Windham Life and Times – December 1, 2017

Edward Searles and Angelo

INTRODUCTION

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.

SOURCES:

“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.

 

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