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Names can be deceiving. One would never
think that the Franciscan Manor, located in Patterson Township,
used to be Our Lady of Peace Croatian Franciscan Monastery. Furthermore,
one would not think a Croatian monastery used to be the mansion
home of Frederick N. Beegle, a prominent businessman in Beaver
County in the late 1800's.
Frederick N. Beegle was born in 1863 in Millersburg, Ohio. Both his parents died when he was young and left him very little. He started his business career as a store clerk in Beaver Falls and then soon started his own wholesale process business. He sold this business after two years and joined Hartman Steel Company of Beaver Falls, leaving there after only four years. Beegle eventually joined Union Drawn Steel Company, where he was elected president in a few short years. Beegle was involved with many other companies, the Beaver Clay Manufacturing Company of New Galilee and First National Bank of Beaver Falls to just name a few. He was also engaged in mining, having promoted the Alamo Mining Company in Mexico.
Beegle went beyond the business world and
kept himself busy in charities and other philanthropic work. He
was the chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Beaver County
Children's Home and was president of the Home for the Aged of
Beegle married Nellie Emily Heath, a reverend's
daughter from Oberlin, Ohio, on Christmas Day in 1890. It was
after her that Beegle named their home, Heath Manor, built in
1905 on Darlington Road in Patterson Township. In 1919, Country
and Homes magazine called the manor "one of the most beautiful
in Western Pennsylvania for location and scenery." It had
seventeen rooms, ten of them being bedrooms, each with its own
fireplace. A ballroom was located on the third floor and the grand
dining room was made of African/Mexican mahogany. The outside
of the house was a replica of an old English Manor house with
several chimneys and a pointed roof. During Beegle's lifetime,
Heath Manor's grounds included Brady's Run Park and the Beaver
Valley Gun Club.
After Beegle died in 1923, he left Heath
Manor to his wife, Nellie. She sold the estate to her son, Clifford
H. Beegle, on December 24th, 1935 for $1.00. At that time, the
estate totaled 22 acres. The General Anthony Wayne Chapter of
the Sons of the American Revolution was founded in Heath Manor
in 1939, and Clifford Beegle was made the organization's first
president. When Clifford died on La Gorge Island in Florida in
1958, he left the manor to his wife, Frances Ague Beegle. In turn,
she sold Heath Manor to Heath Manor Inc. for $85,000.00. Heath
Manor Inc. sold the estate to the Croatian Franciscan Brothers
for $100,000 in 1965. The priests made changes to the estate,
such as an addition with guest rooms and a chapel. However, after
31 years the priests decided to sell the manor because it was
too much for them to handle, along with the declining number of
priests. The monastery was sold in 1996 to Scott Gordon, who renovated
the old mansion-turned-monastery into Franciscan Manor, the assisted
living home that it is today.
The Beegles lived in a magnificent home
and its no surprise that their resting place is just as magnificent.
As soon as one enters the Beaver Cemetery, right next to the mausoleum,
is the large, white stone Beegle mausoleum. Frederick N. Beegle's
name is etched above the entrance and one can see all the names
of the Beegle family inside. The mausoleum has three windows,
all stained glass. To the stranger, they appear to be of the family's
life at Heath Manor, captured forever in a pane of glass.
Saxman, W. The Book of Prominent Pennsylvanians; A Standard Reference. Pittsburgh: Leader Publisher, 1913.
Articles from the Beegle file by Ron Ciani, found at the Vicary House