Windham Life and Times – December 1, 2017

Edward Searles and Angelo


The photograph above of Angelo “Angy” Ellison and Edward Searles sometime around 1917. On the back of the photograph is written the following: International Newsreel Photo. Former elevator boy contests Millionaires will. New York. Photo shows Edward F. Searles, millionaire, seated and Angelo M. Ellison, former elevator boy for whom he is alleged to have shown great regard. The latter is contesting Searles’s will.

Over the next few weeks, I will be presenting information about Edward Searles and his relationship with a young Greek immigrant, Angelo “Angy” Ellison. Ellison changed his name from Eliopoulos soon after arriving in America. In those days, immigrants wanted to assimilate into American culture as soon as possible. The story of young Ellison is a very interesting one and offers rare insight into the life of Edward Searles himself, as well as a glimpse of the goings on at the Castle in Windham. The relationship between Searles and Ellison lasted for over six years. Searles met Ellison when he was seventeen years old and working as an elevator operator at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City. At the time of their chance meeting, Edward Searles would have been seventy-three years old.

The typed manuscripts, from where I have obtained much of the information to be presented, were given to me by Sister Josette, of the Sisters of Mercy. They are The Reminiscences of Andrew “Angy” Ellison transcribed by his friend Robert DeLage in the 1970’s and 80’s. Much of what has previously been known about Ellison, was contained in the sensational accounts of him and his relationship with Searles that can be found in the local and New York newspapers. These reports were written during the battle over the estate with its large real estate holdings, stocks and thirty something million dollars. The people fighting over the estate had various agendas in their portrayal of Searles at the time, just prior to his death, when he abruptly changed his will. Much of the sensational portrayal in the newspapers, was being manipulated by the would-be heirs to influence the outcome of their lawsuits. The real story, while it will never truly be ascertained, appears to be much more benign, especially when explained by Angy Ellison in his own words.

As you will see, it appears that despite his millions, in 1914, Searles was a lonely old man, when he had the chance meeting with the seventeen year old Ellison. His wife, Mary Hopkins Searles, who was the heiress to the vast Mark Hopkins railroad fortune, and twenty-one years older than Searles, had died July 25, 1891. So from his wife’s death until his own in 1920, Edward Searles lived alone, managing his money and indulging his love and fascination with art and architecture.

This vast fortune was tinged with really bad karma. It seems that both Mark Hopkins and Edward Searles intended to leave their millions to their “adopted” sons. Mr. Hopkins intended his money to go to his adopted son Timothy Hopkins and Mr. Searles intended the money to go to Angelo Ellison. In a case of what goes around comes around, it appears that after Searles married Mrs. Hopkins, he used his influence over her to see that Timothy was cut out of the will.  In the case of Timothy Hopkins, there was a court fight over the estate of Mrs. Hopkins Searles. She conveniently changed her will leaving everything to Edward Searles. The will also clearly stated that the omission of her adopted son, Timothy Hopkins, was intentional.  This all created a national sensation and public opinion was on the side of Timothy Hopkins. During the court hearing, Searles was questioned about his life with his wife. He admitted that “he admired her very much from the start and when he married her it was for both her love and money.” At the hearing Attorney Burley pressed the question, “which motive was stronger?” to which Mr. Searles made the intelligent reply of “love.” In the end, the estate was settled by giving Timothy Hopkins over three million dollars of the thirty million dollar estate.

It seems that Searles’s intentions for his adopted “son” Angy were also thwarted. Searles’s will was also changed very close to his death when many thought him  mentally incapable of making such a decision. Arthur T. Walker, Searles’s personal secretary, used his influence to have the will changed, and he inherited the vast Searles fortune. Walker died a few months after the estate trial ended, of a stroke, in front of the grand fireplace at the Windham Castle and the fortune passed to his elderly sisters. One can only imagine Mr. Walker’s last thoughts as he lay dying in grandeur.


“The Searles Saga”, Sister Martina Flinton, P.M. 1976

“Andrew “Angy” Ellison – The Unheard Witness”, Reminiscences gathered on visits to his home in Bronxville, New York. As told to his friend Robert DeLage. 1979-1987.

“The Life Story of Edward F. Searles” Compiled by Ray Fremmer From the Unabridged Handwritten Manuscript of 1948.

Correspondence from Ray Fremmer, November 28, 1977 to December 31, 1982. Edited and Complied by the recipient. Robert DeLage.


Windham Life and Times – November 24, 2017

Over the River and Through the Woods…

I don’t know why I started singing this song in my head the other day. Over the River and Through the Woods… Maybe it was because Thanksgiving was approaching. It’s funny how things from childhood get stuck, never to be dislodged. Wikipedia say that The poem was originally published in 1844 as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” in Child’s Flowers for Children. Although many people sing “to grandmother’s house we go”, the author’s original words were “to grandfather’s house we go” It celebrates the author’s childhood memories of visiting her grandfather’s house (said to be the Paul Curtis House). Lydia Maria Child was a novelist, journalist, teacher, and poet who wrote extensively about the need to eliminate slavery.

     The poem was eventually set to a tune by an unknown composer. The song version is sometimes presented with lines about Christmas, rather than Thanksgiving. For instance, the line “Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!” becomes “Hurrah for Christmas Day!”. As a Christmas song, it has been recorded as “A Merry Christmas at Grandmother’s”. Although the modern Thanksgiving holiday is not always associated with snow (snow in late November occasionally occurs in the northern states and is rare at best elsewhere in the United States), New England in the early 19th century was enduring the Little Ice Age, a colder era with earlier winters.

Old Bridge over Mystic River in Medford

Over the river and through the woods
To Grandfather’s house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood —
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow —
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood —
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurray for the pumpkin pie!

Grandfather’s House Medford MA

One of my readers, Pat Heenan, wrote to say that, “That song Over the River….was written in Medford, Mass. The river is the Mystic River. There is actually a bridge there, now a walking bridge.
The home is still there, has many long pillars on the front…
Also Jingle Bells was written in Medford or Arlington, have forgotten… One of the first songs we learned in first grade!!!.
Just to add to the history…”

Windham Life and Times – November 17, 2018

100 Years Ago in Windham


WINDHAM, October 16,—Mrs. Elizabeth Ellen (Smith) Nesmith, widow of Jacob Alpheus Nesmith, died Tuesday, the 9th, of old age and after many months of gradual decline. She was born in Woburn, Mass., September 3, 1831, the daughter of Horatio A. Smith, and had consequently just completed her eighty-sixth year. She had lived in town since her marriage to Mr. Nesmith April 28, 1859, assuming the position of stepmother to his two small children. She became the mother of one son, Jacob Arthur Nesmith. Now residing on the homestead. Mrs. Nesmith was a genial, kind-hearted woman, well fulfilling all the duties of a good home-maker and good neighbor. She was interested in the welfare of the community and a constant attendant at church as long as circumstances permitted. She was a member of the Unitarian Church of Medford Mass. The funeral was largely attended at the home  on Friday afternoon, Rev. E.J. Palisoul of Manchester, conducting the service. There was singing by Mrs. Nichols of Derry, and Mrs. Davenport, of Londonderry. The bearers were J.W.M. Worledge, John E. Cochran, Eugene W. Armstrong, and George H. Clark. Thus with sadness we record the passing of one of the few to remain to the present time, of those who made up the active community fifty years ago. The Nesmith Homestead still stands on North Lowell Road.


Windham Life and Times – October 20, 2017

The Guardianship of William Anderson

1804 – 1811 WINDHAM NH

The close relationship of the Dinsmore and Davidson families can easily be seen in the genealogies contained in the back of Morison’s History of Windham.  Many a Dinsmore married a Davidson and vice versa. A few months back I purchased some old papers related to Windham, not really realizing what they were about. Come to find out they are various receipts and releases of bonds for William Anderson.

Deacon Robert Dinsmoor, the Rustic Bard, married his beloved Mary Park when he was twenty-five. They had twelve children together, but tragically she died while delivering a child. This left Robert Dinsmore alone with 12 young children to raise. His second marriage, by all appearances was one of mutual convenience. He married the widowed Mary (Davidson) Anderson. They had no children together. Morrison says, “On Dec. 31, 1801, he married for his second wife, Mary, daughter of John Davidson and the widow of Samuel Anderson, of Londonderry. She occupied the trying place of step-mother to a large family with singular good judgement and won the affection of the children and grandchildren of her husband. To all the girls and boys of the neighborhood she was known by the endearing name of “aunt Molly.” She survived her husband  and died January 19, 1838.

Mary Anderson’s first husband, Samuel, died in 1796, five years previous to her marriage to Robert Dinsmoor. She had six children with Samuel Anderson, including a son William, who as we will see, was placed under the guardianship of Mary’s brother, Deacon William Davidson. William had eight young children of his own at the time. In addition to William Anderson, there were two older sisters and a brother and two younger sisters. So the mystery is this. Robert Dinsmoor already had twelve young children and adding six more would have made 18 children under one roof. Was it decided that it would be better for some of Mary’s children to live with her brother? Apparently this was the case. Mary’s oldest three children were married by 1804 but that still left the upbringing of the youngest three. It appears in the receipts that Mary (Anderson) Dinsmoor still owned or had rights to her husband’s property and estate, because she received rent for in the form of crops from William Davidson.

Morrison says of Mary’s brother William that, “Deacon William Davidson was born in Windham, October 15, 1761 and married December 14, 1790, Jane, the daughter of John Barnet, of Londonderry…He owned the farm adjoining his brother James, and now owned by Benjamin Blanchard. The house stood back from the present one on a hill, a few rods from the main highway. In his personal appearance Mr. Davidson was pleasant and affable; kind and courteous in his bearing towards others. He was popular in town; became a deacon in the church previous to 1826; was Selectman in 1806, 10, 11,13,16,17. He died March 14, 1839.”

There are thirty odd receipts and releases in the group.

Windham, January 17th 1805: Received of William Davidson, Guardian for William Anderson Ten Bushels of Indian corn and Tens Bushels of Rye in full for said William Anderson part of the Rent of my Wife’s third in his Estate for said year per me Robert Dinsmoor.

Windham November 11th 1805. Then received of William Davidson Guardian to William Anderson Twenty Nine Dollars and Eighty four cents Being Due to my Wife of her late husband’s personal estate (viz.) for wearing apparel, notes of hand and other accounts per me Robert Dinsmoor.

Received of William Davidson My Guardian seven Dollars and forty cents being in full of all Notes bonds Due Debts and Demands of whatsoever name or nature respecting his Guardianship for me I say Paid per me. Windham March 9, day 1811. William Anderson. Tests James Davidson.