Captain John Thomas Wescott, Jr.

My 2nd Great Grandfather-  This is one gentleman whom I wish I had the honor of meeting.  Those strong Wescott genes are surely evident in this man.  I warn you, his is one of my longer blogs.  How can you shorten the life of a man who had two full time careers and several business ventures in his 86 years?  Did you know that he designed many things still used in the Coast Guard today?

You will also see in a lot of the articles where Wescott is spelled Westcott.  In my research, I had to learn to put in varied spellings (Wescott, Westcott, Westcoat, Weskitt)

John Thomas Wescott was born on August 31, 1853, in Currituck, North Carolina, his father, John, was 28 and his mother, Lovie, was 21.  He had an older brother, William born the year and a half before.  His sister, Matilda Mann Wescott was born when he was two.  His brother Josiah Holley Wescott was born when “Little JT” was four years old.

Here you can see the original Wescott Bible entries where John Thomas is listed as “LJT Wescott” meaning “Little John Thomas”. ~

Wescott Family Bible
Sent to Virginia Spence Westlake
from Mabel Wescott Martin
Spring 1989

Copyright 1829

His father was a fisherman and John started attending school when he was just 6 years old.  Unfortunately, his brother, William, died at the young age of 8 years old when JT was only 7.  A year later, another brother came along, Charles Davis Wescott.

Around that year, the American Civil War came to North Carolina.  JT recalls the Burnside Expedition; The Battle of Roanoke Island. In a newspaper article dated June 1, 1939, he states his father became a prisoner because they harbored two Confederate soldiers who were injured.  In the article below he is referring to Virginia Dare, the first English-born child in the Americas.  We, my genealogical cousins and I, have been unable to find any record of John Sr. being a POW, but that does not mean he wasn’t one.  It could have been an overnight stay in jail or he had to pay a fine or he was part of the prisoner exchange.

Article of Burnside

When John was 10, his sister Virginia Caroline was born.  Three years later, another brother, Obediah Jennings, was born and three years after that, Robert Edward Lee was born.  By this time, JT was 16 years old.

John Thomas Wescott

He engaged in the Life Saving Service as a Surfman in the Nags Head Station- then known as No. 7- at the age of 22 and served there for 5 years.

not Nags Head Life Saving Station No 7

John Thomas Wescott married Lovey C. Tillett (his 3rd cousin) in Dare, North Carolina on October 19, 1876, when he was 23 years old. Lovey was just 16.  A year later, their daughter, Dora D. Wescott was born.  Sadly, Lovey died just 11 months later.  There is no death certificate on her, but many think she had complications with her birth and could not overcome them.  John found himself with a new career, farming his land, and a widow with a an 11 month old baby.

In 1880 his Aunt, Sabra Hackett, is shown as living with him and helping him with the raising of Dora.  With the help of his aunt, his career started thriving and his brothers soon joined him.

Charles Davis Wescott, SrWescott Brothers

Left: Charles Davis Wescott.  The three men above right are Edgar Chadwick, Obadiah Wescott, and John Thomas Wescott. (Edgar is Martha Chadwick’s brother)

                        updated 11/25/17 due to another picture of Edgar being found

Josiah Holly Wescott Served at Chicamacomico and New Inlet Stations

Josiah Holly Wescott

This same year John’s position is shown as a boatswain of the Revenue Cutter, which at that time delivered supplies to the life saving stations along the coast. He served this position for 6 years. (A Boatswain is a ship’s officer in charge of equipment and the crew)

By 1883, he married Martha Ann Chadwick, our ancestor, when she was 18 and John was 30.  They had five children plus Dora.  A year after the marriage, his father died.

I see a lot of Wescott features in her, so I guess they’re Chadwick features!

John T. Wescott and Martha Chadwick Marriage

By 1884, John is showing in the Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory as the proprietor of the Wescott Hotel in Roanoke Island, NC.  This same directory shows WD Chaddic (Martha’s father) as a lawyer in Manteo.  It also shows he owns the Manteo Hotel in Manteo.  We do not know much about the hotel he owned other than what is in the directory.

This same year they moved to Elizabeth City and his daughter Laura Chadwick Wescott is born.

In 1887, he is appointed Keeper of the Poyner’s Hill Lifesaving Station at the rate of $700.00 per year.

poynershillbadgeJohn T. Wescott’s Poyner’s Hill Lifesaving badge.  Captain John Thomas Wescott

During his tenure here, he helped to save over twenty five lives all under very difficult and perilous conditions. poynershilllifesavingstation3

Captain John Thomas Wescott & crew

This same beach is owned by the Currituck Shooting Club.  It was a exclusive club for hunter of fowl from all over.  The fees were $3,000 to $5,000 a year.  You can read more about the club here.  I do not believe the Wescott’s were members, but the lifesaving station was on land owned by the Shooting Club.  In fact, when Mary was younger, she wrote this letter to the St. Nicholas Magazine: An Illustrated Book For Young Folks by Mary Mapes Dodge .

Mary's Letter to St. Nicholas

In Albert Wescott Sr.’s things were some pictures of the club.  Currituck Shooting Club House circa 1920s

Currituck Shooting Club, NC

The Currituck Shooting Club owned the land where the Poyners Hill Lifesaving Sation was constructed. The shooting club, one of the oldest of its kind, burned to the ground in 2003 destroying valuable guns and artifacts about members such as J P Morgan and William Vanderbilt.

The Wescott name is written in the US Coast Guard’s website archives numerous times.   I wrote to them after discovering there was an article written on John Thomas. Click on the link below to read what was sent to me from their archives.

JT Wescott Along the Coast[6121]

A year later, Albert Read Wescott, Sr. was born in Poyner’s Hill.  A year after that, in 1889, JT’s brother, Charles was murdered.

Murder of Charles

Capt. C. D, Wescott, of the steamer Cleopatra, was stabbed in the shoulder by Mordica Hudson, at Trenton, Jones County, last Saturday night. Causes: whiskey. The parties got into a dispute ending in a fight and Hudson stabbed Wescott in the shoulder with a knife, severing an artery, from which Wescott bled to death in an hour. ~December 12, 1889
The Tarborough Southerner from Tarboro, North Carolina · Page 1

The trial of Mordecai Hudson for the killing of Capt. Charles D. Wescott last November, at Trenton, was begun at Trenton on Tuesday morning, and Hudson was sentenced by the Judge to five years in the penitentiary. ~April 8, 1890
The Progressive Farmer from Winston-Salem, North Carolina · Page 3

All the Wescott brothers attended the trial.

Mary Yuela was born that same year and Cora Virginia a couple of years later.  I have never been able to determine where the name Yeula came from.  The closest I found was that it could be an Indian word meaning Upward slope.

And, in 1890, his son, Albert, was diagnosed with polio.  Albert Read Wescott Sr. 1890

In 1892 John designed the box for Coston signals.

John T. Wescott designs Coston Signals Box

The Surfmen were supplied with appropriate clothing and boots, a lantern, a Coston Signal Kit, and a Surfman’s brass badge or token on which was noted his station and number.  The Coston Signal was not unlike today’s flare gun and was to be used as a warning device when necessary. It was the duty of the Surfman to constantly look seaward as he walked, looking for ships in distress. If he saw a vessel that was headed into danger he fired a Coston Signal in the hope the master of the ship would realize his error and turn seaward. If the vessel was already in the process of foundering, the signal was deployed to indicate they had been discovered and help was on the way. In such a circumstance it was critical that the patrolman take accurate note of the circumstances and quickly return to the station to apprise the Keeper of the details. Accurate information was essential to allow the Keeper to decide what apparatus should be transported to the scene.

~History of The U.S. Life-Saving Service – III, Life At The Station by Tom Wimbrow

By 1900 JT is Secretary and Treasurer of the newly founded North Carolina Surfman’s Mutual Benefit Association and JT designs a Cartouch Box.

John T. Wescott designs Cartouch Box 1900

Similar to this one

cartouche boxJohn T. Wescott designs Box for Coston Signals

In researching his designs, I found out that the Coston Signal was invented by a woman, MADAME MARTHA J. COSTON.

I am not sure if this is the box John designed, but it must be similar.  These designs are still used in the the military services as of this day.

Image result for box for Coston signals

His mother died in 1902 and shortly afterward, Mabel Agassiz Wescott was born.  Her middle name has always fascinated me so I did a little research.  I found that Alexander Agassiz made three expeditions aboard the Albatross to collect specimens, explore the ocean depths, and study coral islands and reefs.  John was such a lover of the sea and ships so maybe he named her after Alexander.

1903 Lifesaving Station Keepers

Captain John Wescott is second to the right standing, Captain Josiah Wescott is second to the right, sitting.

Keepers Sat for picture 1903

In 1903, the Wright Brothers came calling to the Kill Devils Hill Life Saving Station in Kitty Hawk.  Although family lore states that John T. was taking a nap during the flight, it is undocumented that he was there.  However, his brothers and cousins were.

Robert Lee Wescott and Kitty Hawk.JPG

Perpetual Motion Machine

In “Conquering the Sky” by Larry E. Tise, several Keepers are mentioned along with Robert L. Wescott and others listed below.  Read some here.

  1. Commanded by Capt. Jesse Etheridge Ward (possible cousin), the surfmen;
  2. Will S. Dough (another possible cousin),
  3. Adam D. Etheridge (father-in-law of 5th great-grandmother),
  4. Bob L. Wescott (John T’s brother) ,
  5. Tom Beacham (another cousin),
  6. “Uncle Benny” O’Neal and,
  7. click —> John T. Daniels (our 1st cousin 3x removed- married Amanda Wescott, John T’s Aunt!)  Who is now famous for taking the first picture of the Wright Brother’s flight and for a few “minutes, though unconventional, Daniels “flew” with the flyer, becoming the third man to fly in the Wright Flyer and the first man to be involved in an airplane accident.”

Also read, The Indispensable Men written in the US Coast Guard’s archives or Lifesavers Serve As Wright Brothers’ Flight Support Crew.

In 1909 his brother, Josiah, died while working as a Captain in the New Inlet Life Saving Station. He had served at the station since 1894.  He had a heart attack while waiting for the mail boat in Rodanthe.  The postmaster sent for Keeper Midgett who brought other surfmen.  The crew respectively escorted him back to Manteo, where he lived.  All drills were ceased for the day.

Martha Chadwick, John T. Wescott and Mabel Wescott circa 1910

Martha, Captain Wescott, and Mabel in 1910.

In 1915 the U.S Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Lifesaving Service were merged to form a new agency, the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1939 the Coast Guard absorbed the U.S. Lighthouse Service, and by 1946 it had also absorbed the Steamboat Inspection Service.

Two years later, in 1917 and at age 63, Captain John Thomas Wescott retired.  I have a feeling if he was not made to retire, he would have continued in the Coast Guard.  But, retirement did not stop JT.  On to another career…

John T. Wescott Retirement Letter 1917

By the next year, Captain Wescott moved his family to Wayneville, North Carolina, better known as Lake Junaluska.  It was during this time that the Lake Junaluska Assembly, Inc. was being established.  The Laymen’s Missionary Movement was created in 1908 and the Second General Missionary Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was held at Lake Junaluska on June 25-29, 1913, and this constituted the official opening of the Southern Assembly.

Chief Junaluska, for whom the Assembly, community, and adjoining mountain are named, was a Cherokee chief who was among the exiles of 1838. It is said that his name was originally Tsunulahunski or Gulkalaski. He fought under Jackson in the War of 1812 and saved the General’s life at the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend; in later life he was quoted as saying that if he had known Jackson would drive his people from their home he
would not have saved his life at the Bend. He was the friend of the white man and so remained even after the deportation.  Junaluska died on November 20, 1858, when he was more than a hundred years old. He and his wife, Nicie, are buried near Robbinsville, North Carolina, where their graves are surrounded by an iron fence, and a bronze tablet erected in 1910 bears an inscription which recites his story and service to the State and nation.

In spite of the excellence of the program and the success of the collection, the Southern Assembly in 1913 seems to have been a dismal place. The lake had not been filled, and early attendants spoke of mud all over the place and walking across the dry lake bed where a corn crop was being harvested.

Most of the people stayed at Waynesville, and the Southern Railway ran a shuttle train back and forth. Hand baggage could be carried, but wagons had to be found to transport
trunks and heavy luggage. Captain Wescott was in the right place at the right time, for the first passenger boat was put on the lake; it was operated by a Captain Wescott and was named “Unagusta.”  Captain Wescott started his new career at age 64.  A boat was built to ply the lake and transport visitors from the railway station to the Terrace Hotel. Captain Wescott, who for a period was manager of the Terrace. The
name was later changed to Cherokee; this boat became obsolete, and in 1952 the Cherokee II was built. ~Source:  “Junaluska Jubilee: A short history of the Lake Junaluska Assembly, Inc. on the occasion of its Fiftieth Anniversary”

Photos in possession of Marlee Logan passed down by Albert Read Wescott, Sr. to Sharon Wescott Gibbs.

Lake Junaluska circa 1920s

Lake Junaluska and The Cherokee about 1920. 

Cherokee Inn Boathouse circa 1920sBoat House Lake Junaluska, NC

The Cherokee boathouse.

John Thomas Wescott, Albert Read Wescott Jr. with Bucky, Mary W sitting 1920                      Captain Wescott, Albert Read Wescott Jr. with Bucky, Mary W sitting 1919-20

1920’s -Rebecca Carver: My father had a dairy farm and we furnished the milk that went to the families at the Assembly. They didn’t have swimming pools in the 1920 ‘s and ’30s, so the Assembly let Camp Junaluska, which was above Long’s Chapel United Methodist church, build boat docks and let us go swimming in the lake just down below the depot station. That’s how I learned to swim. Captain Wescott owned the Cherokee Inn, and he was a very good friend of my father. Back then, the children and youth stayed fully clothed until they got to the bath house, and then they went into a little room and changed into a bathing suit. Well, we didn’t have the ten or fifteen cents to pay for that little room, so Captain Wescott let us have a boat. We’d go out on that little boat and change into our bathing suits, and go over to swim near the bath house. Then we’d go back out in the boat and change back into our clothes, and then bring the boat back to Captain Wescott. He was a very dear friend.

About 1923 the annual election of a Queen of Junaluska was inaugurated. The first queen was Miss Mabel Wescott, daughter of Captain Wescott, and with three exceptions there was an annual election thereafter. The crowning was always an important social event, preceded in the afternoon by a boat pageant in which the Queen and her court an many other young people rode in boats towed by the Cherokee.  As recalled by one resident “Closely related to the coronation ceremonies is the water pageant. This is usually set for the day of the crowning of the Queen. The decorated boats are as beautiful as delicate petals drifting on a quiet stream. Everyone in the community gathers along the lake
shore or in the reviewing stand at the boathouse to see the prize floats go by. In former years Captain Wescott, with a big Cherokee boat, drew all the decorated craft, tied together like a giant daisy chain, before the reviewing stand. Along the shore and upon the green lawn near the auditorium, Junaluska neighbors and visiting friends gather annually to watch the water sports.”

As written in “The Waynesville Mountaineer” on June 16, 1926:

Captain Wescott Lake Junaluska June 17 1926

John Thomas Wescott's boat- "The Cherokee"

“The Cherokee”, picture courtesy of the Spence/Wescott family.  Circa 1920.

In 1923, John ran a hotel, and in 1926, at age 76, Captain Wescott was still going strong.  The Duke Alumni held their reunion at Lake Junaluska where the Captain took them on a tour of the lake before their retreat.  Captain Wescott

The Carolina Mountaineer and Waynesville Courier 11 Jun 1923, Mon, pg 8

In 1925, his brother Captain Robert E. Lee died in Kitty Hawk from thoracic actinomycosis which he had suffered since 1918.  Two years later, his sister Matilda died in Virginia of a ruptured gall bladder.

Wescott Family 1924 Mary, Cora, Laura, John Albert, Capt. W,, Mabel, Mrs. Wescott

Back Row: Mabel A. Wescott, Cora Wescott Spence, Mary Y. Wescott, John Albert Coggins, Laura Wescott Coggins Middle Row: Ruby Wescott (holding dau. Jean) Albert R. Wescott, Martha Ann Chadwick Wescott, Capt. John Thomas Wescott Front Row: Albert R. Wescott, Jr., (son of Ruby & Albert, Sr) Mary Virginia Spence,

On December 26, 1933, Captain Wescott, age 80, and Martha, age 68, celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary.

John T Wescott and Martha Chadwick's Golden Wedding ArticleTwo years later, Martha died of a kidney disorder. (Chronic valvular disease, chronic nephritis)

Wescott 3 Generations1938- Three generations of Wescott’s.

In June of 1939, at age 85, Captain Wescott began “grooming” for his 22nd season with the Cherokee.   In Ruby and Albert Wescott, Sr.’s things are two of the original newspaper articles.  One of which I’ve agreed to give our cousin, descendant of Josiah Holly, for the archives in North Carolina.  Although he lived in Norfolk, VA at the time, he would come to Lake Junaluska during the summers.

You can read the newspaper article here. (type in page 8 to continue the article).

Wescott, JT and Laura Wescott NorfolkCaptain Wescott, age 86, and Laura, in Norfolk, VA, where on March 11, 1940 he passed away of heart failure.  He was living with his son, Albert Read Wescott, Sr. at the time.      He is buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, NC.

John T. Wescott Death Cert 1940.jpg

John T Wescott Obit

Many articles were written about him in life and after his death.

John T. Wescott Popular Figure Newspaper Article

John T. Wescott dead at 86 Newspaper Article

Capt John Thomas Wescott

Wescott family plot

I am sure there is more to this story.  As always, if you see any errors, please let me know.

PS:  As you will see from the different articles and information above, there are many references to John’s father also being a John Thomas Wescott.  Many researchers have him as being John Wellington Wescott, but there is no documentation showing this.

From the original bible where his name is written as ‘LJT Wescott” (Little J T), to the different newspaper articles and verbal recollections, in all accounts it seems that his father’s name was also John Thomas Wescott.

This an email conversation between Sloan Mason and Tolly Spence , John T. Wescott’s great grandson, Cora Wescott’s grandson. He also mentions that JT’s father was “John Thomas Wescott”.

“Not sure if you ever made it to the Museum in Manteo but they have a lot of information on the outer banks life saving station. It was my understanding that my great great grandfather – John Thomas Wescott was head of the life saving stations on the outer banks and John Thomas Wescott (my great grandfather) was the oldest son. Robert Wescott the next oldest son that helped the Wright Brothers with first flights…retired and ran a sight seeing boat on Lake Junelusca in Waynesville NC. Robert (Bob) Wescott is buried in Durham with my grandfather and grandmother (TT Spence and Cora Wescott Spence). I will try to find a couple of photos I have somewhere in storage to compare…at least John Thomas Wescott.

PS – John Thomas Wescott (son and my great grandfather) was the head of the Poyner’s Hill Life Saving Station which was at the base of the Corolla Lighthouse.”  


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