Edward Fitzgerald Beale

Edward Fitzgerald Beale
Edward Fitzgerald Beale

Edward Beale came to the future area of California from New England as a young Navy Lieutenant in the Mexican War in 1846.

Following the war he was sent across country to Washington DC with dispatches explaining why the ships were not returning to the East Coast. Gold had been discovered in northern California and there was no one to sail the ships back. The news that Beale brought quickly spread setting off the infamous “Gold Rush” . Beale’s return with more dispatches was the beginning of his unprecedented seven trips back and forth across the continent on horseback between 1847-51.

While in Washington in 1852, Beale secured for himself the appointment of Superintendent of Indian Affairs in California. He returned to California to oversee the reservations established here giving special attention to the one in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley which he named the Sebastian Indian Reserve. This reservation was reduced in size until it was located primarily in Tejon Canyon on the El Tejon Land Grant. Here Beale instituted extensive programs of farming that made the reserve one of the most successful in the state. But Beale was criticized for his methods as funds were only to be used for the removal and subsistence of the Indians and he was soon replaced.

Because of the trust he had established with the Indians he was asked to negotiate the Indian unrest at Four Creeks in 1856 and was given the title of Brigadier General of the State Militia for that effort, a title that remained with him for the rest of his life.

Once again in Washington he again secured a position in 1857, this being to surveying and establish a road through the Southwest to California. An avid supporter of bringing camels to the United States for use in the deserts, Beale obtained permission to deliver and make use of some of the camels the U. S. Army brought to Texas from the Middle-East. He found the camels to be very useful in the work of laying out and hauling the equipment for the new roadway and delivered them to their destination at Fort Tejon when his responsibilities were completed.

While in Washington, in 1862, Beale secured still another position and was appointed as the Surveyor General over California & Nevada by Abraham Lincoln. It was during this time that he was able to purchase the four Mexican Land Grants that now make up Rancho El Tejon and because of this President Lincoln was known to have said, “Beale became master of all he surveyed” . Beale only replied:

“Someday the archives of our country will tell why Lincoln made me Surveyor-General. It had nothing to do with rod and chain, but much to do with the metes and bounds of the Union.”

Beale’s term as Surveyor General ended with assassination of Abraham Lincoln when the appointments were changed by President Johnson.

Beale continued to live between the East Coast and his Ranch in California. In Washington D.C. the Beale family had a home near the White House and they became good friends with the family of President Ulysses S. Grant. Beale and Grant were known to race their buggies through the streets of Washington DC on their way to Beale’s horse farm outside of the city. In 1876 President Grant appointed Beale as Ambassador to Austria where he was highly thought of because of his connections with “the West” . When his friend Grant died it was Beale who made the funeral arrangements.

Through his latter years, Beale continued to live between the two coasts of this continent involved in numerous business ventures in both locations. When he died in 1893, his son, Truxtun Beale, took charge of Tejon Ranch until the younger Beale sold it to a group of businessmen from Los Angeles ten years later.

The Beale name can be found at many locations throughout this country and especially in Bakersfield where the Beale clock-tower at the Kern Co Museum, the Beale Library, Beale Park, Beale Avenue and Truxtun Ave are all named for members of this once famous family.

Additional information may be found in “A View from the Ridge Route” series.