Beatty Cemetery, Sibley County, Minn.
History Of Pioneer Family Chronicled At Rural Gravesite
Article published in "THE LAND" Friday, Dec. 5, 1986, Gaylord, Minn.
Gaylord. On the southeast shore of Beatty Lake, carefully cordoned off from the rest of David Ruehling's corn field, is a small cemetery, resting place for some of the area's earliest settlers, members of the pioneer Beatty family.
For 128 years, this small corner of a Dryden Township farm has remained placidly undisturbed by the seasonal labors of generations of farm families, the tempests of nature, and the casual gazes of passersby along County Road 13.
Two tall oaks stand nearby, silent sentries over the weathered markers of nine graves. Grass and weeds choke the stones, this year, Ruehling said, the County missed its annual mowing. Still, its a tranquil place of quiet beauty. " I wouldn't mind being buried there myself" Ruehling said.
The site is typical of Minnesota's earliest graveyards where pioneers buried their loved ones on newly broken farmsteads. Because burial permits were not required until 1907, and early death records are sketchy at best, no one is quite sure just how many pioneer cemeteries are scattered thru the state. An official of the Minnesota Cemetery Association guessed that there could be several hundred.
Sibley County Assessor, Cal Roberts, noted that his office keeps a record of cemeteries as tax-exempt parcels, but that such listings don't distinguish between private rural cemeteries and homesteaders family plots.
Some of the sites, like the Beatty Cemetery, are fairly visible and close to the road, he said. "But some are on farms, hidden away in old groves or behind building sites."
Roberts estimates about a dozen of the small sites - with anywhere from six to twenty graves each- are located in Sibley County. For example, one half mile from the Beatty plot is the old Altmow family cemetery.
" Just in this neighborhood there are two " Ruehling said. " That must have been the style at the time. Each family had their own."
A local history book, Gaylord Hub on Sibley County, states that many settlers deaths were not recorded: " Life was simple ad severe. Infant death was common and old age rare." Sibley County death records date to 1870, however, and do include some of the names on the Beatty Cemetery markers.
The Story Unfolds
In visiting the cemetery and reading the time worn markers, the story of the Beatty family begins to unfold. Early history books and County records add bits of information and descendant, Jim Beatty, currently Nicollet County Assessor and a great grandson of the pioneer patriarch, can supply more details.
Jim grew up on a farmstead on the east side of Beatty Lake and recalls that at one time, all the land surrounding the lake belonged to the Beattys.
Robert Beatty, Sr. and his wife Sarah came to Minnesota in the spring of 1857 from Illinois. Beatty and four of his sons, Andrew, Hamilton, Robert, Jr., and Joseph W. each made claims of 160 acres, each in Dryden Township.
Beatty, the son of Irish immigrants first settled with his parents in Quebec and later in Pennsylvania. There he married Nancy
Wilson in 1824, the couple had 12 children. After the death of his first wife, Beatty married Sarah and the family resided in Illinois
briefly before coming to Minnesota.
" The original homestead was on the south side of the lake, by the cemetery," Jim added. Hamilton later built on the east side of the lake. In 1890, when
Hamilton moved to Oregon, " the whole clan from up on the hill moved to the east side."
In spite of the hardships- early historians document a grass hopper plague in 1873 and a
diphtheria epidemic in 1881- the family appears to have prospered.
Samuel B. Beatty enlisted in the Union Army and survived several Civil War battles. In 1868, he purchased 160 acres in Sibley County. He served a term in the Minnesota Legislature in 1877. Jim noted that Samuel moved to Brownton in the early 1900s and was buried there in 1921. He had four children. .
Hamilton became Sibley County Treasurer in 1882 His picture and a plaque hang in the Sibley County Historical Society Museum in Henderson
Another son, James R. marries Emily Maas of Arlington in 1880. The couple had several children, including Robert, Jim's father. James R. was a Sibley County Commissioner from 1898 to 1926
But there is a more poignant side to the Beatty history. Jim recalls hearing about " a couple of the girls " who died in Pennsylvania before the moves to Illinois and Minnesota. Another son, George, died in Missouri in 1890
The grave markers in the Beatty cemetery starkly depict the irony of a harsh, yet fragile, life for the settlers. In 1858, when Minnesota was becoming a state, and James Buchanan was President, the Beattys buried their son, Robert, Jr. on land they had claimed for just a year. He was 29. His tombstone is a kiosk -like monument he shares with three of his siblings. The name of William A. Beatty, who died May 29, 1859 at the age of 20, is etched on one side. A third side of the marker reads simply " Nancy Jane, born Oct. 3, 1846, died Feb. 4, 1862" On the fourth side of the monument , Joseph W.'s death , April 2, 1863 at the age of 27 is recorded
No causes are given for any of the untimely deaths, and these names are not included in Sibley County records . Jim speculates that the four may have died from influenza.
Two of the children of James R. and Emily were buried in the family plot in 1903. Grace died of appendicitis at the age of 5, Clark was stricken with pneumonia while attending Dental School in Indianapolis, Jim said.
" Clark died in March. That was always the worst month for pneumonia in those days."
Robert, Sr., and Sarah are buried alongside each other in graves marked with identical flat stones. One reads ," Sarah, wife of Robert Beatty. Died Feb. 4, 1875, age 62 tears, 11 months, 7 days."
Roberts marker indicates he lived to be 87. Records at the Court House list old age as official cause of death.
Andrew, the bachelor, died June 27, 1893 at 69. His tombstone reads " A kind brother and a true friend. "
In that tiny corner of section 23, Dryden Township. Beatty Cemetery is a tribute to the nine people buried there and a reminder of the resiliency and steadfastness that became the homesteaders legacy for future generations.