Mon Valley Biographies - Joseph Beckett

Mon Valley Biographies

 Joseph Beckett of Rostraver and Forward Twps.

Submitted by:  Marta Burns

 Joseph Beckett, Esquire by J. Sutton Wall

Joseph Beckett, Esquire, settled on a tract of land called "Long Bottom," in the year 1774, on the north and east side of the Monongahela River, which tract was surveyed to him March 16, 1786, on a Virginia certificate issued in 1780, and patented to him on June 12, 1790. The tract now lies partly in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County, and partly in Forward Township, Allegheny County, but at the time of his settlement was wholly in Rostraver township, before Allegheny County (Penna) was formed.

At the time of his settlement, Esquire Beckett erected a substantial log house for a residence on the bank of the river just above the mouth of Beckett's Run, in which he lived for a number of years and established a ferry business in connection with farming and other pursuits in which he was actively engaged. Before the beginning of the last century, the house was used for the various purposes of dwelling, a store and a tavern. In the Virginia Court records of Yohogania county, it is called "Beckett's Fort."  No reason is disclosed in the records for calling it a "fort" beyond the fact of its prominent and perhaps strategic location. It was only built like other log houses of that time, all of which were quite strong and formidable against even Indian attacks. There is no record of any incursions or threatened assaults by the Indians in that immediate vicinity, or even between the two rivers, throughout the border troubles of those days, although it may have been understood and intended as a place of rendezvous for some of the settlers in case of such necessity. The early prominence of the location seems to have been well known and established by the fact that it was made a beginning and ending point in road views at a very early date.

We find in the Virginia Court records under date of February 22, 1775, that viewers were appointed by the Court to view a road from "Fort Dunmore to Beckett's Fort," and made report thereon at the next term; and that on September 21st following, the viewers so appointed presented a favorable report, which was confirmed by the court and the road ordered to be opened on the route so reported. Also, at a session of the court held December 22, 1777, viewers were appointed and ordered to "view a road the nearest and best way from Pittsburgh to Andrew Heath's ferry on the Monongahela River, and from thence to Beckett's Fort."

At a session of the same court held on February 23, 1775 (?), viewers were appointed and ordered to view a road "from Thomas Gists (now Fayette County) to Paul Froman's Mill on Shirtees Creek" (Chartiers Creek, Washington County) and report thereon to the next court. This last named road passed through Beckett land within sight of the old ferry house, and soon became one of the most important public thoroughfares in the region for the transportation of emigrants and goods from the east. The Mount Pleasant and Williamsport Turnpike was subsequently constructed on a portion of this route.

In September, 1784, after the close of General Washington's military career and before he was called to the Presidency, he traveled over this road through the Beckett property, going to and from his lands in Washington County. The United States Army under command of General Henry Lee passed through here in the early part of November, 1794, en route from Budd's Ferry and Uniontown to Parkison's Ferry, now Monongahela City, to suppress the so-called "Whiskey Insurrection." The ferry house was at that time called an "inn."

In the years 1790 and 1791 David Furnier of Fayette county conducted a store in this house, attended by his son, John Furnier, who boarded with Esquire Beckett.

Jacob Bowman, who afterwards became a wealthy and prominent citizen of Brownsville, Penna, was a clerk in this store. At that time the land opposite on the Washington County side of the river was owned by John Cooper, to whom Esquire Beckett's son, John Beckett, paid rent for the use of a ferry landing on that side. The Cooper property was subsequently owned by Samuel Beckett and later the late Greer McIlvain.

On February 21, 1785, Joseph Beckett, Esquire, obtained a warrant from the Land Office of Pennsylvania for 194 acres of additional land fronting on the Monongahela River, adjoining the western end of the ferry tract, on which he erected quite a substantial log mansion house in that year,
to which he removed with his family, and where he died in December, 1816. It was built of hewed logs, in two parts, two stories high, with an open court between the parts, and was considered a ver fine house for its time. Its owner being a magistrate and a ver prominent man, it was the scene of many lively and stirring events in the early days.

Joseph Beckett's son, John Beckett, married a Miss Noble and lived in the old ferry house until his death in 1817. His widow married John Daggs in April, 1818, and they also resided in the old house until 1822 when they removed to Washington, Penna, where Mr Daggs was long known as the proprietor of the "Mansion House."  The name of the ferry at this marriage became known as "Daggs Ferry," and so has been conducted here for the last fifty years perhaps. The establishment of Devore's and Parkinson's Ferries at Williamsport, now Monongahela City, on the west side, and a ferry at Webster on the east, removed the necessity of a crossing at this place for the general public to a large degree, and let to its practical abandonment soon after Daggs left the place. The old Beckett-Daggs Mansion or ferry house, was torn down and removed in April, 1888, and thus has one of the prominent early settlement dwellings of the Monongahela Valley passed into history, along with the names of some of its highly honored pioneer occupants.

Joseph Beckett, Esquire, was a native of Virginia, served as Lieutenant under Lord Dunmore in 1772; was appointed Commissioner of Oyer and Terminer Courts and Justice of the Peace in and for the extinct county of Yohogania on May 26, 1778, which office he retained until the termination
of Virginia Judicial authority within the present limits of southwestern Pennsylvania in the latter part of 1780.

On August 26, 1778, the Court of Yohogania County "Ordered, that Matthew Ritchey, Joseph Beckett and James Rogers, Gentlemen, be recommended to his Excellency, the Governor (of Virginia) as proper persons for his Excellency to commission one as Sheriff to serve the ensuing year."

Joseph Beckett, however, being already a member of the Court and Justice of the Peace, declined additional official honors at this time, and Matthew Ritchey was on the same day sworn in as Sheriff for the temporary term of one month from that date.

Notwithstanding his former loyalty to his native state, he gracefully submitted to the change of authority which came with the settlement of the boundary line controversy, and owing to his marked ability and peculiar fitness for a continuance in the same official capacity under the new administration, he was accordingly appointed, and commissioned a Justice of the Peace for Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, on February 8th, 1792, under the laws of Pennsylvania, in which office he served until his death in 1816. Garret Wall, Esquire, of the same township, was appointed as his successor in that year.

Joseph Beckett, Esquire, also served as Captain of a Company of Militia and Rangers on the Frontiers during the War of the Revolution, his company being made up largely from the early settlers and their sons in "Old Rostraver" Township of Westmoreland County. While it does not seem to be definitely known what his views and sentiments may have been on the issues which lead up to the so-called "Whiskey Insurrection," it does not appear that he took any conspicuous part in the controversy. His patriotism and interest in military affairs, up to the closing years of his eventful life, is indicated by the fact of his presence as a special honor guest with General John Hamilton at the
celebration and muster of the "Williamsport Rangers" then commanded by Captain James Warne at Parkison's Ferry (now Monongahela City) on the 4th of July, 1811, as noted in the newspapers of the time.

His wife Lucy Pentecost, was a sister of Colonel Dorsey Pentecost, who was a conspicuous figure in the early history of Western Pennsylvania. Joseph Beckett, Esquire, was a man of high character, an enterprising and most useful citizen, and one of the early settlers whose prudent judgment and able foresight helped to mould and guide the pioneer sentiment of a large and important part of the Monongahela Valley and surrounding districts. His official position and duties brought him in constant
contact with a large number of citizens, as shown by his Dockets, which were neatly kept.

In closing this brief sketch, it is but just to add that Joseph Beckett, Esquire, was one of our pioneer citizens who performed the full measure of his duty in helping to encourage and promote the best interests of the community in which he settled and made his home. He gave large portion of
the latter half of his life to the public service as a careful and intelligent magistrate without incurring a shadow of suspicion as to this sincerity of his motives or the honesty of his acts, either as an officer
of the law or as a private citizen.

Revolutionary War service as private accepted by DAR September 17, 1956
(Helen Clark Biedol No. 368142)  Penna Archives, 6th Series, Vol 1, p971
Captain (Joseph) Beckett's Return lists men (no rank given)
Wm Caleham/?Callahan
Henry Lewis
Jno More/?Moore
Richard Applegate
Joseph Warner (Warne)
Eliga Hars
Jas Miller
Hugh Bartley
James Chambers
Signed by Lt Richd Johnson
The foregoing is included under Philadelphia County, Penna, in the Pennsylvania Archives, but deeds and records showing the men listed as living in Westmoreland County, especially Rostraver township, indicate an error.

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