Fred Beell was born in West Prussia, Germany. At the age of three, his family migrated to the United States, settling in Marshfield, Wisconsin. He attended Immanual Lutheran School as a child, and at the age of fourteen he began working at the Upham mill in Marshfield. Beell joined the United States Army, serving in the Spanish–American War. After his military discharge, he married Anna Scheren, also of German descent, on August 6, 1902.
Beell first became a professional wrestler in the late 1890s, during a time when professional wrestlers would fight numerous exhibition matches each month, keeping them on the road constantly. He defeated Soren Hansen in April 1899, and later defeated John Berg that same year, both notable wrestlers of the day. On February 3, 1900, Beell defeated Ed Adamson, winning $238.50 for the match. On April 9, 1900, Beell defeated William West to become the Northwest Wrestling Champion. It was not until 1906 that he gained national attention, when he defeated Frank Gotch, the reigning American Heavyweight Wrestling Champion. He eventually quit wrestling in 1919 and became a police officer in his adopted hometown of Marshfield, Wisconsin in 1921.
On August 5, 1933, at around 3am, Beell and his partner George Fyksen investigated a break-in at the Marshfield Brewing Company. Suspects were still on the scene. Beell, according to the later report published in the Marshfield News-Herald, and a more in-depth report in a 1933 edition of True Detective Mysteries, waited near the patrol vehicle to watch the exits, while Fyksen entered the building. As he entered, the suspects began firing on Fyksen, who dropped to the ground and avoided injury, while returning fire. Beell, hearing the shots, left the vehicle to go to Fyksen's aid. As he rounded the front of the car, the suspects exited the building, firing as they ran. Four buckshot from a shotgun blast hit Beell in the head, without his being able to return fire, killing him instantly. The suspects then stole the police vehicle, but abandoned it less than a mile away. They had stolen $1,550.00 in a safe burglary.
Marshfield police chief William Paape organized a posse with Wood County, Wisconsin sheriff Martin Bey. One of the suspects, Edward "Speed" Gabriel, was hit by shots fired from Fyksen in the initial gun battle, his body being located in a shallow grave alongside a roadway in Minnesota the next day. Two other suspects, Joe "Sleepy Joe" Hogan and Elmer Digman were captured. Hogan received 25 years in prison for his part in the murder, while Digman received a life sentence.
Currently, every year on the anniversary of Beell's death, the Marshfield Police Department holds a ceremony in his honor. To date, he is the only Marshfield police officer to have been killed in the line of duty. At the time of his death, Beell was 57 years old, and had been with the department for twelve years. He is buried at Hillside Cemetery in Marshfield.
Beell Stadium, home of the Marshfield Tigers football team, is named after him. He is also credited with popularizing the famed 'Beell Toss' wrestling maneuver. He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972.
Championships and accomplishments
- World Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- American Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Northwest Championship (1 time)