John Watrous Beckwith

Second Bishop of Georgia, 1868-1890

(February 9, 1831-November 23, 1890)

Born 1831 in Raleigh, North Carolina, John Watrous Beckwith was graduated from Trinity College, Hartford in 1852. Two years later was ordained as a deacon and later priest in the Episcopal Church. Before the American Civil War, he served in North Carolina and Maryland. During the war, he served as a chaplain on the staff of Confederate General William J. Hardee. Following the war, Beckwith served churches in Demopolis, Alabama and Deer Creek, Mississippi. Late in 1865 accepted a call to serve Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in New Orleans as its rector. He served that church for three years before being elected as the second Bishop of Georgia.

He was consecrated as Bishop on April 2, 1868 in St. John’s Church, Savannah. Beckwith served as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia for 23 years during the difficult period of reconstruction. There were 31 churches in the diocese at the time of his consecration. At his death, there were 53 churches and five missions.

Those who knew Bishop Beckwith always refer to his speaking voice. The Rev. Dr. Jimmy Lawrence in writing a history of the Diocese of Georgia in the early 1900s put it, “His wonderful voice, bringing out the full meaning of the services, at once arrested the attention of his hearers. When Bishop Beckwith read, people listened. His oratory in the pulpit attracted large congregations wherever he went, and the course of his episcopal visitations was like a royal progress.”

In 1887-1888, Bishop Beckwith spent five months abroad preaching in Anglican Churches in Italy, France, England, Egypt and Palestine. Bishop Beckwith’s nephew, Charles Minnigerode Beckwith, began his ministry in the Diocese of Georgia and went on to serve for 26 years as the Bishop of Alabama.

Bishop Beckwith was married to Ella Brockenbrough, who was born in Virginia August 11, 1837 and died in Atlanta, April 26, 1887. He died in Atlanta, November 23, 1890. The couple were buried in Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah.

Bishop Beckwith was succeeded by Cleland Kinchloch Nelson as Bishop of Georgia.