The Dowager’s Diary – Week One Hundred and Seventy-Five

July 4-11, 1908

Kate’s diary entry from July 4-11, 1908

Today Kate Shippen Roosevelt and I are taking our readers back to the summer of 1908. It is a very interesting detour from our usual route which for the last episodes of the Dowager’s Diary has returned us to the year 1918. The reason for this change is very interesting. I have been editing the diary of Kate Roosevelt, who was married to Theodore Roosevelt’s cousin, Hilborne Roosevelt. She wrote in it faithfully through the years 1912-1919, and I have been sharing her story of what life was like for a wealthy widow and member of the illustrious Roosevelt Family. Just when I thought I had read everything that Mrs. Roosevelt wrote, I was pleasantly surprised when the curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection that is archived in the Houghton Library at Harvard University contacted me. She informed me that Kate Roosevelt’s diary written through the years 1907-1911 was in their possession and offered to share Kate’s words with me and arranged to have all five years scanned and sent to me. Among the scans were photos from an album kept by Kate Roosevelt that included a sweet photo taken of Theodore Roosevelt and his first wife, Alice Lee. The photo is not dated, so it might have been taken during their engagement or during their brief marriage (she died in 1884 just after giving birth to a daughter named Alice). Whatever the year, it brought back fond memories of how much in love Teddy was with Alice. The photo shows her leaning over the porch rail of a beautiful Victorian-style home to accept the small bouquet of flowers he is handing up to her.

Alice Lee Roosevelt

For the last several months I have been finding out what Kate was up to before I was introduced to her through her 1912-1919 diary and she was just as interesting and opinionated as I expected. Today’s episode will share with you what she was doing during the first week of July, 1908.

July 1, 1908, “Cooler today. We walked into the village of Sea Bright then had lunch with mother at the Anchorage. There is almost no beach outside of the bulkhead this year. Mother had two bulkheads washed-out in last winter’s storm. She had no beach at all! In the afternoon there was a sea breeze and some fog. I drove into Red Bank with mother. Mrs. Ward and Lily Clarke are visiting.”

July 2, 1908, “Ettie lunched here.”

Theodore Roosevelt as Harvard Athlete

July 3, 1908, “Dorothy and Langdon arrived from New York at 4:30. They got off in the Highlands at Laidlaw’s. Boats were packed with people. Longest trains I have seen in years. George Reddington was at the dock in time for their boat’s arrival. Inspectors would not allow boats to carry more than their charters allowed so hundreds were left at the dock to take the next boat or train back to the city.”

July 4, 1908, “Fourth of July. Slight shower. Sea Breeze. Men fished off of the remaining bulkhead at mother’s. There was a dance and show at the tennis club.”

July 5, 1908, “Sunday, Dorothy and I to St. George’s by the River. First year it is opened. Mrs. William E. Strong had it built as a memorial to her husband. A depot wagon took us there and back. Men took canoe into the ocean. Not much beach, even at low tide.”

July 7, 1908, “Another terrifically hot day. To Oyster Bay to visit with Aunt Lizzie Roosevelt.”

St. George’s by-the-River

In just one week I had the pleasure of attending the first service held at the newly-consecrated Episcopal Church, named St. George’s by-the-River because of its location in Rumson, New Jersey, along the Shrewsbury River and just a short walk across the bridge to Sea Bright. In his will, the financier, William Everard Strong, who owned a magnificent estate in Rumson called Meade-Lawn, requested that his wife, Alice build a church in his memory. She had it designed by the New York architectural firm of Walker and Gillette in the English Gothic style. In 1935, Dorothy Roosevelt Geer dedicated a plaque inside the church to her late-parents, Hilborne and Kate Roosevelt.

Yellowbanks sketch by Lorraine Grace

Aunt Lizzie Roosevelt, was Elizabeth Norris Emlen Roosevelt. She was married to James Alfred Roosevelt, uncle to Theodore Roosevelt and Kate’s late-husband, Hilborne. Her home at Oyster Bay was called Yellowbanks and her front porch there was a welcome spot for family members young and old. The long row of yellow forsythia gave the estate its name.

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

On WAT-CAST, listen to Sharon talk about the series.

Photo One:
Houghton Library at Harvard University

Photo Two:
Alice Lee Roosevelt
Library of Congress

Photo Three:
Theodore Roosevelt as Harvard Athlete
Houghton Library

Photo Four:
St. George’s by-the-River

Photo Five:
Yellowbanks sketch by Lorraine Grace
Oyster Bay Historical Society