John Adolphus Beckwith, born on December 1, 1800, in Fredericton, was a multifaceted individual with significant contributions as an engineer, businessman, civil servant, and politician. He passed away on November 23, 1880, in his hometown. Beckwith, the son of Nehemiah Beckwith and Julie-Louise Le Brun, hailed from a respected early settler family and was one of six siblings. His education was primarily in Fredericton’s grammar school, Montreal, and Quebec, leading him to become a proficient surveyor and engineer.
Beckwith had an extended and industrious career. Along with his brother, he co-managed a lumber firm, J. A. and F. E. Beckwith, until the 1830s depression led to its downfall. He served as the deputy surveyor in the Crown Lands Office until 1840 before transitioning to the audit office as the first clerk, where he served until 1860. He later became the commissioner of the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Land Company, a land-selling venture devised by Thomas Baillie, until his demise. His son Harry succeeded him in this role.
Since his youth, Beckwith had a keen interest in the militia, eventually becoming the Major in charge of a battalion of the 1st York Battery in 1860. However, he resigned following Lemuel Allan Wilmot’s promotion over him. Beckwith’s affiliations also extended to the York County Agricultural Society from 1846 until his death and the Orange order, where he served as the grand master for New Brunswick. Renowned as a sports enthusiast, he was proficient in wrestling, boxing, and skating and was hailed as “the father of cricket in New Brunswick.”
Although his early life was mostly devoid of political pursuits, apart from an unsuccessful bid for the House of Assembly in 1830, Beckwith entered municipal politics in Fredericton in his sixties. He served on the council numerous times and was elected mayor twice. Beckwith won a seat in the Legislative Assembly supporting union during the confederation election of 1866 and was appointed provincial secretary and registrar of the province by Andrew Rainsford Wetmore in 1867. However, he stepped down in 1871 following a realignment over the New Brunswick School Law. Beckwith was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1874.
While Beckwith was not typically seen as an exhilarating or innovative personality, his life was characterized by consistent and competent public service. In his later years, he was revered as a walking encyclopedia on Fredericton’s early days. He is interred at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Fredericton.
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