The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

March 31, 2013

Beckwith, Clyman left their mark on area


In 1831, Illinois Gov. John Reynolds selected James Clyman to mark a road from Vincennes, Ind., to Chicago. He had previously done survey work for the state in the early 1820s. In the summer of 1832, Clyman and Beckwith participated in the Blackhawk War. Clyman served in a company with young Abraham Lincoln and Beckwith commanded the local Vermilion County militia.

On Dec. 1, 1832, Clyman delivered a map to County Clerk Amos Williams illustrating the portion of the Vincennes to Chicago Road that would pass through Vermilion County. The plat was accompanied by a report describing the path of the road. “From Danville north 8 miles the route is through heavy timber, mostly oak,” Clyman noted.

In 1834, Dan Beckwith established the lines of Native American reservations for the federal government. He marked the boundaries of lands preserved by the Potawatomi treaty of 1832 in Indiana. It is recorded, “The reservations were surveyed in the presence of the Indians concerned and General Tipton, agent on the part of the United States, in the month of May 1834, by Major Dan W. Beckwith, surveyor.”

Gen. Tipton eventually would be responsible for rounding up the Potawatomi in Indiana and starting them on the infamous Trail of Death march.

On Dec. 25, 1835, 38-year-old Dan Beckwith died of pneumonia in Danville. He left behind his wife and two young children, Hiram and Melissa. His son, Hiram, would become the premier historian of Vermilion County and the first president of the Illinois State Historic Society. James Clyman dug the grave for his friend who passed away on Christmas Day, and soon resumed the travels that would gain him fame in the west.

Goulding Arnett bought Beckwith’s share of the store he owned with Clyman, and it operated as Clyman & Arnett for a few years. Clyman spent time in Wisconsin and then guided wagon trains west, explored mountain passes, and eventually settled in California. He was 57 years old when he married 27-year-old Hannah McCombs in 1849. They had five children, four of whom died of scarlet fever. The couple also adopted three children.

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