By Tim Hornbaker
Friedrich Beell was born in Western Prussia on January 17, 1876. Between 1879 and
1883, reports have varied, Wilhelm and Augusta immigrated to the United States with Fred and
their other two sons, Charles and Herman, with an initial stop in Baltimore before settling in
Wood County, Wisconsin in 1883. Living with his family on West Sixth street in Marshfield, Fred
developed into an athlete while attending Immanuel Lutheran School.
When he was 19 years old, he trained with strongman performer Zobel, who was known as
Donovan the Strong, after the latter convinced him to become a wrestler. Beell also trained in
acrobatics and weightlifting with Lee Tepfer and furthered his wrestling skill under Louis
Cannon. Fred made his professional debut against Otis Patterson in 1896 and won in two-
straight falls. He later studied under a lifelong friend in Evan “Strangler” Lewis of Madison,
whom he was defeated by in one of his earliest matches.
With his career winding down, Fred made sporadic appearances on the mat. He remained a fan
and often refereed major wrestling matches in Wisconsin during the 1920s. He maintained a
ranch near Marshfield and became a local relief police officer, serving under Chief of Police
During the early morning hours of Saturday, August 5, 1933, Beell and Officer George Fyksen
went to investigate a reported robbery in progress at the Marshfield Brewing Company. They
engaged between four and five men, known gangsters from Minnesota including Elmer “Earl
Smith” Dingman, Joseph E. “Bucktooth Hogan” Webster, and Edward “Speed” Gabriel, who had
taken $1,550 in federal revenue stamps.
Upon arrival to the scene, Beell remained steadfast at the police vehicle while Fyksen walked
around the building to investigate the scene. When he laid eyes on the burglars from his
concealed position, George took advantage of the situation, shooting one twice. A heavy fire-
fight began with the robbers sending Fyksen to the ground for cover. Wanting to evade
capture, the group ran to their vehicle and towards the former heavyweight, light heavyweight
and middleweight wrestling champion. Beell reacted to the noise and as he got a grip on his
weapon, the crew of bandits rushed towards him. Fred was shot in the face with a sawed-off
shotgun and died instantly.
The murder of Beell took its toll on the community of Marshfield and the surrounding community
as a nationwide investigation opened up in search for Fred’s killers. Dingman was convicted for
pulling the trigger and sentenced to life in prison, although later his sentence was commuted,
and he died in 1955. Webster was sentenced to 25 years in jail and Gabriel was found dead in
a shallow grave near Fridley, Minnesota the day after the robbery.
Beell was given a military funeral and buried in Hillside Cemetery. His widow Anna lived until
November 1942 and died at 68 years of age in Marshfield. They had no children.
During his career, Beell had victories over Frank Gotch, Farmer Burns, and young Ed
“Strangler” Lewis, as well as many other great wrestlers. He often proved that a good little man
could beat a good or even great big man. It is said that the famous “Russian Lion” George
Hackenschmidt ran from Fred Beell, perhaps he was right to do so. In honor of Fred, a stadium
in North Wood County, Wisconsin was named after him. In 1972, he was inducted into the
Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
Other Notes & Information:
A lengthy write-up on Beell appeared in the Sunday, December 16, 1906 edition of the
Washington Post. It offered a lot of biographical information. Beell reportedly began his career
at 20 years of age when he beat Louis Zoebel in Marshfield. In his youth, he was an able
swimmer and runner, and wrestling came naturally.
There were many differing reports following Beell's New Orleans victory over Frank Gotch in
December 1906. After the finish, it was considered unusual that Gotch didn't complain about
his loss, and somehow verbally discredit his opponent's victory. Beell, who weighed around 169
pounds, was considered a true magician of the mat in beating the much heavier Gotch, and,
according to one source, "nearly killed" Gotch during one of their falls. Promoters in the New
York City area wanted the rematch between Gotch and Beell, but an attractive offer was
received from Kansas City. It was said that Gotch dropped about $2,500 in betting on the Beell
match, of course, betting on the eventual loser of the match. Gotch's fall was considered
accidental, and "made him deathly sick."
Beell, during this time-frame, was managed by J.F. Quinn of Kansas City. After the win over
Gotch, Beell and Quinn went to Des Moines for a match. In the negotiations for the second bout
with Gotch, Beell wanted a $2,500 side bet, yet Gotch wanted to increase it to $5,000.
|Fred Beell Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling