top of page

A Slight Taint of Insanity

Updated: Jul 3

Artist Clarence Augustus Worrall has always intrigued me. He was the nephew of my second great-grandfather, Samuel Miller Moore, the son of his sister, Elizabeth, who died in her early thirties. As covered in my e-book, he came to live in Asheville in 1900, relocating from Pennsylvania at the same time his first cousins, J. Walter and Elizabeth Moore, settled there. He was escaping a bad marriage to a cousin on his father’s side, and left an ex-wife and two children behind in Philadelphia.


He played a larger part in the Moore/Watts family than I had realized. It turns out that when Mary Moore Watts followed her siblings to Asheville in 1902, after leaving her husband Edward T. Watts (but claiming she was widowed), she and her two children, Ruth and Walter, moved in with Clarence in an apartment at 217 E. Chestnut Street. They lived together those first few years in Asheville. It’s very possible that he supported them at that very vulnerable time.

The Asheville Citizen-Times on February 11, 1902 noted that "Clarence A. Worrall has leased the Woolsey property, corner Chestnut and Charlotte streets, through Wilkie & LaBarbe's real estate agency. Mrs. Watts and family of New York, relatives of Mr. Worrall, will reside with him.'


Born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, in 1858, Clarence’s childhood was melodramatic and tragic. His father was a surgeon and during the Civil War – appointed as a Union surgeon by Abraham Lincoln -- was stationed in Alexandria, Virginia. He took his family with him. Clarence’s nine-year-old sister, Garnet, died in 1862 of encephalitis, and his mother died the following year. After the war, Clarence and his father moved back to Lewistown, where Dr. Worrall continued his medical practice.


Thomas Worrall had hired – some sources say he adopted – a teenage girl named Mary Ann “Mamie” Bailey when Clarence was only four months old, to be a governess for Garnet and to help Elizabeth Moore Worral with baby Clarence. She became part of the family.


When Thomas Worrall died in 1877, Clarence inherited quite a large estate. Some sources say it was worth $50,000 and some say $70,000, but either would have been a princely sum in those days. Today, that would translate to $1.6 – 2.2 million. (It's kind of hard to believe.)

Clarence was then nineteen years old, a sickly and reclusive -- seemingly agoraphobic -- young man whom Mamie continued to take care of. Mamie had herself been left $5,000 in Dr. Worrall's will, but was concerned that she didn't have enough to live comfortably for the rest of her days. When Clarence became seriously ill and was thought to be near death, Mamie asked him to write a will and leave her the Lewistown house and farm. After consulting a local lawyer, Clarence decided -- in order to avoid estate taxes -- to sign the deed over to her. His understanding was that she would not record the deed unless he actually died. I would add that the Lewistown house must have been a large one, because in addition to housing Clarence and Mamie, there were multiple boarders who paid rent.

Mamie had the deed recorded even though Clarence survived his illness, and this became the basis for a lawsuit that was ultimately decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.


I recently found an article that sheds light on the lawsuit and on Clarence's early years. The following appeared in the Philadelphia Times on February 9, 1885: (I’m going to break the article up into more paragraphs to make it more readable.)




Deprived of His Property by a Woman with a Business Turn


Lewistown, Pa., February 8


An interesting little romance was developed yesterday in the Mifflin County Court of Equity. Dr. Worrall, a prominent physician of the county, resided here a few years ago with his young son Clarence, an only child, and Mamie Bailey, a sort of adopted daughter and housekeeper educated in the family.


At his father’s death in 1877, young Clarence Worrall inherited the bulk of the family property, consisting of real estate in Lewistown and Philadelphia worth $50,000, and Mamie Baily received $5,000 as a reward for faithful service.


Clarence Worrall was at this time a dreamy, poetical youth of 18, with a striking genius for painting. However, he was in extremely precarious health by reason of a disease of the heart and a slight taint of insanity – inherited, it is said, from his mother’s side of the family. He was, indeed, a sort of hypochondriac; he lived in morbid fear of death, excluded himself entirely from society, and was not known to have been half a block distant from home for twelve years back. He was wholly ignorant of business matters and was quite devoid of aim or ambition.


Shortly after he had attained his majority, in 1870, he was taken dangerously ill and was thus rendered still more apprehensive of early death. Upon his recovery, he set about providing for his nurse and foster-mother, Mamie Bailey, and accordingly made over to her his property by deed, to be recorded only in case of his death. Mamie Bailey retained his deed and young Worrall continued to live in his home with her, visiting no one and receiving very few visits.


This was the state things were in when, in the following summer, Miss Leonora Montague, an aristocratic young lady of Philadelphia, paid a long visit to her country cousin, Clarence Worrall, at his home. Miss Leonora, by her sprightliness and vivacity, soon brought young Worrall to a healthier state of mind. He lost his morbid fear of death. He became interested in the active world around him.


The young cousins were speedily the closest friends and were constantly in company at parties, picnics, drives and all sort of out-door amusements. And thus, amid the dreams of love, art and quickened ambition and the delights of health regained, the summer to him sped quickly away. In the ensuing summer the lovers married and removed to Philadelphia.


This change in Clarence’s condition necessarily blighted the monetary prospects of Mamie Bailey, who, by the way, has a fine head for practical business. She at once caused the deed in her possession to be recorded, unknown to the unsuspecting grantor, who was then working away at his easel in Philadelphia and scarcely earning a livelihood.


The legal effect of Mamie Bailey’s action was scarcely comprehended by young Worrall at first, but gradually the fact dawned upon his perception that he had rendered himself penniless by his own ignorance. As soon as he realized his situation he endeavored to secure an advocate to push his cause, but being without funds he encountered considerable delay.


Recently, however, he succeeded in enlisting in his behalf two eloquent champions in the persons of J.H. Adams and L.D. Edbert, and through them yesterday, after a delay of four years, he urged his rights in equity before Judge Bucher.


His Honor has not yet rendered his decision, but considering young Worrall’s misapprehension of the nature of the instrument conveyed to the defendant and her fiduciary relation to him at the time it is probable that he will ultimately recover his lost inheritance.

While it is true that Clarence married his Philadelphia cousin, as far as I know, that cousin was NOT Leonora Montague. It was Ada Worrall, the daughter of his Uncle Horatio Worrall, who was also a surgeon (four of Thomas Worrall's brothers were surgeons). I have not been able to locate a Leonora Montague anywhere in Pennsylvania in that timeframe, or anywhere in the Worrall family tree. Whether the newspaper article got the wrong name or he had a second early marriage to a cousin is not known.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Clarence's favor in November, 1885. What I don't understand is what happened to his inheritance, because he appears to have been penniless when he moved with his Moore cousins to Asheville at the turn of the last century. Perhaps it was true -- as his ex-wife Ada claimed in her divorce from him -- that he lost his inheritance in a dissolute lifestyle involving gambling, alcohol, and drugs.

I would also note that in the 1880 U.S. Census, Mary Ann "Mamie" Bailey is listed as being 25 years old and the head of the Lewistown household on Wayne Street; Clarence was said to be 22 years old and the brother of the head of household. Mamie's occupation was given as housekeeper, and Clarence's as landscape artist. If nothing else, Mamie's age is wrong; she would have 35 at that time.

Mary Ann "Mamie" Bailey died in 1896 at the age of 51. She is buried in the Episcopal Cemetery (St. Mark's Community Cemetery) in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, next to Clarence’s parents, Thomas Augustus and Elizabeth Ker Moore Worrall. As Quakers (although Elizabeth was still technically a Presbyterian), the Worralls had no headstones, and thus I can’t find their stones at However, there is a large stone for Mary Ann Bailey.

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page