Hattie Beeman: Forged by Fire
By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Sedalia Historic Fire House Museum and Gardens
Harriet (Hattie) Davis Beeman was made of tough stuff. Kevlar before its time. Born in Denver in 1885, at age 9 she moved with parents and family to a farmstead on Upper Riley Hill Road (Daniels Park). She attended Round Top School with the Dormer, Kroll, Blunt, Schweiger, and Chase children. For her, the four-mile highlands walk over to Round Top schoolhouse was pure bliss. She was at heart, a country girl.
In 1901 at age 16, Hattie met husband Louis at a dancing class preceding the local Oddfellows Ball. After four years of courting, they married and moved to the Beeman family farm in Sedalia. Later, needing more space, they moved further west buying a farm of their own on Jackson Creek.
Sedalia firefighters, many of whom were women, posed with their families following a large fire in 1905. They insisted on “cleaning up” before the photo was taken.
Just as the new farm was beginning to flourish, Louis’ health eroded. By 1924, Hattie was a widow with seven children. Returning to Sedalia, she bought the former home of Missourian Henry Clay, the man who had given Sedalia its name. Struggling financially, she chose to board two other families, the Quasts and George Davis. Mere months after the March 1925 purchase, a defective chimney flue sparked a fire that destroyed the home. Again, she had to grit it out…
By May, she had moved in with her stepmother in town. Carrying the whole family on her shoulders, depression was not an option. Slowly, Hattie worked her way into practical nursing, attending to others and delivering many babies in her time. But the fire and its impact had festered in her soul, making for a life-changing experience as she joined the Sedalia Fire Department.
Hattie’s career change would become an extraordinary gift to the town. During her service, she used fundraising events like quilt auctions, box lunch dances, and town socials to build a new fire house, lay in underground water lines and place fire extinguishers in local businesses. Her notoriety and hard work allowed her to rise to board chair, presiding over an all-woman board from 1935-1938.
By the 1840s, Hattie was a woman in full, serving on the Sunflower Grange, Ladies Aid, Bear Canon Cemetery Association and Jasmine Rebekah Lodge. Not averse to change, she adapted to all that life had dished out, taking a hot air balloon ride in her 90s. She was also a prolific correspondent and mail was a significant part of her life. She is quoted as saying “Who could have more enjoyment from a 20 cent stamp?”
Individually, she was well-balanced and compassionate. Early travails had tempered her outlook and confidence. Thus, she could be as strong or as diplomatic as any situation demanded. How else to explain her progress in the fire department in an era when women did not ordinarily serve in the occupation?
By any standard of achievement, Hattie Beeman’s life was legendary. Passing on at age 97 in February 1983, Harriet could claim 20 grandchildren, 37 great-grandchildren and a life lived to the utmost.
As it turns out, The Connection serves residents of the Wildcat Mountains, a name pioneers and historians gave to the high country paralleling I-25 from Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree south to Castle Rock. Since the first territorial road (Daniels Park Road) bisected our mountains, there was no shortage of colorful characters parading through what are now private properties on the ridges of Douglas County. We bring these grizzled and gutsy settlers alive again, vividly sharing their stories of grit and achievement in these Castle Pines.