Transcribed by Teresa Kesterke from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


John T. Beckman, secretary and treasurer of the Moehn Brewing Company, of Burlington, was born June 7, 1854, in Franklin township, Des Moines county, and is a son of Theodore and Berdine (Niemann) Beckman. The father was born in Westphalia, Germany, in 1821, and came to the United States in 1848, crossing the Atlantic to New Orleans in a sailing vessel, which left the port of Bremen. After reaching the Crescent City he proceeded up the Mississippi River to Fort Madison, Iowa, where he secured employment at eight dollars per month. He thus worked for two and a half months, his day extending from eight o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night. He afterward came to Burlington, and spent a year and a half in the Postlewaite distillery, and during that period he earned enough to take him to California. Attracted by the discovery of gold on the Pacific Slope, he determined to make his way to the Far West, with the hope of rapidly realizing a fortune there. He bought a pair of oxen and a wagon, and proceeded across the country, going by way of the city of Council Bluffs up the Platte River and across the Rockies to Sacramento. He there engaged in mining for others until he was enabled to make a start for himself. The journey across the plains was made in company with Fred Diercks and James Murphy. Mr. Beckman remained on the Pacific Coast for about two years, and met with fair success in his undertakings there, bringing back with him enough money to enable him to purchase eighty acres of land, where he now lives. As his financial resources increased he added to this property, until his realty holdings now aggregate one thousand acres.

Following his return to Iowa Mr. Beckman was married in Burlington to Miss Berdine Niemann, who was born in Germany, and came to the United States about 1850, sailing from Bremen. She was fourteen weeks on the voyage, and after reaching the shores of the New World made her way direct to Burlington. She was accompanied by her father, John Niemann, three brothers, Clement, Bernard, and John, and her sister Elizabeth, who afterward married Fiedal Hartman, of Burlington. The brothers settled in Burlington, and died leaving families. Mr. and Mrs. Beckman had become acquainted prior to his sojourn in California, and they were married in 1853, settling on his farm, where they have since lived, he becoming one of the most prosperous and extensive agriculturists of this part of the State. Nine children were born unto them, John T., Sylvester, Mary, Frank, Matilda, Henry, Annie, Theodore W., and Frances.

John T. Beckman pursued his education in the common schools, and in his youth assisted in the operation of the home farm, becoming familiar with all the duties and labors that fall to the lot of the agriculturist. He remained with his father until nearly twenty-seven years of age, and was then married and began farming on his own account, being associated with agricultural interests until 1892. He then devoted his attention between farming and general merchandising, and he still conducts both business enterprises, with the assistance of those whom he employs for the purpose. In November, 1904, he removed to Burlington, although he had been associated with business enterprises of this city for some time previous. In February, 1902, he became secretary and treasurer of the Moehn Brewing Company, which position he still fills, and is a stockholder in the Citizens' State Bank, of Mediapolis, and in the Danville State Bank. His business enterprise, laudable ambition, and strong determination have led him out of the field of limited endeavor into broad activity, and he is today a representative business man of this city and county. His progress has been made continuously and along safe lines, and while advancing his individual interests he has also contributed to the growth and improvement of business conditions of the county.

On the 20th of April, 1880, Mr. Beckman was married to Miss Theresa Ritter, a daughter of John Ritter, of Fort Madison, and they had six children, of whom three died in infancy. Those living are Edward J., Mary, and Theresa. The wife and mother died in 1892, and on Feb. 12, 1895, Mr. Beckman was again married, his second union being with Julia Walz, at Burlington, a daughter of Dennis Walz. There is one child of this marriage, Theodore.

In his political affiliation Mr. Beckman is a Democrat, and he has held several township offices, including those of trustee and assessor. In matters of citizenship he is always public-spirited and progressive, and his co-operation has proved a valued factor in promoting many measures for the public good. He is a man of distinct and forceful individuality, who has left and is leaving his impress upon the business world.


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