Windham Life and Times – February 2, 2018

Edward Searles and Angelo


So the story of Edward Searles (the Old Gentleman) and Angy Ellison comes to an end leaving more questions than answers.  The letters certainly show affection between the two but also seem a bit eccentric to modern readers.  The letters make it obvious why Angy felt so strongly that is was Searles intention to “adopt” him as his son. After all, Searles was signing his letters as “Dad.” You can fully understand how in Angy’s mind it would have logically follow that he would inherit a large share of Searles estate upon his death.

During the will trials, Victor Searle’s attorneys sought to use the relationship between Angy and Searles. In a special report to the New York Times on October 14, 1920 the following is disclosed to discredit the mental capacity of Searles to change his will: “In the opening fight of the Probate Court here before Judge White today for a jury trial in the $25,000,000 will contest involving the estate of Edward F. Searles, late of Methuen, Sherman L. Whipple, counsel for Albert Victor Searles, nephew of the testator, charged that Mr. Searles, when he made his will, was in a mental state and physical decay, and the victim of a plot having for its object the keeping of the vast estate from the party Mr. Searles intended should be the beneficiary.”

“Mr. Whipple dwelt at length upon the alleged affection of Mr. Searles for a young Greek lad, Angelo Ellison, who had been in his employ some six years, and said that a friend had said that Mr. Searles had intended young Ellison should receive the estate, but was dissuaded by Arthur T. Walker, chief beneficiary under the will, on the grounds that it would not do to leave such a vast estate to a poor Greek boy because of the public criticism. It was asserted that Mr. Searles was persuaded that the same object could be gained by leaving the money to some one ‘who could pass it along to Angelo.’ ”

“Counsel declared that young Ellison had disappeared and that had reason to believe the boy was now being paid by the proponent. He declared that the relations between Mr. Searles and the boy were more those of father and son than employer and servant.”

“Young Greek Treated Like Son: ‘We have letters from young Ellison to Mr. Searles couched in terms of the most endearing affection,’ said Mr. Whipple, who added that some of these letters began with ‘Dear Dad,’ ‘Darling Daddy,’ and ‘Dear Old Gray Boy,’ He said he could not find that Ellison was ever paid a salary, but that Mr. Searles gave him money as a father might have done.”

“Mr. Whipple said that Mr. Walker knew of Mr. Searle’s fondness for Angelo and that one of the letters purporting to be from the young Greek to Mr. Searles was in the handwriting of Mr. Walker, and was evidently written by Mr. Walker for Angelo as Angelo was not highly educated and probably asked Mr. Walker to write it for him.

‘Searles,’ said Mr. Whipple, ‘had pictures of young Ellison in his sleeping room and had been seen sitting before these pictures in an attitude or worship.’ Counsel said there was no question that the chief thing in the latter part of Mr. Searle’s life was his affection for this boy, and that there was evidence he intended to adopt him, but that someone, ‘we think we know who,’ (Walker) dissuaded him….”

“Mr. Whipple described the trip taken across the continent by Mr. Searles with young Ellison. Some time after this trip, said Mr. Whipple, young Angelo went to Greece to see his mother. Angelo returned to this country this spring and after seeing Mr. Searles, returned to Methuen. After the millionaire  fell ill, said Mr. Whipple, Angelo was permitted to see him once and then sent to the Searles Estate in Windham, N.H., and did not see Mr. Searles again during the latter’s life.”

What is interesting is that the counsel for Victor Searles was using the argument that Angelo Ellison was the intended heir in order to get a settlement for his client. Whatever the case, Walker settled with Searles out of court. While a settlement doesn’t prove guilt it seems to me that there was something to the story. It is said that Victor Searles had his bequest under the will changed from $250,000 to over $2,000,000.  Ellison claimed that Victor Searles was an alcoholic and a drug addict and not a nice man. Events would bear this out. In October of 1921, he was divorced from his wife Etta who received $140,000. He was also said to have been blackmailed out of $50,000 after being trapped with a woman in a Back Bay apartment. He was also reported to have settled for $1,000,000 an alienation suit in having committed adultery with Mary Johnson of Portsmouth N.H.

As for Angelo Ellison, who was most likely the intended heir for much of Searle’s millions, he ended up with just $10,000. He also went to court to contest the will but lost. Andrew “Angy” Ellison in his later life was consigned to the loss saying that the money would have probably ruined his life.


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