Colonel John Weir

John Weir

Colonel John Weir was born in Innerleithen, Peebleshire1,Scotland on 14 May 1850. 2

He was the son of John Weir (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.

Colonel John Weir

Colonel John Weir (c.1870s)

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.

Colonel John WeirFor 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.

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. 

Notes

  1. Birthplace often cited as Ladhope in Selkirkshire, an area close to Galashiels.
  2. Birthdate frequently given as 14 May 1852. Later census (he gave his age as 57 on the 1911 census) and newspaper reports differ over his age, but several newspaper reports give his age as 62 (whilst still not accurate) as opposed to 49. The 1851 census shows him as an infant just one month shy of his first birthday and at the time of his first marriage in 1873 he was stated to be 33 years old. 
 

Pictures

Colonel John Weir
San Francisco Examiner  (1912) 
COLONEL JOHN WEIR
 

Articles and Stories

New York Times (1914) 
New York Times (1912) 
Torquay Directory (1912) 
San Francisco Bulletin (1912) 
Totnes Times & Devon News (1912) 
Chicago Record-Herald (1912) 
Western Morning News (1912) 
Chicago Record-Herald (1912) 
New York Times (1907) 
New York Times (1907) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Helen Chetham said:

    I am a direct decendent of Col. John Weir a first class passenger on Titanic. My Grandmothers maiden name was Weir and I believe he was her Grandfather. If anyone has any further information on this or where I can go to get more info please e-mail me or leave a message here.

  2. avatar

    Dave Gittins said:

    Helen, thanks for drawing attention to your distinguished relative. I see from his biography on this site that he was quite a notable passenger but he seems to have been overlooked in all the fuss about Astor, Straus and company. I did a little research on his club. The Alta Club still exists and has a site at I found a few more details scattered about. The club was founded in 1883 as a men's social club. It provided a place where non-Mormon men could socialise and originally Mormons were banned from membership, as were... Read full post

  3. Helen Chetham said:

    Thanks Dave I am new to all this research and I don't know where to start. Your help is very much appreciated. Yes, he has been overlooked, which I suppose directly relates to the issue of lack of information, but at least he is being recongnised as Col. John Weir - unlike most passenger lists where he is only refered to as MR. Thanks once again. Helen

  4. Ian Bland said:

    Hello Helen I notice that you say that you 'believe' that John Weir was your Grandmother's Grandfather. I suggest that a good starting point would be to check if this is true. There have been many instances of family legends passed down by word of mouth about family members being on the Titanic. Sadly, many of these prove to be unfounded. You could begin by establishing the link. You can use the British public records to trace Weir and hopefully establish the truth and the link to yourself. You should begin by questioning any older living relatives and recording anything and... Read full post

  5. George Behe said:

    Hi, Helen! Col. Weir (a well-known mining engineer) sailed for England on Jan. 27, 1912 on a business trip connected with the British mining industry. His projected stay in England was originally intended to be 5- 6 weeks, but his return to the States was delayed until April 10. On April 9 Col. Weir was chatting with the manager of London's Waldorf Hotel when he suddenly said, "I'll be hanged if I'll go tomorrow!" The puzzled hotel manager asked Weir why he made this unexpected declaration, and Weir replied, "Well, I know it sounds absurd, but I have got a 'funny feeling' about... Read full post

  6. Daniel Klistorner said:

    It's interesting, Weir's return to the States was delayed so much, and he still managed to book his ticket quite late. He booked his ticket on Tuesday morning, April 9, 1912. Daniel.

  7. Geoff Whitfield said:

    Perhaps someone can give me a clue over this one? Was John Weir's marriage in America his second one? There are people both in the U.K. and Australia who claim to be related to him through a first marriage.

  8. Ian Bland said:

    Daniel Perhaps not surprising though, as the ship was not anywhere near her capacity for passengers - coal strike and all that. George I was watching you on the telly again,last week. Helen I dug out some websites that may be helpful for tracing family history in the UK. May also be of interest to some other readers overseas. Hope this is useful to you. Regards.

  9. Ben Holme said:

    Hi Helen, I thought this might interest you. It is an article from the Col. John Weir among the dead. Pacific coast mining man is lost. Was associate of Guggenheims and spent much time in San Francisco Col. John Weir of London, who was for many years one of the best known mining mwn of the Pacific Coast, and an associate of the Guggenheims, was among those lost on the Titanic. Confirmation of the report that Col. Weir was a passenger was received in this city... Read full post

  10. George Behe said:

    Hi, Ian! >I was watching you on the telly again,last week. You must have been watching the 1932 film "Charlie Chan Goes to Bayonne." (I played the corpse.) :-) Thanks, Ian and Ben, for sharing your info with us. Good stuff! All my best, George

  11. Helen Chetham said:

    Wow! thank you all for your quick responces. Ian, I have very much confirmed that Col John Weir is definately my Great Great Grandfather. My mother even has a silver tea set engraved with his initials that ws sent over in a large trunk with many other of his possessions by his Sister Margaret to his first Son Robert Duncan. (from his first marriage to Katherine Plant) My Grandmother was the second of eight children from Robert Weir's marriage to Nelly Archer. Col John was married for a second time and had a son Harold Mallinson and a daughter Mary. That is about all I found out over the... Read full post

  12. Helen Chetham said:

    Hello everyone, Well I have found out some more information. His Year of Birth was 1850 Place of Birth InnerLeithen, Peebles (Scotland Kind Regards Helen Chetham

  13. Helen Chetham said:

    Just an update if anyone is interested - I have just been handed down some engraved silverware and a embroided napkin of Col Weirs and a Bible dated 1895 that was my Great Grandfathers - The first son of Col Weir from his first marriage Robert Duncan. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a birthdate for Col John Weir nor are we able to get a copy of the death certificate or even know where to start looking. But it is interesting to find out little by little about his life - a few reports say that he was working with the Guggenheims in mining and that he was appointed Quatermaster... Read full post

  14. Daniel Klistorner said:

    Hello Helen, I'm an Aussie and live in Sydney. There was a claim filed against the White Star Line for Loss of Life and Property regarding John Weir, by his son for a total of $102,375.00 . If you're interested I could help you obtain a copy. Daniel.

  15. Helen Chetham said:

    Daniel You are a lifesaver, where, how did you get this information. Obviously a more experienced researcher than myself. Would you by any chance know which son it was? The claim I know about was made to his second son Harold by his first son Robert. Either way I would love to have a copy of that. My e-mail address is if you would like to e-mail me directly. Would you have any idea how I could get a copy of his death certificate and/or birth certificate - I have exhausted all avenues already mentioned in this thread. I imagine... Read full post

  16. Daniel Klistorner said:

    Hello Helen, WOW, ahellova lotta questions

    attachment
  17. Helen Chetham said:

    Sorry about that Daniel, I suppose I just got excited at the prospect of getting something new on Col Weir. As I said I am new to the research thing and really don't know anywhere else to look but this site and it's links. I understand you are busy and I apologise for all the questions. Please take your time in responding - and again I thankyou for all your assistance. Kind Regards Helen.

  18. Helen Chetham said:

    Hello everyone - long time no post. I have been very busy doing up my family tree and then out of the blue I received a message from a distant relative of mine from America. What a small world. I hope everyone is well. Keep Smiling Helen.

  19. Brian Meister said:

    Helen, No need to wait for the claim for Colonel Weir's personal effects...here goes: Gold watch and chain 250.00 Gold chain 75.00 Two gold pencils 5.00 One gold cigar cutter 15.00 One gold cigar cutter 10.00 Gold match-box 25.00 Gold change-purse 7.00 Sapphire and diamond ring 200.00 Gold guard 2.00 Five gold studs 25.00 One set diamond studs 75.00 One set garnets ... Read full post

Showing 20 posts of 33 total. View all.

Leave a comment

Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Jeffrey Kern, USA
Homer Thiel, USA

References and Sources

The Bulletin (San Francisco), April 20, 1912
Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), 19 April 1912, p. 16
New York Herald, 18 April 1912, Still Have Hope For John Weir
The Globe, 16 April 1912
The Globe, 18 April 1912
The Scotsman, 23 April 1912, NORTH BERWICK HOUSEHOLDER A VICTIM
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) John Weir (ref: #308, last updated: 3rd May 2018, accessed 2nd August 2020 04:39:44 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/john-weir.html