The ghost of William Beadle has flitted in and out of the consciousness of Wethersfield since he murdered his family on December 11, 1782. To those growing up in Old Wethersfield, the macabre story seemed to be part of the DNA of the town, always lingering at the edge as a piece of the past but not the sanctified history that Washington, Rochambeau, Silas Deane, or even the Webbs were. These latter comprised the easily verified important role that Wethersfield played in history.
James Smart, growing up in Old Wethersfield, literally in the backyard of the old Beadle residence, or at least where it stood, was no exception to the inheritance of that story. So when he decided to explore it as a topic for a senior thesis in the history department at Princeton University, the reaction he met at home was “What, that old story–how can you find enough historical significance in a man’s murder of his family?
What had led him to the idea that such significance existed was the mention that Prof. John Murrin, who was teaching a course on the history of the American Revolution, made of the Beadle story. The mention was in the context of the Continental currency and its baleful influence on people.
What he found in the course of his research was that Beadle’s life not only illuminated the history of Wethersfield at that important point in time, but was a piece of the wider history of the trans-Atlantic British world of the eighteenth century. The following are excerpts from the senior thesis that resulted from the research that James conducted.
The entire thesis, “A Life of William Beadle,” maybe consulted at the library of the Wethersfield Historical Society.