Elizabeth Marian Beckwith was born in New Brunswick in 1839 or 1840, the daughter of land surveyor and government official John Beckwith and his second wife Maria (Mary Anne) Street Berton. Her familial lines cross those of many of early New Brunswick's prominent inhabitants. Her father, John, was a son of Nehemiah Beckwith, a pre-Loyalist, and his second wife Julie LeBrun de Duplessis, governess to the children of Thomas Carleton. A daughter of this union, John's sister and Elizabeth's aunt, was Julia Catherine Beckwith (Hart), author of the first novel written by a native born Canadian. Through her mother, Elizabeth was connected with George Duncan Berton and with Samuel Deny Street, a well-known New Brunswick barrister. As a descendent of Loyalists, pre-Loyalists and old Quebec French, it is perhaps not surprising that a marriage was "arranged" for Elizabeth in 1858. The gentleman selected for her was James King Hazen of the "Sunbury Hazens," a pre-Loyalist family. According to his grand-daughter, James King Hazen was "attractive ... but badly spoiled by his mother" who had lost an elder son to a tragic accident. For some years before his marriage James lived alone with his mother "at the old Oromocto house," the rest of the family having died. Elizabeth, described by her grand-daughter as "a clever, studious girl of happy and cheerful disposition, tall, good-looking and with initiative," found the situation in Oromocto intolerable. In late 1860 or early 1861, Elizabeth's father travelled to Oromocto, picked up his daughter and two grandchildren, Edith born in 1858 and John Douglas born in 1860, and brought them "home" to Fredericton. Elizabeth never returned to live with James King Hazen. The 1871 Census records her as "separated from husband" and James died in 1878.

The house to which Elizabeth Beckwith Hazen returned was located at 750 Brunswick Street (61 K), in the downtown area of Fredericton. There, she lived with her mother, father, maternal grand-mother, aunt, brother Harry, her own two children, two servants and an occasional boarder. With such a busy household to contend with, Elizabeth sought solitude with her art. "Drawing from nature" gave her the opportunity to seek quiet spots around the city - nearby streams, the campus of the University of New Brunswick and the river were evidently favored.

Elizabeth worked in several media including watercolour, oil and crayon. By the 1870s she was showing her paintings and drawings at the Provincial Exhibition in the "Amateur Fine Arts" category. Her work was frequently placed in the "highest order" by the local judges who praised it as "rich in color," "correct in perspective," and "eloquent of skill." A more critical artistic eye would, no doubt, find much to fault in her art; however, she did produce, as one gentleman of the day expressed it, "a very pleasing natural effect" which can still be appreciated.

It is likely that both of her children shared her enthusiasm for botany. Certainly her son John Douglas shared his mother's love of flowers as well as her "initiative" and cleverness. John Douglas, who was later knighted, graduated from the University of New Brunswick in 1879. He successively held the positions of Mayor of Fredericton (1888), M.P. for Saint John (1891-1896), Premier of New Brunswick (1908-1911), Minister of Marine, Fisheries and Naval Affairs (1911-1917), Member of the Imperial Council and War Cabinet (1917), and Chief Justice of New Brunswick (1917-1935). Despite his busy political and judicial career John Douglas also served as President of the Saint John Horticultural Society.

On her death in 1935, Elizabeth was one of the Fredericton's oldest and most distinguished citizens. Listed in her obituary as "a treasured possession" were her paintings of "some 200 wild flowers of New Brunswick," a lasting legacy to her native province.

These paintings are currently held by Archives and Special Collections, a department of the Harriet Irving Library, University of New Brunswick.

Linda Squiers Hansen
Archives and Special Collections
University of New Brunswick


Document Maintained by:
UNB Archives
email address archives@unb.ca
Last Update:01/10/96