The history of William Beckman shows how potent an element is persistent purpose in the active affairs of life. Dependent upon his own resources at an early age, coming to California in the days of its mining excitement, he has steadily worked his way upward. Being imbued with a laudable ambition to attain something better than he had previously enjoyed he has steadily advanced in those walks of life demanding intellectuality, business ability and fidelity, and to-day commands the respect and esteem not only of his community but of all who know him throughout the state. He is at the head of an important banking institution, and in financial circles his name is honored because of the straightforward policy he has ever followed and because of his just dealings with all with whom he has come in contact.
Mr. Beckman is a native of the Mohawk valley of New York, his birth having occurred there in December, 1832. His parents, Frederick and Mary (Danaman) Beckman, were both natives of Germany, and in 1819 came to America, settling in the Mohawk valley, where the father engaged in business as a contractor and bridge-builder. In his native country he had done military service, being colonel of one of the Hussar regiments at the battle of Waterloo. He died in the year 1847.
William Beckman, the youngest in a family of two sons and two daughters, began his education in an old log schoolhouse in DePage county, Illinois, to which district he had gone when nine years of age, joining his sister and brother-in-law there. He was thus reared amid the wild scenes of frontier life, his early years being spent upon a farm on the western prairie. He left school at the age of fourteen years, and since that time has been dependent entirely upon his own resources, so that whatever success he has achieved has come to him as the direct reward of his labors. He engaged in driving a stage between the age of fourteen and nineteen years, and although one of the youngest men in the employ of John Frank & Company, he was made superintendent of the Illinois division. When he was twenty years old he came to this state, arriving in 1852, having made the trip by way of the isthmus route. He at once started for the mining districts of Trinity county, but after nine months spent in search for the precious metal, in which his hopes of reaping a fortune were only partially realized, he came to Sacramento and here engaged in the hotel business, conducting a hostelry known as the Noys Houn. Later he was proprietor of the Crescent City Hotel, and upon his retirement from the hotel business he turned his attention to farming, locating at Florin, where he remained for fifteen years. In 1874 he sold his land, and the succeeding two years were spent in traveling not only in this country but abroad. He visited many scenes of modern and historic interest in the old world, becoming familiar with different countries, their people and their customs and gaining the culture and broad knowledge which only travel can bring. After his return to the new world he established, in 1879, the People’s Savings Bank of Sacramento and was elected its president. He has continued at the head of the institution up to the present time and has made it one of the safe and reliable financial institutions of this part of the country. It is strictly a savings bank and now has large deposits, so that the business has become a profitable one. It is managed along safe, conservative lines, and Mr. Beckman is acknowledged as one of the capable and thoroughly trustworthy financiers of central California.
In 1853 occurred the marriage of William Beckman to Miss Mary Webber, a native of Illinois and a daughter of John Webber, who was born in Lorraine, France. They became the parents of one daughter, Mary, who is the widow of the late attorney general, A. L. Hart. Mrs. Beckman died in 1868, and after three years Mr. Beckman was united in marriage to Nellie Sims, a native of Illinois, and a daughter of Austin Sims, who came with his family to California in the early ’60s.
Mr. Beckman belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and is the only representative of the lodge whose membership connection therewith dates back to 1853. He is also identified with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. In politics he is an earnest Republican and while residing upon his farm served as county supervisor for ten years, covering the decade between 1862 and 1872. In 1875 he was nominated for the position of state treasurer, but was defeated, although he ran fifty thousand votes ahead of his ticket, a fact which certainly was a compliment to him and indicated his personal popularity and the regard reposed in him by those who knew him. he served a railroad commissioner for four years during the administration of Governor Markham, and at the same time was fire commissioner of Sacramento city. While undoubtedly he has not been without that honorable ambition which is so powerful and useful as an incentive to activity in public affairs, he regards the pursuits of private life as being in themselves abundantly worthy of his best efforts. In community affairs he is active and influential, and his support is readily and generously given to many measures for the general progress and improvement. His life history is certainly worthy of commendation and of emulation, for along honorable and straightforward lines he has won the success which crowned his efforts and makes him one of the substantial residents of California’s capital.
Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.