The Highland Township Historical Society
Highland, Oakland County, Michigan



American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men - Michigan Volume, Western Biographical Publishing Co. (1878), Sixth Congressional District, pp. 3-4

BEACH, HIRAM, Merchant, of Fenton, Michigan, born in the township of Troy, Oakland County, Michigan, February 14, 1834.  His father, Michael Beach, was a soldier in the War of 1812; and, for his services, received from the Government a grant of land.   His grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War.  His mother, Lucy (Davis) Beach, was a native of Jefferson County, New York.  Hiram Beach's acquaintance with books was confined to the studies of the district school in Highland, Oakland County.  His early aspirations were for travel and business, and they have been, to some extent, realized.  In 1850, being but eighteen years old, he embarked at New York in a sailing vessel bound for Portland, Oregon.  During the long, tedious voyage, sixty-four persons died of cholera, but our young traveler was spared.  From Portland he determined to go on foot to Marysville, California.   The way led for many miles across unbridged streams, over lofty mountains, through a region uninhabited, save by wild beasts and savages.  Conscious of danger, but undaunted, he set out on the perilous journey.  During those three weary weeks, he endured untold suffering.  One day he met a man, hurrying down a mountain slope, who cried, "Indians! Indians! Go back; they'll kill you!"  A ball had grazed his breast, inflicting a wound that, instead of disabling him, only lent wings to his flight.  No pursuers came in view; but, evidently, they were not far away, and the prospect of meeting them was enough to alarm the bravest man.  This lone, unarmed boy might well pause, and consider what course to take.  After careful deliberation, he decided to push on, and at length reached the outskirts of the settlements in California.   Almost worn out with fatigue and hunger, he stopped at a cabin, and, asking for food, received this answer: "There's some feller 'long heyr beggin' for victuals, and I can't give away grub for nothun'. If yer a mind to cut up that log thar, I 'II feed you."  Unable to do this, the boy was compelled to plod on to the next cabin.   There he was kindly received, and obtained food and rest.  When he told of the reception with which he had met an hour before, his host cursed his inhuman neighbor as only an old miner could have done.  At last, he arrived safely at Marysville, and the miners listened in surprise to hear that a boy of eighteen had accomplished such an undertaking; for none, they declared, had ever crossed those mountains on foot and alone before.  Mr. Beach engaged at once in mining, and so continued, with moderate success, for eighteen months, when he returned to Michigan.  In 1856 he came to Fenton, and commenced the mercantile business.  At the end of ten years, he took Mr. J. O'Hare as a partner, and the firm, thus formed, still exists as Beach & O'Hare.  In September, 1874, they opened a branch store at Byron, Shiawassee County, but closed it in three years because of sickness.  Mr. Beach has also dealt largely in wool and furs.  In 1863 he joined the Fenton Blue Lodge, No. 109, and is a Royal Arch Mason.  He is a member of the Republican party; but, though often urged to become a candidate for office, he has invariably refused, believing that political intrigue and office-holding are incompatible with success in business.  He has visited California three times: the events of the first tour are narrated above; that and the second were made by water, for business purposes; the third was a pleasure trip over the Pacific Railroad.  He married, February 10, 1858, Miss Amelia Hendricks. They have one child - a daughter - now the wife of James P. Gray, a merchant in Nevada.  It is truthfully said of Mr. Beach that, having undertaken an enterprise, he will push it through to the end.  He will work as hard for a friend as for himself, spending time and money without reward.   His career has been one of honesty and advantages, and by his own exertions, he has acquired position and influence, and well deserves to be ranked among the self-made men of Michigan.


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