The Tait Family

This section is a work in progress. There may be genealogical errors. This summary is not meant to be a complete Tait Family Tree, rather portions relevant to the History of Rockleigh Borough. Much of the Tait Family details have been provided courtesy of two descendents of William L. Tait, who prefers to remain anonymous. Corrections or clarifications are welcome:


Haring-Corning House


Haring Corning House - "Dale Lodge"During 1913, William Lesesne Tait, a southern gentleman of Scots descent, purchased the handsome Haring- Corning-Sloat House in East Northvale, NJ. He named the Manor House Dale Lodge for the charming Dale Lodge Hotel in Grasmere, Cumbria, England. At the time, William Tait's property extended nearly from the cliffs above the Hudson River to the Northvale border.*

 Dale Lodge, residence of theWiliam Lesesne Tait Family. Holdings extended beyond Closter Mountain in the background.

The eastern portion of the tract was sold to the the Thomas Lamont family in the 1930s and by 1949 had been donated to the New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America for incorporation into Camp Alpine. The portion of this tract within Rockleigh Borough (The Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary) was purchased from the BSA by Rockleigh Borough in 1975 as parkland. Since 1996, a larger portion within Alpine (The Lamont Reserve) has been owned jointly as undeveloped parkland by Rockleigh Borough, Borough of Alpine, and Bergen County, NJ. The western portion of the Tait holdings were incorporated in the 1950s into the Rockleigh-Bergen County Golf Course.

Having assumed a leading roll in the 1923 secession of East Northvale from Northvale, Mr Tait was elected the first mayor of Rockleigh Borough. One name proposed for the new Borough was Taitville; Mr  Tait demurred.* "The Origin of New Jersey Place Names"** mistakenly attributes name of the "Rockleigh" to the Tait family estate in Norfolk, VA. While there was a Tait Building - at seven stories the tallest in c.1875 Norfolk, there was no Tait estate.* Rockleigh Borough actually was named by Mrs. William Tait (wife of the first Mayor) for the local topography.*

William Lesesne Tait served a three-year mayoral term from April, 1923, through December, 1925.  Upon the death of his wife in 1925, Mayor Tait submitted his resignation to the Council, but was persuaded to remain in office until the end of the year. From 1926 through Oct 1927, William L. Tait continued service as Councilman on the Rockleigh Borough Council. As Mayor and Councilman, William L. Tait was the prominent force in guiding the birth and development of Rockleigh Borough.

*Personal Communication with a Tait descendent.
** Federal Writers Program, W.P.A. and the N.J. State Library Commission, 2002


The Tait Ancestry

Tait TartanThe patrimony of the Tait family in Haddington, Scotland, can be traced back into the 1600's. Well before then, Taits had migrated southward from the Shetland Islands, where Old Norse was spoken into the 20th century, to the lowlands of eastern Scotland and East Lothian.

George Tait, Sr. (15 Jun 1796, Haddington - 2 Aug 1844*, Haddington, age c.48), son of Robert Tait (1760, Haddington - 20 Mar 1844, Haddington) & Janet Kemp (m. in Falkirk, Stirling, Scotland, on 28 Mar 1789), was bookseller and stationer on High Street, Haddington, East Lorthian, Scotland. He was also an author, lithographer, and publisher of "East Lothian Magazine" (1822-1928) and "East Lothian Literary and Statistical Journal" (1830).*

In 1830, George Tait was appointed Merchant Counselor to the Magistrates of Haddington. In 1840 he is shown on the Burgh List of Electors as Stationer and Auctioneer.**


George married on 8 May 1831 in Haddington Catherine Spottiswoode (1 Sep 1811 - 17 May 1840, age 27), daughter of Charles Spottiswoode & Helen Murray, and resided at 12-14 High Street, where they raised three sons. ** The Spottiswoode name is associated with Parish Gordon, Berwickshire, about 25 miles south of Haddington.

* David H.J. Schenck: "Directory of the Lithographic Printers of Scotland, 1820-1870"
Edinburgh Biographical Society in association with the
National Library of Scotland.  Knoll Press, USA. 1999.
** Personal Communications, David H.J. Schenck of Surry, England

After the deaths of Catherine and George Sr., orphans Robert (12), George Jr. (9), and Charles (7) were taken in by two maiden aunts and their maternal grandmother.* 

*Personal Communication with a Tait descendent.

The children of George and Catherine were:

   i. Robert. Tait (1832 - bef.1900)
  ii. Charles Tait (12 Oct 1833 - bef.1837, age 3),*
George Tait, Jr. (1835-1898),
 iv. Charles Spottiswoode Tait, M.D. (18 Sep 1837, Haddington - 22 May 1860, age 26, Elizabethtown, NC),*
  v. James Tait (1838 - 1839, age 1)*

This stone was placed here August 1884 
by Colonel George Tait, of Virginia,
in memory of, and over the remains of his parents
Catherine Spottiswoode Tait,
who died 17th May 1840 aged 27 years.
And George Tait,
Bookseller in Haddington
who died 2nd August 1844 aged 49 years
and of their children
Charles who died in 1837 aged 3 years
James who died in 1839 aged 1 year
and also of their son
Charles Spottiswoode Tait, M.D.
who died 22nd May 1860 aged 23 years
in Elizabethtown, North Carolina,
and who is buried there.


Grave marker in the floor of the chancel of St. Mary's Church, Haddington, Scotland.
[The graveyard included an area surrounded by the ruins of  the 13th Century church, burned by the
English  in the 1500's. The rebuilding of St. Mary's Church in the 1970's re-incorporated the burial
ground into the chancel of the  restored church.]

1 i.      Robert Tait (28 Mar 1832, Haddington, Scotland - bef.1900, Bladenboro, NC), son of George Tait, Sr. & Catherine Spottiswoode, emigrated about 1853 from Scotland to New York with his brother George.  Robert married 17 February 1854 in New York City Eliza Burton Vert (c.1835, Scotland - bef.1910, Bladenboro, NC) . Apparently, Robert and Eliza met on board the ship. Robert, his wife and brothers, George and Charles, went on to Wilmington then Bladen Co, NC. Robert and George set up as merchants in Bladenboro and established a turpentine business. The area was well known for the export of naval stores. Although the Cape Fear area had at that time a fair number of Scot immigrants, the 1860 census shows Robert and George as the only Scotland-born residents in the Bladenboro area. However, there were others of Scots descent.

In 1858-1859, Robert and Eliza seem to have visited their former homes in Scotland, where son James B. was born.

In July 1861, Robert was commissioned Captain of Company B in the18th North Carolina Troops and in July1862 became Major in the re-organized Company D of the18th regiment of the Confederate States of America.

The 1860 and 1870 Bladenboro, NC, enumerations list Robert as "merchant"; the 1880 census lists him as "farmer."

Children of Robert & Eliza include:

    i. George Wentworth. (c.1856 in NC-?)*
   ii. John Douglas (c.1858 in NC-?)*
  iii. James Burton (c.1859 in Scotland -?)*
  iv. Charlie Spottiswoode. (c.1861 in NC-?)**
   v. Catherine (c.1866 in NC -?)**
  vi. Robert Purdie (c.1869 in NC -?)**
 vii. Eliza Blanche (c.870 in NC -?)**
viii. Sarah Alice (c.1873 in NC -?)**
  ix. Mary Susan (c.1875 in NC -?)*
   x. Ellen Vert. (poss. dy)

* 1860 US Census, North Carolina, Bladen Co, Bladenboro, p. 138.
**1870 US Census, North Carolina, Bladen Co, Blasenboro, p 5
** 1880 US Census, North Carolina,  Bladen Co, Bladenboro, p21.
*** 1880 US Census, North Carolina, Bladen Co, Abbotsburg,.p 5. (enumerated
twice: second as a clerk in Isaac Smith's grocery store)

1 iii.   George Tait, Jr. (29 Apr 1835, Haddington, Scotland - 25 Nov 1898, Bladenboro, NC, interred Elmwood Cemetery, Norfolk, VA), son of George Tait, Sr. & Catherine Spottiswoode, emigrated with his brother Robert c.1853 from Scotland to Bladen Co, NC, where they set up as merchants and established a turpentine business.* The area on the Cape Fear River was noted for the export of naval stores (turpentine, pitch, tar, staves, lumber, etc). There George married c.1858 Sarah Rebecca Pickette Lesesne (27 July 1840, Bladenboro, NC - 11 Apr 1911, Norfolk, VA), daughter of James W. Lesesne & Lucy Ann Lewis both of Bladen, NC.*  The Lesesne family has Huguenot roots in Charleston, SC.*

Children of George & Sarah include*:

  i. James Cowan (b.1859, Elizabethtown, NC - 1919, Norfolk, VA) m. in 1890 Ammie Adams Samuel.

Children of James Cowen Tait & Ammie Adams include:
i. Ethel Spottiswoode (b. 1891, VA -?) m. Fred Kingsley Elder of Altoona, PA. [
Children of Ethel Spottiswoode Tait & Fred Kingsley Elder include three sons, all of whom earned doctoral degrees.]
ii. Rebecca (b. 1893, VAv-?) 
iii. Helen Hill (b. 1895, VA -?)  
iv. Frances Elizabeth (b. 1898, VA -?)
v. Marguerite Villeponteaux (b. 1899, VA -?)
vi. Irene (b. 1900, VA -?)
vii. Edith (b. 1901, VA -?)
viii. Jean (b. 1905, VA -?)

 ii.  Robert (17 Aug.1861, Elizabethtown, NC - 2 Feb 1937, Baltimore, MD) m. 24 Jun 1885 Frances Adams

i. Florence (b. 1886),
ii. Robert (b. 1890),
iii. George (b. 1893),
iv. Lucy (b. 1895)

iii. William Lesesne (1866-1943).

*Family Data Collection-Individual Records, 
**Personal Communication with a Tait descent.

In the 1860 census, George Tait (age 25 of Scotland) is listed in Bladenboro as Merchant. Also listed are his wife, Sarah R.P. Tait (20, keeping house), James C (1, son), and Sarah's brother, Richard M. Lesesne (22, Clerk).*

* 1860 US Census: North Carolina, Bladen Co., Elizabethtown,  page 148
(Image 139).

In April 1861 George Tait established the Bladen Artillery Guards Company K (generally known as Capt. Tait's Company) of the North Carolina Volunteers. In Nov 1863 at Smiths Island, NC, Captain Tait's Company K joined (along with several artillery companies from North Carolina and Southern Virginia) the 3rd Artillery, 40th Regiment, North Carolina State Troops, CSA** The commanders of the newly organized 40th Regiment were Col. John J. Hedrick, Lt. Col. George Tait, and Major William A. Holland.

Captain George Tait of the 40th North Carolina Regiment drew this picture of the second Federal Point Lighthouse before it was destroyed by Confederates in order to enlarge Ft. Fisher.On 10 October 1864, Lt. Col. Tait was ordered to take command of the post at Fort Holmes on Smith's Island (Bald Head), an important part of the defenses with Fort Fisher in the mouth of the Cape Fear River near important port city of Wilmington, NC. This position guarded the last gateway between the Confederate States and the outside world. On 15 January, 1965, Confederate Point and Fort Fisher fell to amphibious assault, effectively marking the beginning of the end of the Civil War.

Col. George TaitOn 11 Jan 1865, four days before the fall of Fort Fisher, Col. Tait had been reassigned to command of the 79th Regiment (8th Calvary) with a rank of Colonel.* However, he may not have served with this regiment. A soldier who served under him wrote "He was a good and brave officer and in his rank had no superior in the service." At the time when Col. Tait commanded the 40th Regiment, the Inspector General pronounced the regiment the "best drilled unit he had ever seen in the Confederate Army." At the end of the War Between the States, Col. Tait returned to a home and business that had been burned in January 1865 by the NC Troops to keep it out of Union hands. **

*Personal Communication with a Tait descendent.
** Later photograph Col. George Tait  onto
which the uniform had been painted. From
Three-Quarters of a Century, by F.C. Coulter
for Woodruff Seed Co., Milford, CT. 1943.
Courtesy of Robert Hitchings, Archivist,
 Norfolk, Public Library, Norfolk, VA 

Haddington, Scotland, and the adjoining region of England was an area well known for the seed trade. Deciding that there was a future in seed, George Tait moved his family from Bladenboro to Norfolk, VA, where he established Geo. Tait, Seedsman (Est. 1868) on Commercial Street.** In 1885, he took in his elder son, James, and in 1885, his youngest son, William L., and the name became Geo. Tait & Sons. In 1895, Robert Tait joined the family firm.

By 1879, George Tait, Ruling Elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk and a "man of high ideals and consecration", was elected Superintendent of the Sunday School, a position he held until his death on a visit to Bladenboro in 1898. 

* 1860 Federal Census of Bladen County,  NC
**Personal Communication with a Tait descendent.
*** Photograph Col. George Tait  . From
Three-Quarters of a Century, by F.C. Coulter
for Woodruff Seed Co., Milford, CT. 1943.
Courtesy of Robert Hitchings, Archivist,
 Norfolk, Public Library, Norfolk, VA 

The 1880 census for Norfolk, VA, lists Geo. Tate (45, seed store prop.), S.R.P. (wife, 39, keeping house), James C. (son, 20, at store), Robert (son, 18, at college), and Wm. L. (son, 14, at school). They are living at 109 Bank Street.*

 * 1880 Federal Census, Norfolk, VA, (p 30)

2 iii.     William LeSesne Tait (14 Aug 1866, Bethel, NC*- 20 Mar Apr 1943, NYC, NY)**, son of George Tait & Sarah Rebecca Pickette Lesesne, married 14 Feb 1894 Florence Amelia Lobb (8 Oct 1865, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada - 29 Jun 1925, Rockleigh, NJ)**.

Children included:

i. Arthur Lesesne (24 Nov 1895, Norfolk, VA - ?)**;
ii. Trevor Spottiswoode (28 Mar 1897, Norfolk, VA - 10 Mar 1984, Colebrook, Litchfield Co., CT), credit manager*, business executive**, m. 14 Nov 1925 Katharine Lamb (3 Jun 1895, Alpine, NJ - 11 Aug 1981, Cresskill, NJ), artist;
iii. Dorothy Lancaster (12 Jul 1903, NY - 19 Dec 1991, Rochester, NY)*** m. c.1927 real estate sales manager Howard M. Gray (c.1886, GA - ?) and resided in New York City.***

*Family Data Collection-Individual Records, 
** 1930 Census, NYC, NY, Dist No. 31-300, Sheet 12A
***Personal Communication with a Tait descendent.

By the late 1880's William had taken the reins as President of the seed business.* His two brothers held executive positions with the firm. To escape the heat in Norfolk, the family would summer in the Adirondack mountains of New York. There at a church retreat in Clear Lake, he met his wife, Florence Amelia Lobb of Toronto. Her uncle was the retreat minister.

* Photograph Geo. Tait & Sons, Thorobred Seeds.
From Three-Quarters of a Century, by F.C. Coulter
for Woodruff Seed Co., Milford, CT. 1943.
Courtesy of Robert Hitchings, Archivist,
 Norfolk, Public Library, Norfolk, VA 

WilliamTait Residence, 436 Mowbray Arch, Ghent, Norfolk, VABy 1895, William L. Tait had married Florence Amelia Lobb and, with family in mind, built a house in the upscale Ghent area of Norfolk*, fronting the Elizabeth River. The home at 436 Mowbray Arch enjoys historic designation as the William Tait House. In the 1910 census, William L. and his family is listed as living in Norfolk, VA.

* Contemporary photograph of Wm Tait Residence, Norfolk, VA.
Courtesy of Mr Robertt Hitchings, Archivist,
 Norfolk, Public Library, Norfolk, VA 

In 1912, William L. Tait left the family business . He and his brother, Robert, sold their interests to their brother, James, and two employees - and moved his wife and young family to England, intending to settle there. Most of 1913 was spent at Dale Lodge in Grasmere, England, while sons Arthur and Trevor attended boarding school in Canada. With WW I looming, William and Amelia with Dorothy returned to New York City and, apparently serendipitously, found an attractive estate on the market in East Northvale, NJ.*

Having settled in then East Northvale, NJ, William (although raised in the Presbyterian Church) and Florence Amelia became members in the Dutch Reformed Church of Tappan, NY.  They raised a family of three teenagers, all of whom went to college - Arthur to Columbia, Trevor to Yale, and Dorothy to Smith.  As war erupted, both Arthur and Trevor became army pilots and subsequently flight instructors.*

Mrs Tait was a strong supporter of the Palisades preservation movement. She was particularly instrumental in stopping the Standard Oil Company from continuing with their planned oil terminal already in the early stages of construction on the shores of Snedens Landing and upon the cliff top of Palisades, NY.* Florence Amelia Lobb Tait died in 1925 and is interred in Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, NY.

*Personal Communication with a Tait descendent.

The New York Times  

TAIT~ At her home, Dale Lodge, Rockleigh, Bergen Co., NJ, June 29, 1925, Florence Amelia, wife of William Lesesne Tait. Funeral private. No flowers.*

*New York Times,
30 Jun 1925, p19 

William Lesesne Tait sold Dale Lodge (Haring-Corning House) in Jun 1930 to Ruth Van Strum and Mary Birchard of Bergenfield, founders of The Rose Haven School. He retired to New York City where he devoted the remainder of his active life to charity work, primarily with a mission for indigent sailors. William Lesesne Tait died in New York City in 1943 and is buried alongside his wife in Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, NY.

The New York Times

TAITWilliam Lesesne, on March 20, 1943, beloved father of Arthur L., Trevor S., and Mrs Dorothy L. Gray. Interment private. Please do not send flowers.*

*New York Times,
21 Mar 1943, p27 


Written and compiled by E. W. April, 2002
Updated, 200