|Strangers to Us All||
Lawyers and Poetry
"John Scollay, an attorney-at-law in Philadelphia for sixteen years . . . was born June 17, 1847, in Boston, Mass., at his father's house on Pemberton Square, near what is now known as Scollay Square . . . .
The Scollays are Scotch, from the Orkney Islands, John Scollay, an ancestor, was a man of position and influence in Boston, in 1692. Another ancestor, John Scollay, for whom the subject of the present sketch was named, was distinguished as one of the Selectmen of Boston in Revolutionary times . . . .
Thomas Scollay, the father of John, was a Bostonian and a strong Congregationalist. His mother was an Episcopalian . . . . His father went to Dartmouth College . . . . He afterwards became a successful business man and made a large fortune as a paper manufacturer. He owned large mills, both in Boston and in Westminister, Massachusetts.
On his mother's side, her father and her two brothers were Boston lawyers. . . .
He was [as a young boy] devoted to reading, but his mother being very strict and Puritanical would not allow him to read anything but religious stories. He, therefore, would select books for himself from his father's library, histories, poems and fiction and read them alone. Sometimes, he would go to his father's paper mill and from bundles of old books and papers, choose what he wanted and seated amongst them in a corner, read for hours. In this manner he read Milton's 'Paradise Lost' and was enchanted with the great poem, when only twelve years of age.
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When twelve years of age, he was sent to prepare for Dartmouth College, at Appleton Academy, New Ipswich, N.H. He remained there for two years, except during vacations, when he returned to his father's home in Westminister, Mass. . . .
He was not fifteen, [when] he resolved to go to war. He did not inform his parents, knowing it was useless to try and gain their consent, both on account of his youth and because his brother Thomas, two years older, had gone to war, was wounded and died from the effects at home. He left the Preparatory School in company with another boy, (who was afterwards shot), and joined as Private, Co.F. 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, Oct. 1, 1861. He was in the battles of New Berne, Gettysburg and others, and was considered a brave soldier. He came out as Second Lieutenant, before he was sixteen years of age.
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He served in the war until Feb. 7, 1863, when he was sent to the 'Academy Green Hospital' in New Berne, N.C. for disability. He received an honorable discharge on March 19, 1863, because of his ill health caused by exposure and unsuitable food. He was very ill at the hospital for four weeks. He then went home to his father's place of 100 acres, near Westminister, Massachusetts and in three months, amidst his family and living a quiet, country life, he entirely recovered his heath. In the fall he returned to Appleton Academy for a year.
He then continued his independent career and went to New Haven, Conn. and too a course in book-keeping. From there he went to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and took charge of a large school, while he was finishing his preparation for college.
In 1867, he entered the classical department of Lafayette College and graduated an honor man with the class of 1871. . . . . He was . . . chosen class poet. He wrote a well-received poem for Commencement and wrote several other poems, at different times. He loved poetry and was also found of general literature, and while in college added to his afterwards large and well-selected private library.
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After his Commencement at Lafayette College, he returned home, then travelled in Europe for seven months, at his father's expense, before settled own to the practice of law. . . . After leaving college he decided that Philadelphia, the city of such famous lawyers, as David Paul Brown, Horace Binney, theodore Cuyler and others, would be the place for him to start. He registered as a law student in the office of George Junkin, whom he considered a very able lawyer. In two years (1874) he was admitted to practice in the Philadelphia courts. He entered immediately upon a lucrative practice . . . and soon became well-known at the bar as an intellectual and successful advocate, of both civil and criminal cases.
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About two years and a half before his death, his health somewhat declined . . . . It was not until the summer of 1889 that he had attacks of illness. In the Fall, he had a very severe attack of congestion of the lungs, caused by heart trouble, when he learned for the first time that his heart was affected. He recovered sufficiently to take up his practice to a limited extent, until February 11, 1890, when he became very ill and suffered severely, with hypertrophy of the heart. In several weeks he became convalescent and was advised by his physicians to go to Atlantic City. He removed there with his family, but in a week, became very ill again and in a short time was advised by his physician to leave the seashore and go to Hammonton, N.J. That was considered a healthy place and being unable to travel further, it was decided that he should go there. He was benefitted by the change for only a few days. From the nature of his disease, because of difficulty in breathing, he was compelled to sit in a chair, throughout his illness. For three weeks here he suffered intensely, enduring the pain of heart and lungs bravely . . . . He died June 4, 1890, of heart failure, being unconscious at the last and dying without a struggle." [A.H.L. Scollay, John Scollay, Soldier and Lawyer 3-11 (Philadelphia: Press of Castle & Heilman, 1895)] Scollay was only 43 years old at the time of his death.
"Mr. Scollay was a Mason of high degree being past master of Washington Lodge, and a member of Philadelphia Commandery, Knight's Templar." [Obituary, Public Ledger, June 6, 1890, reprinted in A.H.L. Scollay, John Scollay, Soldier and Lawyer 26 (Philadelphia: Press of Castle & Heilman, 1895)]
Poetry: Scollay's class poem, 1871, given at Lafayette College, and three other poems are presented in A.H.L. Scollay, John Scollay, Soldier and Lawyer 12-25 (Philadelphia: Press of Castle & Heilman, 1895)