In 1848, August Beckendorff, his wife, son, and two daughters left Berlin, Germany, by boat seeking a new world of opportunity in which to rear and protect their family. They landed in Galveston and traveled up the Buffalo Bayou to Houston. In February 1850, while they were living on a farm where Rice University now sits, another son, Robert, was born in Harris County at Brays Bayou. While Robert was still a small boy his family moved to the community of Rosehill near the area now known as Tomball, Texas, north of Houston. There, Robert grew into young manhood met and married Laura Campbell, a French girl living with her family in the nearby French settlement of Frer. With two sons, Milton and Edward, the Beckendorff family moved to Hockley, Texas, where two more sons, Joe and Ben, were born. In 1882 the family moved to a farm near Pattison, Texas, settling on what is today Vaclavik Road and where one son, Will and two daughters, Pearl and Estelle were born. This is where the older children started school. It was in this community they found their church affiliation: where churches, schools and families were very closely associated with teachers and ministers living in the homes of local families.
A time of change occurred in 1895 for the Beckendorff family when Robert's wife, Laura died leaving him with their seven children and unfulfilled plans. Soon after her burial, he packed up his family and moved them to the land he had purchased on the bare Katy prairie. This area was then known as Cane Island, named after a branch of the Buffalo Bayou. The fertile soil and completion of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad caught Robert's eye. He picked out 640 acres of land for which he paid $1.00 an acre for individual rights and $2.00 for the State rights. Robert provided well for his family; this land was divided into 80-acre sections one granted to each child as they married. The children would pay their $2.00 to the State of Texas for their state rights and the family would help them build a house on the tract. Robert and Laura had planned to live there but when Laura became ill, it was impossible to move her and build a home. However, someone had to build a home and move onto the land to hold the rights, so it was in November of 1895 that the eldest son, Milton Beckendorff married Mary Anna Kohler and built their home on the land. This section of land, located 4 miles north of Katy, has been called the Beckendorff Section and still is known as such today. There was no town of Katy at that time, only a section house for the railroad. Soon freight cars loaded with families and all their possessions began coming down the rail tracks, and houses began to spring up in the tall prairie grasses. As this area grew, Milton helped do the surveying for the town and the three counties, putting down the marker where the three counties meet in Katy. That marker still sits in Katy today in Thomas Park.
In 1896 Robert, son Milt Beckendorff, and a neighbor, Henry Cobb wanted to build a school north of Katy. They traveled for two days to Houston to obtain land for a school district. There they discovered that the Addicks School District controlled the land of the southwestern section of Harris County. On their two-day track back home, they stopped at Addicks and made an agreement to divide the area into equal parts. Within that year, a school was built on the Henry Cobb place, 4 miles north of Katy, it was called the Cobb School. The first trustees were Robert and Milt Beckendorff and Henry Cobb. School was held the following year. In 1905 this school was replaced by a new building, the South Mayde School, located two miles further north. In 1919, the Katy ISD School Disrtict was formed by the consolidating of the Katy, Sills, Dishman, and Schipf one room school houses. Then in 1931, the South Mayde and Stockdick schools consolidated with Katy ISD.
The sense of the importance of education is evident in each generation of the Beckendorff family. Robert Beckendorff required his daughters to complete the highest readers before they were permitted to marry. When Glenn Beckendorff graduated from Katy High School in 1968, he wanted to work on his family's rice farm, but his uncle Cecil refused his request. He told Glenn to go to college and get an education. Glenn was the first Beckendorff to graduate from college. He earned a master's degree from Sam Houston State University and taught vocational agriculture for 6 years, 4 of them at Katy High School. Glenn Beckendorff taught in Katy ISD and also served on the Board of Trustees following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Robert, grandfather Milton and uncle Roy. "Education was always important in our family." Glenn Beckendorff said. "It was something we were pushed to get."
Robert Beckendorff understood that success is a journey, not a destination. He dreamed of a better place for his family: a place where they could dream, build and lead. From the beginning of education on the Katy prairie, the Beckendorff family has been a constant in our community. Five generations have attended its schools, served as school board trustees, PTA leaders, teachers, worked in the lunchrooms, and maintenance departments. They've played sports and raised animals in FFA. They are founders and have been exceptional leaders in our school district and community for more than 120 years.
The first weekend each August, you can will find the many members of the Beckendorff family gathering to celebrate the family's year and exchange stories. They hold their reunion this weekend because each year he was alive, Milt held a BIG celebration for his birthday, and this eventually evolved into the Family reunion. The Beckendorff family has touched our hearts and minds and their trademark spirit of service, innovation, and commitment will forever be a part of our Katy core beliefs. When you look at the roots of Katy, one of the biggest, strongest and deepest is the Beckendorff family. Their family history is so closely tied to the history of the Katy community and Katy Independent School District. In the visionary tradition of this exceptional pioneer family, the Beckendorff Junior High School community is also committed to building relationships and providing educational opportunities where all learners reach their full and unique potential pursuing a tradition of excellence. Beckendorff Junior High opened its doors in 2004 and was named to honor this exceptional Katy pioneer family whose legacy is our future.