Thomas Beaver (1814-1891)

Thomas Beaver, c.1885

Thomas Beaver was born to the Reverend Peter and Elizabeth Gilbert Beaver on November 16, 1814, in Pfout’s Valley (now Perry County), Pennsylvania. His father, a Methodist minister, and his mother were both of German ancestry. Despite leaving school at age thirteen for what was to be a long and successful career in business, Beaver maintained a voracious appetite for knowledge throughout his life.

Beaver's introduction to commerce began when he took a job at a store owned by his father in New Berlin, Pennsylvania. A year later, he left his father's store to work for the Reverend Jasper Bennett in Williamsport. As an employee of Bennett, Beaver often traveled to Philadelphia to make purchases, and he soon made the acquaintance of many prominent merchants in the city. As a result of such connections, in 1837 Beaver was hired by the firm of Bray and Bancroft in Philadelphia. Just three years after being hired at Bray and Bancroft, Beaver became a full partner in the firm, a position he held until 1857, at which point he became a trustee of the Danville Iron and Steel Works. Beaver enjoyed success as a trustee, and in 1859, he and fellow trustee Isaac Waterman purchased the works. He remained a co-owner until 1876, when he sold his holdings and retired. He joined the Dickinson College Board of Trustees in 1885, and served on the board until his death.

While an employee of Bray and Bancroft, Beaver met Elizabeth Wilkins, and they married on January 23, 1838. Together they had seven children, two of whom were lost in childhood. His wife died on December 27, 1884. Beaver remained an active member of the Danville community until his death. Generosity marked his later life. In 1888, thanks to a donation from Beaver, Danville erected the Thomas Beaver Free Library and YMCA Building and celebrated its opening with fireworks and a parade. Additionally, in 1889 Beaver donated $30,000 dollars to Dickinson College, with the money being used to endow the Thomas Beaver Chair of English Literature. On May 19, 1891 Thomas Beaver died, survived by five children. He was buried alongside his wife in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

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Dickinson College Archives
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