Fred Beckmann, Sr.

Farming the Clark place, 1868-1873

In our previous post we saw that sometime around 1861/62, Mary Clark and her children decided to move to Milwaukee. By the time the Milwaukee City Directory for 1862 was published, Mary—and, we presume, her children—were living together with Mary’s father Peter Turck, at 474 Jefferson in the city.

We also know that Mary and her daughters did not sell the Mequon farm—to Catherine Doyle—until April, 1872. So, for over a decade, someone besides the Clark family was living and working on the Clark property. Most likely, Mary made some kind of tenant-farmer arrangement where someone grew crops on the Clark land and paid rent to Mary from the proceeds. This could have been a very useful source of income for Widow Clark and her seven children during the 1860s. Unfortunately, we don’t have much documentation of who the tenants may have been and what sort of arrangement Mary may have made with them.

The Doyle Family

In the same post, I also erred in assuming that the John and Catherine Doyle family probably farmed the Clark land throughout the 1860s. Clark House museum director Nina Look recently called my attention to information about the Doyles and their neighbors in various maps and census schedules created around 1870 that shows that the Doyles were living and farming elsewhere in Mequon through most of the 1860-1870 decade. In future posts I will look at those maps and census schedules and try and make more sense of where the Doyles lived and what land they may have farmed prior to purchasing the Clark farm in April, 1872.

Nina also reminded me that I forgot one important person that we know did farm the Clark farm: Fred Beckmann

Friedrich “Fred” Beckmann, Sr.

Who was Fred Beckmann? Much of what we know comes from this obituary1, published in Cedarburg (just north of the Clark farm and Mequon) on March 13, 1912:

Died–At his home in this city at an early hour this morning, Fred Beckmann, Sr., after an illness of about nine months, aged 66 years. Deceased was born in Mecklenburg Strelitz, Germany on July 30th, 1845, and came to America with his step­-parents, brother and sister on Oct. 2, 1860, settling at Hamilton in this town. He found employment in the grist mill, owned then by the late Andrew Bodendoerfer, where he worked as teamster for nearly eight years. In 1868 he was united in wedlock to Lena Hackfeldt2, and shortly after their marriage removed on3 the Clark farm, two miles south of this city, now owned by the Doyle brothers. They remained on the farm until 1873 when they purchased and took possession of the Wisconsin House in this city. He continued the business successfully until 1909, when he was obliged to retire on account of failing health, and sold the same [to] Jos. Herz, the present owner. 

D[ecea]sed was highly esteemed by all who knew him, because he was a man who was honest in all his dealings with all his fellow men, generous to a fault and never hesitated to put a stamp of  disapproval on anything that was wrong. Although never seeking public office, he was among the first on the board of aldermen selected when this city was incorporated. He was an active member of the Cedarburg Fire department for the past thirty years, of the Herman[n] Sons and I. O. O. F. He is survived by his widow, two sons Otto of this city and Fred of Mattoon, Ill., and two daughters, Mrs. Max Fischer and Mrs. Jules Breuer of this city. The funeral will take place from his residence on Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock. 

For those interested in the Jonathan Clark House, the most important part of this obituary is that it documents who lived and farmed at the Clark house from about 1868 to 1872/73.

There is also quite a bit of interesting historical detail packed into this one obituary. Rather than add lots of explanatory paragraphs or footnotes, I’ve embedded in the obituary links to various online sites and articles that help unravel some references that may be obscure to modern readers. Please click the links and enjoy.

This obituary is only an introduction to the life story of Frederich “Fred” Beckmann, Sr., his wife Lena Hackfeldt, and their lives in Ozaukee county. We will return to Fred and Lena as we learn more about the Clark farm’s tenants circa 1861/62 to 1872.


  1. There is an interesting story of how Nina Look came to find this obituary. A few years ago, folks from the Cedarburg Cultural Center came to the Ozaukee County Historical Society archives to see if they had old photos of the front of their building.   They planned to remodel the front and wanted to get it closer to the original design.

    Nina and company discovered that the building had been the Beckmann Hotel and Tavern in the late 1800s and was owned by Fred Beckmann.  They went looking for his obit and found a copy, which they copied and entered at Beckmann’s memorial. Nina tells me she has more information on this family in a Beckmann file.

  2. Lena Hackfeldt Beckmann’s FindAGrave memorial is here. Her obituary (source unnamed, presumably the Cedarburg newspaper circa April 2, 1918) is quoted on the site:

    Bronchial Pneumonia Fatal to Well Known Resident of This City
    Mrs. Fred Beckmann died at her home on Tuesday, April 2nd, at 12:30 a.m. after an illness of bronchial pneumonia, aged 71 years. Deceased was born in this city on May 2, 1847.
    She was married to Fred Beckmann at Milwaukee on October 2, 1868. They resided in Cedarburg where Mr. Beckmann for years conducted the Wisconsin House. He died several years ago.
    Mrs. Beckmann was a pleasant, kind and venerable lady and her death was a sad blow to all her relatives and friends.
    The children who survive are Otto, Mrs. M. Fischer and Mrs. Jul. Breuer of this city, and Fred of Chicago. The funeral will take place on Friday afternoon at 2:00 o’clock from the residence.

    3. Historical vocabulary note: the verb here, “removed,” meaning to relocate one’s place of residence or work, is often encountered in 19th-century writing. These days, most Americans would say “moved.” Both verbs are usually combined with “to,” as in “he removed to Mequon.” The words used here “removed on the Clark farm” are unusual; I’ve not seen this before.

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