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The History of the Macnish Family and Andrew's Legacy

Introduction

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.)

Part I
Early 1800’s- from Scotland to America

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.)
 Family lore claims William sold his scotch distillery and used the proceeds to come to America, however if this were so, it was it would have had to have been his father, Robert that did this. The lore claims a connection to Grand Mcnish Scotch. This is very unlikely, but owning a Scotch distillery in Scotland at this time was not uncommon, and the sale of one would have enabled Robert to move to America and live comfortably. 

Part II
Macnish’s move to the North Fork of Long Island

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.

Part III
The family falls on tough times

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.
     The tourism trade declined with the advent of the automobile and the hotel business declined with it. Mrs. Tuthill closed the hotel around 1930 and it was separated into three sections. Only one remains standing at the northwest corner of King and Second Streets in New Suffolk and is currently a private family home. The Main site of the hotel was on the the current site of the New Suffolk School's baseball diamond. (After the business closed Andrew, another avid duck hunter, used the pitcher and washbasins from the hotel for target practice, only three of which survive today.) When his father sold the hotel, Andrew went to work at the Nassau Point hotel (pictured in a shadow box in the kitchen). From numerous family photos, it appears that he and his wife Isabelle Berand (1865-1926) lived at the hotel and raised their children from 1898 to 1921. They also lived at a clubhouse on Robin”s Island where Andrew and later his son Walter were caretakers. Walter told stories of walking to school across the frozen bay that separated the island from the mainland.

Part IV
Andrew starts a family

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.
Walter Sr.’s son Richard grew up hunting ducks with his father and brother and raising game birds in the back yard. After he married his wife Elizabeth Montgomery, they made an apartment of the second floor. When Walter and Isabelle died, Richard and Elizabeth took over the plumbing and heating business and moved into the whole house where they raised their four children Mark, Rory, Tamee and Melissa. Richard died in 1999. The house opened as the Bed and Breakfast “Andrew’s Legacy” in the summer of 2004.


Part V
The House helps to tell the family story

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.
The oak wainscoting in the kitchen is a nod to what was originally on the walls. Pictures show wooden rockers on the front porch. The slag glass rack lamp on the library table under the stairs is original to the house and was an inspiration which led to the collection of over 10 rack lamps including a rare reverse painted lamp and a lamp with a lit base. These lamps are distributed through out the house. Sepia- toned family photographs decorate the walls and include daguerreotypes that date to the mid 19th century. The dinning room had an oak table and chairs, which inspired the oak motif that is in the room today. Elaborate oak furniture was common in middle class homes of the late 19th and early 20th century.  The convertible oak highchair (there is a lever in the back that when pulled converts the highchair into a rocker) has held 5 generations of MacNish children. The silver plated flatware was Isabelle’s pattern, “Orange Blossom” by Wm. Rogers and Son, Circ 1910. She collected it by sending in coupons that were in crates of oranges to redeem individual pieces. There are many unusual utensils including a “spork” a combination of a spoon and a fork used for eating ice cream. The glassware represents patterens that were popular in the mid 19th to early 20th centuries and includes a large collection of Rock Crystal from the Mckee glass company that was introduced in 1905.  The new Kohler and Campbell baby grand piano replaces a 1903 Doll and Son baby grand that was beyond repair. The children’s books that are in the book case in the living room are family heirlooms as well. In particular, the enclosed oak bookcase in the living room holds many original items that help tell the story of our family: glasses, beaded bags, evening gloves, christening caps, handkerchiefs, dolls, a daguerreotype, two family bibles, prayer books, and many other every day things that were cherished by our ancestors and help us personalize the past.
Other than minor alterations to accommodate bathrooms for the B&B, the main part of the house is pretty much as it was when it was built. The architectural style of the wrap around porch is modeled after the original front porch, the details of which were taken from the blue prints, which still exist. Much of the shrubbery and tress (including the triple-trunked cherry tree in the center of the property, the white lilacs, Rose of Sharon and blue hydrangea) were planted by Andrew himself. The back Victory garden which was started during World War II has been in continuous cultivation for over 60 years. Most of the family heirlooms that fill the house are still in use as is the woodshop in the cellar. Decoys that were hand carved by William, Andrew, Walter and Richard can be seen throughout the house. Although it was William that brought the MacNish family to the North Fork, the house at 35995 Main Road in Cutchogue is Andrew’s legacy.

 

Footnotes:

    • From “A History of Robin’s Island” by Betty Wells

    • From “Suffolk Times” 75 Years ago today