This year’s Christmas present came a bit after Christmas but is no less welcome. Fate has handed me a cousin! Not a good friend who feels like a cousin, but a cousin who feels like a good friend! If you followed the series about Strachans homesteading on the prairie, you know that Sam and Beulah Strachan took a long trip to the West Coast. One of the places they stayed was in Victoria, B.C. with Sam’s cousin, George Ramsey Jr., and aunt, Mary Welsh Ramsay, in Victoria, B.C. I posted a photo of their house on Craigdurroch Road.
THOMAS WELSH (d. @ 1888) and JEANNIE GILLIS WELSH (d. @ 1900)
1. Jeannie Welsh, never married. (d. @1900)
2. Ellen Welsh Robertson (d. 1920)
3. Margaret Welsh, unmarried, died in early womanhood
4. Catharine Welsh Strachan (d. 1918)
5. Mary Welsh Ramsay (d. @ 1940-42)
6. Mina Welsh Allan, (d. @ 1954)
7. John G. Welsh b. 1866 (d @ 1938)
A few days ago Katherine Rouzie sat down at her computer and idly searched for a photo of the Ramsay house in Victoria. She found it, and me, and a whole set of cousins! We share Thomas and Jeanie (Gillis) Welsh as our great-great-grandparents. Our great-grandmothers were sisters. I’m the granddaughter of Sam Strachan, whose mother was Catharine Welsh Strachan, and she’s the granddaughter of George Dyer Ramsay and Mary Welsh Ramsay and daughter of Will and Jean Harcus. All you need to remember is that we are part of a Scots diasphora that landed in the Pacific Northwest.
Like my other Strachan cousins, Katherine is bookish -- in fact, a librarian -- with a warm, humorous, pretty face and an eye for color. She is married to an architect. But here’s the spooky part: she lives and has lived for decades just up the street from where I grew up in Portland -- yet we never knew each other. And it appears that through the Harcus side, a cousin married a Montana Rostad, so I’m related to Lee Rostad, the noted historian and scholar. Well, actually she would be my Harcus’ cousin’s mother-in-law. Let’s go at this the Indian way: they’re “all my relations!”
Katherine says that the Harcus home in Everett that I noted in my “Ranger Trip” blog was later replaced by a “much grander” home on (naturally) Grand Avenue. Will Harcus founded K&H Printing with his brother-in-law Kane, who built an identical house next door. The business is still thriving under different ownership.
Mary Welch Ramsay had a ruby and diamond wedding band which was handed down through Katherine’s mother and is now Katherine's wedding band, engraved “MW - GR April 21, 1881." Scots conserve and treasure the past, even as they light out for “the territories.” Now will come a long period of matching memories and tales, some happy and some sad, and of absorbing the difference it makes to approach our family history through the Welsh sisters. All this time my Strachan cousins and I have been celebrating Clan Strachan (“Not Timid, But Cautious”) and ignoring the Welshs. What the heck is THEIR family motto?
So far the best tale of all comes through the mother of Welsh girls, Jeannie Gillis Welsh. As recorded by Gene Strachan, here it is:
THE GILLIS STORY
John Brown Gillis was a ship builder on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia. His wife (I do not know her first name) died in childbirth about 1825 and is buried on the lslands, I believe. Gillis decided to take the seven children to Scotland via New York. He was a rich man and carried on his person $2460 for expenses. Gillis died in New York under dubious circumstances. The seven children, accompanied by a black servant, set sail for Scotland. The youngest child, a baby, died at sea and was buried at sea. The remaining six children were taken in by relatives upon arrival in Scotland.
The $2460 is an interesting story. When Gillis arrived in New York, he had put his money in a bank where it would be safe. Gillis had a partner in the shipyard business, a man by the name of Gibson, who made efforts (according to Matt Robertson) to draw the money. He did not succeed. The Gillis children were suspicious of Gibson and refused to give Gibson authority to draw the money. From this point it is not clear what happened, but the money lay in the bank for seventy years. Imagine, a small fortune in 1825 terms!
Apparently nothing was done to dispose of the money until about 1896 when Matt Robertson’s mother, Ellen Welsh Robertson, and his sister, Jeannie Robertson Abbott, found the money with the help of a banker. $2450 was in a bank in Albany, NY. [no mention of interest] By this time there were 72 claimants but few close heirs. The money was drawn and divided four ways.
Jean Gillis Welsh, Matt’s grandmother, received a fourth as she was the lone survivor of the six Gillis children. In 1896 the six Gillis children, other than Jean, had three living children. Each received one fourth.
Aunt Lily, wife of John Gillis Welsh, lived in a house in Scotland that was purchased, at least partially, from this money.
My great-grandparents and Katherine's great-grandparents are buried in the same cemetary in Oklahoma.