One day Zeke dropped by to visit his sister Elizabeth. He was surprised to find her and her children alone and hungry with not much of anything in the house to eat. He learned that her husband, James Kesterson, had deserted her and their children. He took Elizabeth and her children to live with other family members. There is no record of why James left his family and moved out. Ezekiel Proctor was very angry with James for leaving his sister in this condition. After leaving Elizabeth, James had found a job with Mary Hildebrand and later married her.
Story has it that on Tuesday, 13 February 1872, Zeke with his wife and children while possibly visiting other family or friends in the area, may have thought it to be a good time to have a talk with Mr. Kesterson and decided to visit the mill. He dropped by the local watering hole and had a few drinks to help fortify him before he reached the mill. Also some people say Zeke had received complaints that Mary and James had been letting their cattle run loose and they were destroying crops of nearby farmers.
When Zeke arrived at the mill it didn’t take long before he and James were in a heated argument. James reached for his gun but Zeke, being faster, beat him to the draw. Mary, who was trying to stop the men from fighting jumped in front of her husband, James, placing herself between the two men just as Zeke’s finger pulled the trigger and discharged the 45. Mary caught the bullet in the chest and fell between the two mortally wounded leaving James a widower. Zeke fired off two more shots at James putting two holes in his coat as he fled to the second floor of the mill not knowing if Mary was dead or alive. He was also wounded by one of those two bullets.
Zeke knowing he had committed a crime went to the neighbor’s house and confessed to his family what he had done. He then went to the home of Jack Wright the current Sheriff of the Goingsnake District to turn himself in. Being there were no jails Zeke was sent home with guards until his trial.
Beck Mill is the oldest existing mill in Eastern Oklahoma on the banks of Flint Creek. There is a lot of history connected to this building and property. It was originally built in the 1840s by members of my family. My grandmother Willora Cleora Josephine Bee Neel was born here. The photographs in the gallery are not of the same mill where Mary Beck Hildebrand Kestersen was killed. But that mill is on the same property. The original Beck mill was washed away in a flood in the 1890s. This one replaced it right after the turn of the 20th century. It is falling in now but there is a group of people who are working to save it.
2 thoughts on “Death at the Beck Mill”
i would like more on this it is part of my family
Maybe you can help me in putting together my genealogy. My grandfather was Jeff Collins, and all I know is that his mother’s maiden name was Sabra Beck. If what Ancestry is telling me is true, she was first married to George Selvidge and then to John Parker Collins, and that liason produced my grandfather but I can’t be sure. Can you shed any light on this? The only reason I’m sure Sabra Beck Collins is my grandmother is because my dad took me to her grave when I was a kid, and we also went by the Beck Mill. Her headstone was broken so we dug it up and took it to Muskogee where my dad had it repaired and put back.