What’s in a Name: Barzillai Ansley

Uncovering the origin of Barzillai Ansley Scott’s name has surfaced some intriguing genealogical and family history clues. In a way paper records have not, the name Barzillai Ansley led to discovering a deeper family relationship between the Scotts and the Ansleys.

For approximately four generations these two families have passed down each other’s family names leaving historical breadcrumbs that broaden what we know of both families today. It seems this relationship started in the late 1700s as both families were prominent citizens of New Brunswick (partitioned from Nova Scotia in 1785) as they established themselves in Canada with other Loyalists.

Barzillai Ansley name is passed down thru Ansley (green) and Scott (blue) family lines,
other names were passed down also such as Robert Scott

In about 1790 Lee Scott’s grand aunt, Mary Scott marries Reverend Thomas Ansley, son of Loyalist Ozias Ansley Ensign, in Sussex Vale, New Brunswick. Thomas Ansley is a prominent Baptist preacher in New Brunswick. Thomas and Mary create a permanent link between the Ansley and Scott families thru their children’s names, in particular, Robert Scott Ansley and Thomas Scott Ansley. In addition, their daughter Mary Jane marries her first cousin, Barzillai Ansley Esq., a merchant documented in a trip to Trinidad along with his father Daniel Ansley, Mary Scott’s brother-in-law.

Merchants Arriving from Trinidad in 1851, Daniel Ansley and his son
Barzillai Ansley, the son-in-law of Thomas Ansley and Mary Scott

Barzillai Ansley names his son Barzillai Ansley, an agent for International Steamship Co. The name is passed down for two more generations, Barzillai Sanders Ansley and then Barzillai Jack Ansley.

On the Scott side, in 1869 Lee Scott and Charlotte Hicks name their 8th child Barzillai Ansley, my great grandfather. The name Barzillai continued in the Scott family for a few more generations with Lee Barzillia Scott, Barzilla Menzo Winnie, and Robert Barzillai Locke all receiving a variant of the name.

Thomas Scott Ansley’s original home
in Mineral Point

But names were not all that was shared across these families. It seems plausible that Barzillai Ansley Scott obtained some of his business prowess from his Ansley cousins that lived within 100 miles of his Wisconsin home.

The Ansley presence in Wisconsin began with Thomas and Mary Ansley’s children. John Douglas Ansley arrived in 1829 and opened a supply store, then in 1835 he smelted the first copper in Iowa County, and by the 1840s was a charter member of the Freemasons Lodge at Mineral Point, the second lodge in Wisconsin at the time.

Traveling by train from Mineral Point to Tomah, Wisconsin would have been at least a day journey, but certainly not infeasible (railroad map)

Meanwhile, JD Scott’s brother Thomas Scott Ansley, also an early settler in Iowa County, held numerous influential roles. He became the Secretary for Southwestern Wisconsin Industrial Association, the Secretary for Graceland Cemetery, the Postmaster of Mineral Point, a committee member working to establish a Mineral Point railroad, a committee member establishing Civil War enlistment bounty offers, and he is listed under the heading of Insurance in the 1870 Mineral Point city directory. Thomas Scott Ansley’s son, Thomas Scott Ansley Jr, graduated from University of Wisconsin Madison in Law, purchased multiple tracks of land in southern Wisconsin, and was the first owner and publisher of the Iowa County Democrat, established in 1866, among many other business pursuits.

So could Barzillai Ansley Scott have known his Ansley cousins and learned from them? BA Scott could have taken a train to Mineral Point or his cousins certainly could have done the reverse to Tomah. But it would not have been an easy trip, nonetheless it would have been a feasible trip.

Tomah, Wisconsin, late 1800s
What is likely the scene in Tomah that BA Scott knew

Somehow BA Scott learned a lot about business such as financing, legal aspects, operations, the macro business environment and opportunities, plus business and political leverage of high society connections. In addition, he understood operational details of specific industries such as railroads, insurance, and lumber. Given the occupations of his father and older siblings (generally farmers and railroad conductors) it is likely BA Scott gathered this knowledge outside of his immediate family. His father-in-law, Hiram Palmer, may have been a source for detailed lumber industry knowledge, but not likely much beyond this given Palmer’s livelihood in leading direct lumber cutting operations.

It is an intriguing and plausible possibility that BA Scott knew his Wisconsin Ansley cousins, who he was named after, and learned what it took to be a highly successful businessman from them. However, only circumstantial evidence connects them — but it is curious that Lee and Charlotte name him Barzillai Ansley and that the Wisconsin Ansleys are savvy businessmen.

Sources:

  1. History of Iowa County, Wisconsin by Western Historical Society, published in 1881
  2. Wisconsin Railroad Map, 1900 https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4121p.ct001917/?r=0.494,0.819,0.408,0.178,0
  3. Ancestry.com, Scott-Hopkins Family Tree, contains many source citations for each individual at https://ancstry.me/2XSx1Ri

@Elizabeth Scott Wright 2019

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