My great-great-grandfather Charles E. Laughton was the lieutenant governor of Nevada and then of Washington. From my research, I have learned that he was respected and well-liked. Below I have posted a poem written about him in the late 1800s. It is about the music he played on his violin. (Do you like the poem? I do.)
After the poem, I have posted an article about his son, my great-grandfather, the thief. I have often wondered how and why the son squandered a legacy of respect and monetary comfort. Because of this mystery, I have for many years been intrigued by what is passed along from one generation to the next, whether it be financial situation and attitudes, disposition, or values.
I am delighted to count as friends and colleagues several people, including lawyers and financial advisors, who work with families to optimize their legacies; in doing so, these professionals make valuable contributions to generations of their client families.
Here is the poem written about my great-great-grandfather during the times of the wild, wild west.
THE GOVERNOR'S VIOLIN
'Mid the silken perfumed elegance,
Within a stately house, I've heard its rich tones ringing
Through the 'wilderings of Strauss,
And I've heard the sigh of gentle ones
Who listened while it bore
To charmed hearts, the sweetness
Of the touching "Trovatore."
I've heard it in the evening,
Within a quiet home,
Sing " Swanee River " till the bees
Came humming 'round the comb; 'Mid the phases of the wassail
And the joys of festal cheer, I've heard it change from gay to grave,
From lively to severe.
In tender tones of pleading;
In sighs of spent delight; In greetings to the morning
And in good-byes to the night;
In storms upon the ocean
And in the songs of birds,
I've heard its voice, like a living thing,
In sweetest human words.
I've heard it give, stentorian,
Command in battle's blare,
And heard it whisper, soft and low,
Like angels in the air.
'Mong brawny men, in mining camps,
I've seen it hush a brawl,
Till clenched hands are open palms
That in each other fall.
I've seen it gather little ones
About the player's knee,
As did the babes of olden time
'Round him of Galilee.
And to it oft I've listened,
Till all the world was kin,
While lovingly its master played
The Governor's violin.
Now let's look at his son, my great-grandfather. Because he is not in any history books, I know less about Ray than I do about his father Charles. An article from 1897, written a couple of years after his father died, gives a flavor of Ray's story.
GENTLY REARED, BUT YET A SNEAK-THIEF
Son of Ex-Governor Laughton of Nevada Arrested at Spokane.
Accused of Having Stolen Numerous Articles From the Cosmos Hotel.
Special Dispatch to The Call
SPOKANE, Nov. 28 -- Ray Laughton, only son of the late Charles E. Laughton, formerly Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, and afterward Lieutenant-Governor of this State, was arrested here yesterday for grand larceny. Mrs. Welch, proprietor of the Cosmos Hotel, is the complaining witness. Young Laughton's mother lives in San Francisco and has been notified of her son's trouble. Mrs. Welch charges that Laughton stole a watch and an overcoat left in her charge by a guest of the hotel. The watch was recovered from a pawnshop.
About a year ago Laughton went to live at the Cosmos. He was in reduced circumstances, it being said that he had been disowned by his relatives, save his mother. Mrs. Welch had known his family. Articles began to disappear from the hotel some weeks ago. The police asserted that Laughton was the culprit, but Mrs. Welch did not prosecute.
"It was because of his mother," said Mrs. Welch today. "While she is aware of her son's habits, still she clings to him as only a mother will, while his sister will no longer recognize him. It has been out of consideration for Mrs. Laughton that I have tried every way to reform Ray, but I see it is hopeless. Two weeks ago, after repeated warnings, I caught him taking money from the drawer, and then and there told him that I no longer dared to have him around the hotel. He left and took up his residence with a rough lot of fellows who occupied a single room over the Leroi saloon, across the street.
"Yesterday I missed a gold watch and an overcoat that had been left in my keeping by a guest. The watch was found in the pawnshop over the way, and the tag showed that Ray had pawned it. I suppose he got into my room while I was out and took the watch and pawned it for money to get drunk on. He confessed to stealing the coat also, and my son compelled him to return it. "I feel that nothing about here is safe so long as Ray is permitted to go unpunished so I have concluded for the sake of protection to prosecute him for this offense. Another young man is equally as guilty as Ray, and I shall cause his arrest also."
The police are pleased by the step taken by Mrs. Welch, as they say they will now be able to break up the gang with which Laughton trained.
I know that Ray enlisted for three years in 1898. He was on the USS Oregon in the Spanish-American War. I also know he was arrested for petit larceny in 1900 in Stockton, CA.
Not long ago someone posted this on Genforum, a genealogy Web site:
I was recently at the Nevada Historical Society in Reno and found an article about your long lost Raymond.
The article is on the front page of the Reno Evening Gazette dated March 19, 1915. His mother was living in San Francisco and had instituted a search for him.
He was found in New York City "in an obscure hotel in destitute circumstaces."
I don't know where or when my great-grandfather died.
Note: Flora Isabelle (Bender) Laughton, born in Greensburg, Ohio, April 2, 1848, was Raymond's mother. She kept a diary during her family's move west when she was a teenager. It was published by the Nevada Historical Society and is titled "Memoranda of a Journey Across the Plains from Bell Creek, Washington Co., Neb. to Virginia City, Nev., Terr. May 7 to August 4, 1863." It is great fun and extremely interesting to read, and can be obtained from the Society.
Note (added May 20, 2015): Click to read the details of Charles Laughton's death. And another click to read Flora's diary mentioned above.