Thursday, March 17, 2016

Katharine and Clermont: A Descendant Solves an Old Mystery

Katharine Livingston Timpson has been the subject of much discussion here at Clermont lately.  Katharine's split with her father, John Henry Livingston took her out of the country in 1905, where geography and time misted over many of the details of her life.

But ever since her great-grandson donated a collection of family portraits from England, and then we got reconnected with her grandson in America, we've been unearthing her nearly-lost history.  Most recently we were thrilled to have the inheritance of Clermont itself cleared up for us.


You see, Katharine's grandfather Clermont Livingston (at left) was the estate's owner during the latter half of the 19th century.  His will dictated that the estate be given to his only surviving child, John Henry.  At some point, however, he changed the will to pass the estate to his granddaughter Katharine, bypassing his son, but leaving him life tenancy and spawning a century-worth of rumors as to why.

After he died in 1895, Katharine gave Clermont back to her dad (okay--so actually she sold it to him for $1), but given the up-and-down nature of their relationship, the timing is everything.

If the relationship was in the rocky period of the 1920s, did John Henry push his oldest daughter--who was after 1900 well-established with her own house and a sizable trust fund--into returning the house to him so that it could go to his youngest girls?  Or if it was before 1905, was the relationship was in a good spot when Katharine (at right) sold her childhood home back to her father, and what was the motivation?

After Katharine's grandson found Grandfather Clermont Livingston's will, some of these questions could finally be answered.  Clermont's will did indeed first give the house to his son John Henry, but the will was changed just months after he married his second wife Emily (at left).  So it seems most likely that Emily was--as supposed--the sticking point between father and son.  As a non-Livingston, the possibility of her inheriting Clermont if John Henry pre-deceased her would have been unacceptable.

Looking further into the documents, our friend found us the answer: Katharine sold the mansion back to her father in 1897 "in consideration of love and affection."  A letter from Katharine's son reported that she did this over her father's "protests" so perhaps at the time John Henry had accepted his own father's decision.  Father and daughter had just spent several years together enjoying some international travel (at right in India) so you might imagine that their relationship was in a good place.

So it was after:
--the death of Emily, Katharine's "charming" step mother
--a whole bunch of international travel together
--Clermont was renovation with a new wing and a fancy veranda

And it was before:
--John Henry married his 3rd wife (whom Katharine did not like)
--John Henry's 2nd and 3rd daughters were born
--Katharine got married, had children, and moved away.
--Katharine's finances took a nosedive in the 1920s

Was this before or after John Henry refused his daughter's marriage to an Austrian navy man?  Now that, I just don't know.

Much later, after her father's death in 1927, Katharine (at right) attempted to get the sale of the estate reversed, saying that it had been made "under duress."  That's in direct conflict with the "consideration of love and affection," but after 30 years, Katharine's trust fund had practically run out, and she had five children's futures to secure.  It could be that the pressure lead her to remember the sale with different eyes.

I suppose not all the mysteries are cleared up, but at least now the chronology is clear.