The Eliot Beardslee (Beardsley) Homestead c.1780

The Eliot Beardslee Homestead at 31 Great Ring Road was built c. 1780 and is a classic example of an 18th century New England saltbox colonial.  This fine home is constructed on a foundation of local fieldstone with a great stone central chimney and three fireplaces.  Most impressive are the broad planked floors and exposed hand-hewn timbers throughout. The Monroe Historical Society purchased the Beardsley Homestead from the Town of Monroe in 1993 and has since restored the home and its outbuildings. Today the Eliot Beardslee Homestead and barn stand as living museums, filled with an extensive collection of authentic period furnishings, paintings, kitchenware, farm implements, town artifacts and other period ephemera that reflect life in Monroe over the centuries and our cultural legacy and traditions.

Eliot Beardslee was born in Stratford to Samuel Beardslee and Ann French – Beardslee.  He was one of 11 children and was baptized with his twin sister Sarah on August 29, 1762. As an adult he initially settled at Southbury and relocated shortly thereafter to Monroe, which was then referred to as Huntington. It was here that Eliot set up his home and married his first wife Hannah Beach on April 20, 1788. We find Eliot, Hannah and 1 slave living here in our first federal census, taken in 1790 under the general direction of Thomas Jefferson.

During their ten-year marriage Eliot and Hannah had two children: 1.) Abigail, born at Huntington, April 25, 1792. 2.) Hannah, born at Huntington, May 17, 1798. It is most unfortunate that the mother Hannah died less than a month after baby Hannah was born, possibly as a result of difficulties during childbirth. After Hannah’s death, Eliot then married a widow named Abigail Patterson on October 16, 1800 and they had one child: 3.) Eliot, born December 26, 1801. In later generations, descendants of the Beardslee family settled in and around the vicinity of Winsted.

Eliot Beardslee died on July 19,1807 at the age of 45 and his first wife Hannah Beach died on June 10, 1798 at the age of 36. Both are buried in the East Village cemetery located on East Village Road. The date of death and burial location of Eliot’s second wife Abigail are unknown at this time.

A note from the society historian:

So what’s in a name? In further researching Eliot Beardslee’s history in 2019 it soon became apparent within the genealogical records that this surname has varied spellings, all of which are acceptable to one level or another within the historical community. It is common in these records to find spellings such as Beardslee, Beardsle and the contemporary standard Beardsley. The Monroe Historical Society always strives to present our history in such a way as to be as accurate and rich as possible, so which spelling of this surname is most correct for our Eliot and his family? Well, I suppose that depends on where you happen to be looking. 

In Eliot Beardslee’s Last Will and Testament – dated April 17, 1806 – his signature, written in his own hand, spells his surname as Beardslee. His daughter Hannah and his son Eliot’s signatures within this same document are the identical spelling. In further support of this we reference Eliot’s first wife Hannah’s gravestone in the East Village Cemetery which is engraved with the Beardslee spelling. It’s an open and shut case, right? Not exactly. Just beside Hannah lies her beloved husband Eliot, who passed later than she, and the surname engraved on his headstone is actually spelled as Beardsley.

Is this unexpected alternate spelling the result of a 19th century error by the engraver, or perhaps the family simply decided at this time to adopt the more contemporary spelling? We honestly don’t know, and the answer may well be lost forever to history. There is one final clue in all of this however and it’s within the Winsted Old Burying Ground in Winsted, CT. It is there that Eliot Beardslee’s only son is buried, an industrious and highly respected man who made his fortune in the manufacturing of high-quality cutlery. Upon his impressive family monument is his surname which is spelled Beardsley, and what’s more interesting is that his given name has been changed as well to Elliot, spelled with two l’s.  This is a complete change from his signature seen in his father’s Last Will and Testament.  Just when you think you have it all figured out, history goes and throws you a curveball.

I suppose I should just leave it as is and move on to researching the Curtiss family – or is that Curtis?