, who immigrated to America during Colonial times. A member of this stock is Senator Beck, of Kentucky. Mr. Beck's father was William Beck, who was born in Ohio in 1809, and moved from there to Wayne County, Indiana. He spent his life as a farmer, was prominent in the Methodist Church, was a staunch defender of the Union and sent three of his sons into the Union army. The maiden name of his wife was Catherine Nethercutt, a daughter of Moses Nethercutt, of German ancestry. The Nethercutt family moved to Indiana from Ohio. William Beck died in 1874 and his wife in 1859. Their children were: Dr. Samuel Beck, who died at South Bend, Indiana, in 1909, having spent his career as a Methodist minister and at one time was presiding older; Mary J., who died in Indiana, the wife of Isham Silvey; Captain Moses M., of Holton, Kansas; George, who entered the Union army in the Forty-Third Indiana Infantry and died in the service at Helena, Arkansas; David D.: Sarah E., who married Melville Silvey and died in Scott City; John W., who died when a young man while a student in a medical college. William Beck married for his second wife Margaret Price. The children of this second marriage were: Addie Sherman, who married John Cross, of Brazil, Indiana; Ella, who lives at Greencastle, Indiana; and Grace, wife of Harry Maxwell, of Greencastle, one of the noted Evangelistic singers in this country, formerly associated with Dwight L. Moody.
David D. Beck was married April 21, 1875, to Miss Florence Hammond, of Greencastle, Indiana. Her parents were Evan D. Hammond, and Harriet B. Hammond, who were distantly related. Her father came to Indiana from Frederick, Maryland, and though of Southern birth and at one time a slave owner he freed his negroes and afterward became a radical Unionist and abolitionist. He came to Indiana in 1856, and spent the rest of his life as a farmer. He died in 1894, at the age of seventy-seven, and his widow survived him until 1902, being seventy-seven years old at the time of her death. Their children were: Eden, who went into the Union army and is now deceased; Anna, living at Greencastle, Indiana; Harriet, of Frederick, Maryland; Mrs. Beck, who was born January 11, 1852; Mrs. Mary H. Horn, of Greencastle, Indiana; E. D., of Norfolk, Nebraska; Willis E., of Mattoon, Illinois; Reverdy J., of Mattoon, Illinois; and Bessie L., of Knightstown, Indiana.
Mr. and Mrs. Beck are the parents of two children. Ralph Hammond, agent for the Santa Fe Railway at Wiley, Colorado, married Maggie Shaughnessy, their children being Earl Dunbar, Ralph H. and Thomas William Shaughnessy. The daughter, Nelly Silvey, is the wife of Ernest L. Anthony, a locomotive engineer living at Denver, Colorado. They have a daughter, Mildred Florence.
Mr. and Mrs. Beck have always been active members of the Methodist Church. Soon after they came to Scott County they helped build the church at Modoc. Mr. Beck has been a district steward of his church for fifteen years, was one of the early superintendents of the Sunday school, and has served as a trustee of the local church at Scott City.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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