Where the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club now stands was once the domain of Joshua Beck, "a massive and sturdy figure'' who was a foe of secession during the turbulent Civil War era. He was so firm in his beliefs that he was termed "an unconditional Union man.'' You could tell he was Union by the names he selected for some of his sons - William Tecumseh Sherman Beck and Ulysses S. Grant Beck. Gen. Sherman's forces came in the vicinity of the Beck farm en route to the Missionary Ridge fighting.
Joshua Beck was past fighting age and his eldest son, Henry Clay Beck, was too young. Joshua Beck was born Aug. 8, 1813, when the family was living in Jefferson County in upper East Tennessee. It was a German family that came into Pennsylvania and on south. His parents were David Beck and Sarah Hunter Beck, who were married in Jefferson County in 1803. David Beck was born in 1765. Joshua Beck's brothers were William, Joseph, Jacob, Daniel and Thomas. His sisters were Esther, Catherine who married Joseph Loftis, Jane who married Dempsey Hibbs,and Mary who married Lampkin Sherrill.
David Beck lived in Rhea County, then pushed on to Hamilton County in 1822 when the county was still in its infancy. He died here in 1841 and most of his children left the county after that. Many went to DeKalb County, Ala. Sarah Hunter Beck lived to be 108, dying in 1882. She was buried at Sandrock, Ala.
However, Joshua Beck stayed on and was involved in teaming between Chattanooga and Montgomery, Ala., and Augusta, Ga. He used oxen - "speed not being so much regarded as power and sturdy pulling.'' He managed only a few days of schooling, but he obtained a good library made up of four books. They were the Bible, a United States history, a life of George Washington and a life of General Francis Marion. Joshua Beck said these four books "taught me to be a Whig before the war, a Unionist during the war, and a Republican after the war.'' He was also a devout Methodist. When the Stone Church was built at McCallie and Georgia avenues, stone was cut from the Beck farm, transported across the river, and hauled by wagon to the church site. The steeple of the church is still standing.
Joshua Beck did not take a wife until 1850 when he was 38. His bride was Margaret Hixson, daughter of Houston Hixson. She was 20 years younger than her husband.
The nearest mill to the Becks then was Bird's Mill out at Brainerd on South Chickamauga Creek. The family did its milling in large lots -10 bushels of corn and wheat at a time. This product was taken to the mill in oxen-drawn wagons, using the old swing ferry at the end of Market Street. Sherman Beck recalled, "Our wagon was home-made. The front wheels were about four feet high and the rear wheels six feet. This was so the wagon could negotiate the bad roads. On the road leading from my home to the ferry, there were seven gates to be opened and closed. The ferry boat was tied to the lower end of the island by a wire rope and there were small buoys to hold up the wire to keep it from dragging the bottom of the river. When we left the ferry boat on the south bank everybody on the boat helped us up on the bank. When old German Sea (a former slave) called on the oxen and they saw the help that was offered, Bright and Boss did their very best and the wagon soon went to the top of the bank. But our troubles were not over. Market Street had steppingstones across the street so that pedestrians could cross. It was a sea of mud in the wintertime and not much better in summer. We picked out the best part of Market Street and turned out at Fourth Street, then by way of Lookout Street to Georgia Avenue and then on to McCallie Avenue, and on to Missionary Ridge. We often had to pry the wheels of the wagon out of the mud with rails borrowed from the fence of accommodating farmers (or probably from farm owners who had no knowledge that their rails were thusly appropriated).''
The Joshua Becks had seven children, but only two boys lived to adulthood. The Beck sons, Henry Clay Beck and William Sherman Beck, studied at Grant University at Athens, Tn. H.C. Beck left school in his junior year and took a job as a clerk in the Hamilton County register's office. The next year he was elected register, though he was just 21 years old. The Beck brothers later headed Title Guaranty and Trust Company and were the recognized authorities in the county on property holdings.
When Joshua Beck died in August 1886, he was laid to rest by the Tennessee River on the property he had long owned. Margaret Hixson Beck lived until 1897. The Beck home, built in 1875 by the river, was long occupied by H.C. Beck. It was destroyed by fire in 1974. Shortly after this fire, a bulldozer driver knocked down the old headstones at the Beck cemetery at number three green at the golf and country club. The slave cemetery of the Beck family near North Dartmouth Street was fenced and preserved.
Henry C. Beck married Rhoda Wexler in 1875. He lived until 1915. Their surviving children were Benjamin and Mary Elizabeth who married Charles Oren Hon Sr. in 1916. He was a native of Illinois. Sherman Beck married Flora Ann Tarwater in 1887, and they had seven children. Sherman Beck was mayor of Hill City (North Chattanooga), chairman of the Hamilton County School Board, and a charter member of the St. Marks Methodist Church. He survived until 1941. Members of the Hon family, descendants of Joshua and H.C. Beck, still operate Title Guaranty and Trust.