The History of the Macnish Family and Andrew's Legacy
This is the history of the MacNish family. It is compiled from oral history, family photographs, family records and documents, (including these pages from the family bible) grave markers, government censuses and family lore from relatives both close and distant. It is most definitely a work in progress and since it’s first iteration and posting in 2004 I have been able to add quite a bit to it thanks to information given to me by my brother, a few enlightened internet searches and information sent to me by a distant here to fore unknown cousin (thank you Leanne.). (Note: Throughout this history I use the modern spelling “MacNish” only to help maintain continuity. For some reason the original spelling “McNish” was changed in the 30’s and 40’s, but it was always spelled as two separate words, or the “a” and the “c” were made as superior letters. The current spelling as one word is a recent concession that was made to accommodate computerized forms.)
Robert Macnish and Jane Simpson (also spelled in some cases “Sampson” She was born in 1810. There is a record of a Jane Simpson being born on this date in Slains Parrish, Scotland to a William Simpson and Agnes Williamson Simpson.) were married in Leicester, Worcester County, Massachusets on the 17 of September, 1837. Their place of birth was listed as Scotland. For me, this is where the Macnish family history starts, with my great, great, great grandmother and father. They had three children, the first, William MacNish was born in Massachusetts on August 2, 1838. Followed by his brother Andrew in 1841 and sister Mary E. in 1844 (-1901). (This is believed to be a picture of Jane Simpson MacNish, a Daguerrotype photograph that was popular between 1845 and 1860. She appears to be in her late middle age.)
William vacationed to the eastern end of Long Island to hunt wild ducks and stay at a grand hotel on the North Fork called the New Suffolk Hotel in New Suffolk, a small fishing town south of Cutchogue.(here is a picture of the family after a duck hunt, circa 1890) In the 1860’s he purchased the hotel from Ira Tuthill.(Here is a map of New Suffolk after the purchase.) He moved in with his wife (married June 23, 1858), Ellen Bishop (March 16, 1838- March 31 1877) and their daughter Agnes. Later came Robert (who died age 4), Andrew (January 16, 1865), Mary (1867) and William (1871). The 1880 Census lists his occupation as hotelkeeper and also lists his mother, Jane Hutcheon, as living with him. (At some point Robert, Jane’s husband died, I don’t have this date, but Jane remarried a shop keeper named Hutcheon who died in 1869. It is assumed that she moved in with William after her second husband’s death.) Also listed as living with him are his 4 children, including Agnes’ husband Frank T, Acker, a Sea Captain and their daughter Elanor at 11 months. (Agnes had 5 children who died in infancy or childhood). (This picture of William, circa 1880 would have hung in the Macnish hotel lobby.)
When Andrew was old enough, William sent him to a French cooking school in Canada to become a chef for the hotel. His specialty was confections and cake decoration. Andrew was a chef at the New Suffolk Hotel and the Robin’s Island Club until 1898, when his father sold the hotel to Maria Tuthill of Riverhead.
After the sale of the hotel, Andrew’s father William and his brother also named William as well as many other close relatives moved to Brooklyn. Details of this period are sketchy, but an obituary in the Brooklyn Eagle dated January 31st, 1900 announces the death of Jane Sampson Macnish Hutcheons who was surived by 15 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. In 1903, William, Andrew’s father was buried in the now historic section of Greenlawn cemetery in Brooklyn in a plot owned by Andrew’s wife Isabella Berrand’s family. (In the height of the depression in the 1930’s, Andrew unsucessfuly petitioned Greenlawn to bring Williams’ body out to a cemetery in Cutchogue.) Andrew’s brother William’s wife Eliza (or Lydia) Knapp died in 1905. William held the household together for a period, but finally, unable to care for his children he was forced to place them in a home where he faithfully visited them until they were moved to Nebraska by the children’s aid society and given up for adoption. These three incidents are all I know about their time in Brooklyn, but it leads me to believe it was not a happy one.
Andrew and Isabella had three sons and a daughter, Walter Vaughn (1888- 1964), Gordon (1896-1956,) William B. who died in childhood (1889) and Madeline (dates unknown). Andrew was also a poet and three of his poems surive, this one, written on the occasion of his daughter Madeline’s marriage to George Hudson in 1919. It is an amusing little ditty that outlines their courtship and was probably written as a toast to the bride and groom. Andrew had invented a major improvement to the hedge clippers and used the proceeds of the sale of the patent to set his two sons, Walter and Gordon up in the plumbing and heating business (MacNish Bros. Plumbing and heating) and build them neighboring homes. (I remember as a child finding the prototypes for the hedge clippers in the shop in the back of the house, but was unable to find them when I cleaned out the shop as an adult.) This all happened soon after Gordon had returned from World War I. (The patents, both Canadian and from the U.S.A. are displayed in the enclosed book case in the living room). The business was run from the out buildings in the back, a four-car garage, storage shed (both no longer in existence) a shop and a tool shed. S. Edgar Tuthill, from whom Andrew also purchased the land, built the house. It was in association with S. Edgar Tuthill that McNish Brothers Plumbing and Heating helped to build many of the large and stately homes on Nassau Point during the ‘20’s, ‘30’s and ‘40’s. During that period and into the ‘50’s Walter Sr. was a member of the “Old Crows” and was known for his Clam Chowder. For many years he also served as a caretaker of Robin’s Island as his father Andrew did before him. Andrew and Isabelle lived with Walter and his wife Isabelle and their 4 children; Walter Jr. (b. 1916), Madeline (b. 1921), Beatrice (b. 1924) and Richard (b. 1931), Gordon and his family (wife Mary and daughter Ruth) lived in the neighboring Dutch colonial. To this day the properties have an adjoining driveway even though the house went out of the families hands upon Gordon’s death in 1957. Later Isabelle Edwards’ (Walter Sr’s wife) father moved in with them as well. Andrew’s wife Isabelle died in 1927, Andrew died in 1946.
Much of the furniture and many of the design elements in the house are original or duplicate what was once there. The house was built in 1920 and Isabelle, the first lady of the house was responsible for its décor. Married in the beginning of the 20th century, she was a woman of the Victorian era and brought her Victorian sensibilities into the interior design. Like many middle class homes of the time, much or the furniture was passed down from previous generations, and style may have been more influenced by ancestors than by the trends of the current day. But Isabelle went one step further and maintained her preference for the Victorian look into the 1960’s long after it had fallen out of favor. The Victorian influence in the current restoration would have made Isabelle very happy.