Biographical / Historical
Alexander Hamilton Fulton, Middlebury College Trustee and benefactor and donor of his family papers, is in fact the end of a line of Scottish immigrants to Cote des Neiges, Canada. Mr. Fulton had no issue, and was predeceased by his brother, John Thomson Fulton.
Mr. Fulton’s mother, Jean Montgomery Thomson, was the product of the joining of the Taits and the Thomsons, and of five siblings she was the only one who married. The Taits and Thomsons, were Scottish families of farmers in Cote des Neiges, which in their time, (19th Century into the early 20th) was an independent rural village at the foot of Mont Royal, Province of Quebec, Canada. The early families all had several children, and although the papers do not provide elaborate detail for all of them, there are certainly interesting and sometimes quite touching stories to be traced. The earliest identifiable Tait is Alexander who married Isabella Creik. They were the parents of William, Robert and Alexander who married Elizabeth Shiells. Alexander and Elizabeth had four sons (Thomas, Alexander, William, James) and Jean. The first two named sons had four daughters each. William never married and was a farmer in Cote des Neiges all his life. He left his gold watch to his brother Alexander. James, who was William’s Executor, became a minister, married Ellen Starke, and had one daughter, Helen. Thomas and Alexander had four daughters each, all of whom were remembered in William Tait’s Will. Jean married William Thomson, had an interesting life with him, and they were Alexander Hamilton Fulton’s maternal grandparents.
The earliest Thomson recorded in these papers is Johnston, who married a Miss McGuffie. They had three sons (William, John, Robert) and a daughter, Margaret, who died, unwed, in 1843. William emigrated to seek his fortune in Australia at the age of 23, returning in 1858 to marry the aforementioned Jean Tait and return with her to Australia. In 1871, Jean and William and their five children returned to Montreal, bankrupt, insolvent, but with honor intact. The newspaper to be found in Folder #42, The Gippsland Times of Nov. 14, 1871, details the testimonial dinner given in William’s honor, and suggests how much he was appreciated and revered in the community to which he had given 23 years. Other evidence reveals that his failure was not caused by ineptitude or lack of hard work, but instead as a result of having loaned money to someone who did not repay, and William therefore made good the money, and in repaying it ruined himself. “All is lost save Honour,” said his friends, (“…the integrity, the uprightness that have enabled you to look even adverse circumstances in the face, and to grapple manfully with a reverse of fortune…to carve out a fortune in the New Dominion with the proud words graven on your scutcheon ‘All is lost save honour!’”) and the auction list of “Airlie,” the farm that William Thomson had to sell, is wrenching to read. Jean Thomson received many letters (as did William) in subsequent years from friends remaining in Australia in which she is addressed as “Mrs. Willie.”
William found work running a “shoddy mill” in Montreal, but money was always tight and in 1872, he sought relief by applying to his mother’s estate by having to declare bankruptcy. His mother had died in 1868. Shortly after arrival in Montreal, he bought the household goods of this brother, John. John disappears from the record after selling his household furniture and effects to William.
Letters reveal that William’s father, Johnston Thomson, “told him so,” saying that had he, William, only bought land when he suggested it, he wouldn’t be in such difficulty. Johnston, himself, at this time, was in Riviere du Loup En Bas, farming…but he, too, found it expedient to sell up and leave in 1875, to remove to Port Lavaca, Texas, where his son, Robert, was set up. Farming in Riviere du Loup was evidently not a great success. Johnston’s birthdate is unknown, but in 1875 William was 50, so widower Johnston was no longer young when he moved from Quebec Province to Texas, U.S.A.
The papers document the following about the five children of William and Jean (known as “Jennie”)Thomson: William Thomson, Jr. may have been the eldest, but his birth date is unknown. He seems to have been an attorney who died unmarried in 1936. Johnston Alexander Thomson, born 1860, was indentured to a machinist from age 15 to 21, after which he took a one year commercial course at Montreal Business College. He was a much esteemed supervisor of the Factory Department of the Canadian Paper Company. He died in 1901 at the age of 41. Margaret Elizabeth, born in 1863 died in 1894, unmarried, and more than that is unknown. Robert Thomson, Jr. (named not for his father but for his uncle who may not have had any children) was born in 1864, had a successful career as a ship engineer. His death in 1904of heart disease is vividly described in letters from associates to his family. He died without issue.
Jean Montgomery Thomson married John Hamilton Fulton in 1895. The Fultons are also a Scottish family who lived in Montreal and environs. She was born in 1874 and gave birth to two sons, John Thomson and Alexander Hamilton in 1900 and 1908, respectively. The family initially lived in New Orleans, LA, where John was a banker. John Fulton rose to the Presidency of the National Park Bank of New York, and the family apparently lived at 11 East 68th Street in New York City.
From about 1923, John Hamilton Fulton owned “Braidlea,” an estate/farm in Essex, NY, on Lake Champlain. John Fulton died in 1927, at the age of 59 . “Braidlea” was put on the market in1930. A sheet of letterhead paper in the file reveals that Braidlea was “Breeders of Holstein cattle, White Leghorn poultry and sheep, apples, eggs, potatoes, hay.” There was a Manager/Superintendent, as Fulton plainly was no farmer except in name.
John H. Fulton was apparently the second oldest of seven siblings. He had an interest in the Fulton/Hamilton genealogy, and his papers on the subject can be found in Box 5, Folder #1, Fulton Family Series. John and Jean Fulton’s elder son, John Thomson, died at the age of 30 in Guelph, Ontario, but Alexander Hamilton Fulton lived to the age of 78, and died in Plattsburgh, NY where he had lived for some time. Being without issue, he left his estate (exclusive of some bequests) to the President and Fellows of Middlebury College, with whom he had served with distinction as a Trustee.
Much of the pertinent information about Alexander Hamilton Fulton can be found in the Middlebury College Catalogue in his entry as a Trustee. He attended The Hotchkiss School and Yale, but his time in university was interrupted by a serious illness, and he did not earn a degree at any institution. “Alec” was but 19 years old when his father died, and 21 or so when his elder brother died. These emotional blows may have contributed to his illness, which has not been named. He was thereafter an autodidact with a special interest in meteorology. He evidently enhanced this self-education by extensive foreign travel. It may be that as the only surviving son of a wealthy and accomplished father, he preferred a quiet life of study and travel and eschewed competition. His needs evidently were met without his having a profession or career, enabling him to further worthy causes, and to serve Middlebury College as a valued Trustee.