March 30, 1859
Luke Scott Bonner was born in 1776 to Giselle Somerville, the daughter of Lord Bainbridge, lieutenant governor of Lower Canada, at her home in Montreal. His father, our own Nathaniel Bonner, knew nothing of his existence until 1802 when he went to Montreal on what is now referred to as ‘family business’. A close connection was established, and Luke quickly became acquainted with family here in Paradise and in Scotland. In fact, he was sent to the family seat in Annandale where he spent ten years under the tutelage of his grand-uncle Alasdair, Earl of Carryck. In time he returned to Canada to take up the family’s business interests in Montreal. Luke often visited Paradise and had a warm relationship with his father, step-mother, half brothers and sisters.
In 1813 Luke married Jennet Scott of Carryck and moved his business to New York City, so that he could spend more time in Paradise. The lively couple were blessed with six children: Nathan, Adam, the twins Mariah and Isabel, and Alastair. In July 1830 Jennet died in childbirth, a victim of the typhoid epidemic that robbed us of so many. Luke soon returned to the city where continued as representative for his brother-in-law, the Earl of Carryck’s business interests. The children stayed in Paradise first with their grandparents Nathaniel and Elizabeth and then with Ethan and Callie Middleton, at Ivy House. Their father visited them often, and with the help of the Bonner clan, they overcame the tragic loss of their mother.
Luke concentrated on business matters exclusively until in 1833 when his sons Nathan and Adam and his nephew Henry Savard moved to Manhattan to attend college. Having young men in the house forced him back out into company, where he soon became involved in the abolitionist movement. He had a twenty-year correspondence with William Lloyd Garrison and contributed time and considerable resources to the publication of The Liberator. In May of 1837 he opened his home to four ladies who came to the city to participate in the first Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women. Three of his houseguests were strangers, and the fourth was a distant relative, sister-in-law to his own half-sister Birdie. Luke, his half-sister Hannah and Jennet first made the acquaintance of Rachel Livingston in New Orleans in the last months of the War of 1812. In 1815 Rachel married Charles Wells, a prominent Quaker merchant of Boston. She was widowed in 1835 and gave her time over to the abolitionist and suffrage movements.
Despite the fifteen year difference in age, Luke and Rachel were drawn together by their common history and devotion to worthy causes. They married in the fall of 1837 and often hosted family members for long stays. The family still speaks of a dinner given for no less than 55 of the Bonner clan on the occasion of the youngest of his children’s graduation from law school.
Luke was 83 when his heart failed. He died peacefully with his wife and seven of his children and grandchildren in attendance. He was preceded in death by his father, Nathaniel Bonner, his mother, Giselle Somerville Lacoeur, his step-mother Elizabeth Middleton Bonner, his first wife, Jennet Scott Bonner, by his sister Birdie and brothers-in-law Henry Savard and Simon Ballentyne. He is survived by his second wife, Rachel, by his half-siblings Hannah, Lily, Daniel, Gabriel with spouses and children, and his own children Nathan, Adam, Mariah, Isabel and Alasdair with their spouses, by eight grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews, and friends.
He will be sorely missed.