In Beatrice, First Families Carry On
Early Day "Big Names" Are Still Prominent in Community
By Walter Rowley
This is the centennial year for Gage County's leading city. In June, Beatrice--one of Nebraska's oldest towns--will reach the grand old age of 100.
But Beatrice has more to its credit than just hitting the century mark. It has always been one of the state's strongest-financially-and progressive communities.
The most recent example of that was its replacement of practically all of its public school plant at one time, an achievement described in The World Herald Magazine on January 27.
It has another distinction, however.
Like most towns, Beatrice's colorful history is measured by its citizens, but this town is rich in its possession of old and prominent families. That's the subject of this article.
In Beatrice one finds a surprising number of members of "old families" who are still leaders in business, industry and civic affairs. At the turn of the century, some called Beatrice "the town with six millionaires," That was quite unusual--especially when many communities its size had none.
And the assets apparently haven't gone down the drain. Beatrice seems to be a place where the old saying of "three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves" just isn't true. Where wealth was earned it6 has largely remained.
Of the old and well known families still living in Beatrice, one can trace its history back to the founding of the town site in 1857 and four others at least to the community's early years. Among them are bankers, present and former industrialists and journalists.
Let's walk around downtown Beatrice. Step into an insurance company. There sits Jefferson B. Weston, 2d, whose grandfather helped found the town. Move into another office, an investment firm, and you'll find Jeff's two brothers, Herbert T. Weston, Jr., and Collins Weston.
Their mother was the daughter of a railroad building partner of the fabulous Kilpatrick Brothers of Beatrice.
Stroll on down another street. In gold letters on a building's entrance you'll see the magic words, "Kilpatrick Brothers." They're magic because the Kilpatricks' pioneer engineering feats were so sensational as almost to be legend. But inside with W. H. Kilpatrick, Jr., and a son, George. Their business was dissolved two years ago, but they still maintain an
Now you want to duck into a bank. The smiling, hospitable man at the big desk in the corner is now the vice-president. He's William W. Cook, whose grandfather helped establish the bank.
And so it goes--down to Beatrice's south end to the huge Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company, where Clyde B. Dempster carries on the family name, the back downtown where you step into the city's surviving newspaper, the Beatrice Daily Sun. There, in his Upper Room, sits publisher Earl M. Marvin at this ty0pewriter. In another office are his sons, Robert and George, the third generation
on the paper.
One of the olde4st6 families still in Beatrice today is composed of the descendants of Jefferson B. Weston, a college educated New Englander lured by the spreading fever of westward adventure in 1856. At St. Louis, he boarded the steamboat Hannible to the upper Missouri.
Opposite Doniphan, Kansas, the boat stuck fast on a sandbar, Mr. Weston and a group of men formed the Nebraska Association to locate a town site. In 1857 they settled on Indian Creek, now the north side of Beatrice.
Mr. Weston engaged in freighting to Denver, traded with Indians, went to Chicago to study law, was admitted to the Territorial Bar and in 1860 at Nebraska City married Helen Towle, daughter of another member of the association, Albert C. (Pap) Towle. The Towles, from Hennepin, Illinois, were originally from Kentucky.
Back in Beatrice, Jefferson Weston practiced law, then in 1872 he entered politics, was elected State Auditor of Public Accounts and moved his family to Lincoln.
Later, he associated with a brother-in-law, Nathan S. Harwood, and Daniel W. Cook to reorganize the Gage County Bank into the Beatrice National which was chartered in 1883. Mr. Weston became the bank's first president and in 1886 returned to Beatrice.
Mr. and Mrs. Weston had four children--Ralph A., Elizabeth L., Herbert T., and Katharine. Ralph later went to Millet, Alberta, Canada; Katharine became Mrs. Thomas E. Wing of Scarsdale, New York. Elizabeth and Herbert remained in Beatrice.
Now comes a connection with the Kilpatricks. It began with the marriage of Herbert T. Weston to Margaret Collins, daughter of Chester W. Collins, of Brooklyn, New York, who became a co-partner of Kilpatrick Brothers, early day railroad contractors. Their three sons, Herbert, Jr., Jefferson, 2d, and Collins Weston are in business in Beatrice today. Their mother died last year.
Herbert, Jr., married the daughter of the former Katharine R. Kilpatrick and C. L. Sherwood, who was in charge of equipment on the Union Pacific's Marysville, Missouri, Beatrice Line. Their children and those of Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson B. Weston, 2d, and Collins Weston represent the fourth generation of the family in Beatrice.
Enter, Kilpatricks, 1859
Today the fabulous engineering feats of the Kilpatrick brothers are but a memory, although, part of the family--some of the descendants--still live in Beatrice. The old companies no longer are in existence.
George Kilpatrick, son of William H. Kilpatrick, Jr., married the former Katherine Henderson at Beatrice in 1946. They have four children. Another son, William, 3d, and his wife live in Denver. They also have four children.
This family, of Scotch ancestry, had its humble beginning in this country prior to 1788, but it was a succeeding generation which helped blast mountains and spin webs of steel over rivers and gorges of America's new Western empire.
The family's prominence began with Samuel Kilpatrick, born at McConnellsville, Ohio in 1818. From there the family moved to Indiana and Illinois where, in 1844, Samuel married Rachael Thompson.
The following year the couple moved to Missouri where six of their 10 children were born. In 1857 they went to Iowa and in June, 1859, they crossed the Missouri River at Plattsmouth with ox teams. In quick succession came moves to Nebraska City, the village of Tecumseh and finally to the tiny settlement of Beatrice.
There they camped on the Blue River for a week. A few months later Samuel established pre-emp0tionrights on a quarter section of land which was to be his and his wife's lifetime home. Eventually, it passed to their sons.
Four of their 10 children lived to normal length lives. Four others died in childhood and two in middle age.
One of the latter, John David Kilpatrick, was the first to pull free of the family homestead. He took to freighting and became well known among traders, emigrants, gold seekers and stage drivers.
Then in 1868 came to the beginnings of fortune. The Union Pacific Railroad was laying track westward from Omaha. John David Kilpatrick whipped together a grading outfit. By 1869 he had a string of teams working on the roadbed. He moved his outfits into Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. In each of those states he engaged in railroad construction work.
At Galveston, Texas, he graded streets, erected docks and hotels
an built a bridge across the bay.
Collins Partnership Begins
Meanwhile, other Kilpatrick brothers, Robert Jackson Kilpatrick and William Hamilton Kilpatrick were sub-contracting on Katy extensions in Texas. In 1880 they joined John David and a fourth brother, Samuel Davenport, in McCook.
From that moment they w9rked as one. Back in Gage County they formed the co-partnership of Kilpatrick Brothers and congtracted with the Union Pacific for more railroad grade-building, near and far, including part of the Oregon Short Line. In 1886 they associated with New Yorker Chester W. Collins in a new company known as Kilpatrick Brothers & Collins.
Mr. Collin's mother was Eliza Dillon, sister of Sidney Dillon who later became president of the Union Pacific.
John David Kilpatrick was 43 when he died at his home in Beatrice in 1891, and Robert became the power house of the team. A new corporation called Kilpatrick Brothers & Collins Contracting Company, together with Kilpatrick Brothers and Kilpatrick Brothers and Collins, continued in railroad construction work 16 years.
Another brother, Joseph M. Kilpatrick, born in 1867, apparently never was an active part of the "famous four." although he maintained an impressive mansion on the old family homestead.
Today, William H. Kilpatrick, Jr., and his son, George, administer personal family holdings, largely infarming and stock raising in six western states.
Also living in Beatrice is Miss Leah Kilpatrick, daughter of Henry, another of the Kilpatrick brothers. W. H. Kilpatrick, Jr., and J. S. Elliott, a foster son of Robert J. Kilpatrick, are directors of the Beatrice National Bank.
Cooks Still Banking
Daniel Wolford Cook, one of the bank's founders, was one of 10 children of John P. Cook and the former Martha Wolford. He was born at Hillsdale,Michigan, in 1860, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1879, then went into the lumber business. In 1883, he came to Nebraska, building the family home in Beatrice a year later.
Mr. and Mrs. Cook had four children--Daniel, 2d, wh9o became cashier of the bank his father helped found and later president of the institution; Mary E., who married Omaha attorney, William C. Ramsey; John Bradford, who later entered the lumber, meat packing, telephone, and ranching businesses in Scottsbluff; and William W., who was drowned in the Blue River in 1905.
In addition to banking, Mr. Cook devoted a keen interest to farming and stock breeding on his farm near Ellis. In 1891 he invested in the Bankers Life Insurance Company of Lincoln. Among his associates was his brother, Franklin.
Danile W. Cook twice was a delegate to Democratic National Conventions, but he split with the Democrats over their Free Silver platform in 1896, withdrew from the party and became an active Republican. Later he served on the Beatrice Board of Public Parks and was active in YMCA work.
He was among those who built, financed and donated Beatrice's Athletic Park to the school district. He was a great booster of high school football, and often would find boys in the country and get them jobs in town so they could go to school and play football.
Daniel W. Cook, 2d, also became president of the Beatrice National Bank. He had two children--William W. Cook of Beatrice and George B. Cook of Lincoln. The latter is executive vice-president of the Bankers Life Insurance Company of Nebraska. William--or Bill Cook, as he is more familiarly known--is executive vice president of the Beatrice National Bank and former president
of the School Board. He represents the third generation of his
family at the bank.
Mr. Cook was named after his father's brother who was drowned.
The Beatrice family of Clyde B. Dempster goes back to his father, Charles B. Dempster, who at 25 came to Beatrice in 1878 and invested his entire capital of $337 (three hundred dollars of it borrowed) in a little farm supply business which today is the great Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company.
The business was set up in a 16 by 40 foot store building. New settlers pouring into the state needed water for their farms, and Charles ha the windmills and could install them. Charles was joined by a brother, A. R. Dempster, in 1884, and the following year they moved into larger quarters and began manufacturing windmills themselves.
The success of this Nebraska industry is well known. New marvels in farm equipment were being perfected and manufactured, so by 1897 a larger and more modern factory was needed. It was built, and the second generation of Dempsters came into the firm--sons Harry (1903), Dean (1905), and Clyde (1917). Branches were opened in Omaha, Kansas City, Sioux Falls, Denver, Oklahoma
City, Amarillo and San Antonio, Texas. Dean died in the flu epidemic
Charles Dempster died in 1933 and son Harry stepped into the presidency. His tenure, until 1946, was marked by depression and war but he held the company together and guided it to greater achievements. During World War II, he converted much of his plant to the production of 90 millimeter shells. But he continued manufacture of needed farm equipment--always reminding
the militry of the Napoleonic principle then "an army travels on its
Failing health in 1946 forced him to pass on his duties to his younger brother, Col. Clyde B. Dempster, who had just returned from his second Army service in two world wars. A short time later Harry died.
Clyde Dempster found a pent up demand for farm machinery and set out to get his company back into full peace time production.
in the tradition of his father and brothers, Clyde Dempster has been active in civic and state affairs. Mrs. Dempster also is prominent in community activities. Of their two children, a son, Richard C., is in the Dempster sales department at Beatrice.
Among the oldest "straight line" newspaper families in Nebraska are the Beatrice Marvins.
Robert S. Marvin and George P. Marvin, managing editor and business manager respectively at the Beatrice Daily Sun, represent the third generation of news papering Marvins in the community. They are the sons of Earl M. Marvin, publisher of the Sun and often called the Sage of Nebraska.
E. M., as he signs himself in his column suitably named the Upper Room, has a habit of underestimating his leadership qualities. Editor J. HydeSweet in the Nebraska City News Press once said E.M. would make a good Governor.
The Sage's answer was typical of his witticisms: "I'd rather be right, or even a little wrong, then be Governor."
The Sun had its ups and downs for 55 years. The last era of competition ended in 1952 when the paper acquired the Daily Times, owned by the Weston family. It was the last rival daily in Beatrice.
Earl Marvin's grandfather, Jonothan J. Marvin, came to Nebraska from Vermont one hundred years ago. In 1857 he was editor of the Nebraska Advertiser at Brownville, then a thriving river town. During the Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Army. On his return, he settled in Falls City.
Earl's father, George P. Marvin, was a printer's devil at Brownville at age 12, and later he went into freighting across the plains. With Henry Clay Davis he started a newspaper in Falls City. That lasted a few years. Then he settled in Beatrice.
George brought out the first issue of the Gage County Democrat, a weekly paper, in 1879, then in the late 1880's he added a daily. He sold it in 1892, however, to take an appointment as Postmaster, but he retained the weekly. Ten years later he went back to daily news papering with the establishment of the Sun. In 1908 he died at age 57.
Earl M. Marvin then was 24 and only two years out of the University of Nebraska. Today he has no thought of locking the door to the Upper Room. Sons Bob and George,today both family men, now operate the newspaper, but E. M., at 73, remains publisher in fact as well as in name.
Thus ends the saga of Beatrice's best know "Big Five"--families with long histories, in a town with a long history.
Omaha World Herald Magazine May 5, 1957
Omaha World Herald (Omaha, NE) Page: 102