The Far Left Branch, Ch.5

I was looking into my great-grandfather William Edwin Scott for this entry and learned that his wife’s father William Billingslea Roberts was a physician, and that his wife, Catherine Sheehan was born in Ireland. Interesting!

Not wanting to wander off from my focus of talking about my ancestors, I turned back to my great-grandfather when I realized…William and Catherine are my ancestors. They are my second great-grandparents via my great-grandmother, Mary!

Now what do I do? There are so many people! Well, yes, genius, that’s how this works. Family trees branch off and branch off again and again.

With more info than I had about previous generations, this entry will include more people, but to keep with the path of talking about the Scott men (and to keep me from being totally overwhelmed), I’ll stick to them for now. Sort of.

Grab your popcorn!

William Edwin Scott 1869-1931
Mary Andrea Roberts 1877-1935

William Edwin Scott was born on May 22, 1869 in Amherst County, VA to Robert and Sallie. He was one of eight kids. First, three girls; Lizzie, Florence, and Fannie. Then the boys; Robert, Jr., William Edwin, James, Hugh Roy, Walter, and Edwin.

Referenced below are five of the six sons who all moved to New York when they were grown. Since they helped their father do construction work in Virginia as late as 1907, we can assume they moved north after that. When they did, they ran a company called Scott Brothers, and built Erie Canal locks, highways, dams and bridges. The earliest job of theirs I could find on the Erie Canal was in 1908.

You may also notice the two lovely ladies on the bottom row with similar last names? Yup! Two of the Scott boys married two Roberts sisters!

My great grandmother, Mary Andrea Roberts, was born on August 22, 1877 and was the second-to-last of ten kids.


Mary, 3, lived in a full house which included her grandmother Ellen Sheehan (I’d sail my mom over from Ireland too if I had ten kids!). Her two oldest brothers who were 14 and 15 at the time worked as laborers, according to that year’s census (at right). Many of her older siblings were born in Pennsylvania, but at this point, they were living in Brookville, VA, just south west of Lynchburg.

At this time, great-grandad William Edwin was 11 and lived with his family in Elon, VA, just north of Lynchburg. This was before his parents operated the Riverside Mansion Resort.

In 1885, when William Edwin was 16 years old and Mary was 8;

Evaporated milk was invented! Before widespread refrigeration and regulation, raw milk could deliver as much bacteria as it did calcium — that is, until John Meyenberg’s Illinois factory began churning out evaporated milk. His apparatus killed the bugs, concentrated nutrients, and turned the bone builder into a shelf-stable staple. The company later labeled the product Pet Milk, a brand that is still sold in grocery stores. Also invented in 1885? The toothebrush! A grateful world thank you, Manhattan dentist Meyer Rhein!


At 31, William Edwin lived with his youngest brother Edwin, 20, (I guess they ran out of names) in a rented house in Lynchburg. William Edwin was a country merchant, and Edwin was a “Gen’l Mose” salesman. (If you can figure out was “gen’l mose” means, please let me know).

Their brother Hugh Roy Scott died that year in Virginia at the age of 26. It’s unknown how he died, but according to the CDC, in 1900, “the three leading causes of death were pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), and diarrhea and enteritis, which (together with diphtheria) caused one third of all deaths.”
So maybe it was one of those horrific illnesses that killed him.

At this same time, 22-year-old Mary lived with her mother and some of the younger siblings in Brookville, and she and her older sister Frances were stenographers. Their older sister Kate, 28, was a music teacher, and their brother James, 24, was a commercial travel agent. Their father died in 1900.


William Edwin, 41, lived in a boarding house at Corral Street in Rome, NY while working on the canals. The house he lived in was run by an Austrian Polish-speaking widow with four children under the age of 9. Poor woman! Widowed at 30 with no career and four kids to feed? I guess the only recourse is to run a boarding house.

Older brother Robert Garland Scott, Jr., 43, had been married for exactly one year to Frances Roberts, 35, when the newlyweds lived in a James Street boarding house in Rome, NY along with a fireman, four waiters, four chambermaids, two bell boys, an architect, a broker, a salesman, a hotel “stableman”, a vocalist (named Donella Jacques!), a master machine engineer, a hotel baggageman, a cook, a retired telegrapher, a porter, a secretary for the YMCA, and two clerks.

The head of the boarding house, Henry Cumming, was a hotel proprietor. I don’t know if all of these people actually lived in the hotel they worked at, but with all these characters I see the movie in my head; There are snarky side-comments, scenes in the lounge area with dark walls and cigarette smoke int he air, scheming in stairwells, starched and pressed uniforms, and of course a murder takes place. The stableman probably did it. He seems questionable to me.

Also, I may just be thinking of a movie based on an Agatha Christie that’s already been made.

Today, the area where this boarding house sat is the home to multiple chain hotels.

Younger brothers Edwin, 29, and Walter, 33 lived in different another boarding house in Rome, NY, this one filled almost entirely with laborers with titles like foreman, crane man, engineer, carpenter, odd job machinist. Both Walter and Edwin were barge canal foreman.

All five Scotts lived in Ward 2 (click to enlarge photos)

While her future husband William Edwin was building away in Rome and her sister Frances had been married for a year to Robert, my great-grandmother Mary lived with some of her siblings on Dearing Street in Lynchburg. Their mother died in 1903. Mary, 32, listed herself and her sister Griselda, 31, as “violet growers” at home. (I feel like violet growing is not really a career so much as a hobby, but I love the little vignet it creates in my head).

Living with them was their brother William, 45, a real estate agent, and sister Kate, 36, still going strong as a music teacher.

Scott Brothers

Below is a list of jobs the Scott Brothers did along the Erie Canal starting in 1908. The date given is the date the contract was awarded. For more details, you can click on the job names (look under “History” for their names).

I came across the Twenty-Third Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, 1918, which quotes James Pendleton Scott when he was interviewed by The Auburn Citizen, about the removal of the Montezuma Aqueduct in 1917, which the Scott Brothers were contracted to remove. What are the odds – The Auburn Citizen is the very paper I worked at right out of college in 1999.

Below are some period photos of areas the Scott Brothers may have worked on. At the every least, it’s a look at how the canal appeared back then

As we know, my great-grandparents did end up marrying, but in 1910, Robert and Frances had already been married one year, while William lived in New York, and Mary still lived in Virginia. Did they write letters to each other? How long was their courtship? How did they meet? Through Robert and Frances, or did the families just know each other? It is also unclear when exactly they married. One online marriage record (with Mary’s middle name spelled atrociously wrong) says they married June 9, 1915, family records say circa 1910, and another guess was 1911.

In the 1930 census, Mary said she was 33 when she got married. I used that number against other censuses and the ages they give at the time the censuses was taken, and I go with


Mary was 33 years old when they married, and William was about 42.

Robert, Jr. and Frances were actually a bit “old” themselves when they got married in 1909 at 42 and 34 respectively. I find it interesting; William Edwin could have found someone younger to increase his chances of having a family, assuming he wanted one. Older men often seek younger women, and back then was no different (I’m looking at you, Robert Garland Scott, Sr, and your 15-year-old bride, Sallie). But William Edwin did not find someone in her twenties. He married a 33-year old violet grower! Which means…maybe they loved each other?!

William and Mary
Sittin’ in a tree

(click to enlarge photos)

A few years following wedding bliss, younger brother Walter Scott died in 1914 in Verona NY, two days shy of his 37th birthday. (I know, I brought this all down real fast. Sorry about that). We don’t know how he died, but pneumonia and TB were still pretty rampant around this time, but as we’ll learn later (spoiler alert!) so was heart disease in this family.

Youngest brother Edwin moved back to Lynchburg by 1920 (he probably couldn’t handle the winters in Upstate NY!)


World War I, also called First World War or Great War, pitted the Central Powers—mainly Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey—against the Allies—mainly France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and, from 1917, the United States. It ended with the defeat of the Central Powers. The war was virtually unprecedented in the slaughter, carnage, and destruction it caused.

It wasn’t until April 8, 1918, that my grandfather William Edwin Scott, Jr. was born, when Mary was 41. On Feb 16, 1922, my great uncle Robert Garland Scott followed. (The name Garland which keeps coming up is from my 4th great grandmother Frances Anna Maria Garland (Eliza Jane Pendleton’s mom))

James Pendleton (and now you know where “Pendleton” came from!) was the last brother to move to New York. I wonder if he did so because of the death of Walter. Did the remaining brothers need help? Perhaps he just moved to where the work was. In 1910, James lived with his wife and four children; Lelia, Lucille, Elanor, and James, Jr. in North Carolina, but by 1920 James and his family lived in Brutus, NY

This brings the Scott brothers head count in New York to three; Robert, Jr., William Edwin, and James.


After over 50 years of fighting for it, women in America are finally granted equal voting rights with the passing of the 19th Amendment. The amendment states that the right of citizens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” (Now go watch the movie Iron-Jawed Angels)


Robert, Jr and Frances lived at 502 North George Street in Rome along with a 19-year-old servant named Thelma Anderson. A servant for two people? {yes, I am judging through time and space}

Adorably, Mary and William Edwin lived three houses away at 217 West Thomas Street, where they had been for at least the last five years, along with my grandad Bill, now 7, and great uncle Bob, 3.

Sidenote; their next-door neighbors were a bicycle salesman named Albert and his wife Jeanette. Albert and his niece-in-law Bertha, who also lived next door, were German-speaking Swiss. Less than sixteen years later, my grandad Bill, the 7-year-old mentioned above, married a German-speaking Swiss woman. (It’s not Bertha)

(click to enlarge photos)

I love to think of Mary and Frances living just a block away from one another. Who knows how long their husbands were away for work, and I imagine they enjoyed each others’ company. Otherwise, why live so close together? I can see one walking to the home of the other at the same time everyday. If Frances went to Mary’s, they’d sit around a little table in the kitchen and talk about everything and anything over a cup of coffee or tea. “That President Coolidge is such a dolt!” my great-grandmother would say.

“And how!” Frances would add, “He never has much to say and I wonder…” she taps her head indicating that he may not be very bright, but she’s a lady so she doesn’t say so out loud.

They would also discuss the pros and cons of rising hemlines in women’s fashion.

If Mary went to Frances’ with her sons, they’d sit on the porch and chat while the boys played Jacks nearby. Or maybe they’d roller skate up and down the sidewalk.

When I knew him my Grandad Bill was serious, quiet, and somewhat grumpy. His demeanor was intimidating and he was not warm and fuzzy. I didn’t dislike him, I just didn’t connect with him. In my twenties I realized I knew very little about him, so during a visit I asked him “Grandad, what did you do for fun when you were a kid?”

He remained stone-faced and serous when he answered without hesitation “Eat chocolate”. He wasn’t generally very funny but this had me laughing. After thinking a bit more, he added that he liked to go ice skating and sledding.

OK, back to 1925.
James and his family lived Auburn, NY, which I already mentioned is where I was for my first job out of college. They lived at 114 North Street. Where did I live? 83 South Street. It’s the same street, and changes names as it passes through the center of the “city”. Our houses, which are both still standing, are a twenty minute walk from each other. Small world, even though time!


The Great Depression began with the stock market crash of 1929 and was made worse by the 1930s Dust Bowl. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to the economic calamity with programs known as the New Deal. (attached photo by Dorothea Lange)


William Edwin and Robert still lived in the same houses. I can find no records of Scott Brothers continuing to work after this point in time. Perhaps Robert, 63, William Edwin, 60, and James, 58 had retired?

The 1930s brought a cloud over the Scotts.
On July 13, 1931, eldest sister Lizzie died in Lynchburg at the age of 70. Two months later, on September 6, 1931, William Edwin died of a heart attack at age 62, leaving behind Mary and their sons Bill, 12, and Bob, 8.

Not quite two months later, on October 29, James Pendleton also died. Then about three months after him, on February 7, 1932, Robert, Jr. died. They also died of heart attacks. They were 59 and 64 respectively.


Perhaps it was Regina Wintschietl, the German housemaid who was listed as living with them in the 1930 census who yelled for my grandfather Bill one August afternoon right as he arrived home from being out.

She was beside herself because the bathroom door was locked and Mary, who was taking a bath, was not responding when she knocked or called her name. My grandfather, at 16 years old, found an ax, hacked the door down, and found his mother dead in the tub. She was 57 years old.

The boys were orphaned and Aunt Frances was now mourning the loss of her sister. My grandfather returned to Hamilton College (he went to college at a very young age), and my great uncle Bob was taken in by Aunt Frances. When Bob became a teenager, he was sent to La Salle Military in Long Island for high school. He also attended Hamilton College.

(click to enlarge photos)

One Reply to “The Far Left Branch, Ch.5”

  1. Hi Cyd!
    Thoroughly enjoyed the latest chapter. I suspect “gen’l mose’ is short for “general merchandise”! Hope he wasn’t selling door to door! I just love how you have pictures and illustrations to “bring the family members to life”! In my family, unhappily, there aren’t hardly any extant photos to show how things were back in the day!
    Yes, I’ve found from looking at death certificates from those by-gone times that TB, pneumonia and various intestinal illness a took their toll! Glad to see that we’ve made progress with TB and pneumonia, and polio, but who talked about cancer at that time? Or addiction or vehicular accidents as leading causes of death? “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”!
    Great work… can’t wait for more!


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