Emily Ward (Astor) (1819 - 1841)

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About Emily Ward (Astor)

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In New York we were welcomed by Uncle Sam Ward, my mother's oldest and only surviving brother. Another radiant uncle, and my true uncle this time, though all the world called him Uncle Sam. He had visited us in Rome when I was a child; but there I had seen little of him and our real friendship and mutual devotion began with this second meeting.

Here I should like to make a digression and speak the praises of delightful people. They are generally so much better than famous ones. There have been so many ignored by history and the biographical dictionary....

Uncle Sam [Ward] was one of these favored ones. His life had been varied and checkered; oldest son of a rich New York banker, well endowed and well connected, he had been sent abroad with an unlimited letter of credit after he had graduated from Columbia University. We are not told whether he abused this paternal trustfulness. On his return he married Emily Astor, oldest daughter of William B. Astor, granddaughter of the original John Jacob. The marriage was happy while it lasted, but the young wife died in giving birth to a daughter, Margaret. The young widower grieved and then consoled himself by marrying a showy and fascinating Creole, the beautiful Medora Grimes. This was not at all to the taste of the staunchly respectable Astors, who had carefully selected their wives among the best families; and the grandparents took little "Maddie," who was not much younger than the youngest of their own large brood, and brought her up with the rest of their children. The marriage with Medora Grimes turned out badly; perhaps the Astors were right in their disapproval.

Sam Ward went west in the '49 gold rush. He had lost a great deal of money. The bankruptcy of his father's firm was attributed to him. He was not fortunate, or perhaps not skillful, in money matters; he lost three fortunes in the course of his life. But he never lost his zest for living and giving, and in California he found no gold but much adventure. At one time he bought a canal boat and fitted it up as a hotel and restaurant where food and drink were of the best.

There were legends about these years, romantic tales of which the family knew only whispered fragments; there were young women — one lived with him disguised as a boy; wild doings for those prim Victorian days — startling, considering the sober old New York background from which he sprang. One does not wonder the Astor family was shocked. Then he came East again without a fortune, but always living sumptuously. He went to Washington, where he made himself useful to Senators and Congressmen in bringing them together always, always with the help of excellent food and rare wine; he was everybody's friend and was proclaimed King of the Lobby.

When he arrived in an apartment on the ground floor of the old Brevoort House on Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, speculating, and at that time very successfully, on the stock market. He was, as I have said, a real connoisseur of wines, and, and to keep his palate delicate, he never drank spirits or seasoned his food with pepper or mustard. The only liquor he approved was yellow Chartreuse, and he invented a drink called a "Sam Ward," concocted with this and the peel of a lemon laid around the inside of a glass filled with cracked ice. He told me he was satisfied to have given his name to this as a claim to remembrance, pointing out that only a very few names were permanently associated with food and drink.

He took my mother and me to Newport on the Fall River Line. On the way he gave us our first taste of soft-shell crabs, among what seemed to me curious surroundings. The dining saloon of those days was surrounded by bunks over which hung green baize curtains like those with which we are so unpleasantly familiar in Pulman cars. It was very hot and stuffy, and negro waiters fanned us with palm-leaf fans. Nevertheless, Uncle Sam managed to convey the sense of a banquet. Whenever he was host it was a dinner with Maecenas.

He had another passion which I should perhaps have mentioned first. He was not quite so successful in it as in the giving of little dinners, but poetry was very dear to his heart and he wrote many verses which fluttered a little in the breeze of friendly intercourse and then took their way down the stream of forgetfulness.

He was something of a scholar and Horace was his favorite. He was never without a copy of the Odes in his pocket; his next choice was Omar Khayyam.

In Newport we stayed with Aunt Julia and the lovely Maud, who was at that time being courted by a handsome young English painter, John Elliott, whom she later married. They lived in a pleasant house about seven miles from Newport, not far from Portsmouth, Rhode Island. There I came to know and love another of Aunt Julia's daughters, dear Laura Richards, who had already written a number of happy children's books and delightful nursery nonsense giving joy to her many little readers — and herself an exquisite joy to all who knew her. Uncle Sam had given them a telephone, a comparatively new invention, and one evening we were called up and told that President Garfield had been assasinated.

Source: Margaret [Mrs Winthrop] Chanler (Terry), Roman Springs Memoirs, Kessinger Publishing, 2005 [originally published in 1934 by Little, Brown, & Co.], 368 pages, pp. 99-102, downloaded 2011 from http://books.google.com/ On Google Books's page introducing this book is the notation, "This scarce antiquarian book is a selection from Kessinger Publishings Legacy Reprint Series. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment to protecting, preserving, and promoting the worlds literature. Kessinger Publishing is the place to find hundreds of thousands of rare and hard-to-find books with something of interest for everyone!"

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Emily Ward's Timeline

1819
1819
1838
November 9, 1838
Age 19
1841
1841
Age 22
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