Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Servant Gets $20 million

A former Czecho-Slovakian immigrant chambermaid, who was making the beds and sweeping the floors in the $6 million, seventy five room mansion of Frank W Savin, retired stockbroker at Port Chester, New York, three years ago, is mistress today of his $20 million fortune ($240M in todays terms), as a result of his death from an appendicitis operation on Tuesday. Mrs Savin who left the servants' quarters on Jan. 8, 1937 to become her employers fourth wife, has at her command eight Rolls Royces and two other expensive limousines, a team of twenty servants and the right to call the palatial home her own.

But how long she will remain at ease in this queenly state is problematical, for the legal pot has started to boil with the claims of former wives, cast-off children and others who the old broker left in the wake of his kaleidoscopic 79 years of his life. The present Mrs Savin, formerly Anna Mary Schieis, 47, who became a domestic in the mansion on the Sound 17 years ago and remained to become the bride of her boss has first claim. But before her proper heritage canbe determined, the courts probably will have to go back through the entire stormy history of Savin and weigh the claims of two disinherited natural children, two foster children and the near kin of three former wives.

Savin started from scratch, having been cut off with but $1 by his father a wealthy sea captain. But he quickly built this up through real estate and stock investments, and when he married the beautiful Arriba Wheat of New Haven in 1871 he was reputed to be on the highway to wealth.

His first wife obtained a legal separation in 1898, charging him with being "coarse, tyrannical, brutal and inhuman" after he had thrown out and disinherited their two children Frank W. Jr. and Josephine after they were taken to court for mistreating a servant.

Savin next married Mrs Sarah Hamilton West , who later was exposed as the Sadie West of the Lexow investigation of vice and gambling in New York. When she died in 1911, he buried her in an unmarked grave beneath the tennis court on his estate, but his third wife compelled him to exhume the body and bury it elsewhere.

The third Mrs. Savin was, like the fourth, a servant in his house. She was Mrs. Sarah M. Treadwell, the housekeeper. She died in 1925. During this union, the broker adopted Muriel Elizabeth Withnall, a 4 year old orphan. And he also adopted Charles Ely Monroe, the former Mrs. Treadwell's brother-in-law. Monroe, to whom Savin gave his own name and referred to as "my only son" and Muriel, who also took Savin's name, lived at Port Chester throughout his fourth marriage.

Source: Chicago Tribune 2 Jan 1930

Sunday, 26 August 2007


In 1938 Andrew Savin a 16 year old boy from a Jewish family living in Rumania was sent by his parents to a high school in the nearby town of Tg Mures, to extend his education by two more years. The Second World War broke out, Hungary allied to Germany and the part of Rumania where Andrew lived was annexed by Hungary. Anti-Semitic laws were introduced forcing him out of his high school education so he returned to his home town. The only job he could get was carrying wood in a lumber factory. Whilst in Tg Mures he participated in the Zionist movement and did the same in his own town. He collected money to pay for food for political prisoners. In spring 1941 he was interrogated by the police and beaten. Many others were arrested as communists. They let him go home but in July he was taken to an internment camp for 13 months, then sent home, but had to report to the police daily.

In May 1944 all Jews were ordered to leave their homes and Andrew's whole family were sent by train to a ghetto in Szasaregen. A month later the ghetto was emptied and everyone was marched to the railway station. There the police squeezed them into cattle trucks. For more than a week they travelled, with the doors only being opened once a day. It was a hot June and several people died from dehydration. Their journey ended, they had arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp.

They were let out of the trucks but were beaten by German soldiers. Men and women were separated. Then a group of S.S. officers, "the selection committee", pointed out individuals who were marched away towards the tall chimney with dense smoke rising from it, this was the last time Andrew saw his mother. All their hair was shaved off, they were given prison clothes to wear, slept in barracks ruled over by prisoners who beat them, and food was a cup of watery soup. Work during the day was mostly road construction. Two weeks later Andrew at his father's insistance enlisted for a work transport, his father stayed behind, they parted forever.

Andrew was taken by freight train to the Buchenwald camp and then transferred to Bochum in the Ruhr and assigned to work in an ammunition factory. His job was to remove with long pliers red hot bomb shells from the furnace. It was very hot work, with liquid given only twice a day which was not enough to replace lost fluids, few survived more than four weeks. Andrews life was saved from inevitable exhaustion by his finger being broken so he was transferred to working on a lathe.

The Americans started to bomb the factories and many prisoners died this way. Andrew was assigned to a group of prisoners who, guarded by a German soldier, were walked to the city to defuse unexploded bombs. The soldier waited outside the cordoned off area. As soon as they were out of his sight the prisoners searched the houses for food eating as much as they could. Some were killed disarming the bombs but the drive of hunger was a stronger instinct. The winter was bitterly cold and many perished as the calories they ate were less than their work burned.

In March the Allied forces were approaching so the transports were rushes back to Buchenwald. Andrew was put to work in a stone quarry and for no reason the S.S. guards would shoot prisoners in the head. Early April as the American army neared groups of 5,000 prisoners were marched out of camp into the forest and the S.S. killed them by machine guns. Andrew was in one such group but on the way leaving the camp he was dragged away by a senior member of the resistance who changed the identification badge on his coat to a red triangle which meant a non-Jewish political prisoner. Over 50,000 Jews were executed in the last few days, only 20,000 were alive on liberation.

11th April 1945 mid morning the resistance with arms attacked the German guards, at 4pm American tanks entered the camp. Medicine and plenty of rich food was received from the Americans, nevertheless many perished from dysentery. Andrew stayed in the camp May and June to gain his strength then with a two week journey by lorry and train returned home to Rumania.

Source: Dreaming and Survival, M.I.G.S. (A. Savin)

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Silver-tongued Swindler

Around the year 1790 there flourished among the residents of Bethel township, Pennsylvania, USA a noted swindler named George Savin. He was a man of talent, possessed a winning address and was a thorough master in quick and correct discernment of character. This enabled him for a long time to prey upon the purses of his credulous neighbours with impunity. The following is from a legal case at Harrisburg Assizes October 1798 before Justices Yeates and Smith which will explain the character of his swindling operation. Ironically it is not George Savin who is on trial but an un-named defendant who appears to be in league with him.

The plaintiff declared that whereas George Savin was indebted to him for £100, the defendant promised to accept him as his debtor instead of George Savin on 2nd of July 1790 promising to pay him the said £100 within six weeks or sooner. The evidence from the trial is thus:

Savin was an artful swindler, and gulled a number of ignorant persons to deliver to him various sums of gold and silver, under the pretence that he would double the amount by some chemical process in a short period. He first received, as if reluctantly, some small sums, and delivered to these people in his so called bank a few days afterwards genuine Spanish dollars, apparently new, doubling the sums which they had paid him. When his fame was sufficiently known and the avarice of the weak people in the neighbourhood was highly inflamed, he soon got into his custody considerable sums and then decamped privately in the night from his haunt, a retired (secluded) place 12 miles from Reading, and concealed himself in Dauphin county.

To his latter hiding place he was pursued by the plaintiff and one Francis Umbehocker, two of his dupes, who offered a reward for apprehending him. The person whom they made use of for this purpose ingeniously held out to the defendant the lure of having £200 in specie (coin) at home, ready to be put into Savin's bank, if he (Savin) should come to his house and receive it for multiplication. Some strong suspicious circumstances were shown against the defendant as being in connection with Savin. The latter first came to the house, in pursaunce of the scheme, about ten o'clock at night of the 2nd of July 1790. the plaintiff and Umbehocker lay concealed in the barn and were notified of Savin's presence. On their appearance Savin was alarmed, and desired them to walk upstairs with him. On a signal the defendant also appeared, and some altercation occurred; but afterwards on being informed of their respective demands, he became security for Savin's appearance at his house the next morning before day. Thither they all cameon the 3rd of July, 1790, and the defendant promised to pay the plaintiff his demand against Savin, £100, within six weeks from that time, or sooner, and as Savin owed to Umbehocker $303.11, to pay him $100 down, and the residue on the Tuesday following, at the same house in Dauphin county. Whereupon Savin was set at liberty.

Source: History of the Counties of Dauphin and Lebanon (Edge)

Lavedan Hermit

Saint Savin was born at Barcelona some time in the 8th century. Shortly after his birth, his mother was left a widow, and devoted herself with assiduity to his education. She directed her labour to form his young mind for God rather than for the world.

As he was born in a high position, it was considered desirable to finish his learning by residence in foreign countries and his mother conscented that he should pay a visit to the court of his noble uncle Hentilius in Poitiers, France. On his journey he avoided the highways of great cities, and sought his lodging generally in the Benedictine monasteries. In due time he arrived in Poitiers where he was cordially received by his uncle. As a mark of his confidence, Hentilius place Savin in charge of the education of his son and heir. He resisited all the temptations to pleasure which surrounded him in the luxurious court, and labourered to inspire the mind of his pupil with the sentiments of piety and charity.

The result of this teaching was a desire by his cousin to devote his life to the sevice of God in a monastery. With this intention he left his father's house secretly and retired to the Monastery of Liguge. Upon learning this intelligence his mother sought Savin at once and implored him to bring back to her her son. But he replied that he too had left a mother by whom he was adored, that he had renounced the most brilliant prospects, that he too had abandoned the world and he never could advise another to hesitate at a sacrifice which he himself was about to make. He hastened to the monastery and with his cousin entered the novication and during these three years they subjected themselves to all the austerities of the cloister, its obedience, its silence and its poverty.

The ascetic spirit of Savin was not content with the simple monastic rule ; it aspied to higher things and sought for greater perfection. So he bade adieu to his cousin and the monastery, traversed France in the garb of a pilgrim, living by the alms which he begged until divine spirit directed him to the valley of which he was ordained to be patron and benefactor. In the valley of the Lavedan there existed a monastery and was received by its abbot and told him he desired to be retained as the hermit in the vacinity. He built with his own hands a small hut which the abbot frequently visited Savin in his solitude, seeking intsruction and edification from his example.

Savin sufferred much during the summer from thirst, the little spring which supplied him being dried up by the excessive heats. On one occasion, in seeking to allay his thirst at a neighbours well, he had to cross the meadow of a person called Chromasse. This man, irritated at seeing a beggar, as he thought, trespassing upon his land, sent his servant to drive him away, severely injuring Savin. However according to legend God took vengeance and the man who had assaulted him became possessed by the devil and his master struck blind. But Savin implored the Lord to relieve the afflicted transgressors. Thereupon the servant was delivered from the demon but his master, Chromasse, was condemned to remain blind for many years until touching the saint's body after death, he miraculously recovered his sight. Having thus failed to slake his thirst, striking the rock with his staff, there issued forth an abundant stream which continues to flow to this day.

As Savin progressed in holiness the fame of his sanctity extended throughout the country. Whenever any misfortune befell shepherds on the mountains they resorted to him, certain that his prayers would protect or relieve them. A priest was one day crossing the bridge near Pierrefitte, when suddenly he and his horse fell into the torrent. Savin happened to see the accident from a distance and prayed for the deliverance of the drowning man, whose horse in desperate effort reached the bank.

When Savin died his body was removed from his hermitage and deposited in a tomb in the abbatial church. Subsequently it was removed to the apse of the church where it remains today.

Source: Lives of the Saints (Baring-Gould)

Friday, 24 August 2007

Mercurial Millionaire

One of the most important men in the development of the early Welsh railways was the colourful character Thomas Savin of Oswestry in Shropshire. His Savin ancestry can be continuously traced back in the county to the seventeenth century, with the earliest surviving record of a Savin in Shropshire being an entry in the 1672 Hearth Tax return at Muckleton.

Born in 1826, Thomas was the son of John and Mary Savin of Llwynymaen and in 1847 started his first commercial venture in partnership with Edward Morris as a mercer, draper and grocer, until 1858.

The following story is often recited to demonstrate Thomas’s impetuous and impatient nature, which was both his making and undoing. Whilst still a draper he travelled to a Welsh border market town to sell his wares. It was the custom here for the farmers not to look at any other business until the livestock had been sold. But Thomas could not wait and so he rushed into the arena and bought a thousand sheep to end the livestock market.

Thomas Savin soon became acquainted with a Mr. David Davies, a highway contractor and became his partner in several important railway undertakings. The first of these was the railway from Llanidloes to Newtown, but before this was finished they completed the Vale of Clwyd line in 1858. They then completed the Oswestry and Newtown line in 1862, contracted for the Newtown to Machynnlleth line, which was finished in the same year and another line from Brecon to Merthyr. They also promoted a line from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth. But Thomas was not content with this and insisted embarking upon extensions to Pwllheli. He had a grand scheme of building luxury hotels at Aberystwyth, Borth and Aberdovery with the idea of offering package tours. But Davies could see that Thomas Savin was overstretching himself and dissolved the partnership in 1860.

In 1863 Thomas was elected Mayor of Oswestry, made a Lieutenant in the Montgomery Rifles and in 1864 appointed Captain of the 15th Shropshire. By 1866 he appeared to be at the pinnacle of his success and was familiarly known as “Savin the Millionnaire”. His net worth was more than a million pound sterling which is equivalent in today’s real terms of fifty million pounds. There was even speculation that he would enter into Parliament. The Cambrian Railway works were at his insistence constructed in his home town of Oswestry bringing much wealth to the borough and it was credited with doubling the population. However his continual acceptance of shares, instead of cash, for payment meant that he simply ran out of readily available money and went bankrupt in that same year.

After his failure Thomas took no further part in railway building but continued with his coal mining and limestone quarrying interests. But he still showed his vigour in a series of lawsuits, in particular with respect of the damage his traction engines did to the local highways which were publicised nationally by many references in The Times newspaper. In 1871 he was appointed an Alderman for Oswestry, an office he retained for the rest of his life and was also a Magistrate.

He died in 1889, aged 62, survived by his wife Elizabeth whom he had married in 1852, and two sons. His estate upon his death was only valued at £104 and 10 shillings.

Thomas Savin with his unconventional style, self promotion, involvement in railways and other businesses, challenges in the courts and rise at one time to great wealth could said to have been the “Richard Branson” of his day.

Source: Thomas Savin, Shrop. Family History Journal, June 2003 (A. Savin)

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Soldier of Fortune

From favoured aspirant to the throne of Bulgaria to the glad acceptance of a position as a street car conductor in Chicago, or from the proud position of one of Russia's most profligate millionaires to that of marker in a Chicago billard hall, would seem to cover the possible range of one man's career yet that of Count Nicholas Savin, a Russian nobleman, comprises not only this, but includes a trip to the mines of Siberia for the third time to don a convict's garb, which he will now in all probability wear to the end of his life. Surpassing as it does about everything either fiction or history for adventure, monumental money getting in variors ways, and equally monumental money spending, the astonishing career of Count Savin, spreading as it does all over the world, is, to say the least interesting.

Count Nicholas Savin scion of one of the most ancient families of Russian nobility, was born in 1858, as the youngest son of the head of the house at that time. His upbringing was that of the ordinary Russian aristocrat of the old school, and at the age of 20 he entered the smartest regiment of cavalry guards, with the rank of cornet, the lowest grade of officers in the Russian army. Early in life Count Savin had remarkable experiences for his three elder brothers died one after the other, in a short time, making him sole heir to the vast family estates. His father died soon afterwards, and he entered into possession of his patrimony at the age of 22. At the time his property was estimated to consist of 100,000 acres of land while his invested capital was figured at $5 million ($125M in todays terms)

Feeling secure in the possession of all these riches Count Savinbegan a life of the most reckless sort. He rented a magnificant house on the Boulevard des Italiena. He was an expert in getting from women in society. men too lent him money freely for he had a wonderful knack of inspiring them with the utmost confidence in his own integritty and in his power to repay loans of any magnitude. French noblemen, wealthy manufacturers, financiers, politicians, writers and actors all fell into the trap and supplied money which they never saw again. But Count savin's victims were not limited to French circles. On several occasions he joined the circle of the favored few who associated with the Prince of Wales, now King Edward VII of England, during that royal personage's visits to Paris. The last time he met the Prince of Wales he asked him point blank for a loan of $1,000 and Edward gave him the amount in bank notes there and then.

Count Savin did not confine his efforts to these limits. he became a Russian spy and sent highly cloured military secrets to the Czar all of which emanated from his own brain. At the same time he was in the pay of the German, Austrian and Spanish governments as their official spy in Paris. At the time that he was in the pay of four Europeans governments this extraordinary man was a member of a Russian nihilist association the headquarters of which were in Paris, and he possessed the full confidence of the political conspirators. who had not the slightest idea of his official connections.

Thanks to his high social position, it was easy for Count Savin to manipulate a desrable matrimonial venture. He married the Countess de Lautree, daughter of a French nobleman, who received a dowry of $500,000. the count immediately busied himself in getting rid of his wife's money and succeeded admirably. The countess, after three years of martyrdom secured a divorce.

Paris now became uncomfortable for the count. To avoid open exposure he went to Berlin where he repeated this Parisian maneuver; thence to Vienna, Rome, Madrid and Copenhagen.

Towards the end of 1892, when he was 34 years old, Count Savin assumed the name Count Lautree de Toulouse and went to the Balkans to secure new adventures in that troubled region. At the time Prince Ferdinand was in high disfavour with his subjectsand the count conceived the brilliant scheme of becoming Ferinand's successor for the throne. He became intimate with the great Stambuloff and actually hoodwinked that wily staeman into aiding him in his plot. Here, however, fate intervened. The count went to Constantinople to secure the Sultan's assent to his attempt on the Bulgarian throne. While there he was recognised by a Russian secret service spy.

Source: South Jersey Republican- 30 Jan 1904