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Cheshire Academy Archives a Rare Find

Portraits, pipes and 200 years of history quietly preserved.

The small archive room at Cheshire Academy preserves the remarkable history of the students and faculty who attended the school. A quick tale from Archivist Ann Moriarty brings the 200-year-old collection to life.

One of the most delightful tales Moriarty shares concerns a lost pipe, a former headmaster and an observant maintenance crew. She said the pipe was somehow dropped decades ago behind the mantle in Beardsley House, a historic structure on the academy's campus.

During renovation of the building about 70 years later, workers discovered the pipe in a wall near the fireplace. "They came running over with the pipe," Moriarty said. "We tried to get various people to guess whose it was," she added.

Putting the timeline together, Moriarty and others have decided the pipe belonged to former Headmaster Walter L. Ferris whose family lived in the Beardsley House around 1920. A clue to its ownership comes from a portrait of Ferris  — with, you guessed it  — a pipe in use.

"I love bringing people alive. So this man is now alive," Moriarty said.

History loves character and charm, and that's what former student Lucious Beebe had in spades. His books on railroading are in the archives, and his life story is a staff favorite. After graduating from the academy in 1921, Beebe went on to become a columnist for the New York Herald-Tribune, an author, and all around bon vivant.

He was called “Luscious Lucius” said Carrie Moores, the academy's new marketing and social media manager. She recalls a story of Beebe throwing rolls of toilet paper onto J.P. Morgan's yacht from an airplane.

Also preserved in archival quality files are original letters from 1826 to then student Gideon Welles, who later became Secretary of the Navy under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Welles also founded the Hartford Evening Press.

Moriarty has been the school's archivist for 15 years and previously was head of the middle school for about 15 years. She points to items on a high shelf in the archives where "loving cups," mugs, and part of an original beam from a historical building are stored. Paintings, pennants, and postcards are also preserved in the long, narrow archive room located in the school's library.

"The man who created Furbys went to school here," Moriarty said, pointing to some of Richard Levy's early artwork. The small sculptures are of animals, but they're not fur-covered, and they don't talk when you leave the room, much to Moores' relief.

More information about Lucius Beebe and other historical figures connected with Cheshire Academy can be found on the school's Facebook page.

Marty February 23, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Well that's really interesting!

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