The Mystery of Joseph Beard

What became of Jacob Beard‘s son Joseph is somewhat mysterious.  The oldest contemporaneous account of him is the 1854 letter by Isaac Beard’s sister-in-law, which says merely that his brother Joseph Beard “remained in Virginia.”

Appearances in Shenandoah County records

The 1800 census for Virginia is lost but the 1810 Shenandoah census for Strasburg enumerated his father Jacob Beard with two males under the age of ten, presumably his sons Joseph and Jacob Junior, although other records suggest that Joseph was actually a few years older.  Both sons were out of the household by the 1820 census, and Jacob Jr. died shortly thereafter.

On 13 March 1826 Joseph Beard described himself as a resident of Shenandoah County when he sold his interest in his grandmother Esther’s estate to Joseph Stover for $175. 1  Three days earlier,  presumably the same Joseph Beard mortgaged all his household goods — including three beds and bedding, two chests, two tables, one kettle, one pot, one oven, two tubs, two buckets, shovel and tongs, half dozen knives and forks, all his earthenware, all his tinware, one dozen spoons, and three Windsor chairs to Phillip Gaw for a one year loan of $75.  The mortgage was recorded on the same day as the deed to Stover. 2

He must have moved to Rockingham County within a year or two, as he was surely the Joseph Beard enumerated in Rockingham County in 1830 with an infant boy and girl and a wife under 20.3  The children would have been Mary Frances and Jacob.

On 2 February 1835 Joseph Beard and Martha Ann his wife, identifying themselves as residents of Rockingham County, sold his interest in two tracts of land in his grandmother’s estate to Joseph Stover for $250.4

These sightings are explained by two sets of family remembrances set down by his descendants.  Like most family legends they appear to be a blend of mostly fact with a dab or two of fiction.

The Berry Family History

The “Berry Family History” manuscript was written in 1920 by a granddaughter of Joseph Beard named Jennie B. Fulton of Decatur, Illinois.5  Ms. Fulton was born Mary Jane Berry in 1859 to Benjamin Berry and Mary Jane Beard, who was Joseph Beard’s eldest child.  She was born a year after the death of Joseph Beard, so her typed manuscript was, she writes,  gleaned “from observation… and from the conversation of my parents.” A few pages are devoted to  her mother’s side of the family. Those pages begin thus:

[My mother’s] father was Joseph Beard, and her mother, Dorcas Rains.

Grandfather Beard was born of Pennsylvania Dutch parents and they were of the religious sect of Dunkards.  That is the extent of my knowledge of them. Joseph Beard was a boot and shoemaker by trade, and an excellent workman. At the time of their marriage they lived in Virginia, either at or near Harrisonburg, in the valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheney Mountains.  Mother’s one memory of her grandfather Rains was that he had a large wagon, of some description, and fine horses and used to drive to Richmond for merchandise over the Blue Ridge.

My mother, Mary Frances, was the first child born of this union, in November 1826. Two years later a son, Jacob, was born and two years after that another son Samuel. While Samuel was yet an infant, their mother died, and Grandmother Rains took the three children to her own home, where there was already a large family, Dorcas having been the eldest.  There were small children about the age of the three Beard children, so Grandmother Rains had her hands full, but they were generous, helpful hands, such as grandmothers had in those days.

After three years Grandfather Beard married again.  This time a young girl of sixteen _____ Rice, whose father, a well-to-do farmer or plantation owner, who had slaves to work on it, objected to this marriage on account of his daughter’s youth and the fact that grandfather was a widower with three children.

Was this the same Joseph Beard?

Without a doubt this was the the same Joseph Beard who was the son of Jacob Beard. In addition to the clear-cut genealogical evidence, one of his direct male-line descendants is a perfect Y-chromosome match to me.6

Some inconsistencies and minor corrections

The reference to Dunkards  (German Baptists) is surely an erroneous family legend, as we have plenty of evidence that his immediate ancestors were baptized in the Lutheran church.  Whether they were “Pennsylvania Dutch” is unproven, as our first sighting of his grandfather Zachariah Beard was in Maryland.

The marriage of Joseph Beard and “Darcus Raynes” on 13 December 1825 was recorded in Washington County, Maryland — some 60-odd miles north of Strasburg and at least 100 miles from her parent’s home. 7   It seems likely that the couple eloped and married without the consent of her parents, as Dorcas was several years under age. 8  Her parents Larkin and Hannah (Martin) Raines had themselves married in 1809, thus Dorcas could have been no older than 15 or 16.  Indeed, she was still under 20 for the 1830 census.  Larkin Raines lived in the southeastern corner of Rockingham County in a now-defunct community called Northhaven, more than 100 miles from Washington County.9

Joseph Beard himself was apparently living in Shenandoah County when he married Dorcas Raines, for less than three months later he was characterizing himself as a Shenandoah resident when he mortgaged his household goods there and sold his inherited estate to Joseph Stover. 10  Sometime in the late 1820s he moved to Rockingham County, as he appears to be the same Joseph Beard enumerated there in 1830 with a two children who must have been Ms. Fulton’s mother and her uncle Jacob. 11  He may well have lived in or near the adjoining communities of Harrisonburg and Dayton, about a dozen miles northwest of Larkin Rains.  The 1835 deed clarifies that he lived in Rockingham at that time and that his wife was indeed Martha Ann, whose given name “Rice” is supplied by later records.12

The Berry Family History history continues:

About this time Grandfather Rains died, and the Beard children were taken to their father’s home, where Mother, then about eight years of age began her busy life of helphing her stepmother to care for the family.  The babies that came were always boys, and with Jake and Same her own brothers mad much work for the only girl, who was small in stature for her years. There came Edward and Joseph and William and Charles, and somewhere a little girl, the joy of Mother’s young life, named Jennie, who died of whooping cough when just a toddler… There[sic] children were not all born in Virginia, but I know that two or three of them were. Then in Vandalia, Illinois, another little girl was born, Catherine. They called her Katy. She is still living in Pickerington, Ohio, the only one left of that large family. She married a Mr. Robinson, and one of her sons, Arthur R. Robinson, is now living in Indianapolis, Indiana.

When Mother was about fourteen years of age, which would have made it about the year 1840, Grandfather Beard, with other families, among them the Rains and Gordon Families, started west in large moving wagons. They traveled in the fall of the year, passing through Ohio and Indiana to Illinois… When they reached Vandalia, then the capital of Illinois, Grandfather Beard elected to stop there.  He hated slavery with an intense hatred, and wanted to make his home in a state whose laws forbade the traffic in slaves.  But the remaining families… moved on to Jefferson City, Missouri.

The Beard family lived in that locality until Mother was eighteen years of age. In the meantime, Grandmother Beard’s father, Mr. Rice, had sold his slaves and plantation in Virginia and moved to Ohio, in the vicinity of Columbus, and about this time word reached the Beards of his death, and that Grandmother’s share of her property awaited her in Ohio.

So they concluded to move there where her sister, I think the only surviving member of the family, besides herself, was living.

Mother’s brother Jake, next in age to herself, had some months prior to this time, gone to St. Louis and apprenticed himself to a miller, and was living with Grandmother Rains, who had moved down there from Jefferson City, so Mother concluded that she would rather go to her grandmother’s than to Ohio with her father…

The manuscript continues with a description of Mary Frances’s journey, her 1847 marriage to Benjamin D. Berry and their family, and her brother Jake.  On later pages are these items referring to Joseph Beard:

Father bought some lots in the Meeker and Kraft Addition [in Edwardsville, Illinois] ...and began to plan for the building of a home.  I think the house was completed in the year 1855.  It was during these years that Grandfather Beard came from Ohio to make his home with Mother for an indefinite time, and he was very much interested in laying out and planting a fine garden, at the new home.  He, of course, could speak the German language, and this enabled Mother to keep German help in the kitchen…

…on the 16th of January, 1858, my sister Frances Grace, was born.  There was great rejoicing over the arrival of this “baby sister”.  That same winter Grandfather Beard died, and was buried in the old Lusk Cemetery not far from our home.

I note that Ms. Fulton, the author of the manuscript, was born in 1859 after the death of Joseph Beard, so the dates she presented may not be correct.  Indeed, Larkin Rains did not die until 9 September 1841, after he moved to Missouri, so Ms. Fulton’s recollection of  what prompted the children to return to Joseph Beard in the mid-1830s was misremembered.  (It was more likely Joseph Beard’s remarriage to Martha Ann Rice.)  Larkin Rains had claimed land in what was then Cole County (now Moniteau County), Missouri as early as 183913 and was enumerated in the 1840 census of Cole County.14

Joseph Beard was apparently either in transit or already in Illinois in 1840 but he does not seem to appear in the 1840 census.  There is a Joseph “Baird” in the 1840 census of Vermillion County, Illinois, aged 40-50, but his household composition does not match what we would expect.15 Nor were there any other Beards with a household matching what we know of Joseph Beard’s.

The manuscript contains few details of Joseph Beard’s life after Virginia.  It tells us that he lived in or around Vandalia (Fayette County),  Illinois from about 1840 until about 1844 then moved near his Rice mother-in-law in Ohio and around 1855 or 1856 moved back to Illinois to live with his eldest daughter in Edwardsville where he died in 1858.  All of these dates preceded the author’s birth and so may be inexact.

Genealogical notes from his second family

A second family collection of papers differs in some aspects but adds many details on the second family as well as on the Rice family.  It exists in the form of a several handwritten notes, most apparently penned by a granddaughter of James Edward Beard, the son of James Joseph Beard and grandson of Joseph Beard and Martha Ann Rice. 16

These notes list five children of Edward and Catherine Rice, the last of whom was Martha Ann Rice, born on 24 May 1818 in Dayton, Virginia who died on 5 October 1890.  One note reads:

Ned (Edward) and Catherine (Katie) Rice came to Ohio & settled on farms near Pickerington on Sycamore Creek — their house has burned down but Granny & Aunt Fannies are still there. I understand that Tedrow Beard owns Grannys now & that is where the family plot is on the hill.Joseph Beard & Martha Ann (Rice) Beard & their family moved from Dayton, Va. in 1838 & went by covered wagon to Greenup, Ill. — from there went to Effingham, Ill. — they left there to a home on Hickory Creek in the Wilderness near Vandalia, Ill.  Then they moved to Vanburenburg, Ill.  This all took place in a period of seven years.  Martha Ann & Joseph separated there. Joseph went on to Edwardsville, Ill. where he died.

Martha Ann & children returned to Ohio & settled on the farm given to her by her father where she lived until her death in 1896 [sic].  She is buried in Violet Cemetery, Pickerington.  Joseph is supposed to be buried beside her. Not sure.


These notes agree with Ms. Fulton’s account that about 1833 or 1834 Joseph Beard eloped with 16-year old Martha Ann Rice and married against the wishes of her parents.  They list another seven children of that marriage before Joseph and Mary Ann separated sometime in the late 1840s.

Another part of this document document addresses the genealogy of Jacob Beard and some of his children.  I have not reproduced it here because it contains some inaccuracies and no new information.

His mysterious later years

I was unable to find any useful public records of Joseph Beard during the last twenty or so years of his life.  I could not locate him in either the 1840 or 1850 census, nor could I find a deed or probate record for him.

Ms. Fulton’s manuscript suggests that he lived with his family in or around Vandalia (Fayette County), Illinois until about 1845 (when her mother was 18) and then moved to Ohio after they learned of the death of Martha Ann’s father.   Edward Rice died intestate in Fairfield County, Ohio in early 1846 so, if they moved after his death, it must have been in 1846 or 1847.  Joseph and Martha Ann evidently separated after moving to Ohio, as their last child was born in October 1848.  Martha Ann and her two youngest children were living in her widowed mother’s household in the 1850 census; three other children were living with nearby families.  No census record of Joseph Beard was found in Ohio.

It is possible that Joseph Beard visited or lived with his half-siblings or sister Esther in Clinton County, Ohio after the separation, but I could find no record of him there.   His sister Esther Floyd moved to Iowas in 1852 and some descendants think Joseph followed her there.  One letter by a descendant stated that Joseph Beard “went with his 1st wife’s people and possibly some brothers further west to Iowa where his sister Esther lived but eventually settled at Edwardville, Illinois where he died.” Although his son Samuel was in Clinton County in the 1850 census, I found no sign of Joseph there. The only of his siblings who went to Iowa was his sister Esther Floyd, who moved there in 1852.

Death in Illinois in 1858

Ms. Fulton wrote that he died while living with his daughter, and her mother, Mary Frances Berry in Edwardsville, Illinois and was buried in the Lusk Cemetery there.   She later wrote of a burial in 1878 “beside Grandpa Beard in the old cemetery.”  Some confusion among descendants is caused by an inscribed stone, probably erected about 1890, in the Violet Cemetery in Pickerington, Ohio where his wife Martha is buried.  One side of the stone contains Martha Ann Beard’s name and dates and the other side contains this inscription for Joseph: “Died Mar. 6 1858 Aged 61y 3m 5d”.  It seems likely that his particulars were simply added to Martha’s stone when she died in 1890, not that Joseph’s grave was actually moved to Ohio.  (Also note that the implied birth date of 1 December 1796 may be a few years too early.)

Although he died in Edwardsville (Madison County), Illinois, there is no probate record for him there, most likely because he died without assets.

Children by Dorcas Raines (c1810-c1831):

  1. Mary Frances Beard (17 November 1826 – 16 April 1907)  Rather than go to Ohio, she followed her brother Jake to St. Louis where her grandmother Rains was living.  On 7 March  1847 she married there to Benjamin Davidson Berry (1819-1904).  She later lived in Philadelphia (not New York as some family members report) and was buried with her husband in Chester, Pennsylvania. She had four children according to Ms. Fulton: Alpheus Paul Berry (who joined his uncle our West), William Harvey Berry, Frances Grace Berry and the author May Jane Berry.
  2. Jacob Grandsuten Beard (28 January 1828 – 31 March 1916)   His middle name comes from the note by James Joseph Beard’s granddaughter, but I could not find a signature or public record to confirm it, or even evidence of a middle initial.   Ms. Fulton writes that her uncle Jake “had gone from Vandalia to St. Louis and worked for a miller, and we had heard mother say that he had gone out from St. Louis in ’49 with an emigrant train to cross the prairies and set up a flour mill in the great West.”  He ended up in New Mexico where he became a traveling companion of Kit Carson in and around Taos. (As an old man he was interviewed by authors writing about Kit Carson and the southwest frontier.) He married a half-Spanish woman named Isabella Simpson in Las Vegas, NM whose family is fascinating. 17  From the 1850s through the 1890s he owned mills in both Trinidad, Colorado (where his in-laws lived) and in San Ignacio, NM (just east of Santa Fe). In his old age lived in El Paso, Texas and Los Angeles, California although in 1913 he returned to Trinidad to attend the unveiling of a statue honoring Kit Carson.  Jake died in Los Angeles but is buried in Trinidad, Colorado.  He and Isabella were married more than 60 years but had no children, so there are no descendants and he appears, like his uncle Isaac, to have been forgotten by the rest of the family. But both he and his in-laws were once widely known along the Colorado-New Mexico border.18
  3. Samuel Hogamat Beard (4 January 1831 – 12 August 1890)  His middle name comes from the note by James Joseph Beard’s granddaughter, but I could not find a signature or public record to confirm it.  After living with his aunt Esther Floyd in Clinton County, Ohio as a young man he moved to adjacent Highland County where he was a lawyer, farmer, and businessman in Leesburg, and also served as mayor and occasional Democratic candidate for other offices.  Samuel married twice, first to Mary E. Beeson in 1858 and then to Lydia A. Sexton in 1866 and had one child by each marriage who survived childhood.  He was plagued by financial problems late in life, losing his hardware store and being sued by creditors.  He transferred his house into his wife’s name and a few days later committed a suicide by leaping in front of a railroad train at a station near his home.19  His son Naylor B. Beard (1859-1890) died of pneumonia a few months after his father.20  His only daughter Jettie Zoe Beard (1867-1952) survived both parents.

Children by Martha Ann Rice (1818-1890):

This list of children from the notes of a granddaughter of James Joseph Beard.

    1. Edward Lewis Beard (12 April 1835 – 4 February 1880) He married Sarah Bish in 1864.  He is the great-grandfather of Paul Beard.
    2. James Joseph Beard (1 September 1837 – 25 June 1915)  Married Mary Leah Rockey.
    3. Catherine Ann Beard (31 March 1840 – 12 December 1926) Married John Robinson.
    4. Sarah Jane Beard (14 May 1842? – 27 March 1845)  Ms. Fulton wrote that “Jennie…died of whooping cough as just a toddler.”  The family of James Joseph Beard referred to her as  “Sarah Jane” with the above dates (with the year of birth omitted).
    5. William “Daunt” Beard  (1 Sept 1845 – 5 March 1846)  Ms. Fulton wrote that her mother called him “William” and placed  him in the list of children between James Joseph and Charles.  The family of James Joseph Beard listed a child named “Daunt” with the above dates who is likely the same person.
    6. Charles Piltcher Beard (ca1846 – 1889)  Married Sarah Himrod in 1875.
    7. Zachariah Beard (?-?) No child was mentioned by Ms. Fulton, but a note written later by a descendant of James Joseph Beard lists a “Zacchariah” after Charles and Jane but before Jonathan.  He must have died in childhood.
    8. Jonathan L. Beard (4 October 1848 – 16 August 1850) He died in infancy and was buried in the Violet cemetery. He was not mentioned by Ms. Fulton, apparently because he was born after the move to Ohio.



  1. Shenandoah County Deed Book EE, page 224. []
  2. Shenandoah County Deed Book EE, page 224.  Recorded on the same day and on the same page as the deed to Stover. []
  3. 1830 census of Rockingham County: Joseph Beard 10001-1001 []
  4. Shenandoah County Deed Book OO, page 8. []
  5. The first 13 pages were kindly provided by Paul Beard of Los Angeles, California. []
  6. Paul Beard descends from Joseph Beard’s son Edward Lewis Beard.  I descend from Joseph Beard’s brother Isaac Beard. We are an exact Y-Chromosome match at Family Tree DNA. []
  7. Maryland Marriages, 1667-1899, page 121. []
  8. The marriage age without parental consent was still 21 for both men and women. []
  9. Larkin Rains was enumerated in the 1810 and 1820 Rockingham censuses in Northhaven, a community on the north side of the Shenandoah River roughly opposite Port Republic. The 1830 census of Rockingham is, unfortunately, alphabetical and not specific to geography but there is no reason to think that he was anywhere else. 1810: 00100-103; 1820: 110101-11101; 1830: 212101-020001. []
  10. Both deeds recorded in Shenandoah County Deed Book EE, page 224. []
  11. 1830 Rockingham County census: Joseph Beard 10001-1001. []
  12. Shenandoah County Deed Book OO, page 8. []
  13. Illinois Land Claims.  The grant for 40 acres was recorded 10 November 1841 in Township 43 Range 13.   Township 43 is bisected by the Morgan-Maniteau county line, with Section 13 just over the line in Maniteau County.  Maniteau was established in 1845. []
  14. 1840 census, Jefferson City, Cole County: Larken Rains 02010001-0001001. []
  15. 1840 Census, Vermillion County, Illinois:  Joseph Baird 200001-0001.  If this is Joseph Beard, his wife was already out of the household and the older children are missing. []
  16. These documents were also provided by Paul Beard. []
  17. Jake’s wife Isabella was the oldest child of George Simpson and Juana Sauso (daughter of a Taos Spanish family occupying a Mexican land grant near Mora). George Simpson was the son of a St. Louis physician who went west as a young man where he became one of those fascinating adventurers, Indian fighters, and occasional drunks who populated the southwestern frontier. Not long after his arrival George founded the fort at El Pueblo on the Arkansas River, where he met Juana’s family. He and Juana married in 1842 at Bent’s Fort the day she turned 15. They then moved to a town George founded, which he inexplicably called Hardscrabble. In 1844 after Isabella was born they went to Taos to baptize her and the following day George and Juana were re-married in a Catholic religious ceremony there. They later lived in Las Vegas (the one in New Mexico) and Santa Gertrudes where George owned stores. []
  18. In 1865 George and Juana Simpson settled in Trinidad, Colorado and became leading citizens as the town grew. One of his daughters, Rafaelita, is said to be the first white child born in Colorado Territory. George died there 30 years later and requested that he be buried in a spot where he had survived an Indian attack. That spot was the top of a rocky hill overlooking Trinidad called “Simpson’s Rest” atop which was erected a fifteen-foot granite monument over George Simpson’s grave. Nowadays the hill is the site of an electrical sign that spells out “Trinidad” at night. But the monument and the lengthy poem carved into it are evidently still tourist attractions. []
  19. News-Herald (Hillsboro, Ohio), issue of 14 August 1890, page 5. The Akron newspaper reported that the motivation was “financial problems”. []
  20. News-Herald (Hillsboro, Ohio), issue of 24 October 1890, page 8. []