The Becks

With their poignant “stair-stepped” headstones, which apparently correspond to their ages at death, the graves of Eddie, Scottie, Emily, and Harry BECK are perhaps the most visited in Pond Springs Cemetery.  Personally, I cannot imagine a greater tragedy than that felt by this family.

Per family researchers, these four children all died of diphtheria.  First Eddie, then Emily (6 months old), then Harry, then Scottie.  They all died in a two-week period, from August 30 1888 to September 15 1888.  The oldest, Eddie, was seven years old.  Their father helped tend to them, and buried them, while he himself had cholera.

Their father ultimately went on to become the Superintendent of Grounds at the University of Texas in Austin.  Per “UT History Central:  A Comprehensive Guide to University of Texas History”:  “Beck’s Pond: At the northwest corner of the Library (now Battle Hall), was a small pond built by Harry Birk Beck, the first steward of “B” Hall and later superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. He piped in enough water to fall over some old stones left from the construction of Old Main.  Crude as it was, it was a lovers’ rendezvous for a number of years and was also the scene of many dunking parties. The trysting place gave way to progress in 1932 when Goldsmith Hall was being constructed.”

From The Texas Book:  Profiles, History, and Reminiscences of the University (Richard A. Holland), “Boys will be boys:  Life and Near-Death in B Hall”, p. 109: “B Hallers would stage elaborate practical jokes, some of which would take weeks to develop, such as the month several residents conditioned B Hall manager Harry Birk Beck to believe that a particular resident was deeply depressed, then one day gave a call of alarm to Beck that something was wrong; he came running to find the “depressed” student appearing to be hanging from a noose, and the accomplices suppressed their chuckles as Beck desperately cut the noose of the “expiring” resident and frantically revived him.”

(In light of the tragedy that had befallen Mr. Beck by this
time, I don’t think faking a death was so funny – but
maybe that’s just me; these young men probably didn’t

Their parents, Harry and Bessie, had six subsequent children.

Per his death certificate, Harry Birk BECK was born to Edward and Anne (CAMPBELL) BECK in Ireland 27 February 1854, and died in Travis County Texas 7 May 1929 (Mrs. H.B. BECK informant).

Per the 1900 Travis County Texas census, Harry B. BECK was a landscape gardener that came to the United States in 1865.  Both of his parents were also born in Ireland (on his death certificate, they were both born in England).  He married Bessie L. LEWIS ca 1881.  Per her death certificate, Bessie was born to John L. and Ann (SCOTT) LEWIS in Fayette County Texas 3 August 1857 and died 16 September 1932 (informant Eugene BECK).  Both of her parents were born in New York, although in the 1930 Wilson County Texas census Bessie, a widow, states that her father was born “at sea”.

Both Harry and Bessie BECK  are buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Known Children of Harry Birk and Bessie (LEWIS) BECK:

i.  Eddie BECK, born ca. 1881.  Died 30 August 1888, in Williamson or Travis County Texas.

ii.  Scottie BECK, born 1881-1888.  Died 15 September 1888, in Williamson or Travis County Texas.

iii.  Harry BECK, born 1881-1888.  Died 7 September 1888, in Williamson or Travis County Texas.

iv.  Emily BECK, born ca. February 1888,  Died 7 September 1888, in Williamson or Travis County Texas.

v.  Robert Hill BECK, born in Austin Texas 19 September 1890.  Per his WWI Draft Registration card, he was born 13 August 1893 in Austin Texas.  He was tall, medium build, had brown eyes, and light colored hair.  He was single, and lived in Austin Texas at the time.

vi.  Eugene Dunbar BECK, born in Texas August 1894.  Per his WWI Draft Registration card, he was tall, slender build, had brown eyes, and light colored hair.  He was single, and lived in Dallas Texas at the time.

vii.  Maude BECK, born in Texas February 1896.

viii.  Bessie “Bee Bee” BECK, born ca 1897, died of whooping cough in 1899.  She is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin.

ix.  Helen M. BECK, born in Texas November 1899.

x.  John Lewis BECK, born in Texas ca. 1903.

Many thanks to Janet for sharing what she could.

If there is anyone out there that would like to contribute to the story, please contact this blog.

– Suzanne

From The Austin History Center:  “Once the “best spot for spooning on the Forty Acres,” Beck’s Lake was located on the West Mall of the University of Texas between the Old Main Building and the Drag. Beck’s Lake was created by its namesake, H.B. Beck, the superintendent of the University grounds between 1899 and 1905. The pond, which was fed by a subterranean spring, was dubbed “Beck’s Lake” by the biology students who drew water samples from it for their experiments. Progress, however, replaced this quiet retreat with the Architecture Building in the 1930s.”

Beck's Lake. From The Austin History Center.

Bessie Beck, 1897-1899. Photo from Janet.

Published in: on February 25, 2011 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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