Peter Beckenbach




Peter Beckenbach

Peter Beckenbach was born 15 Sep 1836 in Altenbach, Baden, Germany, and died 13 Feb 1878 in Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee.  He married Elizabeth Altmeyer 16 Oct 1859 in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee.  She was the daughter of Christian and Katarina Altmeyer and was born 16 Oct 1838 in Birkenfeld, Germany.  She died 17 Jun 1895.

Germany, in the early to mid 1800s, was a collection of 38 independent states and several independent ďcity statesĒ loosely bound together in the German Confederation after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Liberal pressure began to spread throughout the German states, each of which experienced a type of revolution. The primary demanded was for freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, arming of the people, and a national German parliament.

In December of 1848, in Heidelberg, in the state of Baden, where Peter Beckenbach was growing up, a group of German liberals who had been elected as the German National Assembly drafted the "Basic Rights for the German People" and proclaimed equal rights for all citizens under the law. On March 28, 1849, a final draft of the constitution was finally passed. The new Germany was to be a constitutional monarchy, and the office of head of state ("Emperor of the Germans") was to be hereditary and held by the respective King of Prussia. On April 2, 1849, a delegation of the National Assembly met with King Frederick William IV in Berlin and offered him the crown of the Emperor under this new constitution.  Frederick William told the delegation that he felt honored but refused as he said he could only accept the crown with the consent of his peers, the other sovereign monarchs and free cities not from the populace. Austria and Prussia withdrew their delegates from the Assembly, and the Assembly itself slowly disintegrated afterwards. Armed uprisings in support of the constitution, especially in Saxony, the Palatinate and Baden were short-lived as the local military, aided by Prussian troops, crushed them quickly. Leaders and participants, if caught, were executed or sentenced to long prison terms.  The achievements of the revolutionaries of March 1848 were repealed in all of the German states and by 1851, the Basic Rights had also been abolished nearly everywhere. In the end, the revolution fizzled because of the overwhelming number of tasks it faced and because of lack of mass support and actual power.  Many disappointed German patriots went to the United States with the greatest number of these arriving in 1854, the year that Peter Beckenbach arrived.

However, political ideology and the social and political unrest going on around them was probably not the driving force that sent Peter and Nicholas away from home.  As Peterís son, Peter J. Beckenbach, explained in a letter written in 1940, "My father . . . came to this country some time in the fifties, probably about fifty four or five.  He did not want to serve in the army and so he left Germany about the time that he attained the age that all young men had to serve.  He came across the water on a sail ship which took 42 days to cross, being tossed about in heavy storms."  Evidently, before 1871, when a unified Germany finally became a reality, boys in Baden were registered at the age of 16 for possible military service. Potential recruits were drawn by lot. They had to report in December or January before their 21st birthday, for a medical exam. Peterís brother, Nicholas, had already left Germany for the United States and so, on 15 August 1854, Peter, age 18, arrived in New York aboard the ship, American Congress, an American Clipper-Ship similar to the one pictured at right, having first traveled from Germany to London, England.

He may have met his brother in New York and they traveled together to Nashville or his brother was already in Nashville and he joined him there.  Whichever it was, Peter married Elizabeth Altmeyer in Nashville and, it appears, went to work with her father, Christian.  Both Peter and Christian are listed on the 1860 census of Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee as shoe makers.

Christian Altmeyer was born in Germany 11 April 1806.  He and his wife, Catherine Bremen, and children Frederick, Catherine, Margaretha, and Elizabeth immigrated to the United States in 1845.  They arrived in New Orleans on 18 June aboard the ship, Martha Cleaves and made their way overland to Nashville.

By 1863, however, both the Altmeyer and Beckenbach families had moved to Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee, about 50 miles southwest of Nashville.  Here they continued their trade of shoe making and all except the oldest of Peter and Elizabethís children were born.  Peter must have been relatively successful because on the 1870 census of Maury County he is listed as owning $1,200 worth of real estate.  That was a respectable sum in 1870.

Peter died, at the age of 42, on 13 February 1878.  He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Columbia, Tennessee.  It is interesting that the Beckenbach family tombstone there has an engraved copy of the Confederate Medal of Honor.  This would seem to indicate that Peter served in the Confederate service during the Civil War but I have not been able to find any evidence of his service.

After Peterís death, his wife, Elizabeth Altmeyer, remarried in 1880 to a man by the name of Charles Thompson.  I know very little about this marriage.  They had two sons, Tim and Tom, both of whom, it appears, died in infancy.  According to papers kept by her daughter, Mary Isabel, Elizabeth Altmeyer died in 1895 but I do not know where she was living at the time.  Most of Peterís children ended up living in Paducah, Kentucky so it may be that the Thompsons took the children there or it may be that the children simply moved there as they became old enough to leave home.  From what I have been told, none of the children particularly liked their step-father and were very happy to leave.

Children of Peter Beckenbach and Elizabeth Altmeyer were:

1.  Christian Nicolas Beckenbach was born 11 Aug 1860 in Clifton, Wayne, Tennessee, and died 18 Aug 1901 in Columbia, Maury, Tennessee.  He married Amanda Lou Dowell 1881, daughter of John Dowell and Jane McCormick and remained in the Maury County area for their entire life.  She was born 20 Nov 1864 in Tennessee, and died 01 Nov 1939 in Columbia, Maury, Tennessee.  They are both buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Columbia, Tennessee.  They had seven children, Willie, Laurel, Bessie, Alice, Johnnie, Christopher and Thomas.



2.  John Jacob Beckenbach was born 18 Aug 1863 in Columbia, Maury, Tennessee, and died 09 Sep 1907, probably in Paducah, Kentucky.  His wifeís name was Laura who he married in 1888.  She was born Jan 1864 in Illinois.  In the 1890 city directory for Paducah, Kentucky, he is listed as a painter.  Following Jacobís death, it appears that Laura returned to Illinois taking their three children, John Collins, Edward and Laura with her.




3.  Frederic William Beckenbach was born 28 Jul 1864 in Columbia, Maury, Tennessee and died, at the age of 4, on 21 Jul 1868 in Columbia, Maury, Tennessee.  He is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery.

4.  Peter James Beckenbach was born 02 Sep 1866 in Columbia, Tennessee, and died 27 Aug 1942 in Paducah, Kentucky.  He married Louisa Brenner who was born in July of 1867 in Indiana.  They had two children, Etta, born in 1889 and James, born in 1891.  Unfortunately, James of rheumatic fever 21 December 1904.  I donít know how Peter supported his family in his early years but in later life, he and his wife lived with their daughter, Etta and her husband, Forest S. Ferrerr, and Peter worked in his son-in-lawís furniture store.




5.  Charlie Geiger Beckenbach was born 14 Jan 1869 in Columbia, Maury, Tennessee, and died 06 Apr 1932 in Dallas, Dallas County, Texas.  He married Lucy Emma Richardson 27 Jun 1894 in Tyler, Smith, Texas, daughter of A. W. Richardson and Lucy Peake.  She was born 15 Feb 1874 in Algiers, Orleans Parish, Louisiana and died 18 Dec 1949 in Dallas, Texas.  Charlie Geiger and Lucy Emma Beckenbach will be discussed in the next generation.




6.  Samuel Frierson Beckenbach was born 21 Apr 1872 in Columbia, Maury, Tennessee and died 04 Dec 1896.  I know very little about Samuel.  In the 1890s he worked as a saddler in Paducah and moved to Lewisburg, Marshall County, Tennessee where he attempted to begin his own business in leatherworking.  I donít think he ever married as he died at the age of 24.




7.  Mary Isabel Beckenbach was born 25 Feb 1875 in Columbia, Maury County, Tennessee.  She was only 3 years old when her father passed away and 19 when she lost her mother.  She may have gone to St. Louis to live with her Uncle Nicolas because she married Elmer R. Tew in 1907 and the two of them are found living in St. Louis on the 1910 census.  He was born in 1874 in Wisconsin, and died between 1912 and 1919.  She is next found living in Dallas, Texas in 1920, married to William S. Herr.  He was born in 1881 in Pennsylvania.  She had two children, Elmer J. Tew, born in 1909 and Etta B. Tew born in 1912.  Both of her children were born in Missouri.



Nicholaus von Beckenbach (1705 - ca 1750)

Johann Christian Beckenbach (1739 - ca 1790)

Johann George Beckenbach (1772 - 1834)

Johann Jacob Beckenbach (1797 - ca 1850)

Peter Beckenbach (1836 - 1878)

Charlie Geiger Beckenbach (1869 - 1932)

Edwin Ford Beckenbach (1906 - 1982)


John Simons (1715 - 1780)

Shadrach Simons (1758 - 1801)

John Joseph Simons (1793 - ca 1858)

Henry James Simons (1818 - ca 1870)

John James Simons (1842 - 1969)

James Elmo Simons (1870 - 1935)

Madelene Shelby Simons (1913 - 1985)


Heinrich Dufe (ca 1760 - ca 1810)

Peter Joseph Dufe (1784 - 1846)

Peter Duffy (1815 - 1883)

Peter J Duffy (1851 - 1924)

Annie Elizabeth Duffy (1877 - 1935)


William Peake (ca 1800 - ca 1832)

Joseph Peake (1826 - 1876)

Lucy Charlotte Peake (1851 - 1883)


James Bradley (1720 - 1788)

Francis Bradley (1743 - 1780)

James Alexander Bradley (1768 - 1839)

Margaret Weir Bradley (1813 - ca 1880)


Shelby Phillip (ca 1650 - 1731)

Evan Shelby (ca 1690 - 1751)

Moses Shelby (1728 - 1776)

Evan Shelby (1748 - 1825)

Moses Shelby (1784 - 1826)

James Madison Shelby (1814 - 1889)

Jane Eliza Shelby (1846 - 1902)


Michael Vogg (ca 1800 - ca 1845)

John Frederick Vogg (1824 - 1901)

Margaret Vogg (1856 - 1878)


Alexander Coachman (ca 1640 - 1671)

Tilney Coachman (ca 1660 - 1716)

John Coachman (1700 - 1750)

James Coachman (1732 - 1789)

Joseph Coachman (1761 - 1814)

Mary Lynch Coachman (1792 - ca 1857)


  Johann Jacob Beckenbach Home Charlie Geiger Beckenbach