There is an excellent book entitled “Round Oak- A Good Thing From Doe-Wah-Jack” by Leland M. Haines published in 1994. The book contains photographs of Philo Beckwith, the family’s history, Company History, pictures of many stove models, examples of Company advertisements, etc. To find a copy of this book, I would suggest searching the Internet using the book’s ISBN: 0061691042. I below is a small section of the book that I have copied.
Glen C. Beckwith
Philo D. Beckwith was born on March 6, 1825, in Eagle, located in Wyoming County, New York. His ancestors were from New England and dated back to the Puritans that landed at Plymouth Rock. His father was Stephen Beckwith, a cooper by trade, and his mother was Narcissa, the daughter of Daniel Beach. Philo was the grandson of Watrus Beckwith (B. Sept. 18, 1754, Lyme, Conn.). His father died at the age of forty leaving his widowed wife to raise his son and a daughter, Abigail, (B. Dec. 28, 1826, married James W. Thompson, 1844). Narcissa supported her family by doing sewing by hand since the sewing machine was not yet invented. She died at the age of fifty. At the age of fourteen, P. D. went to live with and work for an uncle who owned a woolen mill in Eagle. Philo learned the woolen mill trade while with this uncle. After staying there about two years, he went to live with another uncle near Rochester, New York. While there he went to school several months. This was the only formal schooling he received.
In Eagle, New York, on October 1, 1843, Beckwith, eighteen, married Catherine M. Scoff, a young sixteen year old girl. She was born on September 22, 1827, at Pike, New York, in Wyoming County. Her father was James Scott and her mother was Jane Shears. The Scoffs moved to Baffle Creek, Michigan, in 1843. This move is what drew the young Beckwith couple out “west” (Portraits and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Co., Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, 1893, page 143).
In the autumn of 1844, Mr. and Mrs. Beckwith moved to Detroit and then to Ypsilanti, Michigan. It was said they came “with stout hearts but slender purses; in fact, Mr. Beckwith was obliged to dispose of a small quantity of cloth in order to liquidate his indebtedness at the hotel and pay his fare to Ypsilanti” (Matthew, Alfred, History of Cass County, Michigan, Waterman, Watkins & Co, Chicago, 1882, page 200). They spent the winter of ‘44 and ‘45 in Ypsilanti. In the spring of ‘46, they moved to Baffle Creek, Michigan, where he worked four years in a woolen mill and machine shop. Earning a dollar a day, he managed to buy a home there which he later sold for $600. This money became the nucleus around which he later built his businesses. In 1851, they moved to Michigan City, Indiana, where he worked in the Michigan Central Railroad shops for a year. From there they moved to Niles, Michigan for a few months (Matthew, op. cit., page 200; July 2, 1885 Republican).
In 1852 or 1853, Beckwith moved to Dowagiac, Michigan and bought out a small machine shop and foundry from a Mr. Davis. Mitchel Robinson gave a deed for lots 8 and 9 in Beeson division on August 7, 1855, to P. D. Beckwith and H. S. Goodale. This shop was located on the southeast corner of Front and Park Place Streets. Beckwith enlarged the building to a 25 x 60 foot structure. The shop’s power was supplied by horse power. Here he did general shop work and manufactured plows. The first year in business he had only one helper. This was a small beginning and as a stranger in this new town without much capital, influence, or financial standing, he had to struggle hard to succeed.
As noted above, Beckwith bought this property jointly with H. S. Goodale. Mr. Goodale sold his interest to Beckwith and John Swick for $1000.00 on November 19, 1855. On January 9, 1856, Beckwith purchased Mr. Swick’s interest for $1000.00.
Later, the newspaper reported that “He [Beckwith] came here eighteen years ago with $900, took a bad partner and lost all he had in one year, but with perseverance has grown up quite a business” (Nat. Dem., Feb. 5, 1874).
One of Beckwith’s first business activities known in Dowagiac was related to the town’s second Fourth of July celebration. Abner M. Moon describes it:
Dowagiac’s next celebration was in 1854. The town had grown much since 1850, and it was proposed to make this a better one than the first. P. D. Beckwith, whose genius and indomitable perseverance has done so much for Dowagiac, had just moved here and located on the lots next west of where the Elkerton Hotel now stands. He had a small foundry and repair shop, and to him went Abram Townsend with a request that a cannon be made for the occasion, about $50.00 having been subscribed for one. As may be presumed, Mr. Beckwith’s facilities for making cannons were limited, but that did not deter him, and he cast the famous gun that for so many years heralded the advent of the anniversary of our nation’s independence, and was so often used to announce the victory of the dominant party in an election contest. It weighed about 700 pounds, was graceful in proportions, and its lungpower was enormous. Bright and early that morning it was taken to the south park and discharged, and the shock broke windows in the building opposite. Then it was taken to a knoll in the north park where the firing was kept up until it became heated and a premature discharge took away Samuel Benson’s left hand. This did not deter the enthusiastic celebrators, however, and the first day’s experience with the gun was a busy one indeed. This gun is still in existence, and has a record of being always ready to do its share towards adding to the enthusiasm of our people, and never, except on this first day, caused an accident (W. A. Norton’s Directory of Dowagiac, Cassopolis... A. B. Morse Co., St. Joseph. Mich., 1899, Page 141).
The next record of a business activity involving Beckwith was an ad in the local Dowagiac newspaper in 1855. This ad stated:
IN FULL BLAST
The subscriber would respectfully inform the citizens
of Cass County and adjoining counties, that he is now
fully prepared to do all kinds of work pertaining to a
furnace and machine shop business. We are now making
Castings of all Descriptions!
From the largest mill castings down to a fancy looking
glass frame. Among our castings are four feet box
stoves, sleigh shoes, blacksmith’s tuier irons, wagon
boxes, wagon seat rails, bed hooks and irons, road-
scrapers, gage wheels, bolster irons, wrenches, & c. We
also are prepared to do all kinds of machine repairing.
We are manufacturing and keep constantly on hand a large
assortment of PLOWS, consisting in part of the Prairie,
Baker, Summit county, Diamond, Prairie, & Mishawaka
Plows,. Also First and Second Breakers, and in short
anything made of wood and iron can be had at the above
establishment, on short notice and ready pay.
P. D. BECKWITH.
Dowagiac, Dec. 5, 1855”
In 1856, the Methodist Society, as then called, started a church in Dowagiac. In his history, Alfred Matthew listed P. D. Beckwith as being one of their trustees (Matthew, op. cit, page 188). Beckwith was among the church members who purchased land at the junction of Commercial Street and New York Street on December 22, 1858. A Methodist church was built on the site for $3000.00, being completed in late 1859.
The village of Dowagiac was incorporated in 1858. Beckwith ran for village Marshall this year, but lost to John Lefts by 10 votes (92 to 102). This was his first try at office, but it was not his last.
In 1858, a fire fighting company was organized in Dowagiac. On July 4, 1860, a state tournament between fire companies was held in Baffle Creek, Michigan, where various pump barricades put their talent against each other to see who could squirt water the farthest. The Hamilton Fire Company No. I of Dowagiac put their hand-operated 10 inch Corning & Co. engine (built in Seneca Falls, N. Y.) against the other teams. The Hamilton boys threw water 281 feet 7 inches (per a Sept., 1860, newspaper article), the farthest of all the competing teams. The Detroit team, who was 20 feet short of the unknown Dowagiac team, was named the winner for some unknown reason. The Hamilton team “brought home a game rooster and a mammoth broom to show for their skills.” However, on September 3, the Rough and Ready Hose Company of Baffle Creek came to Dowagiac and presented them with a 4 feet 4 inch long by 3 feet 8 inch wide red and blue silk banner. On the banner were the ords, “Hamilton good for 281 ft., 7 inches.” Later “Messrs. Corning sent to Mr. Hannan a silver trumpet, inscribed to the foreman of the company” (Dowagiac Herald, unknown date. The paper was published from 1909 to 1912. The original newspaper story is in the Dowagiac Fire Department). This event made the Hamilton bunch famous and Dowagiac the talk of the state in the 1860’s.
What does this have to do with Beckwith and Round Oak? A lot. P. D., his grandson Archie Gardner, and his great grandson Jack Gardner became involved before the story was closed. Years later the newspaper told about how “The whereabouts of this trumpet has long been a mystery, in justice to Mr. Hannan. The [Dowagiac] Herald will for the first time give it publicity.” When the Hamilton Hose Co. was formed years later, “a committee was appointed to demand the trumpet of Mr. Hannan. He refused to give it up, and that evening took it to the residence of P. D. Beckwith. Later he decided to let the new company have it, but was unsuccessful in getting it.” Apparently Mr. Beckwith would not give it up for some unknown reason. This fact was kept a secret until some 20 years later, when “Mr. Hannan request(ed) The Herald to make this statement” about what happened to the trumpet.
Later the trumpet came into the possession of Archie Gardner, and was eventually transferred to his son Jack. Jack gave it to the Dowagiac Public Library, who later gave it to the Dowagiac Fire Department. It is on display today at the Dowagiac Fire Department. By the way, the Corning hand pumper used at the tournament served the Dowagiac community for some 30 years before it was sold (Dowagiac Herald, unknown date).
Source: “Round Oak- A Good Thing From Doe-Wah-Jack” by Leland M. Haines. Published by Round Oak Company, Northville, MI ©1994. ISBN: 0061691042 pg. 7-12.
A. K. BECKWITH
P.D. Beckwith and his wife, Catherine, had four children, two boys and two girls. The two boys died young. Mr. Beckwith and his wife then “adopted” two boys, and one of these also died young. The only living boy, Arthur K., grew up, and appeared to be following in his father’s foot steps, but as previously told, instead left his father’s home and the halls of the Round Oak stove works. In 1884 he and J. W. Norton formed a partnership to manufacture and sell “Norton’s Sure Cure” (Jan. 3, 1884).
A.K. had more on his mind than the before mentioned “sure cure.” In February, Arthur and Bessie Rich were married. The newspaper reported on the wedding and gifts from P. D. Beckwith and Fred Lee’s family:
At the residence of the bride’s mother on High Street, Wednesday evening at eight o’clock, about forty of the immediate relatives and intimate friends of the high contracting parties assembled to witness the marriage of Arthur K. Beckwith and Bessie D. Rich. At the appointed hour Mrs. H. Beckwith opened the evening by playing a wedding march, after the couple had taken their places with their relatives acting as grooms and bridesmaids. Rev. P. W. Pray in a very pleasant manner pledged their vows as one.... They take up their residence in the house on High Street, formerly occupied by Mrs. Rich. The Republican extends to the young couple its congratulations. The following is the list of presents: couch, Mr. and Mrs. P. D. Beckwith; . . . brass fire iron stand, Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Lee; Round Oak stove, P. D. Beckwith;... .dessert and table spoons, Mrs. P. D. Beckwith... (Feb. 28, 1884).
Apparently A. K. no longer wished to or had the chance to work at Round Oak. A year after there marriage he formed a co-operative meat-market with about 40 Round Oak “boys.” The local reporter stated, “The boys expect in this way to lessen their expenses for meat. The market will be for the patronage of everyone” (Feb. 2, 1885).
A year later the young couple decided to leave Dowagiac. The paper noted their farewell party:
This evening Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Beckwith gave a farewell party to their friends at the Round Oak Hall. They expect to leave Monday for Kansas City, Mo. where they will make their future residence. Mr. & Mrs. Beckwith have made many warm friends in Dowagiac who though regretting their departure will wish them all success at their new home (April 1, 1886).
Part of the reason they may had chosen Kansas City was that Mrs. Beckwith’s mother, Mrs. Rich, lived there (Dec. 18, 1884). And, of course, he may have hoped to find employment in a Kansas City stove works.
Their stay in Kansas City was short; they returned to Dowagiac the next spring, but as the following report indicates, apparently not to enter Round Oak employment:
A.K. Beckwith’s dancing school will commence on Tuesday evening, Feb. 15. During the term there will be introduced the latest society waltzes and quadrilles. Mr. Beckwith is also prepared to give private instructions to any one who wishes (Feb. 10, 1887).
Later on, after P. D. Beckwith’s death, A. K. did return to Round Oak and he played a very important part in the company.
Source: “Round Oak- A Good Thing From Doe-Wah-Jack” by Leland M. Haines. Published by Round Oak Company, Northville, MI ©1994. ISBN: 0061691042 pg. 62-63.