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The Scotts of the Scott House

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, as William Scott reached his 70s in the 1880s, his health began to decline.

The attorney who had the historic Scott House in uptown Hillsboro built 175 years ago died in the Scott House mansion about 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 13, 1886.

According to his obituary in the local newspaper, “For several years his health has been gradually failing and for months all hopes for recovery had been abandoned. Before his general health became so seriously impaired he was able to be driven about in his carriage, but lately he has been confined to his home by nervous prostration, attendant upon old age.

“The funeral services were conducted by Dr. McSurely at the late residence Monday morning, after which the remains were interred in the Hillsboro Cemetery.”

You may or may not recall Dr. William Jasper McSurely, who was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in 1873 when the Temperance Crusade began in Hillsboro.

I mentioned the good Dr. McSurely in an offering or three in my Mother Thompson and the Temperance Crusade series a few years ago.

Fast-forward about two decades from when Mr. Scott died, and on Oct. 20, 1908, Elizabeth Parsons Scott, his wife, passed away.

Mrs. Scott was a 60-year member of the Presbyterian Church and the Women’s Crusade. Her charitable works earned her the title “Lady Bountiful.”

When a washerwoman heard of Mrs. Scott’s passing, she reportedly said, “That means a hard winter for lots of poor people in Hillsboro.”

The Scotts’ son, Samuel Parsons Scott, was born in 1846 at the mansion, attended school in Hillsborough and graduated from Miami University in 1866 – the youngest member of his graduating class and its valedictorian. He earned his master’s degree in 1887 and began his law practice in Leavenworth, Kan. and later in San Francisco, Calif. until 1875.

In 1895, Samuel married Elizabeth Woodbridge, whose grandfather, John Woodbridge, owned the Rapid Forge, located along Paint Creek in western Ross
County. Samuel and Elizabeth began their marriage in a home built by the Scotts across the street from the mansion where the Veterinary Hospital now stands. After his mother died in 1908, the couple moved into the Scott House mansion.

Samuel traveled in Europe extensively and authored two books on Spain and the Moorish Empire. He was well-versed in Spanish law, a life member of the Royal Meteorological Society in England and maintained one of the most extensive private libraries of the day that covered an entire floor of his office building.

The brilliant, but according to some, eccentric gentleman drove an electric car and was often referred to as overbearing.

At his death in 1929, Samuel left his entire estate to the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, except for $75,000 left to his wife. Samuel’s will stated that the reason for leaving no more than that sum to his wife was because, “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.”

Whoa, Nellie! As you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with Elizabeth.

The Scott estate was appraised at $1,139,867.56, and after contesting the will, Mrs. Scott received 55 percent of the entire estate, with the remaining amount going to the college. An endowment fund was created by the college and the on-campus Scott library and administration building were named for Samuel Parsons Scott.

Mrs. Scott, having no children, lived her remaining life in Hillsboro in the mansion, maintaining a chauffeured limousine and spending the winters in a hotel in Columbus. She passed away in 1946 and was buried beside her husband in the Hillsboro Cemetery.

I chuckle as I imagine the Scotts still quarreling as they lie in repose in the Hillsboro Cemetery.

Oh, and in case you’re curious, $1,139,867.56 in 1929 would be worth nearly 17 million bucks these days.

We’ll talk more about the Scott House and the Scott family, but let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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