Joseph Grant Beale


HON. JOSEPH GRANT BEALE, of Leechburg, Armstrong Co., Pa., who represented his district in the Sixtieth Congress, has been one of the foremost business men of that part of Pennsylvania practically throughout the period of his residence there--over forty years. He has been associated with the more progressive undertakings of the region, has been a leader in public as well as in business life, and has developed various enterprises of the utmost importance in the advancement of his section. He is at present serving as president of the Leechburg Banking Company, now giving all his time and attention to his coal and banking interests.

The Beale family is of Norman-English origin and one of the oldest in the State. Its first ancestor in America, a Quaker, came to this country with William Penn, so the Beales claim to be thoroughly Pennsylvanian. As he was a civil engineer by profession, he was employed by the proprietary to lay out the city of Philadelphia. The family afterward settled in the Tuscarora valley, east of the mountains, where they engaged in agricultural and manufacturing pursuits. Washington Beale, grandfather of Joseph Grant Beale, crossed the mountains in the year 1800 and settled in what at that time was almost a wilderness, near Natrona, the site of the soda works in the northern part of Allegheny county. He accumulated a valuable property there and the family fortunes flourished, as was natural when the enterprise and intelligence of its members had adequate scope.

Washington Beale, Jr., father of Joseph Grant Beale, settled near the paternal homestead and engaged in farming and stock raising. To him the people of that section are indebted for at least one practical, noteworthy advance. Seeing the necessity for a better class of heavy draft horses in the manufacturing districts, he went to England in 1859 and purchased and imported into this country the first English draft horses ever brought into western Pennsylvania. From these horses descended the fine stock for which the locality has since become noted. His son, Joseph G. Beale, has also taken considerable interest in this matter, and in 1875, after a visit to Scotland with his father, imported a superb draft horse from that country. Washington Beale married Rosanna McCune, of Greensburg, Pa., who was of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian stock.

Joseph Grant Beale was born March 26, 1839, in Allegheny county, Pa., and was reared in his native township, upon his father's farm. He received a liberal education, attending the common schools and later graduating from the Caton Academy, at Turtle Creek, Pa., and from the Iron City Commercial College, of Pittsburgh. When the Civil War broke out he was drilling for oil in the Kanawha valley, engaged in his first business enterprise. Under the first call for volunteers he enlisted in the Iron City Guards of Pittsburgh, for three months. But before the term had expired he reenlisted, for three years, in what was known as the Friends' Rifles, being a member of Company C., 9th Pennsylvania Reserves. He was wounded on the sixth day of the seven day's fight, June 30, 1862, at Charles City Cross Roads, and was left on the battlefield, where he lay for seven days and nights, with no food but a few crackers, until taken prisoner. He was taken to Richmond and placed in confinement in Libby prison, was released on parole, and sent to Fortress Monroe, and while invalided by his wounds pursued the study of law under the instruction of Samuel M. Purviance and Nathaniel Nelson, of Pittsburgh. After the engagement in which he was wounded, he was promoted to captain; he never recovered sufficiently to return to active service.

Mr. Beale did not practice law long, leaving it to engage in 1865 in the coal business at what was at that time known as Squirrel Hill, meantime making his home at Hazelwood, Allegheny Co., Pa.. During the time he was engaged in mining there he removed coal from underneath what are now some of the most aristocratic portions of the city of Pittsburgh. In the spring of 1868 Mr. Beale sold out and came to Leechburg, in Armstrong county, where he has ever since resided. Having bought the Leech property, he resolved to make the most of his purchase, and at once began a systematic course of development which has proved the wisdom of his ideas, not only advancing his own prosperity but encouraging others in their enterprises. Thus there is hardly a citizen that has done more for the material upbuilding of Leechburg. In 1872, by giving land and extending other aid, he succeeded in securing the establishment there of large iron works for the manufacture of fine sheet iron and tin plate. It was in this mill that natural gas was first used as a fuel, being obtained from a well put down by Mr. Beale in 1869-70. It was the first one used in this country, or in the world so far as is known, from which gas was used for metallurgical purposes. In 1875, the company which built the works having failed, Major Beale, with some others, bought the plant and carried on the manufacture of iron very successfully until 1879. In that year he sold out his interest and built the West Pennsylvania Steel Works, the first established in Armstrong county and the first steel works in the world in which natural gas was utilized, and he was the sole owner of this establishment. Although he had a number of other heavy interests, among them the ownership of a large body of land in the Shenandoah valley, in Virginia he devoted almost his entire time and energy to the management of the steel works, until absorption of his plant by the United States Steel Corporation (See Leechburg chapter). In maintaining and building up this manufacturing establishment, which he founded, he did much for the business prosperity of the borough. He has since devoted himself to the management and development of his coal and banking interests. In 1906 he was elected on the Republican ticket to represent his district in Congress.

Mr. Beale has been a Mason since 1864, when he joined Washington Lodge, No. 253, F. & A. M., of which he is a past master and is now the oldest living member; he is prominent in G. A. R. circles, belonging to J. A. Hunter Post, No. 123, of which he is a past commander, and he is a charter member of Camp No. 1, Union Veterans Legion, of Pittsburgh. After the war he was appointed major on Gen. Harry White's staff, and served in that capacity at the time of the Pittsburgh riots.

On Nov. 10, 1864, Mr. Beale married Margaret J. Harrison, daughter of John and Eliza (Sampson) Harrison, of Harrison township, Allegheny Co., Pa., and they have had the following children: Frank J. died in 1907 unmarried; Harry W. is mentioned below; Allison H., division superintendent of the American Sheet & Tin Plate Company, resides at Vandergrift, Westmoreland Co., Pa.; Charles G., who resides at Leechburg, has been admitted to the bar in Allegheny, Westmoreland and Armstrong counties, and is now a practicing attorney; Edmund H. is mentioned below; Merta M. is the wife of S. J. McCabe, and resides at Leechburg; Clifford J. is engaged as superintendent of coal works for his father.

HARRY W. BEALE, son of Joseph Grant Beale, was born in Allegheny county, Feb. 22, 1867, and attended the public schools and academies in Armstrong and Westmoreland counties. Later he was a student at Iron City College, in Pittsburgh, from which he was graduated, after which he entered the steel mill to learn the practical details of the business in which his fathers' great success had been made. He became a heater, later a sheet steel roller, and after following that work for some time became superintendent of the Beale and Valley Coal Companies, owned by his father. He was thus engaged until his untimely death, Feb. 3, 1905. He was injured at three o'clock on the afternoon of that day by an eastbound Pennsylvania railroad cattle train at Leechburg on the Westmoreland county side, was taken home, and died shortly after. He is buried in the Evergreen cemetery near Leechburg. Though a young man he had already made his activity felt in local affairs, and was serving as a member of the borough council at the time of his death. He was a Republican in politics, and a Mason in fraternal connection, belonging to Leechburg Lodge, No. 577, F. & A. M. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church.

On Oct. 28, 1887, Mr. Beale married Mary Blanche Armstrong, daughter of Dr. John A. and Amanda C. (McKallip) Armstrong, of Leechburg, and to them were born three sons: John, who is learning the steel business at the plant of the American Sheet & Tin Plate Company, Vandergrift, Pa.; Lewis, who is in the employ of the same company; and McCune, who is employed as paymaster at the American Sheet and Tin Plate Co., at Leechburg. Mrs. Beale continues to make her home at the beautiful residence in Leechburg her husband built in 1901. She is a member of the Presbyterian Church.

EDMUND H. BEALE, son of Hon. Joseph Grant Beale, was born at Leechburg, June 29, 1873. He received his education in the local schools, and after working in his father's employ for a time was engaged in the mercantile business in his native place, four years as a member of the firm of Irwin & Beale and four years as a member of the firm of Beale & Richards. In 1897 he went back to his father's employ in the coal business, and he is now acting as superintendent of four mines near Leechburg, the Beale, Aladdin, Denny and Valley coal mines, all of which are owned by his father. He gives his entire attention to his work in this connection. A citizen of high character and proved worth to the community, he has served eleven years as auditor of Leechburg; is a prominent member of the First Presbyterian Church, which he has served three years as treasurer and eight years as trustee; and is a high Mason, belonging to Leechburg Lodge, No. 577, F. & A. M., Orient Chapter, No. 247, R. A. M., of Kittanning, Pa.; and Tancred Commandery, No. 48, K. T. of Pittsburgh. In politics he is a Republican.

Mr. Beale's first marriage was to Maude McLaughlin. After her death he married Ann Lees, daughter of James Lees, and all his children are by this union, George E., Edith J. and Frank L.

Source: Pages 448-450 Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed September 1998 by James R. Hindman for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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