As I started writing this, we finished our second week of hiking and sightseeing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. These have been two AMAZING weeks. We had no idea if I could hike – I could – nor how the weather would be. We only had one unexpected snowstorm. Thankfully, we brought all of our cold-weather clothing, gloves, hats, etc.
We enjoy history as much as we enjoy hiking. We found a perfect balance in both locations. It’s a good thing I’ve had to rest my knees a bit. If not, we would have missed out on some great sights and history lessons.Read more: Celebrations Continue: Easter, Anniversary, and Hiking! Part 2 (last one)
For me, the Lincoln Family Summer Home, called Hildene near Manchester, Vermont is now one of my all time favorite historical homes! When Bill first mentioned it for a “day off of hiking” something didn’t make sense. I didn’t recall any mention of a Lincoln summer home in Vermont. Lincoln’s Presidential Library is still one of my favorite museums. Sadly, we visited it when I wasn’t blogging about our travels so no pictures or written memories. Other than how it was so well done but …. Hang on
A few years later, we toured Mary Todd Lincoln’s childhood home in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky. We have a blog post about that visit. Click here to to learn more about her early life. She had a sad childhood, then lost all her children but her eldest son, Robert. I can’t imagine her distress and pain over those losses. It is even harder to imagine how horrific it was for her beloved husband to be shot while watching a play, only to die the next morning. Apparently, all this heartache caught up with her as she eventually was placed in a sanitarium.
Robert was Abraham and Mary’s only child to survive to maturity. An ugly side portrayed at Mary’s home/museum was Robert’s relationship with his widowed mother. No wonder. He had her committed to Bellevue Place Sanitarium in 1875. Needless to say, it did not make me want to see HIS summer home, Hildene. But I read a little bit about it, so since it was not a day to hike, why not? It was a beautiful day to drive. While writing this blog post, I found a wonderful article about the reconciliation of Robert and his mother. It gave more background which was fairly presented. Click here to read more.
As an aside, someone on a hiking trail recommended this “Relive” app so decided to try it on our drive through the Green Mountains. Let me know if you can see our drive from Wilmington to Manchester. I’ve recorded a few more of some of our hikes. Practice makes perfect and I need more practice!
A bit about Robert Todd Lincoln’s summer home from the Hildene website:
Hildene is formed from two old English words: “Hil” meaning “hill” and “dene” meaning “valley with stream.” Robert and his wife Mary gave their Vermont home this name because it is perched on a hill overlooking the Taconic Mountains to the west, the Green Mountains to the east, and the Battenkill river flowing through the great Battenkill Valley below….
Hildene is rooted in Abraham Lincoln’s values, making them our own and relevant to the 21st century.”Hildene Website
I found another site and like it and its description. Plus it has fabulous pictures of the flowers:
Hildene is considered the most significant Lincoln site outside of Illinois. Situated in Manchester, Vermont, it is the site where the Lincoln family lived from 1905 to 1975. Built by Robert Lincoln, the oldest child of President Abraham Lincoln, the 412-acre estate consists of the mansion, formal gardens, “Sunbeam” (a 1903 Pullman Palace Car), a goat dairy, Dene farm, and miles of trails for hiking and snowshoeing. The site’s unique aspect is that the Hildene Foundation, which preserves the property, has transformed Lincoln’s values of integrity, perseverance, and civic responsibility into actions: sustainability, preservation, conservation, and education, all of which you can experience when you visit.
We arrived too late for the only guided tour of the day, at 11:00. But, a very knowledgeable docent was available. He gave us lots of valuable insight. This beautiful 8,000 square foot 24-room is a Georgian Revival mansion. Three generations of Lincoln’s lived in the house, from 1905 until 1975. The mansion was built with electricity, telephone connections, and a hot air heating system. About 90% of the furnishings were original.
While it was supposed to be “just a summer” home, Robert Lincoln was said to spend about 80% of the year here. Robert died in the home in 1926. His wife maintained the home until her death in 1938. Upon her death, her daughter, Mary (Peggy) Lincoln Beckwith inherited the home. She lived there until her death in 1975. She and her brother, Robert Lincoln Beckwith spent considerable time there as children. Neither one had children so upon their deaths, the family lineage of Abraham Lincoln ceased. Allegedly. Hang on again. I seem to learn more when researching the places we visit afterward to verify my memory and add more facts – to write-ups such as this one.
I uncovered information I had not heard before. First, the research helped me correctly remember the story of the condition of the mansion in 1978 when the Hildene Foundation took ownership. These days, my memory is only good for about 20 seconds. What I uncovered was even more fascinating than I hoped. I’ll have to save some of this for a future visit to another Lincoln memorial. But here is what I found to substantiate what the Docent said about what a mess the house was in when it was finally taken over by the Hildene Foundation:
Peggy Beckwith moved to Hildene after her mother’s death and stayed there for the rest of her life. She spent her days golfing, dabbling in oil painting, sculpting, photography, and chain-smoking cigars. Because she tended to dress in knickers and men’s shirts, rumors spread about Peggy’s sexual orientation. No one knows for certain whether the rumors were true, but it is certain that growing the Lincoln family tree was not in her plans. She never married and never had children.
Housekeeping wasn’t in her plans, either. When she died in 1975, the mansion was in disrepair and was overrun with animals, including raccoons. ‘She’s an odd one,’ said Lincoln scholar Ralph G. Newman at the time. ‘I would call her an eccentric recluse. She doesn’t give a @#*! about Abraham Lincoln, and she’s rebuffed any attempts by historians to interview her or look for family papers on the farm.'”https://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/09/the-story-of-honest-abes-family-tree/
I found a few favorable facts about Peggy. She was a pilot and owned several planes. She had a runway added to the property but I couldn’t find anything to substantiate that claim. I do want to get this posted as I still have to write up our week in Massachusetts, but I could keep digging up and reading about this family! But the other important detail in the article quoted above is there is an heir-apparent still living today. I believe more Lincoln historians are ignoring it but the fact of the matter is a 17-year-old (Timothy Lincoln Beckwith born in 1968) was able to claim part of the inheritance left by Robert Todd Lincoln. Hopefully, one day I will be able to write more.
This 24-room Georgian revival mansion has been perfectly restored. But yet, it is the sad legacy of one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, who was not appreciated by his children and subsequent heirs. But yet, his legacy is living on in the museum, mansions, and humble sites pertaining to his life. A few pictures I took downstairs inside of this amazing Mansion:
My favorite part of the house was an exhibition room dedicated to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Around the room were numbered excerpts from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered on March 4th, 1865 during the fourth year of the Civil War.
I typed up the quotes with their corresponding “numbers” as they went around the room. Several were my favorites so you will see additional information and pictures. First, the entrance way.
On March 4, 1865, only 41 days before his assassination, President Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office for the second time. Lincoln’s second inaugural address previewed his plans for healing a once-divided nation.”www.nps.gov/linc/learn/historyculture/lincoln-second-inaugural.htm
The below numbered quotes, 1 – 13 were from displays around the room, dedicated to Lincoln’s second inaugural address. I took pictures of each display, so they typed them up and inserted them. So any errors, are mine! I only included a few pictures of the displays with the quotes plus a few other displays worthy of inclusion. Actually, the ENTIRE room is worth viewing! We encourage others to go and visit this historic mansion.
One quote under #4 below was also on display and is so noted. Number 9’s full quote is under the slide show as it deserves more room. Click here to read and listen to the short and entire Inaugural address.
- “At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper.” Abraham Lincoln
- “Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented.” Abraham Lincoln
- “The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.”
- “On the occasion corresponding to this for years, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending war. All dreaded it… All sought to avert it.” Abraham Lincoln “I worked night and day for twelve to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came.” Jefferson Davis
- “While the inaugural address is being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war… Seeking to dissolve the union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nations survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.” Abraham Lincoln
- “One eight of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.” Abraham Lincoln
- “All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than restrict the territorial enlargement of it.” Abraham Lincoln
- “Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it had already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier Tryon, and a result less fundamental and astounding.” Abraham Lincoln
- “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged.” Abraham Lincoln
- “The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!’” Abraham Lincoln
- “If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove and that He gives to both the North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?” Abraham Lincoln
- “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toils shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’” Abraham Lincoln
- “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln
I found the rest of the statement from Number 9, so worthy to get the complete quote:
Each (party) looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces…(but) the prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”Hildene House Lincoln Room
The Docent was outstanding. Apparently for the price of admission, if you miss the guided our Docents are available and await your questions. I wish I had recorded all he said, but I thought I would remember the important tidbits. But hopefully, this blog has captured the essence of this beautiful mansion and the legacy behind its creation.
After we spent an hour or more inside, we went outside to see the garden and the views in the back.
After admiring the view, we went back through the welcome center. We made a few purchases to take back to our neighbors. They are watering our flowers! Everything for sale was “local” merchandise. We could have spent a fortune there.
Next, we went and put on more warm weather gear and walked to the Pullman. We had actually wanted to walk around on the hiking trail. But we were running out of daylight. No way Bill would drive in the mountains in the dark! We were greeted by another Docent. He was so knowledgeable. He impressed me but Bill questioned some of his “historical” facts. There may have been a slant but I did fact check what I could remember and the facts were true.
Preamble to the US Constitution, also on display:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”https://www.freedomworks.org/content/we-hold-these-truths-be-self-evident…
We end on a patriotic note. And all GLORY to God!
Next up, is our week in the Berkshires, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.