Grandchildren Of The Executive Mansion
( Originally Published 1908 )
GRANDSONS and granddaughters have played a part at the White House domestic life in at least ten of the twenty-six Presidential Administrations. The very first of all the granddaughters was Susanna Adams, the orphaned child of a son of President John Adams. Only two years old at the time, she was the first "granddaughter of the nation." Jefferson's life at the White House was made happier, as he himself said, by the presence of a grandson. John Quincy Adams as President, played with his little granddaughter, Mary Louise Adams. And Presidents Jackson and Benjamin Harrison both knew what it was to drop affairs of State to romp with their grandchildren or grandnieces and grandnephews.
A Grandson of President Grant
Showing the intense interest which General Grant took in his grandson, Ulysses S. Grant II., son of General Fred Grant, it is on record that Ulysses S. Grant I, just before his death, addressed a letter to the President of the United States to be handed to the Chief Executive when the grandson should become of suitable age to enter West Point. The interesting story of that letter was told by General Fred Grant some years ago in the New York Advertiser, and from his recital the following facts are learned :
It seems that in 1885, while General Grant was ill at his New York home, he urged his son to have the boy, then only three years old, trained for military life, and have him graduate from West Point as they both had done.
Colonel Grant said he would do all he could to have that wish carried into effect, but as the boy would not be seventeen, the age for entering West Point, until 1899, he begged the General not to worry about the matter any more at the time.
"Bring me writing materials," said the sick man. Then with much care and evident difficulty he addressed a letter to the President of the United States who should be in power fourteen years from that time, briefly asking that his grandson, U. S. Grant, be appointed to a cadetship in the Military Academy.
Shortly afterward, General Tecumseh Sherman called to see him, and he got Sherman to endorse the application. Then it was handed to Colonel Grant to take care of, with some remark by Sherman, in his good-natured way, that the writer and indorser might together have influence enough to secure a West Point cadetship.
The Colonel said the letter was short and formal. There was nothing in it except the request as stated. He put it away with other papers left by the General.
In due tune General Fred Grant presented the letter to President McKinley, with the result that young Ulysses S. Grant was admitted to the Military Academy, and in due time was graduated with honors with the rank of lieutenant. A little later we find this young man present at the wedding of his sister, Miss Julia Grant. In the absence of his father in the Philippines, young Grant gave the bride away to Prince Cantacuzene, of Russia.
In 1906 we find this grandson of a President holding a post in the White House as aide to President Roosevelt. On the day of the marriage of Miss Alice Roosevelt to Nicholas Longworth, Lieutenant Grant was assigned to look after the bride and groom as long as they remained in the White House, in the course of which duty he performed a pleasant service for the bride. The press dispatches of the time, in relating the incident, tell how Mr. and Mrs. Longworth and their friends "had a bit of the wedding breakfast," and then Mrs. Longworth, turning to Lieutenant U. S. Grant, U. S. A., who attended the young married couple as an aide from the time they left the altar, asked, "Have there been any cablegrams?" Lieutenant Grant ordered the cablegrams brought in and handed them to her, and they and the telegrams, which were also brought to her, had been copied in type-writing on letter size paper, not one to a page, but in regular order, and the pages bulked an inch thick. There were so many that she could not possibly have found time to read them all, but she turned over the pages hurriedly, and occasionally as some distinguished signature met her eye, she paused and read the contents.
Grandchildren in Harrison's Term
President Benjamin Harrison's grandchildren, the "Baby McKees" were called the "darlings of his heart" all during his term of residence in the White House. Mrs. McKee, the President's daughter, was a constant guest at the mansion, and it is reported that the celebration of Christmas for the benefit of little Benjamin and Mary Lodge "was as elaborate as any child could wish." The prettiest feature of Mr. Harrison's home life was indeed his devotion to his grandchildren. Baby McKee was inseparable from "grandpa," and "no picture of the President seemed complete without the twining arms of this little cherub about his neck." One day "the baby was naughty, and, climbing upon his indulgent grandfather's desk, touched in succession all its electric bells," and in a few minutes all the White House attendants rushed into the room to see what was the matter.
Up to Benjamin Harrison's term in the White House, the mansion had not for years been brightened by the presence of little children, and hence now the Nation took unusual interest in the doings of the President's grandchildren and read with approval of the daily visits of the President to the nursery. There were all kinds of festivities for the pleasure of the grandchildren, all by order of the President. His grandson, the original "Baby McKee" is today a young man who is making a name for himself. When this grandson of. President Harrison was four years old, his grandsire gave him a birthday party (March 16, 1891), at which a great number of the children of the Cabinet and of other Government officials were present. A newspaper account of this party says :
"The guests assembled in the Blue Room, to be led by the President and his grandson to the dining-room where, at a round table, were fifteen high chairs. The centrepiece was a plate of ferns on which were two flags crossed, while at each plate were rush baskets of bonbons, the handles formed of tri-color ribbons. About the table were big dishes of beaten biscuits, especially made for the occasion, in the form of little chicks with outspread wings. The menu included bouillon, cakes and cream. The Marine Band supplied music. The children were waited on by their mothers and nurses and the ladies of the White House. Then the President led the way to the corridor with his namesake, and they all danced the Virginia reel."
"Baby McKee," according to Doorkeeper Pendel, "was one of the principal personages in the. White House. On one occasion there was a grand musicale given in the East Room by the `Bell Ringers'. They made beautiful music. The family all assembled and listened very attentively. `Babe McKee' was with the President, and he made up his mind he was too far away from the music, so he broke away from the President and started over nearer to where the music was, although the President tried hard to keep him back." Evidently, young "Baby McKee" was "boss."
A Granddaughter of Jackson's Time
One of the most interesting descendants of a President, one who, three quarters of a century ago, was a little lady of the White House, is Mrs. Rachel Jackson Lawrence, granddaughter of Andrew Jackson. She is now over seventy-five years old and in a recent year was living at or near the "Hermitage," in Tennessee where, in 1907, President Roosevelt paid her a visit and said to her "Come back to your White House."
The early childhood of this remarkable lady was passed in the White House, where President Jackson devoted every spare moment to her, calling her "My baby," "My dear little pet," and "My dear little Rachel." She was the first-born of President Jackson's adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr., and she was given the name of the wife whom President Jackson mourned—the idolized wife who died on the eve of Jackson's inauguration. Even before "little Rachel" was born, President Jackson wrote to his well loved daughter-in-law, Sarah Yorke Jackson, saying :
"I look forward with the pleasing hope when you will unite with me here, and present to me a lovely child, which I will press to my bosom with delight and accept from Providence as one of his kindest blessings, and for which my constant prayers will be offered up."
Just how devoted President Jackson was to his little grand-daughter may be gleaned from the following letter written by Francis Blair to a friend "I never witnessed in any individual more tender affection or sympathy than in General Jackson. He has his family at the Rip Raps (now Fortress Monroe), and his 'courtesy and kindness and love are felt by me as a rebuke to my colder nature, and less ardent sympathies with my children. He has a little granddaughter, Rachel, a beautiful child named for his wife, which he takes to his bosom whenever brought within his reach. I never saw this little bantling in his presence that'his eye did not brighten and his affections rise. He says she is the solace of his waning life."
The "little Rachel" grew up and married Dr. J. M. Lawrence, a wellknown physician of Tennessee. She has been a widow for years, but today she still remembers vividly how each room at the White House was furnished and frequently relates her reminiscences of her life in those rooms. Her nursery, for instance, adjoined President Jackson's own bedroom, and many a night, when "little Rachel" was fretful, the President would rise from his bed and walk the floor with his grand daughter. Among Mrs. Lawrence's experiences, as related by herself, is the following story of what she calls "a night of horror," as related in an interview given to a correspondent of one of the Munsey publications :
"A magnificent pair of Cuban blood-hounds, Leon and Diana, had been sent to grandpa, and were confined in the grounds. While I was very fond of watching them, they filled me with fear. One evening Gracie (the nurse), in her hurry to get me to bed and be off to a darky frolic, told me a bear story. Then she startled me by saying : `Shet up dem eyes, honey, en go to sleep quick, er dem b'ars 'll git you, sho'.
"To my childish imagination, bears were like Leon and Diana. I sank into the depths of the bedclothes and closed my eyes, my soul paralyzed with fear.. I must have fallen sound asleep presently, only to have the horrible bears about me everywhere. I remember rousing up with a scream and seeing grandpa and my mother entering the room. Grandpa snatched me from my mother's quick embrace, and soothing me against his breast, paced back and forth across the room until every fear was quelled and I fell asleep.
"At another time, hearing him talking in a corridor near by, I escaped, half disrobed, from the maid, and rushed to him, thus interrupting a conference with two of his official family—a face to me of small importance then. Opening wide his arms and murmuring, `Bless my baby', he held me close to him, where I stayed until taken away by force."