John C. Beckett was a prominent businessman and public figure in Cambridge and Guernsey County, Ohio in the late 19th century. Born on August 21, 1842, on a farm in Monroe County, Ohio, Beckett worked in the mercantile business before being elected auditor of Guernsey County in 1879. He later became involved in the steel industry, promoting and building the Cambridge Iron and Steel Company and the Morton Tin Plate Company. He eventually moved to Wharton County, Texas, where he had extensive land interests and was involved in rice culture. Beckett was a Republican and active in public affairs, and he and his family were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
The name of John C. Beckett, having long stood for enterprise and right living, clean politics and altruism in its highest sense, is too familiar to the people of Cambridge and Guernsey County to need any introduction here. Consequently, the following paragraphs will deal in a plain, matter-of-fact manner with his useful and very active career.
Mr. Beckett was born on August 21, 1842, in Monroe County, Ohio, on a farm near Woodsfield. He is the son of George N. and Margaret (Clingan) Beckett. The father was a native of Smith Ferry, Jefferson County, Ohio, and the mother was born in Monroe County, Ohio. Her parents, John and Mary Clingan, came from Ireland when young, and John Clingan and Mary Armstrong were married soon afterward. Grandfather Clingan was a Methodist minister and was interested in the work of spreading the gospel in the West with the noted Peter Cartwright, and they became among the most influential of the pioneer preachers. John Clingan was one of the first men to preach in Cambridge, probably preaching the second sermon in the then-struggling village. The father, George N. Beckett, a farmer and prominent stockman and wool buyer for many years, was prominent in public life, and he served as adjutant-general of the Ohio militia in the early years of the state’s history, probably about 1812. He was an active abolitionist and active in the operations of the “underground railroad.” He was an exemplary citizen in every respect. In 1865, Mr. Beckett, with his family, moved to Guernsey County, locating at Fairview and engaged in the general mercantile business until 1879, his son, John C., of this review, being associated with him. He resided in Fairview until 1880, when he moved with his wife to Barnesville, Belmont County, where they remained until 1885 when they moved to Cambridge. Mr. Beckett’s death occurred in July, 1893, and his widow survived until February, 1900. Both are buried in the Cambridge cemetery.
John C. Beckett grew to maturity on the home farm in Monroe County and attended the common schools, later the normal school at Woodsfield, taught by an Englishman, John Moore, a former professor in one of the universities of England. Later, Mr. Beckett took a commercial course at the Pittsburgh Commercial College. He remained on the home farm until he was twenty-one years of age, when he went into the mercantile business at Jerusalem, Monroe County, where he continued for some time, then went to Fairview in the same line of business with his father, which they continued, as already stated, until 1879, in which year he was elected auditor of Guernsey County on the Republican ticket. He assumed the duties of this office in November, 1880, and served two terms, or six years. In 1887, he was made cashier of the Central National Bank of Cambridge, where he remained two and one-half years, when he resigned. He then engaged in the mercantile business with John Boyd under the firm name of Boyd & Beckett, in a room where the present elegant Central Bank building is located. He was engaged at that stand for four years. He then became interested in promoting the Cambridge Iron and Steel Company, the first industry established in Cambridge of any importance. Mr. Beckett donated the land for the location of the plant and he was a stockholder and secretary of the company at its organization. He continued in this position until he sold his stock in the company, when, with others, he promoted and built the Morton Tin Plate Company, this being the second tin plate mill built in Ohio. Mr. Beckett became the secretary of this company at its organization and later became manager of the sales department in addition to his duties as secretary, continuing thus in his active position until the plant was sold to the American Tin Plate Company, which later became a part of the United States Steel Company. The Cambridge mill was the last mill in the United States to sell to the American Tin Plate Company, which took over all the operating mills of the country. This mill was successfully operated from the beginning, making a particular high grade of tin plate of special brand, which brand and quality is still continued by the United States Steel Company, its superior quality being universally recognized. It is but just to Mr. Beckett to say here that no small part of the large success and prestige of this plant was due to his wise counsel and judicious management. After leaving the mill, he invested in real estate, both farm lands and city property, and he was interested in various enterprises until 1907, when he moved to Wharton county, Texas, which place is now his legal residence. He has very extensive land interests in the Lone Star state and is extensively interested in rice culture, but he is now beginning to diversify his line of farm products. He is located in the best part of the rice belt of Texas, largely on account of their inexhaustible shallow water and superior drainage. Mr. Beckett has become a genuine Texas booster.
On March 16, 1870, Mr. Beckett married Rebecca C. Talbott, daughter of William A. and Rebecca (Davenport) Talbott, of Barnesville, Ohio, both parents being Virginians. The father of Mrs. Talbott, Judge Davenport, was a pioneer merchant of Barnesville. William A. Talbott was also a lifelong merchant of Barnesville and a highly respected citizen. Both Mr. and Mrs. Talbott have been dead several years. They never lived in Guernsey county.
To Mr. and Mrs. Beckett, two children were born: George A., who married and is living with his father in Texas, assisting with the general farming, and Emma, who married Thomas E. Amos, business manager of The Daily Jeffersonian at Cambridge, Ohio.
Mr. Beckett has always been a Republican and is active in public affairs. Prior to being elected auditor of Guernsey county, he held various township offices in Oxford township, where he lived prior to coming to Cambridge in 1880, and he has been active as a member of the Republican County central and executive committees, and a frequent delegate to county, district and state conventions, and he has always been regarded as a safe counselor and advisor. He is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows at Cambridge and he and his family are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and are active in church work. No man stands higher or has a cleaner business and official record than Mr. Beckett, and he is known throughout the state as a public-spirited citizen of unusual ability and fine traits. While not at present a legal resident of Guernsey county, his interest in the county has remained unabated. He will always retain a warm place in his heart for old Guernsey county, where he was active in business and public affairs for so many years, and the people of this county likewise retain for Mr. Beckett and his family an equal esteem and always welcome them back most heartily.