The Tiffany Story
Written by Rex Ennis
posted on January 13, 2016 12:28
This article is the direct result of a document given to me by my wife’s cousin and my dear friend; MaryLou Rusho. Some years ago MaryLou gave me a list of the 1921/22 District Number 1 tax payers; District Number 1 was associated with what is now called the Lower Schoolhouse on Grindstone. Interestingly enough, the list included property not on Grindstone, but near it; one of those properties was West Crawford Island.
The tax payer listed for West Crawford was Mrs. J. B. Tiffany. Last summer I was contacted by Susie Smith who had an inquiry about the Tiffany name in the Islands during the Gilded Age; at the same time I came upon the list given me by MaryLou. The only association I could remember up to that point was the fact that Tiffany & Co. had made many of the silver cups given to River’s race boat victors. Then who was Mrs. J. B. Tiffany and was there any association with Tiffany & Co. or Louis Comfort Tiffany of stained glass fame?
First, I refer to Susan Weston Smith’s book, “First Summer People, Thousand Islands 1650-1910.” The book provides historical information for more than 900 islands. Unfortunately the tiny island West Crawford was not included, but Crawford Island was. Now known as Bluff Island, the Island was recorded on the 1818 British Hydrographic Chart as Crawford. The hydrographic survey was accomplished by Capt. William FitzWilliam Owen. Capt. Owen named the islands in this area after officers who fought with Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular Wars against France and Napoleon. Susan published the biographical sketch of Maj.-Gen. Robert Craufurd (1764-1812) in her book.
Thus we have the origin of Crawford, but now do the other two fit? The island was given a number on a survey map in 1897 that number was 109! The survey and the map it produced were required in the Satterlee vs Yates case to determine title to the small islands surrounding Grindstone. Although the survey was done in 1897 legal action continued until a court ordered auction was held in August 1906.
At the August 1906 auction Island #109 or West Crawford was sold to George E. Morse of Clayton, NY. Morse was an attorney who purchased islands for the presumed benefit of his clients. The title of #109 or “Kitty Harrison Island” was in the name of Fanny G. Tiffany of New York City.
There are records of Morse transferring title to other islands he purchased, but none has been found for #109. Therefore, probably one of the following events occurred: Morse was working for Tiffany and made the purchase to protect Tiffany’s interest or Morse discovered that Tiffany’s title was valid and #109 should not have been part of the Satterlee – Yates case.
What’s in a name? West Crawford remains the name on NOAA charts, but locally it is a different story. At the time of the sale to Tiffany it was “Kitty Harrison Island.”6 Thirty-one years later Tiffany had failed to pay the taxes so it was sold by the Jefferson County Treasurer to Mabel M. Merwin as “Kitty Harris Island.” It can be assumed that the new name was the result of the “son” being dropped over the thirty year period.
Who was Kitty Harrison? Prior to Tiffany, the island had been purchased in 1875 by John Brooks Hamilton. Hamilton was a banker associated with the Chase and Whitney firms; he also was a speculator and had purchased a number of islands for resale, including Vanderbilt Island and Point Angiers. Hamilton’s sister Mary F. Hamilton was married to Edwin Harrison of Montclair, NJ; they had two children; Carrie Harrison and Kate or Kitty Harrison. In John B. Hamilton’s probate records, both Kate and Kitty are used. The mystery is solved; Kitty Harrison was John B. Hamilton’s niece.
Who was Mrs. J. B. (Fanny)Tiffany and was there a connection to Tiffany & Co. and Louis Comfort Tiffany? Joseph Burr Tiffany was a second cousin once removed to Louis Comfort Tiffany; Charles L. Tiffany was the founder of Tiffany & Co. to whom Joseph Burr Tiffany was first cousin twice removed.
Joseph Burr Tiffany was well-known in his own right, but not as famous as his cousins; he was an accomplished designer. He had his own firm and also worked for Steinway pianos in their Art Piano Department. He designed a piano for the White House during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. He studied interior design in Europe in the 1880s and was involved with the decoration of some of the “most beautiful homes in this country.”
 St. Lawrence River Chart #6, Published in 1876, Corps of Engineers, War Department, Washington, DC
 The Thousand Islands – Hotels, Parks, Cottages, Reservations, Improved and Unoccupied Islands, Dinner Camps, Excursion Routes and Channels, Copyright 1898, Frank H. Taylor, Philadelphia, PA
 St. Lawrence River NOAA Chart #14774, Dept. of Commerce, Washington, DC
 Survey Map of Grindstone and Surrounding Islands, Carter & Brownell, 1897, Jefferson County Clerk
 See Thousand Islands Life, November 2015, “Grindstone’s Small Islands” Rex Ennis
 Book 322 Pages 2 and 343, 11 August 1906, Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, Watertown, NY
 Book 303 Page 539, 16 August 1902, Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, Watertown, NY
 Book 407 Page 426, 24 August 1933, Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, Watertown, NY
 Book 206 Page 313, 27 October 1875, Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, Watertown, NY
 Obituary of John Brooks Hamilton, New York Herald, 16 December 1901
 New York State Census 1855, Kings County, Brooklyn City, Ward 13, E. D. 1
 New York Wills and Probate Records, Ancestry.com
 “The Tiffanys of America” Nelson Otis Tiffany, New York
 ”The Peacock Room” 11 December 2009 (Webpage)
[See also: “Grindstone’s Small Islands”, published in TI Life, November, 2015.
By Rexford M. Ennis
Copyright 2014 Rexford M. Ennis All Rights Reserved
Rex Ennis has written several articles for TI Life. His bio is recorded in Contributors, in December, 2008. In the past two years, Rex has published two important books on the Thousand Islands. The first, published in 2010, Toujours Jeune Always Young, the biography of Charles G. Emery was reviewed in the June 2010 issue. The second, Saints, Sinners and Sailors of the Gilded Age: A compendium of biographical sketches, centered on the Gilded Age, in the Thousand Islands, describes the biographies of every name appearing on an 1889 map, published by Frank H. Taylor, called: “Map of the Thousand Islands; Hotels, Parks and Cottages.” See the book review in our July 2011 issue; you will find the map described in the July 2010 issue, and in the August 2011 issue. Luckily for TI Life readers, Rex is hard at work on a new book – so stay tuned.
Comment by: Rod Rahe
Left at: 10:17 PM Thursday, January 14, 2016
Very interesting! I wonder then, did any of the Tiffany's spend any time on the River?
Comment by: Rex Ennis
Left at: 4:24 PM Friday, January 15, 2016
Mrs. Joseph B. Tiffany was formerly Fanny Gere of Syracuse; they were married in Syracuse on 21 October 1884. Fanny was the only daughter of N. Stanton Gere of Geddes, near Syracuse; her brother James Belden Gere was a prominent neurologist in New York City. Stanton was prominent as a banker, contractor and Superintendent of the Salt Works. Although extensive research has not revealed a direct mention of either Joseph or Fanny Tiffany in the Thousand Islands; it seems logical that they must have visited at some it or other given Fanny’s hometown as Syracuse and their ownership of an island albeit small.
Comment by: Mary politis
Left at: 12:57 PM Saturday, January 16, 2016
Hello, Im the person who mentioned to susan smith about the tiffany store in alex bay. Ive heard stores for years and was intrigued what the history was maybe pictures if available? It out be nice as the historical society i will celebrate 150 years anniversary. it would make a wonderful historical fact for people who visit or live here. That was a wonderful article and i enjoyed it and especially all the work went into the finding of this valuable information. Many churches around the are have tiffany windows. its a hidden treasure we have and a good chamber of commerce promotion point. thanks so very much again.
Comment by: Jack Patterson
Left at: 3:01 PM Sunday, January 17, 2016
Alas, Rex- I'm going to have to re read your work above. I think I get the connection (to Louis Comfort Tiffany and the store, say) but maybe needs a re reading for me to be sure. But as usual thanks for your excellent historiography ... and exactness.
For my own part: West Crawford has a fascination. A truly, 'rock' island. And isolated in its own way. Draws my attention somehow thus. Too, 'stoppers', the Picton Channel from the south. And we, long ago (1940s and 1950s), headed out of Clayton (town dock then 'in front' by the coal dock) for Axeman (in the Lake Fleet Group) late at night with weekend boatloads (in our, 'Chief') of men fresh arriven from New York City after busy work weeks. Few cottagers then; few lights, or other craft. And we needed to 'clear' her in late night storms and mist and fog. May I tell you, West Crawford was our chief impediment to a safe trip home. It was, do we leave her to port or to starboard? I see (from your map) Captain ' Visger' had the same problem many, many years prior. We called the island, "Mosquito Island" as to its size. Last year, by chance, I lingered just offshore in the current and swell. Has a, what we would call, 'fisherman's shack', on it. Yet on the ' shack' new windows. Too, if you go there- clear and clean deep water all around and stone- ancient looking stone (concrete) ... steps leading ashore in the 'back'- north side.
To me- an island of ancient mystical vintage. Have seen in 70 odd years, no inhabitants.
Comment by: Christopher Matthews
Left at: 11:52 AM Friday, January 22, 2016
Great article Rex. I'll add a little modern knowlege. The island was aquired sometime in the early 1900s by my Grandfather's (Julian M. Fitch of Round Island) Aunt & I think her sister, Julian's mother. Currently the island is owned by Julian and is used sparingly as Jack Patterson mentioned above. There is talk among the family of repairing or replacing the dock so it can once again be enjoyed. Our family has always enjoyed West Crawfor, or "The Little Island" as it's referred to in our family.
Comment by: Jack Patterson
Left at: 4:03 PM Sunday, January 24, 2016
So nice, Christopher. My compliments to your family. A very islandy island. It might be I will visit (please, as well, stop in at Axeman and please ignore authorities and their studied 'hubbub' which is so antithetical to the international island community we have always had ... and will eventually quiet down we hope). But only if I see inhabitants (would I linger) and at a time that isn't not propitious- say; where I see folks and if in slowing down eye contact reveals friendliness ... and so forth. Is also a great name- West Crawford Island. Maybe we passerby's are entranced by it especially as we see it eye level in a certain island nakedness. Others are tree covered, withdrawn and secluded and folks-activity secreted away some. Maybe.