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The Legend of Peter k. Beam

The Legend of Peter k. Beam

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Published by: jesdar on Dec 04, 2011
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THE LEGEND OF PETER K. BEAMPART I
The murder of Peter K. Beam of Civil War times is a legend on Cedar Creek andthroughout Scott County. I was a teenager there in the ‘30s when I first heard the story.Old and young gathered round when the subject arose, to listen, spellbound, all over again, how Peter K. Beam was shot while he worked in his garden, on that 27
th
day of July 1876, in the presence of his daughter Sarah Elmina Beam. The older children,William Beam, Rosie Beam, Lizzie Beam and John Beam were elsewhere at the time of the shooting.Retha Beam Krippen, grandniece of Peter K. Beam, relates the story this way. “Aman sent word to Peter K. that he would kill him the next time he saw him. Later thisman was shot from ambush while driving his team and wagon across a stream. Theman’s wife was with him and “claimed” she saw Peter K. hiding in the bushes on thestream bank. Large boot tracks were found where the widow indicated but Peter K. woresmall boots. It is not likely that he would have borrowed large boots to commit thecrime; perhaps she was mistaken in her identity or for some other reason pointed thefinger of guilt at him. At any rate she hired a man to kill Peter K. who was shot in the back in the presence of his young daughter while working in his garden. The child ran upto the killer as he sat on the hillside changing his shoes or boots and asked him why hekilled her father. The man denied the deed and the child was not put on the witness standat the request of her grandparents who explained that there had been enough killings. I believe the man went free.”Mrs. Krippen relates another story about Peter K.: “Peter K. kept losing his cornfrom his corn crib. He suspected his neighbor who pretended to be his friend. In order toconfirm his suspicions he asked the neighbor’s help in setting a trap for the thief at one of two holes in the corncrib. This was done but later Peter K. switched the trap to the other hole in the corncrib. Early the next morning cries from the man caught in the traprevealed his “friendly” neighbor as the culprit. Peter K. was a man of few words. Helistened silently to the man’s claim of hunger then insisted the man share his breakfast.The man protested that he was no longer hungry but to no avail. Later Peter K. took himto the barn, filled a sack full of corn and gave it to him with the warning that if he ever caught him back there in his corncrib he would kill him. I feel sure if he had asked in thefirst place the corn would have been given to him. No more raids were made on the corncrib.”A 3
rd
story Mrs. Krippen relates: “When Peter K. as a Peace Officer had todeliver a prisoner to Fort Smith authorities for trial, he received a tip that an ambush had been set at a certain point where his prisoner was to be taken from him. Upon nearingthat point Peter K. gave his prisoner a gun with which to help defend himself but warnedthe man to remember that he was his prisoner and was to return the gun when requested. No doubt, seeing that the element of surprise was missing, the gang did not attack; the prisoner returned the gun to Peter K. who delivered his prisoner to authorities at hisdestination.”
 
“These stories,” said Mrs. Krippen, “were told to my father during thetwenties by Mr. Pettit of Black Fork and Mr. T. A. Castleberry of Fort Smith. I feel thatPeter K. must have been a just man, full of courage, loyal to his friends, but not the kindof man you would want to anger. I am sure”, says Mrs. Krippen, “he must have made agreat many enemies in trying to uphold the law.”The murder of Peter K. Beam was not the only killing that occurred in ScottCounty in those times; more than 30 murders took place in the time san known as theWALDRON WAR. Part of the unrest stemmed from the appointment of Nat A. Floyd assheriff under the Hadley Administration. Floyd’s unpopularity, as a Northerner, becamea point of contention and the violence which ensued resulted in his leaving the county. A plot to kill Floyd was revealed by Peter K., who before a grand jury refused to divulge hissource of information, an action which may have led to his death. A man by the name of Jeff Jones(wanted poster says Jack Jones), brother of John Jackson was pin-pointed as themurderer of Peter K., but was never convicted, and could not be found locally. Wheninvolvement of Jones with many of the murders became accepted fact, and Jones finallywas located near Ft. Smith, he refused to testify because protection from the governor was not forthcoming.Some Scott County officials and even physicians were among the suspects in themurder. Peter K. blamed the death of his daughter Mattie A. Beam in 1868 on faultymedical practice of a physician who was active politically. The instrument of her deathmay well have been the hypodermic needle which was first made its appearance on alarge scale during the Civil War. The invention of the hollow needle in 1844 wasfollowed by the invention of the syringe with which to operate it in 1855. These medicalinnovations placed the needle in the hands of physicians ill-trained to use it. The work of Louis Pasteur and his germ theory were not accepted fact until 1874. Unwise use of theneedle in inexperienced hands can cause death today – air bubble forced into the bloodstream, unrefrigerated serum, dirty needles.Malpractice suits in those years were unheard of, medical service so valued, sothat public murmuring, if any, were hushed up and forgotten. Whatever the case, Peter K. blamed the physician publicly for his daughter’s death in 1868.The aforesaid physician’s political zeal led him to ally himself with the bushwhacker and in later life commented on deeds committed in their escapades. On oneoccasion, he related, he and his fellow-patriots cornered a victim, tied a rope around hisneck and another around his feet; then having secured the ropes to the saddle horns, theyrode off in different directions and pulled the man apart. Such were the atrocities of thetimes.Peter K. Beam, his first wife Martha J. Beam (1840), and daughter Martha A.Beam (1861) are buried in Sanders Cemetery Cedar Creek. As was the case in many of the 30 murders of that era, this one was never solved. More than a century later there isno headstone for Peter K. Beam.
 
PETER K. BEAM – PART II
Peter K. Beam is listed twice in Scott County census reports
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1860 in Tomlinson Township and again in
-
1870 in Parks Township with some differences.TOMLINSON TOWNSHIP (1860)Peter K. Beam 29 Carpenter SCMartha Beam (F) 15 ALW. M. Beam (M) 1 ARK HICKMAN TOWNSHIP (1860): W. A. Beam is listed in HICKMAN Township inthe household of J. C. and Sarah S. Head of Georgia. W. A. Beam is shown as age22, Carpenter, Ala. The relationship to the Head family is unknown.PARKS TOWNSHIP (1870): Household #17 Note SpellingPeter K. Beem age 31 ALAFrances E. Beem 25 TNBeem 13 ARK Rosia Beem 7Eliz E. Beem 3John H. (K) Beem 2/12 (2 of 12 months)Gravestones in the Sanders Cemetery, Cedar Creek, indicate Peter K. moved fromTomlinson shortly after 1860 census. The two grave markers, worn but still legible are of interest:Martha J. Beam, Wife of Peter K. BeamDied Oct.13, 1865, aged 25 y; 10m, 17 daMartha A. Beam, dau/o P.K. Beam, and M.J. BeamDied Oct. 4, 1868, aged 7 y; 6m; 15 daAnd Frances Beam had other children: Sarah Elmina Beam; and Baty Beam. His 2
nd
wife is said to have died soon after the murder of Peter K. and too is buried at Cedar Creek in the Sanders Cemetery; however, no gravestone for her is found. These gravesare said to be the beginning of Sanders Cemetery.After Peter K. and Frances were dead, the children were taken by the Dutch Creek Millards and others, relatives of Frances E. Taylor Beam whose mother, Eliz. Millard(1825) md Henry Taylor (NC) of the Dooley settlement, but Elizabeth was deceased atthe time of the murder so there was no mother in his household to deal with the needs of the grandchildren.1.M. Beam, the eldest, was about 19 at his father’s death.

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