Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
Robert Morrison Olyphant and
Doctor David Olyphant
Born in Pitheavles, near Perth,
Scotland, in 1720; died in Newport, R. I., April 2, 1805 (?).
After an excellent education he
studied medicine and became a physician, and during the Rebellion in
Scotland had occasion to exercise his profession at the battlefield of
Culloden, April 16, 1746. Having soon afterward emigrated to South
Carolina, he was on the 8th of June, 1747, appointed Surgeon to the "Three
Independent Companies" of H. R. M. regular foot, then stationed in that
On the 22nd of January, 1755, he
resigned his commission and settled in the Parish of St. George,
Dorchester, S. C., and engaged
in the practice of medicine.
January 11, 1775 to November 1,
1775~ez_mdash~Member of Provincial General Assembly of South Carolina.
November 16, 1775-~ez_mdash~Appointed member
of the Council of Safety.
March 26, 1776~ez_mdash~Chosen a member of
the Legislative Council of the Province.
June 1, 1776~ez_mdash~Appointed by the
Continental Congress Director-General of the Hospitals in the Southern
Department (Commission bearing the date July 4, 1776), and vacated his
office at the Council Board. Continuing actively in service, was present
March 20, 1780, to May 12, 1780, at
Siege of Charleston, prisoner of war; on parole until
November 9, 1780, when exchanged.
March 15, 1781~ez_mdash~At battle of Guilford
Court House, Va.
April 25, 1781~ez_mdash~At battle of
May 7, 1781~ez_mdash~Appointed by Congress
Director of American Hospitals to the Army commanded by Major-General
On re-arrangement of the Medical
Department, appointed by Congress:
May 15, 1781~ez_mdash~Deputy Director
Hospital Department for the Southern Army.
May 21 to June 19, 1781~ez_mdash~~ez_mdash~At siege of
September 8, 1781~ez_mdash~At battle of Eutaw
Subsequently in camp on the High
Hills of Santee.
July 13, 1783~ez_mdash~Southern Staff Service
having been discontinued, placed on "Waiting Orders."
November 15, 1783~ez_mdash~Honourably
After the peace again became the
representative from his old parish, St. George, Dorchester, in the South
Carolina General Assembly, until he removed to Newport, R. I., in 1785.
Here on the 23rd of October, 1785,
he was married to ANN, daughter of SAMUEL VERNON, Esq., Merchant of
Newport, and granddaughter of Governor RICHARD WARD, of Rhode Island, and
on the 20th of November sailed for Charleston, S. C., with his wife.
On the 14th of June, 1786, he
returned from South Carolina in the sloop Mary and thenceforward made his
home in Newport, where he practised medicine until his decease.
He was an original member of the
South Carolina State Society of the Cincinnati, and a member of its
Standing Committee from October 6, 1783, and joined the Rhode Island
Society by transfer July 4, 1788.
The Honourable DAVID OLYPHANT left
one son, DAVID WASHINGTON CINCINNATUS OLYPHANT, who was born in Newport,
R. I., March 7, 1789.
NOTE: The Military record of Doctor
David Olyphant is from the records of the Rhode Island State Society of
the Cincinnati, compiled by Col. Asa Bird Gardiner, LL.D.,
Secretary-General, and President of the R. I. State Society, of the
ROBERT MORRISON OLYPHANT
THE rare privilege of rounding out
four score years and ten and of watching the wonderful progress that has
been made during this period~ez_mdash~the development of great railroad systems,
the application of electricity to countless industrial activities, the
navigation of the air and under water, the finding of the North and South
Poles, and many other great discoveries that have made this era the most
notable in the history of the world~ez_mdash~is granted to only a chosen few.
One of these, Mr. Robert Morrison
Olyphant, was born in New York City, September 9, 1824, the youngest son
of David W. C. Olyphant and Ann Archer (McKenzie) Olyphant. His father was
a prominent New York merchant, the son of Dr. David Olyphant, who espoused
the cause of Prince Charles Edward Stewart, and came to Charleston, S. C.,
soon after the battle of Culloden. He was appointed Director-General of
Hospitals, Southern Department, in 1776, and held the offlce throughout
the Revolutionary War.
Mr. Olyphant was named for Robert
Morrison, the first British missionary to China, and an intimate and
life-long friend of his father, who gave free passage in his ships to Dr.
Morrison, after the latter had been refused by the East India Company. Mr.
Olyphant also gave free passage in his ships to all of the early American
missionaries to China, and interested himself deeply in their welfare. One
of these ships was named the Morrison, as a tribute of this
friendship. Robert Morrison Olyphant~ez_rsquo~s education began at the age of three
in Troy, N. Y., and later he attended the schools of Isaac Webb,
Middletown, Conn., and Daniel Bacon, New York City. He entered Columbia
University at the age of fifteen, in the class of 1843, but by diligent
work was able to complete his course in three years, and to be graduated
with the class of 1842. He is the oldest living alumnus of Columbia.
After graduation he entered the
employ of Talbot, Olyphant & Company, an East India trading firm, of which
his father was senior member. He visited China in 1844, returning a year
later. In 1846, he married Sophia Vernon, of Newport, R. I.,
great-granddaughter of Gov. Richard Ward of that state, and after her
death, in 1855, he married her youngest sister, Anna Vernon. Of ten
children, Robert and Mrs. George Casper Kellogg are now living, also
eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A son, John Kensett
Olyphant, died June 22, 1916.
In 1858, Mr. Olyphant re-organized
the old firm of Olyphant & Company, of China, and again visited the
Orient, where he remained for four years. He was the active head of the
firm until his retirement from mercantile business, in 1873. Here it may
be noted that the company firmly declined to have any dealings in opium,
and no ship of Olyphant & Co. ever carried a pound of the drug.
In May of that year he was elected a
member of the Board of Managers of the Delaware & Hudson Company, and
afterward served as Assistant President, Vice-President, and for twenty
years as President, and in his advanced years holds the honorary position
of Chairman of the Executive Committee.
His relationship with his associate
officers and the employees of the company was always cordial and happy. At
a meeting of the Board of Managers, upon his retirement in 1903,
resolutions were passed expressing the high esteem in which he was held
and their confidence in his executive ability. At this time a handsome
punch-bowl and salver were presented to him by the officers of the company
and the employees of the New York office.
The Delaware & Hudson Company is one
of the oldest mining companies in the country, and was the first to import
and operate a steam locomotive on its railway, in 1829, the oldest company
operating steam railroads in the United States. In 1901, the assets of the
company were $55,282,239.10, and the net earnings $3,370,706.67. During
Mr. Olyphant~ez_rsquo~s connection with the company (to 1903), $35,000,000 was paid
as dividends and $200,000,000 in wages.
Mr. Olyphant always has taken a deep
interest in the development of American art and other public-spirited
enterprises. As a Fellow of the National Academy of Design, he was
instrumental in raising the money for its first building in New York City.
He has been a member of the St. Andrew~ez_rsquo~s Society of the State of New York
for seventy years, having joined in November, 1846, and is its oldest
At the 160th Annual Banquet of the
St. Andrew~ez_rsquo~s Society, November 29, 1916, the following resolutions were
Mr. Robert M. Olyphant was elected a member of St.
Andrew ~ez_lsquo~s Society of the State of New York at the Annual Meeting, held on
the 30th day of November, 1846, and from that date to the present time~ez_mdash~a
period of seventy years~ez_mdash~has continued to be an active, zealous and devoted
member of the Society, now therefore it is
RESOLVED, that the members of the
Society present at this, the 160th Annual Meeting, extend to Mr. Robert
Olyphant, who has attained the well deserved age of ninety-two years, and
now celebrates to-night his Seventieth Anniversary Annual Meeting, their
heartiest congratulations upon his long and honourable association with
this Society of Scotsmen and their descendants in the City and State, a
record of membership seldom, if ever, surpassed in the annals of the
societies of this city, and wish him continued good health, happiness and
prosperity during the years to come.
RESOLVED that this resolution be spread at large
upon the Minutes of the Meeting and that a copy of the same, signed by the
President and the Secretary and sealed with the Great Seal of the Society,
be transmitted to Mr. Olyphant.
Mr. Olyphant has always been
connected with the Presbyterian church. Notwithstanding his advanced
years, he takes an interest in many of the philanthropies of the church,
city and state, and still keeps his interest in the affairs of China as
one of the staunch backers of the Canton Christian College.
The record of such a life, now
nearly rounding out a full century of business activity and service to his
fellow men, is the greatest legacy, not only to his family, but to the
community and the world.
ROBERT OLYPHANT, son of Robert
Morrison Olyphant and M. Sophia Vernon, was born in New York City, August
26, 1853. He was educated in private schools and spent a year, 1866-67,
studying in Paris. In 1872, he entered the employ of the Union Car
Spring Manufacturing Company, of which Frederick W. Rhinelander was
President. He remained with this company until February, 1874, when he
became a member of the firm of Ward, Talbot & Olyphant, and remained in
the coal business under the firm name of Ward & Olyphant until 1910 when
he retired. He was always fond of military matters and enlisted in the
Seventh Regiment, National Guard of New York, in November, 1871, and on
January 1, 1877, he was appointed Aide-de-Camp on the staff of Governor
Lucius Robinson. In October, 1879, he was appointed Acting General
Inspector of Rifle Practice of the State, and on December 24, General
Inspector of Rifle Practice, succeeding George W. Wingate. After Governor
Robinson ~ez_lsquo~s retirement, Mr. Olyphant returned to the Seventh Regiment and
remained there until March, 1880, when he became Inspector of the First
Brigade and subsequently for six years Assistant Adjutant General of that
Brigade. Governor Cornell breveted him Brigadier-General. Since then he
has been on the Reserve list.
He has taken active interest in
various philanthropic and patriotic societies of the day. He is now
President of the United Hospital Fund of New York, formerly the Hospital
Saturday and Sunday Association. He is President of the Sons of the
Revolution in the State of New York, and was for many years a manager of
the Saint Andrew ~ez_lsquo~s Society of the State of New York. He is a member of
the Society of the War of 1812 and of Foreign Wars, and a director in
numerous financial institutions. He is a trustee of the Brick Presbyterian
Church and treasurer of numerous of its interests.
He is one of the oldest members of
the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Merchants~ez_rsquo~ Association, and
belongs to the following clubs: The Union, Army and Navy, New York Yacht,
City, and Bankers.
In May, 1880, Mr. Olyphant married
Caroline Wetmore Muller, and their children are Amy Gordon Olyphant, who
married William de La Roche Anderson in November, 1904; Robert Morrison
Olyphant, Jr.; Sophie Vernon Olyphant and Donald Olyphant. Mr. and Mrs.
Anderson have two children, Marie de La Roche and Caroline Olyphant
Anderson. Mrs. Robert Olyphant died, April, 1910; in August, 1912, Mr.
Olyphant married Marie Viele Olyphant.
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