Wednesday, August 20, 2014

David Jackson in Yokohama

All too often, it takes a murder to help me decide on my next research steps. I was researching the story of David Jackson (1855-1903), an HSBC banker in Yokohama in the mid-1800s, when I read about the murder of a Mr. Carew during one of my late night Google stints. Then I had to wait until a copy of Murder on the Bluff found its way into my mailbox

The murder was also described in a story in The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes.

The motivation for the murder was the kind which is as old as the hills. Edith May Porch was a young wife living in Yokohama in the mid 1890’s. She had married seven years earlier, at age twenty-one. At the age of twenty-eight, she was stuck in an unsatisfying marriage, and itching for a bit of fun. Her inconvenient husband was the unfortunate Walter Raymond Hallowell Carew (1853-1896). Given the circles under his eyes, life was not exactly a bowl of cherries for him either. One of Edith’s love interests, referred to in her diaries as The Youth, was Henry - aka Harry - Vansittart Dickinson, an accountant with HSBC. Arsenic, which she was convicted of having dispensed to her husband over time, was the weapon of choice.

On page 42 of Murder on the Bluff, I found what I had been seeking. A fact that linked the story of the murder to the Jacksons: Henry Dickinson moved closer to Edith, to No. 160 the Bluff – the Jackson’s house. David Jackson was not only the manager at HSBC but also Henry’s boss. Until then, I hadn’t known where David and his wife Margaret Louisa Wright had lived.

Not only was it now possible for Harry to live closer to Edith, by lodging with the Jacksons, but an added advantage was that David’s wife, Louisa offered the cloak of respectability. The illicit lovers often used her as a cover. In one letter, Harry first pledged his love to Edith: I love you utterly my dear one, and remembrance of yesterday will be ever with me…..  then he described a way for her to get out of a dinner obligation at her home:

If you cannot do it ask Mrs Jackson if you may come in here to dinner: it would make her think that there is no woman you could trust more than her.

Again, in another letter: I will come to church with Mrs Jackson and we will all walk up together if possible. Given that most letters were destroyed, it is likely that using the Jacksons in this manner was a common practice.

David Jackson was also the banker that Edith turned to when she needed to get more money from her father. In spite of a sizeable marriage portion that Edith had brought into the marriage, the Carews had been living beyond their means,. Additional funds had been sent by her father, but had been received not by her but by her husband. She never saw the money, and sought a more direct means of accessing these funds from her father. On October 6th, 16 days before her husband’s death, Edith noted in her diary: Walked down the Town, saw Mr H. Jackson [sic –there is no H. Jackson at the bank at this time] about drawing on Papa.

The story of the Carew murder revealed quite a bit about the Jackson’s life in Yokohama. Many of their social circle were mentioned, the entertainments of the day were described, as was the place where they all went to ride, a plateau above the Bluff called The Plains of Heaven. The Boston News account of the trial described the Carews residence as the most fashionable portion of the reservation set apart for the foreign residents of this city. That description would also apply to the Jackson’s house.

David and Louisa Jackson’s home at #160 was right across the street from #162 where David’s older brother Thomas had lived a couple of decades earlier. That house had been just two houses over from #155 where Thomas’ in-laws, the Dares, had lived. Yokohama was clearly a tight-knit community.

The red lettering is mine.

The map image that I am working from is not all that clear, but it appears that there was only one lot between David & Louisa’s house at #160 and the Carew’s house at #169. All that Edith had to do to let Harry know when the coast was clear for a dalliance, was to display a handkerchief on the verandah. Opportunities arose quite frequently. Her husband often took short trips for his health and also his office at the Yokohama United Club at #58 on the Bund was a good walk or jaunt away. The proximity of Walter Carew’s office, only a couple of lots over from Harry’s at HSBC on lot #62, presented other opportunities to know when Walter Carew was likely to be detained.

I had wondered whether Harry might be a relation of David Jackson, but didn’t expect that when I Googled Harry Vansittart Dickinson that the first hit I would get would be on my own Silver Bowl website, nor that his name would have been inscribed in Jeannie Jackson’s Birthday Book. All the entries in this book are from people who either lived in Ireland or else attended the finishing school that her Uncle Thomas Jackson sent her to at Lausanne, Switzerland. Furthermore, each entry was done in their own handwriting. That means those who signed their names had to be with Jeannie in either Ireland, or Switzerland. She never went to Yokohama.

His entry is clearly in his own handwriting in July 29th.

In spite of his entry in the Birthday Book, Harry wasn’t Irish, and had no known Irish relations. The most likely possibility, based on his professional relationship with the Jacksons, is that he was visiting them at Urker. It would have to have been before 1908, the year when Jeannie left Ireland to be married in Vancouver. Since Jeannie had met the young banker Charlie Moorhead while visiting in Crossmaglen, this was perhaps how she met Harry. Perhaps he is one of the unknown men in photos that we have from that time.

In the course of the 1897 trial, Harry renounced his love for Edith. On May 27, 1901, he married Mary Hunter in Nagasaki. Mary had been born in Shanghai, possibly related to Henry Edward Ranson Hunter, an HSBC manager in Shanghai who was distantly related to Jacksons by marriage. Like Mary, Harry had also been born in South Asia, in his case in Hong Kong as the son of an East India merchant. At some point, they moved as a couple to Montreal, where Dickenson died as a widower in 1938.

As for Edith, she was sentenced to death, a sentence which was then commuted, and after serving a lengthy jail sentence, she lived out the last of her days at Cwm-yr-Eglwys in Wales. She died in 1958, several years after the natural deaths of Harry Vansittart Dickinson, and David and Louisa Jackson. I cannot grasp her motivation, but she paid for a memorial to her murdered husband to be installed in the Yokohama Foreign General Graveyard., with a quote from Tennyson, which I find particularly ironic given that Walter’s boat was named The Cocktail:

 Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.

If you have read this far, you can probably tell that this post is a bit of grab bag. My hope is that it might be read by someone who knows more than I do about the social life of the foreigners who were living and working in Yokohama in the 1880s and 1890s. I would love to learn more. You can contact me through my web site at The Silver Bowl. I would be beyond grateful.

NOTE: Maps of the Bluff are at UK’s National Archives. They are also available in various trade books of the region. The on-line versions that I could find were pretty fuzzy. I would love to see more maps.

1 comment:

  1. I just discovered that the judge in the case was Hiram Shaw WILKINSON (1840-1926), born in Belfast and a friend of Thomas JACKSON's. He wrote to TJ's widow in 1920. H.S. WILKINSON had two sons born in Yokohama, and his wife died in 1870.