Florence May Laurence

(last updated 25 August 2019)

Born at Queenbeyan, NSW in 1884.

Baptised at Kiama, NSW on 31 October 1887.

Married Arthur Conrad ('Artie') Beecher (1882-1931) at Narrandera, NSW in 1905.


Died at Narrandera on 20 July 1915. Buried in Narrandera cemetery.

Click here for more photos of Artie and May Beecher (nee Laurence) and their family.

may laurenceFlorence May Laurence (pictured on the left in around 1905) was born at Queenbeyan while her parents, William and Mary Jane Laurence (nee Kersley), were travelling from Melbourne to Kiama on the New South Wales south coast. She was baptised with her sister Mary Jane at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Kiama on 31 October 1887. When she was ten years old, May travelled with her family inland from Kiama to their newly acquired bush block at South Yalgolgrin near Barellan in central New South Wales. While there she and her sisters were responsible for helping their mother and for looking after the farm animals.

May later moved with her parents and siblings to Gillenbah near Narrandera where she married a neighbouring farmer, Arthur Conrad Beecher, in 1905. Born at Narrandera in 1881, Arthur was the second son of German-born Henry Beecher (c1850-1913) and Isabella Catherine Graham (1850-1926) who Henry had married at Eldorado in Victoria in 1872. He and Isabella lived initially at Adelong before moving to Narrandera in around 1880. Isabella's obituary, published in the Catholic Press on 21 January 1926, tells us she was 'a native of Kilmore (Victoria), and was at one time proprietess of the Shamrock Hotel at Narrandera ... she is survived by a family of four sons and three daughters - Messrs Harry (Griffith), Arthur (Sandigo), William (Gillenbah), Richard (Queensland), Mesdames Potts (Waverley), A. Bland (Lake Cargelligo) and D. J. Adams (Gillenbah)'. Henry and Isabella's youngest daughter, Ada May, and her husband, Archibald Alexander Carlisle ('Archie') Bland, who were married at Narrandera in 1910 and had three sons, are pictured with Artie and May in the photo of Bee Farm shown below. Click here to see a photo of Ada and Archie on their wedding day.

artie, may and arthur beecherArthur, or 'Artie' as he was known as, was, like his brothers Harry and William Beecher, a keen and locally renowned amateur cyclist. Prior to his marriage he worked for a time in the sawmilling industry before farming land at Gillenbah where he and May first lived, initially in a five-room cottage that was completely destroyed by fire in 1910, and then at Bee Farm (shown in the photo below). They had two children: Arthur William Henry Beecher (born in 1909 and pictured with his parents on the right) and Isobel Mary Catherine Beecher (born in 1912). In 1915 May went into hospital to have her teeth removed and, much to the shock of her family and friends, died there on 20 July probably as a result of blood poisoning. Following May's death Artie moved to Rosedale, the Beecher family home at Dellapool, where their two children were looked after by May's younger sister, Catherine Laurence, until Artie re-married in 1917.

Artie's second wife was Florence Irene Milvain (1887-1984), eldest daughter of Hugh Milvain (1862-1936) and Mary Drew Palmer (1867-1959). According to the 'HP Family Tree' on Ancestry, both Hugh and Mary came from Scottish and farming stock. They were married at Kyneton in Victoria in 1887 and became owners of 'Mycumbene', a rural property located at Sandigo some 20 km south of Narrandera. They had nine children in addition to Florence: Ernest, born in 1889, Herbert (1890), Olive Marion (1892), Sylvia (1895), Cecil Alexandrina (1896), Roy Douglas (1899), Alice Winifred (1901), Hugh (1904) and Jean Mary Milvain (1907). Their eldest son, Ernest Milvain (1889-1962), enlisted in the First AIF in January 1915 and served with the Australian Light Horse at Gallipoli and an anti-aircraft unit in the 2nd Anzac Army Corps on the Western Front (where he was awarded a military medal in August 1917 and suffered a GSW to the right forearm in October 1918). He returned to Australia in August 1919 and lived and worked on the family farm at Sandigo until his death in 1962.

Florence and Artie's 'pretty wedding', as it was described in the Narrandera Argus, 'was celebrated on Monday 24 September 1917, at the residence of Hugh Milvain, Dellapool, when Mr Arthur Conrad Beecher was united in holy bonds to Miss Florence Irene Milvain. The Rev Canon Rawling conducted the ceremony ... Miss Olive M. Milvain was bridesmaid ... and Mr Percy Coates (a returned soldier) acted as best man'. Mary-Anne Lattimore and the 'HP Family Tree' on Ancestry tell us that Artie and Florence had three children (shown in the photo below) all born at Narrandera: 1) Florence Mary Beecher (1918-2006) who married a local grazier, Edward Willian Cattanach (1902-76), at Narrandera in 1958. We don't think they had any children. 2) Edith Irene Beecher (1920-82) who married a Sandigo resident, Norman Harold Beaman (1918-95), who served with the 9th Division in the Dutch East Indies and Borneo during the Second World War. She and Norman lived in Bendigo for much of their married lives and had three children: (Bronwyn Geoffrey and Rhonda Beaman). 3) Conrad Hugh Beecher (1923-2001) who married Melba Glee ('Mel') Chandler (1922-2010) at Orange in NSW in 1948. Conrad had served as a private soldier in the Australian Army between January 1943 and January 1946. He and Mel spent much of their married life at 'Rosedale', the Beecher family farm at Dellapool. Conrad died at Narrandera in 2001, Mel at Wagga Wagga nine years later. We believe they also had three children.

After their marriage in 1917, Artie and Florence also lived and farmed at Dellapool until Artie's death there in 1931. As his obituary cited below noted, Artie never fully recovered from a badly broken leg he had earlier suffered in a fall from a haystack on the family farm:

Much regret was felt in the Narrandera district on Tuesday morning when it was learned that Mr Arthur Conrad beecher, of Rosedale Dellapool had died the previous evening. Mr beecher, who was a native of Narrandera, was 69 years of age. As a young man he was engaged in the saw-milling industry with his brothers, but in 1914 he selected a closer settlement block on the Dellapool subdivision, and later added to his holding by purchasing land on the Strontian subdivision, a few miles away. In November last while engaged in building a haystack on his farm he had the misfortune to fall from the stack and badly break one of his legs. He was admitted to the hospital for treatment, but owing to complications, his convelescence was delayed until the expiration of about six months. On Monday he was brought to town for the purpose of undergoing a further slight opeeration. However the journey proved too much for him, and he died shortly after his admittance to hospital. When a young man Mr Beecher was a first class cycle rider, and figured in many now memorable contests in this and other centres. He was married twice. His first wife died in 1914 shortly after his acquiring land at Dellapool, leaving one son (Arthur) and one daughter (Isobel). In 1917 Mr Beecher again married and he is survived by his widow and a family of two daughters and one son. Deceased is also survived by three sisters and three brothers, all of whom are well known in this district. The sisters are Ettie (Mrs Potts, Sydney), Ada (Mrs A. Blamd (Ungaric) and Mrs D. Adams (Gillenbah). The brothers are Harry (Griffith), William H. (Narrandera) and Richard (Queanbeyan).

bee farm c1913

The cottage at Bee Farm at Gillenbah shortly before May's death in 1915. May and Artie are on the right with Artie nursing Isobel and holding Arthur jnr.
Mary-Anne Lattimore tells us the couple on the left are Ada and Archie Bland with their two eldest children: William and Frederick.
The elderly gentleman in the centre is a Mr Carmichael.

bee farm c1913

Sent to us by Mary-Anne Lattimore, this photo, taken in around 1923, shows Arthur and Florence Beecher nee Milvain with Arthur's five children.
Standing at the back are his two children from his first marriage: Isabel Mary Catherine and Arthur William Henry Beecher.
The three younger children are from his second marriage (L/R): Conrad Hugh, Florence Mary and Edith Irene Beecher.

What of May and Artie's two children?

arthur william henry beecherTheir son, Arthur William Henry Beecher (pictured on the left), was born at Narrandera on 31 May 1909. The 1930 electoral roll shows him farming land at Erin Vale, Sandigo in New South Wales. In 1934 he married Evelyn May Mohr (1912-75) at Narrandera. The NSW index of bdms shows that Evelyn was the daughter of Arthur E. and Agnes Mohr nee Crabtree who were married at Narrandera in 1906. Evelyn was born at Narrandera in 1912, her siblings included Augustus A. Mohr (1911), Clara A. Mohr (1910) and Mary S. Mohr (1907). Arthur and Evelyn's marriage was reported in the Narrandera Argus on 10 July 1934 as follows:

WEDDING BELLS. BEECHER-MOHR. A very pretty wedding was celebrated at St Thomas' Church of England, Narrandera, on Saturday 30 June, the contracting parties being Evelyn May, third daughter of Mr and the late Mrs Mohr of Holbrook formerly of Grong Grong, to Arthur W. H. Beecher, eldest son of the late Mr and Mrs A. C. Beecher, of Sandigo, the Rev Archdeacon Rawling officiated. The bride, who was given away by her uncle, Mr Victor Wingate, looked charming in a full ankle-length frock of white flat crepe. The beatiful veil, which was held in place by a coronet of orange blossom, was kindly lent by Mrs F. Tress of Faithful. She carried a bouquet of arum lilies and fern made by Mrs W. Payne of Narrandera. The bride was attended by Miss I. beecher, sister of the bridesgroom, as bridesmaid. Miss Beecher wore pale pink morocain and carried a bouquet of pretty pink begonias and fern also made by Mrs W. Payne. Little Roma Wingate was flowergirl, and she wore a full-length frock of pale green morocain and carried a basket of phlox and fern. Mr Arthur Mohr, brother of the bride, was best man. Mrs J. Rawling presided at the organ. The reception was held at the residence of Mrs Wingate, auntie of the bride, who received the guests in brown morocain, and hat and shoes to match. The happy couple were the recipients of many useful presents. After the reception, Mr and Mrs Beecher left by car to spend the honeymoon touring. The bride's travelling frock was of grey wol-de-chine, and hat and shoes to tone.

The electoral rolls between 1936 and 1954 show Arthur and Evelyn living at 'Roselea' in Narrandera (Mary-Anne Lattimore tells us that after his father's death in 1931, Arthur also farmed land at Colinrobie). They were both still registered at Roselea in 1958 together with a William Raymond Arthur Beecher, grazier. The three of them were still registered there in 1963 and 1968 along with a Zelma Beecher whose address was 'Roselea Colinrobie' (Arthur married Thelma Johnson in the Leeton registration district of NSW in 1958). Only Arthur snr and Evelyn were registered at 'Roselea' in 1972. According to the 'Manglesdorf family Tree' on Ancestry, Arthur died at Wagga Wagga on 15 May 1977. His wife Evelyn had died at Leeton in NSW on 30 September 1975. They had at least two children we are aware of: 1) William Raymond Arthur Beecher described above; and 2) a daughter who married Leslie James Eric Mangelsdorf (born at Ardlethan in NSW in 1930 and died at Wagga in 1990) and had four children.

bee farm c1913

Also sent to us by Mary-Anne Lattimore, this photo is of Arthur jnr and Evelyn's wedding at Narrandera in 1934.
From L/R: Arthur Mohr, Arthur William Henry Beecher (in front of whom is Roma Wingate),
Evelyn May Mohr and Isobel Mary Catherine Beecher.

May and Artie's daughter, Isobel Mary Catherine Beecher was born at Narrandera on 25 April 1912 and married David Maxwell Weeks there in 1936 (see the photo below). The wedding was duly reported in the Narrandera Argus as follows:

St John's Church Narrandera was chosen by Isabella Mary Catherine daughter of the late Mr and Mrs A. C. Beecher of Rosedale Sandigo for her marriage to David Maxwell, youngest son of Mr and Mrs W. Weeks of 'Arrawalli', Balgownie. The Rev W. Carlyle Moulton performed the ceremony on Saturday 23 May. The bride entered the church with Mr E. W. Milvain, who gave her away, to the strains of the Bridal March, played on the organ and violin by Mr and Mrs McInnes. Her full length gown of white metallese had a deep cape collar and sleeve godets of silk lace, and was trimmed with pearl buttons. A long veil of cut tulle was held in place with a wreath of orange blossom, loaned by her step-mother, Mrs F. I. Beecher. She carried a sheaf of white gladioli, nerines and carations, tied with white streamers, to which were attached two lucky horseshoes, the gifts of friends. The bride was attended by her two sisters, Miss Mary Beecher, who wore pale blue metallese, and Miss Edith Beecher, in pale pink metallese. They each wore a band of white gardenias on their head and carried sheaves of pink gladioli, carnations and sweet pea. Mr Hugh Milvain jnr, attended to the duties of best man, and the bride's cousin, Mr Laurie Cheeseman, was groomsman. A reception was held in St John's Hall, where Mrs F. I. Beecher received and entertained about forty guests. She was assisted by the bridegroom's mother, Mrs W. Weeks. the tables were decorated in pink and blue, pride of place given to the three-tiered wedding cake, made by Mrs F. Kelhear. Mr and Mrs Weeks left by the afternoon train for Melbourne, the bride wearing a smart navy costume with navy hat and coat. Prior to her marriage Miss Beecher was entertained by residents of the Sandigo district at a kitchen tea, and a most enjoyable time was spent. Mr T. L. Sewell, who had charge of the proceedings, on behalf of those present, congratulated the young couple and formally handed to the guest a large and varied collection of useful gifts. Mr J. L. Bull supported the remarks made by the chairman, and Mr Max Weeks responded on behalf of his fiancee. Opportunity was also taken by the Sandigo CWA of the occasion. As the guest entered the hall a daintily made basket of flowers, tied with the association's colours, was presented to her by little Joyce Muntz. Later in the evening the president, Mrs J. L. Bull, presented a silver cake dish and fork to Miss Beecher from the members of the branch.

isobels wedding

Isobel's wedding photo showing, from left to right: Mary Beecher (later Cattanach), Hugh Milvain,
Roy Milvain, Isobel, David Maxwell Weeks, Edith Beecher (Beaman) and Laurie Cheeseman.

may narrandera 1935

Isobel with some of her relatives at Narrandera in 1935. Standing (L/R): Lucy Pearson nee Lauremce,
Mary Jane Stirrat nee Laurence, Laurie Cheeseman and Alice Cheeseman nee Laurence.
Kneeling: Thelma Barclay, Mollie Stirrat and Isobel Beecher.

The 1936 electoral roll has David Maxwell Weeks, a labourer, living at Sandigo in NSW. In 1937 he and Isabella Mary Catherine Weeks were living at 60 Drummond Street in the inner Melbourne suburb of Carlton. By the time of the 1942 election, David was working as a farmer and he and Isabella were living at Powlett Plains near Inglewood. Between 1949 and 1977 they were farming at Epsom near Bendigo. The 1980 electoral roll has them living on Strickland Street in Epsom where David died in 1983. The 'Weeks family Tree' on Ancestry.com tells that Isabel died in Bendigo on 5 July 1992 and that she and Max had four children.

Image sources
May Laurence, Artie and May Beecher with baby Arthur, and baby Arthur, private collection.
Bee Farm and Isabella and Max's wedding photo, courtesy of Ralph Weeks.
Artie and Florence Beecher and children and Arthur jnr's wedding photo, courtesy of Mary-Anne Lattimore.

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