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CAPTAIN BEECHER HENRY WARD ARCHER
by Nadeen Beneby
One of the more illustrious sons of the Archers was Captain Beecher Henry Ward. He rejoiced in his name. He was one of my grandfather's younger brothers. Tall, jet black and regal, he could have been a prince. He was born in February 1884 and died 3rd May 1970. He and his wife Muriel celebrated over 60 years of marriage.
Their sons did not grow to be like olive vines around their table. Stanley, their eldest, died tragically. Uncle Beecher had promised his hand in marriage to a girl from Down Along the Shore but his wandering eye saw Muriel Irene and the other girl was left high and dry. A woman jilted by a man in that era experienced great humiliation. When Stanley was but a few months old this couple happened to be in the neighbourhood of the spurned lady. It is said she poisoned the child. Their second child, Lawrence, also died in infancy.
The Archers are a very religious people whose roots are buried in their Methodism. Uncle Beecher served for many years as a local preacher and class leader in the little church in Marsh Harbour. He loved the book of Revelation and with great authority expounded on the verse: "The great day of his wrath is come and who shall be able to stand."
On missionary days he and the English ministers led the way and the faithful members trotted behind as they went from house to house seeking donations for overseas missions. He enjoyed being the auctioneer on that day when Charles Sawyer and Lucien Stratton tried to outbid each other.
Uncle Beecher could be arrogant when he wanted to be and was self-assured, but also very kind. His little foodstore and later restaurant was located on the spot where Customs House now stands. (That point is called Nogie Point after his grandmother, Nogie Archer.) His ledger shows that many people shopped there and their bills are still outstanding. He never embarrassed those who were unable to pay.
Beecher Henry Ward believed in doing everything in the grand manner. His colonial style home on Bay Street near the Government Dock still stands as a monument to what he believed in.
A sea captain by profession, he worked for many bootleggers during the Prohibition era. The names were interesting: Black Jack Kennedy, Kelly and Crawford. He would sit on his porch and regale his listeners with fascinating stories. In mid life he assisted Dr Evans Cottman on his trips to Florida. One of the interesting things about these trips was the use of the ship to shore sets. There was no privacy and anyone with a battery-operated radio could eavesdrop. It was not unusual, when the weather was bad and it was a wash day, to hear his booming voice call, "Muriel, pick in your bloomers! Rain is coming!"
Uncle Beecher received one of the biggest shocks of his life in the late 50's. He had spent many years plying between Abaco and Andros, sponge fishing and crawfishing. On one occasion, while at a place called Jonathan's Cay in Andros, he needed ballast for his boat, the Exceed, and there were hundreds of smooth iron bars near the shore. He had his crew load them into his boat. We children had to clean his boat and many times we threw the encrusted ballast into the shallow water.
An Englishman named Plaice, who had been around Marsh Harbour for a
few months, offered Uncle Beecher forty pounds sterling for the Exceed.
Thinking it fair exchange, Uncle Beecher sold her. Mr Plaice took the boat
down to Dundas Town and then left. A few weeks later it was discovered
that the ballast had been gold bars, washed ashore from a wreck in the
previous century. I can still hear his anguish as he lamented: "I
am ruined! I am ruined!"
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