William Lawrence Scott

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William Lawrence Scott
William Lawrence Scott (Pennsylvania Congressman).jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 27th district
In office
March 4, 1885 – March 3, 1889
Preceded bySamuel M. Brainerd
Succeeded byLewis F. Watson
10th and 12th Mayor of
Erie, Pennsylvania
In office
January 1, 1871 – December 31, 1871
Preceded byOrange Noble
Succeeded byCharles Manning Reed
In office
January 1, 1866 – December 31, 1866
Preceded byF. F. Farrar
Succeeded byOrange Noble
Personal details
Born(1828-07-02)July 2, 1828
Washington, D.C.
DiedSeptember 19, 1891(1891-09-19) (aged 63)
Newport, Rhode Island
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Mary Matilda Tracy
RelationsGustavus Scott (grandfather)
ParentsRobert Scott
Mary Ann Lewis
Alma materHampden-Sydney College

William Lawrence Scott (July 2, 1828 – September 19, 1891) was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania as well as a prominent horse breeder and horse racer.[1]

Early life[edit]

William Lawrence Scott was born on July 2, 1828 in Washington, D.C. to Mary Ann Lewis (d. 1879) and Colonel Robert Scott (U.S. Army) (1798–1835),[2] of Virginia, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, who was detailed to the nation's capital at the time of his son's birth.[3] Scott was orphaned as a boy. His elder brother, Robert Wainright Scott (1827–1866),[4] was educated at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, serving with distinction in the U.S. Civil War, died while commander of the USS Saginaw, in Acapulco, Mexico on January 5, 1866.[3][5]

His paternal grandfather was Gustavus Scott (1753–1800), a colonial lawyer and public official from Maryland who was appointed by President Washington the first Commissioner of Public Buildings for the City of Washington.[3] His maternal grandfather was Col. Henry Lewis of Virginia, a Judge.[2]

He attended the common schools and Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.


From 1840 to 1846, Scott served as a United States House of Representatives Page. After returning to Erie, Pennsylvania with Charles Manning Reed, at the end of Reed's term in the U.S. Congress, he was employed as a shipping clerk at Reed's lakeside wharves for several years. He then spent some years traveling, working as a peddler, fisherman, and clerk until he was 23 years old.

Scott became a prosperous land owner, investor, and businessman engaged in shipping, coal mining, iron manufacturing, banking, and railroad construction through various partnerships and the firm of W. L. Scott & Co., which he established around 1871.[3] One trade at the New York Stock Exchange was said to have earned him $2 million. His fortune was estimated at $15 million. He served as president of a number of railroad companies, including the New York, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk Railroad and the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad.[3]

Political career[edit]

Scott was elected mayor of Erie in 1866 and again in 1871. He served as a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1876 to 1884, and was appointed again in 1886. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1868, 1876, 1880, and 1888. Scott was considered a possible choice for United States Secretary of the Treasury under Grover Cleveland.[6][7]

Scott was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-ninth and Fiftieth Congresses. He served as chairman of the United States House Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Navy during the Fiftieth Congress. He was renominated in 1888 and again in 1890 but each time declined to be a candidate due to his health.[8][9]

As the reportedly wealthiest member of the House of Representatives at the time, and a close friend of President Grover Cleveland,[1][10] Scott did a great deal of entertaining at Scott House, which overlooked Old Plantation Creek. Scott had a passion for race horses and his farm had facilities, including a one-mile (1.6 km) race track, to breed and winter 35 northern-owned race horses.[11]

Horse breeding[edit]

In June 1883, Scott bought the 2,650-acre (10.7 km2) Hollywood Farm on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia from the heirs of the late Governor Littleton Tazewell for $55,000. His purchase included the Tazewell house which became known as the Scott House after he renovated and enlarged it in 1886. Scott bought the land primarily to establish a terminus, a harbor and a town for the services of his railroad, the New York, Pennsylvania and Norfolk. Scott immediately deeded part of his 2,650-acre (10.7 km2) purchase to the railroad and the following year, in 1884, he laid out the Town of Cape Charles, Virginia on 135 acres (0.55 km2).[12][13]

He established the Algeria Stock Farm in Erie, purchasing for $30,000 the French champion Rayon d'Or (the leading sire in North America in 1889) and a stock of high bred broodmares. Scott maintained a farm for yearlings in St. Charles, Maryland. Scott's horse Chaos won the Futurity Stakes in 1889. Scott was a stockholder and member of the board of the racetracks owned by the Coney Island Jockey Club, the Monmouth Park Association, and the Brooklyn Jockey Club.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1853, he was married to Mary Matilda Tracy (d. 1898), eldest daughter of John A. Tracy, an attorney in Erie, and the sister of Frank F. Tracy, a prominent member of the New York Stock Exchange and one-time president of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.[3] Together, they had:[1]

Scott died from heart failure on September 19, 1891 in Newport, Rhode Island.[1] His body was buried at Erie Cemetery.[18] He was interred in a mausoleum designed by E.L. Pelton, an Erie architect, completed in 1889 at a cost of $40,000 (equivalent to $1,091,259 today).[19]

At the time of his death, his wealth was estimated at $15,000,000 (equivalent to $409,222,222 today)[1] to $25,000,000 (equivalent to $682,037,037 today).[20] In December 1891, the value of the estate was estimated at no more than $7,000,000 (equivalent to $190,970,370 today), all of which was left to his family.[21]


Through his eldest daughter, he was the grandfather of Mathilde Scott Townsend (1885–1949), who was married to Peter Goelet Gerry (1879–1957), the son of Elbridge Thomas Gerry (1837–1927) and great-grandson of Elbridge Gerry (1744–1814), the fifth Vice President of the United States. They divorced in 1925 and later that same year, she married Sumner Welles (1892–1961), the Under Secretary of State from 1937 to 1943 during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency.[22]

Through his second daughter, he was the grandfather of Matilda Thora Wainwright Strong (1882–1939), who married Reginald Ronalds (1865–1924), the son of Fanny Ronalds, on February 24, 1906. They divorced in 1910 and she was later married to Clyde B. Leasure from June 28, 1917 until December 23, 1921.[16]


  2. ^ a b Hardy, Stella Pickett (1911). Colonial Families of the Southern States of America: A History and Genealogy of Colonial Families who Settled in the Colonies Prior to the Revolution. New York: Tobias A. Wright | Printer and Publisher. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Vol. XII. New York: The Society. 1886. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  4. ^ "CITY ITEMS". Daily Alta California (Volume 18, Number 5792). 17 January 1866. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  5. ^ Whitman, Benjamin (1896). Nelson's Biographical Dictionary and Historical Reference Book of Erie County, Pennsylvania: Containing a Condensed History of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the Several Cities, Boroughs and Townships in the County Also Portraits and Biographies of the Governor's Since 1790, and of Numerous Representative Citizens. S.B. Nelson. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  6. ^ Newark (Ohio) Daily Advocate, 23 Feb 1887
  7. ^ "NOT WANTING THE OFFICE.; CONGRESSMAN SCOTT NOT WAITING FOR SECRETARY MANNING'S SHOES". The New York Times. 1 February 1887. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  8. ^ "TO SUCCEED WILLIAM L. SCOTT". The New York Times. 1 October 1891. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  9. ^ "SCOTT, William Lawrence - Biographical Information". bioguide.congress.gov. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  10. ^ "SCOTT, William Lawrence (1828-1891) Guide to Research Papers". bioguide.congress.gov. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  11. ^ Danes, Ceri Larson, Old Things Are New Again, Eastern Shore News, 13 July 2005, as seen at Bay Creek Resort and Club website
  12. ^ "WHY THE COMMITTEE HESITATES". The New York Times. 30 November 1886. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  13. ^ "MR. SCOTT'S BIG FARM.; THE FINE ESTATE ON WHICH HIS HORSES WILL WINTER". The New York Times. 20 October 1889. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  14. ^ "The Townsend House (The Cosmos Club), Washington DC". historic-structures.com. Historic Structures. December 8, 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Once Aboard the Lugger - Annie Wainright Scott Strong | Book Lives". booklives.ca. Fortune Magazine. November 1934. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  16. ^ a b Reed, John Elmer (1925). "Charles H. Strong - Erie County, PA". www.onlinebiographies.info. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  17. ^ "Gannon University | Old Main". www.gannon.edu. Gannon University. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  18. ^ "WILLIAM L. SCOTT'S REMAINS.; MESSAGES OF CONSOLATION TO THE WIDOW OF THE EX-CONGRESSMAN". The New York Times. 23 September 1891. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  19. ^ "MR. SCOTT BUILDS A MAUSOLEUM". The New York Times. 26 November 1889. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  20. ^ From The Harrisburg (Penn.) Patriot, Oct. 8 (14 October 1891). "WILLIAM L. SCOTT'S WILL.; WHAT ARE SAID TO BE ITS GENERAL FEATURES -- A LARGE ESTATE". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  21. ^ "COL. W.L. SCOTT'S WILL.; NO PUBLIC BEQUESTS AND HIS PROPERTY LEFT TO HIS FAMILY". The New York Times. 30 December 1891. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  22. ^ Devine, Michael J. (February 2000). "Welles, Sumner (14 Oct. 1892-24 Sept. 1961)". www.anb.org. Oxford University Press: American National Biography Online. Archived from the original on 9 March 2017. Retrieved 9 March 2017.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Samuel M. Brainerd
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 27th congressional district

1885 - 1889
Succeeded by
Lewis F. Watson