Beardsley descendants reconnect with family history at Havilah Beardsley House

Earlier this week, several members of the Beardsley family visited the Havilah Beardsley House, which will soon undergo its final round of renovations.

Posted on July 19, 2014 at 9:39 a.m.

The Havilah Beardsley House was filled once again with members of the Beardsley family Thursday afternoon, July 17.

After a family wedding in Michigan brought them together, siblings Meg Gustafson Beardsley, Kate Beardsley and Bill Beardsley traveled to Elkhart to visit the home of their great-great-grandparents.

“We grew up with Elkhart stories, and even though we never lived here, we always knew where we came from,” said Bill, who brought along his daughters Sarah and Emma so they could get a glimpse into their family’s past.


In the early 1830s, Havilah Beardsley, a physician, bought land at the junction of the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers, according to Ruthmere.org. The land was bought from Potawatomi Chief Pierre Moran for $1,500. 

With that purchase, Havilah Beardsley founded Elkhart, naming it after a nearby river island resembling an elk’s heart, according to Ruthmere.org. 

In 1848 Havilah Beardsley and his wife, Rachel, built the first brick house in the city – the Havilah Beardsley House.


Standing on the ground level of the historic home, each of the Beardsleys shared how they’ve been shaped by their lineage.

“We were raised with a tremendous sense of service to community, and I see that in all of our families,” Kate Beardsley said.

She’s founder and executive director of Mustangs to the Rescue, a nonprofit horse rescue and rehabilitation organization based in Oregon.

Meg is a nurse, and Bill started his own company 10 years ago that helps finance small businesses in Michigan.

Each emphasized how the legacy of their family inspires them with a spirit of adventure, entrepreneurship and selflessness.

“I think the bar has been set very high. I am aware of that on a daily basis,” Kate Beardsley said.

The family has also been helping the Ruthmere Foundation connect the dots in the Beardsley family tree.


The Ruthmere Foundation recently met a $93,000 matching grant offered by the Elkhart County Community Foundation. The money will fund the final leg of the house’s four-year restoration project campaign.

During that four years, The Ruthmere Foundation has raised at least $553,000 from more than 100 individuals, families and private foundations, according to Bill Firstenberger, executive director of the Ruthmere Foundation.

Those funds are entirely for construction costs.

Final renovations start in October and will restore the home to its original condition. The project also includes improvements like a new public restroom, more parking spaces and landscaping.

“We’re going to be moving full steam ahead with what remains in the project so that we can have a grand reopening in 2015,” Firstenberger said Thursday. 

The Beardsley family members say they’re thrilled about the project.

“This brings the past totally forward into the future,” Bill Beardsley said.

To learn more about the Havilah Beardsley House or to schedule a tour, visit www.Ruthmere.org.

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