The infamous King Beebe

Plum Island Lighthouse built 1869

Plum Island Lighthouse built 1869

Through the Daniels family, my mother’s western Pennsylvania ancestors are descended from the interesting and colorful Beebe family of Long Island. Samuel Beebe (1631-1712) left Broughton, Northamptonshire, England in 1650, sailing to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After settling for a time in New London, Connecticut, he eventually ended up on Plum Island, a small island in Long Island Sound. Samuel was able to accumulate enough wealth to purchase the western half of Plum Island about 1700. One of his daughters was Agnes Beebe, who married John Daniels of New London. In the early 1800s, their great-grandson Kinsey Daniels (1758-1821) moved to Slippery Rock, in western Pennsylvania.

After Samuel Beebe died in 1712, his Plum Island holdings were inherited primarily by Agnes Beebe’s brother, Samuel Beebe Jr. Samuel Jr. lived a wealthy, comfortable  life on Plum Island. He was called King Beebe, and the Lord of the Islands. A large rock located in the water just off Plum Island was referred to as Beebe’s Throne.

Unfortunately, our Samuel Jr. got himself embroiled in a complicated tangle with the law and basic ethics when he decided that he had the right of ownership over an African American woman and her children.

Samuel’s in-laws, James and Elizabeth Rogers of Connecticut, owned an enslaved woman named Joan. In James Rogers’ will, he specified that none of his slaves should be “sold or given away in lifelong bondage”. After his death, his wife Elizabeth decided nevertheless to give Joan to her daughter Elizabeth instead of a monetary inheritance, to serve in Elizabeth’s house until her mother’s death. Joan had lived for a time as a free woman, and married a free black man named John Jackson, with whom she had several children.

Samuel Jr. decided that he was entitled to ownership not only of Joan, but also her children. In 1710 he seized Joan and one of her sons, and brought them back to Plum Island. Two of the Rogers sons fought the seizure in court, but Samuel’s actions were judged legal. In 1711 Joan, her son, and a newborn daughter were able to escape Plum Island. Joan’s husband John traveled on a small boat, under cover of darkness, across the Sound to Beebe’s Plum Island home. Sneaking into the house, he was able to retrieve his wife and two children without waking the Beebe family.  Joan was taken to Connecticut and quickly moved on to hide in Rhode Island.

Samuel was so outraged at his loss of “property” that he hired two men and traveled north to Connecticut to find Joan, eventually tracing her movements to Rhode Island. The governor there forced their return to Beebe, who successfully prosecuted his wife’s brother John Rogers and Joan’s husband John, for aiding in the escape. John Rogers was jailed from September 1711 to March 1712. Beebe sold Joan to his attorney John Livingston, within two weeks of her recapture. Although Joan and John Jackson were reunited for several years, Joan tragically never regained her freedom, and was again sold years later.

John Rogers and his brother James are considered among the first American political activists who worked against slavery. They come down to us as one of the positive aspects of the story of King Beebe.

Sources

  1. A World Unto Itself – The Remarkable History of Plum Island, New York, Ruth Ann Barmson, Geoffrey K. Fleming, and Amy Kasuga Folk (Southold Historical Society, Southold New York), 2014
  2. June Cross’s Interracial family tree, Front Line, PBS.org, 2014
  3. For Adam’s Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England, Allegra di Bonaventura, 2013.

14 Comments

  1. Samuel Beebe said:

    Ha lol my name is literally Samuel Beebe

    December 8, 2018
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      Any relation? 🙂

      December 11, 2018
      Reply
  2. J. Smith said:

    Question: Eleanor King Beebe (b 1810) was my third gr. grandmother. I’m wondering if her name “King” was simply a moniker derived from Samuel Beebe’s nickname “King” or if it was from a real ancestral line. Her married name, later, was Wetmore and she was the spouse of keeper of the Plum Island light William Whiting Wetmore.

    January 17, 2021
    Reply
      • Anthony E. Beebe said:

        No, Samuel Beebe was not a royal king. “King Beebe” was a nick name.

        December 30, 2021
        Reply
        • dreamer said:

          No, he certainly was not an actual king.

          December 30, 2021
          Reply
  3. joan meddaugh said:

    Good morning Beebe family!

    My name is Joan Beebe (meddaugh). From Candor, NY.

    My Beebe family came Moved to Candor NY from Brookfield, and Earlville area of NY which is located near Hamilton, NY in 1899 to start up a newspaper Called the Candor Courier.

    My connection to the Beebe family goes like this.

    I will go backwards starting with my marriage to Larry Meddaugh also of Candor whose family has connections through other lines to the Beebe family.
    But for now , I will list my connection.
    I am the daughter of Cyrus Arthur Beebe born 1898 in Earlville ,NY to Will Lymon Beebe born May 9, 1869 and May A Payne born in 1875.

    Will was the oldest child of Hiram Beebe and Ellen Amelia Hills of the Brookfield area if NY. Will had a sister I forget her first name but she married a guy named George Smith and later moved to Hempstead , L.I. She died in 1928 after having surgery for gallbladder.

    Her younger brother james also married.
    If I remember right a gal named Josie. They had one daughter. Josie died first then their daughter in Jsmes.

    Hiram Judson Beebe. ( his middle name came from his father Judson Lyman Beebe who married a Blanding I think)
    Hiram died in 1906 in Candor due to complications from pneumonia which caused his organs to shut down.
    Ellen was. the youngest of 5 daughters of Chloe and James Hills also of the Brookfield area of NY she died in 1929 and buried here in Maple grove cemetery. Her husband Hiram is buried with no stone in a cemetery in Brookfield, with a number of other Beebe relatives..

    Hirams parents were Judson L. and
    Susan Blanding Beebe. I think they lived in the Brookfield and surrounding area of Shureburn, areas of NY.

    Judson parents I believe were Cyrus Beebe and ? Cyrus first wife died and he married her sister whose name I forgett. Judson had a brother that was named Cyrus .

    Cyrus Sr. Father I believe was Zadock Beebe, II, I forget who his wife was.

    His father was Zadock I.

    I forget who his father was
    Then there was a William Beebe who I think was born in 1665.
    I believe his father was Samuel Beebe b. 1633 in England . He had a twin brother
    Thomas. There were a number of children born to samuels parents John and Rebecca Ladd. Johns wife Rebecca died in England around 1640 leaving her husband to take care of the children.

    Samuel and his brother John came from England and settled in CT. might have been around New Haven . His father John and the remaining children came later. It is said while crossing the ocean
    from England on the ship Speedwell.The father died at sea.. while other stories have him passing away after his arrival .

    There have been several stories about A Samuel Beebe and Plum Island. So I am not sure if it’s my Samuel born June 1633 or if it was one of his sons also named Samuel that is connected to the island.
    Sure would like some written proof as to which Beebe it is.

    You can text me at (607) 651-8773 or email me at joanmeddaugh@yahoo.com.

    Thank you
    Joan

    January 29, 2022
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      Thanks so much, Joan. I didn’t know that there was a branch of the Beebe family in upstate NY!

      There is supposed to be a copy of Samuel Beebe (the elder)’s will at the Suffolk County NY surrogate court. That should have information on his land on Plum Island, and his children (including Samuel the younger).

      January 30, 2022
      Reply
  4. MarkAnthony Ramsey said:

    Samuel Beebe Jr was my 10th great grandfather. Elizabeth Rogers my 10th great grandmother their daughter Bathsheba and her son William King , Elizabeth King ,Celia Fields(Native American), Franny Lyles,Frances Henson, Fiola Robertson, Walter Pittman, Viola Pittman,Robert Ramsey(Native American) then my mom Lisa and myself.. It’s always interesting to find family history. I’m a descendant of several slaves Native American and African decent. This is the first slave owner I’ve found or confirmed any way in my family ties! I didn’t realize the fields family was partially white until this morning! My DNA claims I’m only 10% Caucasian but I knew that could not be possible other than my Russian and Scottish and French lines I knew there was more somewhere my mother has blue eyes though she is mixed and 1/2 Indian alone and has the appearance of a Native American her eyes are crystal blue even tho both parents had brown eyes… This is actually very cool to me! My family is already very diverse. I’m a descendant of Pocahontas’ several times over and 2 of her sisters. Multiple Indian Chief lines from Choctaw, Cherokee, Catawba and Saponi. I’m related to Barrack Obama, Queen Elizabeth, The Kurakin Russian Royal family… The Scottish Royal family Ramsey. Also some historical Saints! Adding one of the 3 original owners of plum island is an awesome addition to the mix!

    May 21, 2022
    Reply
    • dreamer said:

      So good to hear from you, cousin! Sounds like you have a fascinating family history with a wonderful and varied background going back deep into the history of the United States and beyond. Thanks so much for reaching out with your story.

      May 23, 2022
      Reply
      • MarkAnthony Ramsey said:

        Absolutely! Nice to meet you as well. I have to admit it is odd to find he was a slave owner. Especially such a mean one lol. Makes you wonder why considering it was against his father’s wishes.

        May 29, 2022
        Reply
    • Judith Eileen Smith said:

      Hello cousin! Samuel Beebe b. 1633 is my 7th gr grandfather. I read your story with great interest — many details I had not heard before! My Beebe and Wetmore ancestors were keepers of the Plum Island light for 43 years ending in 1903, but I’m always looking for more information about the early years of the area. Tell us everything! Thank you.

      June 13, 2022
      Reply
      • dreamer said:

        There’s something fascinating and mysterious about Plum Island. I live only about 60 miles from it, but may never be able to visit there due to its restricted status.
        Linda

        June 13, 2022
        Reply
      • Risa Y Beebe said:

        Hello to all the extended Beebe family.

        June 23, 2022
        Reply

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