The Crooked Lake Review

July 2008

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Robert Beck's Story


Index to Robert Beck's Story

Robert Beck died August 28, 1922, at eighty-four years, three months, and nine days of age. All of his six children were alive, five were married; there were 11 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. He outlived Eleanor Townley, his first wife and mother of his six children, by thirty years and five months.

His second wife, Amy Elizabeth Crookston Gleason, whom he married December 26, 1905, survived him. She was provided in his will with an immediate payment of $1500 and a semiannual payment of $350, with the lifetime use of his house and lot with all taxes paid, and with the absolute possession of all his household goods and furniture. Amy E. Beck died July 23, 1926.

Robert Beck's second daughter, Bertha Louise, and her husband, Arthur DeWitt Bauder, bought Robert Beck's house from the other heirs, and moved there. The Bauders had no children. Mrs. Bauder died in 1943. Mr. Bauder was then 74 years old and not well. His sister-in-law, Helen Beck Vroom, was living in Bath at the time—Mr. Vroom had died in 1941—and Mr. Bauder invited her to move into his house in Hammondsport, which had been her father's home. Mrs. Vroom took care of Mr. Bauder until his death in 1945.

Since he had no children and no living brothers or sisters, Mrs. Vroom came into possession of the house and its contents, which must have included the book containing Robert Beck's hand-written story of his life.

Her grandson Roger Patterson states that when he visited his grandmother in Hammondsport as a young man in the 1940s, she gave him a red velvet-covered book containing his great-grandfather's memoirs. The book since that time has chiefly been in the possession of his mother, Esther Vroom Patterson. It was passed around to other members of the family. The cover became so worn that Roger Patterson had the pages re-cased. His father, Joseph Patterson, had a typescript copy made some years ago, and a copy of this was given to Mrs. Patterson's cousin Mary Jones Godwin, who is the daughter of Emma Rose Beck Jones, Robert Beck's youngest child.

Mrs. Godwin traced the Beck ancestry through church records in Germany, located the passenger list of the boat that carried the Beck family to this country, and searched church and cemetery records in Rochester and Corning to find the marriage and death dates of Robert's brothers and sisters and their descendants.

Mrs. Godwin and her husband lived in Florida but have made many pilgrimages to New York to learn more about grandfather Robert Beck. They travelled in a van that was filled with file cases containing genealogy records. One day more than ten years ago Mrs. Godwin was researching in the Steuben County Clerk's office in Bath, New York, when Richard Sherer, the historian for the Village of Hammondsport and for the Town of Urbana, was present. Mrs. Godwin asked a question about Hammondsport, and Mrs. Marion Springer, a clerk in the office, redirected the query to Mr. Sherer. From the interchange that followed began a friendship and correspondence between Mrs. Godwin and Richard Sherer concerning Robert Beck, his story, and his life in Hammondsport.

Mrs. Godwin gave him a typescript copy of her grandfather's story. Richard Sherer was so captivated by Robert Beck's account that he made and circulated copies, and promoted publication of the story. In 1991 the Crooked Lake Historical Society decided to undertake publishing Robert Beck's chronicle of his life.

Bill Treichler divided the typescript into chapters, invented chapter titles, and broke longer paragraphs into shorter paragraphs for easier reading. Then he entered the text into a computer. Preliminary page printouts were made and proofread against the typescript. At this time it became apparent that a comparison should be made with the original manuscript.

Roger Patterson agreed to lend the handwritten original, and his father made arrangements to send it to Hammondsport and safekeeping at the Curtiss Museum. Martha and Bill Treichler twice reviewed the texts and discovered many differences between the original and the typescript. They then revised the book text to make it as close to the original as possible. That is, wherever the handwriting was clearly discernible, Robert Beck's wording was followed. Some punctuation was added to make understanding clearer. Spelling was standardized (Beck didn't always spell some words the same way), and verb tenses were made uniform where necessary. Whenever words were added they were placed in brackets. Usually this was when the author inadvertently left out a simple pronoun, preposition, or article.

Robert Beck wrote an amazingly clear and readable story. Not surprisingly, it does have some run-on sentences. Generally these have been left as written. Some names of people have been added in brackets with a more likely spelling. Beck almost always followed the usual spelling of place names in this country. He wrote the name of the town they left in Germany Goldshire. German records show it Goldsheur. Beck spelled the name of the ship aboard which they came to America "Emma Watch." The passenger list Mrs. Godwin finally received was of the "Emma Watts." Robert probably never saw the boat's name spelled, but only heard his parents speak of it with their German accent. (In his manuscript Beck had first written Ellen Foster, the name of the ship in which he sailed around the world, but then he, or someone, wrote in Emma Watch.}

Mrs. Godwin had difficulty finding the passenger list showing the Beck family. A friend suggested that she ask for listings with other spellings such as "Peck" because the ship's officers often didn't understand foreign pronunciation and wrote names incorrectly. Sure enough, a passenger list did come and the father's name was spelled Antoine Peck. The ship's officer may have been more familiar with French than German. Robert always spelled his father's name Antone and it has been left his way in the text. The German church records have it Antonius. On an old photograph it is Anton. His mother's name was spelled variously Cecielia and Cecilia.

Obvious typographical errors in the text of his articles in the Hammondsport Herald have been corrected, word forms made uniform, and a question mark used where needed.

The text was set, using a Macintosh computer, in 12 point Garamond type with 15 point line spacing.


Many people have contributed to the production of Robert Beck's Story. Roger Patterson lent his original copy and gave his consent for the Crooked Lake Historical Society to publish the book. His parents Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Patterson enthusiastically supported the book's publication and provided pictures of Anton and Cecilia, and of Robert and Eleanor, and of Mrs. Patterson's mother, along with one of Robert's brother, Leonard, and sister, Saraphine.

Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Godwin have all along encouraged the printing of the book. Mrs. Godwin did most of the work of assembling the family information and collecting the documents as well as relaying stories about Robert Beck, such as, how when he was an old man living in his house (it still stands on the corner of Main and Pulteney Streets in Hammondsport) he was in the habit of sweeping the sidewalk around his lot. Gradually he extended his sweeping past other houses down to the business section of the village where he could exchange cordialities with his old acquaintances, and, finally, he got to sweeping all the way down to the lakefront. One day a stranger asked a Hammondsport man, "Who is that old man with the broom?"

"Oh, that is Mr. Beck, he just likes to do it for exercise." That was Robert Beck, always restless and industrious.

Another of the principal supporters of the publication of Robert Beck's story is Richard Sherer, who tirelessly promoted the project and who supplied old photogbraphs of Robert Beck and his places of business in Hammondsport, and articles written by Beck that appeared in the Hammondsport Herald.

Jill R. Flynn, president of the Crooked Lake Historical Society, worked to further the book project by proofreading, going through county records to get information and a copy of Robert Beck's will, and working also to find funding for printing and binding.

Martha Treichler, recording secretary for the Crooked Lake Historical Society, and Bill Treichler made the corrections to the text from Robert Beck's original handwritten manuscript. Barbara Gregor proofread the final text.

A number of other persons and historical societies have been very helpful, too. The Tama County Historical Society (Iowa) sent a picture of, and newspaper feature story about, the Butler Tavern, still standing in Iowa, that Robert Beck helped to build as a young man in the 1850s.

President of the Tama County Historical Society, Ronald Vore, sent a copy of a deed to the property Robert Beck bought in Indian Town, Tama County, Iowa.

Mrs. Juanita Kellerman, secretary of the Anderson County Historical Society (Kansas) responded to a query with information about Garnett, Kansas.

Mrs. Lois Janes who is historian for the City of Corning, New York, supplied pictures of the house Robert and Eleanor Beck built in Corning and obtained confirmation that it was their house from records at Cornell University.

Reverend Robert McNamara of Rochester sent information showing that John Klem had come to Rochester from Marlen, Germany, the origin of the Becks. The Becks came to Rochester following the Klems, likely because they had known them in Germany. Robert Beck's sister Saraphine married a younger John Klem.

The Crooked Lake Historical Society is grateful to all the persons and societies who generously helped in the production of this book.

Index to Robert Beck's Story
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