BECKWITH’S ALMANAC Chronicling the Years by Robert J. Belletzkier


Among the projects at the Cheshire Historical Society is the cataloging of an extensive collection of almanacs dating back to the early 1800s. Preeminent within these prized holdings is a significant run of one by George Beckwith (1810-1880) of New Haven (photo below).

Knowledgeable in phonography (shorthand), surveying, mathematics, astronomy, navigation, and civil engineering, Beckwith was a bon-vivant, teacher, and writer. He began his almanac in 1848 and, when he died in 1880, the tradition was carried on by his daughter and granddaughter after her until 1934. Perhaps immodestly, the cover featured a progression of jaunty visages that showed the graceful aging of the man himself. This long-lived publication included all the usual elements: monthly astronomical tables (he did his own calculations), tide charts, lists of government officials, and something of a novelty, a chronology of the year’s events. It would have been adequate enough for Mr. B. to confine himself to his local area, but, resourceful and energetic, he read widely and covered events across the state and beyond.

Beckwith is described in Mary Rebecca Woodruff’s History of Orange as “somewhat eccentric, and his usual costume was a long-tailed coat and white beaver hat. He was always barefooted…” An interesting speaker, she says, he was “eagerly welcomed” at Victoria Grove in the Tyler City section of Orange, a place known for its soapbox orators and anti-establishment leanings. Indeed, he was an opponent of slavery and an early advocate of women’s right to vote. An outspoken teetotaler, Beckwith frequently added chiding comments to reports of barroom brawls and injected humor and moralism elsewhere. Once telling of a robbery in his own neighborhood, he says of the thief: “He probably knew me and knew that I had nothing worth stealing, and so did not visit my house. Blessed be nothing(!). The exclamation point is ours.

George Beckwith

For Cheshire itself, there are many nuggets to treasure for their news and the wry Beckwithian perspective. Of more local interest, here are some Cheshire nuggets:

  • June 4, 1879 “Mrs. Mary Samantha Douglass, widow of Samuel Benham of Cheshire died in New Haven, born March 19, 1803. I went to school to her in the west district of Meriden in 1820-21. I used always to bring water for her, and she used to call me her “best boy.” She taught in the northern part of Cheshire, near Beltina Clark’s where I worked in 1824 …”
  • November 22, 1879 “Mrs. S. T. Martyn, an authoress, died in New York…Buried in Cheshire. She wrote several works of religious history, was for several years editor of the Lady’s Wreath, and in the last twenty years more than 20 volumes of her writings have been published by the American Tract Society. Her funeral took place at the residence of her son-in -law R. W. Wright, in Cheshire, formerly of New Haven.”
  • September 19, 1884 “The house of E. S. Thompson of Brooksvale fired, and a cider brandy distillery near by, his family were almost suffocated with the smoke and barely escaped with their lives. Loss $10,000.”
  • October 28 , 1892 “Wallace house of Cheshire burned – many of the inmates (i.e. hotel residents) lost their clothing. A serious fire, and Cheshire has no bonnie lads to fight that element.”
  • July 2, 1897 “A hard thunder storm – Cheshire peach orchards suffered badly; the Cheshire Brass Co.’s barn was carried over a bank, fifty feet, into the river, and the barn of Mr. Andrews in Mixville was deposited on the opposite side of the street, also Mr. Wooding and son who were in it, unloading hay.”
  • November 1, 1921 “New Haven chosen as state military center. Many units of reserve to be here… Jacob D. Walter (Cheshire) for many years of the county commissioners to be United States Marshal for District of Connecticut”

If you are of a mind to read a chronicle of Connecticut and Cheshire historical events from the Beckwith perspective, make it a point to stop by Cheshire Historical Society and we will sit you down to boxes full!

Robert J. Belletzkier is a contributing writer to Cheshirepedia.

Photos: The first, top, (from the Cheshire Historical Society collection) was given to the Society in 1960 by the late Fred Fowler. The second, above, is a copy of the 1897 almanac.


One thought on “BECKWITH’S ALMANAC Chronicling the Years by Robert J. Belletzkier