Like many of you, I am always intrigued by old cemeteries found in the countryside along less-traveled roads. Who were these people? How did they pass? What contributions did they make to their neighborhood or community?
Many years ago when I moved to Ohio and was getting to know Hinckley Reservation, I stumbled across a little family plot that was located just outside park property on Kellogg Road. I stopped the car and meandered around the gravestones. The name Beach was the most common name found on many of the headstones. I soon contacted Hinckley Historical Society and asked Susen Batke if she had any information on the Beach family. She quickly pulled together some information concerning that quaint, quiet family plot.
I soon set up a meeting with her. Susen handed me a folder that included pages from Hinckley Township history. Sure enough, it had several stories about Henry Beach, a colorful fellow who was loved by all in the late 1800s in and around Hinckley Township. Here are some stories about Henry Beach that give you a clear understanding of why he was beloved by so many.
Henry was born in 1847 near the place he was eventually buried, and rarely left the neighborhood. He was a small man; just 5 feet tall and 100 lbs. Folks said, “ he was too big to be little, but too good to be mean.” If his size didn’t get your attention, his booming voice did.
His clear, resonant voice proved to be a true gift as an auctioneer and orator. He loved to read and was well versed in political issues of the times. It was said that when William McKinley was campaigning in the area for governor, Henry was asked to introduce him at an outdoor meeting in Hinckley. His introductory comments astonished McKinley and delighted the audience.
He was a farmer by trade, but his true passion was in the humanities. He enjoyed communicating to local residents through writing as a local newspaper correspondent.
There wasn’t a pretentious bone in his body, people said. What you saw was what you got. He would always wear his pant legs in his boots and have newspapers stuffed in his pants pockets. He would rather walk than ride a horse or sit in a wagon. His proclivity to walk made him very attuned to nature. The lessons he learned from the creatures of the woods and farm served him well as he brought healing to farm animals as a self-taught veterinarian.
A story was told of an epidemic that spread throughout Summit and Medina counties that affected nearly two-thirds of the equine population. Fear raced through the communities when horses began to die. Henry was well trusted by the locals as their veterinarian. It just so happened that none of the sick horses he treated died. Word got around about the success Henry had with animals under his care. A veterinarian from Akron who had lost nearly half of the horses he treated was grasping for an answer. He traveled to see the famous country vet, expecting great sophistication with advanced degrees. When he finally found Henry, he was astonished by his small stature, unkempt attire and lack of formal education. But the doctor from Akron was desperate, and humbled himself before Henry. The doctor exclaimed, “What is it that you are doing that saves the horses while mine are dying like flies?”
Henry confidently replied, “follow nature.” He explained that he would let his horses run free in the woods and pastures when they were sick. He would then observe what they ate to cure themselves. Henry would then go pick the plants that the horses ate and then treat the sick horses around his locale with the same herbs. Simple as that! He learned from the horses. Henry freely gave the Akron vet his remedies and he found the cures he was looking for.
Henry kept no ledger book and never sent a bill for his services as a veterinarian. His common reply to those who asked about his charges was, “pay me what you are a mind to.”
Henry exhausted himself from serving others, roaming the township, and sleeping in stables and barns with ailing livestock. At the age of 61, he succumbed to typhoid fever.
He died with few earthly treasures, but the treasures he laid up were in the kindness and love he selflessly gave to all those he came in contact with. To honor Henry before everyone dispersed from his funeral, his friends and neighbors pledged and provided the beautiful headstone that remains today.
It was told of Henry Beach, “as a farmer, he was a total failure. As a humanitarian, he was a great success.”
Special thanks to Hinckley Historical Society and Susen Batke for providing the information about Henry Beach.