William Edward Beeson

1822 - 1882

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister



REV. W. E. BEESON, D.D., President of Trinity University, Aug. 18th, at the residence of Wm. Craig, M.D., near Hillsboro, was stricken with paralysis in the left arm while at the dinner-table. It gradually passed to the whole of the left half of his body. His symptoms assumed such an alarming character that on the 20th Dr. Craig telegraphed for his wife to hasten to him. So many bridges had been washed away by a recent freshet that quick time could not be made by railroad. The writer took Mrs. Beeson by private conveyance. By traveling all night we arrived at Dr. Craig's next morning. We found brother Beeson in his right mind and sensible that his end was near. With respect to the future he said, "All is well." His disease had laid fast hold upon him. He gradually became worse and quietly departed at 8 P.M., Sept. 5th. His body was brought to Tehuacana and buried with Masonic honors. He died as he lived. Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.


[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, September 21, 1882, page 4]


Concerning Dr. W. E. Beeson, whose biography appears elsewhere, J. A. Ward, D.D., of Abilene, Texas, lately wrote: "If in the life of a young man there was the possibility of success a touch of the influence of Dr. Beeson inspired him until he felt the life and power of success long before he reached it. Hundreds of young men, some now dead and many still living, would join me heartily in saying that the inspiration received from this noble and unselfish life has lifted us over hundreds of hard places and has been the watchword, 'on to victory,' in many a doubtful cause." After a toilsome life of self-denial, what consolation must have come to the veteran educator, as dying he recalled his labor for struggling and deserving young people; and what joy must it be to the living loved ones of this dead hero, that he has the reputation, better than marble monuments, that he lived for others, labored to make others better and wiser, and died in the midst of his struggles for the preparation of young men and women for the larger life of consecrated scholarship. What nobler ambition may any of us cherish than the consuming desire to aid in the building of stalwart character in every young life within the reach of our influence? He is the true hero who strives to make all men heroic, and that is the noblest soul that ennobles all other souls. No man is worthy to be called great who selfishly seeks to be great; he is the greatest man who makes possible the abundant greatness of other deserving men. Only that life is worth the living which projects and perpetuates its virtues in as many other lives as possible. He lives longest, just as he lives best, who lives righteously in the generation to which he belongs and through that generation in those that follow. No man has the right to die in any other way than physically. A man's influence for good ought to be as immortal as his soul.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, December 10, 1896, page 739]


XXI.-President W. E. Beeson, D.D.

Because the history of an important institution of learning in our church is so closely interwoven with the life of this good and great man, we give more than usual space to the biography of Dr. Beeson.

Benjamin Spencer, D.D., furnishes the following:

Dr. W. E. Beeson, the son of Edward and Wilminah Beeson, was born in Berryville, Va. His mother's maiden name was Stribling. They were by church relations Episcopalians. The subject of this sketch professed religion under Cumberland Presbyterian influence, and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church as the church of his choice. He placed himself under the care of Logan Presbytery, Kentucky, and was licensed by it. He was ordained by Cumberland Presbytery in 1845. Rev. James Samson, Rev. Gordon S. Templeton and Rev. Solomon Awalt, all Marshall Presbytery, inaugurated in 1850 the work of building a college at Daingerfield, Texas, under the auspices of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of the State. This they undertook without a house, pupils or money, but with the unconquerable purpose of great minds and brave hearts. Their project had seen its inception, a frame building had been erected, a session or two had been taught and a Board of Trustees appointed, and the school christened Chapel Hill College, when Dr. Beeson reached Texas. He had been elected president and at once entered upon the discharge of his duties, which he prosecuted without a break, until the civil war came up, when he, being elected colonel of a regiment of volunteers, served as a soldier through the war. He made a good soldier and a brave commander. There may have been other men in our church at the time Dr. Beeson came to Texas who could have filled his place in the varied relations he sustained to society here, but none of his old students believe it. To aid the poor he was known to give his last cent of money, to protect the abused to risk his own life. Of him it can be truthfully said, that the hungry were never turned away from his door unfed, or the needy unaided. During all the years he filled the responsible position of president of our colleges in Texas, his noble wife taught the music, and a larger part of both their salaries was used to aid young ministers preparing for their work, and to help others struggling for an education. The writer of this sketch was the first young minister that entered Chapel Hill College and therefore knows whereof he speaks. As a theologian, Dr. Beeson was a Cumberland Presbyterian, scriptural, logical and profound. As a preacher he was earnest and often grandly eloquent. I listened to him in rapt admiration when I was a boy, and I still believe, that under favorable conditions, he was the most powerful pulpit man I ever heard. In all his toilsome and laborious life in Texas, he never missed a meeting of his presbytery or synod, and death found him at presbytery away from home.

Rev. S. M. Templeton makes this contribution:

The position and labors of Dr. Beeson in connection with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Texas, entitle his name to a perpetual remembrance among the generation coming after him in the maintenance of the cause to which his life was devoted and in whose honors he ended his days. Entering the ministry in his youth, he was graduated from Cumberland University in 1849, and was a preacher of recognized ability from the beginning. A throat trouble, after a few years in the ministry, was the immediate occasion of his entering upon his course as a teacher, wherein his talent and attainments so signally equipped him for eminent service to his generation.

The Chapel Hill College, inaugurated and sustained by the Marshall Presbytery from the early fifties to 1869, with an interruption caused by the civil war, is remembered in inseparable connection with Dr. Beeson as its soul and genuis. The ability and extended usefulness of others associated with him in that institution, lend greater significance to the pre-eminence which was unquestionably his. When, in 1866 at "Tiwacana Hills" (so in the minutes) the Brazos Synod addressed a memorial to the synods of Texas and Colorado, proposing to establish "a university at a point as nearly central to our church in the State as practicable, for the education of the youth of our country and especially our candidates for the ministry," the record proceeds to say, "We are assured of the hearty co-operation of the Texas Synod; and have every reason to expect the same of Colorado." Dr. Beeson was a member of the Texas Synod at Clarksville in 1867, which promptly responded with hearty approval of the movement. He was moderator of the Texas Synod at Dallas in 1868, and was named on the joint committee of three synods to complete the labors of the committee appointed a year before, and locate and set in operation the new university. When the joint committee had made the location at Tehuacana Hills and appointed a Board of Trustees, these trustees first elected Rev. T. B. Wilson president of the school. Upon his declining to serve, the choice fell on Dr. Beeson, who thus became the first president in fact of the institution with which he was so closely and intensely identified during the remaining thirteen busy years of his life. He was its president during this period except the scholastic year 1877-8; and that year he traveled throughout the State in the interest of the school. Appreciating the limited financial resources of the school he taxed his remarkable powers of endurance by doing almost full work as a teacher in addition to his local and general duties as president. His vacations were not holidays, but days of unremitting toil, there and everywhere in the interest of the following collegiate year. The catalogue in those days declared: "The discipline will be strict but parental;" and Dr. Beeson verified that ideal to the last degree. He was untiring in his care over the sons and daughters committed to his charge by confiding parents. He was almost a detective in ferreting out the clandestine sports of the boys. The wholesome dread thus cast over the boys was strengthened rather than dissipated by the ready leniency when his quick eye found tokens of genuine repentance in the offender. In allusion to a strategy of his early career as a teacher in overtaking some offenders, the boys of all later years, among themselves, called him "Jack;" but no boy was ever found to pronounce that nick-name with an offensive accent; nor would any disrespectful tone have been allowed among the boys even while they were trying the hazardous venture of tantalizing him with a little unauthorized sport. On the day his remains received the last earthly honors, a meeting was called in the college chapel, and on motion of Rev. Warren Edwards, whose honorable privilege it had been to attend the last illness of Dr. Beeson at the home of Dr. Craig at Hillsboro, a committee was appointed to raise funds chiefly from Dr. Beeson's old pupils at Trinity and Chapel Hill, and place a monument over his grave. The beautiful shaft now marking his grave, unveiled with appropriate ceremonies, September 5, 1884, two years after his death, is vocal with the affection of that widely scattered constituency.

Inscription on east side of monument:

"W. E. Beeson, D.D., First President of Trinity University. Born October 21, 1822. Died September 5, 1882."

Inscription on west side:

"Entered the ministry in his seventeenth year in Logan Presbytery; was graduated from Cumberland University in 1849; married Miss Margaret E. Fleming in 1852; President of Chapel Hill College 1852-69; President of Trinity University, except 1887-8, from 1869 until his decease. In his death all felt great loss. His last words of Trinity University were: 'It is a child of God'-ultimate success.' This shaft is erected to his memory in token of a high regard for his character and work as a teacher and scholastic guardian, by the students of Trinity University together with those of Chapel Hill College, and others who loved him, September 5, 1884." North side: Masonic Emblems. South side: "I have fought a good fight," etc.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, December 10, 1896, pages 740-741]

Committee of Deceased Ministers

Tehuacana Presbytery
W. E. Beeson
September 5, 1882

[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1883, page 40]

Representative from Concord - William Beeson

[Source: Minutes of Logan Presbytery, April 9, 1840, met at Marrow Bone Meeting house in Cumberland County, Kentucky, typescript page 218]

Presbytery having conversed with Erasmus T. Bunch and William E. Beeson as to their experimental acquaintance with religion, as to their internal call and motives to the Gospel Ministry; and they being in the communion of the Church, and their moral characters standing fair; they were received as candidates for the Holy Ministry under the care of this presbytery and had the following texts assigned them, from which to prepare written discourses to be read at our next presbytery, (to wit) Erasmus F. Bunch, from St. John 3rd chapter 7th verse and William E. Beeson from 1st Peter 4th chapter and 18th verse.

[Source: Minutes of Logan Presbytery, April 9, 1840, met at Marrow Bone Meeting house in Cumberland County, Kentucky, typescript page 219]

Erasmus F. Bunch and William E. Beeson read discourses from texts previously assigned them, which were sustained as parts of trial, and had the following texts assigned them from which to prepare written discourses to be read at our next presbytery (to wit) E. F. Bunch from Heb. 2nd chap 3rd verse and William E. Beeson from 1st John 5th chapter and 3rd verse.

[Source: Minutes of Logan Presbytery, October 3, 1840, met at Union Meeting house in Warren County, Kentucky, typescript page 225]

William E. Beeson and Erasmus F. Bunch, read discourses from texts previously assigned them, which were sustained as parts as trial, and had the following texts assigned them from which to prepare written discourses to be read at our next Presbytery (to wit) Wm. E. Beeson from Ephesians 6th chapter 13 verse, and Erasmus F. Bunch from Hebrews 4th chap and 9th verse.

[Source: Minutes of Logan Presbytery, April 8-9, 1841, met at Big Creek Meeting house, Adiar County, Kentucky, typescript pages 231-232]

On motion, letters of dismission and recommendation are granted, Brother Baxter C. Chapman, a Licentiate and Wm. E. Beeson a Candidate, under the care of this presbytery, to the Princeton Presbytery, and the Stated clerk is hereby ordered to furnish said letters.

[Source: Minutes of Logan Presbytery, October 5, 1841, met at Mt. Olivet church in Warren County, Kentucky, typescript page 241]

Wm. E. Beeson a licentiate under the care of the Logan presbytery presented a letter of dismission and recommendation from said presbytery and was received under the care of this presbytery.


Br. Wm. E. Beeson is ordered to preach in the bounds of Pitman Creek circuit until next presbytery.

[Source: Minutes of King Presbytery, April 14, 1843, page 3]

On motion C. D. Harris, A. H. Chapman, Wm. E. Milam and Wm. E. Beeson being called on reported that they did not comply with an order of last presbytery requiring a sermon to be preached to the various congregations on the propriety of supporting the gospel and were not excused for their neglect, and S. W. Goodnight and Wm. Wheat reported that they had complied with said order which was received.

On motion Br. William E. Beeson reported that he had complied with order of last presbytery in preaching in the bounds of Pitman Circuit and reported 28 conversions 25 Accessions 23 Adult and 7 Infant Baptisms.

[Source: Minutes of King Presbytery, October 6, 1843]

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Updated June 2, 2010