Dr. Daniel Beebe
Dr. Beebe was born in 1809 in Madison Co., N.Y. of respectable parents. About 1820, his parents joined the Methodist Church and kept a Methodist tavern. Although a farmer, his father had several boats on the Erie Canal, but insisted Daniel have nothing to do with that business, as it was considered highly immoral!
Sadly, Daniel’s father failed in business, which in those days meant time in jail. It was thought he was just too hospitable, plus proud and high spirited. It seemed he could never do well enough and the family eventually lost everything, sold under the auctioneer’s hammer. Both parents died within a short time of each other, leaving Daniel alone at 19.
Daniel knew little of making his own in the world, but the Erie Canal soon afforded asylum. He worked my way up to what was called the “boy captain.” After a time, Daniel ended up in Wayne Co., N.Y., and began clerking and warehousing for Esbon and Horace Blackmar. This connection would prove significant for a good part of his life. In 1843, Daniel received a letter from Dr. John Thomson, to come to the city of New York and assist him in his business. He had set up an infirmary for the express purpose of treating chronic diseases. In less than 12 months, Dr. Thomson had died, leaving all the business in Daniel’s hands. The success was all he could ask for, but Daniel found it much too confining, and returned to the counting room of the Blackmar cousins. Esbon Blackmar was a banker, land developer and senior partner of the Blackmar Produce firm, which eventually expanded its business to Michigan, Iowa and Illinois, greatly improving the economy of the developing Midwest. He owned a significant amount of land within Hillsdale County, so Daniel moved to Hillsdale to act as his land agent.
When rumblings were being made of moving the college at Spring Arbor to Hillsdale, Dr. Daniel Beebe was one of the first four to visit Spring Arbor – incognito – to appraise the situation there. They found buildings worth very little, but instructors worth a fortune! Later, in 1884, the college paper quoted Beebe as saying, “We didn’t remove the college from Spring Arbor; we only removed the brains!”
Dr. Beebe was then asked to visit Esbon Blackmar, who owned close to 1,000 acres north of the village of Hillsdale, to request a donation of land upon which the burgeoning institution might be built. A trip to New York State netted not only 25 acres of prime pasture land, overlooking the City (then Village) of Hillsdale, but also a donation of $500. Mr. Blackmar’s only stipulations were that the donated land always be used for educational purposes, and that the Board of Trustees always contain a majority of residents of Hillsdale County. At least the first condition has been faithfully followed! Sadly, Esbon Blackmar, suffered great losses in the Panic of 1857. Once a member of the New York State Legislature, the Honorable Esbon Blackmar committed suicide over financial embarrassments.
Dr. Beebe served on the original College building committee. All the bricks and lumber ready, the ground had been broken, and on the 4th of July, 1853, in front of a huge assembly of humanity, the corner-stone of Hillsdale College was laid. Henry Waldron presided, and Beebe was one of the marshals. Years later, it was discovered that a young boy from Hudson was in attendance and was very impressed with the entire presentation. He would later attend Hillsdale College and eventually become a very famous poet. His name was Will Carleton. Beebe owned some farm land – about 200 acres – himself, just north of the college and the city limits, as well as a home on West Street. Of continued concern was the condition of the local streets and roads. The college grounds were kept fenced, so that their livestock could graze within. Such was not the case for many of the surrounding farmers. From time to time, Dr. Beebe would find it necessary to remind the public – by notice to the Hillsdale Standard – that public interest in a highway confers “No right to use it as a sheep walk or pasture yard for cattle.”
Prior to the Civil War, Dr. Beebe had served as city alderman, then village president for two years. He resigned from the presidency post when he was certain the Boards had imposed upon him a drunken marshal and street commissioners which were extensive liquor dealers!
During the war, Dr. Daniel was coroner for a year, but one of his most satisfying jobs was as Treasurer of the Hillsdale County Agricultural Society, a job he held for thirteen years.
Eventually, like doctoring, Beebe grew bored with real estate, so he began preaching. The good doctor could preach for an hour and a half - nonstop - in the pouring rain. Dr. Daniel Beebe died at his home in 1892, and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.
Carol A. Lackey