A Trip to Venice, by Walter Franklin Lansil (1846-1925)

Walter Franklin Lansil, my 2nd great grand uncle, on my dad’s side was a well known marine artist.  He is my g-grandmother Edith Bernice (Lansil) Haines’s uncle through her father Edwin Lansil.


Walters business card

According to family lore, My grandmother (Nana Hall), a pretty great artist herself, took art lessons from Walter as a teenager.

Nana’s son Charlie adds:  “My version of the painting lesson story has a little different twist. In the lore that I remember, Nana Hall’s mother, Edith (Lansil) Haines, was always described as a Lansil favorite. I can imagine Edith putting pressure on Walter to teach Nana Hall. To keep the story short, the teenage Nana Hall showed up late for the lesson, Lansil refused to teach her and sent her home. When the adult Nana Hall told me the story she still had shock in her voice. I think the experience was really a life lesson learned”.

Walter died when Nana was 17. Sadly, my Nana died at the age of 91 (I was 36),  long before my interest in genealogy, long before I knew the name Walter Franklin Lansil and long before I thought to ask any questions.

The family historian, Aunt Natalie of course knew of him.  She lovingly refers to him as “Uncle Waddie” and his brother Wilbur a cattle artist as “Bibber” .

According to the blog My Old Ohio Home,  there is an unsigned note in the possession of a descendant of Walter’s brother Edwin which says this about Walter Franklin Lansil:  — “Mom said he was a terrific guy. Everyone was his friend — no business head. Never said anything wrong about anyone. If he said anything bad about anyone it was ‘He’s a pill.’ That was his only usage of bad words!”


lansil_walter_franklin-venice_noonday_on_the_river~OM619300~10603_20130201_2635B_435 artwork_images_424116582_477256_walterfranklin-lansil

Walter’s studio is depicted in a painting done by Enrico Meneghelli  in the 1880’s held in the MFA’s collection: http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/walter-lansil-s-studio-35816

walters studio

Our Walter was born 30 Mar 1846 in Bangor, Maine to  to Asa Paine Lansil (a Mayflower descendant of Stephen Hopkins) and Betsey Turner Grout (a descendant of William Grout who fought  in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Bunker Hill and a descendant of Captain John Grout, a Puritan, who came here in 1637).  The Lansil’s were members of Hammond Street Congregational Church.  From 1843 to 1848, they lived on 101 Hammond, a brick tenement in the Bangor in the neighborhood of Barkerville.  Walter’s siblings included Enoch Howard (1836-1843), Edwin (my g-g-grandfather, 1839-1904), Frances Ellen (1841-1886), Asa Brainard (1849-1904) and Wilbur Henry (the well known cattle artist, 1855-1897).  Asa was a self-employed Cooper who was fairly well off having a net worth of $3,500 in 1860 and $5,500 in 1870.

In 1870, Walter, then a cistern maker – was his dad’s only employee, in a business netting $1,200 annually.  He was also a volunteer fire fighter along with brother Asa (double click on the image to see a larger version):

1870 census


Walter’s sister Frances married a Bangor lumber tycoon, Carleton Sylvanus Bragg.  About 1870, the Bragg family and Walter’s brother Edwin moved to East Boston, Massachusetts where they started a lumber operation under the name Jones, Bragg and Lansil.  A year later, Asa P., Betsey, Walter, Wilbur and Asa B. followed, (Enoch died in 1843 at the age of 6).

The family initially boarded at 119 Webster.  Soon Asa Sr. and Edwin purchased a home together for $5,600 on Trenton, at the corner of Putnam (lot 169, sec 3).  The Braggs owned a home on White St., but by 1876 they join the family on Trenton.

A full listing of the Lansil clan, including daughter Fannie Bragg’s family in the 1880 census, Walter’s occupation was recorded as “Artist”:
 Walter was on his way to fame! A small sampling of some of the newspaper accounts of his activities:
Art Notes

Sadly, on 1 Nov 1880, Fannie’s husband Carleton passed away suddenly after being sick for just two days from apoplexy (sudden loss of consciousness, sensation, and voluntary motion). The following year, on 3 March 1881, Walter’s mother, Betsey Turner (Grout) Lansil, died of dropsey caused by scirrhus of the liver.

By 1882 the entire family was still living together but, had relocated to Dorchester (with widowed sister Fannie Bragg and her children), most likely due to changing demographics (incoming immigrants) in East Boston. Dorchester was still a primarily rural town and had a population of 12,000 when it was annexed to Boston in 1870. Railroad and streetcar lines brought rapid growth, increasing the population to 150,000 by 1920.

The 1882 through 1886 city directories indicate that perhaps Asa P. owned the home on Milton Avenue.  No entry was found in Suffolk County land indexes to support this – all of his sons and presumably the Braggs continued to reside in the same household.

Walter’s popularity continued to grow. Meanwhile, Coleman, Lewis & Co., a small wares company where Wilbur was a shipper for years, dissolved in late 1882. Wilbur decided on a career change and joined his brother as an artist.

The brothers applied for and received passports on 5 August 1884.

Walter Wilbur passports.png

Days later, they headed to Europe to study at the Académie Julian in Paris; family lore says Edwin funded their jaunts across the sea to study and paint; but it seems the funding was from Walter auctioning 122 pieces of his artwork, in May 1884 (see newspaper clipping below).


Walter auction

Walter Lansil

They remained great friends.


Lansil, a name with French origins (Lansell, Lansel, Lancle, Lancil, Lancel), is an unusual name during that time period.  So surname Google searches offer great results…unlike my Hall, Jones and Roberts surnames.

A recent Google search revealed that Walter had written a memoir of his journey to Venice: http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/trip-to-venice–walter-lansil-7859

The Boston Public Library’s Art department has a copy on microfilm.  There are two copies, handwritten.  In transcribing them, I tried to keep the same spelling, punctuation and capitalization that Walter used.  It seems that he kept notes of his journey, likely arriving in Venice early in 1885, and then wrote about them some 30 years later in 1914.  He was about 40 and brother Wilbur 30 when they began their journey.


A Trip to Venice

I had now been in Paris several months studying and as spring was approaching made arrangements to take a trip to Venice to make studies of the City that I had so long wished to see and had read so much about.

Accompanied by my Brother [Wilbur] we took our departure on a cold February day soon after a snow storm, something very unusual for Paris, buying our tickets to Turin Italy. The train starting at 6o’ck PM. Our companions consisting of two Gentlemen and two Ladies made up the party, as usual luck followed us as it generally had while travelling for one of the Gentlemen spoke English and it made the time pass pleasantly.

Late in the evening three of our party left us at a way Station our English speaking friend remaining.  The nights being intensely cold we were obliged to sit with our overcoats on and it was out of the question to sleep, there being no heat in the cars but we made the best of it. About midnight we stopped at a Small Station and the Conductor added one more to our number a French woman weighing nearly three hundred pounds having a large market basket on her arm.

The conductor had about all he could do to get her into the car. After she was seated a few minutes she took from her basket a large bottle of Wine and a loaf of bread and began to eat which she nearly accomplished before going to sleep and although large I very much doubt if she could have held much more and between her snoring and the cold it was almost more than we could stand but we were obliged to put up with it all through the night.

Our English friend was born on the Island of Malta his father was a Brittish G_____ his mother being a Maltese and a native of the Island.  He was a very interesting Man, had travelled a great deal had been to England on business and was now on his way home. He knew the Country we were travelling through by heart and his explanation of the different places was very interesting and helped to make the night pass more pleasantly.

The morning lights began to break and we now caught sight of the snow capped Alps which was one of the grandest sights I ever saw.  But one thing was striking and seemed to me careless,  that was the closeness the houses were built to the base of the cliffs the people seeming in no fear of their homes being crushed by the heavy Avalanches that roll down from the Mountains, Sometimes crushing whole Villages by the heavy weight of snow.

As we rode on the Alps became more and more plain to our view, the snow packed higher and higher and the Villages appearing on every side. The buildings built of stone and the Mountains seemed to be one solid mass.  As the sun arose it presented the most beautiful sight I ever beheld, at first it touched the snow clad hills presenting to our view a most beautiful effect with its brown dark foreground in shadow was in striking contrast to the scarlet tops.

It touched some very green trees almost at the Summit and added greatly to the beauty of the scene. The sky had shown a purple cast the earlier part of the morning and now was growing brighter every minute as we passed Village after Village. The smoke rising from the chimneys in the cool of the morning had a very curious effect.

We now began to pass through several tunnels taking from one to thirty minutes. At the entrance of one we found an Avalanche had descended a short time before delaying our train, seeming to be impossible for us to proceed but after some hours delay we were enabled to resume our journey. A small village was completely buried beneath the weight of the snow, only the chimneys and now and then broken spire (?) told where the village stood not a sign of life was about and very few people could be seen about the ruins.

We were now approaching the Grape Country of Italy. The Lou Valleys [Loire, Valley?]and far up the Mountainsides were covered with thousands of acres of Grape Vines reaching as far as the eye could see looked like a great net thrown over the country. Old Forts and Castles were passed on every h____, relics of bygone days.

One in particular not far away nesting among the hills showing out amongst the brown dead grass of the passing year was very impressive, but the grandest and most beautiful of all we had seen came as we swung around the mountainside and saw an old Stone Castle standing high above the Valley in the dark grass against the snow covered sides of Majestic Old Mont Blanc in the sunlight was seen, I can assure you, a sight of such surpassing loveliness which once seen could never be forgotten.

We could now see thousands of feet down the Valley in the cool soft morning light Sta___ Farmers plowing in the fields. It begins to grow warm as we are nearing the end of our journey.  We arrived at Turin at about 1:30 PM and remained there about 4 hours which gave us time to go about and see the city and its beautiful buildings.

We took the train for Venice at 5:45PM. Stopped at Milan a short time.

Our English-Maltese friend one of the most genial and interesting travelling companions I ever met, a real jovial good fellow left us here and it was feelings of sadness that we bid him goodbye. We were found here by the Italian from New York who spoke a little English and with whats French I could mutter we managed to carry on a pleasant conversation for a few hours, he left just before we reached Venice which was about 5 o’clock in the morning, cold and very tired. It had rained hard during the night and everything was cold, damp and dreary. Few people were stirring and the city looked gloomy and deserted.

After our baggage was examined we took a Gondola for our destination.

We were now in Venice. Not indeed the charming Venice that we expected to see painted by artists and praised by poets the mention of which sends a thrill through every human soul that loves the beautiful in art and nature, but a dark and dreary dismal city. Fog settled all around the buildings and to say the least we were sadly disappointed by our first impression of the fair bity of Venice for it was anything but pleasant.

After settling a dispute with three Gondoliers each claiming I had employed him. I soon adjusted matters by cutting the number down to one I had hired – The others soon left disgusted and beaten and we went on our way down the Grand Canal passing old and beautiful Palaces on every hand, Towers rising high in the morning mist, Many Picturesque and Ornamental Bridges the stillness only broken by the Boatman’s cry as he turned the corner of some Canal or the splash of the oar as we paddled on.

We finally arrived at our Hotel and after presenting our letters found we could not get accommodations as every room was engaged. We employed a man to carry our Baggage and started for the Grand Canal and found a Gondola ready to cross. There were a few men in it and fearing to have the same trouble I had at the Depot, I told them that one man was enough to carry us over, and refused to start until all but one got out, they had a good laugh after talking it over, one who could speak some English informed us that it was a ferry boat and they were passengers, so I said nothing but got aboard and soon was across the Canal. I had been using a Guide Book and found it was not quite reliable and shut it up.

We crossed St Marks Square to the Piazzetta and before us we beheld the Palace of the Dodges [Doge’s Palace]. The Sun was just arising above a thick bank of mist and throwing a shimmering light across the waters of the Lagoon and through the dark arches of the Ducal Palace [Doge’s Palace in Italian is Palazzo Ducale]. One solitary figure with a heavy cloak thrown around him was pacing backward and forward between the columns of St Mark and St Theodore. Everything seemed to be deserted and reminded me very much of “Turners” Painting of Ancient Italy memories of bye gone days. It was an impressive Scene and I fully realized that I was in Venice and that our Journey was over. 

After a couple of days rest we located in a Cosy [cozy ?] Hotel over a Palace having a larger Studio well suited to our purpose situated at the entrance of the “Grand Canal” and near the “Santa Maria del Saluta” [Santa Maria della Salute] which sits on land once owned by the “Crusaders” in ancient days. It was kept by a man of the old School who Spoke English fluently and had seen better days but now living on past glory who loved to tell of the deeds done by his ancestors. He had no particular admiration for a man that was poor and in referring to such a person would say yes : he is a good fellow but he has no money : – He and his wife who was a German woman did everything they possibly could to make our stay comfortable and pleasant.

The View from the Hotel down the Grand Canal was superb far out on the waters of the “Adriatic”. Ships of many nations lay at Auchan (?) and the beautiful sails of the Fishing Boats reflecting their Colours in the blue waters of the Harbor was a scene of beauty I can never forget.

To anyone visiting Venice his stay would not be complete without sailing up the Grand Canal in one of its very beautiful Gondolas more particularly on a bright moonlight summer night. The scene is most delightful when the Canal is througed (?) with Boats and the Sweetest Music floats far away over the waters of the dark Lagoon to the waters of the Adriatic until long after midnight.

Venice is a most interesting City lying two and a half miles from the Main land in the Lagoon a shallow part of the Adriatic Sea. It is about 25 miles long and 9 miles wide, a short time ago there were Fifteen Thousand Palaces and Houses on the three large and one hundred and fourteen small islands comprising the Ancient City joined by one hundred + fifty canals spanned by three hundred and seventy eight Bridges of stones and over 200 miles in circumference.

The population which at one time was fully 200,000 dwindled down to 96,000 after its dissolution as an independent State in 1797 and 40 to 50 years ago its population had increased to 133,000 of which one fourth were said to be Paupers –

Venice is considered to be one of the greatest Sea Ports of the Adriatic. Ships of England, Greece, Turkey, Holland and other Nations find a Harbor here on their way to and from India and other Ports and the great number of sailing vessels large and small sailing between Italian and other ports help to make up the mass of shipping whose tall masts towering against the beautiful “Santa Maria del Saluta” make a most beautiful picture which one will long remember.

The Fishing Boats long the pride of Venice are now missed from their moorings at the Public Gardens where they used to lay in groups their beautiful colored sails reflecting great masses of color and the Picturesque Costumes of the Fisherman mingled with the deep greenish waters of the Lagoon under a Cerulion [Cerulean] Sky of blue made a picture of beauty. But one by one they have departed until very few remain in Venice.  They have gone to the little Island of Chiogga [Chioggia] an ancient city founded about the same period as Venice.  The Inhabitants have always differed materially in Language and Customs from the Inhabitants of the Lagoon District. This is a great Fishing Port and one of the Most Picturesque Islands in the Adriatic Sea and interesting and Valuable Sketching ground much admired and frequented by Artists.

The Grand Canal the Main Artery of Venice is nearly 2 miles in length varying from 38 to 66 yards in width curving around in shape like the letter S. Many gondolas and other small boats are moving in all directions making a scene of activity and beauty. Lately the Grand Canal is undergoing many changes. Tall Modern buildings are being erected taking the places of Old and Ancient Palaces which were once the Pride of the City.  Motor Boats are also seen mooring about and the real charm of Venice is fast disappearing. Here handsome and Magnificent Palaces rise above the water for this is the Streets (water streets) of the old aristocracy of Venice. Far up the Grand Canal is the Rialto the oldest Bridge connecting the old and new Venice and near it the Fish Market one of the most interesting spots on the Canal. The Rialto built in 1588-1591 by Antonio di Ponte is 158 feet long and 46 feet wide with a single marble arch 74 feet span and 32 feet in height resting on 12,000 piles.

Friday is the great Fish Market day in Venice when the market is abundantly supplied. I was very fortunate in securing for my Gondolier a faithful loyal grand old man who has seen much of the world one who had fought under Garibaldi in his many campaigns, his anecdotes and stories of that great leader which he almost worshipped were very interesting and he used to beg me to allow him to wear his Garibaldi Shirt of Red when on his trips with me. He was very proud of that “Red Shirt”.

I found the people very kind considerate and hospitable ready to do you a favor at all times. They are great home bodys. Very seldom leave homes, I doubt that you can find a Venetian in Boston today. The Italians who come here are from the Bay of Naples, Sicily, Syria and other sections of Italy. Many of them from the lower and most undesirable class.

I will tell you how considerate they are. I was sitting one morning painting a group of boats at the Public Gardens there was hardly a breath of air not enough to make a ripple on the water when I discovered a small steamer approaching towing a number of barges filled with men who were singing and cheering at the top of their lungs. As they came in the direction in which I was at work I saw they were government troops on their way to the fortifications. As they came nearer and first before they had reached me one of the Officers standing on the docks of the Steamer raised his sword and gave an order. Suddenly the Engine stopped, the noise ceased and they floated by me without a Rufyls [? can’t read word]. After passing a short distance the officer again raised his sword gave an order, the engine started up and bedlam was let loose. I saluted them. The steamers returned it with 3 whistles and the men cheered until they were far down the Bay. They were very careful not to disturb me at my work and that is the respect and consideration they show to Visitors especially Artists.

At another time while sketching near the Dorgano or Custom House a large schooner came drifting in near where I was. The Captain entered into conversation with my Gondolier I enquired what the Captain wanted and was told that he wished to know how long before I would be through as he wanted to come in where I was and make fast, I told him to come in as it would not interfere with me, but he would not until I had moved away which I did and then returned and finished my sketch and was shown every attention that they could give me and I found that was characteristic of the people in general wherever I came in contact with them.

At the extremity of Venice are the Public Gardens laid out by Napoleon in 1807 who demolished several monasteries to be able to abtain space to build them using the _____ from the monasteries in their construction. They are almost 900 feet long and 300 feet wide planted with rows of Acacia, Sycamore and other shrubs.

The grounds afford full views of the City and the Lagoon just at sundown when the Venetian Chimes send their inspiring music far out on the waters from this City of the Sea the effect from these Gardens is out of great splendor and great enjoyment.

Below the Gardens and at the lower entrance of the Lagoon is the Lido or bathing place of the City a beautiful sandy beach running far along the shore reaching out into the sea reminding me somewhat of our own Revere Beach with Nahant in the distance.

Thatched huts are scattered every little way apart which are occupied by government soldiers who are daily on the watch for smugglers or anyone who break the laws. They are a fine class of men and are always ready and willing to impart information on any subject you desire. It is a beautiful place to spend the day and the view is perfectly lovely.

But Venice is not always the Same. It has its drawbacks and troubles as well as its joys and beauties as has all places.

I once witnessed a riot at the entrance of the Grand Canal one morning as I started out to work. As we reached the “Santa Marie del Saluta”. We found the Canal crowded with hundreds of boats blocking the entrances men and women had congregated on the Quay and were shouting and cheering at the top of their voices. They were destroying the Gondolas belonging to the Hotels going from one to another until all were destroyed.  The Hotel Proprietors had put on their own Gondolas and cut into the business of the regular Gondoliers.

Hence the riot and the destruction of the Hotel Keepers Gondolas some of which cost as high as 500 dollars each, one having 1500.00 Dollars and took the first prize at Vienna. Now I saw a crowd of gatherers at the Palace of the Dodges and coming from the Piazzetta as it came near I found it was the Mayor and a body of Gendarmes.  He had a wide red sash across his breast and came within a short distance of where we were. He stood and read the “Riot Act” then gave orders to arrest the leaders about a dozen or more. The Officers drew their swords and ordered them to surrender. One of the Gendarmes placed his gun near a leaders head who unbuttoned his shirt placed his bare chest against the nozzle shook his hand in the Gendarmes face and dared him to fire.  It was the most dramatic thing I ever saw. I tried to get out but was so blocked up found it impossible to do so. The leaders soon gave up and under escort went ashore where they were tried and fined 400 dollars each and sent to jail for 15 days they served their sentences but the fines were never paid. The day they were liberated the City was draped in color and a general holiday and procession took place led by a band and escorted by hundreds of boats up and down the “Grand Canal” and the celebration was kept up long after midnight. The Gondoliers Won!

My work from day to day was somewhat varied and nearly every morning as early as 5 o’ck I was on my way to study and sketch the beautiful sunrise effects as the [sun] cast their golden lights across the dark waters of the Lagoon and touched the tops of the many Palaces and Domes that rise above the White City the “Queen of the Adriatic”.

One of the pleasantest sails is up the “Giudecca Canal” the shipping port of Venice.  A very wide and long Canal the largest ships of all descriptions lay at anchor. Leaving we pass out and by the oldest and most ancient Palaces beautiful in their day, but now only memories of the past. They are also occupied by Fisherman and it is known as the fishery section of the Island of  Giudecca. Pass the churches of the Redentore and St Sebastian which contain some of the Master pieces of Italy and beneath the latter reprose the dust of Paul Veroneso + passing out from the Canal a short distance and we get a broad view of Mont Eugenia with its Snow capped peaks 50 to 75 miles away and in clear weather can be seen very plainly.

In retracing our way back in the afternoon as the sun is going down we now see the City in its beautiful golden lights bathed in a warm creamy haze St George’s like a beacon in the Sea with its reddish tower and dome sitting alone in the harbor once belonging to a supposed Benedictine Monastery and now used as an “Artillery Barrack”. Here the morning, noon and evening gun, is fired.  The building was cornered in 1560 and finished about 1575. We now meet the boats from Genoa and Trieste and Fisherman from the Adriatic returning at night with their beautiful Lateen Sails, ornamented prowes and weather beaten Sailors, The Ancient “Palace of the Dodges” with its Campanile rising far over the Piazzetta, its Bridge of Sighs and its prison Gondolas drawn up in line at its base and its colored striped ports all reflects its colors in the Bay and its many Islands stretching far out to sea, the distant Island of Murano where is manufactured the finest Glassware in the world, sold in every land.

The Santo Maria del Saluto with its rich appearance is also a picture one must see to appreciate. A great event took place shortly before I came away, which I would not have missed for anything. A Fete (?) Day when Venice was seen in all its glory in honor of the King.

Preparations had been going on for several days and now all was ready for the great affair.  The Harbor was full of shipping everything draped in the National Colors and every bit of color that could possibly be displayed was thrown from windows. Spires and every available spot which could be used. The people dressed in rich and gaudy dress, scarfs, tablecloths, handkerchiefs were hung from the windows of the Grand Canal. Till the whole City looked like one Massive Bouquet, Gondolas were moving in all directions with their rich colored brilliant suits. Guns were fired to greet the morning Sun as it rose far out over the Lido and threw its light over the Magnificent Scene and and contributing its quota of homage and beauty to the occasion. All is bustle and gaiety. A Fairy Pageant. A Floating Caravan. A City of Poetic fervor and Artistic Splendor. Allowing the fervor of its Patriotism and love of Country to express itself in honor of its King.

It was a reminder of the Ancient Splendor and power of days long past.  They are gone but much of the beauty still remains. All day and far into the night the gaiety was kept up and as the sun sank to rest in all its splendor behind the Domes of the “Santa Marie del Saluto” I could not help feeling the decay of Venice notwithstanding all its beauty and magnificence.

We had been here nearly a year and had seen Venice in its various moods + had seen it in gloom and grandeur. We had seen its Marble Palaces and its Antique Buildings, Trod its Marble Halls and Streets, Sailed over its Canals and Waterays, Visited its Ancient Churches. Studied the works the great Masters, its Titian, Tiutoretta, Ver__ese(?) Georges and many many Painters of Ancient days.

We crossed the Marble Bridge of Sighs and Visited the Palace of the Dodges. That Magnificient Structure on the west side 246 feet in length on the South 234 feet covering over 1 ¼ acres of land.  It was founded in the year 800 and was destroyed Five times and as often rebuilt. It is flau_ed (?) by two Colonades on its West +South 107 columns and 36 below and 71 above and beneath its roof the east room Tintoretto’s Paradise claimed to be the largest Oil Painting ever attempted it is 84 feet long and 34 feet high. Pronounced by the great Ruskin to be the most precious thing that Venice possesses.

We had visited the gloomy Dungeons and beheld  its Ancient Cruel Instruments of Torture which tells a sad story of bygone days.  We had climbed the tall stairway of the Campanilo 322 feet high finished in 911, restored several times completed in 1511 and had gazed upon the magnificent view stretched out before us. The distant Alps and Adriatic. To the West Mont Eugene near Padua rising above the Lagoon, eats in the clear weather can be seen the Istrian Mountains rising above the Adriatic Sea. A truly magnificent Spectacle approaching Sunset and last but not least the beautiful soft, warm, tender, Italian Skies. And I look back with fond and grateful remembrance of Happy and instructive days I passed in the far, famed and beautiful City of Venice regretting only that I find it impossible by Tongue or Pen to describe its history or its beauty.

We made many friends there. Artists, Writers, Musicians and Many others who all seemed imbued with its Poetic beauty and Hospitality and which was very decidedly manifested in their lives and conversations.

And after bidding them a regretful Farewell we took our departure with a Cherished Consolation “That a person never goes to Venice the first time but once” And as Lord Byron says: –

Those days are gone – but beauty still is here

States fall, Arts fade – but Nature does not die

Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear

The pleasant place of all festivity

The rest of the earth the Mosque of Italy

I loved her from my boyhood. She to me

Was as a fairy City of the hearts

Rising like Water Columns from the Sea

Of Joy the Sojourn and of wealth the Mart

Walter F Lansil – February 1914



On September 11, 1886 Walter purchased the home at 101 Maxwell Street (lots 8 & 10, sect. 3 – 9,880 square feet of land or about 2 ¼ acres) for $3,700, taking out a mortgage from S. Pickney Holbrook of $2,800 so he had returned by that date. The Lansil’s continued to live together Wilbur, Walter and Asa never married.  Edwin married young Jane Catherine Roberts of Llanfairfechan and had 3 girls who lived to adulthood (2 other children died very young).  Edwin purchased the Maxwell Street home from Walter a few years later.

While he never seemed to gain as much fame as Walter, articles about Wilbur began to appear in local papers. A small sampling below:LansiWilburl

Wilbur biowilbur paintings

Walter & Wilbur joined The Lodge of Eleusis – Freemasonry – It was designed to bring together young college trained men in fraternal compact who had a sincere desire to put behind them the horrors of war and the misgivings incident to human conflict, that they might commune again as brothers, citizens, and good neighbors in an era of peace.

Their records say, “Two other Brethren artists were Wor. Walter Lansill (master 1892, 1893) and Wilbur Lansill. Wilbur died in office as senior warden. Walter lived to a ripe old age and was the sodality insructor who saw to it that young officers became proficient in their work. He was in active service up to a few weeks before his decease. His paintings on modern city life won the acclaim of the critics and some of them sold for large amounts”

Walter was a bit of a genealogist himself as he and Wilbur also became members of the Son’s of the American Revolution.

Just a snippet of their lives.

Wilbur passed away 26 Jun 1897 at the age of 42 in Dorchester of Phthisis (abt 3 years). Inez J. E. Dresser is named in his will:

wilbur probate

Wilbur left the remainder of his estate to his brother Walter.  In the event that Walter was not living, everything was to go to his 3 nieces: Florence May Bragg, Frances May Lansil and Edith Bernice Lansil (his niece Doris Lansil was born after his death).  Walter was named as executor, Henry Howard Dresser was the named alternate if Walter does not survive him. There was no mention of Edwin, Asa B. or his Bragg nephews Edwin & Fredrick, all of whom were living.

A frail Walter died 22 Jan 1925 in Milton, Massachusetts of Pneumonia (double) at the age of 78 Years 9 months 23 days, while living with his niece.

Both are buried with their parents at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor in an unmarked grave Lot 407CG.

Lansil plot

For more about Walter, see this Google book article written when Walter was age 42 (likely accurate since he was interviewed by the author): http://books.google.com/books?id=hqEaAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA121&lpg=PA121&dq=walter+lansil+a+trip+to+venice&source=bl&ots=Lbul41M0VL&sig=6hdIaIC8D5eR86ZmryaOg04ssrw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JWr6UbOdFazc4APvwoHQCw&ved=0CC4Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=walter%20lansil%20a%20trip%20to%20venice&f=false

Lansil pictures.png

8 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Linda, Great articles on the Lansils and such research. I will go through them a lot more slowly tomorrow morning. The quote about Walter calling someone “a pill” came from some papers your aunt Natalie mailed me. It might have been she herself who wrote it–I am a bit lost on the generations and relationships in this family. I corrected the reference to read ‘a descendant of Walter’s brother Edwin.’ I didn’t want to mention someone living that I didn’t know that well.
    Let me know if I didn’t get it correct this time.



    • Thanks Ed! When Natalie moved, she gave me all of her Roots binders, I will have to go look through them again. She has lots of letters written in the 70’s, the quote kind of sounds familiar….Natalie was born after Walter passed away, so it may have come from her mother Edith Bernice Lansil. Edwin and Frances are the only two of Asa & Betsey’s kids known to have children, so it likely came from one of their descendants (we come from Edwin).



  2. Posted by Maria Lilie on April 6, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Hello, I found your research very fascinating. I have been trying to look up Walter F. Lansil and his 1905 Venice painting that was passed down to us through my husband’s mother’s family. I do not know if they knew Lansil’s or just purchased his painting. They are Kennedy’s (not related to JFK) and Smith’s.



    • Thanks Maria! How wonderful to have a Lansil! I think the Venice scenes are his best. No Kennedy’s or Smith’s in the family that I am aware of…. But perhaps have your husband take a DNA test. Three of us on the Lansil side have taken the family finder test on 23andme; I also uploaded our results on GEDMATCH (a free service in case he tested at another company). If he matches, maybe we can find a common link – did his family live in the Boston or Bangor area? I would love a picture of your painting if you get a chance! My email is LindaHalLittle at gmail…. And of course if you ever decide you want to sell it, please contact me!!



  3. Hi Linda,

    I am a professor of Art history at the University of Massachusetts, Boston currently researching a book about Walter Lansil’s venetian paintings. You have some great research here!
    It would be great to connect with you to discuss this further.!



  4. Posted by Edward A. Nardell on April 6, 2016 at 10:21 AM

    Excited to find this blog as I have had a Lansil Venetian oil painting for many years. I will go through it in more detail. I also have a wonderful Lansil watercolor of a pastoral scene with cows.



    • Thank you for reading and commenting!! I have lots of info on Uncles Walter & Wilbur! There is a blog post on their brother Edwin that offers additional detail of their lives as well as one for their grandfather Charles (just type Lansil in the search box). Wilbur kept a herd of cattle in their yard to use as subjects (as mentioned in his will). Is your cattle scene a Wilbur? I would love photos of your artwork to add to the blog if you get a chance!! Thanks again!



  5. Hi Linda,
    I got your email about the art exhibit, found this link and came here. The “descendant of of Walter’s brother Edwin” whom I said had the unsigned note about Walter was your Aunt Natalie. She was alive at the time, and I don’t refer to living people by name on my site, unless maybe they are researchers looking for work. So if you want to reword the quote above to give it a little more authority, go ahead.

    She sent me photocopies of a lot of her research, and that is where the quote came from.

    –Ed H
    Would like to see the exhibit, but I don’t travel well these days. Anything farther than the RI – MA line is “too far”. (Typical for native Northern Rhode Islanders anyway, but I seemed to have acquired the syndrome.)



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