Biographies of Matthew Beaton

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Account of Matthew Beaton from the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, edited by Newton Bateman and Paul Selby and History of Jo Daviess County, edited by Hon. William Spensley, Chicago: Munsell Publishing Company, 1904, pp. 664-665.

MATTHEW BEATON, dry-goods merchant, Galena, Ill., was born in the city where he now resides, Feb. 19, 1846, the son of Donald and Elizabeth (Dwen) Beaton, the former born at Lochaber, Invernesshire, Highlands of Scotland, and the latter in Baltimore, Md. The Beaton family had been for generations identified with the old Scottish town of Lochaber. The grandfather of the subject of this sketch, Angus Beaton, married Sarah McPherson, while the great-grandfather, also named Angus, married Sarah Gillis--all born at Lochaber. On the maternal side, the grandfather, Matthew Dwen, was a native of Parish of Athy, County Killdare, Ireland, and his wife, Ann Caton, of Baltimore, Md. Matthew Beaton received his education in the Galena schools and, on July 16, 1868, married Sarah A. Brehany, born in Galena. They have had the following named children: Irene, Catherine, Sarah, Donald, Mary, Eleanor and Matthew. Mr. Beaton's religious affiliations are with the Catholic church, politically he is a Republican and fraternally a Knight of Columbus.

Account of Matt Beaton from the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Davless County, Illinois,... together with Portraits and Biographies of all the Governors of the State, and of the Presidents of the United States, Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1889, pp. 590-592.

MATT BEATON. "Every man to his calling", is a maxim no less forcible at the present time than when it was first uttered; and no better illustration of it can be found than in the subject of this notice. Mr. Beaton is pronounced the superior--even by his honest competitors--among the salesmen of Galena, and, in fact, in Northern Illinois. His reputation as such was established in his boyhood days, in fact, and he has never allowed it to wane since that time. He seems to have a natural faculty of exhibiting goods, and discoursing upon their merits; while at the same time he maintains that courteous demeanor which has conspired to make him popular among the masses.

Mr. Beaton is naturally a gentleman, and in personal appearance rather tall and lithe; with a closely knit frame, firm, but wiry and active; nervous, slightly stooping from the habit of carrying a well-balanced head filled with an active brain, which tends to hurry him along as though to keep in advance of his ideas. He carries a pair of eyes, restless, but keeping close watch of what is going on around him, with a sharp look-out for business. He has been familiarly recognized as the skillful general manager of the large and commodious store at No. 172 Main Street, owned by Mr. R. H. Fiddick, a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this volume.

The history of the St. Louis store and that of our subject has been about the same for many years in this city. It was established originally as early as 1843, when Mr. Porter brought a stock of goods up the Mississippi River from St. Louis; and, not having sale for them at St. Louis, established himself on the levee, or near the wharf in Galena, in a rude frame structure; and from that time on for a number of years did a general merchandising business. After a time he secured a room up in the town, and in 1845 associated himself with a partner; and they operated together under the firm name of Porter & Rood for some time. Mr. Rood then withdrew, and the next firm was Porter & Spratt. All this time it had been known as the "St. Louis store," which cognomen still clings to it.

This store was next operated by Spratt & Co., Mr. Beaton being a member of the company. He had, for some time been a faithful, trusty, and hard-working clerk, and was general manager from April, 1858; which position he has since filled. He has thus had the experience of both buyer and seller; and, throwing all his energies into the business, has succeeded in a manner which could not have been done by any other method. The St. Louis store had fair sailing a number of years, but finally the firm became insolvent, and the doors were closed. ln the meantime Mr. Beaton, as the result of hard work and an overwrought mental and nervous system, suffered a long and dangerous illness, and for weeks his life was despaired of. It was upon his recovery that he found the St. Louis store closed up; the news not having been broken to him while on his sick-bed. The bankrupt stock was purchased by Mr. R. H. Fiddick, and Mr. Beaton again became general manager. A year later it was removed from the old stand at No. 167 Main Street, across to its present location. With the exception of a two-months' honey-moon, and the month in which he was trying to "shuffle off this mortal coil," Mr. Beaton has never lost a day out of the store since he entered it.

All the interests of Mr. Beaton during his life-time have been centered in this county. He was born in Galena Feb. 19, 1846, and is the eldest son of Donald Beaton, a native of the parish of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, of parents who came from the Scottish Highlands, and were of pure Scotch birth and ancestry. The Beaton family was an old and honored one in the vicinity of Lochaber, in Invernesshire. Some of the family found their way to Prince Edward's Island in 1810, which was the birthplace of Donald Beaton, a few years after the family settled there. They were Catholics in religion, and there have been among them some eminent men, noted for their abilities and learning.

The father of our subject was reared to manhood in Nova Scotia, where he learned the trade of blacksmith. In 1843 he came over into the States, and sojourned for a time in Chicago, Ill. Thence he emigrated to this county; and, establishing a smithy at Galena, operated it until 1850. He then entered the employ of the Government, and pursued his trade at Ft. Snelling, where he made a specialty of shoeing horses. He was an expert at his business; but excessive labor and an unfavorable climate undermined his health, and he returned to Galena. This change not being what was desired, he started out on a tour South; going to New Orleans, where he died soon after in the prime of life.

Donald Beaton came to this county a single man, and was a great favorite wherever known, being genial and obliging, and making friends of all who knew him. In due time he was married to Miss Elizabeth Duane (pronounced Dewin or Dwen), a native of the city of Baltimore, Md., where she was reared to womanhood. Her parents were Matthew and Ann (Caton) Duane, the former born in Parish Athy, County Kildare, Ireland, and the latter in Baltimore, Md. Mr. Duane emigrated to the United States when a young man, and was married in Baltimore. The Catons were a prominent, old family. Matthew Duane, after his marriage, operated for a time as a contractor in Baltimore; and later in Pittsburgh, Pa. Thence he emigrated to St. Louis, Mo.. and subsequently to Bellevue, lowa, where he filled contracts on one of the first railroads constructed in the Hawkeye State. He died in Iowa in middle Life. The wife and mother survived her husband until 1857, and died in Galena, where about fifty-six years old.

Mrs. Elizabeth Beaton O'Leary, the mother of our subject, was carefully reared and educated in her native city, and is still living, having arrived at an advanced age. She is a lady of many estimable qualities, greatly beloved by her family and friends. Both she and her husband were life-long members of the Catholic Church.

Our subject was but a lad at the time of his father's death, which left the widowed mother with three children. The eldest, a daughter, Catherine, died in the bloom of womanhood, at the age of twenty years. The younger daughter, Annie, makes her home with her mother and brother Matt. The latter is the second child. Mr. Beaton was the first husband of this lady. She had by her second marriage, to Thomas O'Leary, one child, a son, Augustus G., an active and intelligent young man, now operating as a clerk in the St. Louis store.

The 16th of July, 1868, was a day memorable in the history of our subject, he having been married to Miss Sarah Brehany. This lady was also born in Galena, July 16, 1853, and grew up an accomplished young lady; the daughter of Michael and Elizabeth (Gregory) Brehany, who were natives of Ireland, and emigrated to America in their youth, and before their marriage. They were wedded in Galena, and there the father died in 1859, in middle life. He had carried on the grocery business, and was recognized as a worthy citizen. His widow is still living, and is now about sixty years of age. Both became identified with the Catholic Church in their youth.

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The following biographies were prepared from typescripts probably originally prepared by Leo Sheridan Jr.

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Clan Donald History

Beaton Origins



MacPherson's Farewell

Big Finley Beaton

The Beaton Family

Donald or Daniel Beaton

The Dwen Family

Fort Snelling: 1851-52

Aunt Clara's letters

Elizabeth Maguire's obituary

Elizabeth O'Leary's obituary

Matthew Beaton's biographies

Matthew Beaton, 50 Years in Business

Aunt Annie

Burke's Bethune of Balfour

Burke's Graham of Fintry