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Many thanks to Mark Strachan of the North Ayrshire Museum at Saltcoats for his contribution to this page. www.northayrshiremuseums.org.uk
The Poe Family
Born at 33 Hollis Street, Boston, MA, USA on 19th January 1809, second of three children of poverty stricken actors, David Poe, and Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins (Poe). His parents were then filling an engagement in a Boston theatre, and the appearances of both, together with their travels to various places during their wandering careers, are to be plainly traced in the play bills of the time. Elizabeth died on 8th December 1811 in Richmond, VA, USA and Edgar was taken into the family of John Allan, a member of the firm of Ellis and Allan, tobacco - merchants.
couple continued to play together during the period of the birth of their
children but with very minor success. They had two other children. William
Henry Leonard born in
Boston in 1807 and Rosalie
at Norfolk, Va., probably in December, 1810. Due to their poverty, which
was always extreme, the first child, Henry,
had been left in the care of his grandparents in Baltimore shortly after his
birth. In the summer of 1809 the Poes went to New York where David
Poe either died or deserted
his wife, probably the former. Elizabeth
was left with the infant Edgar
and some time afterward gave birth to a daughter. A suspicion was afterwards
thrown on the paternity of this last child and on the reputation of Elizabeth,
which played an unfortunate part in the lives of her children. It is safe to say
that it was unjust.
David Poe of Baltimore, Maryland, who had left the study of the law in Baltimore to take up a stage career, much against the wishes of his family. The Poe Family had settled in America some two or three generations prior to the birth of Edgar. Their line can be traced back to Dring in the Parish of Kildallen, County Cavan, Ireland, and thence into the Parish of Fenwick in Ayrshire, Scotland. The first Poes came to America about 1739. The immediate paternal ancestors of the poet landed at Newcastle, Delaware, in 1748 or a little earlier. These were John Poe and his wife Jane McBride (Poe) who settled in eastern Pennsylvania. They had ten children in their family, among them a David Poe who was the grandfather of Edgar. David Poe married Elizabeth Cairnes, also of Scotch-Irish ancestry, then living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from where, sometime prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution they moved to Baltimore, Maryland.
David Poe and his wife, Elizabeth Cairnes (Poe), took the patriot side in the Revolution. David was active in driving the Tories out of Baltimore and was appointed "Assistant Deputy Quartermaster," which meant that he was a local purchasing agent of military supplies for the Revolutionary Army. He is said to have been of considerable aid to Lafayette during the Virginia and Southern campaigns, and for this patriotic activity he received the courtesy title of "General." His wife Elizabeth took an active part in making clothes for the Continental Army. David and Elizabeth Poe (Sr.) had seven children David, the eldest son, becoming the father of Edgar. Two sisters of David, Eliza Poe (afterward Mrs. Henry Herring) and Maria Poe (later Mrs. William Clemm) enter into the story of Edgar's life, the latter particularly, as she became his mother-in-law in addition to being his aunt. With her he lived from 1835 to 1849.
young widow whom David Poe
married in 1806 had been born in England in the spring of 1787.
She was the daughter of Henry
Arnold, and Elizabeth
actors at the Covent Garden Theatre Royal, London. Henry Arnold died apparently
about 1773. His widow continued to support herself and her child by
acting and singing, and in 1796, taking her young daughter with her, she
came to America and landed in Boston. Mrs.
Arnold continued her
professional career in America at first with considerable minor success. Either
immediately before, or just after arriving in the United States, however, she
married a second time, one Charles
Tubbs, an Englishman of
minor parts and character. The couple continued to act, sing, and dance in
various cities throughout the eastern seaboard and the young Miss Arnold was
soon noticed on the play bills appearing in childish roles as a member of the
various troupes to which her family belonged. Mr.
and Mrs. Tubbs disappeared
from view about 1798 but the career of Elizabeth
Arnold, Poe's mother, can
be traced accurately by various show bills and notices in the newspapers of the
different cities in which she played until her death in 1811.
It was during her wanderings as an actress that she married C.
D. Hopkins, himself an
actor, in August, 1802. There were no children by this union. Hopkins
died three years later, and in 1806, as previously noted, his widow was
married to David Poe.
The Allan Family
Poe was survived by her three
children. Two of these, Edgar
were with her at the time of her death and were cared for by charitable persons.
then about two years old, was taken into the home of John
Allan, a Scottish merchant in fairly
prosperous circumstances, while the infant Rosalie
was given shelter by a Mr. and Mrs.
William Mackenzie. The
Allans and Mackenzies
were close friends and neighbours. The children remained in these households,
and the circumstances of their fostering were, as time went on, equivalent to
While in Irvine Edgar stayed with John's spinster sister Mary in Bridgegate House, a two-storey tenament house owned by the Allan Family or William Galt. William is possibly a distant relative of John Galt the writer born in Irvine. The Allan/Galt house in Irvine was only a few doors from the printing house and bookshop of publisher David Macmillan. In the same square was Templeton's Bookshop, where Robert Burns, some 34 years earlier, had spent many hours browsing through stacks of old sheet music and songs. Beside the river Irvine stands the parish church and alongside it the graveyard, in which all the Allan ancestors are buried. John Allan, who had himself been orphaned, emigrated to America with his uncle, William Galt, who became a weathy merchant with considerable interests in the European and American trade of colonial produce and tobacco. William Galt eventually died as one of the richest men in Virginia.
Edgar is reported as having found few pleasures here in his exile from the the two women whose adoration he was already addicted. He shared a room with James Galt, a cousin of the family, who also attended the Grammar School. James was born around 1800 so was a good deal older than Edgar, and it is suggested that he had to keep an eye on Edgar who threatened to run away to London or back to America. James Galt went to America when the Allans returned there.
By 1816, however, he was back in London where his foster-father was endeavoring to build up a branch of his Richmond firm, Ellis and Allan, by trading in tobacco and general merchandise. The family resided at Southampton Row, Russell Square, while the young Edgar was sent to a boarding school kept by the Misses Dubourgs at 146 Sloane Street, Chelsea. He remained there until the summer of 1817. In the fall of that year he was entered at the Manor House School of the Rev. Mr. John Bransby at Stoke Newington, then a suburb of London. At this place be remained until some time in the spring of 1820 when he was withdrawn to return to America.
The young Poe's memories of his five years' stay in Scotland and England were exceedingly vivid and continued to furnish him recollections for the remainder of his life. He seems to have been a precocious and somewhat lordly young gentleman. A curious and vivid reminiscence of these early school days in England remains in his story of "William Wilson." It is significant of his relations with his foster-parents that the bills for his English schooling are rendered for Master Allan. There can be little doubt that at this time Mr. Allan regarded him as a son.
Check out the above website for more research into Edgar Allan Poe in Scotland