I have been in contact with a couple of new cousins recently: Don Forrest and Bruce Morse. They are both the grandchildren of Archibald Alexander Forrest (1875-1946), the brother of my great-grandfather John Prescott Forrest. My hope in contacting them was to get to know my great-grandfather’s brother and his family a bit better.
[Interestingly, I am related to Bruce twice. Once because his mother was a Forrest, and once because his father was John Harleigh Morse, who has the same Morse ancestor, Ensign Anthony Morse (1662-1710) as I do.]
Archie was born into the powerful family of Rev. John Forrest and Annie Prescott Duff in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He arrived in the US in December of 1895 at the age of 20. Archie Forrest was a hockey player in his younger years, and one day the very wealthy business tycoon and famed art collector Henry Harper Benedict attended a match with his daughter Helen Elizabeth Benedict (1879 – 1961). Apparently she liked what she saw in young Archie and asked to meet him.
[Incidentally, Henry Benedict’s personal fortune was not only vast, but also the subject of the most ridiculous, over-the-top, tawdry tale of intrigue you could imagine. Since it’s not really my story to tell, I will link to a version that writes it up as well as I ever could:
It’s really well researched and documented, so please take the time to check it out if you can. You won’t be disappointed. If you made it up people would accuse you of being too “soap opera” and not believable. Gold-digging nurses, suicides, runaway heiresses, lost fortunes, evil stepmothers… it’s got it all.]
A few years later Archie and Helen were married at St. George’s Church in London, England on 11 Oct 1904. Archie was a real-estate agent at the time he got married, but soon he was given a lucrative job as a vice-president of his father-in-law’s company, Remington Rand. The family seems to agree that hard work was not Archie’s forte. He seemed to prefer hunting and fishing. His grandsons remember fly-fishing trips to Canada and other extravagances that kept him away from his office. Archie’s brothers George Munro Forrest and John Prescott Forrest would also work as executives for Remington Rand.
Three children followed for Archie and Helen: Marie Alexendra (1907 – 1982), John Benedict (1909 – 1976), and Henry Harper (1911 – 1970).
According to Don Forrest (John Benedict’s son), the upbringing was rather unusual to most of us, although it was probably not unusual at all to those in the upper classes of that time period. He described his grandparents’ “Anglophilic” style of child raising. That is, most of the child-rearing was handled by a nanny. The only meal that the children shared with their parents was on Sunday afternoon and no talking was permitted at the table. As soon as was practicable, the children were sent away to boarding school in substantial wealth. All of this had an effect on the children, and all of them would go on to have complicated family lives themselves. It was Don’s opinion that all three of Archie’s and Helen’s children turned out to be “wonderful people”, despite those issues.
The Archie Forrest Summer home was on Old Post Road in Rye, New York, although it was only one of their homes. They also “wintered” in New York City, where they lived in a town house at #5 East 75th Steet in Manhattan. The property was owned by the Benedict family, and was described as being “the size of a small Swiss hotel”.
Archie was a village Trustee in Rye, and was briefly the Mayor of that town in 1930. He and his family took trips abroad and generally lived the life of the upper class in New York. There were cruises, in-home servants, fine clothes, and all the trappings of that lifestyle.
So with all this in mind, tonight I got my first glimpse of Archie and his family in this photo sent to me by Bruce Morse, Archie’s grandson:
I just adore this photo. It’s so.. “New Century Explorer and his perfect family”. The reality, of course, was much more complex, but if you give it some scrutiny, this photo captures all that complexity so perfectly. John so handsome and charming, but with just a hint of mischief. Henry sort of angsty and brooding. Marie looking strong and resigned. Archie, the distant, stylish, trendy father. Everyone wearing their best clothes, impeccably dressed while the waves crash behind them. This is the perfect photo for how I imagined this family to be. I’m so grateful to have it.