The Mystery of Frank Hamilton 18

Update 2-24-2017

Could Frank Hamilton and Gilbert Hamilton be the same person?

Gilbert Hamilton (Left) and Frank Hamilton (Right)

Frank Hamilton Facts Gilbert Hamilton Facts
Birth: Nov 16, 1852, Greater London, England Birth: Jan 31, 1853 OR July 30, 1852 (Corfin, Joncan Islands?)
Parents: John & Ann (Morton) Hamilton Parents: Lieutenant-General Henry Meade Hamilton and Henrietta Borrowes
Time Served in Military: Time Served in Military: Afghan War (1878-1880), South Africa (1899-1902)

Member of the 14th Hussars (Between 1860 and 1914 the regiment spent 29 years in Ireland or England, interspersed with three Indian postings in 1876, 1881 and 1906 and two South African ones in 1881 and 1900. On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the regiment remained in India)

Retired from Military in 1906, half pay.

Attended College and was well-educated, speaking multiple languages Education: Marlborough College
Marriage: Mary Mann, July 28, 1885 in Chester, Randolph County, Illinois Marriage: Florence Broadhurst, 1885 (Probably Lancashire, England)
  Siblings: Sir Bruce Meade Hamilton, Hubert Ion Hamilton, Keith Hamilton,
Death: 1914, Mississippi Death:  May 4th, 1933, Tonbridge, Kent, England

Jim (James?) Hamilton b. July 20, 1886, Lawrence County, Arkansas

Oswald Hamilton b. Oct 2, 1889, Calhoun County, Arkansas.

Nina, b. Sept 3, 1893 Zalma, Bollinger Cty, Missouri.

Leslie, b. Dec 16, 1894, Mississippi.

Children: Brian Gilbert Hamilton, b. May 13, 1886, Medlock, Lancashire, England
 Residence: Absent from Mary for almost the entire year of 1995.  Residence: 1891, Yorkshire, Yorkshire, England (Gilbert is living with 2 servants, but otherwise no family in residence, listed as married)

1923, Gilbert Claud Hamilton departed Liverpool and arrived in New York.

1901 Census: Florence B Hamilton and son Brian G. Hamilton are living in Scarborough Yorkshire with 3 servants in household. Gilbert is not living with them.


Links: Grave InfoTravel Time from England to America in 1899 Basic ProfileCompanion of Bath Link –Military Service, 14th HussarsMilitary Promotion DatesGilbert Hamilton BiographyGhazi HamiltonHalf-Pay in British ArmyGenealogy

when this body is buried now that secret is safe forever” – Frank Hamilton on his death bed.


Finding Truth in the Lies…


Although a significant part of this story, the mystery of Frank Hamilton, is not the primary focus of the book, “Trials of the Earth.” Mary Mann Hamilton was as sturdy and strong as Frank was mysterious and unreliable. This project is designed to dig into the facts that can be now easily traced through genealogy research. We are hopeful that there are more truths than lies in the words spoken by Frank Hamilton. It is important to remember that the book is a memoir based on Mary Mann Hamilton’s memory of the past. As with any other genealogy narrative, we take her story as clues to lead us to the real facts.

As the reader: Please feel free to contribute to this article in the comments. If you have special insight or facts, attempts will be made to incorporate those into this page with credit.


The relationship and dynamic between Frank and his wife, Mary is an important part of this story. Mary believes from the beginning that Frank is better than she is. This relationship is the key to understanding the motivations behind Mary and Frank. At some point, Mary resolves to believe in Frank, despite the fact that she is not given the whole truth. Mary decides that she does not need an explanation to live the rest of her life. It is almost as if she imagined her life without a husband and decided that having part of him was better than none of him. One thing that Mary does not say outright in the book, but is plain from her stories is that Frank could disappear for long periods. During these times, Mary was unable to know where he was or have a way to write him letters to communicate with him. If a tragedy occurred while he was gone, she had no way to call him back home to help. She had to deal with these things on her own. Mary never wrote that she perceived of these periods without Frank as an abandonment, which I believe she had every right to believe. Mary rarely enjoyed her time with relatives, and although she never wrote this, I believe she must have felt like a burden to her relatives, and she was always hopeful and relieved when Frank returned. Mary does mention briefly that her brother is irritated with Frank’s absence. For her entire life, Mary overcompensates by working tirelessly. She had incredible endurance and energy that few could help but admire. – Kelly E Lee, 1-26-2017

Little, Brown, & Co.

Book Reviews:

Review by Maureen Corrigan, August 15, 2016. NPR.

Review by C.J. Lotz, July 22, 2016. Garden & Gun

Review by Rosellen Brown, Dec 13, 1992. New York Times


-This section consists of all book facts that pertain to Frank’s previous identity.

  1. Frank admits he is hiding – running from something.
  2. Frank lists his birthday as Nov 16, 1852.
  3. Frank says that he was working at the mill as an assistant superintendent and a side job as a bookkeeper. (pg.6)
  4. While courting Mary, he told her he was tired of ‘boarding around.’ (pg. 8)
  5. “I knew I pleased him, but he never praised me in one thing, and he gave me to understand that he picked our friends. When a gossipy man or woman came to see us, he would be so cool they never came again. Then he would say to me, ‘It is better to treat them so. They are just trying to pry into my business and the company’s.’ (pg9-10)
  6. “I didn’t even know what salary he was getting for a year after we were married.” (pg. 10)
  7. “Business often kept him out late, but I had thought nothing of it.” (pg. 10)
  8. “Naturally I was curious, and tried to quiz Frank about it, but all he told me was that he went to a military school in England for four years before going to India in the English army” (pg.15) after pretending not to see two gentleman salute him at their boardinghouse.
  9. Frank said, “I have never done anything dishonest nor dirty in my life, but my past before I came to the United States concerns no one. When I landed in New York, I closed that life forever. “If you heard that, then you know already how I feel about it. Can you forget it? You married Frank Hamilton, and there is no law in England or America to change that. My past concerns know one.” (pg.17)
  10. “He [Frank] said the doctors told him he must leave the country and go to a drier climate, but when I asked him if he was going, he said, no. I have traveled as long as I had any money. From Canada, where I had my first bad spell, straight to old Mexico, and I am as well here as anyplace. Mr. Gray and I are partners from now on, running the boardinghouses that are going to have to be built further out in the woods, and hauling ties and having them made. “ (pg. 19-20)
  11. “Frank, how many languages can you speak, and where did you learn them?’ Frank turned it off saying only, ‘Five, or six. Some I learned at school, but most of them in the army in Bengal, where a man is liable to learn anything.’” (pg. 21)
  12. Frank is reading newspaper “Go ahead, spend, spend. Spend all the money you have looking for me. Damn the lot of you. I am dead, dead to all of you.”
  13. [Approximately 1 1/12 months before her baby was born, she caught Frank reading the newspaper, referenced in BF12.] “It kept me busy sewing up to the twenty-fifth of July, when my first baby, a fine eight-pound boy, was born.] [“My dear, you have nothing to do with it. His name is Jim Hamilton…I mean Sir Jim Hamilton, the greatest friend I ever had, madam.” (pg. 25)
  14. “He would tell us stories of his war days in India or cowboy stories of Texas and old Mexico. When he first came to this country, he got lead poisoning in Nebraska lead mines and took down there with rheumatism. He got to Canada before he had to go to a hospital. As soon as he could travel he went straight to old Mexico” (pg. 27)
  15. Frank sends Mary to her brother Sam’s home for over a month. (pg.29) At first Frank and Mary exchange letters, but Frank tells her he has sold all their belongings, Mary cannot send him letters because he is ‘traveling.’
  16. 1887 – Frank and Mary reunited for a few months and then he sent her to live with her sister Lucy in Black Rock, Arkansas. Mary is pregnant now and Frank promises to come for her before the baby is born. She becomes ill on the train ride back and has her baby a month early. Again, since Frank was traveling she had no way to contact him. Two days after the baby dies, she gets a telegram that Frank has been in a wagon accident in Kansas City. Mary sells her belongings to pay for her doctor bills and the baby’s funeral and burial. (pg. 36-37)
  17. 1888 – Mary moved from her sister Lucy’s house to work as a cook and board with a family. She was there from April until December 28th. She did not see Frank this entire time. She finally quit the job in February, while Frank was off looking? for a new job, or working? at a new job.
  18. Mary wonders if ‘Hamilton’ is Frank’s real name. (pg.42)
  19. Charlie Flynn and Lucy get news that Frank has been killed. They try to tell Mary, when Frank walks in. He was just badly injured in an explosion. (pg.44)
  20. Frank tells Mary that after the explosion, he is not going back to that job and begins to look for new work. (pg.47)
  21. An old man asks Frank how long he was in this country before he learned to speak the language. Frank replied, “I have been here, sir, ten years, and can’t speak it yet.” “So the sweetest happiest year of my whole life began to come to a close, and on a still, beautiful fall day in October, my little Nina was born.” (pg. 51) 1893, Frank estimates he has been in the US for ten years, meaning his immigration would have been in about 1883.
  22. In 1895? Frank leaves again to find work. He sends for them after a year of working near Gunnison, Mississippi with Jim Thompson. Therefore, Frank does not see his family for an entire year. (pg. 59-60) “He hadn’t seen her [Baby Leslie] since she was a few weeks old” (pg.63) So Frank is not with his family for almost the entirety of 1895.
  23. According to Mary, Frank ‘played favorite’ to his daughter, Nina. “I told him it was wrong to make so much difference in the children. He said, ‘I can’t help it, Mary. If you had ever seen my mother or sister, you would understand. I don’t think many boys ever loved a mother as I loved mine, and my sister. Nina has my mother’s face and ways. If I ever try to win back what I have lost, it will be easy through her. She could be identified as one of that old family by her hair alone. For six hundred years, Mary, that gold, bright, curly hair has been in my family. It never changes coloring from birth to old age. My mother’s hair was that color when she died. And those dark gray eyes, almost black, with that peculiar sweet look out of them.” Then later, “You ask me Mary, why I don’t make friends. I have gone through hell because of another’s treachery. I have no friend in this world and want none but you and my children.” (pg. 126-127)
  24. “Long ago he had been hurt in England in a steeplechase, the time he got his knee hurt, both legs broken, and his skill fractured.” (pg. 232)
  25. “Frank said we would call him bob, as he was too small to carry anything more, but if he lived and got strong, we would call him John Robert Hamilton. It was the first time he had ever given a double name to any of our children.” “But I have wondered since if his giving Bob a double name wasn’t because at last he had given up all hope of returning to whatever it was that waited for him in England.” (pg.247)
  26. “My children are as good as any in America if blood counts and it does. Money doesn’t count, Leslie. You children have blood in your veins that many an American has traded name and fortune for. Hold up your head, child. You don’t have to stoop to anyone.” (pg. 255)
  27. ‘To explain it all now would only make the children discontented, because they couldn’t claim their right to something they can’t prove when I am gone. It would take money and influence, and you won’t have either. If I had go to take that trip home instead of the one that I am about to take. I wonder if it is a judgment sent on me, Mary. God help me. It is too late.” (pg. 296)
  28. (Pg. 298) paragraph two.
  29. (pg.299) “Just as the train was slowing up for Memphis they began singing ‘Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide,’ his old Church of England song.
  30. He got so he talked more freely of his nine years in India in the army, of his life in the barracks at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains, the wild boar hunting, the soldiers horseback with their carbines; of the green parrots, the magpies, the jackdaws and their pranks, the peacocks that were considered a sacred birth there, and (what the children like best of all) tales of the thousands of little white-collared monkeys that were thicker there, he said than squirrels were here. (pg. 282)
  31. Frank had Bright’s disease. (pg. 287)
  32. “I have written that mama was born in Illinois and her father and mother as well; that her parents on both sides were Scotch and Dutch. Father never had any ancestors, not even a father or a mother. He just came up overnight like a mushroom. He thinks that happened in England, as his passport to America was made out in England.” Frank responds. “I think you are just plain lying, or that teacher is fishing for information, and I won’t answer. But I have been thinking lately a good deal. If we don’t have any more bad luck and can keep putting by some more money, by March I would like to go back to England. You children are getting large enough to go ahead now for a while. I would be gone about four months. Then when I got back I could bring you all the proof to show you, you have a right to be proud of your father’s blood.” (pg. 287-288)
  33. He talked to us more that night than he ever had before – of his home, his church, his old school days; of a bell in his school that had one boy’s name carved in it in one direct line of his family for over six hundred years. ‘So when your teacher asks you if your father was an infidel, you’ll know what to tell him. I can think of no greater joy than to know all your names would be entered in the same book.’ (pg. 288)
  34. Frank considers joining the Baptist church before he dies, but then says, ‘No, I belong to the Church of England. Once a member of the church, always a member.’ (pg. 302)
  35. If Frankie had got here, I had determined to tell all, but what I could tell would benefit none of our children but Frankie. Our property in England is entailed and would go to the oldest boy. I am the youngest of four boys; everything is in my oldest brother Robert’s name. We are an old family, with a good old name, but no longer rich, and there are too many between the property and me. Bob’s wife never had any children. My second brother was an old bachelor, my third was in Australia. He and I had some money left to us by my mother. It was invested in Australia, but Bob claimed I ran through my part in the military school and the army. We had some trouble when I came to America, nothing dishonest on either part, but I left, angry at them all, and swore I was dead to them all. Yes, dead, buried long ago, and I can do no good to anyone by opening that grave; when this body is buried now that secret is safe forever. I cheated them, didn’t I, Mary? Dead to them all and living thirty happy years of married life with you. I will be the first in my family to be laid outside the family vault. I will be glad to rest in America, near my American children. What do you say, Mary? May I go in peace?(pg. 303-304)
  36. “As long as Bob lives, you have me with you. Even after I am gone, if they ever send anyone from home trying to trace me, they will know they are on the right track if they run across Bob. But the family likeness runs through all my children. (pg. 304)
  37. In his delirium, he talked in Hindustani, except for once, “Yes, Mother, I can see you up there at the top of those glorious old Himalaya Mountains in the sky.”



  1. Based on BF37 (Book Fact 37). Frank H. was born and/or raised in India, and learned to speak Hindustani as his first language, but came from an English family. According to the last fact, it may be assumed likely that Frank’s mother also lived in India and loved the Himalayan Mountains. Also, does it mean something significant that while speaking to his mother, he would speak in English?
  2. Based on BF35, Frank H. was told by his brother that he had squandered his inheritance during his time in the military.
  3. Based on BF35, Frank says that his second brother was an old Bachelor. However, unless his brother was much older, Frank would not have known that his brother would become an ‘old bachelor’ unless he followed or had contact with the family in England.
  4. Frank and Mary were virtually homeless for the majority of their married life.



   (thus referred to as GRF_, i.e.: GRF6)


  1. FindaGrave: Frank Hamilton and Mary Mann Hamilton
  2. Marriage Record for Frank and Mary Mann.
  3. Possible immigration record for Frank Hamilton.
  4. Possible immigration or return trip from England to New York for Frank Hamilton.



  1. Frank came from a prominent English family but was further removed from the straight lineage of an heir (or family member with a title).
  2. Frank was possibly a bigamist (sorry to offend anyone!), but this wasn’t an unknown occurrence in the late 19th century in America. It would explain Frank’s long absences and inability to be contacted. Based on BF15, BF16, BF17, and BF22. [However, in the end, it still doesn’t explain the mystery of where Frank came from, so I don’t think this is an important idea on which to focus.]
  3. Frank Hamilton tried to fake his own death to keep unknown persons from finding him. Based on BF12, BF19, and BF35.


  1. Find a marriage in England that unites John Hamilton and Anna Morton, circa 1822-1852. Possibly near London.
  2. Find a marriage in India that unites John Hamilton and Anna Morton, circa 1822-1852. Possibly near an area south of the Himalayan Mountains.
  3. Look for military service in India or census for Frank Hamilton, b. 1852.
  4. Find a prominent person in London, England who was named John Hamilton and had a son, Robert, who would have been his first-born and heir. John Hamilton and Anna Morton had at least four sons and one daughter.
  5. Find the news story about the explosion that Frank was in while they were living with Mary’s sister Lucy and brother-in-law, Charlie Flynn. Concentrating on Mary’s children and their ages are a great way to narrow down the year.
  6. Based on BF13, James Hamilton: July 20, 1886-November 2, 1886 born & died in Sedgwick, Lawrence County, Arkansas [Approximately 1 1/12 months before her due date, she caught Frank reading the newspaper. What newspaper would he have been reading in Lawrence County, Arkansas? “It kept me busy sewing up to the twenty-fifth of July, when my first baby, a fine eight-pound boy, was born.] [“My dear, you have nothing to do with it. His name is Jim Hamilton…I mean Sir Jim Hamilton, the greatest friend I ever had, madam.” (pg. 25)
  7. Search for documentation on the murder trial in Mississippi, a charge for which Frank was later exonerated.


Excited to be on this journey with you!





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18 thoughts on “The Mystery of Frank Hamilton

  • Ronnie Hamilton

    Being one of the Great Grandsons of the Frank Hamilton, and Miz Mary Mann Hamilton, (the Grandson of the oldest boy, Frankie) I, along with the rest of my siblings and our father, Frank Sims Hamilton, Sr., have been intrigued by and filled with so many unanswered questions about the allusive history of our mysterious ancestral family patriarch, Mr. Frank.

    Although my father and younger brother attempted to solve these mysteries of lineage and trace back Our Englishman in Hiding’s Family Tree & Roots including 2 trips across the Big Water researching English Records first hand, heir search was in vain culminating at dead end paths while opening up multiple more questions without any answers. Besides who was he and where did he come from, now we wonder if our last name is truly Hamilton in origin. Or, did he assume someone else’s name for his new identity when he disappeared severing all ties with his family and past and went into hiding? Was he descended from and born to a family of nobility, long history, and good name throughout as he professed with him an unblemished clean record and of good moral character? Or was he a scallywag and scoundrel with a criminal history behind him that he escaped and was running from? So many questions and mysteries but so few answers and solutions.

    Long before the first publishing by University Press of “Trials of the Earth”, I first read Miz Mary’s original manuscript known within the family as “This Last is Mine” of her life’s memoirs and our family’s early histories held within our immediate family confines when I was 17 and still in high school. Then but a stack of typed aged pages held together by rusting paperclips and interspersed with hand written edits, additions, & addendums penned by her hand stored in a cardboard box that a ream of paper had come in, reading our paternal matriarch’s account of our family’s beginnings and early history swelled me with a pride of whom we are descended from even with so many yet unanswered questions about our patriarch’s full history. Just from her words and recounting, I along with the rest of their descendents in the line know that we come from good folks of integrity, high moral character, good will toward others, and an abundance of inner strength in the face of life’s adversity, turmoil, & tragedy with, abet, a propensity to partake in excess and succumb to the effects of strong drink!

    From the first publishing in 1992 by University Press through the second one in 2012 done independently for Mary Hamilton, LLC my brother, Kerry Hamilton, for all of the Family to this third and last publishing by Little, Brown and Company, the publishing house that this manuscript was submitted to for a contest back in 1933, those of our Clan of Hamilton is enthralled in the knowledge that more and more people have been and will continue to be exposed to MizMary’s amazing life story of this remarkable woman, our family’s matriarch, and her husband, the Mysterious Englishman, Frank, and their offspring.

    Today my mind soared upon learning through this posting on the Facebook Page of “Trials of the Earth” of y’alls intrigue in the Mysteries surrounding Frank Hamilton and his true identity and lineage. Maybe through y’alls piqued interest and diligence in searching for all these unanswered questions of who, when, and where about him, we all will learn the truth of his history.

    Thank you and I applaud you for your efforts in solving these mysteries of my great-grandfather!

    Ronnie Hamilton

    • Kelly E Lee Post author

      I am so glad to hear from you and I am working on a few search strategies and ways that we can bring attention to this mystery. I will continue to add search updates to this page. Looking forward to collaborating with you! Kelly E. Lee

    • Susan Nye Ferrell

      Ronnie, I have seen many folk reunited by DNA. Ancestry DNA only costs about 99.00 (it doesn’t have to be the more spendy types of DNA) I personally find Ancestry the most helpful because of the level of family tree work that folk link to their tree’s.

      Via this way I myself was discovered by a relation a couple years ago which proved who my birthfather was. I’d have never known this without DNA.

      Best wishes, Susan

    • Susan Nye Ferrell

      Has the British press picked up on this book and the mystery therein? I would think it much more efficient for the UK folk, to look back and consider their family mysteries and so on and say “Wait a minute, we did have a uncle go missing” and so on…

      Best Wishes, I too am trying to puzzle my puzzler on this, as I do a lot of genealogy and I’ve worked reuniting adoptee’s with their parents as a labor of love etc.


    • Ashley daenen

      Hi I could be wrong but I believe I have came across a picture you may want to see it looks to be in the 1800’s and it’s on a postcard signed Frank hamilton

  • Tanya

    Have you thought of doing the DNA testing? I didn’t see anyone else mention it, but I may have overlooked. In any event, that could be very helpful. When a male does the testing, you get more information. I would definitely try it and report.

    • Kelly E Lee Post author


      It is looking more and more like DNA testing might be the only way to break through this brick wall, but I have a few more ideas up my sleeve. Kelly

  • Morag Hughson

    I see you list both men as having married in the same year, presumably, although you don’t say so, on opposite sides of the Atlantic? This surely couldn’t be possible if they were the same man?

    • Kelly E Lee Post author

      Yes, this is definitely a sticking point. Florence and Gilbert were married April 8th, 1885. Given the year, it would only take about 2-3 weeks to get from England to Illinois. This includes the 7-10 days travel time on the boat and the train ride from New York to Illinois. Technically, this would be plausible. I am going to go back over the book and see how long Frank was around before he and Mary got married. Frank and Mary were married July 28, 1885. Gilbert’s son, Brian was born May 13th, 1886. Following a normal gestation period, this would mean that Gilbert and Florence conceived Brian in mid-August to mid-September. Frank and Mary’s first child was conceived in late October since Mary mentions that the baby was a healthy 8 lbs. So, complicated, but not impossible.

      • Susan Nye Ferrell

        How would one get around the fact that Mary and her children were there for her Frank’s death in 1914, and that she washed and burried him, when Gilbert was alive until nearly two decades later?

        The picture is pretty amazing in how similar they look.

        • Kelly E Lee Post author

          Susan, I was trying to get more information about Gilbert’s death. This could really prove one way or another. There have been cases where a person has been missing for many years and then they are finally declared dead, so any information on Gilbert’s death could be very helpful.

  • Susan Nye Ferrell

    PS. Photo- though they have an interesting similarity, having lived in the UK for 3 years, I’ll say that they have a much lower amount of variety in appearances than we in the melting pot here do.

    The man on the left appears to have attached earlobes, the man on the right appears to have free one’s, unattached.


    • Kelly E Lee Post author

      Very good observation with the earlobes. If Frank isn’t Gilbert, there do seem to be many matching details with this family. Next up will be the comparison with Sir Hubert Hamilton, brother of Gilbert. Also a striking resemblance.

  • Ellen Dale O'Neal

    I am reading the book, and btw, I think I know Kerry and Ronnie Hamilton (if they are the guys from Greenwood) and am fascinated by this mystery. I have 2 questions if someone could help me: (1) the photo that keeps showing up of the woman and the dog in the entrance to the tent: is that Mary Mann Hamilton and if so, where and when was the photo taken? (2) in reading this genealogy mystery re: Frank, references are made to BF12 or BF22 – page numbers to something. What does BF stand for?