Colonel John Weir was born in Innerleithen, Peebleshire, Scotland on 14 May 1850.1
John Weir's parents were John (b. 1819), a wool weaver, and Jane Gillies (b. 1821). His father was originally from Galashiels, Selkirkshire, and his mother from Edinburgh.
His known siblings were: Robert (1841-1919), Margaret (b. 1849), Charles (b. 1855), James (b. 1856), Sarah (b. 1858), George (b. 1862), Jane (b. 1864) and Elizabeth (b. 1869).
John first appears on the 1851 census as an 11-month-old infant living with his family at an unspecified address in Innerleithen. When the family appear on the 1871 census living at 6 Dickson Street, Beckhouse in Roxburghshire John was not present at the time and his whereabouts are not known. He later worked as a coachman.
He was married on 10 November 1873 to Catherine Plant (b. 14 December 1853), a resident of Moffat, Dumfriesshire but English by birth, hailing from Staffordshire. The couple travelled extensively, with Weir working as a vet, and they would shortly visit the USA. Their son Robert Duncan Weir (b. 1876), known as Robin, was born in Bloomington, Illinois in 1876.
The couple later travelled to Australia where, with Weir being a lover of horses, founded the Melbourne Racing Club and introduced to that continent the first batch of trotting horses. He was also instrumental in building and promoting the Melbourne Tramways.
By the advent of the next decade the marriage between John and Catherine had collapsed and they were divorced. Catherine and her son Robert remained in Australia, Catherine settling in Queensland where she was remarried to a John Howat. She died on 8 November 1907.
John was remarried shortly after to Harriet "Hattie" Elizabeth Mallinson (b. 1857), a native of Cornwall, Connecticut and had a further three children: a son Harold Mallison (b. 1878) was born in Australia, a daughter Beatrice Mallinson (b. 1880) in San Francisco and another daughter, Mary Norton (b. 1885) was born in London.
The movements of the family are difficult to trace. Contemporary newspaper reports state that Weir, apparently a well-known figure in Salt Lake City, Utah, had made a fortune in mining in the US, working as an engineer and becoming president of the Nevada-Utah Mines & Smelters corporation before he stood down in May 1907 on account of ill health. He also reportedly served during the Spanish-American War, presumably where he garnered his title of Colonel, and was appointed quartermaster-general by President McKinley and served in the Philippines.
For the last six years of his life Weir had apparently made his home back in Britain, dividing his time between his home "Ingleholm" in North Berwick, Lothian, Scotland and in London but would make frequent trips back to Utah and was a member of the Alta Club in Salt Lake City. The 1911 British census shows him residing at 229 Piccadilly, West London and he was described as a retired mining engineer.
His daughter Beatrice had married in 1904 to a Canadian barrister, Donald Francis Charles Steuart-Seton (b. 1873), a native of New Brunswick and a former Unionist and Conservative candidate for West Islington. By 1911 Beatrice and her husband were living in at 33 Mall Road in Hammersmith, London and had a daughter, Beatrice (b. 1906). Weir's younger daughter Mary was a nun in a Scottish convent.
His friend, Morris P. Kirk of Salt Lake City, received a letter dated 6 April in which Weir stated that he was going to travel on the Philadelphia and was planning on travelling to Salt Lake City. Kirk and Weir were to travel to California to look over some mining areas in the Feather River area. The scheduled sailing of Philadelphia was postponed by the coal strike and Weir transferred to the Titanic.
Before sailing Weir had been staying at the Waldorf Hotel, as reported in The Globe (16 April 1912); on the night before he checked out to make his journey he engaged in a conversation with the hotel manager in that establishment's smoking room. The two men discussed various topics before Weir suddenly exclaimed: "I'm hanged if I'll go tomorrow." Pressed as to the reason for this unexpected remark he said "Well, I know it sounds absurd, but I have got a funny feeling about going. I may receive a business message this evening, and if I do I will not go, although I have booked a first-class passage."
The hotel manager went on to say that Colonel Weir was still uneasy the next morning and was further agitated upon waking when he discovered his ewer [water jug] to have broken during the night. Upon leaving the hotel Weir advised his valet that if he decided to discontinue his journey he would cable him from Queenstown.
Weir boarded the ship in Southampton and was travelling in first class (ticket number 113800 which cost £26, 11s) and was reportedly accompanying Irish passenger Henry Forbes Julian. The Globe (18 April 1912) states that he was also in association with Isidor Straus and Benjamin Guggenheim and was hastening to America to complete deals in Alaska and Mexico.
John Weir died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
Mrs Weir reportedly arrived at the Cunard dock to receive news of her husband and fainted twice, such was her grief and had to be carried back to her automobile by policemen.
NORTH BERWICK HOUSEHOLDER A VICTIM
The relatives of Colonel John Weir, who was passenger on the Titanic, have received the sad news by cable that there is no hope of his safety. Colonel Weir, although an American citizen, was Scottish by birth. He came as a visitor to North Berwick about six years ago, and took up house there, residing at Ingleholm. He had been absent from North Berwick for some time past, but his sister had been staying there. Colonel Weir was of a kindly, generous nature, and was very highly respected in North Berwick district.
(The Scotsman, 23 April 1912)
Weir left a net estate of £26,876, part of which consisted of stocks and bonds he had on his person aboard Titanic, which was divided between his wife and four children. His son Harold had been appointed the administrators of the estate but son Robert soon appeared to contest matters, claiming himself to be the only legitimate heir of Colonel Weir and attacking the validity of his father's second marriage.
John Weir's widow Hattie died in Manhattan on 4 April 1919 and was buried in North Cornwall Cemetery in East Orange, New Jersey.
His son Robert made his home in Queensland, Australia where he worked as a farmer and sugar boiler among other professions. He was married to Nellie Archer (1883-1969) and raised a large family before his death on 20 July 1946.
Son Harold later became a civil engineer, was married in 1902 to a Canadian, Amy Ruth Fraye (b. 1878) and lived in Santa Clara, California where they raised a family. He died on 1 November 1960.
His daughter Mary died from a stroke in Philadelphia on 3 February 1954; her vocation was listed as "Religion." The final whereabouts of his daughter Beatrice is uncertain.