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Henry G. Beard. In connection with the history of the State of Oklahoma Mr. Beard is with all consistency to be designated not only as a pioneer but also as a founder and builder. He came to Oklahoma Territory in the year that it was thrown open to settlement and during the intervening years he has been a prominent and influential factor in the developing and upbuilding of cities and towns, in the furthering of civic and industrial advancement, in the building of railroads in the promotion of educational interests and in all those activities that make for normal and legitimate progress. Since 1910 he has been one of the honored and influential citizens of Sapulpa, the fine metropolis and judicial center of Creek County, and it is a matter of specific consistency as well as of historic interest to accord to him a tribute in this publication.
Mr. Beard was born at Sweet Springs, Saline County. Missouri, on the 6th of March, 1866, and is a son of Alfred B. and Catherine C. (Gee) Beard, both of whom were born and reared in Illinois, where their marriage was solemnized and whence they removed to Missouri soon after the close of the Civil war, in which the father had served three years as a gallant soldier of the Union; he was a member of Company I, Fortieth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, with which he took part in many engagements and lived up to the full tension of the great internecine conflict through which the integrity of the nation was perpetuated. After residing about two years in Missouri the family removed to Southeastern Kansas and settled on a pioneer farm near Fredonia, Wilson County. There Alfred B. Beard obtained a tract of Government land and set to himself the task of reclaiming the same to cultivation. He endured his full quota of the hardships and vicissitudes incidental to pioneer life in a section that suffered greatly from droughts and the scourge of grasshoppers, and in the course of years prosperity attended his efforts. He continued his residence in Wilson County until 1890, when he removed from the Sunflower State to Oklahoma Territory. After remaining for a time in Oklahoma City he established his residence near Woodville, Marshall County, where he continued his activities as an agriculturist and stock-raiser until 1910, when he sold his property in that county and secured a tract of land in Creek County. Here he has since lived retired, however, in the City of Sapulpa. He is a man of sterling character, a loyal and broad-minded citizen and a staunch advocate of the principles of the republican party. He and his wife are citizens who have secure place in popular esteem and they are well entitled to the gracious peace and prosperity that attends them in the gentle twilight of their lives. Of their eight children the subject of this review is the eldest; John W. resides at Ada, Pontotoc County; Lola G. is the wife of Samuel R. Wilson and they reside in the State of California; Lyman F. resides at Siloam Springs, Arkansas; Laura B. is the wife of Benjamin A. Spear, of Billings, Montana; Claude R. is deceased; Oliver L. is cashier of the Merchants’ National Bank of Tishomingo, Oklahoma.; and Leroy died in infancy.
Henry G. Beard, whose name initiates this article, was a child at the time of the family removal to Wilson County, Kansas, where he was reared under the sturdy discipline of the pioneer farm and afforded the advantages of the public schools of Fredonia, the county seat. He continued to be associated with the work and management of his father’s farm until he had attained to his legal majority, and in 1889 he became one of those who took part in the opening of Oklahoma Territory to settlement. He entered claim to a homestead five miles southeast of Oklahoma City, and after remaining on the place one year and making definite improvements, he sold the homestead and engaged in the produce business in Oklahoma City. About two years later, in 1891, he became the promoter and founder of the now thriving City of Shawnee, Pottawatomie County, He platted the townsite, gave to the village its name, in honor of the Shawnee tribe of Indians, and had the distinction of being chosen the first mayor of the place. One of the principal streets of the city was named in his honor, and thus there will be an enduring memorial to the founder of the now populous and important municipality. He was a member of the first board of commissioners of Pottawatomie County, and it was mainly due to his influence that the county received its name. Mr. Beard was a member of the directorate of the Bank of Shawnee, which was later reorganized as the First National Bank, and this was the first banking institution in the ambitious young town. His initiative and constructive ability has seemed to be without limit, and was shown distinctively in his association with the founding and upbuilding of Shawnee, where he continued to be engaged in the hardware business for a period of about ten years, besides having been actively identified with other lines of enterprise and with all things tending to advance the civic and material development of the city. He was largely instrumental in giving railroad facilities to Shawnee and in securing to the city the shops of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad.
In connection with governmental affairs in Oklahoma Mr. Beard served as chief enrolling clerk of the first Territorial Legislature, and later he served with characteristic efficiency as a member of the board of regents of the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical College, at Stillwater, during the administration of Governor Ferguson. His political allegiance is given unreservedly to the republican party and he has been influential in its councils in Oklahoma.
In 1910 Mr. Beard removed from Shawnee to Sapulpa, the judicial center of Creek County, where he engaged in the real-estate and abstract business, with which lines of enterprise he is still actively and prominently identified. In 1910 he erected, on South Main Street, the Beard Building, and he has been otherwise prominent in the physical development and upbuilding of the city. He was one of the promoters of the St. Louis, Oklahoma & Southern Railroad, and in this important enterprise he was associated with George Brown and Pleasant P. Porter, of the Creek Indian Nation; John C. Williamson, of St. Louis, Missouri; and William H. P. Trudgen, of Oklahoma City. A charter for the road was obtained from the United States Congress, but this charter expired before construction work on the new line had been initiated. Under these conditions Mr. Beard went to the national capital and obtained a renewal of the charter, after which he and his associates interested the Mississippi Valley Trust Company, of St. Louis, in the furtherance of the project, with the result that construction work was instituted and the road pushed forward from Sapulpa to Denison, Texas, the line being now a part of the Frisco Railroad system. Mr. Beard was a director of the company until the line was completed between Sapulpa and Denison, Texas. The earnest and untiring efforts that Mr. Beard put forth in connection with railroad promotion and construction have proved of vast and enduring value to Oklahoma, and his success in bringing the Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Gulf, now a part of the Rock Island system, through Shawnee virtually made that city eventually assume its present position of importance, as one of the leading municipalities and commercial centers of the state. Mr. Beard devoted five years of his time and energy to bringing about these railroad improvements, and the state will owe to him perpetual honor and gratitude for his effective services in this and other important capacities that have marked him as a man of great initiative and unbounded civic loyalty.
At the present time Mr. Beard is prominently interested in three important oil developing and producing companies in Oklahoma fields, besides which he is a stockholder in a company engaged in the drilling of oil wells and is president of the National Abstract Company, at Sapulpa. He is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Ancient Order of United Workmen and Knights of Pythias.
On the 9th of November, 1891, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Beard to Miss Etta B. Ray, a daughter of Philip H. Ray, at that time a resident of Oklahoma City. No children have been born of this union. Mr. and Mrs. Beard donated to the City of Shawnee the beautiful park now known as Woodland Park, and the valuation of the property is now placed at about $100,000, the name having been given to the park by Mr. Beard. He erected the first house in Shawnee, and this was a true pioneer structure of hewed logs. Mr. Beard promoted and instituted the development of many towns along the Red River division of the Frisco Railroad, including the now flourishing little City of Henryetta, Okmulgee County, the name of the town being a combination of the Christian or personal names of himself and his wife. To secure the land on which the Town of Ada, Pontotoc County, is situated, Mr. Beard agreed to name the new town in honor of a daughter of one of the old and honored citizens of that locality. In the same county he purchased and platted the Town of Roff, which he named in honor of Joseph Roff, a sterling pioneer citizen. He assisted also in the establishing of other towns along the railroad line mentioned, and in Shawnee he erected a number of business blocks and dwelling houses of tho better grade.
Mrs. Beard is an artist of much talent and has received a number of first prizes for her work displayed at various art exhibits. She has her beautiful home adorned with many fine oil paintings that attest her skill, and one of these is a depicture of the first house built at Shawnee, by her husband, as previously noted. She has been a gracious and popular factor in the social life of the communities in which she has lived, and has been zealous in the promotion of those things that represent the higher and finer civic ideals.