Samuel Parsons Scott, who was born in the Highland County Historial Society’s Scott House in Hillsboro and later lived there again, was undoubtedly a brilliant man. He was a historian, an author, a translator, a traveler, and a successful attorney. Scott began his career as a wealthy Hillsboro businessman operating his law practice and writing books of his travels. Near the end of his life, he spent his days as a recluse in his mansion, transcribing ancient laws and creating one of the more vengeful wills ever written.
Scott was born in 1846 and raised in Hillsboro. He received a classics-based education at Hillsboro’s The Academy, a private school for wealthy children in Highland County. Scott graduated from Miami University in 1866 as class valedictorian. During the years of 1868-75, it can be inferred that he spent much of his time traveling, though there are fallacies in this theory. Scott’s book, “Through Spain,” recounts his experiences in Europe, but key details and dates are incorrect. Some historians speculate that Scott may have never traveled to Spain, but instead used other accounts to add intrigue to his writing.
Despite possible errors in his works, Scott was a prominent, well-liked attorney with many friends and colleagues. He greatly enjoyed his small-town fame, remaining active in local events all while managing a successful law firm. Scott was the leader of the local Knights of Templar and the Freemasons, a member of Hillsboro City Council, and president of the 1894 Hillsboro Fair. He was also the single largest shareholder of three national banks in Hillsboro. At the time of his father’s death in 1886, Scott was wealthy, widely admired, and a leading Hillsboro citizen.
At age 49, Scott married Elizabeth Woodridge Smart. She was from a well-off Chillicothe family, and the marriage solidified Scott’s position in Highland County high society. Not much is known about the Scott’s marriage in the earlier years, though their relationship became strained in later years.
Scott’s prosperity severely declined in 1896 when the bank he presided over closed and liquidized its assets. In the fallout of the liquidation, Scott was found guilty of malfeasance after turning a blind eye to embezzlement and fraudulent claims. After the embarrassment of losing his bank and his alleged wrongdoings, Scott became a disgraced name in Hillsboro. The once loved attorney shut himself into his late father’s mansion and poured over ancient law manuscripts.His marriage, one likely formed for personal gain, began to fall apart. Scott withdrew into his library, an impressive collection of more than 4,200 titles and 8,000 volumes.
Scott died at age 83 on May 29, 1929. Though his life was filled with peculiarities, his will was a vindictive and unusual document that caused many conflicts even after his death.
When the will was read, hs wife discovered that her husband had all but cut her out of his will, leaving her only $75,000 of his $1.25 million fortune. Today, that would equal about $18 million. Elizabeth received only 6 percent of her husband’s estate. The reason listed for Elizabeth’s meager inheritance stung the most.
“On account of the insults, outrages, cruelty, disgrace and humiliation which she had constantly, and without reason, during my entire life, heaped upon me, she is wholly undeserving of my generosity,” one account reads.
Elizabeth was furious, suing for a greater portion of the estate. She eventually received 55 percent of Scott’s money. The remaining cash was donated to the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where Scott believed he had been cured of hay fever years ago.
The legacy of Scott is preserved in his works as an author and in historical accounts of his prominence as a Hillsboro citizen. Although he eventually became a bitter recluse in his estate, he is remembered for his eccentricities and vengeful will. He is buried in the Hillsboro Cemetery alongside his estranged wife. The inscription under her name reads, “Born Chillicothe, Ohio. Died February 8, 1946. Loved, admired, and most highly respected by all who knew her”. Her husband’s inscription simply reads, “1846-1929.”
It seems Elizabeth Scott had the last say in the bitter feud with her husband Samuel Scott.
Information for this story came from https://romanlegaltradition.org/contents/2014/RLT10-KEARLEY.PDF.
Isabella Warner is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.