The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Four

April 19-26, 1917 

“Took Little Langdon to the service at Incarnation Church in memory of young Suckley who was killed at the French Front.”  This was the first mention Kate Roosevelt made of someone she knew who had died in World War One, but it would not be the last. The name Suckley sounded familiar to me. I recognized it from the television documentary Daisy and wondered if there was a connection to this young war hero and the woman who was wooed by President Franklin Roosevelt.

2. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, henry suckley, world war one death, 1917 wilderstein

Henry Suckley

Quite possibly Kate Roosevelt had been acquainted with the Suckley Family who were Hudson Valley neighbors of the Franklin Roosevelts who were related to her late-husband Hilborne Roosevelt. Hilborne’s cousin, Elliott Roosevelt’s daughter, Eleanor, married Franklin Roosevelt. And the plot thickens. Franklin Roosevelt from Hyde Park was a distant cousin to the Oyster Bay Roosevelts. Eleanor and Kate’s daughter, Dorothy Roosevelt, made their debuts together in New York City in 1902 along with cousins, Alice, Helen, Christine and Elfrida Roosevelt.

3. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, daisy suckley with fala, fdr library
Daisy Suckley with the Famous Dog, Fala. Her gift to FDR

Now that those branches of the Roosevelt Family tree were unwillingly being untangled, I realized I was correct in making the connection.

Robert Suckley (Henry’s father) was a true aristocrat who could have easily rubbed elbows with all of the Roosevelts. His family home known as Wilderstein, which means “wild stone” in German, is now owned by a non-profit organization called Wildestein Preservation and opened for tours, but once it was the private home of the very wealthy Suckley Family and their twenty-seven estate employees.

4. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, daisy suckley with franklyn roosevelt

Daisy Suckley (far left)  with President Franklin Roosevelt

The grand Queen Anne-style mansion and its grounds sweep along the Hudson River, just a few miles from Springwood, Franklin Roosevelt’s family home and it made sense to me that he and Daisy (who was also a distant cousin) would be thrown together in social settings. She lived at Wilderstein until her death in 1991, just before her one-hundredth birthday. After she died letters were found that indicated that she and the president were more than friends, maybe even more than “kissing cousins.”

5. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, daisy suckley, wilderstein

Wilderstein

But Daisy’s older brother, Henry, would not live to partake in the legacy. Henry’s story personifies the turn-of-the century lifestyle led by many millionaires of the day. His father, inherited a fortune from stock market investments and real estate holdings in New York City, New Jersey and the Hudson Valley that allowed his family to live in the lap of luxury.

6. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, daisy suckley as old woman in front to wilderstein

Daisy Suckley at ninety-one years-old outside Wilderstein

Henry Eglinton Montgomery Suckley was born in 1887 and named for his maternal grandfather, the minister of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in New York City, the church where Kate Roosevelt and her family were members.

As a student at Phillips Exeter Academy he excelled in tennis, soccer, and linguistics. He went on to attend Harvard, living in Claverly Hall and dining in the Hasty Pudding Club. Possibly, like his neighbor, Franklin Roosevelt he was turned-down by the prestigious Porcellian Club, where cousin Theodore Roosevelt socialized and ate his meals. Franklin Roosevelt never got over the snub.

7. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, daisy suckley, porcellain club steward, wiki

Painting of a Porcellain Club Steward

After graduation in 1910, Henry Suckley lived the good life, working on Wall Street and living in a family-owned property at 41 East 80th Street until 1914 when World War One broke out in Europe. Like many of his well-to-do friends, he volunteered with the American Field Service and, like J.P. Morgan’s daughter, Anne Tracy Morgan, he helped finance the overseas ambulance service. His neighbor, Helen Morton, who owned Ellerslie in Rhinecliff, donated a vehicle and his Wall Street acquaintances donated enough funds to purchase twenty-five ambulances.

In January 1915 he sailed for France and his first war assignment at the hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine. By April he was transporting wounded soldiers from the battlefield in ambulances he had helped to procure. When his enlistment was up, he decided to stay on. On March 18, 1917 he was badly wounded and died the next day.

1. photo, kate shippen roosevelt, daisy suckley, porcellian club menu

Menu

Henry Suckley never returned to Wilderstein or had the opportunity of growing old and retiring to  the quiet life of a country squire like his neighbor Franklin Roosevelt planned to do when his last term as President of the United States ended possibly with Daisy Suckley as his companion at the retreat they designed called Top Cottage.

Sharon Hazard’s Dowager’s Diary appears on Thursday.

Photo One:
Top Cottage
wiki

Photo Two:
Henry Suckley
Wilderstein Archives

Photo Three:
Daisy Suckley with the Famous Dog, Fala. Her gift to FDR
FDR Library

Photo Four:
Daisy Suckley (far left)  with President Franklin Roosevelt
FDR Library

Photo Five:
Wilderstein
Wilderstein Archives

Photo Six:
Daisy Suckley at ninety-one years-old outside Wilderstein

Photo Seven:
Painting of a Porcellain Club Steward
wiki

Photo Eight:
Menu
wiki