Reverend Dr. David J. Beale, D.D. (1835-1900)

Rev. Dr. David J. Beale DD
Rev. Dr. David J. Beale, DD

The Collection of the Reverend Dr. David J. Beale, property of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association and acquired with assistance from the National Park Service.

Reverend Dr. David J. Beale, DD, was born on Wednesday, July 1, 1835, in Bealetown (now Honey Grove), Juniata County, PA to Joshua and Milly Milliken Beale. In addition to attending the local public schools, Beale also attended the Tuscarora Academy in Academia, PA, from 1850-1852 and the Airy View Academy in Howard, PA. While attending both academies, Beale also taught some courses. In 1861, Beale graduated from Jefferson College (Washington and Jefferson College, today) in Washington, PA, with his BA degree. He received his MA degree in 1864 and his Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) degree in 1866. For seminary, Beale first attended the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh and also Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ. Beale was formally ordained to preach in 1863.

Reverend Dr. Beale served the Middle Tuscarora Presbyterian Church near where he grew up. On May 2, 1865, Rev. Beale married Mary Moore in Bellefonte, Centre County, PA. It was while at Middle Tuscarora Presbyterian Church that the Beale's had their first three of six children: Milly, born February 17, 1866; Mary, born June 25, 1867; and Jennifer, born October 13, 1868. From 1869 to1872, Reverend Beale served at St . George's Presbyterian Church in St. Georges, New Castle, DE. While there, Mary gave birth to John on July 24, 1870. From 1872 to 1883, Reverend Beale served as minster to Light Street Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD. While there, Mary gave birth to David Jr. on December 26, 1873 and Wilson on September 27, 1876. From 1883 to 1890, Beale served at First Presbyterian Church in Johnstown.

On May 31, 1889, after going out to take a quick look at the high waters himself, Beale returned home to prepare his sermon for Sunday, June 1. Mrs. Beale asked him to assist in taking up the carpets as she was afraid that if the flood water encroached on the house, the carpets would be ruined. Just then, Reverend Beale heard a noise that, to him, sounded like a freight train barreling right for the manse. When he looked out the window, he saw the flood waters heading in his direction. Beale yelled for everybody to run to the attic. As the flood destroyed Johnstown, Beale shouted prayers, read Biblical scripure, and sang hymns to those gathered in the manse attic. Soon the noise and destruction subsided and those gathered in the attic slowly realized their lives had been spared. They quickly retreated from the manse and spent the night at nearby Alma Hall, a four story structure in Johnstown that had survived the flood. Of the night in Alma Hall, Beale wrote, " was a night of indescribable horror."

In the aftermath of the flood, Reverend Beale and Reverend H.L. Chapman of the Franklin Street Methodist Episcopal Church were appointed as superintendents of the city morgues. Reverend Chapman did not feel up to the task, but Beale took this responsibility very seriously. Beale wrote, "We had no record-books, not even paper, on which to make our records, and had to use with great economy that which we gathered amid the debris or happened to have in our pockets. Upon this we wrote the names of those we identified and descriptions of the unrecognized." Beale saw morgue work as the most important and solemn of responsibilities.

Beale fell into disfavor with John Fulton, who was a leading elder at First Presbyterian and general manager of the Cambria Iron Company. Fulton alleged Beale had wrongfully allowed the church to be used as a morgue without getting permission from the church's governing body, the Session. A vote was held on December 19, 1889 for Beale's removal as minister of First Presbyterian. The votes, however, came back in favor of Beale. However, Fulton kept on alleging Beale and his family of wrong doing, including neglecting the congregatoin, charging people money to view the morgue books, stealing jewelry from the dead, and by making money from the flood with the publication of his book Through the Johnstown Flood: By a Survivor, which was published in 1890. Beale made a deal with Fulton that if Fulton would apologize in front of the congregatoin, Beale would leave. Fulton apologized and Reverend Beale and his family left Johnstown on November 1, 1890.

Reverend Beale left Johnstown for Frederick, MD, to serve a church there. On September 1, 1896, Reverend Beale became the ministor of the First Presbyterian Church, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, retiring in September 1898. Beale died at his residence, 1613 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA on October 19, 1900. Reverend Dr. David J. Beale was buried in the Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery, Mifflintown, PA.

1.) Beale, David J. Through the Johnstown Flood: By a Survivor Edgewood Publishing, (1890).
2.) The Collection of the Reverend Dr. David J. Beale, property of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association. Acquired in 2006 with assistance from the National Park Service.

Last updated: February 27, 2017

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