The Tragic Life of Robert Henry Beecher 1900-1980
Robert Henry Beecher, born in 1900, arrived in Canada from Barnardo’s in 1909. He went to live with Miss Ida Carr in Forestville, Norfolk County (Simcoe area). Over a period of several years, Miss Carr had a few Barnardo boys on her farm. She encouraged education and provided a family atmosphere for her boys.
Miss Carr employed a handyman, John Simmons. Simmons took an intense dislike to Robert Beecher. It’s believed that Simmons assaulted Beecher on many occasions while the two worked together.
On July 2, 1916, while two of Carr’s other boys were visiting the farm on military leave, an argument broke out between Simmons and Beecher. Simmons humiliated and threatened 16 year-old Beecher. Beecher, who had been using a shotgun for target practice, turned the gun on Simmons and killed him.
Much of the community supported Beecher who was known to be an excellent student with a possible teaching career in his future.
The Waterford Star published the following on July 6, 1916:
John Simmons, a farmer, living near St. Williams, is dead as a result of a shot fired from a rifle in the hands of Robert Henry Beecher, when the two engaged in a dispute this afternoon, and Simmons sought to take the rifle from the hands of Beecher, who is a sixteen-year-old boy, and the weapon was discharged, killing Simmons.
Beecher was arrested by Constable Murphy, and remanded until July 7. He was brought to Simcoe. The shooting occurred about four o’clock this afternoon on a farm owned by Miss Ida Carr. Beecher and Simmons were engaged in some target practice with a .22 rifle after returning from church, and getting into a hot argument, Simmons attempted to take the weapon out of the youth’s hands, when it went off during the mix-up. It is understood that Miss Carr was a witness of the quarrel.
Dr. Meek, of Port Rowans, will hold a Coroner’s inquest. Beecher, who is a Barnardo boy, received a fairly good high school education at Port Rowan.
At the trial, Beecher was found not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. The judge gave him a suspended sentence.
In 1927, Robert married Emily May Ashby, a 17 year-old Barnardo girl who arrived in 1923 at age twelve. They lived in the Peterborough area. Two years later, Beecher left Canada and returned to England without his wife. He’s listed as “deported,” but the reason for this is unknown.
Little is known about Beecher after he left Canada. He remarried In 1944, to Theresa Parker. The couple had at least one child.
Robert Henry Beecher died in March 1980.
Note: Robert’s brother, Charles William, a Barnardo boy, arrived in Canada, also in 1909, but on a separate sailing. William went to a farmer named Link in Shanty Bay. He enlisted in 1918 as a Bugler, 1st Battalion, 2nd Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.
The other boys who lived with Miss Ida Carr were: Frank Veasey, Hugh Swan (sister Hope sent to Hamilton) and Regnal Foster.