Good Deeds: William A. Beach (1822-1899)

This week, some genealogy bloggers are writing on the theme, GOOD DEEDS, with the focus being on ancestors who either were men/women of good deeds or who we found through land records. William A. Beach fits the bill on both counts: his good deeds include his Civil War service, and a number of land transactions bear his name. William is my 3rd great-grandfather, on my maternal grandfather’s side.

William’s family in New England dates back to the 1600s with the arrival of John Beach (1623-1677) in New Haven, CT. (Founders of Early American Families: Emigrants from Europe, 1607-1657) His great-grandfather, Caleb Beach, an early settler of New Ashford, Berkshire County, MA, was appointed to the Committee of Correspondence (the colonists’ shadow government) at the outset of the American Revolution. (History of Berkshire County, Massachusetts – Vol. 2) William’s grandfather, Moses Tyler Beach, served in the Revolutionary War.

William was born June 22, 1824, in New Ashford, the only son of Tyler Moses Beach and his first wife, Lydia L. Barton. In 1821, Moses T. Beach moved his family from New Ashford to East Otto, Cattaraugus County, NY. Though some sources say that Tyler M. Beach came to East Otto with his father in 1821,  it must have been later, because William was born in New Ashford in 1824. Presumably, Tyler & Lydia joined the other Beaches in East Otto after 1824.

Old Grist MillIn April of 1832, Lydia Beach died; William was 8 years old. About a year later, his father remarried. Soon William had siblings: Mary Jane (b. 1833), James (b. 1837; d. 1838) and Robert (b. 1839). The Beach family lived the farming life, as well as running both a saw mill and a grist mill. As discovered in later records, we can know that William worked at the saw mill and learned the trade.


On Feb. 25, 1846, William married Adeline Palmer; he was 23 years old and Adeline was 24. They were married at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Buffalo, about 40 miles from East Otto. Adeline Palmer was the eldest daughter of Lewis Palmer of Bertie Township, Ontario County, Canada. Puzzled over how William and Adeline may have met, I searched the 1840 Census and found many Palmer families living in Cattaraugus County. I haven’t chased down that connection, but it seems likely that Adeline had relations in Cattaraugus County and perhaps visited them on some occasion, resulting in her meeting William.

Marriage record

New York, Buffalo, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Records, 1812-1970 on FamilySearch

Following their marriage, William and Adeline settled in Bertie Township and started a family. Their first three children were all girls: Amelia (b. 1846), Catherine (b. 1847) and Sarah (b. 1852).

On Nov. 13, 1849, William purchased 100 acres in Bertie. Within 2 years, he was running a one-man saw mill, as noted in the 1851 Canada Census. The 1851 Census also reveals that the young couple and their girls lived in a log home. It seems a rather rustic life they led.

1851 Canada Census

1851 Canada Census

In 1857, William began to lay plans for moving his family back to his home in Cattaraugus County. On Jan. 26th, he sold his 100 acres; on Sep. 27, he paid off his mortgage. (Abstracts of Deeds Register, Bertie Township). Before leaving Canada, Adeline gave birth to a son, Charles Felton “Charley.”

By 1860, the family was living Conewango, Cattaraugus County, located about 22  miles southwest of East Otto. It appears they didn’t remain there long, for in 1863 they lost little Charley. He was buried in the East Otto Cemetery.

When the Civil War broke out, William’s younger brother, Robert, signed on early (October 1861). Perhaps because he was in  his early 40s – not exactly a young man – William did not enlist until September 1864. Robert committed himself to the War for 3 years, and William served 1 year with H Company, the 154th NY Infantry.

1864 Civil War Enlistment

New York, Town Clerks’ Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, ca 1861-1865 via

His mustering out record shows that he was injured and sent to the hospital. Note at the bottom his physical description: gray eyes, brown hair, light complexion, 5′ 7½” tall.

 New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900 via

New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900 via

Returning from the war, William and family are found on the 1865 New York Census; his father Tyler was living the next farm over with brother Robert and family.

1865 New York Census

New York, State Census, 1865 via

Five years later, William had sold his farm in East Otto and moved his family 5 miles down the road to Otto. The 1870 U.S. Census shows his daughters were still living at home, his oldest girl, Amelia, was teaching at the local school.

1870 US Census via

1870 US Census via

After reaching the age of 50, perhaps tired of working a farm, William sold the place in Otto and moved with Adeline and daughter Sarah to Buffalo; daughter Amelia had married the year previous. He is first found in the 1874 Buffalo City Directory living at 99 Porter, his occupation is listed as “street car driver.” Their location would have given them a fine view of the Niagara River. It must have been like a homecoming for Adeline, who had been raised in the Niagara region.

By the time of the 1875 New York State Census, William had bought a home at 973 Niagara St. and supplemented the family income by renting out rooms. Note that the last entry in the household is a servant (i.e. maid) named Mary, so at least Adeline had help keeping up the housework. Their location placed them just across the Niagara River from Adeline’s home town of Bertie, making it easier for her to visit her aging parents.

1875 New York Census via

1875 New York Census via

Adeline’s father died in 1879, and the following year William lost his father, Tyler, also. They sold house again and moved in with his daughter Amelia, her husband Arthur Irvine, and their children in the town of Oil Creek, Crawford County, PA. Like his father-in-law, Arthur was an infantry veteran of the Civil War. The 1880 U.S. Census indicates that nearing 60, William was back working on a farm.

1880 US Census via

1880 US Census via

In February 1887, his age catching up with him, William applied for an invalid pension from the war office. The index card for his pension file shows that after he passed away, his widow Adeline received his pension.

U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 via

U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 via

William and Adeline remained living with Arthur & Amelia Irvine as they moved from Oil Creek, Crawford County, to Duke Center, McKean County, PA. Where, on June 19, 1899, William passed away. Adeline remained with her daughter, Amelia, up through her own passing on in 1905. The couple lie interred at the Duke Center Cemetery (William A. BeachAdeline Palmer Beach)

Whether William was a man of many good deeds, I can only hope. Certainly, his military service to his country was a great sacrifice. That he dealt with many land deeds is quite obvious, considering all his moving about. You could even say that his dealing with land deeds were good deeds in themselves, for it appears that his motivation for moving here and there was to be nearer to family, whether his own or his wife’s. I believe he was a good man indeed! photo courtesy of Nancy Thomas, 9/04/2013. photo courtesy of Nancy Thomas, 9/04/2013. CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

William Beach footstone photo courtesy of Nancy Thomas, 9/04/2013. CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE.


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