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Hours of Gold, Hours of Lead

An Enduring Tragedy

Falmouth’s legendary Highfield and Tanglewood Halls set the stage for the rise—and tragic fall—of the famous Beebe family.

Photos Courtesy of Falmouth Historical Society,

In 1911, J. Arthur, still grieving the loss of his son, had to face the passing of his relatively young wife. It was at this point that Tanglewood began to fall into disrepair and the happy summer days ended. Several years later, in an attempt to soothe his woe, J. Arthur and daughter Emily traveled to Europe where they narrowly avoided disaster. The duo were scheduled to take the doomed Titanic home, but either missed the boat or changed their itinerary without informing anyone back home—which must have been a frightening time for the pair’s remaining family and friends.

A year later, Emily, like her brother before her, committed suicide at the Hotel Touraine in Boston. She had only just returned to the city several hours before from a friend’s home in Manchester-by-the-Sea, where she had been living for the summer. Upon hearing this news, J. Arthur rushed to the scene. His chauffeur was driving so quickly that he did not see a 10-year-old boy crossing the road, and struck and killed him.

The Boston Evening Transcript describes the event: “During luncheon Miss Beebe was taken ill and asked that her family physician Dr. C. T. Putnam be called. She then went to her room. When the physician arrived he found the door locked and heard groans. The door was forced with the aid of employees of the hotel and the young woman was found lying on the bed fully dressed. She died almost immediately. Medical Examiner Leary said that death was due to shooting with a revolver.”

Emily, like her father, had been devastated by the loss of her brother and mother. J. Arthur had noticed Emily’s fragile mental state and the extensive traveling the two did together in the years before her suicide were meant to alleviate her pain.

A devastated, exhausted J. Arthur spent the next year in Boston. On the evening of November 28, 1914, while eating dinner at the famous Plaza Hotel, he died suddenly from heart failure.

Fellow Harvard classmate William S. Hall remembers J. Arthur in the following quote: “Very few in private life had a wider circle of acquaintance. Not many realized that his manner, blithe and debonair, was a veil over tragedies in life that are called upon to bear. Under the staggering blows which Fate dealt him, he carried himself with manly courage to the end, but with a breaking heart.”

Life was equally challenging for J. Arthur’s youngest child. Charles Philip Beebe had a normal childhood, but would eventually succumb to the mental illness that seems to have plagued the family. Philip, as he preferred to go by, attended Harvard, as did many Beebe men, but left after two years to travel to Europe. Upon his return, Philip purchased a farm in Mount Hood, Oregon, in 1910, and didn’t return to Boston until after his father’s death in 1914.

J. Arthur was a man of considerable wealth, but left no money to Philip in his will. J. Arthur felt the small fortune his wife had left their son was enough for him to live a prosperous life. Philip disagreed and sued for what he felt was his share of his father’s wealth and was eventually awarded $700,000.

In the coming years, Philip began to suffer from mental instability. He  would spend a little over a decade in McLean Hospital, before being released in 1932. The following year Philip purchased Eastleigh Farm in Framingham, Massachusetts, and returned to farming life. He would spend the rest of his life on his farm, always accompanied by a male attendant from McLean for security reasons.

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