Lucius Beebe

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There 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.

After 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 which 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 and Sylenda are buried in Lakeside Cemetery on North Avenue in one of the Beebe family plots, located near the corner of "Elm Avenue" and "Gooseberry Path" at the eastern edge of the cemetery near the lake.

Lucius 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. 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.