With the exception of J. Arthur, who preferred the sea, all the Beebe siblings cherished the woods that surrounded the two estates. The children spent many happy summer days in the solitude of the woods, exploring, riding horses, and even helping to build and maintain roads and a stonewall that snaked through their land. Frank, the youngest son, planted trees and shrubs, enhancing the property’s considerable natural beauty.
J. Arthur’s brother, Pierson, lived at Highfield Hall with his other siblings, Emily and Frank. Emily was an early Cape Cod socialite, known for throwing fantastic parties at Highfield during the summer as well as at the family’s home in Back Bay. Emily also traveled abroad to many major European cities and spent several winters in exotic Cairo, Egypt.
Of James Beebe’s three daughters, only one married. Emily was the only one to reach old age. Despite having numerous suitors as a young woman, she never found a husband and died alone at the age of 80 in 1916. Younger sister Mary Louisa died young from a rare form of cancer and is buried, with the rest of the Beebe family, in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. The youngest Beebe girl, Frances Lathrop, or Fannie as the family affectionately called her, married George Fiske in 1866. The couple had two children before Fiske became ill and died, just two years after their marriage.
Tanglewood, the second Beebe home, stood a short walk from Highfield. Tanglewood was home to J. Arthur; his wife, Emily; and their three children, Arthur, Emily, and Charles Philip. The couple, married in 1869, entertained their guests each summer with musicals, theatrical performances, and fundraising events. Both shared a love of animals and donated heavily to animal charities. Unlike his brother’s adjacent home, where three sibling adults lived, Tanglewood was filled with the sounds of children, all of whom J. Arthur loved deeply.
Tragedy first struck the family in 1900. Arthur, the oldest son of Emily and J. Arthur, committed suicide at the family’s Commonwealth Avenue home in Boston while the rest of the family was vacationing in California. Just 28 years old, Arthur attended Harvard Medical School and had just successfully completed his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital when he died.
The New York Times reported, “It has been impossible to reach any member of the [Beebe] family, and Medical Examiner F.W. Draper, who admits that he was called to view the body, in answer to the query ‘Did Mr. Beebe shoot himself?’ said, ‘I cannot answer that question.’ The only facts, obtained, The Post says, are that Dr. Beebe was seen walking on Commonwealth Avenue Sunday evening. A few hours later his uncle found him dead under circumstances which made it imperative to call the Medical Examiner.”
Young Arthur’s close friend and fellow Harvard alumnus, Sydney Messer Williams, eulogized his deceased classmate. “Outside his college courses, in which he stood well, and his medical school work, in which he took the deepest interest, Beebe was especially fond of sailing, and for several years his boat ‘Nobska’ was champion of its class in Buzzards Bay…He was a man who preferred a few intimate friends to a wide general acquaintance, and those whom he knew best were almost all ’94 men, not only during college, but up to the time of his death.”