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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Unhappy Death of David Scott

It occured to me the other day that Thomas Chalmers Scott and Anne Galloway had three children, and I really only knew about two of them;  John Galloway Scott, the son through whom we descend, and Catherine Anne Scott, who married Robert Watt Elliot.  Both of them lived and died in Toronto.  But Thomas' obituary mentions says he is survived by two sons, and the Scott  immigration documents list Thomas, Anne, John, Catherine and David Scott.  I set out to find more about David Scott and why he disappeared from the family record.  A little searching revealed several newspaper articles and a sad story indeed. 

This is from The New York Times, November 3, 1887:

Under stress of great financial difficulties, David Scott, a business man prominent in his line, and a well known club man, has absconded, leaving his firm in the lurch for $100,000.00.  The firm of Vernon Brothers and Co....[own] several large paper mills in the East...[and are] stockholders in several other paper milling establishments for which it is also the selling agent.  Among these is the Ivanhoe Manufacturing Company, of Paterson, N.J....

...Mr. Thomas Vernon made the following statement yesterday:  'David Scott, a prominent member of this firm, came to us as a boy about thirty years ago.  He was bright and intelligent, and rapidly rose in the estimation of my brother, Samuel Vernon...and of myself, and about five years later he was admitted to a small partnership interest, which was increased about 17 years ago, when my brother died.  Mr. Scott was a cultivated man and respectably connected in Ontario, Canada, whence he came.  His father was Surveyor of Customs at that port, and, as a zealous member of the Church of the Disciples, occasionally preached from its pulpits.  He has a brother and other relatives there also, all of them highly respectable people.  I had known Mr. Scott to be a good liver for years, but had no knowledge of any bad habits of his until recently.  Then I learned that he had got into expensive habits, and was neglecting business for the race track and other forms of dissipation.  It shortly after came to my knowledge that he had considerably overdrawn what he was entitled to as a member of the firm.  I am an old man, and, having every confidence in Mr. Scott, I gave his management of the finances of the firm but superficial attention.

When I discovered what I have told you I asked him what he had done with the money he had drawn out, and he said he had made some investments in Manitoba, but of what character he did not say. When I asked him if he could not realize upon his investments and return the money he merely shrugged his shoulders and waved his hands as indicating that he could not convert them into money.  Last Saturday week...I had just returned from the bank, where I had learned of the existence of certain negotiable obligations of ours which I had no previous intimation. I had a talk with him about it and about certain parties with whom he was associating to his injury and ours.  He seemed sober at the time, but hadn't his accustomed cheerfulness and seemed oppressed with the weight upon his mind of some impending evil.  He gave me no satisfaction regarding our affairs, nor did he intimate any intention of going away.  But I saw him then for the last time...

...Mr. Scott was a member of the Lotos and two or three other fashionable clubs.  He lived quietly...but liked fast horses and expensive associations, and has lately given the time to those which we supposed he was devoting to business in Paterson and among our customers...An old friend of Mr. Scott said he was generous to a fault, and was a source of charitable aid to all his embarassed compatriots at all times. For years he had lived at the rate of $15,000 to $20,000 a year, and he was hail fellow well met in all society..."

The New York Times followed this article up on November 4, 1887:

"The disappearance of Mr. Scott...under circumstances indicative of suicide...has painfully shocked a large circle of men of prominence in this city who have been his friends.  That he could have been guilty of premeditated dishonesty none of them will believe. He is said to have been the wheelhorse of the firm to which he is connected.  He was its widest-known member in the trade, and upon him devolved entirely the entertainment of its customers.  One of his intimate associates said that if he had drawn $40,000 beyond his account from Vernons the firm had got the better of it, for Mr. Scott's personal expenses had not, to his knowledge, exceeded $3,000 a year for the last three years...

...S. Webber Parker, Treasurer of the Ivanhoe [paper] Manufacturing Company, said he had no doubt Mr. Scott had committed suicide, and that his body would be found somewhere about Niagara Falls in the course of a few days.  A telegram from a brother-in-law in Toronto yesterday [this must have been Robert Watt Elliot]   said that Scott had not been seen there. His personal effects, clothing, and some furniture... remained as he had left them when he left away.  Some friends yesterday paid the small balance due his landlady, and removed the effects to a storage room..."

On November 7, 1887,  the New York Times published a third article, this time detailing John Galloway Scott's visit to New York to investigate his brother's disappearance:


The strange disappearance last month of David still exciting much interest.  John G. Scott, of Toronto, who is a brother of the missing man, arrived here Friday for the purpose of straightening out his brother's affairs.  Saturday morning Mr. Scott called on Thomas Vernon, the senior member of the firm, and urged him to sign a statement exonerating David Scott from all criminal action. Mr. Vernon later wrote a letter to the brother, in which he said, as to the statement that he had charged Mr. Scott with forgery:  'This is false.  I never charged him with this or any other criminal offense.  With all his faults, and they were many, he had a warm and generous heart, which gave him a large circle of friends.'  

Mr. Scott said his investigation confirmed him in his belief that his brother had committed suicide by jumping off the suspension bridge at Niagara.  In a letter written from the falls to Albert Hall, of the Lawrenceville Cement Company, David said: 'I long for final rest.'...'My brother was connected with the firm of Vernon Brothers and Co. for thirty years' he said.  'The first five years he was employed as a clerk, and was then taken into partnership with 40 per cent. of the profits as his portion.  He...was soon given the management of the entire business.  I accordingly expected to find him worth at least $500,000, but I am told his account is overdrawn to the amount of $60,000.  That is a matter I can't understand. With the exception of about $2,000 this overdrawn account consists of notes advanced for the support of one of the paper mills which the firm was carrying....the whole transaction is regularly entered in the books of the firm and can hardly have escaped the notice of Mr. Vernon or the other partners....Experts are now examining the books of the firm, and I hope to return home by Tuesday with every stain removed from my brother's memory."   


Currier and Ives print of the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge

The Paterson Weekly Press of Paterson, New Jersey, ran an extensive article on November 10, 1887:


The New York newspapers this morning announce the disappearance of Mr. David Scott, the president of the Ivanhoe Paper Company, of this city.   When the control of the paper mill passed out of the hands of Mr. Henry V. Butler a majority of the stock was bought by Mr. Scott and Mr. S. Webber Parker and they have since managed the concern.  Mr. Scott was very well known in Paterson and nearly everybody had a kind word for him.  After the recent explosion Mr. Scott showed himself as a kind-hearted and liberal man, willing to do all he could to alleviate the sufferings of those who had been injured.  He visited the hospital where the wounded were lying and personally saw to it that they were provided with everything they could wish for, having given directions that the expense be charged to himself... 

...R.F. Ware, vice-president of...[ I.X.L. Fireworks company] said: 'Neither myself nor others of Scott's friends doubt that he will turn up before long.  He repeatedly threatened suicide of late, but in the opinion of those who knew him it is not probable that he would go to Niagara Falls to do so.  All that I have seen think that he is suffering temporary aberration of the mind.' 

...An intimate friend of Mr. Scott said yesterday:  ' Mr. Scott's private charities will never be known.  He was generous,charitable, and open handed.  There are three tombstones in Greenwood that he has had erected over young men who had died friendless.  One of these was the son of William Lyon MacKenzie, the Canadian patriot of 1837.  Many men have told me with tears in their eyes of what Scott has done for them.  He has been a changed man for a year past, has drank some and been to races, but I can't understand what he has done with his money.'

Mr. Scott has a brother in Toronto, John G. Scott, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for the Province of Ontario.  A letter was received from that gentleman yesterday by a friend of David Scott, announcing that the missing man was not in Toronto.  John G. Scott went to Niagara Falls to look for his brother.  The latter's name was found registered at the Cataract House, but nothing was known of him at the hotel. 

...S. Webber Parker...said: 'Scott borrowed $20 from me the day before he left, which proved that he hadn't any money with him.  His physician had warned him that he was working too hard, and would die of apoplexy if he persisted.  He told me that he would kill himself before any such thing would happen. I believe that he found that his money was all gone, and that he was gradually losing his place in the firm he was with, and ended his life in a fit of despair.  I know that the stories that Scott lived a fast life are false.  He spent a great deal of money entertaining customers who came to town, and paid the expenses for this hospitality out of his own pocket instead of charging them to the firm. This accounts for his having overdrawn his account with Vernon Brothers.  There is more underneath all this than now appears on the surface, and it will come out one of these days, I hope.'    

The same paper transcribed a copy of a suicide note that David Scott had written to a "warm friend",  Mr. Albert Hall.  The letter was dated N.Y. Suspension Bridge, October 23, 1887 and was postmarked October 25th:

"Dear Albert, 

By the time this reaches you I shall have gone to another world, but before I take the final step I want to say some things and ask you to do some.  For months--I may say two years--I have had no real sleep.  Slept I have, but it was a disturbed and (?)ful sleep.  I went to bed tired and rose more so. Now, with the idea of another life, there is a feeling of exultation that is difficult to put into words. Therefore I won't attempt it.  I feel that I am to take a rest, which I have not had for twenty years. *** Now, old fellow, I have said about all I want to on business matters, and I only ask you to remember me as we were.  The fates have seemed against me.  I have labored hard.  Now it is over.  I don't know that I have much to regret.  I have tried to be generous and just, despite what some and appearances may say.  Yours faithfully, D. Scott." 

David Scott would have been around 49 years old when he took his life.  It must have been a deep blow to the whole family.  It sounds like he spoke of his suicidal thoughts to several people, but they were unable to help him.  Thankfully his mother and father had already passed away by 1887.  It's hard to know from these reports whether Scott made some bad investments, gambled money away on horse races,  or just spent too much of his own money propping up a failing business.  Did he keep "fast" company?   Despite his life's tragic ending, he sounds like a person of great warmth, charisma,  and generosity. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thaddeus Davis and Deborah Hall, United Empire Loyalists

Thaddeus Davis and Deborah Hall are the grandparents of the American immigrants to Canada William Davis and his siblings.  This is what the United Empire Loyalist website has to say about them (the biographical information which follows was written by Paul Bingle, a descendent of Thaddeus and Jane through their oldest child Jane (Davis) Ostrander):

"Thaddeus Davis Senior UEL (b 30 Jun 1738;  d 8 Dec 1834)  was on the muster rolls of Fairfield Co., CT, and as a loyal British subject, served in the campaigns of 1756, 1757 and 1758 in the French and Indian Wars. He married Deborah Hall (b 1736, d 30 Aug 1818) in Milford, New Haven, CT in 1759.  She was from a well-educated family that could trace her roots back four generations in Connecticut.   Thad was 43 when he formally joined the British cause in 1781 under Captain Hubbell. Thanks to Governor Trumbull, Connecticut had proven to be no place to be a Loyalist.  Hubbell's base of operations was Lloyd's Neck, New York, on Long Island's north shore, opposite Connecticut....

Almost 30 years later Thad Jr. proudly described his father's activities in the Revolution and mistakenly (but probably with no intention to deceive) made him to be one of the characters involved in the sacking and burning of Danbury, Connecticut (this actually took place in 1777).  Did he mean New London?  Thad's personal testimony was that his time on the prowl in Connecticut was relatively short, a few weeks, before he was captured and imprisoned.  Whatever the truth, Thad's reception at Niagara, relatively late (1798) in the grand scheme of things, was nothing less than deferential.  In other words, whatever he wanted he got.

Thad Jr. was the 9th of 11 children born to Thad and Deborah, born 9 May 1775.  He fought in the War of 1812 as a Private but didn't receive his commission to Captaincy until July 29, 1820;  3rd Company 2nd Lincoln Militia.  Thaddeus Davis Jr, St. Johns, Pelham, died 31 August 1830, aged 56 years.  This is the "Captain Davis" that is buried at Allenburg Cemetery, Niagara Historical Society NHS #19.  Listed also is the broken stone of his mother Deborah (died 1818 at 82)."

According to the UEL website, Thaddeus' petition was read as an Order in Council on February 22, 1808. Next step:  find the petition!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Finding the Davis Family in America

I've always found it curious that so many Davis siblings immigrated from New York to Elgin, Ontario at the same time, leaving their parents behind in America.  There must have been a reason, but was it economic or political?  Where did they come from, and why?

Sims History of Elgin County, Volume II talks briefly about William Davis and his beginnings:

"Catfish Corners [an early name for Orwell] was just a stake in the earth when Deacon William Davis and his wife settled there after a lengthy journey from his home on Schohario, New York, in 1809...William Davis was followed by his brothers Andrus, Daniel, Simeon, and Joel, and his sisters Hannah, Polly and the one that became Mrs. Brown in 1811."

That means that altogether nine Davis siblings came to Canada.  Corroborating the data in Sims History, William Davis, on the 1851 census, stated that he was born in the state of New York, and in the 1861 census stated that he was born in the United States. Now, if you google "Schohario, New York" you won't find anything, but you will discover that "Schoharie, New York" is both a county, a town and a village. I wasted a lot of time looking for the Davis roots there.  It turns out that they come from Charleston, Montgomery County, New York. (It's pretty close to Schoharie--the south town line of Charleston is the border of Schoharie County, and the east town line runs along the Schoharie creek.)  There is even a hamlet in Charleston called Davis Corners.  And I have found a marriage record for William Davis and his first wife, Temperance Leek, in a list of marriages performed by Elijah Herrick,  the first Baptist minister in the town of Charleston.

"Davis, William & Temperance Leak--September 14, 1803."

Original site of Charleston Baptist Church: "Baptist Church, Erected 1793, Elijah Herrick 1st Pastor".
Temperance Leek was the mother of William Davis' first five children;  we descend from his second wife, Mary Sibley of Nova Scotia.

I haven't seen the original records yet, but there appears to be consensus among genealogists that William Davis and his siblings were the children of Richard Davis and Mabel Mann, who were born in Connecticut, and that Richard was the son of Thaddeus Davis and Deborah Hall.  I have been able to find gravestones for Richard and Mabel in a small Davis family cemetery in Charleston, "3/4 miles north of Oak Ridge".   Richard's is somewhat damaged, but still readable.

"Richard Da...Died March 8, 1823, aged 61 years, 11 mo, & 19 days".

Mabel Mann, Richard's wife, has a grave marker which is barely legible now.  Mabel died September 23, 1846.

She is located on the right side of the tree, Richard on the left:

The sign in the middle says "Davis Cemetery".  It seems to be a real pioneer-type cemetery, all small and surrounded by woods, but someone is obviously keeping the grass cut.  I wonder if the Ontario Davis clan travelled back to New York to see either of their parents buried?

Here is a view of the whole graveyard:

Two of Richard and Mabel's children are buried in this cemetery as well:  Henry Davis (July 2, 1806-April 3, 1876) and Lyman Davis (September 2, 1798-May 12, 1878).

The History of Montgomery County  by Washington Frothingham, published in 1892 by D. Mason of Syracuse, New York,  has a chapter on the town of Charleston.

"Many of Charleston's early settlers, some who came prior to the revolution, were undoubtedly attracted to the locality by the availability of Schoharie Creek as a source of mill power, and at an early day along the banks of this stream were erected numerous grist and saw-mills....After the revolution the immigration was more rapid and included many thrifty New Englanders...Among these later settlers were...Abram Davis...Thomas Leek...[and] Richard Davis...

These early pioneers found a country covered with a hardy growth of timber, and traversed by few and laborious trails.  Many of the first comers, particularly those who came from adjoining counties, left their families behind for a time, until they could clear sufficient land to build a log dwelling and sow the first crop.  They generally went back to their old home during the intervening winters..." 

Now, when we go back to Richard's parents generation, things get really interesting.  Thaddeus Davis, Richard's father and William's grandfather, was born in Connecticut in 1738 and fought on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War.  He came to Canada in 1798 with his wife and 11 children, including Richard, and settled in Allenburg, in the Niagara area.  Richard was one of the few children who eventually returned to the United States;  most of the family stayed in Canada.  So it turns out that Richard's children moving to Ontario in 1810 was not so strange;  they had plenty of family here already and had probably travelled back and forth at some point in their lives.