CourthouseSBeecherby Matthew Urtz

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Madison County Courthouse featured a number of courthouse paintings of prominent judges and attorneys that practiced in the county.  During a renovation of the present courthouse in the 1960s the portraits were removed from public view and memory.  Recovered portraits are being repaired when possible for permanent display after the future courthouse renovations are completed.  However, all will be displayed as part of our 2016 Archives Day on this fall.  Over the course of the next few months we will feature articles on each of the judges whose images will be displayed.  Today we will speak about Judge Sylvester Beecher.

Sylvester Beecher was born in Wolcott, Connecticut on January 6th, 1781. He moved to Madison County with his wife Sally and their daughter of the same name in 1808.  The couple had two children, Sally born in 1807 and Joseph born in 1819.  In an interesting side note Beecher’s son Joseph died while in Cuba in 1841.  Joseph’s body was sent back to Canastota in a cask of rum, which he was buried in at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Canastota.  He may be the only Madison County Resident to be buried in a cask of rum.

Beecher moved to Madison County when he bought a piece of property in Lenox (today in the Town of Lincoln) in March of 1808.  He quickly entered the politics game becoming a Constable in 1811, town supervisor in 1817 and 1833-1834, when he was chairman of the Board of Supervisors.  In 1817 Beecher was appointed a Justice of the Peace by the State Council of Appointment.  He was reappointed in 1820 and 1821.  He worked his way through the court system becoming the Associate of Common Pleas in 1822, and was elected three times as the Justice of the Peace starting in 1828.  In 1829 he was elected as the representative from Madison County to the New York State Legislature.Beecher was a Charter member of the Lenox Lodge

Beecher was a Charter member of the Lenox Lodge F&AM, when it was organized June 25, 1817.  He was a trustee of organization at Quality Hill Congregational Church in 1809, and later a trustee when the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed at Clockville in 1832.  Beecher became director of the Madison County Bank which formed in 1832.

During the War of 1812 Beecher raised a company, regularly referred to as “Beecher’s Company,” to serve in the 19th NY Infantry.  He was commissioned Captain on March 10, 1814, and served numerous roles including payroll clerk.  His company served time at Sackets Harbor in Jefferson County.

Beecher died in Canastota in August of 1849.  He left behind a wonderful legacy of military and public service, and was a wonderful leader for Madison County.  Archives Day 2016 will be on October 11th from 10 am to 4 pm at the Madison County Office Building #4.  Besides the portraits, court cases, notes and other items from the men in the paintings will be on display.  For more information on anything Madison County history feel free to contact me either via phone @ 315-366-2453 or email  Matthew Urtz is the Madison County Historian.

Editor’s note: Matthew Urtz is Madison County historian. He can be reached at 315.366.2453 or email Like “Madison County, NY History” on Facebook and visit Works Cited:  Tompkins, Brownell Fitch.  1806-1906 Biographical Sketches of the Madison County Bench and Bar.  Madison County Historical Society.  1911. Madison Observer, Morrisville, NY August 1849

By martha

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.