Who was Lucius Beebe?

Lucius BeebeThere were actually several Lucius Beebes, but two in particular have important connections to the Beebe Library. The first was born in 1810 in Hebron, Connecticut. After striking out to seek his fortune, he wandered southern New England, eventually apprenticing in a textile factory in Norwich, Connecticut. He learned business skills quickly and in 1834 relocated to New Orleans where he and his brothers became cotton brokers.

Sylenda Morris BeebeAfter marrying Sylenda Morris, a young woman from Wilbraham, Massachusetts, in 1836, he returned to the Boston area and settled first in Cambridge, then in Melrose, and finally in Wakefield (then known as South Reading) overlooking Lake Quannapowitt in an 1810 house built by the Salem architect Samuel McIntyre. The couple had 12 children, one of whom died in infancy. The last four children were born in the house, which was then known as the Beebe Farm.

In 1856 Lucius became the first chairman of the town’s new Board of Library Trustees. He also served on Wakefield’s School Committee and Board of Selectmen. In 1868 Lucius made a donation of books for the town’s library, which was then located in Town Hall. The library was later named “Beebe Town Library of Wakefield” in his honor.

Lucius died at his desk in his Boston office in 1884, after which his sons Junius, Marcus, and Decius carried on the family business. Junius eventually became head of the firm. It was Junius who donated $60,000 in 1916 for the construction of a new library building in memory of his parents, Lucius Beebe and Sylenda Morris Beebe. It is this structure, designed by architect Ralph Adams Cram and completed in 1923, which constitutes the front part of the current library building. Each of Lucius and Sylenda’s children generously established trust funds for the purchase of books.

Lucius Morris BeebeLucius Morris Beebe (1902-1966), the other famous Lucius, was the son of Junius Beebe (1854-1934, Lucius and Sylenda’s 9th child) and quite a personality in his own right. He was the last of four children, one of whom died before Lucius was born, and he spent much of his childhood at the Beebe Farm in Wakefield. His youth involved a seemingly continual string of antics, pranks, and altercations and he had the dubious distinction of being asked to leave both Yale and Harvard Universities. He later worked as a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune, where he worked from 1929 to 1950, and the San Francisco Examiner and was a contributing writer to magazines such as the New Yorker, Gourmet, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Esquire, and Town and Country. A well known bon vivant, Lucius was known for his acerbic wit, extravagant personal style, and gourmet taste and was named one of the ten best-dressed men in America for several years, and appeared on the cover of Life magazine in their January 16, 1939 issue. He wrote over 30 books, many on the topic of railroading, one of his primary interests, as well as witty social commentary. He owned elaborate private railroad cars and traveled the country in them with his literary collaborator and longtime personal companion, Charles Clegg. The top photo depicts the “Gold Coast”, now on display at the California State Railroad Museum. The bottom photo shows the “Virginia City”, still privately owned and used for excursion service. In 1950 Beebe and Clegg moved to Virginia City, Nevada, near Reno, where they purchased and ran the Territorial Enterprise newspaper for eight years. In 1960 they sold the paper and began dividing their time between Virginia City and Hillsborough, California, a wealthy suburb of San Francisco. Beebe died at the age of 63 of a heart attack at his winter home in Hillsborough on Friday, February 4, 1966. A memorial service was held three days later, on Monday, February 7, at 11:00 a.m. at Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street in Boston. His ashes, reportedly along with those of two of his dogs, were returned to Massachusetts and are buried in Lakeside Cemetery on North Avenue in one of the Beebe family plots, located on “Rainbow Avenue” at the extreme north end of the cemetery. Lucius Morris Beebe was also generous toward the town’s library, continuing the tradition started by his forebears. His brother Junius Oliver (1894-1933) was also active in the library, serving on the board of trustees.

Gold Coast railroad car

Virginia City railroad car

If you are researching the genealogy of the Beebe family, a good place to start on the web is the Beebe Exchange. A brief version of Lucius’ family tree is given below.

THE BEEBE FAMILY TREE

This is not meant to be an exhaustive genealogy of the Beebe family, but rather a quick reference guide to those most closely connected with the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library. For much more detailed information on these branches of the Beebe family, the following title is recommended:

Wilder, Louise Beebe, Lucius Beebe of Wakefield and Sylenda Morris Beebe, his wife, their forbears and descendants, New York : Knickerbocker Press, 1930.

Stuart Beebe (1779-1851) and Sophia Gilbert (?-1855) had the following children:

1. Junius (1809-1850)
2. Lucius (March 2, 1810 – April 15, 1884) – This is the Lucius for whom the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library is named.
3. Marcus (1812-1891)
4. Decius (1814-1900)
5. Cyrus (1817-1843)

Lucius Beebe and Sylenda Morris Beebe married in 1836 and had the following children:

1. Lucius Morris (1837-1886)
2. William (1839 lived only 2 weeks)
3. Charles Stuart (1842-1916)
4. Louisa (1844-1866)
5. Joseph Morris (1846-1857)
6. Cyrus Gilbert (1850-1901)
7. Marcus (1852-1924) twin of Decius
8. Decius (1852-1915) twin of Marcus
9. Junius (October 8, 1854 – 1934) – Junius was the son who donated $60,000 in 1916 for the construction of the Beebe Library in memory of his parents.
10. Frederick (1857-1922)
11. Alice (1860-1929)
12. Sylenda Morris (1863-?)

Junius Beebe and Eleanor Harriet Merrick married in 1886 and had the following children:

1. Junius Merrick (1891-1892)
2. Lucia (1892-?)
3. Junius Oliver (1894-1933)
4. Lucius Morris (December 9, 1902 – February 4, 1966) – This is the Lucius who was famous for his high style, society journalism, and interest in railroading.

Beebe coat of armsThe motto of the Beebe family is “Se Defendendo!” (by defending himself). The family coat of arms consists of a gold chevron (inverted “V” shape) with two gold flying bees above and one below, all on an azure background. The family crest is a beehive. The beehive and bee symbols are found in many places in the Library building, such as in doorframes and on the entrance railings, and are now used as the Library’s logo.