The Beach Family, Caleb and Joel
If you look at an outline of the town of Winchester, you will notice that someone has taken a bite out of the southwest corner and given it to the adjacent Town of Torrington. This came about because of the impossibility of building a road from the main portion of Winchester to that isolated corner down in Hall Meadow.
Caleb Beach, the first inhabitant of Winchester, constructed his log house there around 1750. Close by this homestead was a very fine spring. This spring was considered by the proprietors to be of enough importance to the general public that they put a proviso in his land title stating that the spring was to be divided down the middle, one half for Beach, the other for the public.
Caleb died in Goshen Jan. 13, 1760, aged 61, and his will read, “I leave to my present beloved wife Hannah [she was number three)]one chest and one bed and one great spinning wheel and one double spinning wheel, to be her own and at her dispose.”
To his children, Sarah Andros, the wife of Elon Andrus of Wallingford, Caleb and Hezekiah Beach of Goshen, Joel Beach of Torrington and Margit Beach, he left the following: “Plough-irons and drag teeth [a type of toothed harrow] and plough chains, three steel traps with the chains belonging to them and my shaving-knife, three chests, one table, six pewter [he spelled it “puter”] platters and plates, three pewter basins, four pewter porringers, one pair of tongs, one fire-shovel, one trammel, one pair of andirons, one brass warming-pan, one brass skillet, a brass kettle, one iron kettle and three iron pots.”
This apparently constituted all of his personal possessions, although I wonder why no animals are mentioned; he certainly needed a horse, or a yoke of oxen to utilize the plough and harrow. We’ll never know.
Joel Beach, third son of Caleb, who inherited his traps and shaving-knife [a single-edge razor, in other words], was married in Winchester, first, in 1757. A friend is on record as describing Joel as “a conservative of the first water. He stood 6 feet 4 or 5, was gaunt and erect, with a pock-marked weather-beaten face, large hands and feet, clothed in butternut-colored coat, vest and small-clothes, garnished with long pewter buttons, stockings of black and white sheep’s wool, cowhide shoes of enormous size, crowned with a broad-brimmed, round-topped hat of dubious color; his customs on week days, Sundays and training days [required for the State Militia] were always the same, from early manhood to extreme old age.
His fare was simple, consisting of bear’s meat, venison and wild turkey when game abounded, and beef, pork and mutton in after years, with toast and cider, mush and milk and bean porridge as his only luxuries. He was a mighty hunter, never failing to bring down the deer, fox or wild turkey with his six-foot shooting iron.”
He was also a fish fancier and had stoned up his side of the afore-mentioned spring on the side of the road in front of his house in order to keep some of the fish he had caught in local streams. At one time he had a speckled trout of great size in the compound and a neighbor with a long hooked nose, tinted red at the tip, stooped down to drink from the pool. The trout, seeing the red beacon, and thinking it a bright insect, leaped upwards and seized it. As the neighbor sprang back, the fish came too, and dropped on dry land.
The victim, letting pity overcome his rage at having a sore nose, dropped the fish back into the water and went on his way.
Mrs. Joel Beach was also as good a shot as was her husband. One day, near sunset, she discovered a panther in a tree near the house. Her husband was away, but his loaded gun was standing near the fireplace. She seized and primed it, took deliberate aim and lodged a bullet in his brain.
Joel Beach died Nov. 28, 1820, aged 84, leaving his original farm neither increased nor diminished by a single acre.
A little background on the acquisition of the former southwest corner of Winchester by Torrington might be helpful here.
In October 1906, the voters of Winchester provided funding to restore the chimney of the original cabin (all that remained of the dwelling) and place a bronze plaque on it. As the Hall Meadow section was so remote from the rest of Winchester, the inhabitants conducted most of their business in Torrington.
It also was a headache for the Town to maintain the roads there, especially in winter. Eventually, on July 10, 1951, the state Legislature passed a special act annexing a portion of the town of Winchester to the town of Torrington, being “All that part of Winchester known as the Hall Meadow and Blue Street district.”
Eventually a flood control dam was constructed in the Hall Meadow area, and the Caleb Beach chimney, being in the flood plain, was moved at the expense of the state of Connecticut,to Winsted, where it was reassembled in Winchester Center on Chapel Road, just east of “The Chapel.”
Bob Grigg is the town historian in Colebrook.