William A. Beck

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William A. Beck

Birthplace: Roxbury, Cumberland, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: Died in Portland, Multnomah, Oregon, United States
Place of Burial: Portland, Multnomah, Oregon, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Christian Beck and Magdalene Ahl Beck
Husband of Anne Elizabeth Hills Beck
Brother of Samuel Beck; Elizabeth Beck, d.s.p.; John Ahl Beck; Christian Beck; Jeremiah Beck, d.s.p. and 3 others
Half brother of Magdalene Beck, d.s.p.; Joseph Beck; Margaret Robertson; Elizabeth Conwell Rice; Andrew Jackson Beck and 1 other

Occupation: Gunsmith
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William A. Beck

William Beck was born 2 November 1817 at Roxbury, Pennsylvania, the sixth son of Christian and Magdalena ("Lana") Ahl. Both of his grandfathers emigrated to America from Germany as young men. His maternal grandfather, Dr. John Peter Ahl, born in Berlin, served the Continental army as surgeon until the end of the Revolutionary War. A few years later Dr. Ahl became a Lutheran minister.

William learned the trade of gunsmith in those days when everything was done by hand. He was a natural mechanic and with his indomitable perseverance and exact methods, he soon became an expert; he was noted for his beautiful workmanship. He left Pennsylvania as a young man to try his fortunes in the frontier state of Missouri.

At Columbia, Missouri, he met the beautiful English girl who won his heart. Anne Elizabeth Hills was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was the daughter of Stephen and Elizabeth Hills, of Ashford, Kent county, England. On 16 March 1846, at Columbia, Missouri, William Beck and Anne Elizabeth Hills were married. They went first to Hannibal, Missouri; later moved to St. Louis; they then settled at Liberty, Missouri, where Mr. Beck was superintendent at the United States arsenal; and they lived three years in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In 1849 when the wave of excitement following the discovery of gold in California swept over the land, Mr. Beck promptly struck out for the west. Before he got very far, his money was stolen and he was obliged to return. Three years later, with his wife and little boy, he went west again; this time to Oregon. He died 24 October 1889 at the age of 71, and is buried at Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery, Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, Plot: Grave: 3S Lot 47 Sec 1.

Marriage and Children

  1. Ann Elizabeth Hills Beck (1826 - 1917), married 16 March 1846 Columbia, Cole County, Missouri
    1. William Gilfin Beck (1849 – )
    2. Louisa Myra Beck (1854 – )
    3. George Alfred Beck (1859 – )

Obituary: Death of William A. Beck

One of the promoters of the Morrison Street Bridge Passes Away

Mr. William A. Beck, the pioneer citizen, died this morning after a brief illness. He was the head of the long-established firm of W.A. Beck & Son of 167-171 Second Street. He was one of the principal promoters of the Morrison Street Bridge Company, and worked for years to bring the enterprise to a focus. He was the president of the bridge company. He leaves a large family.


  • Gaston, Joseph. Portland, Oregon, Its History and Builders: In Connection with the Antecedent Explorations, Discoveries, and Movements of the Pioneers That Selected the Site for the Great City of the Pacific. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub., 1911. Print.
  • Oregon Pioneers
  • Obituary, Morning Oregonian, published 24 October 1889, Portland, Oregon
  • Little John's Auction Service "William Beck & Sons Arms Company were retailers of firearms in downtown Portland and was descended in a long line of famous Pennsylvania gunsmiths who were noted for their Kentucky rifles. Beck Sr. was a pioneer gunsmith in the early Oregon territory era and he became very prominent in the business world and was well-recognized for building an important bridge and other engineering projects besides gun making."
  • Historic Context – Hawthorne Boulvard from SE 20th to SE 55th Avenues "...in 1875 when farmer William Beck suggested that a bridge should be built to link the towns of Portland and East Portland. With the support of J.C. Hawthorne (and in the face of opposition by ferry owners), construction on the Morrison Street Bridge commenced in 1880."
  • History of the Columbia River Valley From The Dalles to the Sea, Vol. III "...William L. Archambeau was reared on the homestead and attended the country school at the French Settlement. From 1878 until 1880 he was a student at the University of Oregon and afterward completed a course in a business college of San Francisco, spending two years in that city. In 1882 he returned to Oregon, becoming an accountant for Beck & Son, a Portland firm..."
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 48366333
  • 1880 United States Federal Census. Name: William Beck; Age: 62; Birth Year: abt 1818; Birthplace: Pennsylvania; Home in 1880: Portland, Multnomah, Oregon; Race: White; Gender: Male; Relation to Head of House: Self (Head); Marital Status: Married; Spouse's Name: Ann E. Beck; Father's Birthplace: Pennsylvania; Mother's Birthplace: Pennsylvania; Occupation: Gen Merchandise; Household Members: William Beck 62; Ann E. Beck 52; George A. Beck 21; Clair Morrey 35; Num Jeung Moy 21. Source Citation: Year: 1880; Census Place: Portland, Multnomah, Oregon; Roll: 1083; Family History Film: 1255083; Page: 327C; Enumeration District: 098; Image: 0238. Source Information: Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • 1850 United States Federal Census. Name: William Beck; Age: 31; Birth Year: abt 1819; Birthplace: Pennsylvania; Home in 1850: Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana; Gender: Male; Family Number: 304; Household Members: William Beck 31; Elizabeth Beck 33; William Beck 1; Elizabeth Hille 50. Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana; Roll: M432_159; Page: 214B; Image: 133. Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, 1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002. Name: William Beck; Marriage Date: 14 Mar 1843; Marriage County: Boone; Spouse Name: Ann Elizabeth Hills. Source Information: Ancestry.com. Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007. Original data: Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. Microfilm.
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William A. Beck's Timeline

November 2, 1817
Roxbury, Cumberland, Pennsylvania, United States
October 24, 1889
Age 71
Portland, Multnomah, Oregon, United States
Portland, Multnomah, Oregon, United States