Derby History Quiz

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Samuel Orcutt

Dr. Ambrose Beardsley

Evidently, those who record history aren't as well remembered as those who make it! This quiz featured Derby's most famous historians, but very few of our participants could identify Rev. Samuel Orcutt and Dr. Ambrose Beardsley who wrote the definitive history of Derby's early history, "History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880". Orcutt had previously written a similar history of Torrington and Wolcott when the Superintendent of the Naugatuck Railroad suggested a similar undertaking for Derby. Orcutt contacted Dr. Ambrose Beardsley, a well-respected Derby physician who had been gathering stories of his own for nearly twenty years with the thought of eventually publishing the stories. Instead, he eventually collaborated with Orcutt to produce their two volume history complete with biographies and genealogies.

Orcutt was a Congregational minister who also wrote histories of Wolcott, New Milford, Bridgeport, and Stratford in addition to Torrington, Winsted and Derby. His interest in writing history stems from his first assignment as a minister in Wolcott from which he wrote his first history in 1874. After completing his history of Derby, he moved on to Bridgeport but did spend one year in California. While working for the Fairfield County Historical Society in 1893, he was killed by a passing train while trying to cross the tracks on South Street in Bridgeport.

Beardsley was born in Monroe. At the age of 16, he was a school teacher, but he continued his education and graduated from the Medical College in a Pittsfield, MA in 1834. He arrived in Birmingham in 1835 and established his life long practice in derby. Besides the enormous respect that he earned as a physician in Derby, he was also very active in the community. He was the town treasurer for 25 straight years, a warden of the borough and the registrar of vital statistics. He was involved in charitable and religious activities as well and was a noted orator, frequently called upon for public occasions. In one of our earlier quizzes he played the role of forensic scientist in helping to solve one of the worst cases of serial murder by a woman in US History.

Writing in the foreward to the book, Beardsley said, "...I tender my cordial thanks to the town and those individuals who have aided and encouraged its publication; resting assured that when the hand that now writes is moldering in the dust, many will feel grateful to the authors who have given to the public this History." He certainly was right about that!

The book can still be found in local libraries and even be purchased in paper back by clicking here.

Correct Answers were received from: Joan Driscoll, Randy Ritter, Markanthony Izzo and Mary Lou Boroski. We also want to thank Joan for providing an old newspaper account of Orcutt's tragic death.

To see our other earlier quizzes and learn more about Derby's unique history, click here.