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Stanton’s connection with an elite southern family of the post American civil war

 

Andrew Low (II) was born on the 20th July 1812 at Fettercairn in Kincardineshire (now Aberdeenshire) in Scotland.  He was the third son and the fifth child of William and Katherine Reid Low. His father William was a merchant and later a Burgess in Brechin. Andrew's two older brothers both died in their teens and are buried together with his sister Mary and both his parents in the church yard of Brechin cathedral. Andrew's father William had an older brother named Andrew Low (I), who had arrived in Georgia in 1800, and within ten years had established the company of A. Low & Co. in Savannah. He had also gone into partnership with Robert Isaac and the two business men created a second company in Liverpool, Isaac, Low & Co.  Andrew Low (I) seems to have concentrated his efforts on the Liverpool side of the business, whilst his partner Robert Isaac concentrated his efforts on the  Savannah business. Robert Isaac died from yellow fever in 1827 and Andrew Low (II's) father William probably envisaged a better opportunity for his son in America and there was also the need for a family heir to his expanding business. Andrew junior promptly left Scotland bound for America where he arrived in 1829 aged just 17 years.  He quickly found work in his uncle’s cotton firm as a cotton merchant in Savannah, Georgia.

The Savannah company was now concentrating on cotton factoring. This involved contracting with the planter for the crop each year and eventually receiving and storing the 500 lb bales of ginned cotton in their warehouse on the river bluff in Savannah, whilst arranging onward shipment to Liverpool, often in cargo ships owned by A.Low & Co. On arrival at Liverpool the UK company stored the bales and then arranged the sale to textile mills in Manchester and its environs.

He soon rose to become a partner and had assumed control of the business by 1839. His uncle Andrew Low (I) retired to Liverpool. On the 25th January 1844, aged 32 years, he married Sarah Cecil Hunter. Andrew and Sarah asked the renowned John Norris, architect from New York, who was in Savannah having won a competition to design and build a new Custom House for the port, to design a grand family house for them, It was to be sited on the south west trust lot on Lafayette Square in Savannah (the building plot was actually on the site of the city’s old jail). Norris's neo-classical design included a low roof, concealed behind a parapet. This was subsequently altered to the bracketed overhang of the present roof.

The couple had a son Andrew Low (III) on the 1st of December 1844, followed by a daughter Amy who was born on the 7th August 1846 and a second daughter Harriet Anne was born the 22nd October 1847. It was at this time, whilst the house was still under construction, that Andrew was dealt a terrible blow. His son Andrew died of croup just four years old in August 1848, followed in February 1849 by his father William in Scotland. On the 20th May 1849 the heaviest blow struck when his wife Sarah died only 31 years old of kidney failure two weeks after a miscarriage. On top of that, his uncle also passed away leaving him a firm of cotton dealers/brokers, property in England and a small fortune.

 

The Low family house in Lafayette Square, Savannah. The square was named after a revolutionary hero. The picture is reproduced by kind permission of M.A.Sullivan, Professor Emeritus, Bluffton University, Ohio.

It was a very sad family consisting of Andrew  with his daughters Amy and Harriet Anne that finally moved into their new house late in 1849. The 1850 Georgia census shows Andrew Low, a cotton merchant with real estate valued at $75,000 with four year old Amy and 3 year old Harriet Anne. Also recorded in the house is the name Eliz.Hunter aged 35 years. Elizabeth was his wife’s sister helping to look after the two young girls.

Andrew met  and began courting Mary Cowper Stiles, daughter of William Henry Stiles & Elizabeth Anne Stiles nee Mackay in the summer of 1852. William Stiles was the US Minister to Austria. Mary then became his second wife on their marriage on the 17th May 1854. This union was to produce a son and three more daughters. Katherine Mackay Low was born on the 9th July 1855, Mary Low was born on the 25th January 1859, William Mackay Low was born on the 3rd August 1860 and Jessie Low was born on the 5th June 1862. 

Between November 1852 and April 1853 William Makepeace-Thackeray (1811-1863) toured the US from New York to Savannah delivering a series of lectures on the English Humorists of the 18th century. He repeated his tour of the states again from October 1855 to March 1856 giving a series of lectures on The Four Georges. On both occasions he was invited to stay at the Lows’ house in Savannah. On his return to England he wrote “The Virginians” between 1857 and 1859.

The 1860 Georgia census shows Andrew Low with real estate of $54,000 and a  personal estate of $40,000. With Andrew were his wife Mary aged 27 and daughters Amy Low aged 15 years, Harriet Low aged 14 years, Katherine Mackay Low aged 5 years and Mary Low aged 1 year. In 1864 Andrew lost his second wife Mary from an abdominal pregnancy and puerperal fever aged just 31 years.

In 1861 the American Civil War began as eleven states of the Southern Confederacy attempted to break away from the Northern or Federal Government. In the following years to 1865 there were 2,260 skirmishes, sieges and battles until General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Petersburg on the 9th April 1865. When the conflict began Andrew Low was arrested on the 5th November 1861 and held as a political prisoner at Fort Warren in Boston Harbour, Massachusetts, on suspicion of collaboration with the Confederacy.He was released in June 1862.

Aerial photo of Georges Island and Fort Warren in Boston Harbour, by Doc Searles, ex Wikipaedia.

After the surrender General Lee was a frequent house guest of the Low’s particularly while he was stationed at nearby Fort Pulaski. In 1870 the General was invited to be godfather to the Low’s youngest daughter Jessie while he was a house guest for a week. At one evening get-together during that week General Joseph E Johnson, General Andrew Lawton and General J F Gilmer came to dinner. The four younger children must have got quite used to all their distinguished visitors.

The ships of A. Low & Co. were sailing regularly between the port of Savannah and Liverpool, England, heavily loaded with bales of cotton worth millions of dollars. Andrew was reputed to be the wealthiest man in Savannah. As part of his business Andrew began a lifetime of commuting between his residence at Beauchamp Hall in Royal  Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England and Savannah, Georgia. The first record of his trans-Atlantic travels shows his arrival in New York aboard the SS Arctic on the 6th September 1852, indicating that he must have come back to England sometime between the date of the 1850 Census in Georgia and the Autumn of 1852. We know from the shipping records that at least a further ten trans-Atlantic crossings were made each way.

Andrew’s home, Beauchamp Hall, now forms part of the Kingsley School in Royal Leamington Spa.

 The 3rd June 1880 US Census in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia shows Andrew Low aged 68 years, retired cotton merchant living at 329 Abercorn Street on Lafayette Square. Sometime between June 1880 and early 1886 Andrew must have made his last voyage across the Atlantic, as his death on the 27th June 1886 was recorded by the Warwick Registration Office in the April Quarter of 1886. The Times newspaper of the 8th August 1886 published details from his will. He left £617,414 17s 9d out of which legacies totalled £286,000 including £50,000 to each of his five daughters with the remainder of his estate (approximately £300,000) to his son William.  In his will Andrew had requested to be buried with his two wives and his son in Savannah, however it was prohibited to ship dead bodies across the Atlantic in the summer. He was thus temporarily interred at Leamington. Late in the autumn he made his final Atlantic crossing to New York. The company steamer "Chatahoochee" finally brought him from New York to Savannah and he was buried on the 13th November 1886 in lot 521 at the Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah with Sarah Hunter Low and Mary Stiles Low and his young son Andrew Low III.

In 1867 Andrew Low had crossed the Atlantic with the four youngest children to settle in England, (the two eldest girls had been at school in England for some years). Was it the death of their mother Mary in 1864 that prompted the move, or the fact that Andrew had been imprisoned ? In the 1871 UK Census, Harriet Low was head of the household at 42 Clarendon Square, Leamington Spa and with her were her three sisters Katherine, Mary, and Jessie, her brother William and a governess and six servants. Amy, who was the eldest of the Low children and now aged 24 years, was recorded as a visitor at 7 Cambridge Square, Paddington in London, which was the home of Pascoe Grenfell a copper merchant, his wife and seven young children and nine servants. Also present was Harry T. Grenfell, a 26 year old Lieutenant in the Royal Navy who was born in Montevideo, S. America. Shortly after the date of the Census, Amy married Captain Harry Tremenheere Grenfell. The 1881 Census shows Amy Grenfell staying with her sister Mary and brother William Low at 42 Clarendon Square, Leamington. Ten years later the next Census in 1891 shows that Harry and Amy Grenfell were residents at the Manor House, Pickwell, Leesthorpe, Melton Mowbray along with 11 servants and three visitors. Harry had by this time attained the rank of Commander. By 1901 Rear-Admiral Harry T Grenfell divided his time between their London residence at 75 St Georges Square, Hanover, Westminster and Pickwell. On the 21st February 1905 The London Gazette reported Rear-Admiral Harry T Grenfell was promoted to Vice-Admiral. The death of Vice-Admiral Grenfell was recorded at Marylebone in 1906. The 1911 UK Census shows Amy Grenfell living at Stratford on Avon. Lady Amy Grenfell outlived her husband by a further 11 years as the record of her demise gives the date of registration as the March quarter of 1917 at their London home of 75 St Georges Square.

In 1860 Harriet Low was listed in the Georgia Census, but she must have crossed the Atlantic soon after, as there is a record of her together with her sister Mary and father Andrew returning back to America in 1865 sailing from Liverpool to Boston on the RMS China. By the time of the 1871 UK Census, Harriet was head of the Low household at 42 Clarendon Square, Leamington. A Captain George Coke Robertson of the 17th Lancers was soon to become her husband. When James Robinson of Widmerpool died in 1870 he was succeeded by his nephew George Coke Robinson. George promptly changed his name back to Robertson by Deed Poll. His ancestors having previously assumed the surname Robinson due to intense anti-Scottish feelings rife in England. George Coke Robertson inherited £35,000 and 3,000 acres of land mainly in Widmerpool and Stanton on the Wolds. In 1871 the Major instructed Henry Clutton, a well-known architect, to design a grand country house close to the village of Widmerpool, but on a site with good views of the countryside and the near-by parish church of St Peter and St Paul. Plans for the building included an impressive Italianate tower, gabled facades, mullioned windows and elaborate masonry complete with decorative gargoyles.

 Picture of Widmerpool Hall taken in 2009. It had served as the headquarters of the Automobile Association for a number of years and is now being subdivided into luxury apartments.

 

The London Gazette of the 27th October  1871 announced that “Captain George Coke Robertson to be Major, 17th Lancers, by purchase, vice Robert Bainbridge who retires”. The wedding of Harriet Anne Low and Major Robertson was held at Westminster in 1873. Major Robertson retired from the “Death and Glory Boys” as the 17th Lancers were more familiarly known on the 16th July 1873 and 3 months later took up position as a Major in the 1st Notts Rifle Volunteers, a position which he held until July 1877 when he became a Captain in the S. Notts Yeomanry Cavalry.

 Widmerpool parish church had been rebuilt in 1832, however the handsome spire was thrown to the ground by a lightning strike in 1836. The Robertson’s financed the almost total rebuild of the church between 1888 and 1895 at a cost of £2457 (multiply this figure by x60 to get an equivalent value today). There is a plaque on the inside wall of the church that says “This church was restored 1888 in loving memory of Andrew Low by his daughter Harriet Annie Robertson”. In 1889 a reading room was also built in the village.

In 1889 Harriet Low ordered an extensive renovation of All Saints Church at Stanton on the Wolds. All Saints was then in a bad state of repair. New king posts and braces were inserted into the roof of both the nave and the chancel. The exterior bell turret was rebuilt. A new window was inserted into the south wall of the chancel. The stained glass in the east window was replaced by plain glass with a red border and all the other windows received plain glass with blue borders. The inside walls were completely re-plastered. The total cost was £400 (by modern values this equates to £24,000). Today there is a brass plaque commemorating this on the wall of the nave.

Major Robertson played an active role in public affairs being a JP and vice-president of the Thoroton Society. He was nominated for the post of High Sheriff of Nottingham in the years 1878, 1879 and 1880 and was finally appointed on the 2nd March 1881. He was also chairman of the Pinxton coal mine and served as an alderman from 1904 till his death. The London Gazette of 2nd June 1914 records his appointment as Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. On the 9th November 1918 the London Gazette announced he was to be made Honorary Commandant and Honorary Lt. Colonel of the 11th Volunteer Battalion Sherwood Foresters, the Notts and Derbys Regiment.

Major George Coke Robertson reproduced by kind permission of the church warden of St Peter & St Paul, Widmerpool, Notts.

 

The UK 1891 Census showed that the Major’s wife, Harriet A Robertson, was a patient at 36 Portland Place in London. Sadly Harriet passed away on the 13th June 1891. Her death certificate shows she had had an operation to re-sect the colon following intestinal blockage and had died from cancer of the colon aged just 43 years.                           

 

                                                         Mrs Harriet Anne Robertson nee Low taken 1888 (photo reproduced by courtesy of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia and the Andrew Low House)

In the Lady Chapel in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Widmerpool is a marble bust of Harriet Robertson and a memorial tomb  dedicated to her.

The marble bust mounted on a marble pedestal is by Edouard Lanteri and is dated 1892. It shows a portrait of Harriet as a Victorian lady in her 40s.

 

The magnificent memorial tomb shows a young lady asleep on a couch supported by several pillows and made from Italian marble. The figure appears to be that of a younger Harriet and is dated 1894 and has the initials “GF” and “Florence”. The sculptor was Giovanni Pasquale Giuseppe Focardi of Florence (1842-1903). Focardi was a famous Florentine sculptor of the ‘Romantic’ school whose most famous works included “Children surprised stealing fruit” of 1882 and “Othello and Desdemona” of 1898. Focardi visited and stayed in London on several occasions between 1870 and his death in 1903.   

 

The sculpture of Lady Robertson was kindly identified as an unrecorded and important work of Focardi by Sandra Berresford, the lead author of "Italian Memorial Sculpture: a legacy of love".

 At the death of Major Robertson in 1924, Neale & Sons, a Nottingham firm of auctioneers, was asked to catalogue and value the house contents. In the catalogue of heirlooms a full length portrait of Major and Mrs Robertson (artist not given) is included. The inventory of household effects lists a portrait of Harriet in a gilt frame and a miniature portrait of Harriet. It is not known whether these items were sold or kept by other family members. Major Robertson died on the 12th December 1924. His will shows that he left the sum of £300 to the Samaritan Hospital for Women, which was very close to Portland Place where his wife had recuperated. Amongst a long list of other legacies he left a £1000 each to his four sisters–in-law, Harriet’s sisters Amy, Mary, Jessie and Katherine. Katherine Mackay Low was the third daughter of Andrew Low, the first child from his second marriage to Mary Stiles. Katherine was born 1855ish. The first record we have of her is the 15th October 1858 when she arrived at New York aboard the SS Africa aged 3 years, (Miss Katie Low), with her parents Andrew and Mary Low. By the time of the 1871 UK Census Katherine was 15 years old, living at 42 Clarendon Square, Leamington with Harriet, Mary, William and Jessie. On the 9th December 1876 she arrived in New York aboard the SS Britannic with her father and sister Mary. On the 22nd November 1886, just a few months after the death of their father, Kate Low with Jessie and Mary sail from Liverpool to New York on the SS Britannic for the wedding of their brother William Mackay Low on December 21st 1886. By the time of the 1891 UK Census Katherine was living at Old Dalby Hall, Leics. with her sister Mary Low. Katherine never married and her death was recorded at 106 Park Street, Grosvenor Square, London by the Marylebone Registrar in Dec 1908.

Mary Low born 1858/9 was the fourth daughter of Andrew Low. Mary must have crossed the Atlantic before she was 7 years old as there is a record of her sailing from Liverpool to Boston on the RMS China with dad Andrew and sister Harriet on the 10th October 1865. The 1871 UK Census shows a 12 year old Mary living at 42 Clarendon Square, Leamington with her three sisters Harriet, Katherine, Jessie and her brother William. At the 1881 UK Census Mary was still resident at 42 Clarendon Square, Leamington with Amy and William Mackay Low. Five years later Mary, Jessie and Katherine left Liverpool on the SS Britannic for New York where they arrived on the 22nd November 1886 in time for their brother’s wedding in December 1886. By the time of the 1891 UK Census Mary was living at Old Dalby Hall, Leics. with her sister Katherine. The marriage of Mary to David Charles Guthrie was registered at Stratford just six months later. The 1901 UK Census shows the family were living at The Hall, East Haddon, Brixworth, Northants. The death of David Charles was reported to the Brixworth registrar in the March quarter of 1918 aged 56. The death of Mary Guthrie was reported to the same Registrar in the  September quarter of 1932 when she was aged 73.

William Mackay Low was born on the 3rd August 1860. At the time of the 1871 UK Census William was 10 years old, living at 42 Clarendon Square, Leamington with Harriet, Mary, Katherine and Jessie. The 1881 UK Census shows William as an Oxford undergraduate still living at 42 Clarendon Square, Leamington with Amy and Mary. After graduating William must have returned to Savannah as he was married on 21st December 1886, about 4 months after the death of his father Andrew Low. His wife was  Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon aged 26 years, born Savannah 31.10.1860. Her parents were William Washington Gordon II and Eleanor Lytle Kinzie. Juliette was the second of six children. She attended boarding school in Virginia and a finishing school in New York completing her education in 1880. After the marriage they moved into Andrew Low’s house in Savannah. The couple moved to England and in 1887 bought a country estate, Wellesbourne House in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire and a London residence at 3 St James Street.

The Spanish-American War began on the 15th February 1898 when the battleship USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbour by a mine. Congress declared the independence of Cuba on the 11th March to which Spain responded with a declaration of war on the 24th April. The Spanish fleets were destroyed in two engagements at Manila Bay in the Philippines and at Santiago. The US Army fought battles in Cuba, Santiago, Porto Rica and Manila. Juliette came back to America to aid the war effort by helping her mother organise a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers returning from Cuba. Peace was declared on 10th December. Juliette’s father was commissioned as general in the US Army and served on the Puerto Rican Peace Commission. Spain relinquished Cuba and ceded the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam for £4 million. By 1901 William Mackay Low’s drinking and philandering led Juliette to seek a divorce but William died of a stroke before the proceedings were finalised. After William died on the 8th June 1905 at Ruthin Castle, his Will showed the entire estate had been left to his mistress Anna Bateman of the Manor House in Morley Derbys. Mrs Bateman was a widow formerly of 1 Chesterfield Street, St George, Hanover Square in London. Juliette was only due to inherit a small widow’s pension. Juliette contested the Will and eventually received a settlement that made her a wealthy woman. She inherited all of the property in Georgia including the Andrew Low house in Savannah and maintained a residence in London at 40 Grosvenor Street. She spent several months in Savannah each year and continued to travel extensively with annual summer vacations in Scotland, visits to friends and relatives in both the US and England with occasional trips to Europe and one tour of India. 

In 1911 Juliette met and became good friends with Robert Baden-Powell (later Lord Baden-Powell) and his wife Olave and his sister Agnes. While in the UK she worked as a Girl Guide leader both in London and Scotland. She returned to the US in 1912 and on March 12th 18 girls registered as the 1st Troop of American Girl Guides with the first registered member being her niece Margaret Gordon. Juliette developed breast cancer in 1923 but kept it a secret. 9th August 1926 Juliette Low arrived in London from New York on the SS Minnetonka of the Atlantic Transport Co. She spent the fall of 1926 in England and returned to the US on the7th December 1926 arriving New York from Cherbourg on the SS Majestic. She arrived home in Savannah a few days after New Years Day and sadly died on the 17th January 1927.

Jessie Low was the sixth and youngest child of Andrew Low being born in 1863. In 1888 the marriage of  Jessie to Hugh Graham was recorded at the Registrars Offices in Hanover Square in London. Thirteen years later the 1901 UK Census shows the family living at Bucknell Manor, Bicester, Oxfordshire. Ten years later Jessie, Hugh and family had moved to The Bury, at Offchurch, Warwick. Hugh died in the December quarter of 1921 whilst the death of Jessie was registered in the June quarter of 1934, both in Warwick.

At the death of Major Robertson in 1924 the estates at Widmerpool and Stanton on the Wolds were left to his nephew William Arundel Monckton who lived at Rosemount on Jersey. The lands at Stanton, which had at the date of the major’s death  amounted to 875 acres including the whole of Pages Lodge Farm and Browns Farm, were put up for sale and were purchased by a property speculator from Loughborough for £80,000. The land on the east side of Stanton Lane and along Golf Course Road was built on. The lands on the north side of Browns Lane and on both sides of Melton Road were subdivided and sold off as building plots and this has resulted in the eastward extension of the old village centre. Both areas of building which occurred post 1924 have considerably enlarged the village from a small agricultural hamlet of approximately 24 dwellings into the modern dormitory village for Nottingham which now consists of some 160 houses.

 Andrew Low is interred in an unmarked grave in Leamington Spa cemetery, the plot 35/71 having been purchased by his son and heir William Mackay Low. The church yard at St Peter & St Paul, Widmerpool is the final resting place of three of Andrew Low’s seven children.

Left: Harriet Anne Robertson (nee Low) and her husband Major George Coke Robertson are interred in a large double grave outside the east window  of St Peter and St Paul, Widmerpool.

 

 Right and below: Next to Harriet is the last resting place of her sister Lady Amy Grenfell (nee Low) and her husband Vice Admiral Harry Tremenheere Grenfell RN., KCB.,CMG.

 

 Also interred here in a large double grave is the body of William Mackay Low, whilst his wife Juliette rests in peace in the Laurel Grove cemetery in Chatham City, Georgia

 

 

 

References

Memorial to Harriet Annie Robertson in Widmerpool Church:-

Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken, may reach her where she lives.

Harriet Annie Robertson died June 13th 1891

Plaque on church wall in Widmerpool Church:-

In loving memory William Mackay Low of Wellesbourne House, Warwickshire

Plaque on church wall in Widmerpool Church:-

This church was restored to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Andrew Low by his daughter Harriet Annie Robertson 1888

Plaque on church wall in Widmerpool Church:-

Sir Harry Tremenheere Grenfell Vice Admiral KCB CMG 9/3/1845 – 19/2/1906 and his wife Dame Amy Grenfell 7/8/1848 – 12/1/1917 of Wellesbourne House, Warwickshire, daughter of Andrew Low of Savannah, Georgia

Plaque on church wall in Widmerpool Church:-

George Coke Robertson 1839 – 12/12/1924 JP, DL, Major 17th Lancers,  84 years old

An inventory of the heirlooms, books and paintings from Widmerpool Hall, late the property of Major George Coke Robertson made by Neale & Sons, Nottingham for probate dated 23rd September 1925. Nottinghamshire Archives DD/PF157/46

An inventory of the household effects from Widmerpool Hall, late the property of Major George Coke Robertson made by Neale & Sons, Nottingham for probate dated 23rd September 1925. Nottinghamshire Archives DD/PF157/47-49

Deed poll of 18th August 1870 by which George Coke Robinson born 31st January 1839 in Paris changed his surname back to Robertson. Nottinghamshire Archives DD/PF153/38

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