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Beckwith family papers


Identifier: 1988-01-0

Scope and Contents

The Beckwith family papers (1988-01-0) consist of correspondence, financial records, legal documents, military records, diaries, photographs, and other records. A small group of papers predates those of the Beckwith family. At present, only materials created prior to 1840, a limited selection of post-1840 materials, and those that relate to Josiah Beckwith (1803-1871) have been processed. They are arranged in three series. Series 1, Papers (1767-1892), contains a collection of primarily legal and financial records which appear to have no direct connection to the Beckwith family. Series 2, Beckwith family papers (1825-1871), primarily contains papers relating to Dr. Beckwith. Of note is his correspondence with his brother George in which he discusses business dealings and events of the day, his account books documenting the certificates of exemption he granted during the Civil War in 1862, records relating to business affairs, and his medical and drugstore ledgers. Also included in Series 2 are early records related to the Alsop (Allsopp) family. Series 3, Seymour family papers (1814-1886), contains a small group of materials that relate to Jane Seymour Beckwith, her mother, Mabel Strong Seymour; her father, Moses Seymour Jr.; and her sister Delia Seymour. A collection of bills, circa 1870-1920, directed to the Beckwith family arranged alphabetically by sender documents the types of goods and services offered by Litchfield county businesses and institutions and the consumption habits of the Beckwiths. The unprocessed portion of the collection consists of about 15 linear feet. Generally, it includes correspondence, account and ledger books, diaries and notebooks, photographs, architectural drawings and records related to the Beckwith Block, and other materials. The papers primarily document the second Dr. Beckwith, including his ledgers and account books, Ann Alsop Beckwith, Charlotte Coopernail Beckwith, Sutherland Beckwith, J. Gale Beckwith, and Margaret Beckwith (1885-1972, born in Litchfield, and who enjoyed a long career as a teacher). Other papers, to a lesser extent, relate to other Beckwith family members. There is also material that relates to members of the Seymour family, including George Seymour and Henry Seymour. The collection also contains extensive genealogical information and family papers compiled by Dr. George Coopernail. A prominent physician in Bedford, N.Y., Coopernail was Sutherland Beckwith's father-in-law. After retiring, he moved to Litchfield and died there in 1964. He took an active interest in both his and the Beckwith lines. Among his papers are a series of albums containing family photographs.


  • created: 1767-1972
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/01/1988


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.  One folder of materials pertaining to Margaret Elizabeth Beckwith Parsons (1936- ) is restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of copyright holders. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright holders. Responsibility for any use rests with the user.

Biographical or Historical Information

Dr. Josiah Gale Beckwith (1803-1871) was born in Standford, N. Y. After graduating from Union College, he studied medicine at the Albany Medical College and settled in Litchfield in 1829. He married Jane Maria Seymour (1811-1868) in 1831 and they had five children: Jane (1833-1837), Elizabeth (1835-1896), Josiah (1838-1911), Sarah (1840-1928), and George (1841-1890). Jane Seymour (1811-1868) was a daughter of Moses Seymour Jr. (1774-1826) of Litchfield. Dr. and Mrs. Beckwith resided in the house Mrs. Beckwith's father built in 1817 on South St. The house was occupied by succeeding generations of Beckwiths. Dr. Beckwith was a successful practitioner, officer of the state medical society, nominated for governor, and elected to the state legislature several times. He operated a drug store, invested in a variety of business interests, and served as an officer of several prominent local institutions, including terms as president of the Phoenix Bank and Litchfield Mutual Fire Insurance Co. A son of Dr. Beckwith, Dr. Josiah Gale Beckwith (1838-1911) was born in Litchfield. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy for two years until resigning in 1855. He attended Union College, leaving in 1860, and also attended the Yale University Medical School in 1861 and 1862. In 1862, he volunteered with a local military company, but appears not to have served as a soldier during the Civil War. He was at the Knight United States Army General Hospital in New Haven for a time starting in 1862. He practiced medicine at Charlton, N.Y. from 1866 through 1869 and then returned to Litchfield. After his father's death in 1871, he took over the family drug store and continued with his medical practice. He married Anne Bonfield Alsop (Allsopp) (1851-1936) of Quebec, Canada, in 1873. They had three children: Josiah (1874-1957), Margaret (1885-1972), and Sutherland (1890-1986). Josiah Gale Beckwith (1874-1957) was alternatively referred to in various combinations of Josiah Gale Beckwith Jr., J. Gale Beckwith, and Gael Beckwith. He was born in Litchfield and attended Union College and Albany Law School. He was briefly a lawyer in Waterbury in the early 1900s. In the 1910s he worked in New Jersey and Georgia and later moved to Minneapolis and St. Petersburg, Fla., where he died in an automobile accident. Sutherland Alsop Beckwith (1890-1982) was born in Litchfield. He graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University in 1915. He fought in the 1916 Mexican border conflict, WWI, and WWII. His military career spanned 35 years and he retired as a colonel. During the 1920s, he was involved in a lumber business operating under the name of Hubbard & Beckwith. Beckwith was a state adjutant general, a sheriff of Litchfield County, and a local director of the Works Progress Administration. For 10 years he served as Litchfield postmaster. He married Helen Cahill in 1925. After she died in 1929, he married Charlotte Louise Coopernail (1904-1986), daughter of Dr. George Coopernail (1876-1964), on July 30, 1932. They had three children: Ann (1934- ), Margaret (1936- ) and George (1938- ).

Note written by


17.60 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

Materials created prior to 1840, a limited selection of post-1840 materials, and those that relate to Josiah Beckwith (1803-1871) have been processed and are arranged in 3 series:   1. Papers (1767-1892) 2. Beckwith family papers (1825-1871) 3. Seymour family papers (1814-1886)   The remainder of the collection, about 15 cubic feet, has not been processed.

Source of Acquisition

George Beckwith, Michael Rybach, Arthur Shaw

Method of Acquisition


Existence and Location of Originals

multi-part note content

Separated Materials

The Boardman & Seymour Records (2009-75-0) were originally part of the gift that also included the Beckwith family papers (1988-01-0). Staff determined that the Boardman & Seymour Records are a distinct group of records.

Other Descriptive Information

Item level description of some records is available in the Society’s card catalog This collection was processed with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Beckwith family papers
Leith Johnson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Litchfield Historical Society Repository

7 South Street
P.O. Box 385
Litchfield CT 06759
860-567-3565 (Fax)