Matthew Beckwith, Hartford Founder

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Compiled by Timothy Lester Jacobs, SDFH Genealogist

MATTHEW1 BECKWITH, HARTFORD FOUNDER was born 22 Sep 1610 in Yorkshire, England, and died bef. 06 Jun 1682 in New London, CT (inventory). He married MARY LYNDE? bef. 1643 in Hartford, CT. She was born abt. 1625 in England, and died bef. 30 Jan 1694/95 in prob New London, CT.

The ancestry and origin of Matthew Beckwith, and when he emigrated to the American colonies is unknown, but he was in Hartford by 1 Aug 1639 when he was “censured & was fined for vnseasonable and imoderate drinking att the pinnance”, along with Thomas Cornwell, John Latimer, Samuel Kitcherell, and Thomas Upson. The pinnace in reference was a small boat, probably used to go across the river from Hartford to holdings on the east side. He was a plaintiff in cases before the Particular Court in 1642 and 1644.

He is not listed in the land inventory of February 1639/40, which was common for those who had removed from Hartford fairly early, and as a younger man he might have been living in some other home. However, there is an undated land inventory for him, probably from about 1645, as he purchased his home lot of Hartford founder William Pratt in that year, thus: two roods on which his dwelling house stood with other outhouses, yards or gardens located on the east side of the road from Centinel Hill to the Cow Pasture; four acres at Podunk; six acres in the Cowpasture, purchased from William Pratt; four acres on the east side of the Great River also purchased from William Pratt, one acre and two roods on which stood a “Mesaug or Tenyment” which he bought of Hartford founder Nicholas Jennings; four more acres on the east side of the Great River abutting his other land there, also from Nicholas Jennings; and one acre of woodland, again purchased of Nicholas Jennings.

In March 1650 he sold all his holdings to Andrew Sandford, and removed to be among the first settlers of that section of New London called Lyme in 1651. He purchased large tracts of land on the Niantic River, lying in Lyme and New London.

He died in an accidental fall down a ledge of rocks on a dark night, said to be on December 21, 1681, at what is now Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic. “His death being sudden and the result of an accident, a jury was summoned, who gave their verdict, that ‘he came to his death by mistaking his way in a dark night, and falling from a clift of rocks.’” (Caulkins’ “History of New London”), but his death was probably on June 1682, as his inventory was taken on 6 June 1682, and the Jury of Inquest into his death was held on 8 June of the same year.

There was a Stephen Beckwith in Early Hartford, “A Perticular Courte in Hartford the 16"' day of May 1649 Magistrates Edward Hopkins Esq' John Haynes Esq' ... Debt and dammages 39' 6' Richard Fellows pl' Contra Stephen Beckwith defend' in an Action of Debt and dammages”, but who this Stephen Beckwith is undetermined, however he was almost certainly not a son of Matthew.

Genealogy not recommended: “The Beckwiths”, Paul Edmond Beckwith, Albany, 1891. This genealogy, which contains a totally fabricated English lineage, is filled with errors, has a son Benjamin2, who never existed, and was thoroughly debunked in “The American Genealogist” articles by Simeon Fox.

There are several pamphlets entitled “Beckwith Notes”, intended to correct some of the “The Beckwiths” errors, but these only marginally help.

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