Beech Hill follows the Elkins family who lived on Beech Hill in Andover for five generations. Much of the information in the book is taken from a set of 50 journals written by Wendell P. Elkins and recently donated to the Andover Historical Society.
Captain Samuel Elkins, a Revolutionary soldier, settled on Beech Hill in 1790. His son, Josiah, Sr. continued the farm, but became caught up in the religious fervor of the time, and he took his family to join the Enfield Shakers in 1837. In a few years Josiah, Sr. was back on Beech Hill, but his family remained at the Shakers. Eventually 16 members of the Elkins family entered the Shakers, but only five died in the faith. Hervey Elkins, the focus of this book, remained for 15 years and, as his journal reveals, he continued to keep up his friendship with his Enfield Shaker friends.
As they came and went from Beech Hill, the Elkins family always managed to keep the farm going, often with the help of John Proctor, who frequently loaned them money. The Elkinses attended the Beech Hill School and Proctor Academy and made a living off their farm. Hervey’s wife, Eleanor, sent her son, Wendell, to Harvard College and Harvard Divinity School from the proceeds of her egg business. They worked in the Peg Factory and the Hame Manufactory, both in Andover, and regularly visited the Shaker community.
Hervey Elkins was the last of Josiah, Sr.’s children to run the farm, and after his death, his son Wendell took over the farm. Wendell eventually passed the farm to his two sons, Hervey and Kimball. The farm remained in the Ekins’s family for 205 years, making it a Bicentennial Farm.
Captain Samuel Elkins and his son, Josiah, Sr. are described by Wendell in his journals:
“Samuel Elkins was a rustler, a fine militia officer; good looking and graceful, social, and very popular. He might have been a colonel but for the officers had to victual [feed] the men, and his wife induced him to refuse, as she didn’t like so much expense and rum-drinking. He died of heart disease, after a prosperous, busy life. I wish his children had had his business ability! He married into the Robinsons, an upright but unsocial and peculiar race. Josiah Elkins was like the Robinsons: odd, cranky, whimsical, and unpractical.”
Beech Hill: The Reconciliation of Hervey Elkins and the Enfield Shakers by Galen Beale, is published by Couper Press, Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York. It is available for sale at the Andover Historical Society. Visit AndoverHistory.org for more details.