Myron Holley Beaumont was born on August 26,1837 in Wayne County, New York. His father was Dr. Abram Beuamont, who took the family to Tecumseh, Michigan when Myron was young. The family did well, with three of Myron’s sisters marrying men who became a consul general in Germany, a consul in Korea and a Michigan state senator.
In 1856 Myron was a printer in Baltimore when he enlisted as a private in the Mounted Rifles. He was posted at Fort Union in New Mexico, but was discharged in 1857.
He was in Rahway, New Jersey at the start of the war, and Beaumont’s military experience resulted in him joining the 3rd New Jersey Militia as lieutenant and quartermaster. The regiment was a ninety day regiment that was in reserve at Bull Run, but saw no fighting. After it mustered out, on August 20, 1861 he became major in the 1st New Jersey Cavalry Regiment.
The First New Jersey Cavalry suffered from political infighting, and in January 1862 Beaumont and its Lieutenant Colonel, Joseph Karge, were placed under arrest by regimental commander Colonel William Halstead. But they were released after a short period, after which Colonel Halstead was discharged.
Beaumont was often absent on medical leave with chronic diarrhea and malaria. He did not have a good reputation. Major Walter Robbins wrote that Beaumont was “an excellent officer in camp but poor in the field, where he seldom got! He did not like bullets… Beaumont was not held in high esteem by the officers and men of the regiment. He had the habit of… avoiding the harder part of the service, especially the battles.”
(Lilian Rea, ed., War Record and Personal Experiences of Walter Raleigh Robbins, from April 22, 1861 to August 4, 1865 (Chicago, 1923), 24 and n., 106n; quoted in Longacre, Jersey Cavaliers, 10.)
It was on one of Beaumont’s medical leaves, on July 2, 1862, that he married sixteen year old Mary Randolph, the granddaughter of Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of War.
In spite of his reputation, Beaumont commanded the 1st New Jersey Cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg after its colonel, Percy Wyndham – an eccentric British soldier of fortune who eventually would be banned from the lines of the Army of the Potomac – had been wounded in June at Brandy Station. Beaumont was promoted to lieutenant colonel on November 1, 1864, and at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia on February 6, 1865, was wounded in the left leg, shattering his fibula.
Beaumont was promoted to colonel on May 4, 1865, and mustered out with the regiment on July 24, 1865. He was awarded a pension of $30 per month due to his injury.
After the war the Beaumonts moved to New York, where Myron worked as a newspaper editor. Between 1866 and 1873 the couple had three sons, Myron Junior, Walter and John. But in October of 1872 Mary filed for divorce on grounds of adultery. The following spring Myron filed similar charges against Mary. But in early 1874 the courts found Mary to be innocent and dissolved the marriage, with the provisions that Mary was allowed to remarry as if Myron “was actually dead,” while Myron was forbidden to ever remarry while Mary was alive. Myron was also required to pay Mary a sizable alimony.
In response, Myron disappeared, apparently with his sister-in-law. They reappeared in Coos Bay, Oregon, where Beaumont became editor of theCoos Bay News while his sister-in-law became the new Mrs. Beaumont. But within a short time in the damp Pacific Northwest Myron’s new ‘wife’ became terminally ill. While she was still on her deathbed Myron found a replacement in Susie Davis, a girl who may have been as young as fifteen who was visiting from California. The parents of the newest Mrs. Beaumont, however, quickly forced her return to California.
Myron also made his way to California, where in San Francisco he teamed up with a man working in the Pension Office in a scheme to defraud veterans of their pensions. After a time the two men formed a partnership with a sizable investor, who returned from out of town in April of 1877 to find both his partners and his investment had disappeared.
Beaumont had become Thomas B. Edwards, who was a cook and then a partner in the Bank Exchange Saloon in Ukiah, California. He became a member of the Literary Union and on Christmas Day 1877 married twenty year old Aneta Grier, who may herself have been using an assumed name while on the run from a spouse. But Thomas’ – or Myron’s – businesses were failing, creditors were closing in and exposure of his crimes and his past was looming. Leaving a love note for the final Mrs. Beaumont, Myron committed suicide on February 5, 1878 by taking an overdose of morphine.
The latest Mrs. Beaumont went to the Pension Bureau in San Francisco to try to collect Myron’s back pension of $270, but this parted the curtains of anonymity and the surviving Mrs. Beaumonts also placed their claims. Mary, the original (and only legal) Mrs. Myron H. Beaumont won. She went on to marry Smith D. Fry and died in 1900.
Ronald Cannon, MA, “Mendocino County Historical Society Newsletter,” vol. 48, no. 3 (Summer 2009)
Hunt, Roger D., “Colonels in Blue,” Stackpole Books 2007