Col. Walter Scott, Part II

Walter Scott was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1862, of Scottish parents who were emigrating to Boston.

To do business was in little Walter’s DNA, and at 10, he started up a fruit stand strategically placed next to Harvard College. He claimed to have sold plums and apples to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, more than once. From an obituary:

“When he was 15 he entered the employ of Butter Brothers, wholesale distributors of general merchandise, but a relatively small firm at that time. Three years later he came to New York, and in 1889, he was made manager of the New York branch. In 1932 he retired as senior vice president after 54 years of service.

“Colonel Scott’s generosity to policemen and firefighters in the leading cities of the United States, as well as Argentina and Ireland, was reflected in his Walter Scott Medal for valor and in substantial sums of money for the relatives of public servants who died in the course of duty.

“For a number of years he was Honorary Police Commissioner of New York. Whenever a policeman or a fireman lost his life in the performance of his duty, Colonel Scott sent a check. He also created a perpetual endowment to provide a medal to be awarded annually to a policeman or fireman in New York, Boston, Worcester, Holyoke and Detroit for outstanding bravery in the course of the year.

“During the World War he was Colonel of the New York Scottish Highlanders and helped to organize the MacLean Kilties in Canada. For his service the French Government awarded him the Legion of Honor, and the Belgian Government the Order of Leopold. He also received the Grand Silver Cross of Austria.

“Several years ago he created the Walter Scott Free Industrial School for children in this city, and the Lulu Thorley Lyons Home for Crippled and Delicate Children at Claverack, N.Y.

“For many years he was a familiar figure at all Scottish gatherings, encouraging sports, Highland dancing and piping. Colonel Scott was a member of several Robert Burns clubs and he was a close friend of Miss Jean Armour Burns Brown of Dumfries, a great-great-grand-daughter of the poet.

“Colonel Scott was for many years one of the managers of St. Andrews Society here, and he was a member of nearly all the Scottish societies in this country. He was a vice patron of the Scottish Clans Association of London and an honorary member of the Hammermen of Irvine, Scotland.

“In New York he was a member of the Union League, Bankers and Friars Clubs, the Pilgrims of the United States, Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, Merchants Association, American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, the British Schools and Universities Club, the Canadian Club and the Canadian Society. He was also a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.

“For years he was identified with many charities. He endowed two beds at Roosevelt Hospital, was active in relieving distress in the Saranac Lake district and aided the Trudeau tuberculosis research work. He endowed scholarships at Smith College, Flora MacDonald College, Americana International College, Centenary Collegiate Institute and Stevens Institute of Technology.

“Colonel Scott was elected president of the Stevenson Society of America in 1924, and through his efforts the society acquired the Saranac Lake house where the writer spent the Winter of 1887-88 and wrote the greater part of The Master of Ballantrae. In 1933 Colonel Scott was made president for life of the society.

Among Col. Scott’s enormous number of friends, many in high places, was William Morris, founder of the renowned William Morris Theatrical Agency. It was Morris who brainstormed two of this town’s familiar landmarks. His name for one was Camp Intermission, today’s Camp Colby of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, visible from state Route 86; the other he called Will Rogers Hospital, today Saranac Lake Village at Will Rogers. Story has it that Col. Scott was formally initiated into the Stevenson Society of America, during a party thrown by William at Camp Intermission. It was in August 1920, during Prohibition, but everybody knew they had booze there.

William Morris was already what they called a “Director at Large” for the Stevenson Society. He was very proud of his position and can be seen smiling in several archival photographs from the day, most of them including Scott. Scott was immediately a prominent member for three reasons: 1. He was rich; 2. He was an RLS authority; 3. He donated “sacred relics” of Stevenson from his own collection to the society’s little museum at Baker’s. He also donated the vintage display cases still to be seen within the “sacred rooms” to this day, containing a strange assembly of objects which amazingly came to Baker’s from all points of the globe, between 1916 and 1931, with two exceptions, 1948 and 1987.

In spite of the above, Scott seemed to maintain a low profile until he got news about Joseph Vincent’s pre-meditated stunt. That’s when he sent word to Livingston Chapman, Secretary, as it is printed in the society’s “General Report–1924.”

“… As time advances, Stevenson is more beloved than ever and everything that had to do with him should be preserved. How can we be of further help? Quick action should be taken to secure the shrine. — Walter Scott.”

To be continued.


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