Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Jane ASH-OTWELL (1847-1935)

Jane OTWELL, Detroit circa 1935
Photo courtesy Herb OTWELL
Edna OTWELL > Edwin OTWELL > Jane ASH

Jane was born on 13 November 1847 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were William ASH and Anna Maria MARKS. William had died prior to Jane’s birth. When Jane was 1 years old, Anna Maria married John ATWELL and the blended family moved to a farm near St. Mary’s, West Nissouri, Ontario. Jane appears on the 1851 census under the surname ATWELL. She did not appear on the 1861 census.

At age 17, Jane married her neighbor, 19 year old Maurice OTWELL (1845-1915), on 15 July 1865 in Perth, Ontario. After marriage, they lived with Maurice's parents on the OTWELL Farm near St. Mary's and had at least 7 children (John Franklin, William, Edwin (our ancestor), Mary Ellen HALEY, Edith PAGE, Ila May MCLEOD-YOUNIE and Victoria Jane FREISLEBEN).

After Maurice was committed in 1889 (see previous post), Jane and her children remained in the OTWELL household. Several of the older children married and moved away that year. In 1890, Jane’s mother-in-law, Mary TAYLOR-OTWELL, passed away and the OTWELLs sold the farm and moved to London, Ontario by 1891.

Maurice's father, John Franklin OTWELL, was still patriarch of the family.  By 1903 John had senile dementia.  He was caught stealing and sent to prison.  (You'll have to wait for his upcoming post for the full story.)  Just imagine what Jane and the family went through in such a short period of time - Maurice's insanity, Mary's death, loss of the farm, John Franklin's dementia and imprisonment.

Jane must have wanted a fresh start.  She moved the remaining family to Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan. (One of her daughters had previously moved there.) She first appears in the 1903 Detroit directory offering furnished rooms for rent. In the 1910 census, her occupation is keeper at a rooming house. Her daughters Ila May MCLEOD and Edith PAGE were also renting there.

Jane never remarried.  Maurice died in 1915.  In the 1920 census, Jane was a retired widow living in her daughter’s, Mary Ellen HALEY’s, household. By 1921, she appears in the Detroit directory living at another location.

Jane died of pneumonia at home on 18 January, 1935 at age 87 years. Her son John OTWELL was the informant on her death certificate. She was laid to rest at Oakview Cemetery, Oakland County, Michigan.  Her obituary mentions that she was the niece of England's late Lord Salisbury, but no further information has been found on that information.

Obit courtesy cousin David H.- from his scrapbook

Visit her on-line memorial:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Maurice OTWELL (1845-1915)

Edna OTWELL > Edwin OTWELL > Maurice OTWELL

Maurice was born about 1845 in Fayette Co., Kentucky and was the only child of John Franklin OTWELL and Mary H. TAYLOR.  He was also known as Morris.  The family worked a 100 acre plantation in Kentucky and another farm in St. Mary’s, Ontario, Canada.  About 1859, the family immigrated to St. Mary’s when Maurice was 14 years old to avoid the impending U. S. Civil War.

At age 19, Maurice married his neighbor, 17 year old Jane ASH (1847-1935), on 15 July 1865 in Perth, Ontario.  After marriage, they lived on the OTWELL Farm and had at least 7 children (JohnFranklin, William Charles, Edwin James (our ancestor), Mary Ellen HALEY, Edith Ann PAGE, Ila May YOUNIE and Victoria Jane FREISLEBEN)

Maurice and his father, John Franklin, were farmers who grew crops for sale at farmer’s markets in surrounding cities.  Eventually, they began canning the produce and started a cannery at the farm.  The business was named “John F. Otwell & Sons”.  Maurice became a travelling salesman selling canned goods throughout the region.

In 1884, Maurice patented his invention of a match safe (a container to protect matches).
3 January 1884, The Argus, page 3
From St. Mary's Museum
In the late 1880s, Maurice began a campaign to repeal the Scott Act (Canada’s temperance movement).  He would give speeches in the town square and wrote letters to regional newspapers in hopes of publication.  He called this campaign the “Maurice Act” and the speech and letters (1885 and 1889) can be found on-line from the Canadian Archives. 

It has been recorded in medical records that sometime in his 30s, Maurice developed epilepsy.  This was likely caused by a blow to the head.  (Another possible cause of epilepsy this late in life is a brain tumor, but it is unlikely since he lived to age 69.)  Seizures cause scarring typically in the region of the brain that when damaged, can cause schizophrenia.  The “Maurice Act” may indicate that he was self-medicating with liquor to control his seizures.  Soon after that letter written in 1889, he tried to burn the house down and tried to kill his father.  Maurice was found insane and was admitted to St. Mary’s Lunatic Asylum 16 April 1889 at the age of 43.

Dr. Richard BUCK was the superintendent of the asylum between 1877 and 1902.  He favored humanitarian treatment of patients and he attempted to improve their mental health by providing beautiful surroundings and many social activities.  The asylum had a working farm and an amusement hall.  Dr. BUCK limited the hospital’s use of mechanical restraints.  The family did the best for Maurice by placing him here.  There were no drugs at that time to treat his condition or reduce the frequency of seizures.  In the early years, the Asylum used liquor to control patients.  Maurice never improved.

Maurice died 6 Apr 1915 of epilepsy.  He was 69 years old and had spent nearly 26 years in the asylum.  His body was retrieved by the local funeral home Smith, Clark & Sons.  We do not know in which cemetery he was buried.



The following is Maurice’s St. Mary’s medical record 1889-1890 (case #2909).  The footnotes designated as, for example, [1] are my research notes. If you want a copy of the original for purposes other than research, contact the Canadian Archives and request it under the freedom of records act. 

-Folio 20-

History: Abt 43 yrs. Married. 7 children. Bk-keeper. U.S.[1] Has been eccentric. Has been insane for years. Says he is going to revolutionize the world and fancies he is going to the sun and that he is annexed to Christ, etc. Is an Epileptic[2] – has threatened himself and attempted to injure others. Fair English education.

Dr. Sinclair- St. Mary’s Certifies: At times very talkative and again melancholy. Makes public speeches and imagines people are envious to hear him altho he talks nonsense. Opposes the Scott Act[3]. Says Maurice Act is better tho there is no such Act. Has a glass case in the post office here where he puts advice for the benefit of the people. Fancies he has business to attend to where he has none. His wife alleges that he set fire to the house and has attempted to kill his father. Got out of bed to get axe to use on someone.

Dr. James J. Hall- St. Mary’s Certifies: Reasoning faculty is disturbed & confused. Frequently he is violently excited and mischievous. Has had Epileptic Fits for 10-12 yrs[4]. Neglects his family.

Admission: Apr 16th 89. He is today admitted to the Asylum clean and alright.

Fit: Apr 18th. Had a severe Epileptic Fit this afternoon.

North Building[5]: Apr 19th. Had another fit this AM and he was very much excited. Attacked Royce (Attendant) violently and tried to choke him when he asked him to go to Hall. He is today sent to North Building. 

Bromides: Apr 23. Has been having fits but has been quiet and well behaved: is today to consume Bromides[6]

May 1. Quiet and well behaved most of the time. 

June 1. Rarely excited and only after fits.

Main Building: June 28. Has been well behaved of late and is today sent to Main Building to make room for a worse patient.

Attempted to Elope: July 17. Was sent out to work with the garden gang this afternoon and eloped about the middle of the afternoon but was recaptured by D. ROSS & brought back before he got off the grounds.

Aug 1/89. Very bad tempered of late. He made an attack on attendant because he did not give him his medicine at the time he wanted it. Tore attendant’s shirt.

Aug 5/89. Transferred from 4B to 4 North Building.

Carried forward to next page.

-From Folio 20-

Insinuating to Kill: Aug 30 1889. Yesterday, he wrote to BUCK a letter[7] in which he said he would take the Doctor’s life if he were not liberated by tomorrow evening at six o’clock. This morning he still maintains that he will kill the Doctor unless liberated. The Colleagues and all the attendants have been cautioned to be very careful of this patient while Dr. BUCK is in the hall. 

Secreting Stones: Sep 2. Was found with half a dozen stones in his pockets on coming in from airing court yesterday.

Excited and Breaking Glass: Sept 3. Was excited last night and thru a number of flower pots through a window. Broke 18 panes of glass and two window sash. Said he did it so that the Dr. would notice him: patient afterwards complained bitterly that the attendant, who took him away from the window, hurt him severely. But upon examination, no bruises were apparent. 

Oct 1. Quiet and well behaved since last note.

Nov 1. Attends amusements sometimes and is quiet and well behaved.

Dec 1. Unchanged.

1 Jan 90. Quiet and well behaved but does not improve mentally: good bodily health except fits occasionally

Feb 1. Remains unchanged.

Mar 1. Remains unchanged: thinks at present to be a great orator and wants to give a lecture in the Amusement Hall on Temperance.

Apr 1. Remains unchanged.

Main Building: Dec 1. Has been quiet and well behaved of late and is today sent to Main Building to make room for a worse patient.

Dec 2. Has been very quiet since coming to this building

 Jan 7/91. Unchanged.

 Mar 15. Has been a little excited lately. Has a great scheme of starting a pickling factory here and another in Winnipeg. Will talk by the hour on the subject giving minute reasons for his selection of London & Winnipeg.

Violent: May 7. Struck Att WRIGHT- because he wanted him to run rubber[8].

Aug 5. Has been very quiet and well behaved lately.

1891 Feb 2nd. Is in good bodily health. Improved mentally.

Nov 30. While in a fit today he fell against a radiator and burnt his left hand severely.

Dec 1. Two large blisters on palm of hand show themselves which will likely result in sloughing ulcer. 

-N.B. See page 20 of this case book.-

-Page 201-

1 Jan 1893. His hand is improving under application of bitamic oint[9]. Occasionally has fits. Is unchanged mentally. 

Jan 10. The right side of face is today attacked with Erysipelas[10]. Painted it with Collodion[11].

Jan 14. The erysipelas has involved the whole scalp. He is on Ferri Mur 8th x and Quinine as T every 2 hours[12].

Mar 23. Came up behind an att today with a chair and struck him on the head and arm without provocation. 

Dec 6. Commenced to use today on Sycosis of Face & Head a sol of Soda Hyposulphite 3T/3T frequently mopped on at night to be smeared over with Icthyol oint 388 in 3T of Lanolin.

1894 Jan1. His head is improving slowly under the above tr. Always fanatically inventing. Is quite excited at times. General health fair.

1895 Jan 8. Unchanged

July 11th. He has been very violently and struck and cut a patient badly and sent to North Building today.

1896 Jan 1. In good bodily health; is very delusional, harried, great inventive powers, is getting out patents, etc. Is quarrelsome and lecherous at times.

1897 Jan 1. No particular change mentally or physically; has occasional fits and is wonderful inventive genius, especially with direction of Railway motors, flying machines, etc.

1898 Jan 1. Continues much the same mentally and physically since last noted.

1899 Jan 1. Is very fair bodily health; no change mentally; has epileptic seizures more or less frequently.

1900 Jan 1. No change

1901 Jan 1. No change

1 May 1902. In fair bodily health, is getting more quiet and reserved in manner but still displays his “inventive genius” occasionally. Subject to epileptic fits now and then.

1903. No material change. In Main Building now. N.B.

(That is the end of the medical record.)

 Research Footnotes

[1] To date, no documents have been found to support that he was a book keeper in the US. 

[2] Epileptics had a higher incidence of schizophrenia. At this time, there were no drugs to control the seizures and brain damage occurred that led to schizophrenia. 

[3] The Scott Act was the Canadian temperance act. 

[4] Maurice began having seizures late in life; in his mid 30s. They may have been acquired through a head trauma. 

[5] The hospital segregated the violent patients to the North Building (N.B.) and Maurice spent 2 months in the N.B. after his first attack. Then returned 2 months later (Aug “89) for a 1 year 4 month stay. And again, returned to the N.B. in 1895 through 1903. 

[6] Bromide or potassium bromide is a sedative. Originally, the hospital administered liquor, but by 1887, Dr. BUCK had removed all alcohol in patient treatment. 

[7] There is an asterisk here with a note to “See Fyle”; the letter must have been kept in the file, but it no longer exists according to the Canadian Archives. 

[8] Pulling rubber was an activity designed to keep mentally ill patients calmed and focused. This might have been what they were talking about. 

[9] I could not find a reference to bitamic ointment and think this may have been botanic ointment. 

[10] Erysipelas is a bacterial infection producing large raised red patches on the face and legs. 

[11] Collodion is a flammable solution of pyroxylin (AKA nitrocellulose) in ether & alcohol that was used in treatment of skin infections. 

[12] Likely Muriated Tincture of Iron and Quinine sulfate

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Joseph SCOTT (1793-1866) and Mary (1797-?)


Joseph Scott was born about 1793 in England.  On December 13, 1831 he immigrated from London, England to New York with his wife, Mary, and their children.  They arrived on the ship "Florida".  Joseph was listed as a farmer.

We have found no marriage records.  Joseph and Mary had eight children.  They included Joseph, Maria, Gabriel, William, Mary, Alice, Elizabeth and John.  John was born in New York.  The other children were on the ship's manifest as born in England.

In July 1850, Joseph appeared on the US Census.  He was living in Lockport, NY and was a clerk.  We, also, found Joseph on the NYS 1855 Census.  He was a farmer.  On the 1860 US Census, Joseph was a farmer living with his son, Gabriel and Gabriel's family in Lockport, NY.  The NYS 1865 Census listed Joseph as a widow and now retired.  He was still living with his son, Gabriel.

Joseph Scott died August 24, 1866 in Lockport, NY.  He was 73-years old.  He was buried in Grace Church Burying Ground.  The cemetery was moved in the late 1920's to Glenwood Cemetery.

We do not know too much about Mary.  We have no maiden name for her.  According to the ship manifest, she was 34-years old and born in England.  That would make her born in 1797.  We did not find Mary on any census reports.  Her last child was born in 1834.  Apparently, she died between 1834 and the 1850 census report.

This will conclude the Scott line.

Visit Joseph Scott's on-line memorial:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Eliza SCOTT-CHARNOCK (1830-1898)


Elizabeth Scott, known as Eliza, was born in 1830 in England.  Her parents were Joseph and Mary Scott.  We do not know Mary's maiden name.

At the age of one, Eliza Scott arrived in New York from London, England on December 13, 1831.  Her parents and their seven children aged thirteen to one arrived on the ship "Florida".

On the 1850 US Census, Eliza was 20 years old and lived in Lockport, NY with the Scott family.  Some time after 1855 she married Robert Charnock.  We next find her in London, Ontario, Canada on the 1871 Canadian Census at the age of 41.  She was listed as a dressmaker.  She was also listed on the 1891 census still living in London, Ontario.  She was a widow.

We found six children for Elizabeth and Robert Charnock.  They were William Henry, Alice, Lillian, John, Emma and Mary Jane (Edna's mother).

Eliza Scott-Charnock died on March 25, 1898 in London, Ontario, Canada.  She was 67-years old.  She lived at 572 Maitland Street, London, Ontario.  She was a Methodist.  Eliza was in the hospital for eight days before she died from apoplexy, an old term for unconsciousness or incapacity resulting from cerebral hemorrhage or stroke.

Visit her on-line memorial:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Robert CHARNOCK (1806-1847) and Margaret BRADLEY (1811-?)


Robert Charnock was born in 1806 in Lancashire, Liverpool, England.  He married Margaret Bradley on August 28, 1828 at St. Peter's Church in Liverpool.  The children we found were Mary Jane, Robert, Martha (#1), John Henry, Margaret and twins, Martha (#2) and Elizabeth.  The twin, Martha, was named after the death of her sister, Martha.

Robert Charnock was listed under Insolvent Debtors at Court house in Liverpool in 1837.  On the 1841 England/Wales Census, Robert is 35, a stonemason and lived on Pinnington Street in Liverpool.

Robert's death was listed in the quarter of April, May, June 1847 in Liverpool.  He was 41.

The Charnock surname is a locational name from either Heath Charnock or Charnock Richard in Lancashire.  It is a derivative of the word "cairn", rock, stone; hence "rocky district".  The name literally means one who lived near the stones.  We found Liverpool had a large community of Charnock residents.  With such common first names we are unable to identify Robert's parents.

Margaret Bradley was born in 1811 in Preston, Lancashire, England.  She was the wife of the above Robert Charnock and mother of the seven children.  Her husband died at the age of 41.

On April 25, 1849 she married John Jackson.  Their daughter, Sarah Ann Jackson, was christened on May 9, 1850.  On the 1851 England/Wales Census the family was living on Skelhorne Street.  Margaret had previously lived with Robert Charnock on Skelhorne Street.  We do not know if it was the same residence.

We have not found Margaret Bradley-Charnock-Jackson after the 1851 census.  We have no information on her death.

This completes the lines of Charnock and Bradley.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Robert CHARNOCK (1831-1878)

Signature of Robert CHARNOCK

BIRTH - Robert Charnock was born on Skelhorne Street in Liverpool, England.  He was christened January 17, 1831 at Saint Peter's Church in Liverpool.  His parents were Robert Charnock and Margaret Bradley.

1831 Baptism Records for Saint Peter's Church, Liverpool
Many records on the Charnock family were found at St. Peter's Church, Liverpool.

From 1831 until around 1854 Robert was in Liverpool, England.  In 1851 he was listed on the England and Wales Census still living on Skelhorne Street in Liverpool with his mother and stepfather.  He was 20 years old and a mason (like his father Robert).

On the 1855 NYS Census, Robert was living with his sister, Mary Jane Croose, and her family in the Town of Barre, Orleans County, New York.  This census indicated that he came to the US in December 1854.  His occupation was "builder".

Robert Charnock married Eliza Scott in Lockport, New York after 1855.

From 1862 until his death in 1878 he was in London, Ontario, Canada.  Robert and Eliza had at least six children: William Henry, Alice, Lillian, John, Emma and Mary Jane (our direct relative).  On several of the children's birth records, Robert is listed as a bricklayer in London, Ontario.  He was listed on the 1871 Canadian Census, age 40, stonemason, religion: Methodist.  In an 1873 directory, he is listed as a bricklayer.  In an 1877 directory, he is a stonecutter.

DEATH - Robert Charnock died October 31, 1878 in London, Ontario, Canada from consumption (tuberculosis).  He was 46-years old. He was buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in London, Ontario. 

Visit his on-line memorial:

Friday, February 3, 2017

Oh You Kids! Children of Edwin and Mary OTWELL

Edna and Lillian, Aug 1929
Photo courtesy of Aunt Delores S.

Edna’s Siblings

Lillian Edith CRAIG (1892-1977) had a 5th grade education. She married Byron CRAIG (1888-1947) before 1916 and settled in Lackawanna, Erie County, NY. Byron was a brakeman on the New York Central Railroad’s Knickerbocker and Missourian passenger trains and he died suddenly one day while taking a nap. They had at least 3 children (Robert, James and  Byron Jr.).  On the 1930 census we also found a Fred Craig, age 4, listed as a son.  Fred is not listed on the 1940 census and would not have been born to be on the NYS 1925 Census.  Further research is needed.  She and Byron are interred at Hillcrest Cemetery, Hamburg, NY.
Gravestone -Photo courtesy cousin Tracy O.

Irene Alice MCMAHON (1894-1920) married Howard MCMAHON (1893-1931) before 1914 and had at least 3 children (Howard, Catherine GROFF and Edith May). She died of influenza at the age of 26 and is interred in the OTWELL family plot at Ridgelawn Cemetery. Their children were reared by the MCMAHON grandparents.
Gertie and Jack SIM (with a bowl haircut)
Niagara Falls, 14 July 1929

Gertrude Emma O’CONNELL (1895-1962) had an 8th grade education. She married Joseph O’CONNELL (1892-1968) on 18 June 1968 and they settled in Buffalo. Joseph was an apprentice at a wallpaper factory in the 1940 census. No children. They are interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna.

Marian (1897-1898) died in infancy. We have not found any documents for her. She is listed as a sibling in Lillian’s obituary. We have not been able to locate her grave.  

Edna, Fred, Olive, Harold and Gertie, circa 1915
On the back is written "The Gang" and "Oh You Kids!"
Photo courtesy of Aunt Pat H.
Harold (1898-1976) had a 9th grade education. In his 1917 WWI draft card, he is described as short and slender with blue eyes and brown hair. In the 1920 census, he was living in his aunt Mary HALEY’s household in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan. His grandmother Jane ASH was living there at the time, too. His occupation was timekeeper at a forge company. He returned to Buffalo and married Hazel M. GARRISON (1901-) on 26 September 1924 and they lived with Hazel’s brother according to the 1925 New York State census and 1930 federal census. No children. They were divorced by the 1940 census and Hazel later remarried. In the 1940 census, his occupation was watchman for the city parks system and his brother Fred was living with him. Harry enlisted in the military during WWII. He died at age 77 of a heart attack on 12 July 1976 and was interred in the OTWELL family plot at Ridgelawn Cemetery.
Lillian, Olive and Edna, Woodlawn Beach, 1929
Photo courtesy Aunt Pat H.

Olive and friend Aunt Mazy
Family Picnic, Chestnut Ridge
Olive May MCKENNA (1900-1985) had a 6th grade education. She married James MCKENNA (1893-1953) on 20 September 1922 and they settled in Buffalo. James’ occupation on the 1940 census was oiler at a construction job. They had at least 3 children (Frederick, Arlene ROLA and Janet SIEKMAN).
Fred OTWELL, 1923
Photo courtesy of cousin Jim O.

Frederick (1902-1992) had an 8th grade education, was a brakeman for the South Buffalo Railway and a member of the St. Patrick’s Club. He purchased the speakeasy on 17 Wadsworth from John SIM (see previous post). After his father’s death in 1920, he became the head of the household according to the 1930 census. In 1940, he was living in his brother Harry’s household and listed as married though his wife was not residing there. He had married Elizabeth GRIFFITH and they had 9 children (James, John, Maureen, Kevin, Thomas, Eileen, Kathy, William and Faith). In 1965, he was injured when the bus he was travelling in overturned near Toledo, Ohio during a tornado. He filed suits against the bus company and the railroad claiming permanent disability. He died in 1992 and was cremated.
Dorothy's gravestone, Photo courtesy cousin Tracy O.

Dorothy (1907-1908) died in infancy of “Acute and Supp. Adenitis” according to the Ridgelawn Cemetery card. Adenitis is the inflammation of a gland.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Edwin James OTWELL, Jr. (1905-1915)

Edwin Otwell
Photo courtesy of
Aunt Pat H.
Edna OTWELL's twin brother
Edwin, Edna
Tin type photo of the twins
Photo courtesy of Aunt Pat H.

Edwin and Edna were born on 23 May 1905 in Buffalo, Erie County, NY. As children, Edna was taller and had olive skin, brown eyes and dark hair. Edwin was shorter and of fair complexion with blue eyes and blonde hair.

On 28 September 1915, 10 year old Edwin was walking to the candy store when he was struck and killed by an automobile. Cause of death was a fractured skull.  His death was devastating to the family. Verbal family history says that the driver was drunk at the time of the accident. The newspaper article portrays the driver as a hero.

Buffalo Courier, 9/29/1915
(Found on Old Fulton NY Postcards)
Father KELLY continued on as a Catholic priest, but had been relocated from the Buffalo parish soon after the accident.
Edwin's Obit
Buffalo Courier, 1915

(Old Fulton NY Postcards)
Edwin's gravestone
Gravestone, Photo courtesy cousin Tracy O.
Cousin Tracy O. contacted the Ridgelawn Cemetery to locate Edwin’s grave. The cemetery documents indicated that Edwin was first buried in one plot on 1 October 1915, but a few months after, the “family came into some money” and decided to purchase plots so that the family could be near each other. Edwin was moved to the new location along with baby Dorothy on 16 May 1916. Gravestones were purchased for each. The other two plots were reserved for Edwin and Mary Jane. Son Harry bought the 3 remaining plots and these were eventually used for his sister Irene MCMAHON, brother-in-law George W. SIM and himself. (Yes, George rests with the OTWELLs while his wife Edna rests with the nearby SIMs.)

The family gathered during the exhumation of Edwin’s coffin. As the coffin was moved, it fell and the lid opened. Gramma Edna said that she saw his “little blue shoe”.
This sad poem was published by the family one year after his death:
Buffalo Evening News, 28 September 1915
(Old Fulton NY Postcards)
The phrase “family came into some money” could be explained by a document found in Bill SIM’s photo album. It is a life insurance policy taken out for Edna by her mother in 1910. It is likely that Edwin had a similar policy. 

 We recently found probate records for Edwin dated 27 October 1915 (case #51897), but have not found the files on-line, yet. This file should confirm if the money was obtained through the life insurance policy or through a lawsuit.
Probate records index, Buffalo 1915
Edwin, Harry and Edna
Edwin, Harry and Edna, circa 1915, Buffalo