By Jeffrey J. Carmel
A 114-year-old family photograph album is discovered by chance on eBay – and won – despite a last-minute challenge. The album had never been considered lost or missing because no one in the family even knew of its existence. Old Friends tells the story behind the pictures and then, with only names as a starting point, traces the lives of a dozen friends gathered at a house party in Beloit, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1898.
Ten years before the turn of the 19th century, my great-great grandfather, an octogenarian serial entrepreneur, traveled from his home in Creighton, Pennsylvania to Wyandotte, Michigan to lay the groundwork for a new company.
In the years following the Civil War, Capt. John B. Ford, a former box maker, iron manufacturer, and steamship builder, with his sons Edward and Emory, had founded a series of flat glass factories in Indiana and Kentucky. Ruined not once, but twice during the protracted international financial crisis of the 1870s, Captain Ford had rallied at Creighton, in Western Pennsylvania’s Allegheny River Valley. Backed by New York investors, in 1881 he established the New York Plate Glass Company, the world’s first plate glass factory to fuel its melting furnaces with locally produced natural gas. Two years later, in 1883, the Creighton glassworks became the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company.
In 1890, Captain Ford’s interest in Michigan, as it had been with previous manufacturing enterprises, was to find and control the supply of raw materials. This time he was after salt and limestone to produce soda ash, a key ingredient in the glassmaking process monopolized until then by one factory in the United States near Syracuse, New York. At Wyandotte Ford purchased 40 waterfront acres along the Detroit River with rich, subterranean salt deposits, and within the year he and his sons had laid the cornerstone for the Michigan Alkali Company.
Several years later, in 1898, the 87-year-old Captain Ford saw a profitable secondary use for this solution of salt brine and carbonized limestone, and launched yet another venture – the J.B. Ford Company – to produce and distribute a line of sodium-based consumer and industrial cleansing products. Over the next two decades, the company would wage an aggressive branding and marketing campaign for baking soda, lye, and sanitary cleansers that employed numerous advertising giveaways such as celluloid wallet calendars, copper key fobs and ashtrays, aluminum pocket combs, gold-etched highball glasses, and elegant brass letter openers – all sporting the company name and its distinctive logo, a fierce-looking Wyandotte Indian chief in deerskin breeches and full headdress with drawn bow and arrow.
These period branding gimmicks first came to my attention during an Internet search in the mid-2000s for “J.B. Ford” hoping to discover more about his early steamboat operations in New Albany and Louisville and the ironclads he later built for the Union Army. Instead of historical information the search returned a link to an eBay listing for one of the antique brass letter openers. Thrilled with this unusual and unexpected find (and being the only bidder), I paid $5 for the brass relic, and nearly as much for postage. But I was hooked. Over the next couple of years, I found and bought half a dozen of these period letter openers to give to my children and siblings, as well as a handful of other J.B. Ford Co. ephemera including a rusty but colorful poster-sized tin sign with the stylized Wyandotte warrior chief.
In late January 2011 my monthly eBay search returned an entirely different and heart-stopping item: “1897-98 Photo Album Family of J.B. Ford Plate Glass King” the listing read in part, “…a ledger book with blank pages, patented 1888, containing 225 mounted vintage, original gelatin silver pictures taken by Stella D. Ford, granddaughter of John Baptiste Ford (1811-1903), generally known as ‘the father of the plate glass industry’ in the United States.” The auction was to end in five days.
I was staggered. Stella Dunbar Ford, Captain Ford’s youngest granddaughter, was my maternal grandmother. In 1897 she was 19. Here, for the world to see – and anyone to acquire for that matter – was her photo album. The album had never been considered lost or missing because no one in the family even knew of its existence.
As I read on, the questions were already racing through my head. How did something as special and sentimental as a photograph album ever leave my grandmother’s possession? Who had kept it all this time, and how did it end up on eBay? Roman artifacts still turn up in farmers’ fields, but what were the chances, I wondered, of such a family treasure surfacing – and being discovered randomly, in the space of a fleeting, five-day window of time – after being out of sight for more than a century?
The listing included clear scans of 16 photographs from the album, including the title page where the word “Photographs” and “Stella D. Ford” stood all alone, penned in the familiar handwriting I had seen on so many birthday cards and letters when I was young. For each of those 16 photos, the eBay seller had earnestly researched and provided additional information about the locations and subjects identified by my grandmother. Most of the images appeared to have been taken on a family camping vacation with my grandmother’s parents, siblings and friends – either posing with their catch of the day or seated on chairs drawn up in front of a large white tent; others were of cousins in Wyandotte; the remaining few were of various individuals in Davenport, Iowa, and Beloit, Wisconsin, including, much to my surprise, the last photograph described by the eBay seller in his listing as: “Stella in a buggy with Phil (?).” Phil I instantly knew to have been a friend, possibly a beau, and the author of more than two-dozen letters that would be written to my grandmother over the following decade. Now I had a rather mournful face to connect with Philip Rand of Salmon, Idaho, and the packet of faded letters that for several years had been sitting on a bookshelf in my office, tied with a piece of string.
I placed a starting bid of $50, assuming no one conceivably could have an interest in someone else’s family photo album, much less bid on it. Afraid I might jinx the transaction, I decided against mentioning to anyone the amazing find until it was safely in my hands. Within the hour, unable to suppress my excitement, I had shared the news with my 93-year-old mother. She, too, was astounded, never having seen or known of such an album of her mother’s from that era, and puzzled, like me, about how and why it had surfaced after all these years.
Five anxious days and fitful nights ensued fretting about someone or something thwarting the sale. On the last day with less than five minutes to go, I sat glued to my computer screen watching the digital timer tick down in red. Soon it was 50, 45, 40 seconds…then with only 30 seconds to go there was a flurry of activity. Two anonymous collectors began upping the bid in what is known to eBay cognoscenti as a “sniper” operation whereby a computer program automatically raises the bid faster than an individual can enter keystrokes to counter. I increased my bid to an insane amount to secure the album against this last-minute assault and watched the final computerized bids fly. The price soared as the time ran down to the wire. In the end, after nine frantic bids, it was mine – for $1,800.
I was ecstatic. I was also piqued at having paid such an astronomical price to retrieve something that had once belonged to my immediate family. On the other hand, I reasoned, it was the only way to gain an extraordinary glimpse into the past, and to keep it from disappearing again, forever. When I told my mother of the auction’s dramatic finale, she was over the moon, yet ever the matriarch, she insisted that it was her familial imperative to pay for the album.
When the seller contacted me via email, I inquired about the provenance of the album. All he could tell me was that he had bought it on eBay a few months earlier. “I do remember the seller from whom I purchased the album mentioned that it had come from a recent estate sale,” he wrote. As a 74-year-old living month-to-month on Social Security supplemented by his eBay sales, he was clearly very pleased about this windfall. “The high price of this item will be of great help,” he told me, “So much help that I am taking the day off eBay, as far as listing, to celebrate.” That is all I know about where the album had been for the past century and more.
Two days later I had the binder. It was intact, but barely. Its once brown leather cover was now mostly a powdery, gray paperboard, its accordion-like cloth spine was completely exposed, and the delicate, pale brown pages were torn or crumbling; many were separated from the binding but miraculously in the proper order. The pictures themselves were in fine shape. Moreover, every single photograph had its carefully penned caption in my grandmother’s hand. As I sat in the post office parking lot, marveling at this fortuitous find, I was arrested by one particularly striking, black and white image of three men in rain-soaked oilskins, formal collars, and felt homburgs, standing before a canvas tent with a catch of 30 good-sized fish strung between three poles. The photo was loose on the page, having been removed by the eBay seller to scan for the teaser. The caption, penned in ink, had faded to sepia, but my grandmother’s distinctive hand was eminently legible and the same at 19 as it was at 95: “Capt. Wood, Dr. Norcross, Papa.” “Papa,” was her father, Emory Low Ford, rarely captured on photographic plates or film, but caught in that instant as a 51-year-old outdoorsman in the prime of his life. In less than three years he would be gone, the victim of a shipboard smallpox outbreak in the Mediterranean.
I drove straight to my parents’ house a few miles away to share this treasure with my mother. Still amazed at the unfolding of this fantastic turn of events, and then finally holding her mother’s album in her hands, she smiled and said: “Honestly, I don’t know how you find such things.”
For the next week my mother pored over the pictures with a magnifying glass, pointing out specific images and familiar relatives while remarking again and again that never before had she seen a picture of her mother, her aunts, or uncle from before the turn of the century, nor did she know much about their lives at that time. “Other than the oft-repeated, romanticized stories about Captain Ford and the fortunes he made and lost,” she said, “like so many families, no one much talked about the past.”
My mother died two months later, in April 2011 after a long and wonderful life. Of all the special memories, few compare to sharing with her this totally serendipitous and priceless photographic history and her childlike delight in savoring one image in particular, of her mother, some 114 years earlier, appropriately curled up on a hammock with a golden retriever, my mother’s beloved breed.
Restoring 225 faded and age-splotched photos is a time consuming and painstaking process and it is several months before I am able to return to the album and complete the scanning and retouching of each image, page by brittle page. When the task is finished I realize I have little more than what I started with – a turn-of-the-century glimpse into my grandmother’s life, albeit in a digitized form. Granted, the pictures have been preserved and can now be readily shared with my family, and that was the original intent.
At the same time the photographs have opened up a whole new window on a previously unknown period of my grandmother’s life and I feel compelled to connect the dots, to find out more about where the pictures had been taken – where she had lived, and played, and been schooled – and ultimately to be able to tell the back story to this remarkable photographic record. So I start again, from the beginning.
The photographs are carefully organized, identified, and glued onto the pages of the binder, starting with a handful taken in the spring of 1897 under the heading “at home” which was in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, a fashionable residential district on Pittsburgh’s north side near the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.
The area was originally the preserve of the Shawnee and Delaware Indians and was bisected by an important hunting and trading trail for the tribes of the Upper Ohio Valley. In the wave of western migration that followed the War of Independence the land was either taken from the Indians in a series of treaties, or claimed by the United States and given out as land grants to former soldiers of the Continental Line in payment for their wartime service. The city was surveyed in 1787, streets were eventually laid out around a 100-acre grazing commons, and landowners began building houses in the mid-1840s. By the late 1800s Allegheny City had become home to many of Pittsburgh’s millionaire coal, steel, and glass industrialists and some of the region’s grandest mansions were built on Ridge Avenue, also known as “Millionaires’ Row.”
In the pictures, Stella, identified by her initials, “SDF,” her sister Nell, and several girlfriends strike various poses in the side yard of the family’s large Italianate house, each girl with a dance card pinned to the bodice of her party dress.
The three-storied redbrick house at 508 West North Avenue with its rear stable was built in 1858 for Joseph W. Spencer, a wealthy Pittsburgh dry-goods merchant who lived there until 1866. Subsequent owners included David McCandless, a banker and business partner of Andrew Carnegie, and David M. Smith, a steel manufacturer. Stella’s parents bought the home in April 1889 when she was 11. The family left Allegheny City in October 1900 and the house sat unoccupied until 1904 when it was sold to Pittsburgh attorney William A. Stone, a four-term United States Congressman and Pennsylvania’s 22nd governor from 1899-1903. In 1914 the Fleischmann Yeast Company purchased the residence and converted it into a storage and distribution warehouse; a few years later, the property was acquired by the United States Casket Company and a two-story warehouse was added in the 170-ft. long side yard that had once served as the backdrop for my grandmother’s first snapshots.
Iron City Fishing Club
The next few pages of photographs, including the marvelous image of “Papa” Ford and his fishing companions, follow Stella’s heading: “In Camp. 1897.” Among the more than two dozen pictures of camp life in a sea of white canvas tents and wooden boardwalks, the rocky shoreline, and a visit to a nearby Indian village (where Stella photographs an Indian squaw and her papoose), the only clue to its location is a photograph of rowing skiffs tied gunwale-to-gunwale at a narrow, makeshift dock, with the clearly visible words “IRON CITY CLUB” stenciled on their bows.
The Iron City Fishing Club was founded in 1882 by a group of prominent Methodist ministers and businessmen from Pittsburgh who had read a brief account of a particularly successful fishing trip to Ontario’s Lake Sparrow and the lower Severn River made the previous year by the Rev. Dr. W.F. Day, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Dr. Day’s story, entitled “A Canadian Fishing Excursion” appeared in the Pittsburgh Christian Advocate in September 1881 and inspired the Pittsburgh group to organize and fund a similar fishing expedition to Georgian Bay.
The following year ladies were welcomed to the club. Each year thereafter, as the Iron City Fishing Club grew, the members would choose one of three or four different encampments in Georgian Bay or Lake Huron and haul their fishing tackle, provisions, and gear by train and chartered tugboat for a week or so of primitive camping and fishing for pickerel, black bass, blue catfish, pike, and muscallonge. The evenings were spent around a huge campfire with songs, storytelling, and playacting. A regular sermon was offered on Sundays.
Judging by Stella’s pictures of friends and relatives in odd costumes and clownish poses, this is still the case in the summer of 1897, the family’s tenth year in camp, when the club is encamped at Go Home Bay. Stella’s older brother, Emory “Leyden” Ford, leads most of the high jinks, creating a human pyramid and other gymnastic feats with friends and at one point appears in a long dress and bonnet. Equally silly in their posing for Stella’s camera are Carolyn and Fanny Pitcairn, whose father, Artemus Pitcairn, was the treasurer of Pittsburgh Plate Glass. The Sunday service that year is very likely delivered by The Rev. Dr. Allen H. Norcross, the bearded fisherman standing next to “Papa” Ford and Capt. Samuel L. Wood, a Pittsburgh coal operator and one of the Iron City Fishing Club’s founders (and treasurer).
Although ostensibly roughing it in the wilds of Georgian Bay, sleeping three to five people in canvas tents on bunks of rough lumber and ticks filled with straw, the Iron City Fishing Club was not entirely removed from civilization as attested to by Stella’s pictures of “The Crowd” a group of well-dressed Iron City Fishing Club members, disembarking from The Voyageur, the club’s chartered tug, in front of an elegant wooden hotel. From a map of Georgian Bay I am able to pinpoint and finally decipher “Penetanguishene” (and understandably, forgive my grandmother for the only ink-splotched, illegible caption in the album) as the nearby town with its grand summer hotel. Penetanguishene is an Abinaki name for “the place of the rolling white sands.” The luxurious 150-room Hotel Penetanguishene was opened in 1889 on 15 acres of waterfront property and served fine meals to the club’s members until it burned to the ground in 1915. Today it is the site of Huronia Park and a public beach.
Mount Vernon Seminary
From the summer sojourn in Georgian Bay the focus shifts to a sequence of images at “MVS,” Stella’s abbreviation for Mt. Vernon Seminary, a serious and highly regarded finishing school for young ladies in Washington, D.C.
With the exception of three or four slightly blurry interior shots of Emily S. Bingham, a beloved but ill teacher who died in April 1898, all the pictures at Mount Vernon Seminary are taken outdoors with classmates posed, mostly in groups, and often with some of their younger classmates, on the school’s newly constructed tennis and basketball court. On May 14, 1898, two weeks before the girls’ graduation, a series of images shows Stella, Alice Adams, Marie Wilson, May Niederinghaus, and other girlfriends in straw boaters and long dresses enjoying a “Barge Party,” the school’s annual picnic organized by Mrs. Somers aboard a mule yacht, a shallow-draft canal boat pulled along a towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, not far from Georgetown.
Mt. Vernon Seminary was the inspiration of Elizabeth Jane Eddy, a well-educated, 25-year-old teacher from Indiana who had moved to Washington, D.C. in the winter of 1862 to marry James W. Somers, a young lawyer from Springfield, Illinois, and boyhood friend of President Abraham Lincoln. After teaching at a small day school during the first few years of their marriage in the war-ravaged city, and with many secondary schools closed or abandoned, Mrs. Somers soon began taking pupils into their home for private tutoring in grammar, math, science, history, art history, and literature.
In 1868 she was asked to help prepare three daughters of a close friend for entrance to Vassar College. As word spread of this first success among the well-heeled intellectuals and professionals in the Somers’ post-war Washington social circle – where options were limited for private schooling – more sons and daughters were sent to Miss Somers’ School for pre-college education and by 1875, she had established a rigorous two-year college preparatory school for young women only, and renamed it Mt. Vernon Seminary after Mount Vernon Methodist Place Church in Baltimore, built by her brother, Dr. Thomas Eddy.
Stella had followed her elder sister, Nellie (’92), to Mount Vernon Seminary in September 1896, taking a series of required college preperatory classes in arithmetic, geography, U.S. history, English history, and advanced grammar. One of the class highlights of that first year, according to the Mount Vernon Seminary Record, was the “novel pleasure on February sixth of being presented to two ‘queens.’ First to Mrs. [Grover] Cleveland, the acknowledged queen of America, and later to the [recently deposed] Queen Liliokualani of Hawaii,” who was visiting Washington. In March the school had secured a large room with several windows and a large balcony overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue to watch the innaugural parade for President William McKinley who had defeated William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 presidential election.
When Stella and her seven senior classmates returned to the M Street campus in September 1897 to begin their 38-week school year, less than a mile away, President McKinley was already sixth months into his first term in the White House; a yellow fever epidemic was ravaging New Orleans; and daily reports of famine, atrocities, and bloody battles between Cuban rebels and Spain’s military presaged a Spanish-American conflict in the coming year.
Mt. Vernon Seminary in its nearly 20 years as a boarding school had enrolled students from nearly every state and several foreign countries and had earned a fine “national reputation for the knowledge, culture, and social skills of its graduates,” according to Nina Mikhalevsky, author of Dear Daughters, a history of Mt. Vernon Seminary. To graduate, she adds, “the students were expected to take mathematics through trigonometry, Latin through Cicero, three years of intensive French language, and read the canonical works of English and American literature.” Senior Essays, involving primary research on current social or political issues were also required of graduating students, and were read at Commencement where prizes were awarded for the best papers.
One of Mt. Vernon’s most popular teachers was Sarah Amelia Scull, writes Dr. Mikhalevsky in her history of the school, who in addition to teaching literature, history, Greek Art and Mythology, was “an avid photographer… She traveled to Greece and Italy many times and took hundreds of photographs throughout the 1880s and ‘90s. Her photographs of Greek and Roman art and architecture were eventually exhibited and won several medals, including one at the World’s Colombian Exposition [in Chicago, in 1893]. She inspired her students to take up photography, which became a passionate interest throughout the school.” Documenting their lives in great detail was an important “part of the culture of education at that time, and especially of the female culture at Mount Vernon and the other seminaries,” Dr. Mikhalevsky says.
Photography at Mount Vernon Seminary
The introduction to amateur photography couldn’t have been more timely for Stella and the other young women at Mt. Vernon Seminary as the medium had entered a new era during the 1890s with the increasing availability of relatively inexpensive Kodak box cameras, including innovative new features that greatly simplified the process of taking pictures.
The most radical development in the advent of photography during that decade was the technological evolution from glass plate negatives to spools of film (loaded into the camera in a dark room) to daylight film rolls that could be loaded anywhere. This technological milestone meant that people with very little knowledge of photography could take snapshots without worrying about the chemical process or having to fuss with shipping the camera back to the factory to have the prints developed and the camera reloaded. And it soon became the fashion among the upper middle class in the United States and abroad to carry these small, portable cameras on informal visits to family and friends, recording everyday life much the way the Kodak Instamatic would once again popularize snapshot photography in the early 1960s, or the ubiquitous cellphone of today that captures millions of video and still images – of everything from self portraits to political protest – and shares them over the Internet via social media sites like Instagram.
The first prints in my grandmother’s album, taken at the Iron City Fishing Club in the summer of 1897, measure 4 x 5 inches and are very likely taken with a Boston Bulls-Eye, a camera produced by the Boston Camera Manufacturing Company. The leather-covered wooden box camera cost $15 and came with an instruction book and one lightproof, 12-exposure film roll. Eastman Kodak took over the Boston Mf’g. Co. and continued marketing the camera as the Kodak No. 4 Bulls-Eye. By the spring of 1898, Stella appears to have graduated to a new camera, a No. 2 Bull’s-Eye box camera, a popular, $8 leather-covered wood model introduced in 1895 by George Eastman also with the novel, 12-exposure, daylight film spools that took 3 ½ x 3 ½-inch square images. This was the first camera to incorporate a small red viewing window (to prevent daylight from fogging the film) to read the exposure number on the film backing, and included shutter instant and Time (for long exposures), and a three-stop aperture.
Sadly, there are no photographs of Mount Vernon’s 1898 commencement exercises that took place on Tuesday, May 31st at the Luther Place Memorial church, on Vermont Avenue, just a few blocks from school. The Times (Washington) the following day described the evening ceremony as “a most delightful and interesting occasion…attended by a fashionable audience which taxed the seating capacity of the church.
“The decorations were profuse and exquisite,” the society writer continued, “the stage from which the fair young graduates made their bows was literally banked with flowers. The choir loft, too, was tastefully decorated while around the chancel rail of the pulpit was a wealth of beautiful palms.
“The members of the graduating class, eight in number, dressed in black college gowns and mortarboard caps were seated on the stage. They were Alice Montgomerie Adams, Chicago, Ill.; Maude Evolyn Deterding, Taylorville, Ill.; Susan Hurd Elmore, Astoria, Ore.; Stella Dunbar Ford, Allegheny, Pa.; Florence Louise Mixter, Rock Island, Ill.; Florence Isabel Polkinhorn, Washington, D.C.; Helen Clara Slater, Washington, D.C.; and Mary Ellen Wylie, Davenport, Iowa.
“On the stage with the graduates were the Rev. Dr. Teunis S. Hamlin, D.D., pastor of the Church of the Covenant, and the Rev. Frank M. Bristol, of the Metropolitan M.E. Church.
“The music in choruses during the evening was rendered by a choir of twenty-five young ladies, students at the Mount Vernon Seminary, with Mr. Josef Kaspar as musical director…”
From the sequence of photos in the album, it appears that Stella returns to the Ford home in Allegheny City for a month or so before taking the train west to visit Mary Wylie’s family and friends in Davenport, a post-graduation trip that must have been hatched in the spring by Stella and her closest friends, Alice Adams and Mary Wylie.
Hiram Cable Wylie, a recent graduate of the elite Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts – Mary Wylie’s elder brother – is Stella’s first subject as he sits on the porch railing of his parents’ Davenport home. Stella in turn poses on the front steps and in the hammock with the Wylie’s golden retriever curled up next to her.
That week, Stella was one of four Mount Vernon Seminary schoolmates to stay with Mary Wylie’s family and take part in all manner of entertainments arranged for them by Davenport friends, beginning with a boat trip across the Rock River in lumber merchant James E. Lindsay’s launch “Lotus” to a picnic in the cornfields, followed later in the week by a series of festive dinner parties.
These dinners, as reported on the front page of the Davenport Sunday Leader of July 10, 1898, were held:
“in honor of Miss Fletcher and Miss [Marie] Wilson of Evanston, Ill., Miss Ford of Pittsburg, Pa., and Miss [Helen] Palmer of New York, who have been the guests of Miss Wylie. Two of these were dinner parties given by Miss Wylie, one at her beautiful home on Brady Street in this city, and the other at Black Hawk’s Watch Tower. The former of these occurred last Tuesday evening.
“There were quite a number of the young people, friends of the hostess present. Supper was served at 7:30 o’clock and following it the evening was delightfully spent in social intercourse until 10:30 o’clock.”
On Thursday evening Hiram Wylie and chum George Middleton, capitalizing on the presence of several charming young ladies from the East, and wishing to impress their out-of-town guests, threw a festive dinner dance at Black Hawk’s Watch Tower Inn (named for the Sauk war chief), on Rock Island, between the Rock River and the Mississippi.
The Inn, noted for its fine dining, was a three-story salmon-colored building with a double veranda for dining and dancing overlooking the river. That night the Wylie party’s menu no doubt included such delicacies as baked Columbia River salmon and roast blue-wing teal duck.
A box in the same edition of the Davenport Daily Leader reports Hiram and George’s party to be quite the success:
“There were some thirty in attendance. Supper was served [at 8 o’clock] in the private dining halls on the second floor three of which, connected by large folding doors, were thrown open [to the veranda]. The tables were beautifully decorated and Mine Host McHugh did himself proud… at 9:30 o’clock the dance program was commenced. Petersen’s orchestra furnished the music for dancing. The costumes of the young ladies were very catching and pretty and the Inn presented a very gay appearance. The dancing lasted until 1 o’clock… The evening at the Tower was delightfully spent and later the party returned to this city by private car.”
Before leaving with Mary Wylie for Beloit at the end of the week, Stella photographs the dashing, older university men George and Hiram as they sit in a horse-drawn buggy pulled up in front of the Wylies’ home, a large, white Victorian house with a wide porch fronting on Brady Street at the corner of Fourteenth.
On to Beloit
From Davenport, the girls continue by train to Beloit, Wisconsin and a gathering of Davenport and Chicago friends at “The Grange,” the Adams’ large farm north of town. This was the second year in a row that the Adams would entertain some of Alice’s friends for a long summer weekend.
The sleepy college town of Beloit, Wisconsin, at the confluence of the Rock River and Turtle Creek near the Illinois border seems an odd choice for the second home of a wealthy Chicago family when most of society summered at fashionable lakeside resorts of Harbor Point, Mackinac Island, or Lake Charlevoix in Northern Michigan. However, the Adams family’s roots grew deep in Beloit, through Ella Hackett Adams, Alice’s mother, who had inherited large tracts of land from her father, John Hackett, the son-in-law of Caleb Blodgett, Beloit’s founder. Hackett senior was a well-educated and prosperous grocer, the city’s first postmaster, one of its first mayors and a state legislator. In addition to the valuable land holdings along the west side of the Rock River, he owned a flourmill and two paper mills.
After John Hackett’s death in 1887, the Adams family presented to the city a large granite memorial fountain bearing Hackett’s name “as a public drinking place for man and beast” at the junction of Fourth St. and Grand Avenue in the downtown marketplace. (In 1930 the fountain was moved three blocks east to Field Park near the high school – the site of Hackett’s original home – where it was sunk into the ground and made into an ornamental bird bath).
So it was back to Beloit that the Adams family traveled each summer and to the large home surrounded by wide lawns and fruit orchards on the bluffs above the Rock River, a mile north of the city.
Alice Adams, who missed the festivities in Davenport, had stayed on for two weeks in Washington after the girls’ graduation and spent another week at home in Chicago before heading north to Beloit in late June with her three brothers John, Le Baron, and Laurence. So she is at the Beloit train depot to meet Stella, Mary Wylie, and her brother, Hiram when they arrive after the 150-mile trip upriver from Davenport on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.
Alice’s parents, John and Ella Hackett Adams had also invited to the July house party at The Grange several of Alice’s friends from Chicago including Helen Shepard, Arthur Goodwillie, Dudley Wilkinson, Lewis Bement, Philip Rand (his second year in a row), Spencer Brown, Nanine Waller, and her brother Trigg.
Alice and her nattily dressed house guests, as captured by Stella’s camera, pose alone, in pairs, and as a group on the steps of The Grange; on a sunny afternoon they appear with tennis racquets, golf clubs, and a large softball and bat in the Adams’ large backyard. One evening Stella photographs several of the friends casually draped across each other on the living room sofa.
As I look more closely at my grandmother’s photographs in Davenport and Beloit, and focus on the images of people gathered in front of the family homes, on picnics, in horse-drawn carriages and on boats, I discover that I am increasingly being distracted by the names and faces of this new group of young friends.
The album at this point seems far more than a simple record of a summer trip to the Midwest in the Gay Nineties. It’s literally a collective snapshot from a moment in time; a charmed circle of friends poised to launch their respective life journeys into the dawn of the 20th century.
Most, if not all the friends that appear in the pictures from Davenport and Beloit, in attire and by mutual association, already assume a certain level of privilege, education, social graces, and enthusiasm. Yet looking at their young, cheerful, unlined features, I wonder what awaits them in the next century. Who among them, for example, will go on to university? Will they see each other again or stay in touch? Are they soon about to fall in love, marry, and raise families, divorce and possibly start all over? Will they weather the Great Depression or will they lose all? Will they become famous, scandalous, or simply disappear without a trace? Is there a foreign war or intrigue in their future? What, if any, will be their respective contributions to society after this summer idyll of 1898?
Unlike the ubiquitous flea-market photographs of anonymous 19th century gentry with stiff, deer-in-the-headlight stares into the camera lens, my grandmother has left me clues. Thanks to her assiduous captioning I have names to go with faces like the enigmatic Phil Rand and the lovely Alice Adams. She has provided this invaluable forensic key – not only to her own previously obscured home life, education, and travels – but now, too, to those of her friends, well beyond the images frozen in time in the golden summer light of 1898.
A name is all that is needed to begin ferreting out nuggets of information from newspaper archives, libraries, genealogical societies, vital records, census reports, city directories, and in some instances, even the rare descendent. Then, like the outer edge pieces of a wooden jigsaw puzzle carefully placed in the correct chronological positions, these random snippets reveal for some the full picture of a remarkable life; and for others, dealt an unfortunate hand by adversity – or worse, cut short in their prime – at least the basic outlines of a life history that until now, time has tried to erase.
Mary Wylie, the first young lady in my grandmother’s circle of friends, was the daughter of Joseph S. Wylie, a successful Davenport coal dealer and president of the Iowa Northern Railroad Company. The grandson of an early Ohio pioneer, he had moved west at 19, first to Des Moines and then to Davenport where he met Mary’s mother, Nancy (Nannie) Jane Cable, also from an Ohio family. She was the first daughter and fourth child of Rachel and Hiram Cable, a major coal operator in the Midwest.
The Wylies were married on June 4, 1872 in Davenport and within three years J.S. Wylie had succeeded his father-in-law in the coal business and began to furnish gas companies in Iowa and Illinois with gas coal and Pittsburgh coke. By 1900, Joseph Wylie was a wealthy man; his company had nearly 500 employees and was also supplying coal throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.
The Wylies’ first child, Nellie, was born in 1873 followed by Hiram Cable Wylie in 1875. Nellie died in October 1877 at the age of four. An infant son, William, born the same month, also died before the year was out. Mary Ellen, born in January 1880, was the couple’s fourth child.
Mary attended the Davenport public schools until she was 16. In 1896 her parents sent her first to Miss Kirkland’s School for Girls in Chicago for courses in history, cultural geography, English literature, and Latin, and later that fall to Miss Somers’ Mt. Vernon Seminary. The Davenport Daily Leader of September 29, 1896 noted her departure for the East Coast with her close friend, Alice Kuhnen, the daughter of Nicholas Kuhnen, a successful Davenport tobacco and cigar merchant, and reported that Mrs. Wylie would accompany the girls as far as Chicago “where they take the school [Pullman sleeping] car” on to Washington, D.C.
Mary’s grandson, James B. Coykendall, III, a retired architect in Knoxville, says the turning point in Mary’s young life came at Christmastime in 1898, the same year she graduated from Mt. Vernon Seminary. She was invited to spend the holidays in Knoxville with her Mt. Vernon friends the Woodruff sisters – Pauline, Margaret, and Katherine – and caught the eye of James Coykendall, a Knoxville bachelor 10 years her senior, at one of “several dances at the country club while she was here,” her grandson says. “The story I always heard was that my grandmother was the belle of the ball. She met my grandfather at one of those Christmas dances.”
Mary returned to Knoxville for a visit the following spring with George Middleton and her cousin George W. Cable, Jr. who became engaged and later married Katherine Woodruff in November 1899 in Knoxville. Mary served as a bridesmaid in that wedding while her brother Hiram, George Middleton, and James Coykendall all served as ushers for their Davenport friend.
Mary’s parents opened their home on Brady Street for a reception for the George Cables on their return from Knoxville to Davenport, which, according to the Davenport Sunday Leader, was “the society event of the season.”
“Over 300 society ladies from the three cities were present at the reception….The receiving party consisted of the following ladies: Mrs. J.S. Wylie, Mrs. George W. Cable, Jr., Miss Wylie and Miss Cable…The house was beautifully decorated for the occasion and presented a charming appearance. The rooms were darkened and were lighted with electric lamps, red colored globes being used. The Principal decorations were American beauty roses, which were displayed in profusion. The music for the occasion was furnished by the Lee B. Grabbe parlor orchestra. The orchestra was stationed in the hall and played sweet music during the afternoon. Dainty refreshments were served. The reception was a most enjoyable event for all in attendance.”
The following year, according to the Mt. Vernon Seminary record, Mary “had quite a gay winter, having been at Hot Springs, North Carolina, Knoxville, Tennessee, West Point and Annapolis. She was in Washington during the inauguration [of William McKinley], and describes the West Point and Annapolis cadets at the Inaugural Parade as “beautiful” – a compliment which they probably returned with high interest.”
On Sept. 18, 1901, Mary Wylie was married to James Barker Coykendall at an elaborate wedding in Davenport. The nuptials was reported the following day on the front page of the Davenport Republican under the heading; “Beautiful and Accomplished Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Wylie Married Under Auspicious Circumstances to Young Man from Knoxville, Tenn. – Tri-City Society Loses a Favorite – Leave for East.”
“The Rev. Dr. J. B. Donaldson officiated and the responses of the bride and groom were clear and prompt, being heard plainly in every part of the auditorium…Many were the whispered complimentary remarks upon the beauty and grace of the bride and the handsome manliness of the groom as they joined each other at the altar,” the story continued. Guests from “abroad” included “three young lady classmates of the bride at Mr. Vernon Seminary, Washington. They were Miss Stella Ford of Pittsburg, Pa., Miss Alice Adams and Miss Florence Hastings of Chicago.”
The newlyweds “left on the 11 o’clock train for the East, where they will spend two or three weeks, and then go on to Knoxville, Tenn., to enter upon housekeeping.”
The Coykendalls lived in Knoxville for the rest of their lives, raising two sons, James B. Coykendall, Jr. who became a clothing designer for Regal Manufacturing Company, the family denim clothing company, and Samuel Decker Coykendall III who was a part time salesman for the company, but “worthless with a capital “W” in the family’s eyes, according to Jim Coykendall. “He was married seven times. His mother [Mary] gave away the store for him. Bailed him out every time he got into trouble, and he was always in trouble. He was real good looking and all the women loved him. My mother couldn’t stand him. My father had no time for him or his drinking and womanizing either and used to say, “the difference between an alcoholic and a drunk, is that a drunk doesn’t have go to all those damn meetings.”
Mary was an attractive lady, her grandson says. “She was outgoing and very social. She loved playing bridge and going to cocktail parties. She was also active in [the Junior League] raising lots of money and was especially involved in helping the YWCA here [in Knoxville].
“I went for Sunday dinner all the time and spent a lot of time at the big Tudor house they built in 1928, four doors down from the Cherokee Country Club. They were charter members and built the home close by so they could go over for meals or to play bridge. After Grandfather died in the early 1950s, we lived in that house with her. She sure did dote on me and tried to spoil me rotten. She had money and maids. She traveled, and lived a comfortable life. She was never bedridden.”
Mary Wylie Coykendall died in 1961. “I think when she passed away,” Jim Coykendall says, “she just got sick, went into the hospital, and that was that.”
Alice Montgomerie Adams, the strikingly beautiful young woman appearing in nearly two dozen images in the album, was one of Stella’s best friends at Mt. Vernon Seminary.
She was born in Chicago on November 12, 1878 to John Russell Adams, a Chicago food and dried fruit merchant and Ella Delia Hackett Adams. After attending local Chicago schools, Alice at 17, like so many daughters of well-educated and wealthy parents, was sent off to Mt. Vernon Seminary in 1896. She graduated with Stella and her classmates two years later, in May 1898.
Back home in Chicago, in addition to the many luncheons, dinners and teas attended or hosted by Alice and her mother in the months following her graduation, the Chicago society pages soon began linking her to Joseph Long Gunsaulus, one year her senior, the eldest child of Georgiana Long Gunsaulus and the Rev. Frank Wakeley Gunsaulus, a prominent minister, educator, writer, and avid collector of first edition books and fine art.
Frank W. Gunsaulus (“the great divine” as one wag called him) had earned national notoriety for a passionate sermon he had delivered in 1890 at the pulpit of his Plymouth Church on the south side of Chicago. In what became known as his “Million Dollar Sermon” Dr. Gunsaulus had outlined what he would do if he had a million dollars. He spoke of building a great educational institution where students of all backgrounds could develop their minds and be prepared for life and work in modern industrial society. Inspired by the sermon and Gunsaulus’ vision, Phillip Danforth Armour of the Chicago meatpacking firm, gave Gunsaulus the million dollars to found Armour Institute which opened its doors three years later with Gunsaulus as its first president, and an enrollment of 400 students, including his son, Joseph.
Prepared (or not) by his education at Armour Institute, the younger Gunsaulus went on to Amherst College but withdrew before the end of his first term and began work as a fine arts salesman. This career path was forged primarily from his father’s interest, trusteeship, and connections with the Art Institute of Chicago as well as Henry Reinhardt, a German-born Milwaukeean with galleries in Chicago, New York, and Paris. Reinhardt catered to newly wealthy Midwest clientele keen on acquiring French and Dutch paintings for their nascent collections. Joseph Gunsaulus helped to open and manage Reinhardt’s Chicago office and gallery in the Fine Arts Building on South Michigan Avenue and traveled with Reinhardt on a buying trip to Europe in the summer of 1899 where they purchased some 250 pictures for exhibitions later that fall in Milwaukee and Chicago.
Gunsaulus was also involved with Reinhardt’s most notable art transaction, the 1911 sale of 18 pictures by George Inness, the famous American landscape painter, to Edward Burgess Butler, a millionaire dry goods wholesaler, philanthropist, and art collector. Butler in turn donated his entire Inness collection to the Art Institute of Chicago.
“The announcement that the marriage of Miss Alice Montgomerie Adams and Mr. Joseph Gunsaulus would take place on June 5 came as a great surprise to their friends,”
The Chicago Tribune reported on May 25, 1902, “as it was understood to be settled the wedding would take place in the fall after Miss Adams had gone to Europe this summer with her fiancé’s father and sisters. But as young Mr. Gunsaulus elected also to go, the wedding day is set and the trip to Europe will be a bridal one. However, in spite of the hurried preparations, the wedding will be one of the largest ever seen in Chicago.”
Joseph Gunsaulus and Alice Adams were married on June 5, 1902, the same week that her childhood friend Nannine Waller was married to Stewart Patterson. The Chicago Daily Tribune of June 8, 1902 noted both weddings but added:
“Seldom is so large a wedding celebrated as that of Miss Alice Montgomerie Adams, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Russell Adams, to Mr. Joseph Long Gunsaulus on Thursday evening. Twenty-six hundred invitations were issued for the ceremony at Plymouth Congregational Church, of which the groom’s father, Dr. F. W. Gunsaulus, who performed the ceremony, was pastor for fifteen years. The bride’s family has a large circle of friends on the North Side and the Gunsaulus family an equally large circle on the South Side. The evening reception afterwards at the Adams residence in North State Street “was a smaller affair.”
Among the ushers were Philip Rand and Le Baron Adams, Alice’s brother. My grandmother, Stella, was one of five bridesmaids (12 years later, the Gunsauluses were guests at my grandmother’s wedding in Detroit. Between 1903 and 1910, Gunsaulus through the Reinhardt Gallery had sold several important pictures to my grandmother as she started an art collection, including paintings by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, Charles Emile Jacque, John Constable, Jean François Millet, Peter Paul Reubens, and J.M.W. Turner). The newlyweds spent nearly two weeks in the Berkshire hills before sailing for Paris. They returned to Chicago after three months in Europe, the first of many European trips together.
The following February, Alice held her first post-nuptial reception at their new home in downtown Chicago. According to the Chicago Daily Tribune of Feb. 10, 1903, “her mother, Mrs. John Russell Adams, and Mrs. F. W. Gunsaulus assisted in receiving. Among those “presiding in the dining room” were [neighbor] Mrs. Stewart (Nannine) Patterson, and “Miss Ford of Detroit, who is the guest of Mrs. Gunsaulus.”
The Gunsaulus’ first child, Alice, was born 1904 but tragically succumbed to cerebral meningitis before she was two. “Paths to the City of God,” a book of sermons written in 1906 by Joseph’s father, Frank W. Gunsaulus, was dedicated “to the unfading memory of Alice Adams Gunsaulus II, a little flower which only budded in Eden, but now blooms in the City of God.”
There was much fanfare, as far away as the East Coast, over the imminent birth of their second child in July 1907. “There is great rejoicing in the Frank W. Gunsaulus home over the near approach of that benevolent spectacled bird of great length of limb and beak – the stork,” the Washington Post chirped on July 18, 1907. “At present he is hovering over…the Joseph Long Gunsauluses of the North Shore, Chicago…. Mrs. John Russell Adams, the maternal grandmother of the Joseph Gunsaulus side of the house, already has closed her home on North State Street, Chicago, and is at her large farm near Beloit, Wis., for the rest of the summer.”
The rejoicing was short-lived, however, when tragedy struck a second time. The baby boy was delivered in late July with a fatal heart problem. Joseph Long Gunsaulus, Jr. lived for only five hours.
Nearly six years later, at age 35, Alice gave birth to their third child, this time a healthy boy who was also given the name of Joseph Long Gunsaulus, Jr.
Alice was anything but a typical Chicago socialite, housewife, and mother. She was one of the founders of the Chicago Woman’s Exchange (“To furnish a depot for the disposal of the work of needy women”) and served as its president in 1914. She was also an assistant curator at the Field Museum and assistant curator of Oriental Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. During World War I she helped organize the Chicago’s School of Domestic Arts and Science’s campaign to demonstrate the use of potatoes as a wheat substitute. “Unsuspected depths have been discovered by the food administration in the character of the potato,” the program announced, “and this everyday vegetable is about to have a four days’ run of prominence which will convince every housewife who pays attention to the campaign that potato flour, potato meals, and dishes prepared with potatoes can be a complete substitute for wheat.”
A far more interesting experience in Alice’s early married life in Chicago was having her portrait painted by Francois Flameng, a professor in the Academy of Beaux Arts, and well-known portrait painter. Flameng was the son of Leopold Flameng, a noted engraver, and gained notoriety as a portrait painter of royalty and high society. Among those who sat for him were the former Empress of Russia, the Queen of England, and the Greek royal family. He painted Dorothy Payne Whitney, Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, Mrs. William D. Sloane (Emily Thorne Vanderbilt), and other society ladies in the New York studio he established for his wealthy American patrons.
In the spring of 1911 as Flameng was about to sail for France, Joseph Gunsaulus persuaded him to travel to Chicago to paint the portraits of several Chicago society women who had heard of his wife’s successful experience sitting for Flameng – and seen the handsome result. Gunsaulus had met Flameng while helping Henry Reinhardt with the firm’s gallery at 12 Place Vendome in Paris, spending at least two full summers there with Alice in 1910 and again in 1911 which gave them a base from which to travel to various European cities acquiring old masters and modern paintings for the Reinhardt Galleries in the United States.
“Mrs. Gunsaulus went to New York some weeks ago to pose for the portrait and the finished work, which reached the city a fortnight ago, has so delighted her friends that commissions were rushed to New York and the artist was persuaded to make Chicago his first visit,” the Chicago Tribune reported on March 15, 1911. “He was just ready to take the boat for France, but he changed his plans and today will reach the Blackstone [Hotel], where he will establish a temporary studio.”
A year earlier, Gunsaulus had organized a portrait exhibition at the Reinhardt Galleries with only one Flameng in the collection, “a portrait of Mlle. Flameng lent by the artist. Whether it was this portrait exhibit which so increased the interest in portraiture in Chicago, or whether the fancy for sitting for a portrait goes in waves as do other fashions, posing for a famous artist has reached the proportions of an epidemic in Chicago,” the Tribune article continued. “Not only the city’s own colony of artists famed for their portraits are being kept busy but with the coming of M. Flameng the city will have as guests three foreign artists of renown, the other two being Senor [Joaquin] Sorella [y Bastida] and Alfred Klots.”
At the time of Flameng’s visit to Chicago, the oil painting of Alice Gunsaulus was hanging in her husband’s office at the Henry Reinhardt Galleries in Chicago. It was to be displayed publicly for the first time at a portrait tea hosted by the Gunsauluses on March 19th but the event was canceled when Alice came down with a throat infection. A large photograph of the portrait, however, ran in the Chicago Tribune on March 16, 1911.
In the May 13, 1911 issue of American Art News under the heading “Flameng’s Big Haul” it was reported that Flameng had painted 13 portraits during his visit to the United States. “As Flameng’s price for a full length portrait (and he painted few others in the United States), is never less than $5,000, and generally more, it is estimated that he cleaned up some $100,000 for his last season’s work alone.”
In the late spring, Gunsaulus shipped his wife’s picture to Paris where Flameng exhibited the painting as “Portrait de Mme. D” at the 1911 Salon des Indépendants. On May 8, 1911, the portrait merited a front-page mention in l’Express du Midi of Toulouse as “a little too pink, perhaps, but a young and accurate painting full of grace and displaying all the mastery of M. Flameng.”
The portrait was displayed a second time in January 1912 for an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago to benefit the Passavant Memorial Hospital.
What happened to the portrait in the succeeding years is a mystery. Nearly 70 years after its exhibition at the Paris salon, Alice Adams Gunsaulus’s three-quarter-length picture reappeared with the new title “Portrait of a Lady,” as Lot No. 105 in Christie’s January 18, 1980 London auction of European paintings where it was sold to an anonymous buyer for £3,200 ($7,300). It resurfaced on a full page in Sotheby’s 1989 auction catalog of 19th century European paintings and drawings (and subsequently all over the Internet) showing its only provenance as a gallery in New Orleans, with an estimated auction price of $50,000-$70,000. The picture did not sell. Its whereabouts today remain unknown.
When the Gunsauluses were not traveling overseas they summered with friends from Chicago in Northern Michigan. In the fall of 1920, however, Alice took their now seven-year-old son, Joseph, to La Jolla, California, ostensibly “for the winter season,” as reported in the Chicago Tribune. The move west, in fact, was to start a new life in California, and Alice and Joe Jr. would remain in La Jolla for the rest of their lives.
Joseph Sr. stayed behind in Chicago and continued his work for the Reinhardt Galleries yet the couple never divorced; she continued to go by her married name and it appears they simply decided to live apart. (The one photo of Joseph Gunsaulus identified simply as “Dad” in his son’s photo album now at the La Jolla Historical Society, shows an overweight man posing with a single crutch under his arm). Two days before Christmas 1924, Joseph Sr. died of pneumonia in St. Clemens, Michigan. He was 47. According to the Detroit papers, he had been sick for five months, had recovered, but caught a cold that quickly developed into pneumonia. At the time of his death he was preparing an exhibition of paintings at a hotel in Detroit. His mother, Georgiana, was at his bedside, not Alice, when he passed away.
Alice seems to have reinvented herself by energetically launching a new life for herself and young son in La Jolla. They lived at first in an apartment directly overlooking the Pacific Ocean and within a year had opened a popular tearoom that, in a nod to its Chicago namesake, she called the Women’s Exchange. By 1926 having sold off some of her family’s extensive Beloit land holdings she bought a rustic mountain lodge on 10 acres of scenic property in Mesa Grande, some 25 miles north of San Diego where she and Joe could escape the city during the summer months (Alice also spent the entire summer of 1929 in Honolulu with friends). Two years later she bought a small, but comfortable house on Luddington Place and opened The Little Shop, an exclusive dress store that she ran with Dorothy Gates Towner until 1929 when she sold back her share and began yet another career at Rice-Cooper Co., a real estate and insurance company. When the firm went bankrupt in 1939 for failing to pay insurance, Alice and her friend, Elizabeth Peacock, by then considered the top two realtors in the area because of their well-established social connections and business acumen, jumped ship. The two women, now in their 60s, formed a partnership with the 29-year-old Willis M. Allen to start the eponymous real estate company at the corner of Prospect and Girard in La Jolla.
Alice traveled often to the East Coast and continued her busy social life as the doyenne of the Chicago colony in La Jolla, hosting hundreds of tea parties, dinners, luncheons, dances, and bridge parties while remaining an active broker with Willis Allen for nearly 20 years until her retirement in 1959. A registered Democrat, she was secretary of the Civic League, an honorary member of San Diego’s august Wednesday Club, the La Jolla Women’s Club, and one of the original members of the tony La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. She had also served on the board of the American Red Cross, the finance committee of the San Diego YWCA, and as vice president of The Gillespie Foundation. She moved into a rest home in La Jolla in 1961 and died on February 9, 1964 at the age of 85.
Joseph Gunsaulus Jr. (pictured here in the 1930s) graduated from La Jolla High School and Claremont Men’s College in Claremont, California, and then served for three years in the South Pacific during World War II as a cartographer in the US Army Corps of Engineers. He came home to La Jolla after the war and began a career as a landscape architect. He never married or had children. Some of his father’s art was bequeathed to the Art Institute of Chicago and Joe may well have sold the Flameng portrait to the Schon Gallery in New Orleans, although the gallery would not respond to multiple requests for information about the portrait. Gunsaulus died in 1992 at the age of 79 in the La Jolla home he had shared with his mother.
Seven years after the summer house party in Beloit, Helen Ellsworth Shepard, the attractive young woman with the pixie smile in Stella’s album, was dead at the age of 26.
One of the several Chicago family friends visiting the Adams in Beloit, Helen Ellsworth Shepard was born on July 21, 1878 to Judge Henry Martyn Shepard and Frances Welles Stuart. Both mother and daughter were members of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Nannie Waller was a bridesmaid at Helen’s January 1900 wedding to Dexter Fairbank, a Harvard University graduate and one of the heirs to his father Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank’s massive laundry and toilet soap manufacturing fortune.
The newlyweds moved to Elk Rapids, Michigan, a small village about 25 miles north of Traverse City, where Dexter had taken a job as secretary of the family-owned Elk Rapids Iron Company, one of the country’s largest producers of charcoal-fired iron ore. The operation also included a sawmill and chemical plant for the distillation of wood smoke. Following a trip to California in February 1904 the couple returned to live in Chicago where Dexter took on a new position as treasurer of the Cassady-Fairbank Manufacturing Company, producers of hardware and automobiles.
In the spring of 1905 a pregnant Helen, her mother, Frances Stuart Shepard, and sister, Penny, arrived for a visit at The Butternuts, the Fairbank family’s palatial summer home on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Helen signed the guest book on May 5th with the simple desire “to see the fruit trees, etc., in blossom.” A little more than a week later, however, she suffered an acute case of uremia – a buildup of toxins in the blood leading to kidney failure – that proved fatal. Both Helen and child she was carrying died at The Butternuts on May 13, 1905. The Lake Geneva Herald reported on May 19, 1905 that “…everything was done that possibly could be done, a special train bringing her family doctor from Chicago, but all efforts were futile and she went to join her friends on the other shore. She had only been here for a few days and her death was unexpected and a great shock to her husband and friends.”
In November 1906 Dexter Fairbank became engaged to Evelyn Young of Louisville, Kentucky. (She had spent most of the summer in Chicago as the guest of Ella Crutcher Noyes, a close friend from Louisville). They were married in Louisville in late December, taking Chicago society by surprise, and according to Chicago’s Inter Ocean newspaper, the new Mr. and Mrs. Fairbank were to promptly sail for Egypt and spend the winter there, “then devote the spring months to a tour of the British Isles.”
Lewis Dennison Bement, the lanky, bespectacled young man sitting cross-legged on the spacious lawns of the Adams’ Beloit summer home, was a direct Mayflower descendant of John Howland. He was born in Chicago on December 27, 1877 making him one year older than my grandmother and her school friends. A sister, Virginia, was born in 1879, followed by Gertrude in 1882 and Edward Dennison Bement in 1884.
His father, Edward Nichols Bement, was an accountant, stockbroker, and entrepreneur. His mother, Ella Dennison Bement, was the daughter of Eliphalet Whorf Dennison, who with his elder brother Aaron Lufkin Dennison, founded the Dennison Manufacturing Company of Brunswick, Maine, makers of shipping tags, jewelers’ tags, display cards, and watch boxes for the trade. (Aaron Dennison later invented machines to standardize the production parts for pocket watches and was a co-founder of the Waltham Watch Company).
When Lewis was three his parents moved from Chicago to Boston where his father first worked briefly as a clerk for Dennison before buying out Amariah Storrs, a wholesale fancy paper company in 1881 and reincorporating with his younger brother, Robert Bunker Coleman Bement, as A. Storrs & Bement Company. After nearly a decade in Boston, Edward Bement sold his shares in the paper business and moved the family back to Chicago where he became secretary and treasurer of the Cary-Ogden Company, a specialty railroad paint and varnish manufacturer.
Lewis Bement’s family life was marred by tragedy and parental discord. When he was four, his baby sister, Virginia, died of cholera infantum, a deadly form of gastroenteritis prevalent at the time. A decade later, in October 1892, his father’s Chicago company was destroyed in a blaze that gutted the Cary-Ogden paint factory and four adjacent tenement houses. Despite the partners’ initial vow to rebuild, the business was never revived. His parents’ marriage collapsed soon afterward and Edward Bement abandoned the family and moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado where he set up shop as a stockbroker and part-time deputy sheriff. In a Chicago Tribune solicitation for investment in gold mining shares, he touted it as the “greatest gold camp of the age” where money “can be doubled in a short time.” (His two children did not see their father again until they were married with their own families. Strapped financially, married briefly a second time, Edward Bement lived amongst his collection of books in boarding houses in Hartford, Connecticut, until his death at 93).
The following June, Bement’s mother, Ella, quietly remarried William Holman Cary, her ex-husband’s business partner and former president of Cary-Ogden. The wedding was held at the Bements’ 508 North State Street home, next door to Alice Adams and her family at No. 506. The proximity of the two neighbors provides a neat explanation for Bement’s July 1898 presence at the Adams’ house party in Beloit – and in my grandmother’s photograph album.
Bement was far from most of the family drama and upheaval in Chicago as an upper-level student from 1895 to 1896 at The Cascadilla School in Ithaca, New York, a preparatory school for Cornell University. His father’s career meltdown and flight to Colorado may well have dashed any hopes Bement had of being able to afford to go to Cornell with his Cascadilla classmates. For some unknown reason, however, whether financial or health-related, he withdrew from school in December 1896 at about the same time as his mother and stepfather moved back to Boston. In the spring of 1897 he went to work for the family company in Framingham. He registered at Cascadilla for the fall of 1897 but never returned.
Dennison Manufacturing was thriving when Bement started, having added a number of new products to its business line such as merchandise tags, crêpe paper, and holiday tags. It had just relocated and centralized most of its operations in a sprawling 2,000-employee factory in Framingham encompassing some 16 acres. Bement would stay on with Dennison serving in various sales and manufacturing positions for nearly 21 years.
In March 1906 Bement wrote to Phil Rand in Salmon City for an ounce of gold from the Big Creek mine to make a wedding ring. Bement told Rand he was to be married later that spring to Grace Allen Power, the daughter of Grace A. and Charles L. Power, a diamond and gem importer. While impossible to know if Rand ever extracted any usable ore from his mine, much less sent any gold back East, that May as planned, Grace and Lewis Bement exchanged rings in New York City.
The newlyweds moved to Madison, New Jersey, where they bought a comfortable home near her parents and Bement continued to commute to New York where he managed Dennison’s highly successful crêpe and tissue paper division.
Four years and three children (Lewis Jr., Barbara, and Kathleen) later, Grace, a graduate of New York’s Scudder Collegiate School, Vassar College (’03), and a spirited proponent of equal rights and women’s suffrage, began teaching Montessori and Fletcher music classes in their home. (Grace would espouse Maria Montessori’s progressive ideas throughout her career as an educator).
Although Bement in his late 30s was too old for military service in World War I, near the end of the conflict he took a year off from Dennison and signed on as the executive business manager of the Red Cross Tuberculosis Commission for Italy, a unit made up of some 60 doctors, nurses, social workers, and educators sent to Italy in late September 1918 to help fight tuberculosis and to promote child welfare. (Grace, too, worked with the Red Cross Women’s Motor Corps in New York City). Bement held the rank of major and managed a $1 million fund. The unit included four traveling automobile dispensaries; three equipped for dental work, and another for general medical work. The Red Cross also sent over a crew with 14 movie cameras to precede the commission and shoot motion pictures to awaken public interest in the health campaign.
Bement returned from Italy in June 1919, and the family moved into a large white Colonial home in Framingham where he rejoined Dennison briefly as a sales executive. His younger brother Edward, a Harvard graduate by then, was also working at the factory in the box-manufacturing department.
In February 1920, however, something caused Bement to abruptly leave his position at Dennison. He switched gears entirely by taking the job as president of the John Russell Cutlery Company in Turners Falls, Massachusetts and moving his young family to the picturesque colonial town of Deerfield some six miles away. It was the beginning of the motor age and Bement set quite the trend by proudly commuting to and from work by automobile.
John Russell Cutlery was literally at a watershed moment when Bement and his colleagues took over and began its reorganization. For nearly 90 years the firm had been producing high-quality kitchen, butcher, and hunting knives for the American frontier, first in its water-powered mill on the Green River in nearby Greenfield, and later in the large brick factory along the Connecticut River directly below the dam at Turners Falls.
The factory had recently been electrified and Bement set out to introduce more modern and efficient machinery as well while maintaining the high standards that had earned the company its global reputation: Overseas, so famous and popular were the Green River blades that foreign cutlery companies had appropriated the name for their knives. In the Far West, among trappers, gold prospectors, and settlers the ubiquitous Green River Knife was known as the best knife in the West and had generated the saying “give it to ‘em up to Green River” which suggested thoroughness of action, but more to the point, originated from stabbing an enemy in the stomach right up to the hilt where the name “Green River Works” was stamped in steel. A second popular saying, “Done up to Green River” implied having finished someone off, or a job well done.
Despite its sterling reputation for high quality knives, the cutlery company was in steady decline. Bement quickly launched a clever, though ultimately costly marketing campaign to boost sales. He introduced for the price of a jackknife, a “whittling kit” for boys made up of a pocketknife, soft pine whittling sticks, a whittlers’ manual, and a Russell Whittlers’ Club membership button. The company promised medals for the best pieces produced from designs included in the manual. Bement said the idea for the kit came when “considering the nationality of a large majority of wood carvers…that for the most part came from foreign countries, largely of Swiss origin. Following out this line, it came to us that in Switzerland a boy starts to whittle almost as soon as he gets out of the cradle and for that reason becomes in after life very deft with his hands.
“How we could begin to interest boys in this country toward similar deftness was our problem, and the Whittle Kit is the result,” Bement told The American Cutler, a monthly trade magazine. “We hope to develop the natural longing of the boy for the jack knife into something useful, and our prize competition has been devised to encourage real whittling and not the hacking of the legs of the piano and the carving of initials in public places.”
The Whittle Kit failed to catch on with the public, however, and the company took a huge financial loss.
The cutlery firm continued to lose ground throughout the 1920s, tempered briefly by a brief upward tick in both sales and employment in 1922. In a last-ditch effort to turn things around and increase sales, Bement and his directors focused on renewing public interest in Russell’s line of table cutlery by launching an ambitious advertising campaign. From March 1928 through December 1929, the company ran full-page ads in popular national magazines like Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, House and Garden, Vogue, and the Saturday Evening Post, hoping to reach over five million well-heeled consumers. Most of the company’s capital went into this all-out advertising blitz so that when the stock market crashed in October 1929, Russell Cutlery found itself on the edge. As the country moved into economic depression, sales of cutlery – more of a luxury than a necessity – dropped off precipitously.
Somehow, Bement hung on until May 1933 when his directors accepted a buyout offer from a competitor, the Harrington Cutlery Company of Southbridge, Mass, about 60 miles away. The merger created the Russell-Harrington Company and Bement’s career was essentially over. According to Bement’s granddaughter Mei-Mei Ellerman, “any money that remained was turned over to his workers… He had an incredible sense of fairness. But he never ran another company as he was not really a great businessman.”
Thankfully, the Bements had something else to fall back on for their livelihood. Soon after the couple moved to Old Deerfield, Grace “Menty” Bement had worked as a substitute English teacher and dramatic coach at Deerfield Academy, just down the road. In time, Frank L. Boyden, Deerfield’s long-serving headmaster, asked Menty to tutor some of his struggling students. As word of her success spread, especially her focus on the individual child, a handful of students grew into The Bement School, a full-fledged Montessori-styled prep school for children ages 4 to 15, and the first of its kind in the United States.
The Colonial revival was in full swing in the 1920s and the Bements, along with two or three other couples, were at the forefront of the movement to buy and restore charming historic homes along Old Deerfield’s main street. They were also instrumental in fixing up the town hall and converting the second floor of the Greek Revival building into a theater where they could stage plays for the entertainment of the growing community.
Once the school had been established the Bement home as well as the barn and stable at the back of their property were converted into classrooms, a study hall, and space for drama, music, and crafts. Over time, other buildings were purchased and moved onto the property for boarding houses.
For the next 30 years, Bement’s life revolved around his family, helping to keep the books of the school, and the community associations that he served with such as Rotary, the Deerfield Village Improvement Association, and Deerfield Planning Board. Bement and Headmaster Boyden of Deerfield were largely responsible for alleviating daily bumper-to-bumper traffic through Old Deerfield (especially in leaf season) by creating a bypass just east of town.
Bement regularly “held court” in the house for friends and students, according to Robin Whitten, a grandaughter, who adds, “because he had the time, he soon became a great chef and did all the cooking.” He was an avid fisherman, sailor, cabinetmaker, and an enthusiastic traveler. He was also regarded as a fine bridge player and he and Menty played duplicate bridge several times a week.
During World War II Bement worked in Washington, D.C. for the War Production Board, a U.S. government agency that supervised production, allocated resources and materials, and rationed gasoline and other scarce products.
In 1950, still enamored with the cutlery industry, and as self-appointed secretary of his Deerfield-based Associated Cutlery Industries of America, Bement wrote and published a charming and informative pamphlet titled “The Cutlery Story.” In his foreword to this “Brief History of the Romance and Manufacture of Cutlery from the Earliest times to Modern Methods of Manufacture,” Bement wrote:
“Have you ever stopped to consider what life would be like if we had no knives? Even a casual glance at the history of man reveals that the invention and perfection of the knife, which is in effect to say all cutting tools, freed man from endless toil, made possible his thousand and one uses of natural resources, and thereby his evolution from savage to contemporary man. Modern industry, which makes the things with which we work and live, uses knives every hour of the day. The individual workman would be helpless without cutting tools. The housewife, without whom the home would have little meaning, uses a knife on the average of 32 times a day. It is not surprising that cutlery, which we take for granted almost without second thought, is indispensable!”
In the 1950s, Bement taught household retailing at New York University, City College of New York, the Universities of Massachusetts and Connecticut and at Cornell. He also was a frequent and popular lecturer on knives and his talk entitled “Sharp Practices” was popular at local clubs. And as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays rolled around, he also made appearances on national television to demonstrate proper carving techniques.
The Bements stayed in Deerfield until Menty retired in the late 1950s and they moved to Coral Gables, Florida. He died there on October 19, 1966 at the age of 88.
When he was photographed by my grandmother at the Adams’ home in the summer of 1898, the dashing, dark-haired Dudley Phelps Wilkinson, Jr. was already four years out of Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School for Science and Engineering. An avid velocipede and bicycle racer, Wilkinson was working in the bicycle department at Parkhurst & Wilkinson, his uncle’s enormous sporting goods and firearms firm in Chicago.
Wilkinson hailed from an old and distinguished family from Syracuse, New York since transplanted to Chicago. He was born in Chicago on 5 September 1872, the only child of Dudley Phelps Wilkinson, an ironmonger, and Drusilla Dallman. At 16 he had been sent off to boarding school at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire followed by matriculation at Yale in the fall of 1890 where he enrolled in the course in mechanical and electrical engineering.
He joined Parkhurst & Wilkinson, his uncle’s Chicago manufacturing firm, straight out of Yale in the spring of 1894 and stayed for four years. The company’s products included mine, railway, and bicycle supplies; heavy hardware, blacksmiths’ tools, wagon and carriage woodwork, and carriage, coach, and hearse trimmings. Soon after the July 1898 weekend in Beloit, Wilkinson left Parkhurst & Wilkinson for a position as superintendent of J.H. Winterbotham & Sons’ cooperage plant in Kensington, Illinois. The company, owned by the father of a Yale classmate, was a tight-barrel cooperage supplying large packers in Chicago.
In 1901 Wilkinson signed on as an inspector with the Griffin Wheel Co., makers of chilled iron wheels for train cars.
On July 16, 1905 in Chicago, the 32-year-old Wilkinson succumbed to an infection following diphtheria. At the time of his death he was still single and working as a salesman for the American Radiator Company, producer and international exporter of cast iron radiators.
Philip Rand, my grandmother’s Beloit buggy companion and ostensible beau was born November 27, 1872 to John Clark Rand and Katherine Bates Rand, an affluent family from the Boston suburb of Medford, Massachusetts. His sister, Katherine, or “Kit,” was three years older.
Rand’s father, an 1863 graduate and trustee of Wesleyan College, was president of Rand-Avery Supply Co. of Boston, a highly profitable printer of American railroad timetables, tickets, and other supplies. Rand-Avery Supply was a sub-company (some considered it a parasite) of the illustrious Rand-Avery Publishing House that brought out Harriet Beecher Stow’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, among other best-selling titles. The two Avery entities were at the center of a well-known corporate battle in late 1888 between Thomas W. Lawson, president of the by-then struggling publishing company, and its board of directors in which Lawson, blocked at every turn and in a fit of pique, put the entire contents of the failing firm on the auction block – from paper, cutters, printing presses, and some 200,000 pounds of electrotype, to furniture, plate glass, even steam pipes – and personally hammered down bids until nothing was left. The maneuver ruined the stockholders and wiped out one of the finest printing houses in the country. Following this debacle, in 1890 Rand’s parents retreated to Chicago where his father became manager of the Massachusetts Benefit Life Association until 1898. He spent one more year in Chicago working for his uncle William H. Rand, at Rand McNally & Co., the publisher of maps, globes, and textbooks.
At about the same time, 18-year-old Philip Rand was sent off to the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire to prepare for college. Rand played tennis, served as vice president of his preparatory class, and sat on the athletic committee. His otherwise unremarkable career at Exeter, however, was marred by a disturbing incident in the fall of 1891. Exeter at the time was a hotbed of “secret” societies, particularly Kappa Epsilon Pi, which was regarded as a preparatory order of the collegiate Skull and Bones.
Rand, a member of Phi Sigma, with a band of at least a dozen more “secret society men,” was arrested that October along with two others, for dragging down the stairs and beating Emanuel Leopold Weil, a “non-society” classmate from New Orleans, as well as “roughly handling” the dormitory mothers. The three young men were tried in police court. Rand was let go; the other two were charged and fined $20 and costs before being released. Curiously, each of the three perpetrators lived in different boarding houses and belonged to a different secret society. The incident led directly to principal Charles E. Fish’s decision shortly thereafter to disband Exeter’s secret societies. In January 1896, however, his successor, Harlan P. Amen, lifted the ban, allowing the societies to re-form as fraternities.
After Exeter, Rand followed his parents west to Chicago in the fall of 1893 and enrolled in the University of Chicago. Evidently still in the thrall of secret societies, he and four other students, with some Chicago alumni pulling strings, soon founded The Omega Club and became enmeshed in a controversial but ultimately successful three-year, national lobbying campaign to create and secure a new Omega Chapter of the Psi Upsilon fraternity. He became chairman of the house and a resident member.
Rand seems to have launched an extraordinary parallel campaign to ingratiate himself with the elite university crowd. He hosted and “poured” at college receptions. He organized bonfires and threw gala sleighing parties in the winter. He served on dance and ball committees, ushered at official university functions and theatrical performances, and hosted Cap-and-Gown Nights at the Psi Upsilon fraternity. He was appointed a university marshal, helped select the new university color (scarlet), and acted as the theater’s property man. Rand joined in succession: the glee club (secretary and first bass); University Octette (first bass); Assembly Club; Royal Society of the Gaboon Club (knight); Graduate House (executive committee member); Academic College (president); Academic Day Committee (chairman); Assembly Informals; Academic Day Promenade (reception committee); “Silentium” society (founding member); The Maroon (charter editor); Order of the Iron Mask (founder); The Owl and Serpent (another secret society); and The Coffee House (charter member) – all of which he dutifully self-reported as managing editor the University of Chicago “annual” or yearbook (Cap and Gown).
Then came athletics. He was “clerk of the course” at the University Field Day, starred on the track team in the fall (“putting shot”) and shone as a tennis star from his freshman year – when he acquired the nickname “Horses” Rand for his equine looks – to his senior year when he was captain of the team. In his four years at Chicago he racked up an impressive record of collegiate singles championships and, with his fine partner and fraternity brother, William Scott Bond, captured numerous doubles titles. He played in faculty-academic baseball games (second base), faculty-student tennis tournaments, summer handicap tournaments, and was one of a select group of athletes allowed to wear the official “C.”
There was clearly little time outside extracurricular activities to attend the one or two classes he took each quarter and his cavalier attitude toward academics was reflected in failed exams and barely passing grades for the first three years. By his senior year, however, Rand had found his stride in English, history, and anthropology and managed to post a cumulative C+ average, collecting just enough credits to graduate in July 1897 with a Ph.B.
As an erudite, clubbable sportsman with establishment credentials from his elite Eastern prep school, secret society ties, and now through his multitude of university associations, Rand targeted and was seamlessly absorbed into Chicago’s swell set. He soon began rubbing shoulders with popular, albeit much younger people like Alice Adams, and her brother, John Hackett Adams who lived on North State Street in the same fashionable Gold Coast neighborhood as Rand’s parents. In December 1896 all three served on a young people’s subscription dance committee for a New Year’s Eve affair at the Marquette Club. The following summer, Rand was yachting, bathing, and coaching with the Adams siblings and friends at a swank Fourth of July house party at Fox Lake, some 60 miles north of the city. In August 1897 Rand was one of eight friends invited to a long weekend at the Adams’ summer home in Beloit, Wisconsin.
A year later, in July 1898, Rand was once again invited to join the Adams family at The Grange. This was when Alice introduced Philip Rand, the sociable, upwardly mobile, university man-about-town to Stella Ford, my 20-year-old grandmother with the No. 2 Bull’s-Eye box camera. If that meeting kindled any sort interest on my grandmother’s part, it certainly was not evident in her expression in the buggy next to her new friend; Rand however, looks like the cat that ate the canary.
After Beloit, Rand returned to his familiar university surroundings on Chicago’s south side while securing through family connections a job at Rand McNally. When his father retired in 1900 and his parents returned to Boston, Rand followed. Still single at 28, he moved into their apartment on Boston’s elegant Beacon Hill and took a job as an assistant shipper in a local grocery company.
Several Chicago society weddings and a week of festive parties in June 1902 brought Rand back in a flash – first to attend Nannine Waller’s wedding to Stewart Patterson, then, a few days later, to serve as an usher alongside my grandmother, a bridesmaid, in the enormous wedding of Alice Adams and Joe Gunsaulus.
The thrill of being back in the swing of things, among this young, well-heeled clique, must have convinced Rand to stay on. He rented a lake front apartment in the Congress Hotel’s brand new Annex Apartment Building on Michigan Avenue, and through a family friendship with Adolphus Williamson Green, president of the National Biscuit Company, found work in a Chicago cracker factory.
Two years later Rand was promoted to the Uneeda Biscuit Works overseeing production of a new product line; the company’s first cracker packaged with an inner liner of waxed paper. Oddly, at 32 years old, he was also still very much engaged with the university set, especially his Psi Upsilon fraternity, as evidenced by this April 1904 letter to my grandmother, the first of some two-dozen she saved (though there were many more) over the next decade:
…The dance at the University was a dandy one though my partner was not as I imagined. She was homely, red hair, green eyed type, couldn’t dance very well but she could talk which helped some. I had to laugh at the whole game — however I have squared myself with her sister Bess, for whose sake I took her.
The Psi U [Psi Upsilon] booth was very pretty and lots of jolly people were in it. Lena Small was the star and Leffinwell and Jim Henry were the busy bees about her. Marjorie Cook of University fame made the evening somewhat merrier and all in all I had a fair time. If you could have come we certainly would have had a rattling good time. Perhaps you can come out for the Junior Prom in June….
Later that August, Rand and childhood friend Edward B. Randall (who rode Rand’s coattails into a National Biscuit Company job), traveled to Detroit for a weekend to see my grandmother where Rand seems to have become even more smitten. Upon his return, he writes:
We had the time of our lives in Detroit and you are a dear old girl to do so much for Eddie and me. We haven’t stopped talking about it all. That auto ride was a vacation in itself and we were jubilant over it – and to add to that the yacht trip, it certainly made a wonderful day for us.
That sail (or rather steam) was a gorgeous one and what a night! If it is like that often in Detroit I should think every one would be sailing or at least out near the water every night. Your ears must have burned furiously for Ed and I have been talking about you all day. We vote you a dandy hostess… I am confident it was the happiest day next to one perhaps I ever experienced and as you Miss Ford figured largely in that the other day too — you will not mind my exception.
I called on Joe [Gunsaulus] — he was out and Andrew says he and Alice are at Beloit.
Ed and I moved here yesterday. Mrs. Kerr owns the house and she was recommended to us by Alice. Across the street is a perfectly dandy big house where we take 2 bully meals a day. We like our rooms [at 30 Walton Place] and like the tables across the street and especially like our locality — right near State St. Cars & Newberry Library. It is beyond the smoke line on the North Side and although we have to get up at 5:45 a.m., we like it very much. So we are in respectable society again and the West Side is no more.
Today was the 1st day at Uneeda Biscuit Works. At present I am the Manager’s Mr. [Samuel] Vories assistant with title of Superintendent. That is the highest title I have had so far. I have charge of everything and everybody from cellar to garret responsible but to Mr. Vories. It will prove a fascinating business and I am out to saw a lot of wood right now…
Please give my love to your Mother and thank her for her cordial hospitality and I hope some one will chase her rheumatism away for good as it must be mighty painful. I also hope that softshell crab & cucumber did not cause any worries.
Please thank Pat [Emory Leyden Ford] for me for such a sail in his yacht and tell him Stell how we enjoyed it — Ed & I.
Now good bye and good night Stell — you were awfully sweet and good to us and we both vote you a very dear girl.
What he did not tell Stella was that city life – between breathing daily lungfulls of industrial smoke to inhaling fine flour dust in the biscuit factory – was taking a toll on his health. Within two month’s time, on doctor’s orders, Rand was forced to take a month’s leave of absence from the Uneeda factory to cleanse his respiratory system in the cold, dry, mountain climate of Colorado Springs, Colorado. On November 2, 1904 Rand writes my grandmother:
I am sitting out in the sun writing and I haven’t a coat or hat on and am in tennis regalia. It is very fine and warm when the sun is out and very cold when it goes down. We played bridge last night and we sat up a little too late so we are all sleepy today. This state is wild over the election. It will elect Roosevelt but I’m afraid they will put in Adams for Governor who is a Democrat. The present Governor Peabody is very fine but the miners are down on him as he called out the U.S. Troops to protect non-union labor. It is a shame I have to lose my vote. The women vote in this state and it seems so odd to hear the English women here talk about going to the polls.
Did I tell you about my old University chum [Moses Dwight] McIntyre turning up like a trump when he heard I had to come West? Well unbeknown to me he sought out information etc. about this place, wrote numerous letters etc. and in short arranged all my plans for me and it was certainly mighty fine of him. Dr. Doane, Ed, Bert, Charley Pike [Charles Sumner Pike, University of Chicago classmate and fellow yearbook editor] and Mr. [Harry F.] Vories our Vice President and Mr. S. H. Vories our manager and all the boys at the factory treated me certainly fine. It is fine to find out you have friends when you need them. Al[ice] and Joe [Gunsaulus] were dandy and the Greens forgot their being sore at me and were all very sweet. Ed and Bert nearly broke me up in business by giving me a present, which was a dandy, when I left.
My grandmother responded by sending a packet of books to Colorado Springs to cheer him up. Mid-way through his stay Rand writes back to thank her:
Dear Stell, You are a dandy fine girl and no mistake one day you sent me the dearest, bulliest, fattest kind of a letter and the next the cheerfullest dandiest most readable lot of books one ever saw. Now a girl that will do that for an old chap like me must be pretty fine and perhaps your think that I don’t think so. Well I do think so and I think you are a very dear child to be so nice to me… Your letter was a dandy one Stell and cheered me up a lot. There are times in ones life when one learns whom his real friends are and when ones friends are a real dyed in the wool friend he feels like shouting.
Your books are ripping and have given me keen pleasure and others too. I hadn’t read any of them so your stunning gift was appreciated you can bet. The Masqueraders I was crazy to read anyway and also Faith of Men. What a pessimist Jack London is! “The Mountains” I am now in; and the pretty book of Lin McNeals Xmas is going the rounds of Colorado Springs — you must have thought me queer not to write thanking you before this but you know how much I appreciate your letter and books don’t you?
I have grown very fond of Colorado Springs. I like this climate better than any I ever lived in. It is just great. I ride nearly every day on horseback, today we had quite a crowd promised but three men didn’t show up. Mr. Randall (English) and Mr. Ramsdell, are going with Bert and me tomorrow. Today Miss Boas, Miss Samsingh, and Charles Samsingh went out beyond Beaver Ranch. Bert felt sick and didn’t go. By Bert I mean no less than Bert Messinger one of Alice & Joe’s ushers. He is next place to mine and has been here a week — he will be out here some years as the poor chap has tuberculosis. Of course we are together nearly all day. This p.m. Eddie May and I beat Randall and Ramsdell in tennis and I have had enough exercise for one day. It is very jolly having Bert here and everybody is fine to us.
Mr. Douglass (Scotch) and Mrs. D. are just fine. Mr. D. has put me up at Country Club for 2 weeks. He is the best golfer and Bowler out here.
Every day has been perfectly beautiful out here so far — ideal cold icy nights — warm sunny days.
I have slight cough once in while but shall go back and begin work December 1st at Uneeda Biscuit Works. I have been to Doctor here and he says I’ll be foolish to stay in Chicago this winter or any time. He says I must live out of doors in Colorado. While I haven’t any signs of germs etc. he thinks I will catch them as I am susceptible to colds and sickness. I shall see Dr. Doane about it. I shall stay in Chicago as long as I can stand up as I don’t propose to throw away my 1st chance in life to make a success of business, until I am really forced to. The whole matter means a life change to me and I can’t decide it any other way at present.
Rand returned to his job in Chicago in early December. From his office in the Uneeda biscuit factory, on company stationery, he dashed off an unctuous, ingratiating birthday letter to my grandmother who was turning 26 on Dec. 11, 1904. “A thousand congratulations on your birthday, Dear Stell,” he writes,
…how proud you must feel — let me see how old you are — oh yes twenty-one and never looking better in all your life. I suppose your old aunts and uncles say, “My how you have grown” and your Grandmother thinks you still sixteen, while you are worrying that you are getting grey hairs all the time. Surely a birthday sets one thinking and it has found me thinking a lot about a girl whom I met in Beloit. Although you are only twenty one I am now thirty two and am getting ancient but I shall never be so ancient as to forget the first time I met you, as you are only twenty one now and that was six years ago, then you must have been only fifteen. I guess it was nearer “sweet sixteen” and I know it was some “sweet age”, for adorably sweet and pretty your were as you are today my dear Stell and it must be a great pleasure to be so nice, isn’t it Stell?
You may tell me to stop this talk right here — but wait a moment.
Here I am at the factory in the office with buzz of machinery and people all about me — questions are fired at me and people waiting — they can wait — why? Because a little, dear little girl who was made for sunshine and happiness is to have a birthday and her dear image is the only thing this busy man (her old Uncle Phil) can think of or see before him. It stands out very clearly and the factory is but a background. She is absorbing all his attention and the busy world is cast aside with its grime and roar as he takes a look into Arcady.
What a sentimental old Uncle this little girl has, but he hasn’t seen this little girl for a long, long time and he wants to mighty bad. Well-well, there are so many things that I can’t begin for afraid I’ll leave something out so we’ll let that go until another time. Now I must bid you good bye and wish you many, many happy birthdays in the future and a mighty-tremendous-happy one this birthday.
Remember your Uncle Phil who is getting grey, thinks you the sweetest little girl in this wide awake big sunny world so don’t ever worry about anything at all but have a glorious old good time as long as you remain twenty one.
The next time my grandmother heard from Rand, his health clearly in decline again, it was in the form of a long-winded apology for first inviting himself to Detroit over the Memorial Day weekend in 1905 – and then canceling by telegram at the last minute.
…the fact is I have not been able to drag myself into doing anything no matter how pleasant, as I have felt wretched these last ten days and have been too wrought up to sit down and write a letter. My nerves are on the rack and I never before have been in just this state of mind.
I was awfully disappointed not to go as I had looked forward to seeing you with great pleasure. The reason I telegraphed as I did was 1st Ed was crazy to go and when he found he could not as he was needed in some board meetings, he urged me to wait until later in year when perhaps you would care to see us both. Then that Friday I felt miserable and didn’t think I would contribute much life to the party and finally I wasn’t quite sure whether you would be inconvenienced or not by my coming so I telegraphed you I couldn’t come.
I imagine you all had simply loads of fun and I shall call on Alice right soon to hear how you are and what you all did….
At about that time, overwhelmed by the pressure of city life, steadily deteriorating health, and rapidly narrowing career prospects, Rand made a bold move – very likely as a result of a newspaper story out of Denver reporting rich gold deposits discovered near Yellow Jacket Creek, at the headwaters of the Salmon River in Idaho:
“Gold discovered near the headwaters of the Salmon River in Idaho… presage the opening of a new mining district which may rival any heretofore discovered. Specimens of extremely rich ore said to have been found in this region have been brought to this city [Denver] by T.M. Howell, a former Denver newspaper man, one of the pioneers of the Cripple Creek district, and a well-known prospector. One piece of float sawed in twain revealed a streak of almost pure gold half an inch thick and assayed at the rate of 3,645 ounces to the ton…. ‘I believe,’ said Howell, ‘that the find which I have made goes a long way toward solving the problem of the source of the placer gold of the Idaho stream….’ He reports the climatic conditions of the district as being remarkably favorable. There are other prospectors out in that field and a stampede is anticipated in the early summer when the roads to the new district are passable.”
The Chicago Tribune’s classified section in the early summer of 1905 was offering “business chances” for shares, partnerships, even outright sales of mines in the West echoing Thomas Howell’s assertion that many millions of dollars worth of placer gold were just waiting to be had. Lured by the idea of prospecting for gold ore in a pristine, mountain climate, Rand purchased a gold mine – sight unseen – on Beaver Creek, in the mountains northwest of Salmon City. In a matter of weeks, he had packed his belongings and left Chicago for good. He planned to spend a few weeks in Colorado to convalesce, and from there continue on to Idaho to begin the search for his own El Dorado – and personal salvation.
From the Elkhorn Lodge, a sprawling tourist hotel located a quarter of a mile west of Estes Park, Colorado, Rand writes my grandmother at the end of July:
Fate so far is dealing kindly with me. I left Chicago Saturday a week ago arrived in Denver Sunday night – I came on with Charley Peck, brother-in-law of Geo. Erling.
Monday morning I rode on a slow train to Lyons 40 miles north of Denver – took luncheon there and then rode up the mountains in a fierce stage which broke down and after a very tiresome ride arrived at Estes Park at night – here Bert Messinger greeted me.
Estes Park is a valley 7,500 ft up in the range of the Rockies; the valley is 20 miles long and mountains rise up on either side to height of 1,400 odd feet higher than Pikes Peak. The valley is very broad and scattered over it are little settlements. Elkhorn Lodge is where I first came but now I am a cottager.
Dr. and Mrs. Gunn of Montreal, the misses Smith of St. Louis, Bert Messinger and I have rented a cottage up a side of the mountain and with a cook imported from Denver keep house. We started in today. We men sleep out of doors on the Piazza. The Smith girls were at Colorado Springs when Bert and I were there so it is very jolly to be all together again.
Bert is slightly better and I am still rather weak but have great hopes of pulling ahead rapidly. At present I am suffering from the reactions of Chicago hustle and living on stimulants.
Stell you were a perfect dear to write such bully encouraging letters and they helped a lot. I am indeed grateful and appreciative it was very sweet of you.
Bert wants to go into my gold mine which we are now pushing through all right. I am playing my last card as its success is a big gamble. Let us hope it will turn out finely. I shall be here until Sept. 10th. This is a wild primitive place but the air and scenery is perfectly great.
Rand reached Salmon City, Idaho in late August 1905, exactly 100 years to the month after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark passed through the region on their transcontinental expedition to the Pacific. Sacajawea, the Shoshone woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark and led them to the Salmon River, was born in the Lemhi Valley, not far from the present Salmon City.
A gold discovery on nearby Leesburg Mountain in 1866 transformed Salmon into a bustling trading center for the mining industry. But soon after, the area had the ignominious distinction of being a flashpoint in the Nez Perce War of 1877. Tensions were already at a boiling point in Indian Territory because of unabated gold prospecting and illegal squatting by White settlers. A series of bloody skirmishes erupted in June when several bands of Nez Perce refused to cede their ancestral hunting and fishing lands to the U.S. government and move onto a reservation. For the next four months some 250 Nez Perce warriors (with several hundred women, children, and thousands of horses in tow) fought a running war against vastly superior numbers of U.S. troops as they were chased for over 1,100 miles through Idaho, Oregon, and Montana before ultimately surrendering in October, about 40 miles from the Canadian border.
Salmon at the time Rand arrived was a peaceful, isolated mining and ranching town of about 400 hardy souls located along the banks of the Salmon – also known as “The River of No Return.” (Ironically, Rand would end up living here for the rest of his life). The town’s streets were unpaved, water was supplied to its residents via foot-high wooden troughs, and the nearest rail line was 70 miles away by stagecoach.
Rand took a room at the Shenon House Hotel, a substantial brick establishment on Main Street, and despite still fragile health, within a few days had set off on an expedition into the nearby mountains to see his claims on Beaver Creek. On his return, at the end of September, he pens a short, but exuberant note to my grandmother:
Have just come back from 11 days rough trip on horse back from mining lands. Six men on horses went with me. We located 14 miles of Placer mining claims, 800 acres. I panned out gold myself. Proposition is stupendous great engineering & big affair. Will probably go ahead & form company and work it. Think there is 200 millions in it. Will send you letter later.
A week later, on October 7, 1905, in a longer letter, he describes the proposition in a bit more detail as well as his surroundings:
Dear Stell, We are having a great old storm today the 1st bad weather we have had. I asked Ed to send you the letter I wrote him about my mining trip – I thought it might interest you and let you know what I am doing. I smashed a rib while on that trip which has caused me some trouble, otherwise I feel finely. I have been visiting placer mines about here and studying the situation and tying up some men who held claims on our land. I can’t say whether we will go ahead and test ground for values this fall or not. People are awfully afraid in the cost of gold mines and do not understand them. I believe in it so much that I shall stay here and watch the property all winter if necessary rather than risk losing it for believe it is a great find.
It looks better every day as I study the proposition the more. It is either the richest mine in the country today or nothing. I have written Ed [Randall] and Bert [Messinger] about it but have heard no reply so do not know what they expect to do. I wish Ed could come out and see it for seeing is believing. If Ed can’t find ways and means to test ground I shall probably have to go east and make terms with some capitalist to raise the money.
Maybe you are in Beloit now having a fine time well it is might nice there at this time of year. I should like to see Beloit myself once again. I am in a town much smaller than Beloit and it is awful lonesome, in the hills one is busy and likes it. The views here are great, the main continental range of the Rockies is east of us, the Salshi range back of us and Salmon range before us, all together making fine scenery. The town is 4,000 ft. up and has a beautiful climate. Salmon is part mining and part ranch town and very “wooly” and quite slow.
It takes 2 days by stagecoach to get in here from the railroad and it takes 2 days on horses to get into the Big Creek country where our property is. It is in a wild spot that we camped, perhaps the wildest in the U.S. It is all unsurveyed and seldom approached. We found loads of duck, quail, partridge and trout which we ate, but the Indians above us had chased off the deer and bear. There is however lots of big game in the mountains which we may get to some day.
I do not feel well enough to go back to a factory in a city and do not know exactly what I shall do.
By the fall, Rand’s health had improved and he had become bullish about the prospects for his gold mine that was about to be registered as The Big Creek Gold Mining Company, Ltd. His letter of October 28, 1905 also suggests he will never return to a conventional career:
I am very busy and very optimistic over our mine here, I believe as does everyone in Salmon that we have a great thing and a big fortune ahead of us. All it needs is money to develop it and to raise the money we are incorporating into a Company and will soon send out our letter and prospectus and put shares before our friends. Whether they will care to purchase or not, I cannot tell now.
Bert is very well up here and I am fairly so – my family think I ought to go back to biscuits or some other work – I don’t think they realize how peculiar a condition I am in – I can feel fairly well if I live out of doors up here in the mountains but the doctors won’t allow me to go to a city or take up indoor work – it grieves no one as much as it does me and I feel sorry the family do not realize the situation but I do not care to worry them about it. They think if I am well enough to take up mining I am well enough to work elsewhere but that is not the case. Mining is all out of doors in a beautiful climate and the managing work I do gives me just enough exercise to keep me out in the sun and my mind free from worrying.
I hope you and all the family are very well and having a fine time. Bert is engaged and Ed is engaged and with two new sisters on my hands I shall be the Big Brother with a vengeance. (I believe both of these engagements are a secret, so Verbum sap!)
If you happen to have had any pictures of yourself taken lately and to show me how you look these days, I should be grateful to receive one. Don’t forget that you have an old friend living up in the Rockies and that though a trifle disabled is still battling for health, wealth, and happiness.
Four bleak, winter months pass in Salmon City during which time Rand has obviously thought long and hard about his place in the world and his future, judging by the lonely yet thoughtful soliloquy he delivers by post from Denver in March 1906:
Dear Old Stell, Do you know I have been thinking a lot about you today and have come to the conclusion that you are a pretty fine girl and a bully good friend. I do not believe I have a better friend on earth. Sims Sayer, Phil Doane, Bert Randall, Ed and Bert Messinger are likewise the salt of the earth. A friend is the greatest asset a man can have and his relation to yours in life makes a man an optimist or a pessimist accordingly — I have ever been the former because of my sterling friends.
You dear girl seem to know just when to offer sympathy, counsel and cheer and are not afraid to express it or give it forth. Your last letter seemed to bear the tone of your having been out here, seen the environment and to be writing accordingly you have ever seen the situations I have been in as if you had been with me in them and often I think you are very near indeed. You certainly are a broad minded girl which one does not meet often and your great love of your family life is indeed a cheerful picture in these non home living days. You will wonder why this eulogy but it has been in my thoughts a long time, so why not tell you. I wish I could have known your father and grandfather. They must have been remarkable splendid men. I shouldn’t think you would want to leave for long your family or they to let you be away from home for long. Home life is the best after all. I often wish I could be in one for a while. However I am such a wanderer now, I am well used to it, seldom get blue and love the life out here free, unrestrained, unconventional, and every man a gentleman until proven to the contrary.
Expecting of course this mine will be a great moneymaker once in a while I allow myself to think of its future and how wealth will affect me, how I can utilize it to the best advantage for the family, friends and myself. Should it ever come it will be a serious problem and I earnestly hope I may do a lot of good with it and put it to worthy objects.
I am getting to be very ambitious not for social honors but for honors that go with what is best in a public spirited way. If I were a good speaker I should go into politics to help reform it but doubt if I could express my opinions in a convincing way. Bert and I if the mine goes through are going to start a newspaper which will be the finest in the United States, editorially and of a high plane in generally more after the London Times — the opposite of yellow journalism, yet with news too — no scandals, little space for crime and mostly on governmental topics and world’s affairs. That will be the first step with out a doubt. There is a great need of a high-minded newspaper in the U.S. The outlook in a way will express the kind of editorials we will have & we will also have the brainiest editors in the US to run it.
So much depends on this mine that it is really laughable. I am more convinced of the richness of our ground than ever before. Bert is in Salmon, he will probably go to Denver to see a doctor and also sell some stock.
I am learning all the practical methods of working and mining here as I did the Biscuit business in case Mr. Patterson should get laid up. He is 74 years old a most remarkable man, he works every day at manual labor hard as any one else getting no pay either for it — his success is linked with ours as Promoters. His father lived to be 102 years old so there is no danger of the old fellow passing away. He is the only man in this country who understands the nature of handling our methods of work. We have tried so many recommended men as foremen but they are all quartz miners and do not pan out well.
Mr. Patterson wants me to send for some college athletes and he will train them as foremen. Good help here is hopeless.
Lewis Bement [from the weekend in Beloit] writes me he is to be married in May and wants 1 oz of our gold with which to make the wedding ring. Ed is awfully blue over not being able to write or see Amanda.
We have taken out twice as much property as we originally had — making 10, 160 acre claims. We expect to put the price of stock at $20 very soon on account of additional property, and continued evidences of gold.
Charley Pike is certainly proving himself to be a bluff and at times is not a gentleman. Sending you that letter annoys me exceedingly as I know it did you and he certainly is very “fresh”. I wrote him asking him if he did not want to take some stock — he bluffed around on vague promises and wrote me saying he was sick of society life, business in a large city etc and asked me if he could get a position with us or get a chance to make money out here.
Bert and I and Patterson went to considerable trouble making plans for his coming in with us and we even had another mining scheme as good as ours — which he could organize and run. I wrote him and he of course crawled. Ed saw him in New York and asked him point blank if he was going to take some stock and he crawled again.
Ed and I are both rather disgusted with him and as far as I am concerned, except for casual acquaintance am through with him.
I am awfully sorry he tries to joke with you — once I called him down hard for it — but if I did it now it would only make matters worse and give him cause to think there was something doing after all. So I will keep quiet but if he goes too far let me know if you want me to squash him for good & all and I will.
I have arranged to have one of our men who is a photographer send for his camera and will send you some views including one of the ex “Biscuit Man”.
Rand’s outlook and optimism had improved markedly by spring. He was in the process of incorporating the Big Creek Gold Mining Company, and had used his charm and connections to sell stock in a venture that had yet to produce any gold. He had also hired a crew of “fine mining men” and whether through relentless self-promotion, conspicuous spending, or both, he had attracted considerable attention in the region as the well-educated easterner with big plans to strike it rich. In recounting this news in early May he also wistfully shares with my grandmother his sense of cultural deprivation:
What wouldn’t I give to take in the New York theaters with you – it seems a dream to think of it a funny mining story or a time on the harmonica constitutes our vaudeville and Grand Opera. The falling of a horse down a gulch our only tragedy but we do have realism in life and it is good…
Rand also offers his sympathy after hearing of a March 1906 robbery at the Ford family home in Detroit. A thief apparently had scaled a sturdy vine at the front of the house on Woodward Avenue during the dinner hour and broke into an upstairs window, making off with over $10,000 worth of jewelry. “What is the matter with those Detroit detectives?” Rand writes. “It is a shame to lose so much and so much that has associations so dear to you.”
He continues with a rundown on the social activities of his friends before returning to news of the mining proposition:
Ed [Randall] has gone east as Jane Green [daughter of Adolphus W. Green of Nabisco] marries Brownie Carrott on May 3rd. Brownie is a Princeton man and a great friend of ours. He is in the NBC [National Biscuit Company]. I should hate tho’ to marry into the vegetable kingdom, wouldn’t you. Ed is the same dear old pal and I have decided to refuse to allow business to interfere in our friendly relations only I have made up my mind not to count on him for any help. He is not constituted for some things as we all are not in others…
Bert is still in Denver and is feeling better, hoping to come up here in June. His Uncle Dr. Messinger is here keeping books and is a little help.
The mine shut down on underground work as we struck water and had to get a pump – it is here now and as soon as the expected blacksmith gets in we will start up. A matter of a few days.
Mr. [Thaddeus] Snively of Chicago the rector has just taken 80 shares of stock which was mighty fine of him, he wrote me a splendid letter and I feel much gratified in his feeling of security in me and his friendship. The little minister here has now 40 shares. [Thaddeus A. Snively, was the Episcopal priest of St. Chrysostom’s, formerly All Saints, on Chicago’s fashionable north side, and counted the Rand and Adams families among his flock. He graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. and was ordained to the priesthood in 1875. He served at the American Episcopal Church in Geneva, Switzerland and at Christ Church, Quincy, Mass., before becoming rector at St. John’s Church in Troy, NY in 1881. He arrived in Chicago in 1892. He also lived in the room next to the Rand and his parents at the Plaza Hotel which explains how he became an investor in Rand’s mine].
The High School professor of Salmon a fine fellow is here working as a miner and living with me. We hope he may be adapted to the work and when we prove up gold in quantities, he may rise to foreman or better things. This is going to be the biggest camp in the U.S. or nothing.
I have literally a hundred people coming to me with ranch, mining, irrigation & real estate schemes some worthless, some fairly good and three or four very fine. It is a country of great possibilities. Of course I do not let them get my attention off this work in hand and do not take them up. I know personally all the business men of the County and have hired over 100 different so called “fine mining men” so I know whom to trust and it must be said in sorrow that there are very, very few men you could trust here at all. It is a remote, isolated spot, miles from railroad and it harbors deserters, convicts, ne’er-do-wells and each man is against his neighbor. However I am glad to have been able to study this County or I would be an easy prey to many. Life is most interesting and I love it in the hills.
September 1906 marked a full year since Rand’s arrival at Salmon. He had clearly settled into the life and ways of a small town cut off from the world with few distractions, which was probably just as well given his determination to see his proposition succeed. For the first time however, he voices concerns about the viability of the mine in a letter written September 1, 1906 on official Big Creek Gold Mining Company, Ltd. letterhead:
Dear Stell, What a fine old time you people are having. Your letter reads like a fairy story – your yacht flitting from place to place like a will o’ the wisp. How I wish I were along too! We have no yachts or Auto’s here, more’s the pity. I was so interested in your auto trip to Chicago. It must have been great for Alice to have you with her again and Ed wrote me what fun you had in Chicago. I always enjoy your letters so much. I have been worried and not in a letter writing mood. My health is fair no worse at any events. The climate here in summer is very fine.
Sept 10 Bert’s father comes out for annual meeting of Big Creek Co. Ed cannot come and poor Bert is too sick to come. It’s a shame about that boy.
Work at the mine is going ahead under difficulties. We have been greatly troubled over water in shaft and strikes of the men.
We have not reached bedrock to prove values of our property and do not know what course directors will pursue. Mr. Messinger has been advancing to the company money on which to run and whether he will continue to do so or not I cannot tell. It is proving a costly undertaking yet our faith in richness of the ground is not diminished.
I wish I could come east and see my friends but am afraid I cannot this year. Every one in Boston is very well indeed. I have been riding horse back all over this county looking at mines and studying them. We have wonderful country here but need a railroad to develop it. We hear that two railroads will be built into Salmon, which will help us all out.
We always have spare time here for trout fishing or shooting grouse etc and duck season is nearly ready. I saw some deer recently but had no gun along. It is a fine place for summer camping.
We had a fine dance recently a Pianola furnishing the music. It was far better music than that given by local orchestra. The home music talent here would cause angels to weep. Interesting mining men come in for summer and it makes Salmon quite interesting at times.
Another year passed before Rand would write again. In September 1907 he was walking by the stagecoach office in Salmon City when “the little agent” called out to him with: “Mr. Rand there is a package for you.” It turned out to be a box of books from my grandmother.
You can imagine my surprise and delight when I opened it and found your card and four perfectly fine books. It was just as dear of you as could be to send them Stell. I was just starving for something good to read anyway, so I sat right down and began “The Younger Set.” I enjoy Chambers so much. I have finished it and like it immensely, I shall re-read it soon as I always enjoy a book best the second reading…
Nobody else has written for ages and we little know what is going on beyond the snow-capped mountains toward the east. Joe [Gunsaulus] even has not written for two months.
We are having very cool weather with no retrospect of a summer as the entire year has been rainy and stormy. The town characters hug the stove whereas they generally bask in a glorious sun at this time of time.
Silence from Salmon City for a much longer period, this time nearly a year and a half during which Rand finally threw in the towel. His mining ventures had never panned out, though it is never specifically mentioned in the correspondence saved by my grandmother. He does admit the failure of the mine had forever poisoned his relationship with Ed Randall, his childhood friend and mining partner who had bolted, jobless and penniless, to San Francisco. (Five years later, Randall, by then assistant superintendent of the American Biscuit Company at San Francisco, summed up his career in a note to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater: “I spent several years in the business world of Boston learning how much I did not know; then went to the National Biscuit Company in Chicago, and worked into a fine position through eight years’ employment and still did not know how much I did not know, and gave up my position and went to Idaho, mining. Learned a lot in Idaho – never saw the mine and went dead broke – and ran a small hotel in Salmon, seventy miles from a railroad, for a year. In 1908 I came out here to this company and have been here ever since. Here I made a fresh start, knowing nothing except to mind my own business. Now I am looking up again and getting square with the world. I have a fair position, good friends, a happy home and a charming wife. My life is happy and peaceful, and I am now sailing on a smooth sea, neither touching the high places nor the low places. Moral – “Know thyself.” Randal and his wife, Elsie, went on to become a metaphysical teachers in San Francisco’s Home of Truth, an offshoot of Phineas Quimby’s New Thought movement).
Oddly, Rand continued to extol the health benefits of hard work in the frigid mountain air and wrote about mining (copper, rather than gold) as if things were moving apace in a February 1909 letter from the Butte and Bitter Root Camp, without mentioning the fact he had long since taken the job as Salmon City’s postmaster. Now, at 37, he had also set his sights on Mabel Adele Kadletz, a 26-year-old schoolteacher and daughter of a Salmon blacksmith. Almost as an afterthought, he announces that he and Mabel are to be married that summer:
Dear Stell, You see me again up in the mountains for the winter working at the copper mine. We are hoping and expecting to uncover more ore and make our claims worth more and thus make it easier to sell them. We are having lots of snow and the trail becomes completely covered although we go over it often, part of the ways at least. The trail is four miles long whence at the “Meadows” we take a wagon road to Gibbonsville.
Generally at this time all travel here is on “skis” but this year the crust has kept us up pretty well. It is perfectly beautiful up here in the clear air, with azure sky above and mountains of pure white dazzling snow all about you. The forests look like seas of Christmas trees and it is a truly winter’s scene that is inspiring and one which never tires.
While out of doors working with axe, or mining I always feel so well. It is the life for me to lead; yet I hope to gain sufficient strength to be able to stay in Salmon for long periods if need be. I haven’t been sick in bed now for 15 months and that is a great record; whenever I begin to feel run down I hasten for the mountains.
You asked about Ed. He was last June (when I heard from him last) with the Pacific Coast Biscuit Co. at San Francisco.
He left Salmon a year ago went to Medford Massachusetts where he lived with his brother Harry for a while. He expected to return to National Biscuit Co but did not for some reason and secured a position with another Co. on the western coast. Ed wrote only on business and did not say how he was getting on, or how his health was. So really I know little about him. We parted with our friendship broken and it will be probably some time before we hear from each other. I certainly hope with all my heart that he is doing fine work again. There is but one thing to keep Ed from being an unusually capable and successful man. He surely possesses great talents.
Mother and father have been both on invalid list but are well again. They are visiting at Kit’s now in Brookline, Fred being away shooting.
Fred is taking somewhat of interest in business again and is giving his time to the private examination of banks, trusts etc. He is becoming an expert in financial questions. He also was recently elected Treasurer of Harvard College and cousin Will Rand was also elected an Overseer of Harvard.
How I long to go back East and see all my old friends, but am afraid it is not to be this year. I had an awfully fine letter from Charley Pike at New Years and he reported to have dined and spent a lovely evening at your home. Wish I could have been there also!
Mabel and I expect to be married in June or July. It is not quite determined but practically. Health and wealth are obstacles. The first seems to be under control. The latter is nothing. However things look brighter ahead and I can succeed in making a living out here in a way as long as I am well.
Am afraid to return to Chicago, in fact believe the Biscuit factory I shall never see again, the flour dust is very bad for throat and lungs. Marriage is so serious a question that it does not bear experimenting. However I believe it is the ideal state for us all. In my case I only fear it is going to be pretty rough on Mabel. We of course will live the very simplest and quietest of lives and will be in the mountains for a while at the start, probably at this camp where I shall be working. She is teaching school now for the last time to her joy and I truly hope she is to make no mistake in sharing my erratic life. Let us hope it is all for the best and that everything will be as it is planned.
Of course I shall let the spirit of “Wanderlust” take me when it will over all the world. I am just wild to see the entire globe and explore it. I think you too have a fever for “going” and doubtless now on your way to Atlantic City or some warmer zone. In your recent letter I was so much pleased to hear your account of your charity work and truly Dear Stell you are a mighty Dear Girl to help others the way you do and I am proud to be a friend to one like you for after all what we can do for others is the greatest gift and blessing in the world. I am not given much to think of others but I love to see it in people just the same, and I love to see it in you for I can quickly realize more than your what a blessing your mere presence is to any unfortunate soul sick or needy or ignorant, your boys [at the Franklin Settlement in Detroit] are most fortunate in having you interested in them.
I do not mean to limit these fortunate people to the sick and poor for indeed Stell all people in every walk of life are truly blessed and benefited by knowing you as a friend. That is a pretty straight compliment without any warning but you don’t mind my abruptness at times, do you?
Well good bye again. I have said good bye to you many times now in our life but may we live to say Hello! to each other just as many more in the future. Let it be this time Au Revoir.
In the summer of 1909, apparently desperate to create a viable business in a stagnant economy, Rand and three other Salmon men made an application to the city council to operate a streetcar franchise in Salmon, suggesting they were backed by Chicago capital. In his correspondence to my grandmother, however, Rand alluded to a previous letter (not among the ones she saved) in which he must have explained his own financial predicament in some detail while requesting from her a loan to help pay off his debts and invest in either land or a house. Her check for $4,000 [an amount that would be roughly equivalent to nearly $100,000 today] elicits an understandable outpouring of gratitude from Rand:
Dear Stell, Am just back from an exciting boat trip down the rapid Salmon River and I find your welcome letters to greet me.
Words cannot express my feelings for your great generosity in making me such a loan and that I am grateful and happy is to put it only mildly. You never will realize what I feel about it or how much I appreciate it. You certainly are one girl in a million and I shall never, never forget what you have done for me.
This money as I said will be put into Real Estate near or in Salmon. I feel now as if I could make a good start. I am pricing and getting bids on property and hope to be judicious in my deals. I enclose note for four thousand dollars on demand. You are indeed a true friend to me, the best any fellow ever had. Why it is enough to make a man an optimist for life.
I was so glad to hear of Nell’s happiness. I shall write her tomorrow and also answer your longer letter tomorrow too. Do give Nell my love!
Thanking you dear Stell again and again from the depths of my heart believe me.
Rand, now Salmon’s full-time postmaster among his other activities in the small Idaho community, still had not married by year’s end. He continued to live in rooms on Main Street with a young attorney from Kansas. My grandmother’s Christmas present, a scarf, is welcomed by Rand who writes to thank her in January 1909:
You are indeed a Lady Bountiful – that beautiful scarf made my Christmas a very happy one and I appreciate your sending it so very much. Thank you dear Stell for your lovely gift and remembrance. Your letter was very dear too and I enjoyed reading it so much, but then I always did love to read your letters for you do know how to write. I am so sorry my birthday letter to you did not reach you on the 11th but it was not because I had forgotten you but the exact day. Your birthday party must have been great fun. Yes I remember Mr. Sibley very well and liked him so much. One does like to be remembered on a birthday. It seems such a personal affair that one appreciates having good friends remember you. You certainly were remembered in a dandy way — but I guess your friends cannot over do it for if any one ever was true to one’s friends you ever have been.
Mother and father received such a magnificent Christmas present. Both of them have been quite sick. So Kit and Fred secured a large sunny apartment on Mt. Vernon St. side of same house and gave them a maid, kitchen, etc So for the first time since they left Medford they have a maid and keep house. It is so fine for them. Mother is frail and causes us lots of uneasiness. I was planning to have them out here this summer but now I hardly think they will come.
My Christmas was best one in years friends all remembered me and then we have had an ideal eight weeks of zero weather and lots of snow which made Christmas seem real. I had lots of books which I always enjoy having. Mabel was home from teaching school and we went to dances and parties etc. Her health has not been good for a year nor her Mother’s so we have troubles out here on account of illness as well as at Boston. I am just now awfully busy with Commercial Club (being secretary), Real Estate and other things. I enjoy an active life and when I am feeling well can accomplish a lot but when sick I am good for nothing. I live with a young attorney Mr. Rankin who is from Kansas, a very pleasant fellow indeed and has seen so much of the U.S. in his travels even Boston.
Yes indeed we will have another dance some day – you and I and you can rest assured that I shall say something very nice about your dancing and I won’t have to “jolly” either for your ought to know what I think of your ability to dance. What I wouldn’t give for a party tonight with us both there. I wouldn’t refuse to dance this time.
So you are going abroad again. That is perfectly great. I do hope that you will have a stunning time meeting loads of dandy people and enjoy every second of it. I quite envy you. I wish I was to run across you in Paris or London. That Dr. Hamill is a lucky dog. I agree with you he is a dandy nice fellow. Well Stell I will write you again for now accept once more my heartiest thanks for your beautiful Christmas gift and with worlds of good fortune and happiness to yourself believe me as ever, Phil.
In the spring of 1910, Rand left his bachelor lodgings and moved a few doors down Main Street and into the home of his fiancée’s parents, John and Jennie Kadletz. At about the same time, in late April, amid much celebration, the Gilmore and Pittsburgh Railroad finally reached Salmon City, though it was not clear if the line would continue northward to Dillon, Montana. Saddled by his job at the post office, Rand was also optimistically speculating in ranching and agricultural property in the Salmon area, betting heavily on the potential for a flood of prospective clients and subsequent prosperity that the railroad would bring to the region.
Philip Rand and Mabel Kadletz were finally married on July 20, 1910 and almost immediately Rand began building “Cliffside,” a four-room bungalow on a bluff high above the Salmon River, a few minutes walk from the center of town. They are still “camping” amid the bustle of the Kadletz family when he writes in September to sort out some misunderstanding over the $4,000 loan from the previous summer:
Dear Stell, What an ungrateful man you must think me for not answering your fine letter before this. I have been very busy and really have had no time to get away and think and the days have slipped by before I realized to what an extent it had gone. I cannot write a letter at the office where there is so much confusion and we have not moved into our home yet and are camping and very unsettled. This morning I have set aside as a day with you and am off in a quiet corner of the Kadletz home where I hope no one will disturb me and you.
Now dear Stell I want to tell you that I thoroughly understand your position and realize just how you feel in regard to the loan and do not worry a bit lest I do not understand.
I think your letter was the dearest and sweetest one I ever received and when I had finished reading it I was actually happy as I realized what a true friend you were. As I said I value your friendship above all and I am so glad that it has not been changed in the least.
As to the loan I am glad you wrote as you did. I did not understand before how things were and it is best that I did not receive it and be so much more in debt to you. As it is I am under the greatest of obligations which I hope to pay back in time.
At present things are unchanged and what will be the outcome is hard to say. If the Railroad builds at once it would help very much. The banks are treating us royally and if there is no political panic they will make it as easy as they can for me. All is very uncertain of course and the immediate future looks pretty dark, up to date I have not lost a penny and am trying very hard to make some sales.
I do want to thank you Stell for writing such a dandy letter when you must have felt upset at my asking for the loan. You certainly have proved to be the dearest friend I have and I am mighty happy in realizing this. I hope we always may remain true friends. That keeps me from being too pessimistic. I thought I had selected a quiet nook but the whole town is running through the house and I have been routed out a dozen times.
Since our wedding I have not heard a line from Joe and Alice [Gunsaulus] or Phil Doane & Helen so I judge that they must be abroad. Father is failing slowly since his sickness of last spring. It is very sad he has to be down nearly all the time and does not walk at all. They give him morphine to soothe the pain at times. He is suffering constantly and never having been ill in his whole life it is very irksome for him to say the least. The doctors give him a year at most in which to live and think it will less.
Katherine has done all that money can do. He has a nurse all the time and has either Aunt Hattie or Kit with him all the day. At present he is at the Odin Roberts at Chestnut Hill (Odin married Ada Mead, Fred’s sister and Mr. Roberts Sr. is old chum of fathers). Later he will live at Katherine’s. I am wild to go home but I cannot just now. Father is so plucky and cheerful he is a wonder.
I hope you have been having a dandy fine summer with lots of sailing and good times. Charley Pike is a resident of Detroit too! Some day I’ll drop in on you all and see what you are all doing. Stranger things might happen.
Well good bye for now Stell. This is a poor letter I know but some day I’ll do better. You have been and are the truest friend I have and I want you to know how I appreciate it.
The small home was finished by late fall, and the newlyweds were happily ensconced above the river, though Rand was clearly unsettled by a the town’s moribund economy and continued uncertainty over the Gilmore & Pittsburgh Railroad’s expansion, as he writes to my grandmother in February 1911:
…Some day Mrs. R. and I are just going to have you all in Salmon Idaho and won’t that be just fine. Maybe you don’t know this to be true but you just see!
I have been intending to write you Stell again and again but something always comes up to preclude my getting off into a quiet nook with leisure for I cannot write if I am in the midst of people and my time is completely taken up at the Post Office.
Today being Sunday I have an hour’s leisure here in the floods of sunshine by our long windows overlooking the valleys below and beyond the mountains. You know our house is at the very edge of a high bluff overlooking the city in one direction and the valley in another with hills behind us. It is perfectly beautiful up here I mean for the view. We just love it dearly. We are almost fifteen minutes walk from the office up hill.
Our chief excitement is our bridge club which meets every Saturday night at different homes in turn. We always have three tables sometimes four and the people are very congenial. Mr. and Mrs. John R. Wheeler by the way come from Sewickley, Penn . He is a lawyer and she an exceedingly clever and dandy woman. We play always four rubbers then eat and then do whatever the mood suits, sing, dance, do stunts or talk. We keep scandalous hours. It is the first winter we have had enough people here of the right sort to have much of a time.
My health is much better this last year in fact this is the first time or rather first winter that I have not been very sick since I left the east and I am quite jubilant over it. I manage to exercise every day out of doors splitting wood mind you or digging or doing some kind of manual work that with the walks back and forth with fairly regular habits and no smoking at all seem to tell the story for I am in doors a great deal in a dusty close office too.
The town is in perfectly terrible condition financially. Everyone is awfully hard up having over stocked in land and no one buying. One bank nearly went broke. We expect the railroad to go on building through to the coast and until it begins so to do this town will be absolutely dead for a while until the mining business picks up as it will in time and until the returns from the planting of orchards begin to materialize.
From all indications the railroad will do more work this spring. If it does it will help us all.
Of course I am poor as a church mouse and am fighting hard to keep things going. The banks have been exceptional in their treatment of me and are doing all they can. I have managed to hang on to all so far and just pray for better conditions this spring. I had to let go my interest in the ranch but at no loss and sold out my interest in a certain 40-acre tract at loss of $300. I have enough left to make good if conditions improve this summer. Things could be much worse and so much better too!
Father spends most of his time in bed now but though really losing ground is cheerful and thinks he will be better. He reads and writes a great deal and has just hosts of friends calling on him daily. Everything is being done that can possibly be done. He has three or four doctors and three nurses in constant attendance. He has a lovely apartment and is taken care of so well. Either my Aunt Harriet or Catharine or some one else is always with him. He never is out of pain except when taking drugs. It is so pitiful (or pitiable I guess the word is).
I would like to hear from you and know what you are doing and going to do. You are in my thoughts so often. Do be good and write me a long letter about everything.
Mabel is to have a crowd to tea so I must help her fix the fires and do all a man can. We have no maid you know and I just have to be a “handy man about the house.”
Running the Salmon post office and domestic life at Cliffside with its mundane household chores certainly held less cachet than tales of wanderlust and prospecting for gold or perhaps Mabel felt it was time to nix writing to the lady friend in Detroit – or both. Either way, the letters from Rand tapered off to a trickle, both in terms of content and frequency, with only one sent to my grandmother in 1911, at Christmastime albeit glowing with admiration and affection:
Dear Stell, It is always a pleasure to think of you and Christmas together you ever did typify the Christmas spirit of good cheer and generosity. Think of the many, many hearts made glad by your many Christmas remembrances and words of cheer. You have ever been a lovely “Lady Bountiful” do you wonder I associate you and this day together.
We both miss our parents’ faces or letters at this time, so very much do we not? It is not the same without them. I presume however you all will have a tree for the youngsters, we will not as yet. This son of mine is going to have many of them in a few years and may be his Aunt Stell will come on and share it with us all. Wouldn’t that be just great!
I am laid up with the grippe again but have past the worst of it and will be out in two more days. The Christmas rush is on and I am needed badly at the office. We establish a Postal Savings Bank on Dec. 21st of which I have charge and this will give extra work too at this busy time.
Ed Randall’s wedding invitation [to Elsie Noonan] is before me announcing the date as Dec. 23. Ed has been doing finely ever since he left Idaho. I am so mighty glad too… Mabel and I send our love and best wishes in which John Philip joins us. May you have a beautiful Christmas.
By 1912, Rand was well into becoming a big fish in Salmon’s small pond. As postmaster he was literally at the nerve center of the town’s social and economic activity. Rand and his bride were also busy on the weekends, hosting frequent bridge and dinner parties at their Cliffside home. If there was any thought of recouping his mining losses, that door was closed permanently with the forfeiture of the Big Creek Gold Mining Company on Dec. 1, 1912. There was no mention of the mine’s loss or for that matter, any news of work or domestic life in the simple Christmas note he mailed from Salmon in December 1912. He penned barely more than three sentences before signing off for the last time:
Dear Stell, I am sending you one of James Allen’s books for a little Christmas remembrance. I forgot to enclose a card in my letter to the publisher. You doubtless have the book by now. With it goes my eternal best wishes for your constant happiness and a very merry Christmas, Phil.
Two years later, in the fall of 1914, Rand left the post office to teach high school German and math, somewhat of a stretch given his performance in college. Perhaps better suited as an administrator, Rand soon became Lemhi County’s superintendent of schools, a position he held for over 10 years. In subsequent years he would serve as a U.S. Food Administrator, the owner and manager of the Roxy Theater on Salmon’s Main Street, and as the head of Lemhi County’s Public Relief Agency. His community involvement, though not as all encompassing as his college days in Chicago, was nonetheless impressive for a small town in Idaho. Rand directed community plays and played on the Salmon baseball team. He was a charter member of Elks Lodge #1620, a founder of Salmon’s Rotary, and senior warden and Vestryman in his church, among other activities.
He was also busy at home. The Rands’ second child, Katherine Phyllis, was born in 1916 and Rand, doing much of the work himself, remodeled their house by adding another three rooms. A few years later he added an upstairs with an additional five bedrooms and three baths. During the 1920s, according to A History of Cliffside House, “Mabel Rand, with help from her son and daughter, and especially from Philip, who always encouraged her, was making a show place of the grounds with many flower beds, terraces, lily pools, and outdoor fireplace, a grape arbor, and of course, many trees. The grounds were constantly being expanded by the digging from the clay hills behind the house and by dumping the dirt over the bank on the riverside. Most of this work was done by young boys who were paid by the hour with show tickets for the Roxy Theater, which the Rands owned at that time.”
Rand’s passion for writing, so evident in his letters to my grandmother at the turn of the century, never wavered. Throughout the rest of his life he wrote articles for magazines, newspapers, movie trade publications, and travel and history pamphlets documenting the Salmon region, with a special focus on the Lewis and Clark expedition as it passed through the region. For many years he was Lemhi County’s official historian.
Rand was working on a book about Sacajawea when he died in Idaho Falls on September 3, 1948 at the age of 75.
LeBaron Adams,Alice Adams’ younger brother, was born on 18 November 1882 in Chicago and educated at Phillips Exeter Academy (’02) where he played on the tennis team (he was defeated in the first round of the 1901 National Lawn Tennis championship in Newport, Rhode Island). He attended Princeton University (’06) but left in his junior year to take a job in Spokane, Washington as secretary and treasurer of the Lembi Placer Co., a mining operation.
He wrote to Princeton’s Fifth Year Record of the class of 1906 that he:
“…chose his present work, and intends it to be his life occupation. His political activity is limited to voting regularly. An unmarried man, he scorns woman sufferage, is a “Middler” in his political views, thinks that a tariff for revenue is what the country needs and personifies the spirit of the hustling West by advocating the recall of judges and the initiative and referendum. “Not Wilson” is his expression of choice for president.
His recreation consists of horseback riding, snow shoeing and walking. Adams has traveled all over the United States and part of Europe. We hope that his next trail will lead Princetonward for him to participate in the large seventh reunion which he advocates.”
In 1918 he and his wife, Beulah, were farming in Galatin, Montana. Two years later he was back in Chicago as the manager of a Range company. By the 1930s LeBaron and Beulah were in New York City where he was employed as a stockbroker. They retired to Chicago and like his parents, spent summers in Beloit, not far from the family’s former farm. LeBaron died in Chicago in 1958 at the age of 75.
Of all the friends captured on film by Stella’s camera at the house party in Beloit, none appears more alluring than Nannine Waller, the tall beauty sporting a University of Chicago letter sweater as she and four gentlemen admirers – one of whom, Spencer Brown, may well be a summer romance – pose on the steps of the Adams’ house.
Nannine or “Nannie” as she was nicknamed, was born on February 14, 1878 in the same affluent Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago as her friend Alice Adams. Her father, James Lee Waller, came to Chicago from Kentucky as a teenager and became a successful real estate investor and insurance executive; her mother and namesake, Nannie R. McElwee Waller was the daughter of William Meek McElwee, a Presbyterian pastor from Lexington, Virginia, and close friend of Confederate Army generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (for whom he served as a pallbearer in 1863).
Nannie’s mother died in October 1885 when she was just seven and her brother, Trigg, was nine. The siblings were sent to live with their mother’s younger sister, Flora McElwee, at the family home in Lexington, Virginia. Nannie’s Aunt Flora, a 24-year-old graduate of the Augusta Female Seminary, raised and home schooled the two children for nine years – until Trigg went away to college and Nannie went to boarding school. In 1890 she married Henry Miller, a Presbyterian pastor like her father, and taking the two Waller children with them, moved to Middlesboro, Kentucky. The Millers would later have two sons, William and Francis, both of whom grew into remarkable men; William McElwee Miller a Princeton graduate, served as a Presbyterian missionary in Persia from 1919 to 1962; Francis Pickens Miller, a Rhodes Scholar, became a global Protestant organizer and activist for US intervention in World War II, as well as an educator, author, intelligence officer with the Office of Strategic Services, and politician from Virginia).
When she was 16, Nannie, like her mother and two aunts before her, was enrolled at Mary Baldwin Seminary in Staunton, Virginia, only 30 miles from the McElwee home in Lexington. The school, founded as the Augusta Seminary for Women in 1842, was the oldest Presbyterian women’s college in the country. Nannie studied English, Latin, French, piano, mathematics, elocution, and sang with the Glee Club. Her tall, elegant frame did not go without notice in her first year and was memorialized in verse in the Seminary’s 1895 annual:
“In a seminary, not far away,
Where many girls live day by day,
You’d be surprised to see at five,
The maids like bees come from the hive.…
In Brick House, on ‘Swell Hall’
There is a girl who’s very tall
This girl’s name is Nannine Waller,
You know, she wears a velvet collar.”
Little Annie Allen with her hair in a part,
As every one knows, is Nannine’s sweetheart,
And oh! what sights we always see,
After breakfast, noon and tea.
The comment in the student register next to Nannie’s name was: “not very strong health, but a strong inclination for Lexington,” most likely the result of frequent escapes to visit her grandparents in their grand house on Main Street, just outside of town.
A line from Milton’s L’Allegro, “linked sweetness long drawn out,” was listed as Nannie’s “familiar quotation” in the 1896 yearbook which then, only a few pages later, carried this somber note: “Nannine Waller, Livinia Peek and Florence Cabell were called home by the death of their fathers. The Annual extends its heartfelt sympathies.”
Nannie’s father, James, had been in poor health in 1894 when left his Chicago real estate interests and headed west to Montana for its dry, mountain air. He ended up in Leiterville, about eight miles east of Sheridan and parlayed his Chicago connections into a job managing gold mining property for Levi Zeigler Leiter, a wealthy Chicago business acquaintance and early partner of Marshall Field. Waller became ill in early December 1895 and died in January 1896 at the age of 43.
Soon after her father’s funeral in Chicago, and midway through her second academic session, Nannie withdrew from Mary Baldwin Seminary and returned to Chicago to live with her uncle and aunt, the William Wallers, who had two daughters of their own, Irene Louise and Amy. Her Uncle William, a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, had worked with her father in real estate and insurance, as well as being president of the Waller Coal Company, and serving as a director of the Oliver Typewriter Company.
Once home in Chicago with her Uncle and Aunt, Nannie followed the predictable routine of a young woman within the small circle of Chicago’s elite. She joined the “gay whirl” of society and its numerous teas, dances, and coming out parties and served on committees with older socialites such as Drusilla Wilkinson, Jessica McMurray, as well as young men and women her age like Helen Fairbank, Alice Adams, Albert Conro Fiero, Honoré Palmer, all of whom would continue to cross paths with her well into the next century.
Nannie summered with friends at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in 1897 and, with her brother, Trigg, joined the Adams gathering the following July in Beloit where she met my grandmother, Stella, and was photographed either posed or cavorting with the Chicago set – especially Spencer Brown, a handsome university man – on the lawns of The Grange.
Nannie made her debut in the winter of 1898 and was described by Helen Winston, a friend from Mary Baldwin days, as “a great belle and one of the most popular girls in Chicago.”
Sometime between June and October 1900, a romance blossomed between Nannie and Stewart “Pat” Patterson, a Yale man three years her senior.
Patterson, who was born in Chicago on January 2, 1875, was the grandson of Joseph Medill, founder of the Chicago Tribune, and the son of John Closey Patterson, a Yale-educated lawyer and Civil War veteran. His mother, Jennie Stewart Patterson, was the daughter of Gen. Hart Le Lac Stewart, a veteran of the Black Hawk Wars, Chicago’s first postmaster, and pioneering Chicago businessman. General Stewart owned and developed the northwest corner of Washington and State streets in downtown Chicago, a real estate holding whose income, rents, and profits would support the Patterson family through the next century.
Patterson’s mother died four days after he was born. He was raised by his father and grandparents in their home on Wisconsin Street on the city’s north side until he was sent away to prep school – first to the Lawrenceville School (New Jersey), and from there to St. Paul’s in Concord, New Hampshire. He entered Yale (’97) in the fall of 1893 where, according his yearbook mention, he “learns by intuition and can give pointers to any professor in College.” He also became a fine rower, traveling with the team to England in his junior and senior years for the annual Henley Regatta. Like Nannie, he was also an accomplished tennis player and golfer. After Yale, Patterson had returned to Chicago to earn his law degree at Northwestern University.
For years, the two had crossed paths socially and despite their age difference, had many friends in common among Chicago’s society crowd. They saw much more of each other during the summer of 1900 at Harbor Point, Michigan, where the William Wallers had a cottage, as well as at a series of dinner parties and receptions in Chicago leading up to the fall wedding of Sallie Shoenberger and Paul Delano Hamlin. Nannie was maid of honor, while Patterson served as an usher for his friend from Yale.
By December 1900, they were courting. Their engagement was announced in the spring of 1901, with a date set for the following June.
After a flurry of festive luncheon and dinner parties for the couple during the last week in May 1902, they were married in her uncle and aunt’s home on the evening of June 2, 1902. Nannie wore a gown of “white meteor crepe, trimmed with heavy cream lace, with tulle veil and a bouquet of white sweet peas,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
The small wedding was followed by a reception where no doubt my grandmother, Stella, in town to serve as a bridesmaid for Alice Adams’ wedding later that week, offered congratulations to her friend from the summer in Beloit.
In mid-June the newlyweds (along with the recently widowed Mrs. Potter Palmer, doyenne of Chicago society) sailed from Boston to Liverpool on the S.S. Commonwealth for a four-month honeymoon. The Pattersons started in London where they had planned to attend the June 26th coronation of King Edward VII (a last-minute operation for appendicitis forced the palace to postpone the coronation until early August). After a summer of European travel, including visiting Joseph and Alice Gunsaulus in Paris, they returned to Chicago in early October and settled into an apartment on East Superior Street. The Joseph Gunsauluses moved in next door.
For the next decade the Pattersons lived the comfortable, privileged life of Chicago’s “smart set.” They traveled often, summered at Harbor Point, played competitive tennis at the tony Onwentsia Club, owned two automobiles, and entertained family and friends in a beautifully decorated double apartment on the top floors of the fashionable Garrard and Mackintosh building on Superior Street. Nannie volunteered her time for charity work; Stewart Patterson, although admitted to the Illinois State Bar, never practiced law, but instead went into the dried fruit business with the California Package Fruit Company in Chicago, later switching to the fire insurance business – though he clearly did not have to work. His main interest, after tennis, was automobiling and both he and Nannie were well-known auto enthusiasts, as noted in a Chicago Tribune article that rated her as “an expert driver, the large cars having no terror for her…”
Nannie, besides being a sporty driver was also described by Marian Martineau of the Chicago Tribune as “a splendid type of classic beauty” and was featured in a full-page illustrated story about society’s busy 1907 season with “The Tall Girl Question” to solve.
“Hostesses are puzzled to find men tall enough to pair with the debutantes of today; the debutantes worry lest they make in incongruous appearance beside the swain of equal or lesser height when he should be a full head taller to permit the bewitching look from an upturned face, without which no girl’s armament for a winter’s campaign is complete…
“So noticeable has the increasing height of Chicago’s women become that Gibson in his palmiest days as a society caricaturist is completely outdone. The year 1901 marked the change, and each year since that season has added a full quota of tall women to Chicago’s list…There used to be a time when…Miss Nannine Waller, now Mrs. Stewart Patterson…[was] recognized as being unusually tall…But those women, who towered over their guests at the receptions of those days, could hardly be said to do so now.
“The most interesting feature, however, connected with Chicago’s wonderful list of tall women is the fact that with but one or two exceptions all are natives of Chicago and have attained their growth under the influence of the lake breeze. No other city in the country can claim half as many, and the fact that Chicago is the home – the birthplace – of America’s most striking women can no longer be disputed.”
Nannie’s busy life slowed down considerably with the birth of Stewart (Sonny) Patterson, Jr. on August 21, 1908, and subsequent health issues. Within a few months the Pattersons leased out their large apartment and moved with their Swedish cook and Sonny’s Norwegian nanny into a smaller apartment two blocks away.
Meanwhile, the famous Mrs. Palmer Potter and her son, Honoré, were already planting the seeds for a much bigger move, not just for the Pattersons, but for a number of their well-heeled, Ivy-league university friends in their 20s and 30s.
A year or so earlier, Mrs. Palmer and fils (a contemporary of Stewart Patterson’s) on a trip to the West Coast in their private train car, had stopped off in Oregon’s Rogue River Valley for a visit of five days with Fred H. Hopkins, a highly successful Medford orchardist. Impressed by the weather, quality of life, and investment opportunities in orchard lands, Mrs. Palmer purchased for her son 102 acres of young apple and pear trees two miles south of Medford for $37,000. So convinced were the Palmers of the future in fruit trees and the promise of healthy western living, that before leaving later that week, Mrs. Palmer made plans to build a $20,000 bungalow on the orchard property.
FRUIT LANDS IN DEMAND
“Things have been doing in Rogue River Valley orchard lands recently as never before and numerous sales have been made in every portion of the valley at prices that a few years ago would have been counted fabulous, but which in reality are demonstrated to be only fair values when the returns from them and the possibilities of the future are taken into consideration.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars of outside capital are being poured into the orchard industry in the Rogue River Valley, in the purchase of bearing orchards, as well as in the planting of new orchards. Inquiries for larger or smaller tracts of the highly prized real estate of this valley are coming in from many states. Those who thought prices of orchard lands had reached the top notch a year or two ago are still wondering where it is going to stop, and people who sold too soon are sorry.”
– Morning Oregonian, Portland, October 14, 1907
A year later the Palmers, having fully succumbed to pear fever, paid $78,000 in cash for a second tract of 1,400 acres 12 miles north of Medford on both sides of the Rogue River. The land was to be cleared for fruit trees and held an added bonus, according to the Portland Morning Oregonian of November 13, 1908, as “this particular section along the Rogue River is the finest fishing grounds on the coast and well known to many famous fishermen from abroad.”
When Mrs. Palmer returned to Chicago enthusiastically touting the benefits of Oregon’s rich soil, climate, and natural beauty – and investment potential – she almost single-handedly created the Orchard Boom that was to follow over the next five years. On the basis of her recommendations, wealthy eastern investors, mostly from among her circle of Chicago friends, flocked to Medford to buy orchard land and build elegant ranch homes. Much like Nairobi’s “Happy Valley” of wealthy young Englishmen and women in the 1930s, the fast-growing town soon became known as the “Millionaire Colony” and the locals derisively labeled the flashy new arrivals as “remittance men” for the regular checks they received from their families back east.
By 1911, according to an article in the Chicago Record Herald, “the ‘millionaire colony of Medford, Oregon contains a large number of names which in recent years have figured prominently in the social columns of the Chicago newspapers…It is estimated that more than $2,000,000 have been invested by former residents of Chicago in the orchards of this valley, and any one of the homes that have been established here by Chicago people is of a character likely to make its owner forget the attractions of State street and the allurements of life in a metropolitan city…The Chicago Colony owns nearly 4,000 acres of the choicest orchard properties in the Rogue River Valley and nearly every member of the colony has built or is building either an attractive bungalow or a palatial residence.”
At a time when Chicagoans year-round still suffered the ill effects of industrial smoke, not to mention Nannie’s own health issues, to those with the means, youthfulness, and sense of adventure, the lure of fresh air and a clean start must have been hard to resist. By early 1912, the Pattersons, as well as several of their closest friends, had already made the decision to venture west.
“Stewart Patterson of Chicago, a member of the noted Medill-McCormick-Patterson family of that city,” noted an announcement in the Medford Mail Tribune of March 23, 1912, “accompanied by Mrs. Patterson, child and nurse, has arrived to spend the summer in the valley. They are friends of and will be entertained by Mrs. Boudinot Connor [In 1915, Boudinot Connor would hire his Medford friend and attorney, Lincoln McCormack, to help recover $15,000 in damages for his sister, Dorothy Conner, a survivor of the RMS Lusitania sinking].
“Mr. Patterson shipped his automobile [a new Pierce Arrow touring car] and a number of household effects to Medford. He intends to rent a place and remain all summer. He may later invest in the valley.”
Sure enough, within the month, Stewart and Nannie had purchased a 100-acre ranch in Talent, Oregon, just south of Medford, for $13,000. The property was directly adjacent to the Potter Palmer ranch, considered the showpiece of the valley. The former Rapp ranch included 25 acres of irrigated farmland and 25 acres of young apple and pear trees. The rest was open pasture and woodland. It lay just west of the intersection of Rapp Road and Rapp Lane and according to the Medford Mail Tribune, “he [Patterson] plans to erect a handsome residence and commence development work soon. The place is one of the finest in the valley.”
Patterson wasted no time in joining the Rogue River Valley University Club, a men’s luncheon and meeting club founded in 1910, where he played cards and billiards with other Yale men. The club’s membership roster boasted 12 Yale graduates and eight Harvard men among other less-well represented universities. Fortunately for Nannie and other orchardist wives, there was the Colony Club whose register of members read like the Chicago Blue Book, making for a comfortable and familiar transition to the Medford social scene. Families in Medford included the George B. Carpenters, the Conro Fieros, and the Phillip Hamills, among other friends who had come west on the same wave.
The Pattersons rented an elegant home at 1009 Oakdale Avenue in Medford, a few doors down from Frank Chamberlain Clark, a prolific architect whom they, like many of their eastern friends, engaged to design their ranch bungalow in the Arts and Crafts style.
In a 1977 interview with the Medford Mail Tribune, Nell von der Hellen, who served as a young nanny to Sonny recalled the kindness of the Patterson family, as well as the lavish lifestyle of the Chicago couple. At formal dinner parties for their Chicago friends from the ranch colony and local luminaries, “both men and women wore formal attire. The women’s gowns were elaborate, and they wore jewelry – real pearls and diamonds and other gems.” The dinners were cooked and served by the Patterson’s Japanese cook-butler. Nannie, apparently, also never quite gave up some of her genteel city ways and was remembered for using calling cards to visit new neighbors.
It was not all pomp and circumstance. The climate encouraged an outdoor life, albeit with style, so it was not uncommon to see a convoy of large touring cars full easterners and their hampers heading out for weekend picnics in the glorious Rogue River countryside. Soon after moving to Medford, for instance, the Pattersons along with several Chicago Colony friends attended a surprise party at the Hamill ranch on the old Jacksonville road. “The surprisers left Medford by auto about 6:30, heavily laden with ice cream, sandwiches, and various other supplies. Among the self-invited guests were: Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Patterson, Mr. and Mrs. A.C.[Conro] Fiero, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, etc.,” reported the June 1, 1912, Medford Mail Tribune.
To his credit, Stewart Patterson became actively engaged in the local community and the region. In September 1912 he and other Chicago investors incorporated the Medford & Crescent City Railroad Company, capitalized at $50,000, to build and operate a railroad from Medford to Crescent City. The route was to lead from Medford down the Applegate River, past Kerby and Waldo, down Smith River to the coast, opening an area rich in mineral and timber and “assure Medford a prominent place among the commercial centers of the coast.”
At about the same time, after a bitter fight over the title to Chicago’s Stewart Building at the corner of State and Washington Streets, the four heirs of Hart L. Stewart, including Stewart Patterson, came into possession of the property valued at $3 million. Patterson received a quarter of that amount, $750,000, roughly $17 million in today’s dollars.
Within a month of this windfall, Patterson announced plans to install a bison herd on the family’s new ranch. The animals were to come from the Corbin Buffalo Park in New Hampshire, according to the Medford Mail Tribune of October 27, 1912:
“Medford will have a buffalo park – one of the few in the country – if the present plans of Stewart Patterson of this city are carried out…
“Mr. Patterson has an extensive fruit ranch near Talent, a large part of which is rough and wooded country with abundant pasture and water, and would make and ideal range for this almost extinct American animal. Always a great advocate of preserving the faunae of this country, Mr. Patterson intends to cooperate with the American Bison society in perpetuating this noble beast which once swarmed over the plains and ranges of the west, but has now dwindled to a few thousand.
“Mr. Patterson when seen last night said: “I have not completed my arrangements, but will say that I am very much interested in bison research and an endeavoring to secure a few animals in the way of an experiment. If they thrive in this climate, the herd, of course, will be increased. I well remember the time when my native Illinois prairies were covered with these majestic animals, and it has always been a great personal regret that they have dwindled to only an occasional lap robe or the lifeless ornament of a hunting lodge.”
The Bison scheme never materialized, but the Pattersons’ first crop of apples, artfully arranged by Nannie, won “Best Display on Plate, five or more” in Class 2 –Apples at the October district fair.
Meanwhile, the orchard boom that had fueled Medford’s rapid growth and sent prices for land and fruit skyrocketing, by the fall of 1912 was set to bust. As the market struggled to sustain such rapid expansion, prices for Rogue River Valley apples and pears tanked, while the increased demand for irrigation meant many orchards withered for lack of water.
Many of the early arrivistes from the east left as precipitously as they had come, leaving large homes and orchard investments behind. The Pattersons and other Easterners who could afford to, stayed, immune to the hard times gripping the valley. Their presence actually helped keep the economy afloat. When the Pattersons did leave in early 1913, it was only to visit family and friends in Chicago for a few months before returning to Medford for the summer – where Nannie and Stewart caught the eye of a visiting columnist for the Chicago Tribune:
“There is just a bit of wonder whether the average Chicagoan realizes to what extent the west has called the youth of the city’s prominent families. One by one or two by two they have folded their tents and trailed off to the coast to begin the making of their own fortunes,” Edith Brown Kirkwood, the Chicago columnist wrote in September 1913, noting the city’s Diaspora were especially making good in central Oregon where “there is a veritable colony of young Chicagoans.” Kirkwood, traveling to the West Coast, went on to describe the scene as she arrived at the Medford station:
“A number of Chicagoans live here now,” she remarked to her travelling companions, and just then there appeared upon the station platform Mr. and Mrs. Patterson and others of the Chicago group. It was a kind of Onwentsia group suddenly transplanted to western soil and the Chicagoan rubbed her eyes to convince herself that she was seeing clearly over an Oregon landscape. Mr. and Mrs. Patterson had come down to meet some incoming friends. Mrs. Patterson wearing a nobby linen of pale pink with a white ratine hat crushed down on her head and a big, natty coat of bright green thrown about her. Didn’t I say it was Onwentsian?
“The entire Chicago company was chatting gaily, but not of golf and tennis or the latest tango dance. Not at all. Just one guess. No, you’re wrong. It was of Jonathan apples and how much they drew in market price at the moment!
“Just then the train started and someone remarked:
‘It is really surprising the number of rich men’s sons who are out here making good for themselves these days. They don’t come out to frivol. They are not mere gentlemen farmers. They do their own work and their wives, many of them, are pioneering, too.’
“And as the train wound its way into the wonderful country there was something familiar to the Chicago woman in the back of a young chap who, in a well made shirt and a big broad straw hat, passed down one of the neighboring fields on a plow. But he failed to turn to look at the train as it passed.”
Plowing fields or hauling fruit – while blending into the countryside – soon became a much more sophisticated and conspicuous operation for the gentlemen farmers, including Stewart Patterson, when most of the wealthy orchardists ditched their workhorses and drafted their 30-plus horsepower automobiles into tractor service. Hitching a five-disc plow or several wagons full of fruit behind a roadster took only a matter of minutes, and the university men found they could work their land in the morning and drive off to the country club for a round of golf in the afternoon.
And if so many fancy or second-hand cars were being used in fields, it was only a reflection of Jackson County, Oregon, in 1913, with more automobiles per capita than any other county in the United States. One family in 60 owned a car in the county (many in the Chicago Colony owned two or three) with some 530 vehicles in the Rogue River Valley alone. That number doubled in a year. Not surprisingly, a Rogue River Valley Automobile Club was organized, primarily to improve the roadways in the region, but also to promote access to the scenic coast at Crescent City as well as touring to Oregon’s caves, trout-fishing rivers, and cool, mountain resorts such as Crater Lake, all within a day’s drive.
On March 16, 1913, the Sunday Oregonian (Portland) reported “Many of the ranchers intend to take a motor trip to Crescent City in July and establish a tourist colony on the coast. W.V.B. Campbell, owner of [Suncrest] Orchard, is the organizer of the excursion.”
“Willard Campbell, a former Lozier dealer from Minneapolis, was the owner of both a Lozier racer and Mercer ‘Six’ and had made a wager of $100 with Stewart Patterson, the Chicago millionaire that he could negotiate the 132 miles in eight hours or less.
“Mr. Patterson is an auto enthusiast,” the paper continued, “owning two Stutz cars and made the journey over the rough mountain roads in nine hours. He maintains this record cannot be reduced materially.”
The wager held until September when Campbell broke the record from Crescent City to Medford in his Lozier roadster making the trip in six hours and 47 minutes. He won a banquet from Patterson for 15 University Club members.
With more and more costly, high-performance automobiles on the road – from Loziers and Locomobiles to Studebakers and Stutzes – coupled with the nation’s growing fad for auto racing – “speed demons of the Pacific Northwest” like Patterson and his friends in Medford and Talent continued to focus as much on getting there as making it in record time. Patterson’s reputation as a fearless racer was furthered in a press photograph of him at the wheel of his Stutz with Yale chum Conro Fiero leaning into his side, as they careened around a corner of a country road near Woodlawn Acres, the Fiero’s 140-acre orchard property just north of Medford.
Patterson’s competitive nature was also evident in his determination to make their ranch profitable, despite regional water shortages and tumbling fruit prices in the Rogue River Valley. After spending most of his time overseeing the planting of more trees in the fall and winter of 1913, early in the new year, Stewart took a month-long horticultural course at the Oregon State Agricultural College in Corvallis.
Nannie, meantime, newly elected as chairman of Medford’s Voluntary Aid of America chapter, and secretary of Medford’s Colony Club, had settled into the busy routine of an orchardist’s wife; fundraising for the war effort and local hospital, hosting or attending luncheons and dinner parties for friends, playing bridge at the Country Club, and taking Sonny, now six, to birthday parties. Their outdoor activities included fishing and camping trips into the nearby mountains, while both Stewart and Nannie made it to the finals of Medford’s Golf and Country Club 1914 tennis championships. Stewart was defeated in doubles play, Nannie lost in singles.
Frank Clark, their prolific architect friend and neighbor, had long since drawn elaborate plans for an elegant Arts-and-Crafts-style orchard home, but the project had languished. Two years after moving to Oregon, Stewart, Nannie, and Sonny still were living in the rented house on Oakdale Avenue while Stewart commuted the eight miles or so each day from Medford to the Talent ranch to tend to his trees and chickens, racing his Pierce Arrow or Stutz at speeds up to 60 miles an hour along the Pacific Highway. Patterson was not the only orchardist enjoying the speeds afforded by the long, straightaway into Talent. The Medford Mail Tribune cautioned local drivers to:
“…keep one eye on the speedometer and the other on the police, for the authorities of that town have served notice of a campaign against speeders, and incidentally to inflate a more or less depleted treasury. It is said that speeders go through Talent like a streak of lightening, and with no regard to life of pedestrians. By way of illustration that the Talent police mean business, and are no respectors of persons, they arrested W. H. Gore and George Carpenter of this city last Saturday, fining them $5.”
In the spring of 1914, however, there was a flurry of activity on the Patterson ranch as noted by Willis John Dean, a Talent neighbor directly south of the property, in his diary entry for March 8, 1914:
“S. & I took a stroll up on the hills east of the creek. Had a fine view with glass. Ran across several others out for a walk to get the full benefit of the beautiful weather. All seemed to be headed for the Patterson building site. A beautiful place sure for a bungalow, but it may be sometime before it materializes.”
The momentum continued through April when the Pattersons met with a builder and signed the contract to start construction of the $15,000 bungalow designed by Clark. A few weeks later, Stewart erected a large tent on the property for his hired man until the barns went up. But once again, the project was delayed.
Finally, on New Year’s Day 1915, the architect, Frank C. Clark, in a short piece published in the Medford Mail Tribune, announced plans to begin building the Patterson’s home:
“The Stewart Patterson residence will be started in the latter part of the season,” Clark wrote. “It is the intention to build roads to the hill side and prepare the grounds for all foundations for the home and auxiliary buildings before starting the group of buildings. I have another residence that will undoubtedly be erected in the summer, which will cost about $12,000 and these homes are just the beginning of the better class of homes that will be built in this wonderful valley.”
The Patterson’s oft-delayed project, was not to be. Contractors were just weeks from breaking ground when Stewart Patterson was killed in a car accident in the early morning hours of June 18, 1915.
Patterson was the front-seat passenger in a Simplex 50 driven by Lucio Mancilla Mintzer, a recent Yale graduate (’14) from San Francisco. According to newspaper reports, Mintzer, Patterson, and two other men passengers, Edward L. Eyre, Jr. and J.C. Baillargeon, were returning from a dance hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bowne (Yale, ’11) for the San Francisco visitors at the Medford Country Club, east of town. The automobile was traveling southbound at about 40 miles an hour near the Pacific & Eastern curve where the Pacific Highway crossed the railroad tracks. As Mintzer’s Simplex rattled across the tracks at speed, the electric headlights went out. Mintzer immediately braked, but did not reckon with the curve in the road. According to Walter Bowne who was following behind Mintzer’s Simplex, the car went across the roadway and plunged over the side in a cloud of dust, landing in a four-foot ditch alongside the tracks.
Patterson was thrown headlong into a pile of rocks. He was found under the front wheels of the car with multiple fractures of the skull and jaw. The 25-year-old “Mintz” suffered three broken ribs and internal injuries. Baillargeon sustained a fractured thigh, while Eyre was thrown 50 feet into a wire fence and suffered only minor injuries. Patterson was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital in Medford where an operation to save his life was unsuccessful. He never regained consciousness and died the following afternoon, with Nannie at his side. He was 40 years old. She accompanied Stewart’s body back to Chicago for services and burial at Graceland Cemetery on June 23, 1915.
Lucio Mintzer was involved in a similar tragedy just seven years later on September 4, 1922, when driving on the Fairfax-Bolinas Road in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. Blinded by the glare of oncoming headlights, Mintzer ran his car off the road where it turned over several times, pinning both Mintzer and his passenger, Theodore Arlington Bell (left), beneath the car. Once again, Mintzer suffered only a fractured arm, but Bell, a well-known politician and attorney was killed instantly.
Nannie returned to Medford from Chicago in July and, thanks to her large circle of friends, was quickly back in circulation with Sonny, 6, at her side or going out for bridge luncheons and dinner parties in the Colony. With the war on overseas, Nannie also did her part by volunteering for a special committee to develop a food preparedness campaign in Jackson County that included checking up on housing and general conditions on local farms. She and Sonny moved out of their rented Oakdale Ave. house and for a brief time lived with the Lincoln McCormacks on Ross Court before moving in with their friends, the Leonard Carpenters at the Veritas Orchards, a 90-acre ranch two miles east of Medford. Stewart’s large fortune, supplemented by rents from the Stewart Building in downtown Chicago, kept Nannie and Sonny comfortably well off, albeit with some legal snags that for several years delayed transfer to Stewart Jr. of a $500,000 trust fund, and to Nannie, a large stake in the Stewart Building.
For all of Medford’s charms, it would appear the educational system was not one of them, at least in Nannie’s estimation, as in the fall of 1919 when it was time for 11-year-old Stewart Jr., to start first grade, Nannie packed up, bade farewell to their Chicago Colony friends, and moved further west – to Berkeley, California. They stayed for a few months at the Berkeley Inn before moving into an apartment on LeRoy Avenue, one block from the University of California campus.
At a time when most women in Nannie’s situation – a wealthy, widowed, 41-year-old, with a young son – might have sought out a comfortable social milieu of bridge, teas, tennis, and other diversions, as soon as Stewart was squared away in elementary school, Nannie herself enrolled in the University of California. She continued to list her residence however, as Medford, Oregon.
On September 17, 1923 a fast moving fire swept across 50 blocks north of the UC Berkeley campus, destroying nearly 600 homes and damaging 1,000 more. The inferno came within a few hundred feet of where Nannie and Stewart lived near the university. The neighborhood was quickly rebuilt and within a year Nannie, with an eye – and taste – for good architecture, had found a new home on Rose Street, half a mile from campus in a planned urban development of single-family homes, duplexes, and cottages designed by Henry H. Gutterson. The homes and gardens were arranged to blend with Rose Walk, a pedestrian pathway created in 1913 by Berkeley architect, Bernard Maybeck, a leader in the Arts and Crafts movement.
Forty-six-year-old Nannie Waller Patterson graduated with honors in the spring of 1924 earning an A.B. in philosophy. She returned to the university’s graduate program that fall, became a teaching fellow in the philosophy department, and by 1926 had earned her Master’s degree, also in philosophy. Stewart graduated from high school the same month and in September traveled back east to begin his freshman year at Yale University, his father’s alma mater.
Nannie stayed behind in Berkeley through the 1927 academic year to complete her teaching fellowship. As soon as she was finished she packed up and moved to New York City to be near Stewart at Yale. At about the same time she was left 300 shares of Continental and Commercial National Bank stock in her uncle Robert H. McElwee’s will (valued at $195,000 or nearly $2.5 million today).
For $225 a month she rented an apartment in The Sevilla at 117 West 58th St., one of the first cooperative apartment buildings in New York. The Sevilla, designed by Phillip G. Hubert, was built at the turn of the century for “people who desire to combine the wants of a hotel life with the comforts and privacy of an individual home” and featured several remarkable amenities including a refrigerator in each apartment cooled by a central plant as well as chilled and filtered drinking water.
Patterson mother and son were invited to spend Christmas 1927 with the Lincoln McCormacks at their country home in Irvington, New York, 20 miles north of Manhattan on the grounds of the Matthiessen estate. Their daughter Madge, had married Ralph H. Matthiessen, a grand nephew of “sugar king” Francis O. Matthiessen and had inherited the 19-acre spread along the Hudson River. Charles Lewis Tiffany’s former summer home was just south of the estate; Washington Irving’s Sunnyside bordered the property to the north.
Victoria (Alys) and Lincoln McCormack had remained in touch since Medford days. The couple had moved from New York in 1910 at the height of the orchard boom, but like so many of the easterners, they too had retreated when the Rogue River Valley’s economy went bust. Although 10 years older, Lincoln, a Columbia University-trained lawyer, had been Stewart Patterson’s best friend and attorney in Medford and continued to mentor and advise Nannie and Stewart, Jr. who called the McCormacks “Mumma and Puppa” respectively.
At Christmastime, while at the McCormacks in Irvington Nannie suffered what was at first thought to be a severe sciatica attack, and was rushed to the Tarrytown hospital. By the middle of January her condition had worsened and it was determined by the doctors that rather than sciatica, she had suffered a complete nervous breakdown.
In a letter to Henry J. Fairweather, the trustee of the Stewart Patterson trust, Lincoln McCormack requested Fairweather’s help in sorting out Nannie and Stewart’s need for ready cash and payment of outstanding bills as “since that time she has been unable to comprehend any business matters and also to sign her name to checks or other documents.” Stewart, the dutiful son, came up every weekend by train from New Haven to be with his mother and required both travel money and his monthly allowance.
Nannie spent the early months of 1928 at the Desert Sanatorium in Tuscon, Arizona and had recovered sufficiently (despite spraining an ankle) for the two of them to sail to Europe on the Empress of Scotland in late June. She spent most of the time in Paris while Stewart went off to Amsterdam to take in the summer Olympics. They returned in time for Stewart to begin his junior year at Yale where he was majoring in math and chemistry and the star center on the Bulldog’s varsity basketball team.
With Stewart back in school, Nannie, at 50, set out on what would become the next adventurous phase of her life by accepting an invitation from an old acquaintance, Jessica Wakem McMurray, to visit her 800-acre Muleshoe Ranch near Wilcox, Arizona. With continuing health issues Nannie was no doubt attracted by the promise of mountain air and the curative, 115-degree hot springs. But Jessica McMurray, a tall, artistic, British-born divorcée with plenty of money and interesting social connections must have added color and intrigue to the prospect of venturing to a remote Arizona ranch in the fall of 1928. Nannie stayed until Christmas, enjoying the soothing mineral hot springs and going on horseback rides and picnics with her new companion.
Jessica McMurray, was four years older than Nannie, but they had known each other from debutante days and the social swirl of Chicago and, later, from visits to Cleveland, Ohio, where Jessica and her husband, Max McMurray had resettled around the turn of the century. While Nannie and Stewart Patterson were busy starting anew in Medford, the McMurrays had become firmly established in the business and social life of the booming coal and steel city along the shores of Lake Erie.
Jessica, either out of boredom, patriotism, or to escape a troubled marriage, near the end of World War I had volunteered with the Red Cross. In early 1919 she returned from France to an empty lakeside mansion and to discover her husband had left his job and decamped to California with a much younger woman from the other side of the tracks. Jessica filed for divorce, received a healthy settlement in 1919, and sold the home and property on Lake Shore Boulevard. For the next several years, Jessica lived with relatives and friends on the East Coast and made frequent trips to visit her niece, Theresa Higginson Rucellai in Florence, Italy, as well as traveling extensively elsewhere in Europe, Greece, and the British Isles. She also went on several expeditions to the mountains of Arizona and became captivated by the beauty of land and its rich Native American history. Despite injuries suffered in a terrible fall from a horse on a steep canyon trail in 1926, Jessica returned to the Galiuro Mountains of southeastern Arizona in the spring of 1928 and bought the Muleshoe Ranch, some 35 miles by dirt road from Wilcox.
The main ranch house had three long wings surrounding a central courtyard that overlooked Hot Springs Wash. According to Arizona historian Erik Berg, “Jessica turned the northern wing into bedrooms with a small morning room and art studio for herself at the end. She expanded the southern wing into a large living room with a huge fireplace and well-stocked bookshelves and an adjoining kitchen and dining room. The middle section became storerooms and bunks for hired cowboys. Rooms were decorated with fine art, travel souvenirs, and her own paintings.”
She quickly made plans to run cattle and to develop the mineral hot springs into a health spa, hoping to attract paying visitors from the Midwest and East Coast as the ranch had before the turn of the century, the latter aspect of the scheme cut short by the market crash of October 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression with a reverse economic consequence: friends and family came often and stayed for weeks and even months.
Nannie, however, decided to make the Muleshoe her permanent residence, giving up the expensive New York apartment at the Sevilla and moving in with Jessica, a rather “colorful” arrangement that raised eyebrows among her extended family, according to Trigg Carry, a great nephew and grandson of Trigg Waller, who says they were seen as “living in a different world.”
In December 1929, apparently as yet unscathed by the Wall Street crash, Nannie returned to New York, this time staying in style at the Barclay Hotel on the East Side where she socialized with friends over luncheons and dinners and hosted afternoon bridge parties. As soon as Stewart was out of Yale for his Christmas vacation she spirited him away to Winter Park, Florida, for the holidays.
When Stewart went up to New Haven for his final semester, Nannie returned to the Muleshoe Ranch to spend the early months of 1930 soaking in the Arizona sunshine and mineral hot springs and invited her old Chicago friend, Alice Adams Gunsaulus, to come out from La Jolla to spend the month of March.
Such tranquility, however, was to be short-lived. An unfortunate misunderstanding between Nannie and Jessica that winter, says Trigg Carry, set the stage for a major falling out between the two companions. While Jessica was in Florence, Italy, visiting her niece, the Countess Rucellai, Nannie wrote to ask if she could build a small cottage near the hot springs. Jessica agreed. When she returned to the Muleshoe in early May she was outraged to discover Nannie had built an extravagant, two-story stone lodge of 10 rooms, with private hot tubs on the lower level next to the swimming pool. Nannie was promptly asked to leave.
With the depression in full swing, her income sharply reduced by dwindling rents from the Stewart Building, Nannie began an odd, peripatetic lifestyle, living out of a suitcase as she hopped between the homes of relatives and friends who would have her.
She decamped first to New York and New Haven for Stewart’s graduation in mid-June, and from there to northern Michigan and the lakeside cottage of her Waller cousins where she enjoyed a full summer of Harbor Point social activities as well as tennis, golf, and sailing on Little Traverse Bay.
In the fall, still persona non grata at the Muleshoe, Nannie arranged to stay in New York for three months at the apartment of an old Chicago friend, Eleanor Hall Winterbotham, who was spending the winter in Paris and Warsaw.
Time and distance seems to have mellowed Jessica’s anger because Nannie returned to the Muleshoe in the spring of 1931. Nannie’s penance for her transgression – most likely voluntary – was to pay the annual property tax bill associated with the lodge (she continued to do so until 1947). That May, the rift all but forgotten, Jessica deeded to her companion an adjacent parcel of land that included Bass Canyon and Nannie bought the ranch a mile to the north, which included a homestead with a three-room adobe house, nearly 100 head of cattle, horses, and its own brand.
Young Stewart, meanwhile, a year out of Yale was not in a rush to start a career, nor had he distinguished himself as a model citizen. In September 1929 he and a friend driving in St. Paul, Minnesota, had hit and killed a pedestrian. Rather than giving his Yale address to the authorities, Stewart listed his residence as the Muleshoe Ranch, an oversight that delayed dealing with the deceased’s family’s claim by nearly a year. In July 1931, at the height of prohibition, he and a couple of friends were arrested in Julesburg, Colorado, for transporting two and a half gallons of alcohol. The young men were on their way to a vacation in Medford, Oregon.
Lincoln McCormack later wrote to Nannie regarding young Stewart that “I agree with you in hoping that soon he will devote himself to some serious activity that will bring into play, and therefore develop, the talent that he undoubtedly has. I am no great admirer of a strictly business career, but I think, taken in moderation, it is a great educator and developer and holds out the possibilities of enjoying the freer and larger life as he grows older.”
In the summer of 1932 Nannie had migrated east to stay with her ailing Uncle Will (William M. McElwee) in Lexington, VA, along with two younger cousins recovering from whooping cough. Lincoln McCormack tracked her down there and in a September letter wrote: “We were very glad to hear from you this morning, for we had commenced to believe that you might be wandering again and were afraid that you did not expect to be in New York this fall, but it appears that we were slightly impatient. When you do leave and come North, we want you to stay with us. It will quiet your nerves after all the sickness the McElwee family have been going through this summer.”
By September, Nannie and Stewart had moved up the East Coast to spend a few months with an old Chicago friend, Marion Ream Vonsiatsky, and her much younger husband, Ansastase (Alec) Vonsiatsky, at Quinnatisset Farm, their 224-acre estate in bucolic Thompson, Connecticut, about 60 miles southwest of Boston.
Marion Buckingham Ream, a petite, lively, clever Bryn Mawr alumna, was the daughter of Norman Bruce Ream, a livestock and grain merchant who founded 22 major companies and served as a director on the boards of the Pullman Company, US Steel, The National Biscuit Company, and International Harvester, among others. When he died in 1915 she inherited a one-seventh share of his $40,000,000 estate.
Marion met Vonsiatsky in Paris in April 1921 where she was working as a Red Cross nurse for the American Expeditionary Forces’ Army of Occupation. She was 44 and recently divorced from her first husband, Edmund Stephens. Vonsiatsky, a Polish commoner with White Russian pretensions, was 22. They met at the Folies Bergères and somehow managed to communicate – she spoke no Polish or Russian, he knew a few words of English. Marion’s generous spirit and maternal instinct apparently overcame the language barrier and he became her personal humanitarian relief operation.
Vonsiatsky had served with the anti-Bolshevik forces following the October Revolution in 1917 and had come to Paris from Yalta after recovering from typhus and frostbite. He had been nursed back to health by Lioubouff (Lyuba) Mouromsky, the daughter of a wealthy Russian capitalist who had fled St. Petersburg. The two were married in Yalta before Vonsiatsky took off alone to find work elsewhere.
When Marion bumped into the dashing Vonsiatsky he had already forgotten his young Russian wife and was in the midst of an affair with Germaine Charley, a French actress. Mlle. Charley had not only found Vonsiatsky’s job as a stagehand at the Folies, she also was conned into paying for the entire Mouromsky family to travel to Paris from the Ukraine where Vonsiatsky introduced Lyuba as his “cousin.”
Marion’s fortuitous timing, philanthropic nature, and massive fortune proved far more attractive to the penniless Pole – and offered a way out of his domestic predicament in Paris. She had little trouble in persuading Vonsiatsky to cross the Atlantic in August 1921, helping to pay for his passage on the S.S. France and, through her late father’s many connections – including a direct line to US Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes – promising to secure American citizenship and a job (a short-lived stint in the chemical department of the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia starting at $8.50 a week).
Once in the United States, Vonsiatsky contrived to have the first marriage annulled by the Russian Orthodox Church and he and Marion were quietly married in New York in February 1922. When the first Mrs. Vonsiatsky caught wind of the annulment and subsequent marriage, she sailed for New York on the Berengaria in January 1923 and upon arrival sued Marion for “alienation of affections” asking for $500,000 in compensation as well as alimony payments from Vonsiatsky. Powerful Ream connections helped squelch the scandal and forced dismissal of the suit.
The couple moved to the quiet Connecticut countryside and into Carolyn Hall, the palatial mansion built by her father in 1905 and still occupied by Marion’s mother. When Mrs. Ream died in 1924, Marion bought a 224-acre dairy farm just down the road, and directly across from her father’s private nine-hole golf course. The white, three-story house at Quinnatisset Farm (latter dubbed “Nineteenth Hole” by the golf-crazed Vonsiatksy) was where Nannie and Stewart in their depression-era wanderings would comfortably settle for the fall and winter of 1932.
The two women made plans to return to Arizona after Christmas. Marion had once enjoyed a month with Nannie at the Muleshoe in early 1930, and was most likely present during construction of Nannie’s architectural faux pas. They set off in January 1933 in Marion’s Cadillac touring car on a nine-day, cross-country road trip to the Bass Canyon Ranch (with two days’ rest in New Orleans) stopping to see various McElwee cousins along the way. With Nannie’s cash still tied up in diminishing Stewart Building leases, the ever-generous Marion likely paid all travel expenses. In letter to Lincoln McCormack soon after arriving in Arizona and preparing to receive a slew of East Coast visitors, Nannie acknowledged that the simple life at Bass Canyon was preferable for the time being, writing, “…I’ve had to count the pennies & found the less I was in New York the better for me and them.”
Within a few days though, Nannie, had abandoned her guests and checked in again at the Desert Sanatorium in Tucson where she remained for nearly a month. “I have been ill,” she wrote McCormack, “threatened with pneumonia and later pleurisy, but I am up now though quite weak and have passed any danger of a recurrence of my sickness…We have had very cold and unseasonable weather for this time of the year, and I think probably I caught the germ in the heat of New Orleans and the weather here brought it to a head. It is rotten luck, but as Hoover says – “it could have been worse.”
With Arizona’s summer heat on the way, she returned to the East Coast, spending the first week of May 1933 at the Weylin Hotel in New York before heading up to Connecticut for the entire summer with Marion and Alec Vonsiatsky. She wrote to McCormack in July about tax, legal, lease, and loan issues plaguing the Stewart Building in Chicago: “it looks bad for my income – dear old Marion says I’ve got to stay here now ‘til things are settled – what a friend!”
Not only was country life at the Vonsiatskys comfortable and economical for Nannie, it was also far from dull. Vonsiatsky’s appetite for alcohol, younger women, and lively parties by then was legend in Thompson, though at 58, Nannie’s role was to keep Marion separately entertained among their own circle of friends rather than fraternizing with her flamboyant host – who was also heavily involved in his own international intrigue.
Vonsiatsky that May had founded the All Russian Fascist Organization, bankrolled by an annual allowance of $25,000 from Marion’s enormous fortune. He established the group’s headquarters at the Connecticut house and began assembling an arsenal of modern weaponry in a fortified bunker on the property. A steady stream of White Russian émigrés and others came to meet with Vonsiatsky and to take part in military training to help him prepare his “holy crusade” against Bolshevism and to restore the Czar.
“We have a houseful of guests, as usual,” Nannie signed off nonchalantly in her July 1933 letter to “Puppa” McCormack.
An admirer of Adolf Hitler, Vonsiatsky designed the group’s emblem, a red banner bearing a white swastika on a blue field, topped by the Russian double eagle – a different color scheme than the Nazi swastika, he was quick to point out. Armed, swastika-uniformed men roamed the grounds of the estate that was also protected by large German shepherd guard dogs. And in a rather odd attempt to spread his propaganda, Vonsiatsky reportedly captured a dozen snapping turtles and painted the white and blue swastika on their shells before releasing them into the surrounding woods.
That summer, Stewart Patterson wrote to his mother concerning Vonsiatsky and his activities. “As for Alec, I agree with you that it may seem far fetched to us, all these goings ons, but he may be doing and probably is doing a great deal more than we even dream of. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see him become quite a figure. Of course we haven’t any of the inside, or any grounds for seeing just what is going on, but something is, that’s a cinch.”
(Vonsiatsky’s numerous trips abroad, anti-Soviet propaganda production, and paramilitary operations continued apace until 1942 when he was indicted, tried, and found guilty of espionage and plotting a coup against the US government. He was jailed in Springfield, Missouri until being released for good behavior in February 1946. Apparently to spare Marion further embarrassment – but without divorcing – he moved to Florida where he died in 1965).
In the summer of 1934, due in large part to young Stewart Patterson’s doggedness, the long-standing financial issues associated with the Stewart Building leases, loans taken out against Nannie’s estate, and back rents were finally resolved. Although money was still tight the trickle that began to flow allowed Nannie and Stewart to breathe easier.
Stewart wrote to “Puppa” McCormack crowing about his handling of their affairs and to let him know that his mother had gone off to spend some time with the Leonard Carpenters in Medford – via air:
“I rather guess that you were somewhat surprised to get a telegram from mother asking where I was, or when I had left. Mother had arrived in Chicago Saturday afternoon from Virginia, and I pulled into town on Sunday evening. Monday morning I covered all the points with her, and as she was going to be quite late in getting to Medford, I suggested that she take the airplane. As we had covered all the points, and as she agreed to all of them, neither she nor I could see any necessity of her personally going down to the bank. Consequently mother completely repacked and so forth, and I drove her out to the Municipal Airport where she caught the United Airlines ship for Salt Lake City, Portland, and Medford at 3:45 in the afternoon. I received a telegram from her later in which she said that the trip was thrilling, and that she had arrived at nine o’clock the following morning in Medford! It is hard to comprehend.”
After a Christmas trip with Stewart to stay with friends in Coral Gables, Florida, Nannie returned to her Bass Canyon Ranch. There, with her modest income restored, the rural Arizona ranch lifestyle provided a modicum of comfort and social status in the middle of the Depression. With horseback riding, fresh air, mineral hot springs, and relatively few expenses – other than for her two cowboys, horses, and cattle – she was able to graciously repay friends like Marion Vonsiatsky and other visitors for their generosity and hospitality back east. She made the last payment on the ranch in June 1936 with proceeds from her sale of cattle and some shares of Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust stock.
For the next several years she continued to entertain friends fleeing the cold East Coast winters – both Marion and Alec Vonsiatsky spent a month’s vacation at the Bass Canyon Ranch in February 1937 – and Nannie would escape the summer heat by summering in New York or Connecticut. But in 1941, at the age of 63, the glamour of running cattle and living in the Arizona mountains had worn thin. When Stewart Jr. joined the Army in March of 1941, Nannie leased out her ranch and moved to Tucson. (Jessica McMurray stayed on at the Mule Shoe where she died in 1950 at the age of 76)
As might be expected, Nannie’s discerning eye led her to an elegant Southwestern home in the Williams Addition – an unusual 160-acre subdivision on the outskirts of town that had been created in 1927 by a draftsman from New Jersey who had never seen the land. The quarter square mile of desert on the corner of Broadway and Craycroft had been transformed into a gracious, radial, Versaille-like plan with a small park in each corner and spoke-like roads converging on a green central park with a fountain. The novel development included 24 homesites ranging from 2.5 to 8 acres set out among the native pinons, eucalyptus, and tamarisk trees.
The house Nannie bought, known as “Desert Acres,” had been built in 1935. It featured thick adobe walls, stone-tiled floors, and a cathedral ceiling in the massive 33 ft. x 33 ft. living room – with Native American good luck markings carved into the heavy wooden beams. The house had eight bedrooms, seven baths, and included a two-bedroom guesthouse. A bookshelf in the library opened into a secret inner room. The patio garden, with its outdoor fireplace, was planted with beds of roses, low hedges of citrus, eucalyptus, and arbors of climbing vines.
With a comfortable home base in Tucson, for the first time since her stint as a student and philosophy teacher in Berkeley in the 1920s, Nannie was able become part of a real community and blossom as the civic leader she may have always been destined to be. She volunteered with the local chapter of the Red Cross, joined the League of Women’s Voters, the Tucson Garden Club, the Tucson Country Club, and mingled with the horsey crowd at the Moltacqua Turf Club. During the war years, no doubt influenced by her Vonsiatsky connection, she gave talks to local groups about the conduct of the war in Europe and the Far East as well as post-war recovery plans.
She also became a patron of Tucson’s Saturday Morning Musical Club, an august arts organization founded in 1907, and soon was sponsoring recitals and orchestral performances by internationally celebrated musicians in her grand living room.
When Arizona’s summer heat became too oppressive, Nannie and Stewart (who never married and never seems to have worked after his 20s) travelled to New York, Chicago, and Virginia as in old times to visit friends and family. Supported by her resurgent trust and cattle sales, they were finally able to stay again in the fashionable hotels frequented before the Depression. After the war, as alternative to traveling back east for the summer, Nannie bought a house in La Jolla Shores, California, designed by modernist architect, William P. Kesling. The La Jolla house was a short walk from the beach and not far from the home of her niece, Mary Waller Carry, and her old Chicago friend, Alice Adams Gunsaulus.
Stewart and Nannie spent the fall of 1952 in La Jolla, waiting “until the cooler breezes blow over Tucson before returning to their casa in Williams addition,” as reported in a September society column in the Tucson Daily Citizen.
Nannie, who had been suffering from high blood pressure for several years, died of heart failure at her home on Christmas Eve, 1952. The headline of her obituary a few days later in the far-off Pittsburgh Post Gazette appropriately read: “Colorful Woman Rancher Dies at 74.”
Although Stewart inherited the historic 3,340-acre Bass Canyon Ranch (which he sold to the Nature Conservancy in 1984) and the homes in Tucson and La Jolla, he drifted off to New York and later moved to Chicago where he died in 1988.
TUCSON TWIST: In a curious postscript, Nannie’s Tucson home, left vacant and deteriorating by Stewart, was auctioned off for back taxes in 1958 for $900. The buyer: Marion Vonsiatsky, Nannie’s old friend and a winter visitor to Tucson since the early 1950s. Marion, at 81 and nearly deaf, spruced up the house, brought the garden back to life, and reinstated the Saturday Morning Musical Club’s piano recitals. Marion Vonsiatsky, like her dear friend Nannie Patterson, died at Desert Acres on November 11, 1963 and was interred at West Thompson Cemetery, not far from Quinnatisset Farm in Thompson, Connecticut.
Trigg McElwee Waller, Nannie Waller’s tall, athletic elder brother was born in Chicago on May 12, 1876, the first child of James Lee and Nannie McElwee Waller. From the age of nine, when his mother died, until he went away to Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, he and Nannie were raised by their Aunt Flora McElwee in Lexington, Virginia.
His father, and uncle, William Waller, both prominent Chicago businessmen and accomplished sportsmen at the turn of the century, in their youth had played for the Lake View Brown Stockings, a famous amateur Chicago baseball team that often bested the great professional teams of the 1870s. Trigg Waller, a southpaw, inherited those baseball genes and was the star catcher on his Centre College team.
Returning to Chicago to start out in the family coal company, Waller turned to bowling and golf in his free time. He became an amateur champion in both sports – a remarkable feat considering he had lost his right eye in a fishing accident as a boy. Waller and his sister (back from Mary Baldwin College) were easily reintroduced into the swirl of Chicago society and quickly became a popular duo at young people’s dinner dances, teas, and holiday receptions in the city – and found themselves invited to lively summer gatherings further afield, like the Adams’ house party in Beloit.
Waller quit the family coal business for a brief stint in Chicago real estate before finally settling on a banking career. William McElwee, Waller’s uncle, was a director at Chicago’s Continental National Bank and secured a position for his nephew as manager of the vaults, a division Waller would remain with for the rest of his life.
An active social life led Waller to Frances Irene Warren in 1904 who he wooed and married on June 3, 1905 at Chicago’s Central Church. Alice Adams’ father-in-law, The Rev. Frank W. Gunsaulus, officiated. They settled down in Highland Park, just north of the city where a daughter, Mary Trigg Waller was born in August 1908.
For the next 20 years, Trigg and Irene Waller led a conventional, suburban life, raising their daughter and enjoying the comforts afforded them by social standing and a steady job. Waller lived for weekend golf at the Exmoor Country Club, just a few blocks from their home. For years he was team captain at Exmoor, secretary of the Western Golf Association (1909), and known as the Champion Southpaw golfer of Chicago. Following one of Waller’s many tournament victories, Joe Davis of the Chicago Daily Tribune described him as “tall enough to reach a cooler strata of air than ordinary mortals.”
In an otherwise unremarkable career, Waller in 1922 developed a revolutionary device for tracking visits to safe deposit vaults. The device, installed for the 16,000 safe deposit vaults in use by the Continental and Commercial Safe Deposit Co., stamped a ticket for every person entering the vault. The ticket gave the serial number, told whether the recipient was a man or woman, gave the time of entering the vault, and the key number, all of which was stamped out in a few seconds.
On February 6, 1927, Waller was rushed from the Chicago Club to Washington Park Hospital where he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 50 years old.
John Hackett Adams, Alice’s elder brother by five years, was born on November 20, 1873. A graduate of Cornell University (’98), like so many others at the time, he headed west to Seattle, Washington, where he became the general manager of a valuation engineering company.
He was briefly married to Elizabeth Dalton in 1901 and fathered two children – John H. Adams, Jr. and Nathanial Dalton Adams – but he abandoned them in Indiana to return to Seattle where he remarried, became an attorney, appraiser, and archery expert. He retired to San Diego in 1941 where he died in March 1949.
Spencer MacDougall Brown
Spencer MacDougall Brown was a Psi Upsilon fraternity protégé of Philip Rand and a very recent University of Chicago dropout.
The blond, blue-eyed 19-year-old clearly caught Stella’s eye, featuring prominently in several pictures from that July 1898 gathering of friends in Beloit, most notably as the handsome young fellow lounging on the Adams’ living room sofa – and receiving the undivided attention of Nannie Waller.
Brown was born in Humboldt, Kansas on November 28, 1878 to Mary MacDougall Brown and Spencer Allen Brown, a Chicago lumber and grain merchant. A younger sister, Gladys, was born in 1887. Until S.A. Brown & Co. failed during the Panic of 1893 his father’s lumber firm had been one of the Midwest’s largest, with nearly 100 mills in Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas.
Spencer Brown entered the freshman class at Princeton University’s John C. Green School of Science in the fall of 1895 but withdrew after his first year and returned home, transferring to the University of Chicago. There, residing in the same dormitory as Phil Rand and riding on Rand’s prodigious social coattails, he joined the Ben Butler Club (honoring the celebrated American lawyer, soldier, and politician), helped host the university’s Assembly Informals in 1897-1898, and became a member of Rand’s controversial Omega Chapter of the Psi Upsilon fraternity. In June 1898, after dropping all his classes, and a month before the house party in Beloit, Brown was also initiated as a knight in the Order of the Iron Mask, the interfraternity secret society that edited and published the university annual, Cap and Gown.
Like Rand, Brown clearly excelled in the charm department, but his academic record was far worse, taking Cs for calculus and chemistry and failing every other course in the spring of 1898 save public speaking, drawing, and military drill in physical culture. At the time of his visit to Beloit, he was facing an uncertain future, and likely grateful for the distraction of a summer house party.
Rather than return to school for the autumn quarter of 1898, Brown joined his father’s reorganized lumber business in Chicago first as a clerk (a job that lasted less than two years) and then as a salesman in Joplin, Missouri.
Brown soon tired of Joplin, and in 1902 jumped ship to work for his first cousin, Allen Spencer Brown, also a lumber merchant, in Emporia, Kansas. Yet another move and a new position with the Barr-Dubach Lumber Co. took him to Kansas City in 1905 where he met Grace Enid White who at 18 was nine years his junior. They were married on January 30, 1905. In short order the Browns had three boys starting with Evan in November 1905 (who lived only five weeks) followed by Seymour Spencer Brown in 1906, and Charles Clifton Brown in 1907.
The young family, along with Brown’s parents and sister, Gladys, next struck out for the Pacific Northwest in September 1908 on the Union Pacific’s direct Chicago-Portland transcontinental line. Brown had been lured by the promise of a fresh start with the Buxton Lumber Co., his cousin Allen’s new firm near Portland, Oregon.
The elder Browns took an apartment in downtown Portland a few blocks from the Willamette River, while Spencer and Grace bought a home in North Hillsboro, about 20 miles to the west. Brown joined Buxton Lumber as a “tallyman” or accounting clerk. A fourth son, Edward Foster Brown, was born December 6, 1908.
When Allen Brown left Buxton Lumber and returned to Kansas in 1910, Brown, too, quit and moved his family to Oak Grove, a Portland suburb. Although listed in his University of Chicago fraternity directory as a lumber “merchant” over the course of his career he would work variously as (or at times, claim to be) a salesman, clerk, cashier, bookkeeper, timekeeper, draftsman, attorney, and mechanical engineer for a number of different firms including the Oregon and Washington Lumber Co., the W.S. Lumber & Shingle Co., and the St. Johns Lumber Co.
The demands of a growing household soon were reflected in an August 7, 1910 classified advertisement Brown placed in the Sunday Oregonian for a “reliable woman” in Oak Grove to take care of the three young Brown children, ages 2, 3, and 4. Grace at 23 was a music teacher at the Oak Grove school and pregnant with their fifth son, Stanley A. Brown.
If Brown wasn’t home to help take care of his brood it was because his attentions were focused elsewhere, on his new passion – flying machines.
A grassroots aviation craze had taken off in Portland and across the country in the wake of the Wright brothers’ first manned flight in 1903. For nearly a decade, while the US aviation industry was stalled by a patent war fought in the courts over the Wright brothers’ method of flight control, aviation fanatics from coast to coast feverishly designed and launched their own home-built projects from fields, hillsides, and even buildings. In June 1912, 23-year-old “bird-man” Silas Christofferson made headlines when he took off from the roof of a 12-story Portland hotel in a 1911 Curtiss pusher biplane for a short, eight-mile flight over the city before landing at Fort Vancouver on the opposite side of the Columbia River.
Brown’s ready access to Oregon spruce pine through the lumber business likely brought him in contact with Portland’s flying enthusiasts – and he, too, caught the bug, designing his own aeroplane a few months before Christofferson’s flight.
Many aspiring designers like Brown, well aware of the Wright brothers’ legal battles, applied for both British and US patent protection. Brown’s patent No. 1.032,587 filed in February 1912 and patented on July 16, 1912 was for “an aeroplane comprising a pair of upwardly inclined wings united at their lower edges, each wing being broken into transversely disposed sections and each alternating section along the inner edge of each wing being inclined upwardly to meet that of the other, thereby forming a truss-like framework.
Brown’s oddly shaped aeroplane was one among hundreds being designed and patented, to the point that the editor of Aeronautics Magazine in September 1912 prefaced the list of patents gone to issue saying:
“It would take an entire issue of the magazine to abstract in a full and clear manner the claims of the majority of the patents issued. In a great many cases it is even impossible to give in a few lines what sort of an apparatus the patent relates to. In most instances we have merely the word “aeroplane” or “helicopter” if such it is. Where it is impossible to indicate the class, even, in which the patent belongs, without printing the whole patent, we have used the word “flying machine.”
Brown’s aeroplane, if ever built, likely never got off the ground. Over the next few years, as Brown often lost or changed jobs, personal and financial woes began to take their toll on his growing family. Brown was either out of work or living on reduced wages from 1914 until early 1916 during a lengthy shut down of the St. Johns Lumber Company. In the summer of 1917 he was sued by Linnet & Emmons, an Oak Grove grocer for $280 in unpaid bills. By winter, things had reached the breaking point. Grace filed for divorce in January 1918, citing “treatment so cruel as to undermine her health and force her to take her four children and leave.”
Shortly thereafter she did just that. Grace, now 31, took up with William E. Ringler, 21, the son of an affluent Portland realtor. They were married and quickly left to start a new life in San Francisco with the four Brown children, now aged 11, 10, 9, and 6. (In 1921 the William Ringlers moved to San Diego where they would live through the Great Depression. By the time Charles, Seymour, and Edward became teenagers, though, they had returned live with their father in Portland. Stanley, the youngest, remained with his mother until he was 20).
In 1918, however, Brown was 40, single, and very much alone in Portland. His treatment of Grace and the children may well have led to an estrangement from his own family; on his draft registration later that fall Brown listed his 11-year-old son, Seymour, as his nearest relative instead of his parents or spinster sister, Gladys, a librarian in Oak Grove. (Brown’s father died in 1924, his mother, in 1930; Gladys retired in 1950 after 40 years of service in the Portland libraries).
If domestically bankrupt, Brown had no shortage of intellect. As with his aeroplane design, Brown, as timekeeper for St. Johns Lumber Co., churned out ideas for improvements, inventions, and new ways of doing things, particularly in relation to the slumping lumber industry. During World War I, Brown had joined the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, a government-sponsored union created to prevent strikes by ensuring better conditions for lumber workers. After the war it continued to function as a patriotic association of mill workers. In April 1921, with the lumber industry reeling from overproduction and many mills silenced, Brown, as secretary of Local 11, District 3, penned a letter to the editor of the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (4L) Bulletin and begged to make:
“…several proposals tending to promote the increased use of lumber…the lumber salesman of today works without the support of any advertising field work intended to affect the ultimate consumer. He asks ‘How is business’ of the retailer and asks his needs in usual yard stock and is through.
Meanwhile the farmer is being educated to sue pressed steel corncribs and many other steel substitutes, while the townspeople have accepted first the cement walk and now the solid cement porch in dwellings, and the substitution of concrete for wood in larger buildings. This has been passed off by the lumberman as inevitable progress. The anti-lumber interests have spent much money and tireless patience to create this very impression.
Let us as 4Ls collect ideas or mere suggestions from the rank and file throwing light on different uses of lumber in order to prepare an effective booklet as part of a 4L propaganda.
Is not the frail, frame construction of houses a mistake? The sizes of lumber in a house have been cut down to the minimum. Some years ago in Portland an effort was made to organize to promote the so-called Norwegian method of house building. The plans received the approval of the fire department, but were not supported by the permit office, and the effort failed for lack of momentum and on account of hard times. The writer has in mind some corrections to objections then cited, and believes that the plan offering so many bright features could be put over by cooperation and advertising. Such specifications would demand heavier construction and increased use of lumber, the dwelling being fireproof, costing no more, and ready for use more quickly – substantial, not cheap.
The writer has other minor plans whereby lumber is substituted for Beaverboard and the like.
Would it not be in order to open a contest for any suggestions, out of which some good would surely come as was the case of the depth bomb in the Great War?”
Later that year Brown and three union colleagues appeared in a photograph in the 4L Bulletin above the heading “Some Prominent Columbia River Fourellers.” Brown, still handsome, though having lost most of his blond hair, was pictured in the St. Johns lumberyard sporting a white-collared shirt, tie, and open vest. What the photo did not show was that his firm’s sawmill had been shut down for months because of over production – what many called “the curse” of the lumber industry.
For the next several years, Brown with sons Seymour and Edward moved between at least five homes, apartments, and residential hotels in downtown Portland and St. Johns. In October 1927 Brown, who had been too old for World War I, joined the National Guard in Portland, listing his profession(s) as a draftsman and bookkeeper.
His son, Charles, was the first to settle down, marrying Margaret Fortune in December 1928 in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland. Spencer Brown was a witness. That same year, Brown, newly reinvented as a mechanical engineer (with ten years’ experience) began working for Peter Swan, a well-known sawmill designer. He helped Swan develop a patent for a flat lumber stacker – a device to build hardwood lumber in tight layers for drying in forced-draft kilns.
The collapse of the stock market in late 1929 led to a sharp decline in residential construction, especially in the California market, and Portland’s timber industry was hard hit. Lumber mills cut their production by nearly two-thirds, small businesses went under, the number of unemployed soared to some 40,000, and Portland’s homeless created one of the largest shantytowns in the nation. Brown, like so many others, was forced to sell his home and move in with his recently married son, daughter-in-law, and infant grandson. A college dropout scrambling for work at 52, Brown somehow made it into the 1930 census as an attorney with a Portland law firm. Overnight, Brown had either parlayed his patent experience and used his public speaking skills to talk his way into a new profession and position, or more likely, made it up out of whole cloth for the census taker.
A few months later, Brown, ever the innovator, designed and patented a new type of drying kiln for hardwood lumber. The Brown kiln, according to The Timberman, a trade journal,
“…employs a very radically different method of creating circulation. It is somewhat difficult to develop an opinion of the possible efficiency of the kiln without some experimental data as a background. To date, to the knowledge of your committee, no Brown kiln has been built and any consideration of its merits must be purely speculative. It consists essentially of a chamber normally containing two endwise piled lines of trucks, flat stacked with the trucks spaced something like four feet apart. In the four-foot space between truck loads are suspended from cables running through the roof two flat vanes moving in opposition to each other, vertically.”
Like his aeroplane, however, there is no record of Brown’s kiln design ever leaving its drafting paper.
By 1932 Brown and sons Edward and Seymour once again had a small home and jobs; Edward as a machine operator, Seymour as a truck driver. Brown, in his latest iteration, had become a draftsman for Horace Barnes, makers of sawmill machinery for the lumber producing industry. Unfortunately the job was short lived. The firm had been in decline for some years under increasingly disinterested management and in 1933 the directors of Horace Barnes became so discouraged they abandoned the firm leaving Brown and his fellow employees out in the cold at the height of the Great Depression.
Literally banking on one of his rare academic successes — military drills taught by U.S. Army officers detailed at the University of Chicago — the unemployed Brown was buoyed by his service in the National Guard in Portland (1927-1936), consistently receiving “excellent” character reviews and drawing pay for his service in the 82nd brigade having been promoted from private supply sergeant. The timing of federal pay checks arriving in January 1933 and Brown’s return from a two-week absence due to influenza was noted wryly by a wag at headquarters who suggested that clearly “pay day had nothing to do with his recovery.”
Sometime in the mid-1930s, Seymour, having found work as an operator at a Portland power company, married Margaret Haskell, a divorcee with a 10-year-old daughter. He moved out of his father’s house but remained close by in Portland. Charles, though, who had lost his sheet metal business, left Portland with his young family for new opportunities in Los Angeles where he eventually became a hotel painter. Brown’s youngest son, Stanley, also moved to Los Angeles from San Diego with his mother, Grace and stepfather, William Ringler.
Tragically, in April 1936, Brown’s son, Edward died in Portland at the age of 27 leaving behind a young wife, Elsie Ristau Brown.
With few opportunities left in lumber-related firms for a bookkeeper, mechanical engineer, or draftsman in his late 50s – and with two of his three remaining sons in California – Brown obtained an honorable discharge from the National Guard in August 1936 and followed his boys to Los Angeles. He bought a small bungalow on La Salle Avenue, not far from downtown. Stanley, a chauffeur, moved in with his father while Brown dabbled on a new invention; a double-sided interchanging sign.
The idea for this sign – basically graphics imprinted on a mesh of sliding, alternating strips of material – was “to effect a vanishing and merging transition in the interchange of one sign display with another on the same background by altering the relative position of elements of the display structure.” A mechanized system would adjust the strips in such a way that one image would appear when the strips were aligned in one position, and a totally different image would emerge as the elements of the grid were shifted.
Brown was still working on the drawings for his invention when he died in January 1937 at the age of 59. He was buried in a Glendale cemetery under the epitaph, “Beloved Father.”
His son Charles filed the patent in late 1937 and U.S. Patent 2,139,149 was awarded to “Spencer M. Brown, deceased, late of Los Angeles,” in December 1938.
The studious-looking fellow on the steps of the Adams’ house in checkered plus fours clutching his own folding Kodak is Arthur Lawson Goodwillie, a 19-year-old Williams College junior home for the summer in Wisconsin. He sits shoulder-to-shoulder with my grandmother Stella – yet seems far more interested in a coy Helen Shepard to his left.
He was born in Chicago, Illinois, on November 15, 1878 to James Gunn Goodwillie and Stella Medora Johnson, a direct descendant of William the Conqueror via the Pomeroy line. A younger brother, Clarence, was born in 1883. Their father was an executive with the family company, Goodwillie & Goodwillie, the oldest wooden box manufacturer in the country.
With good public high schools few and far between before the turn of the century, Goodwillie’s parents sent him at age 15 from their home in Wausau, Wisconsin, some 200 miles south to Beloit Academy, a private preparatory school for Beloit College. Goodwillie, a brilliant student and fine writer, rather than following the prescribed educational path chose instead to continue his education at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, giving as his reason: “To become, if possible a Williams man.”
Goodwillie thrived at Williams. Within two weeks of his arrival he was elected to head a committee (with two assistants) to devise a class yell. He was a prolific contributor to the college’s various literary publications in his freshman year and later served as the editor-in-chief of the Lit., the school’s literary magazine, editor of The Gulielmensian (Gul), the college annual, and as vice president of the Press Club. He was class poet in his freshman and sophomore years and was elected class “prophet” in his senior year.
The young man must have relished being in the cheery mix of family and friends at the Adams’ July house party having lost his 43-year-old mother to cancer just a few months earlier. (His father remarried Margaret Reed of Collinsville, Illinois, on September 25, 1900).
After graduation from Williams in 1901 Goodwillie lived briefly at home with his father and stepmother in Wausau, then moved to Chicago to begin a career in banking. But like so many other young men at the time, he too, was lured by the prospect of free land, untapped resources, and fortunes to be made in the Pacific Northwest. In the fall of 1903 Goodwillie and Earl Drake, a Williams classmate and Zeta fraternity brother, set off for central Oregon where Goodwillie, capitalizing on his family’s connections and experience in the lumber industry, hoped to make a fast buck. They traveled with their fathers, James Gunn Goodwillie and Col. James Haines Drake, arriving in November at Bend, Oregon where three years earlier Colonel Drake’s brother, Alexander M. Drake and his wife Florence, had established a small settlement.
Drake, a short, wiry Minnesota businessman and investor, had gone west with his wife in 1893 in a covered wagon searching for a healthy place to live – with good fishing. Charles Cotter, the Drakes’ cook, handyman, and guide for weeks had regaled them with stories of a beautiful river with pools of plentiful redband or redside trout, an indigenous rainbow, and eventually brought them to the Deschutes in June 1900 where they camped at a sharp turn in the river known as Farewell Bend. It was at this bend they decided to stay and make their home. Drake claimed a 120-acre homestead along the river and built an unbarked pine lodge that would become the nucleus of the town.
Drake founded the Pilot Butte Development Company in the fall of 1900, surveyed and platted the town between 1901 and 1902, and brought in machinery from Minnesota to set up a sawmill along the river. Using a horse-drawn plow he then laid out the streets in the spring of 1903. He also helped to organize the Central Oregon and Pilot Butte canals to divert water from the Deschutes for agricultural irrigation and settlement so that by the late fall of 1903 when Goodwillie and his traveling companions arrived in Bend the small hamlet had taken on the definite shape of a town.
The young men and their fathers stayed with the Drakes until mid- November before continuing on to Portland to catch the eastbound Portland-Chicago Special home. Arthur Goodwillie, however, captivated by the beauty of Oregon’s high desert, its superb climate (over 300 days of sunshine a year, with pure, dry, mountain air), and enormous opportunities, had no intention of leaving. He saw his father and friends off at the station and returned to Bend where he lived with the Drakes over the winter and started work immediately at the Pilot Butte Development Co. with his new friend and mentor, Alexander Drake.
Goodwillie, like his father, possessed a remarkable intellectual curiosity. He was articulate, bright, and keenly interested in architecture and urban planning. (The family’s Chicago home in Oak Park was surrounded by nearly two dozen Frank Lloyd Wright-designed houses and less than two blocks from Wright’s home and studio). So when it came to building his first home in the spring of 1904, Goodwillie not only knew exactly what he wanted, but no detail or expense was spared. The Drakes sold him two large riverfront parcels adjoining their home site and he began construction of a splendid American Craftsman bungalow. Other than locally sourced stone and lumber, everything for the house – from leaded windows, furnishings, his personal belongings and books, to the smallest piece of hardware – had to be brought over the mountains by four-horse stagecoach or freighter (two covered trailer wagons and a 10- to 16-horse team) as Bend was 100 miles from the nearest railroad terminus of the Columbia Southern branch of the O.R. & N. Railroad. The one-and-half story bungalow featured a simple roofline with dormers, a loggia, three fireplaces with a massive central hearth constructed of tuff, a local volcanic rock. Goodwillie’s handsome home was completed before the end of the summer.
In the meantime, Goodwillie and other young men from the Midwest and East Coast with family funds to invest, were busy taking Alexander Drake’s vision for Bend to the next stage building elegant homes in the townsite, buying up large tracts of undeveloped land, and creating the companies and infrastructure to support the booming development. With his father’s backing, Goodwillie and William E Guerin, Jr., a Cornell graduate and attorney, started the Deschutes Telephone and Telegraph Company (the region’s first), helped expand and improve Drake’s large-scale irrigation system, and in July 1904 incorporated the Central Oregon Banking and Trust Company, capitalized at $25,000. The bank was open for business in a matter of days, operating out of a frame structure that Goodwillie had built with a stone vault until a more secure building could be erected.
A year after Goodwillie’s arrival, 44 new business buildings had been erected Bend’s population had jumped to several hundred; living in tents, boarding houses, and 49 newly constructed homes – a mixture of homesteaders, cowboys, rustlers, Indians, a few prostitutes, and town boosters like Goodwillie who was well-established as one of its founders and intellectual lights. He was president of the Bend Mercantile Co., the Bend Water, Light, and Power Co., and the bank. He was also vice president of the telephone company, postmaster, and secretary and treasurer of the Bend Saw Mill Co. as well as Drake’s Pilot Butte Development Co. that produced all manner of lumber and building products. His civic awareness was reflected early on with an October 1904 donation of 20 volumes to the nascent Bend public school library, the titles ranging from Tom Brown’s School Days to Don Quixote, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the Prologue to Canterbury Tales.
Bend’s rapid rise was noted in The Madras Pioneer’s November 10, 1904 article about the “New Oregon Town:”
“Bend, Crook county, is seven months old; that is, within seven months the town has developed into what is today with its population of 600 or more people. It is quite difficult to estimate the population correctly as there are dozens of newcomers locating there daily.
Bend will never make a New York or Chicago, but will, without doubt, grow into a very active, enterprising little city equal to many of the towns in the Northwest. The location is both beautiful and healthful. If a person desires an excellent place to fish and hunt, it can be found at Bend. If he chooses a health resort for himself or family, he will find Bend a suitable location. If it is for business purposes he can find as profitable an investment in or around Bend as can be had in the great Pacific Northwest.
One thing that looks genuine about the situation at Bend is the fact that the companies, who own and control the town site, and who are pushing the development work, are composed of young men who were prosperous in the Eastern States and who left their homes and closed out their business interests in order to enter larger fields. This is not all. They are putting in their own money to the extent of about $4,000 per day for construction work alone.
A.L. Goodwillie, of Chicago, has the sale of the town site property and has erected for himself an elegant cottage on the banks of the Deschutes River. W.E. Guerin, Jr., of Ohio, is at the head of the Deschutes Irrigation and Power Company, and with his law partner, G.C. Steinemann, has the sale of the irrigated land contained in the Deschutes segregation.
These gentlemen have won the utmost confidence of the public which they justly deserve, and as a consequence, are disposing of the property faster than it can be irrigated. The town buildings are being erected so fast that it is impossible for the Goodwillie mill to turn out sufficient lumber to supply the demands of the people who are waiting with eagerness to complete the business houses already under construction. Oregon needs more such companies to push forward the development of the great resources of the Northwest.”
A month later, on December 22, 1904, the townspeople (all of 117 men claiming residence for 30 days) voted to incorporate the new City of Bend and elected a slate of officers to take over their duties in January 1905. Arthur Goodwillie was elected as the first mayor handily beating out Gerald Groesbeck (a remittance man and son of a New York millionaire), and becoming at 26, the youngest mayor in the country.
After the result of the 86-28 ballot had become known, The Bend Bulletin reported the following day that, “the Bend Cornet Band got itself together and marched to the Goodwillie bungalow and serenaded the victorious head of the ticket. There were music, remarks, and other things suited to the occasion,” including “snow ice cream” made from Carnation condensed milk and ice brought in from 15 miles away.
Four decades later, in a reminiscence sent to the Bend Bulletin, Fred M. Lobdell, a resident at the time, wrote:
“It wasn’t an election, that was a feud. Arthur Goodwillie was a staunch supporter of the Bend ‘Cornet’ Band, Gerald Groesbeck was not…. The ‘band’ I believe, was one of the main contributing factors to the election of Goodwillie as the first mayor of Bend. The organization was composed of little businessmen of the town and each contributed toward his campaign. I happened to be the village sign-writer and I covered the town with posters and painted the banners we flaunted in the breeze, when we stood in six inches of dust and encircled the [main] intersection… and gave evening concerts for several evening just prior to the election…. Our hottest tune we featured was ‘A Hot Time in The Old Town Tonight.’
“The solo cornetist was our town barber, two other cornets blown by the town marshal and a painter; first alto and first tenor were also painters, solo alto, a brick manufacturer; second tenor, a carpentry contractor; baritone and leader had a shoe shop; tuba player, a beverage dispensary, and one of the drummers was a plumber….So it was the ‘Band’ individually and collectively that elected Goodwillie.
“It was alleged at that time,” Lobdell added, “that Arthur Goodwillie was offered a monetary reward if he succeeded in defeating Gerald Groesbeck for mayor, by his father. I was told it was $50,000. If this is true – boy! – that was a lot of money in those days.”
No sooner had Goodwillie taken office in January than he faced his first crisis: an out-of-control land rush created by the release for settlement of a large area south of Bend previously set aside for forestry. The young mayor himself was distracted from municipal affairs by the land grab of an 80-acre tract that he had his eye on for its access to the water power of Dillon falls. A young woman in search of a homestead beat Goodwillie to the punch and with the help of her uncle, overnight had built a cabin to establish her claim. Goodwillie quickly occupied the unoccupied 40 acres of the parcel by building his own cabin and camping out while posting notices on the entire tract so that others could not make a claim in case the homesteader should abandon her property.
Goodwillie was also acquiring land to the east of Bend, staking out numerous ranch properties for agricultural farming and settlement instead of stock raising – and quickly boosting land values – by providing irrigation water from the Deschutes through large-scale diversion projects.
He took a break in March 1905 to visit his father in Chicago and instead of coming directly home he went down to Thomasville, Georgia, for a visit with the Drakes who had taken a house there for two months so Mrs. Drake could recover her health. (The Drakes eventually returned to Bend and stayed until 1911 when Drake, at age 52, sold his Bend house, property, and holdings in the Pilot Butte Development Co. and retired with his wife to the warmth of Pasadena, California).
Upon his return to Bend, Goodwillie, of course, found himself performing other important mayoral duties such as throwing out the first pitch of the 1905 home opener for the Bend ball team as they took on the rival Prineville club and presiding over the town’s three-day Fourth of July celebration, advertised well in advance to include “horse races, baseball games, foot races, and all kinds of sports,” with a grand dance that began on the third and continued non-stop until the evening of the fifth of July with “big money for prizes.”
He also served as one of three directors on the school district board and in June 1905 helped organize a $5,000 bonding proposal to fund a new, four-room, two-story school for the growing number of students – up from 47 in 1904 to 102 in 1905 – the school house “so arranged that a like structure may be added when there shall be need of it, all making a harmonious building of eight school rooms.”
As Bend continued to grow, among other concerns about the rapid settlement of the Deschutes Valley was the reliability and sanitary condition of the water supply since the Deschutes River via its many irrigation canals was the main source of water in the region. With more and more runoff from increased human and animal activity, there was genuine concern about the spread of typhoid fever and dysentery, voiced especially by Urling Campbell Coe, Bend’s 24-year-old physician who blamed an increasing number of typhoid deaths on the town’s open sewage pits.
“Even at the present time there are conditions demanding an organization of the settlers whose object will be to free and keep the river free from contamination from Bend to its headwaters,” Dr. Coe wrote in the Bend Bulletin.
“On five occasions during the past year parties have reported… the presence of the carcass of a dead cow or horse in the river above Bend. The carcasses have always been removed as soon as possible after being reported, not, however, without two or three days’ delay…Several times our mayor has hired a man and team to go ten or twelve miles up the river to remove a decaying carcass from the stream without allowing the public to know anything of the occurrence.”
Urling Coe was both a colleague and personal friend. In addition to his medical practice, Coe served as a director in Goodwillie’s Central Oregon Banking and Trust Co, the two had started a taxi service together, and Coe rented rooms and an office from Goodwillie above the bank. So the young mayor was well aware of Coe’s concern and proactive and scientific in his response. His first step, the installation of four septic tanks to take care of sewage from four private residences in town, including the Drake and Goodwillie bungalows, made front-page news in the Bend Bulletin on June 2, 1905, under the tongue-in-cheek headline: “Drainage for Bend: The Septic Tank Does the Business.”
Given the same, prominent front-page space that day was an amusing report of two adventurous school teachers – Miss Ruth Reid, principal of the Bend schools and Miss Grace Jones, a voice and piano teacher – being surprised by ants while enjoying the beautiful countryside:
“At the Tumalo they sat down on the mossy bank and raved over the beauties of the landscape, the chattering stream, the whispering pines, the singing birds, the massive hills, the cerulean dome flecked with fleecy drifts of cumulous clouds floating like flocks of angels across the – wow, what was that? Certain sharp pinches down below brought the attention of the ladies out of the sky and a hasty examination brought out the fact they had planted their feet in an ant hill and the lively insects were resenting the intrusion with much vim. The intruders lost interest in the landscape and sought refuge on a big rock.”
Later that summer, Miss Reid and Miss Jones, “the Bend schoolma’ams” as they were referred to in the Bend Bulletin gained more notoriety from their 10-day jaunt across the Cascades.
“They were attired in cowboy costume, wore six-shooters and belts of cartridges, had their rolls of blankets strapped on behind their saddles and looked as businesslike as veteran cavalryman. They journeyed 100 miles – to a point six miles beyond Cascadia and within 20 miles of Lebanon – and back, sleeping and eating where they could and viewing the sights of the country. They saw one fierce black bear – but it had been slain by hunters 10 minutes before. They will write a book reciting the thrilling adventures of this 200-mile journey in the mountain fastnesses of Oregon.”
The duo made front-page news again in September 1905 with a humorous story of their weekend exploits with another friend, Anne Midlam, at Miss Jones’s homestead near Lava Butte, 12 miles south of Bend.
“They got there before noon, had lunch in the cabin and put things to rights about the place. About 3 p.m. the necessity of watering their horses and also getting water for the camp came home to them and they started for the river, five miles away. By the time they had watered the beasts and filled water bottles and pails and admired the scenery it was getting dusk, and there they were five miles from camp and the trail a very dim one. They put spurs to their horse and rode at a gallop to reach camp before dark. Several times one or another lost the trail but all managed to arrive duly at camp…. But their hurry had brought them misfortune. The compass which they had been careful to take along to guide them in the pathless wood, was lost. That didn’t matter much, however, for they were safely back to the cabin. But the key to the cabin door was also lost and that door had been securely fastened before the trip to the river. Stout sticks were hunted up and by dint of much muscle the staple was pried out and the door opened. This dispelled the visions of a night in the open woods, supperless and blanketless, with the owls and bears and panthers and dreadful bugs. But the supply of matches then refused to be found and there was another predicament.
In Miss Reid’s staid New Brunswick life there had been nothing to prepare her for this emergency. As principal of the Bend schools the weight of responsibility fell upon her and she thought hard for several moments. Finally she had recourse to literature and remembered how James Fenimore Cooper made camp-fires for his heroes on their hunting expeditions. The girls collected a little heap of dry paper and then stood off, too deliberate aim, shut both eyes and banged away. The shots set fire to the paper sure enough, and all collected about the tiny spark and blew till their eyes started from their sockets; but there was no flame and disappointment and exhaustion claimed all.
One of the girls remembered that Leatherstocking used gun wads to start his fires – the old fashioned rag wad – and she suggested that in this extremity they try to shoot fire into a piece of cloth. She was hailed as a savior. The party suited the action to the word and after the powder smoke had cleared away the flickering spark in the rag was blown vigorously and lo! There appeared a small flame, which soon was fanned into a lusty campfire. This was joy indeed – and another testimonial to the value of good literature and a gun…”
Such a tale would have appealed greatly to the literary Goodwillie and he could not have failed to notice the account and read it with increasing amusement. As a director of Bend’s school district, and prime mover in funding the new school house, Mayor Goodwillie was well acquainted with the young women, having hired Miss Reid and had likely heard Grace Jones’s lovely voice in church. But Grace was still only on the periphery of his busy social circle. He was enjoying being the eligible young mayor with attentions focused on other young ladies like Annie Midlam, Liza Woods, and Catherine Burn, the latter two joining Goodwillie and his friend Urling Coe (with the Alexander Drakes as chaperones) on their own three-week wilderness adventure, camping and hunting bear, pheasant, and duck in the upper Deschutes country.
In December 1905, Goodwillie was unanimously elected to a second term. One of his first acts was to donate 40 acres of suburban land for the city to take for a park and cemetery at the government cost of only $50. He also pushed hard for a high school at Bend, noting that “every week I receive close to 50 letters of inquiry regarding Bend. The first question asked is as to possible railroad construction, and with at least 45 of the 50 the second question is concerning school facilities and churches. This move for a high school calls for no larger tax levy, no additional teachers, and no new rooms – in fact, no extra expense whatsoever. A high school will draw scholars to Bend from outlying districts. I know of at least two at Laidlaw and two at Powell Buttes who will come here next year if we have a high school.”
In many ways Bend was still a wild west town, and even Goodwillie had to carry a gun to keep the rustlers, sheep herders, timbermen, and unruly miscreants off his back as he tried to clean up Bend. He took on gaming interests in Bend’s busy saloons and back parlors with a strict ordinance prohibiting gambling. Twice attempts were made to repeal the ordinance, and both times the repeal was vetoed by the mayor. Another ordinance prohibiting cattle and horses from running loose on the streets of Bend was repealed by Goodwillie who rewrote and helped pass another, more explicit ordinance specifically to keep marauding animals from destroying gardens.
His efforts at Bend did not go unnoticed and he received high praise from neighboring communities, such as this March 15, 1906 item in the Madras Pioneer:
“Mayor A.L. Goodwillie of Bend was a visitor in Madras on Thursday and Friday, going from this place to Prineville Saturday morning. Mr. Goodwillie, who is interested in the townsite of Bend, and also in the lumber business of that place, has the distinction of being the youngest mayor in the state. It might be added that his progressive policy has been largely responsible for the splendid condition of the municipality of Bend, both as to its present financial condition and as to the large number of improvements and public utilities which have been established there.”
If the well-publicized wilderness exploits of the young school teachers, Ruth Reid and Grace Jones, and their love of the outdoors was meant to attract like-minded young men, it seems to have worked by the spring of 1906. In May, Goodwillie and two buddies from Bend, Romeyn D. Wickham and Owen Crocker, escorted Ruth Reid, Grace Jones, and Marion Wiest to Behnam Falls for a day of fishing. The ever-watchful Drakes came along as well to ensure the anglers went after fish.
A few weeks later, the hook was set with a second outing. The local paper noted that “Mr. and Mrs. F.O. Minor and son, Kenneth, Miss Grace Jones and A.L. Goodwillie moved a camping outfit onto the Tumalo Creek near the bridge which spans that creek west of Bend. The ladies will spend many weeks camping in the woods. Messrs. Minor and Goodwillie are dividing the time between their duties in town and the pleasures of camp life.”
Goodwillie’s municipal, business, and romantic interests were sidelined briefly by an appendicitis attack in late May that sent him racing home to Chicago on Memorial Day for the operation and recovery rather than risking going under the knife of his friend, Dr. Urling Coe, in Bend, 150 miles from the nearest hospital.
He returned to Bend in time to host a visit in mid-June by George Earle Chamberlain, Oregon’s popular governor. Invitations had been sent to all the outlying communities to join Bend in receiving the governor with a grand, all-you-can-eat trout barbecue and the town’s population for the event swelled to 600.
According to the Bend Bulletin’s report of the governor’s June 19th visit, the “one thing that impressed the governor to the greatest degree was the remarkable development of this region during the past two years. At that time he had made a visit here. Then he found a few scattering cottages along the river and two or three buildings on the townsite. Now he was entertained in a prosperous little city with well laid streets, beautiful lawns, a fine gravity pressure water system and new public school building suitable to cities many times the size and age of Bend. Where before he found barren desert wastes now he could count prosperous ranches by the score.”
Mayor Goodwillie welcomed the governor and his party with a short speech and then invited them to enjoy the trout barbecue and basket dinner at tables set up on the lawn between the Drake home and the Deschutes River. Glowing Japanese lanterns had been suspended from the trees and “a bevy of Bend’s young girls, decked in dainty white caps and pretty aprons assisted in the serving of the dinner.”
“It had been advertised as a trout barbecue and about 1,500 of these toothsome fish were served to the hungry people, besides many other very edible foods furnished by the ladies of Bend, Laidlaw, Redmond, Rosland Sisters, and the surrounding country in general.” This included black bear steaks for those who did not prefer fish.
(The true number of trout caught over three days by the four members of the fish committee, according to Dr. Coe, was 3,675, “all over 12 inches…. Most of the catch were of the rainbow variety, or redsides, as they were called; but there were some cutthroat, silversides, and Dolly Varden, or lake trout, some of which were nearly three-feet long.”)
Lest the citizens of Bend be alarmed by the quantity of fried trout prepared for the dinner in any way depleting the game supply of the Deschutes, the paper assured it readers “that this number is only about an average week’s catch in this vicinity during the fishing season, it is readily seen with what an abundance of trout this stream is stocked…” A few years later, a limit of 125 trout a day by one fisherman was set, though rarely enforced.
At the end of the day, Goodwillie must have been very proud. For two years he had presided over the transformation of Bend from a tiny hamlet into a thriving, progressive town. The population had increased by over 600 percent during the three preceding years. He had helped finance and direct an ambitious scheme to divert the Deschutes and turn formerly arid, high-desert land into a promising agricultural region. He had worked hard, earned the respect of settlers and developers, kept gambling at bay, invested wisely, and acquired a crop of good friends. Goodwillie, at 28, was also ready to find someone to share his beautiful Craftsman bungalow and start a family. Grace Jones, the bright, adventurous, outdoorswoman and beloved Bend music teacher with the “voice of rare sweetness” surely fit the bill. But in a town as small as Bend where gossip was sometimes the only entertainment, Goodwillie was very discreet.
Grace was two years younger and like Goodwillie, a well-educated, cultured, transplant from the Midwest. She was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on August 4, 1880 to Cora Gill Jones and Arthur W. Jones, the inventor of a match-making machine and owner of the Oshkosh Match Co., a small but increasingly competitive rival of the massive Diamond Match Company. In 1898 Diamond Match bought out Jones paying handsomely for the firm – and the patent for his machine. The company then hired him to supervise the construction of a match factory in Lima, Peru, the only other in South America being in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
During the two years that her father was off in South America, Grace studied at the Oskosh State Normal School, a teacher training school that would eventually become the University of Wisconsin.
She graduated in 1900, the same year as her father’s return to the United States and at the end of the summer the family moved to Maine, where Arthur Jones became treasurer of the Portland Star Match Co. Fortuitously, Grace was given an introduction to Clara Munger, a talented and well-known concert soprano and vocal music teacher originally from Portland but trained in Paris, and was invited down to Munger’s Boston studio to continue her voice training.
Arthur Jones died from an infection in January 1904, leaving the family shaken but comfortably well off. As soon as estate affairs and weather warranted, Grace’s 42-year-old mother and younger brother, George, then 19, packed up the family’s belongings and boldly headed west to claim a homestead near Bend. Grace came out in December planning only to spend the winter. She began offering private piano and voice lessons in January 1905, then took a full-time job teaching school – and never looked back.
Little transpired between Grace Jones and Arthur Goodwillie, at least in public, during the fall of 1906. Grace moved to Portland for the winter, some 160 miles away, to teach, while Goodwillie continued his mayoral routine – still finding time in November for three weeks of duck and pheasant hunting in the upper Deschutes country with his friends the Drakes, Dr. Urling Coe, and two young ladies, Liza Woods and Catherine Burns.
Goodwillie made several trips to Portland in early 1907, taking the stagecoach north in early January, mid-February, and March where, without notice and little fanfare, he and Grace Jones were married on March 26th in St. David’s Episcopal Chapel by The Rev. George B. Van Waters. According to the Bend Bulletin, which got wind of the nuptials three days later, the wedding was “a very quiet one, no invitations were issued, and only relatives were present [Grace’s brother, George, and her mother, Cora]. Mr. and Mrs. Goodwillie left the same day for a trip through California and will return to Bend in three or four weeks.”
The paper went on to note Goodwillie’s distinction of being the youngest mayor in Oregon and his connection with the Pilot Butte Development Co. that “has given him a wide acquaintance through this section, an acquaintance that will wish him joy in his new role of benedict.”
“Miss Jones for some time was a most popular teacher in the Bend schools and has always taken a leading part in Bend’s social life,” the paper added. “She has spent the winter in Portland and will be gladly welcomed back to Bend as Mrs. Goodwillie.”
In late May 1907 the newlyweds returned to Bend to begin their married life in the handsome Goodwillie bungalow overlooking the Deschutes. In due course, that summer Grace became pregnant with their first child, starting in motion a course of events that was to end their idyll in Bend.
When the news reached James Gunn Goodwillie in Oak Park, Illinois, the celebration was tempered by a protective reaction. James Goodwillie had seen Bend three years earlier at its roughest, grittiest, Wild West worst; a frontier town with few modern comforts and even less hygiene, a lasting image far more compelling than Dr. Urling Coe’s fine track record of delivering scores of healthy Bend babies on kitchen tables, piles of alfalfa, and even on the ground without a single case of infection of the mother.
Goodwillie senior, a cultured yet obstinate, opinionated parent from a different century, insisted the young couple return to civilization in Chicago so mother and child could receive reliable medical care. Behind the request to return home, if not plainly spelled out but implicit in its delivery, was the full financial force wielded by Goodwillie’s father. Most, if not all of Goodwillie’s investments in Bend – from his beautiful home, townsite lots, and ranch holdings, to company stocks, and the bank – had been funded with family money. And while promising on paper, they produced little or no income, leaving the couple dependent on his father’s continued goodwill and steady flow of Chicago cash.
For four glorious years, Goodwillie had been an independent, successful, and happy man in Bend – “the happiest four years of my life” – he was to write decades later. He was in love and planning for a family in the home he had built with such care, yet just when all his stars were aligned he was being asked to give up everything. If he remonstrated or considered a long-distance fight, it was squelched. For better or worse, with a baby on the way, they must have reasoned, it made sense. The Goodwillies resigned themselves to the parental edict and quietly made plans to leave.
Goodwillie sold back his stock in the Pilot Butte Development Co. to Alexander Drake and began to wind up his other business interests and municipal affairs. On October 19th he sold the house and two river-front parcels to his friend, Urling Coe, for $3,000. Dr. Coe in turn rented it out to John B. Heyburn, cashier of the Central Oregon Banking & Trust Co., and the young family moved into the Goodwillie bungalow six days later.
Goodwillie resigned as mayor of Bend at the city council’s regular meeting on November 12th, 1907. Four days later the couple slipped out of town. There was no sendoff because it was assumed they would simply spend the winter in Chicago and return to Bend in the spring. “They will be missed by Bend people,” the Bend Bulletin reported in Local Bits. “Mr. Goodwillie has been the town’s first and only mayor and has always taken a prominent part in the city’s government and everything that tended toward its growth, while Mrs. Goodwillie has been popular in school and social circles.”
Upon their return to “civilization” Grace and Arthur moved in with Goodwillie’s father and step-mother in their spacious home on Kenilworth Avenue in Oak Park, an elegant Chicago suburb with wide, tree-lined streets, and there awaited the birth of their baby in the spring.
Grace gave birth to a healthy little girl on April 26, 1908 and they decided to name her Patricia Alice. Goodwillie’s father, however, took a dim view of the name and insisted it be changed to Alice Lawson Goodwillie. “Grandfather, a very decided gentleman, said he thought it was an awful name and terrible to burden a poor, defenseless child with it,” Patricia recalled many years later. “So I was Alice.” (On her Christening day, at age three, Goodwillie’s father asked his son what his granddaughter’s name would be. “She’s Alice of course,” Goodwillie is said to have told his father. “Patricia is all right for a name,” came the response, so at three her name reverted to Patricia Alice).
For the first two years after his return to Chicago, Goodwillie dropped out of view while he and Grace readjusted to living in his parents’ home with first one baby, and then a second, James Gunn Goodwillie, II, who arrived on May 19, 1909. They moved into an Oak Park apartment nearby for a year or so while they designed and built their own home on a large double lot on Park Place in Evanston, about 15 miles north of Chicago.
His career at this point seems to have gone on hiatus as well while he searched for a suitable next act to follow his mayoral and business success in Bend (having held onto all of his prime, townsite lots in Bend, Goodwillie made a tidy profit when he sold them in the spring of 1909).
His business forays in Bend had given him the skills and experience for investment banking, albeit on a smaller scale, and he began selling government securities for the Chicago branch of Harvey Fisk & Sons a prominent New York firm whose office in the Merchants Loan & Trust building put him in close contact with other bankers. Within a few months, however, he was back in Bend apparently entertaining the idea of returning to “his city” as the long-awaited rail line neared completion and the local economy began to pick up steam.
He arrived on March 9, 1910 telling the Bend Bulletin he would “spend an indefinite period.”
“He has been affiliated with a big bond-dealing concern in the East, but the new and wide fame of Central Oregon, coupled with the fact that Mr. Goodwillie still owns considerable property in this locality, brings him back to reconnoiter this field afresh, and possibly to abandon his Eastern connections and return to the West.
“Mr. Goodwillie says Bend is well known outside and there is a very wide and intense interest in the Central Oregon region. He is himself greatly impressed with the progress that has been made here and has unbounded faith in the country.”
Goodwillie took stock of his remaining ranch properties, but a second round in Bend was not to be. He was long since back in Chicago by October 5, 1911, Bend’s “Railroad Day,” when the golden spike was hammered to complete the Oregon Trunk Railway.
That summer he had helped C. Frederick Childs launch C.F. Childs & Co., a firm specializing in United States government securities. Goodwillie became vice president. (The company eventually became the largest purchasers of government bonds in the country). Within two years, however, Goodwillie branched out to briefly run his own investment banking concern, the Agricultural Securities Co., before joining forces with Charles Counselman and eight other prominent capitalists in the summer of 1914 to start yet another new investment house known as Counselman & Co.
With Goodwillie serving as vice president, the firm’s plan, as outlined to The Commercial West, a financial publication, was to “finance sound Middle West corporations requiring new capital and will place the securities with banks, private investors and trustees. It will also underwrite issues of railroad, municipal and industrial bonds.”
One of Counselman & Co.’s more notable but ultimately unsalvageable investments was their 1917 takeover and reorganization of the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. of Newton, Massachusetts, at the time, one of the oldest and most conservative automobile companies in the world. The Stanley, with a noble American pedigree going back to 1896, and a host of firsts – first to climb Mt. Washington and first car to make under one minute on an American race track – had been in full production since 1898, with an average output of about 200 cars a year. Yet as the US auto industry took off, the company had failed to aggressively advertise its automobiles and had lost market share to competitors. The infusion of Chicago capital was aimed at increasing production and sales of Stanley steam cars by expanding the factory, installing new equipment, and launching a new marketing campaign. Production jumped to 500 that first year. (Output declined from 1918 onward and the reorganized company failed to keep up with public demand for faster – and cheaper – cars. The Stanley assembly line closed for good in 1924).
Although Goodwillie’s financial career was on a roll, his domestic life appears to have been spiraling downward. Despite the trappings of a comfortable, suburban home, two clever children, and an attractive, smart, and talented wife, there was discord. His daughter, Patricia, later recalled a great deal of arguing at the Evanston home in stark contrast to her early childhood when her father was charming, fun to be with, and entertaining.
Living as a suburban housewife on the North Shore was clearly not what Grace had signed up for in Bend. And whether she felt isolated, bored, and unhappy or Arthur wanted to trim his daily commute – or both is unclear. Perhaps they even wanted to enroll the children, ages 10 and 11, in a more rigorous academic environment in Chicago. But for whatever reason, in 1919 the Goodwillies sold the Evanston house and moved to a large townhome in the city, just south of Lincoln Park.
In September of 1921, at the age of 43, Goodwillie felt the time was right and the market competitive enough to leave the partners at Counselman & Co. and start Goodwillie & Co., opening offices in Chicago and Milwaukee to handle new investment business in railroad, corporation, and municipal bonds.
The move into the city and the challenge of running his own firm did not save Arthur and Grace’s marriage, and sadly, over the next couple of years the family spent more and more time apart. Goodwillie sailed alone to Britain and Europe in July 1920, returning to Chicago in November. The following two summers, Goodwillie stayed behind while Grace made the Atlantic crossing with the two children returning from Europe in late August and September just in time to drop them off at boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts – James at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy (’27) and Patricia, just down the street at Abbot Academy (’25), one of the oldest girls’ schools in New England.
In the late summer or fall of 1923, possibly on the way back from moving his ailing father to Tampa for the winter (where he died in February 1924) Goodwillie strayed from the straight and narrow for a few cool nights in the mountains of North Carolina at the famed Eseeola Lodge in Linville. On the golf course of the adjacent Linville Golf Club that wound through town, either playing a round or as a spectator, he crossed paths with Margaret Funston Lucado, an attractive red-head, 18 years his junior, and turned on the Goodwillie charm.
Margaret Lucado was the only daughter of Margaret Sandford Glass of Lynchburg and Garland Funsten Lucado (who died in 1904) and a niece of Sen. Carter Glass, (D) of Virginia, the former newspaper editor, Congressman, and treasury secretary. She was born in Lynchburg on August 4, 1895, the same day ironically, as Grace.
The Glass and Lucado families were of solid, old southern roots, though not from among the First Families of Virginia. Like everyone, they had suffered during and especially after the Civil War and for years had lived in genteel poverty. Hard work in the post-Reconstruction years, mostly through coal and banking ventures, coupled with an intense desire to recoup what had been lost, had paid off handsomely for Margaret’s father while Senator Glass’ ascendancy in Washington political circles made for interesting social intercourse. Mrs. Lucado and Margaret lived in a substantial 1902 Georgian Revival brick home in Lynchburg and maintained one of the iconic chestnut bark-covered summer cottages in Linville Mrs. Lucado and Margaret lived in a substantial 1902 Georgian Revival brick home in Lynchburg and maintained one of the iconic chestnut bark-covered summer cottages in Linville (a style invented by architect Henry Bacon who also designed the Lincoln Memorial) where Mrs. Lucado could escape the heat of Lynchburg and her daughter could pursue her passion for golf at the Linville club, the oldest in North Carolina. Earlier that summer 28-year-old Margaret had successfully defended her Virginia State Women’s Amateur Championship title at the Homestead Course in Hot Springs, Virginia.
Goodwillie wooed Margaret from afar then came south to pursue her at Lynchburg in the spring of 1924. On a side trip to Lexington to visit her Gilliam cousins at Washington and Lee University, Goodwillie told her about Grace and the children. Clearly the attraction was mutual or she would not have encouraged his attentions or introduced him to the family, but Margaret was also a proper southern lady. She told Goodwillie in no uncertain terms that she could not see him until he was no longer a married man. He left the next morning.
The death of Goodwillie’s father in February 1924 had removed the only real obstacle to divorcing Grace, but obtaining a divorce in Illinois was not an easy process in the 1920s. Grounds for divorce were limited to adultery, extreme cruelty, desertion for more than two years, or impotence, clearly none of which was applicable. Other states had more liberal laws but they were not universally recognized, making remarriage difficult (if not illegal) at best. Divorce à la française, however, handled in the French courts was an option and Paris in the Roaring Twenties had become a destination for unhappy couples like the Goodwillies who simply needed to break up and move on.
According to Brooke L. Blower, author of Becoming Americans in Paris,
“Each year hundreds of ‘wedlock-worn folks’ with the money and inclination set sail for the capital to end their marriages, where divorce laws were more liberal than those of most American states. Never mind that US courts warned that such decrees might not be recognized stateside, that competing statutes meant that a man might be considered divorced in Paris but still married under New York State law, or that, if he subsequently remarried, he might even be regarded as a bigamist in Connecticut. The ‘mismated’ continued their pilgrimages anyway, and the capital’s ‘divorce mill’ ran ‘full tilt.’ French newspapers did not air society couples’ dirty laundry as the tabloids did in Manhattan or Chicago, and the Paris courts offered quick and discreet proceedings, expedited by American lawyer middlemen who made a fine living helping their compatriots ‘lift the matrimonial shackles.’
American magazines made light of this fad for divorce à la française, painting it as a story about modern-day female emancipation, since wives filed the majority of petitions. Paris appeared as a ‘happy hunting-ground’ for soon-to-be-divorcées dreaming of the alimony they’d have to burn. The city’s ready pool of gigolos, its celebrated opportunities for retail therapy, promised to take the sting out of a failed love affair.”
Out of necessity, a plan was quickly hatched. On April 7, 1924 Goodwillie applied for a new passport and mapped out an itinerary for a summer trip that would take him to the British Isles, Austria, and France. He then proposed Grace take her mother, Cora, and the children on their own summer tour of England, Switzerland, Italy… and France.
Goodwillie sailed to Plymouth on June 14, 1924; Grace, Patricia, Cora Jones, and a traveling companion followed on the Mauretania, leaving for Southampton from New York on July 2 (James Goodwillie, at 15, was probably parked at summer camp in Maine). The two parties leisurely toured the continent until they both zeroed in on the French capital on the appointed day in late July, meeting long enough for Grace and Arthur to obtain their Paris divorce and amicably go their separate ways – Goodwillie sailing home a free man on the SS President Harding in early August, the ladies staying on for another month in Europe.
When Grace and Patricia returned to the United States it was to Andover where she had earlier moved with her mother into a lovely Colonial, just down the road from the children’s schools. (Grace lived in Cambridge in the early 1930s, then after becoming ill moved in with her daughter, Patricia, in Swampscott on the North Shore. She died there on October 21, 1936).
At noon on January 17, 1925, Arthur and Margaret were married in the Raleigh Hotel in Washington, D.C., a few blocks from the White House. He was 46, she was 29, and in the eyes of her proper Virginia family, far too young for the divorced Yankee investment banker from Chicago. In the end, though, the Goodwillie charm must have melted the icy reserve, and the Glass and Lucado families steeled themselves to attend the inevitable union. The simple ceremony, without bridesmaids or ushers, was followed by an elaborate breakfast after which the couple left for their honeymoon in the Bahamas. “Forty pieces but not an orchestra” was how Goodwillie characterized his wedding gift to Margaret – a four-carat, 40-diamond bracelet set in platinum.
For the first year of their marriage they lived in a hotel in Chicago, moving in 1926 to an apartment on fashionable East Delaware Place, just off Michigan Avenue, where a daughter, Margaret (known as Peggy), was born in December. Those early years of round two in Chicago, much like Goodwillie’s halcyon days in Bend, were “very, very happy,” according to Margaret Laurent Gordy, one of four grandchildren from this second marriage, but who only knew him through her mother’s stories. As a little girl in Chicago, Peggy recalled her father reading Mark Twain to her and “laughing so hard he was crying.” He was making good money, they traveled often to New York and Washington, D.C., shared a passion for collecting antiques, Staffordshire china, and other beautiful things. They had a summer cottage on Lake Michigan and took full advantage of Chicago’s pleasures at the height of the Roaring Twenties. With prohibition in full swing, it could even be exciting, as Ms. Gordy recalls being told by her grandmother Margaret. “Oh yes indeed… your grandfather took me to a speakeasy. You went to the door and had to have a password, and you had to drink out of a teacup in case there was a raid.”
In 1927 Goodwillie switched gears to take advantage of the highly profitable though unregulated market in mortgage bonds – securities backed by the value of real estate holdings. While other investment bankers swarmed to sell investors commercial mortgage-backed securities to finance construction of tall, new office buildings gracing the Chicago skyline, Goodwillie started a firm to deal in private, residential mortgage-backed securities.
His American Home Security Corporation offered short-term first and second mortgages to buyers of both single-family homes and multifamily properties. The mortgages were then deposited with the Central Trust Company of Illinois as security for bond issues. His firm subsequently sold the bonds through banks to individual investors with the guaranty of the Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Company. The protection was nominal however, as Metropolitan Casualty, like most insurance companies at the time, had inadequate funds to guarantee the policies which meant that the only real guarantee was the assets of Goodwillie’s firm, representing a fraction of the value of the mortgages financed.
The company also used real estate bonds to finance the construction of residential projects in Ohio and Indiana by investing equity in corporations created to own the developments. A first mortgage on the property and a lien against its net income would be used to secure partially amortized bonds which were then sold to small investors in various denominations from $100 to $1,000.
With homes being sold on easy terms, many to first-time buyers, Goodwillie’s company prospered; his commission-based salesmen knew that volume drove profit for themselves and the bond house. As long as home values continued their rapid rise, all was well. The danger for Goodwillie and others dealing in such securities, however, was that the value of bondholders’ shares, spread across hundreds if not thousands of properties, would be reduced to pennies on the dollar with the slightest downward tick in home values. The stock market crash of October 1929 did just that as demand for homes dropped dramatically due to lower incomes and loss of employment. A tsunami of foreclosures followed shortly thereafter.
Overnight, Goodwillie’s investments in the stock market were worth nothing; within three years most of his firm’s bonds and the mortgages backing them were in default. As the middleman, and very likely without a formal legal division between his own assets and those of the firm, he was on the line for nearly everything. His only option was to liquidate – making the bonds worthless – and leave town in shame.
The Goodwillies moved out of the city and rented a large home on Vine Avenue in Highland Park, where, thanks to the mostly intact Lucado fortune in Virginia, Goodwillie could “retire” and they were able to continue a comfortable North Shore lifestyle with a live-in cook, maid, and nanny for Peggy.
In June of 1933, as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the US Congress passed the Home Owners’ Loan Act to assist homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. The act was amended in April 1934 to guarantee the bonds of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (used to pay for the defaulted mortgages) and to create a new, reconditioning division with some $300 million available to homeowners for structural improvements not included in the regular loans. In June, after a visit to Washington, D.C., Goodwillie was tapped by the HOLC to supervise the efforts of this new division in Wisconsin and Illinois. By July 10, 1934 his office had received 20,000 applications for home modernization loans in both states, he told the Chicago Tribune, saying he expected “approximately $20 million will be used in Illinois, all of which will be spent locally for wages and materials.”
Goodwillie’s appointment from Washington likely came via his wife’s uncle, Senator Glass, who with Sen. Henry Steagall (D) of Alabama, sponsors of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (that created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to protect depositors in the future), was still very much involved in trying to stabilize the country’s financial system.
As the depression wore on investor-related lawsuits wound their way through Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio courts adding enormous stress to the already immense shame of losing his investors’ money as well as what must have been a galling personal burden – given Goodwillie’s creativity, success, and independence – of having to substantially depend on his wife’s money and connections. The frustration and setbacks made life hard at home, says his granddaughter, Margaret Gordy, “being married to him was difficult. It must have been just awful. In the good old WASP tradition, though, they didn’t talk about things. Grandmother went off to Hawaii in the summer of 1936 just to get a break.” That fall the pressure of pending court cases was too much; “he felt he could no longer live in Chicago and hold his head up,” she adds. A heart attack in 1937 convinced Goodwillie it was time to move to more peaceful surroundings.
The Goodwillies left Chicago for Lynchburg to live with Mrs. Lucado, but only until Arthur – who had no wish to become known as “Margaret Lucado’s husband” – could find a suitable place for them elsewhere. He drove all over Virginia looking for property until he found 180 acres of rolling pastureland on the north side of Charlottesville. He hired Pendleton Clark, a prolific Lynchburg architect, to design a large, stone Colonial Revival set back from the road via a long gravel drive and retained Charles F. Gillette, a noted landscape architect, to create the formal gardens. They named the farm Roslyn after the handsome, turn-of-the-century Goodwillie home in Chicago on Roslyn Place, near Lincoln Park. The family moved in – with Goodwillie’s aging mother-in-law, Margaret Lucado – on Christmas Day, 1938.
Goodwillie at 60 was just as fascinated with how things were put together as he had been as a 26-year-old building his Craftsman bungalow in Bend, and supervised every detail of Roslyn’s design and construction – from the elegant curling mahogany staircase to the installation of a secret antenna to boost radio reception. When the barn was built (he insisted it not be red) the roof supports were designed to be spaced every 18 inches. “Grandfather measured the distance,” Margaret Gordy says, “and finding them off, made them undo the work and install the supports correctly. He was a perfectionist and like his father, a most decided gentleman.”
Unfortunately, he had also inherited his father’s debilitating circulatory condition along with high blood pressure which, exacerbated by stress, cigarettes, and a peculiar diet (his favorite breakfast was fried liver with onions, mashed potatoes; his favorite dessert, chocolate icebox pudding made with ladies fingers, whipped cream, and “a five-cent tin of Hershey’s syrup”) led to a second heart attack in 1938.
Despite being worn down physically, he was not yet ready to retire. Goodwillie lobbied his well-connected uncle-in-law, Sen. Carter Glass, for a meeting with President Roosevelt (who called Glass an “unreconstructed rebel” for his frequent dissents from Democratic Party policies) as well as a government position in Washington. Both requests were rebuffed adding yet more frustration and disappointment to an increasingly embittered man.
Eventually he was able to reposition himself within the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation as director of its Conservation Service and from 1941-1943 he lived and worked in Washington, commuting to the farm on weekends since Margaret refused to pull Peggy from high school or leave their new home in Charlottesville.
Goodwillie’s years of professional experience and personal interest in construction architecture and housing were an ideal match for his next assignment, and unsurprisingly he became one of the driving forces in the development of what is now the Department of Housing and Urban Development by pouring all of his remaining energy into an ambitious urban renewal project for Southwest Washington, D.C. as a war housing measure.
The $5 million “Goodwillie Plan” as it became known, was modeled after the “unslumming” of Georgetown accomplished privately by wives of war workers in World War I. Goodwillie proposed demolishing slums in the Old Southwest, a nine-block test area near the Capitol building, while preserving historical elements such as the stronger, older brick structures and tree-lined streets (like Georgetown), and building modern homes to accommodate the tens of thousands of federal employees swarming into the city for the war effort.
The plan, released in January 1942, “has captivated the imagination of a good many Washingtonians,” Merlo Pusey wrote in The Washington Post on March 10 of that year. “It seems to offer the prospect of wiping out one of the worst slum areas in the Capital and of housing war workers at the same time. Of course, the nine blocks that would be rebuilt under the plan submitted to the Senate Labor Committee would be merely a sample of what could be done. If the experiment should prove successful, reclamation of much larger slum areas could be undertaken,” Pusey added.
Goodwillie’s report described in detail the horrible slum area, noting that “inside bathrooms, kitchen sinks, central heating, and electric lights are luxuries of extreme rarity. Many rooms lack adequate sunlight. With few exceptions, sanitary facilities are installed in the back yard, close to the hydrant from which a dozen families draw their domestic water supply. Service alleys are often littered with garbage and other waste. Interspersed among these brick dwellings is a considerable number of older frame houses. The latter are in a lamentable state of repair, dangerous, unhealthful, vermin and rat infested. They constitute a serious fire, safety, and health hazard and should be demolished, as a slum clearance measure at an early date.”
On paper the timely, comprehensive, and constructive Goodwillie Plan was a winner, especially in wartime Washington. Its fatal flaw, however, was that it proposed displacing 1,200 black families and moving them into temporary, low-cost housing nearby without a clear timeline or guarantee that anything would actually be built and residents relocated before the slums were razed. Under war conditions the emphasis on helping “the colored need” had shifted to “the country needs housing now for whites” who were considered “more needed for the war effort,” according to John W. Ihlder an executive with Washington’s Alley Dwelling Authority.
Others such as Dr. Edward F. Harris, president of the Federation of Civic Associations, warned: “We’ve got to be sure that Mr. Goodwillie won’t turn out to be a bad Johnnie. We residents of Southwest Washington have been burned and we dread fire. Neither do we want a lot of pie-crust promises.”
Ultimately, the uncertainty over the logistics of rehousing the residents of Southwest Washington proved to be the plan’s Achilles’ heel and Congress voted against funding Goodwillie’s proposal.
Merlo Pusey, however, the editorial writer for The Washington Post, had been prophetic in suggesting the plan could serve as a model for much larger rehabilitation efforts. The proposal had been well-received and focused much needed attention on a blighted area of the Capital; it would eventually be resurrected and serve as the blueprint for massive post-war urban redevelopment projects – just not in Goodwillie’s lifetime.
Goodwillie suffered a second heart attack and retreated to Roslyn, the family farm outside Charlottesville, where occasionally he rode his horse, supervised work in the gardens, shot crows out of the sky, and read his beloved books – until hardening arteries sapped his remaining energy and destroyed his eyesight. Family and friends were warned not to ask him how he was, granddaughter Margaret Gordy recalls being told, “because he was not well and looked so terribly, terribly old.”
He traveled south to Florida with a nurse for the winters of 1943, ’44, and ’45, taking a cottage at Whispering Sands, a quiet inn on Siesta Cay, a barrier island just south of Sarasota. His health deteriorated sharply after Christmas 1945 and he returned to Charlottesville where Arthur Goodwillie, a once happy, laughing, funny, engaged, and “most decided man” died of a stroke on January 15, 1946. He was 68.
Arthur Lawson Goodwillie’s middle name came from Thomas William Lawson, the controversial Boston businessman, stock speculator, and author. Lawson had married into the Goodwillie family on July 3, 1878 through Jennie Augusta Goodwillie, a first cousin of Arthur’s father, James Gunn Goodwillie.
The self-educated Lawson started out as an office boy for a Boston brokerage firm and had learned the trade from the ground up, reportedly accumulating $1 million by the time he was 30. Although better known for amassing a $50 million fortune during the copper boom of the late 1890s, and later for authoring a series revealing the unscrupulous dealings of major financial figures under the title “Frenzied Finance,” earlier in his career Lawson had played a central role in the destruction of one of the country’s oldest publishing houses.
In 1888, Lawson, then 31, succeeded John C. Rand (Philip Rand’s father) as president and general manager of the Rand Avery Company after buying up four-fifths of its stock. Unable to raise capital, meet payroll, or pay off debts, and blocked by the company’s board of directors, Lawson fought back by auctioning off the entire contents of Rand Avery’s publishing division in a matter of weeks, completely wiping out its shareholders and the company. Lawson sold off vaults full of plates, printing presses, fonts of type, printer’s supplies, and thousands of volumes of books, personally presiding over the sale when the auctioneer lost his voice. He even stripped the building at the corner of Federal and Franklin streets in downtown Boston of its boilers, steam engines, and gas pipes. Lawson suffered a complete physical breakdown shortly thereafter.
The career-ending collapse of Rand Avery precipitated the John C. Rands humiliating relocation to Chicago in 1890, and in a small-world twist of fate, set the stage for their son, Phil Rand to meet Arthur Lawson Goodwillie at the Adams’ July 1898 house party in Beloit, Wisconsin. Whether the young men put two and two together about Goodwillie’s connection to Lawson is anyone’s guess.
My grandmother, Stella Dunbar Ford, was born on December 11, 1878 in Jeffersonville, Indiana, a small industrial and shipbuilding town directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. She was the youngest of four children of Emory Low Ford, a 32-year-old glass manufacturer, and Ella Imogen Neat, the university-educated daughter of a prominent Kentucky physician and Civil War surgeon.
The family had moved seven miles upriver to Jeffersonville from New Albany after the economic panic of 1873 and its lingering aftereffects had forced the closure or sale of the Fords’ glass factories in New Albany and Louisville. Shortly before Stella’s birth in Jeffersonville, Emory and his brother, Edward, chartered a new plant along the waterfront known as Ford Plate Glass Company, later renamed Jeffersonville Plate Glass Company. The venture lasted until 1884 when the two brothers answered their father’s call to join him in Creighton, Pennsylvania, 20 miles north of Pittsburgh, where the elder Ford had tapped a plentiful supply of natural gas – an industry first – to fuel the new glassworks on the Allegheny River. Five years later, as Pittsburgh Plate Glass flourished, Emory Ford moved the family to Allegheny City, a municipality just north of downtown Pittsburgh, so the three youngest children could attend school there.
What I know of my grandmother’s childhood – that it was comfortable, loving, bustling, and uneventful – is indirect and therefore indistinct, mostly because if she spoke about the past, it was never about herself.
One fascinating, almost folkloric tale that I recall hearing more than once began with her grandfather, John B. Ford, at age 70 being forced to borrow $100 from a former employee for train fare to New York City. Captain Ford, bankrupt but still audacious, had secured an audience with Peter Cooper, a well-known industrialist and philanthropist, to pitch his idea for glass sewer pipe. Gen. and Mrs. John C. Frémont happened to be traveling in the same train car and the two old lions compared notes. The illustrious and controversial general, having acquired a large Spanish land grant as military governor of California some 30 years earlier, confided to Captain Ford that he, too, was strapped for cash and wished to dispose of his land. Ford persuaded General Frémont to let him sell the holdings, sight unseen, which he did soon after arrival in New York, earning a $20,000 commission. With his confidence restored, Ford readily sold his glass pipe patent to Cooper, pocketing an additional $17,000. The windfall from this highly successful New York trip cleared debts and paid bills, but more importantly, became the seed money for the Creighton glassworks and the old captain was back in business.
My only memory of my grandmother mentioning anything remotely personal about growing up, were the quaint Midwestern sayings that she and her late siblings had delighted in using – and had successfully conveyed into the lexicon of my mother’s generation. The familiar lines would be delivered deadpan at an opportune moment; to wit: “Come again when you can’t stay so long…” or: “If you would be so kind and condescending and stoop so low and be so bending as to get me that book [or whatever was needed].”
NEW ALBANY SAYINGS
Allicafumbletop ribbon (multi-colored ribbon) • Arise and snuff the moon • Briggity • Bully boy with a glass eye • Come again when you can’t stay so long • Cold as flugens • Don’t you tell your grandmother how to pick ducks! • What is that do funny? • She has everything from a to izzard • You give me the feegees • For any sakes a massy me • Flappy dee doodle • You are nothing but a blatherskite • He doesn’t know beans when the bag is open • I wouldn’t care to use any • Odd come short • Stretcher, please • Hifulootin • Lands a goshen • She acts like she has a high seat in the synagogue • You’ll catch your death of p_neumonia • He doesn’t know t’other from which • What are you up to? • Lay overs to catch meddlers • Peanuts and piefishes • Have you had your satisfy? • She’ll put the kibosh on it • I know you as well as if I’d carried the dirt that made you • Jackamarandy • Ka-fooz-alum • I’ll knock you galley west • My grandmother always used to say that she could pee hotter water than this • My wife she’s a pretty good one him, she can sit up in bed and eat a cup of tea quite plain • Nice to see you come, nice to see you go • Next Juvember when the sologs bloom • Od dee doodness • You old seven and six • You can’t put the big pot in the little • Rapscallion • He’d say it right to your face and hands • She looks like she came from Posey County • Step right up and play by ear • She’s never backward about coming forward • I’ll snatch you baldheaded • Such being the character of George Washington • Sho ‘nuff, Piggie • That is simply impetudinous • Which do you prefer in preference? • Get along, you little shike poke • Good-bye, be good, and don’t stick beans up your nose • He had epizootics in his thorax • Who is your high particular? • Who is your present juspicey? • Who is your sweet patootie? • How does your coperosity seem to sagatiate this morning? • He sat there like a Stoughton bottle • How are you? Oh, so’s to be about (so’s to be) • Ho hum Harry, sick of love and too young to marry • How we apples float • He doesn’t know B from bull’s foot • Do you want humpie to eat? • What part of the turkey do you want? I’ll take the pope’s nose or the part that went over the fence last • If you would be so kind and condescending and stoop so low and be so bending as to get me that book • I just haven’t got the five minit • I don’t expect to marry any of those fellows anyway • I’ll jump down your throat and gobble your guts out • I’ll run an umbrella down your throat and open it • I wouldn’t give a hait for that • I’ll knock you into the middle of next week • I’ll shake a soup bone out of you • I hear footsteps approaching on horseback • I’ll hit you with a brickstein • I’ll take you out behind the axe and set you up in the boot business • There she sat with her hands crossed like her dead sister • Trolley loo • That will discombobberate him no end • There he sat big as Pompey • Thank you most to death • T’ain’t nothin’ here, t’ain’t nothing there • We don’t know him from Adam’s off-ox • Write when you get work • We got what the little boy shot at • If you’re not careful you’ll have high-go-jillicums • You’ll catch your death of dampness • You look like old Granny Grunt today • You’re idjums • Tell them I have a bone in my leg
It’s not that the past was off limits; it just was not discussed, nor were there any of the usual props lying around on a coffee table – such as a photograph album – to help direct a conversation to family history. In fact, until the long-lost photograph album surfaced on eBay, no one in the family had even seen a picture of her as a young woman. Perhaps she felt that her early life was less interesting and less important than being fully engaged in the lives of her children and grandchildren.
That is why the discovery of her ancient album was so extraordinary, especially the clues it provided about Allegheny City, Miss Somer’s school, the marvelous Iron City Fishing Club in Georgian Bay, the weekend with friends in Beloit, and unexpectedly, a presage of how her world would be turned upside down in less than two years with the loss of her “Papa,” Emory Low Ford, at 54.
Emory Ford and Will Price, his traveling companion and fellow Iron City Fishing Club member, had been among some 525 tourists on the steamer New England for a cruise to the Mediterranean and the Orient in the spring of 1900. When the ship docked in Naples on the return from Egypt in mid-March, an outbreak of smallpox – which by then had killed two passengers at sea and sickened several others – was covered up by company officials intent on avoiding the delay and cost of being quarantined; having the ship fumigated, its crew and ailing passengers isolated and vaccinated.
Unaware of his exposure to the deadly virus, my great grandfather and others from the ship traveled by train from Naples to Rome. There he met up with Stella and her traveling companion Dora V. Hill, a mathematics teacher from the Mt. Vernon Seminary, midway through their own two-month European tour. Stella and her father stayed together at Rome’s Hotel Royal and toured the city for several days. A robust man physically, yet feeling increasingly ill and not wishing to alarm Stella and the others in their party, on March 25th he proceeded to Genoa by train, accompanied by Mr. Price. He intended to remain in Genoa until he had recuperated. The infection broke out on the train and Ford’s condition worsened. He died four days later in the Grand Hôtel de Gênes, on March 29, 1900.
John R. Packard, a fellow passenger, placed the culpability for Ford’s death and many others with the captain of the New England and the steamship company: “There has been deception and duplicity practiced at Constantinople, Athens, and Naples for which the Dominion Steamship line… may be made to suffer heavily,” he wrote to his son in April 1900. “I fear that the worst of our troubles are not yet fully disclosed…. The human wrecks and groans of the New England’s victims line the roads of Italy in every direction, from the Alps to the Bay of Naples, and from Rome to Monte Carlo.”
In the space of a week, Stella went from being a carefree 22-year-old tourist in Rome, to a grief-stricken daughter traveling to Genoa to deal with the grim task of identifying her father’s ravaged body and making arrangements with the Italian health authorities for temporary internment and cremation. (In 1905 his remains were quietly returned to the United States in a lead-lined container for burial in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Cemetery). Stella and Will Price were quarantined in Genoa for nearly two weeks. Eventually she sent a stoic cable to her mother in mid-April that said: “All well; sail soon; will cablegram date.”
Within a few months of my grandmother’s return to the United States, her familiar life in Pittsburgh was over. The family elegant residence on West North Avenue in Allegheny City was emptied and sold in October 1900 and the family traveled to Genoa for the winter. In 1902 she moved briefly with her mother and sister Nell back to New Albany, then on to Detroit in the fall (perhaps losing the photo album in those moves).
Her mother bought a large home on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue and the Fords began their new life in the city that with Henry Ford (no relation) about to launch the automobile industry, would soon become the powerhouse of the Midwest. If emotionally scarred by her father’s death, Stella was by no means hurting. Blessed with a large inheritance, she quickly became engaged in the city’s civic life helping to fund social projects, hospital wards, even donating a series of 25 drinking fountains for pedestrians and animals in nearby Highland Park.
She also became a generous patron of the arts as a benefactress of the Detroit Institute of Arts and in 1914 helped to resurrect the moribund Detroit Symphony Orchestra. At about the same time, she met and married Joseph B. Schlotman, four years her junior, a businessman, avid sportsman, former golf professional (who had played in the 1900 United States Open at 18), and for years afterward, a top national amateur.
With her marriage to my grandfather in 1914, the story picks up with the familiar narrative I remember as a child. Their three-month wedding trip to England and Scotland was cut short in the first week of August with the outbreak of World War I, and they booked the last stateroom on RMS Mauretania for the perilous passage home – chased by German U-boats until abruptly diverted at speed to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Their first daughter, Josephine, was born in 1916; my mother followed in the summer of 1917 when my grandmother was 39.
Known affectionately as Detroit’s Grande Dame, she led a full and rewarding life, to be sure. The family traveled often to the East Coast for business and pleasure. They summered in Harbor Point, Michigan, and had a winter home in Bellaire, Florida. They built a magnificent fishing lodge on Quebec’s Grand Cascapedia River where taking 50-lb. Atlantic salmon was not uncommon and until 1939 they cruised the Great Lakes in style on the Stellaris, a 187-ft. coal-powered steam yacht with a range of 2,500 miles.
She outlived my grandfather by 22 years at Stonehurst, the stately English Renaissance manor they began building in 1914 and moved into three years later, continuing her charitable work for her causes – the symphony, art institute, Moral Re-Armament, the United Foundation, Cottage Hospital, and Planned Parenthood – while hosting grand fundraisers and family parties, doing needlepoint through increasingly thick glasses, and doting on nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren well into her 90s.
From about the age of six she dubbed me her “best beau” and for more than a decade of Sundays when we would drive to Grosse Pointe for lunch at Stonehurst, my brother and I would wait just inside the glass-covered porte cochère to greet this tall, elegant matriarch with her perfectly coiffed white hair as she returned from church. In the winter, I recall standing on the third step to be at the optimum height for a hug, and how the side of my face pressed against her coat would feel cold air still trapped in a sea of soft mink carrying the faint, familiar fragrance of wood violets.
When lunch was announced, I would slowly and tentatively escort her, always terrified she might topple over on me, from the leather and sherry-scented library, down the long, Oriental carpeted hallway alongside the atrium, across a corner of the main dining room, and into the small Chinoiserie breakfast room that looked out through leaded windows toward Lake St. Clair in the distance. The walls were covered in exquisite golden-yellow lacquered panels with scenes depicting Chinese pagodas, fishermen, and flowering tree-covered islands rising from the sea. Vases on the dining table and sideboard were arranged with fresh day lilies, chrysanthemums, or yellow and white snapdragons from the greenhouse. And hanging above the carved mantelpiece was a legendary mirror in an ornate frame, its three smoky panes created from the first piece of plate glass manufactured in America (the glass panes had originally been installed in a New Albany storefront until my grandmother and Aunt Nell purchased them in the 1930s).
The countless family meals and conversations have become a blur, but the images and tastes are sharp and detailed in my memory. The delicious Sunday lunches always began with tiny glass animals floating in iridescent Tiffany glass finger bowls and chilled silver fruit cups (with peeled grapes) and ended with homemade vanilla ice cream soon swimming in grainy chocolate sauce or sticky maple syrup followed by sugar encrusted fruit gels as a reward for sitting politely through lunch with one or two sticky extras always secreted in my pocket for naptime.
Later in the afternoon after “resting” or better yet, exploring the alphabet-paneled playroom on the third floor with my mother and aunt’s marvelous antique toys – heavy orange Lionel train engines and cars minus their tracks and a folding general store front well-stocked with pretend dry goods – we would reconvene for tea with my grandmother in the upstairs sitting room. Tea, for me at least, had nothing to do with the hot liquid; it was simply the process of inhaling as many warm marmalade or cinnamon finger toasts as possible before getting the “look” from my mother and running outside with my brother for a last snowball fight in the fading afternoon light before going home.
Now, some 50 years later and with the wonderful photographic record secure, I imagine being right back in my place next to Granny on the chintz sofa, carefully passing the crumbling ledger to her, open to a random spread of images for her perusal. Tapping one of the photographs, I hear her say: “That’s Alice Adams, don’t you know? Isn’t she lovely? She was my best friend from school way back in, what was it, 1897? – I was one of her bridesmaids, and of course she came to our wedding, too, but without Joe…I wonder what happened to them?”
And smiling knowingly, I begin to tell her what I’ve discovered about her old friends.