John
Wesley
Beckett


 

JOHN WESLEY "WES" BECKETT was born in Delaware around 1843 to John Beckett and the former Mary Hester "Hettie" Johnson. The family, which included younger brother Charles Beckett was living in Little Creek Hundred, Kent County, Delaware when the Census was taken in 1850. By 1860 John W. Beckett's father had passed. The Becketts lived in Newton Township, much of which would become part of Camden several years later. John W. Beckett worked for and lived with Samuel Eastlack, a farmer. His younger brother and mother also lived in Newton, at a separate residence. When the Census was taken in 1870 John W. Beckett was working as a laborer. He lived with his mother, wife Annie L., and daughter Irena Beckett.

John W. Beckett was appointed to the Camden Fire Department as an extra man with Engine Company 2 on November 26, 1877 as a replacement for Pierce Brown. He served until April of 1878, and was not reappointed. Charles Todd replaced him on the Fire Department's table of organization. Fire Department records do not have an address or occupation for John W. Beckett, however then 1878 Camden City Directory states that he worked as a laborer and was living on South 8th Street below Central Avenue. His widowed mother was also listed at the same location. He also appears to have made an attempt at operating a saloon at 700 Kaighn Avenue at that time.

The 1880 Census show John W. Beckett, his wife Annie and daughter Irena living in an un-numbered house on Mulford Street. By 1882 he had moved to Baxter Street, at Ann Street. The 1884-1885 City Directory shows him living at 720 Kaighn Avenue, working as a laborer. He opened a cigar store there soon afterwards, which was listed in the 1885 City Directory. Not long after that edition was published, John W. Beckett was appointed to the Camden police department. He is listed in the 1887-1888 and 1888-1889 Directories as a policeman, living at 710 Kaighn Avenue. Directories from 1890-1891 through 1892-1893 show him living at 805 Central Avenue, working as a policeman. The 1893-1894 City Directory shows that he moved to 1807 South 7th Street, and was still a police officer at the time of the directory's compilation. 

John W. Beckett was still residing at 1807 South 7th Street when the 1894-1895 City Directory was compiled, but he had been removed from the police department, and was working as a laborer. He is listed in the 1895-1896 Directory at that address, but moved to 1820 Kossuth Street prior to the compilation of the 1896 City Directory. After that date, John W. Beckett no longer appears in City Directories, nor is he listed in the 1900 Census. 

Besides being one of the first black police officers in Camden, John W. Beckett is noteworthy as he was the third black member of the Camden Fire Department, coming into department after Pierce Brown and Solomon Clark.


Philadelphia Inquirer - October 4, 1891

Philadelphia Inquirer - January 9, 1892

Philadelphia Inquirer - May 8, 1892

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