Donna Hechler Porter
Benjamin Franklin Bean: County Attorney & Legislator
This article was published on my original site on 19 Feb 2019.
When George Pleasant and Ellenor “Ellen” (Burke) Bean’s first child was born, they gave the boy a name of singular distinction and privilege – Benjamin Franklin Bean. Little did they know the boy would apparently have the aptitude of his namesake – eventually becoming a lawyer and serving in the Texas House of Representatives. He certainly followed good company, for his uncle Captain John Thomas “Jack” Bean and his “cousin” James Walter Barclay also served in terms in the same capacity.
Benjamin was born in the middle of a sweltering east Texas summer on 24 June 1852. His father was a veteran of the Mexican War, and his uncle was Capt. John Thomas “Jack” Bean of Civil War fame. He was related to the Barclays and the McQueens, many of whom held various public offices in Tyler and surrounding counties. Not to be forgotten, he was eight when the Civil War broke out, and he was twelve when Reconstruction slashed its way across Tyler County. No doubt such hardships impressed him, although no record exists of his difficulties during that time. Still, he managed to get a decent enough education in the local schools, and he must have been of a bright aptitude.
In 1877, at the age of 25, he married Minerva “Minnie” Belk, the daughter of Andrew Belk and Amanda Wilson. Her father was a boot and shoemaker who had moved to Jasper County from Tallapoosa County, Alabama, sometime between 1856 and 1860. The Belks may have lived for a short time in Mississippi, for census records indicate Minnie was born there and not in Alabama or Texas.
Three years after their marriage, in the 1880 Jasper County, Texas, census, Benjamin, Minnie, and their one year old daughter, Evie, were living with her parents and Benjamin was working as a schoolteacher. He may well have been studying the law because he later did work as an attorney after attending school at Sam Houston, Normal at Huntsville and the University of Texas at Austin.
Sometimes between 1880 and 1895 or so Bejamin and Minnie moved to Trinity County, Texas, and it was while living here that he ran for and was elected to the 25th Texas Legislature, The House of Representatives, representing the counties of Montgomery, Trinity, and Walker County and serving from 12 January 1897 to 10 January 1899. He served on the committees for Commerce and Manufactures, Insurance – Statistics – and History, Judiciary No. 1, Penitentiaries, and Roads – Bridges – and Ferries.
Between 1900 and 1910, Ben and Minnie moved back to Polk County, and here he served as a county judge. On 5 August 1910, Minnie passed away. Ben remarried sometime before 1920 and in the census that year, even at the age of 68, he is still listed as being an attorney.
Census records indicate Benjamin and Minnie may have had only two children that live to adulthood. Evie, born 1859, and who it appears at least according to the 1900 census married Albert Collins. Albert and Evie were living with her parents that year. Also in Benjamin's household that same year was a 15 year old son also named George. Likely other children were born to the couple but they must have died while young.
Benjamin passed away on 14 February 1921. His memorial was read in the Texas Legislature. He was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Polk County, Texas, beside Minnie.