NOTE: Beckley Street in North Manchester was named in honor of Norman Beckley. Beckley never resided in N. Manchester.


Source: Elkhart Daily Truth, June 24, 1902

Second Stroke of Paralysis Ends an Honorable Life
Deceased is Survived By a Widow and Three Children—Burial at Sycamore, Ill.

Norman Beckley died last evening at 6:08 o’clock. A stroke of paralysis which rendered him helpless for four days and unconscious for the last two days of his life proved to be too strong for his constitution and will and, after a hard fight against tremendous odds, speechless, powerless, weakened by age and suffering, he succumbed without having perceptibly recovered consciousness.

Arrangements were made today to have the remains shipped to his old home at Sycamore, Ill., for interment.

The funeral services will be held at the family home tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o’clock in charge of Revs. Light and Simpson. The body will be sent to Sycamore at 9:15 o’clock Thursday morning.

Sketch of His Life.

Norman Beckley, whose name is so familiar in railroad circles, was born at Barre, Vt., April 15, 1823, being the eldest of a family of three sons and two daughters, born to Samuel Beckley and Roxana Colby. Zebedee Beckley, his grandfather, was said to be of Scotch-Irish ancestry and was a soldier in the war of the revolution and also of the war of 1812. With but few exceptions the family has been of a race of farmers—and was particularly noted for the magnificent physical development of its members.

Norman Beckley was reared upon his father’s farm in Vermont and while his opportunities were limited his boast was that he could not be excelled in his books or in anything he would undertake. When 18 years old he began teaching school during the winters and from the proceeds defrayed the expense of one term’s tuition at the academy at Montpelier and two terms at Newbury seminary, during which time he boarded himself. He began life for himself when 14 years old when he worked for $9 a month. When 21 years old he started south to find work as a teacher, but on account of ill health went west. Staging for three days through swamps and over hills to Chicago from Marshall, Mich., he found employment in a lumber office in the then growing young city. Returning to Vermont he worked at building culverts on the Vermont Central railroad and became foreman of a construction force. He then became roadmaster of the Montpelier-Burlington division of the road.

Roadmaster on Lake Shore.

In 1858 Mr. Beckley returned to the west and became roadmaster of the Chicago division of the Lake Shore with headquarters at LaPorte. After three years he resigned to become president of the Sycamore, Courtland & Chicago railroad, now a part of the Northwestern. He stayed there 13 years, returning to the Lake Shore road in 1874 as superintendent of the Michigan division with headquarters in Elkhart. He resigned that position in 1878 to become general manager of the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan, now the Big Four. The road was at that time in bad condition and the track had practically no market value. It was 110 miles long, unfenced, much of the right of way was unpaid for, numerous suits were pending, the road bed was so bad as to render life unsafe in traveling over it and the only rolling stock owned by the corporation was one solitary engine. Through his personal efforts all of the suits were compromised, the road newly equipped and the stock rapidly jumped to a value of 100 cents on the dollar. He was a severe disciplinarian but lenient when the occasion demanded it. Through his influence, gambling, drinking and kindred evils were much restricted in Elkhart during his management.

He was married October 2, 1848, to Miss Rosette Wills of Barre, Vt. They have three children. Mrs. M.H. Westlake, of Sycamore, Ill., Edgar H. of Benton Harbor and Edward E. of Macon, Ga.

Mr. Beckley was elected mayor of Elkhart in 1884 as a republican. He was a lifelong member of the M.E. church.


[Elkhart Daily Truth, June 25, 1902]

The funeral services over the remains of Norman Beckley, were held this afternoon at the family home on South Main street in charge of Revs. Light and Simpson. Music was furnished by Miss Cleland, organist, and Mrs. M.U. Demarest, Robert Elleson and Anthony Davis.

Floral tributes from many business and personal associates and family friends were arranged around the bier while many testified by their presence the respect felt by them for the dead railroad man. The remains will be shipped to Sycamore, Ill., tomorrow for interment.