Category Archives: This is Sad

The Roosevelt Family

I’m surprised that not a bigger deal is made of the fact that Theodore Roosevelt’s first wife and mother–and his parents, grandparents, and a whole slew of other Roosevelts– are buried in Green-wood.

I first heard the story of the  tragic deaths of Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt (Teddy’s wife) and Martha Bullock Roosevelt (his mother) on Ken Burns’ documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. It was such a dramatic tale that I decided to read more about it, and lo and behold I found out that they were buried in Green-Wood. Why didn’t I know that? Why aren’t their pictures shown in the margin of the Green-Wood map along with all the other famous residents? This is one of the great stories of American history. I’d rather see Alice Lee Roosevelt on the map than that boring tax dude*.


It’s easy enough to find the Roosevelt family plot–but it’s a bit of a long walk from the front entrance. I’d suggest if you are going to see it, you enter at the 20th Street/Prospect Park West entrance. From there, it is a straight shot across the middle of the cemetery, past Peter Cooper’s family plot, and past the catacombs. It’s located on the corner of Locust and Grape.

Roosevelt family plot
The Roosevelt family plot is about about a ten-minute walk from the 20th St. entrance.

Oddly enough, I have wandered around this area of the cemetery a million times (It’s shady and sometimes there are terrifying hawks) and yet have never noticed this huge, yet curiously humble plot. Maybe it’s because most of the stones are so decayed , sadly enough. It is difficult to read nearly all of them.

Alice_Hathaway_RooseveltAlice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt (1861-1844) was the beloved first wife of Theodore Roosevelt. She was tall, beautiful, athletic, and charming. She had such a delightful disposition that her nickname was “Sunshine” (a name I have only ever been called sarcastically).

When she was 17, she was introduced to 19-year-old Teddy through a cousin, who was attending Harvard with him. Roosevelt was instantly smitten with Alice, and set about wooing her with a passion. They were married three years later, just after his graduation.

Teddy loved Alice deeply. I mean, deeply. He wrote long, romantic love letters to her, and referred to her as his “purest queen.” In one letter, he wrote:

“Oh, my sweetest true love pray I for nothing but that I may be worthy of you; you are the light and sun shine of my life, and I can never cease thanking the Good God who gave you to me. I could not live without you, my sweet-mouthed, fair haired darling, and I care for nothing whatever else but you.”

It goes on and on like that for several more pages. You can see the actual letter here.

They had a happy life, and planned to have a big family. In 1882, at the age of 22, Alice became pregnant. Teddy was often working in Albany, so she stayed with his mother at their family home in Manhattan during the latter stages of her pregnancy. On February 12, 1884, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, but immediately afterwards fell quite ill with Bright’s Disease, a serious kidney disorder.

Roosevelt received a letter the next day alerting him to her precarious state of health. He traveled from Albany as quickly as he could through terrible weather to be at her bedside. She died a day later, on Valentine’s Day.

This isn’t even the worst of it. Roosevelt’s mother, Martha Bullock Roosevelt (1835-1884)  had been taking care of Alice during the last few months of her pregnancy. She had also recently fallen ill–with typhoid fever. She died 11 hours before Alice, in the very same house. Roosevelt was there for both deaths–going back and forth between the two rooms where his mother and wife lay dying. It must have been absolutely terrible for him.

Here is what Theodore Roosevelt famously wrote in his diary that day:



Roosevelt was devastated. So much so that he forbid anyone around him to ever speak of his young wife again. This event was so painful that he didn’t even mention her in his autobiography. He was completely lost, it seems. He quit politics, left the baby with his sister, and moved out to the Dakota territories to live as a rancher and sheriff for a couple of years.

I tried my best to research the other Roosevelt family members buried there–but most of the stones were so decayed that it was difficult to read the names. What a shame. But here are the ones I could come up with:

Theodore Roosevelt Sr. (1831-1878)

theodore roosevelt sr grave
Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. is buried next to his wife

Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.–Teddy Roosevelt’s beloved father, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandfather. I could write an entire entry about him alone. This is one great man.

Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.–also known as “Thee”–was described by his son Teddy as “the best man I ever knew. ” He was a model of altruism and morality, and raised his four kids to be kind, goodhearted citizens who help others. One of his major achievements was founding the New York Orthopedic Hospital, so that children with deformed spines could get specialized help. He was also a staunch Union supporter, and a founding member of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American History Museum. Thee died at the age of 46 from stomach cancer, after hiding his condition from his son for months–he didn’t want Teddy to get distracted from his studies at Harvard.

Cornelius (1794-1871) and Margaret (1821-1861) Roosevelt:

Cornelius and Margaret Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt’s grandparents! Cornelus V.S. Roosevelt  was one of the five richest men in New York City. He inherited his fortune from his father, who specialized in real estate and importing plate glass and hardware. He was one of the founders of Chase Bank (formerly called Chemical Bank). His wife, Teddy Roosevelt’s grandmother, Margaret Barnhill Roosevelt  is buried next to him.


Gladys Roosevelt  Dick (1889-1926)


Gladys Roosevelt Dick was Theodore Roosevelt’s cousin. She died during a fox hunt on Long Island in 1925. Here is the article from the Cornell Daily Sun:


Gladys was a painter, and her work was mainly focused on horses, ironically enough. She would paint horses at the race track, the horse show, the circus, and of course at fox hunts. She was 37 when she died.

Hilborne Lewis Roosevelt (1849-1886)


hilborne lewis roosevelt grave

An interesting fellow–this is another one of Theodore Roosevelt’s  cousins. Hilborne, unlike the rest of the Roosevelts, had no interest in making money or being in politics. His love was pipe organs. He invented and patented the first electric pipe organ in the U.S. when he was only 20 years old. Although the Roosevelt family frowned on Hilborne working in the trades, they quickly changed their tune when he started making money. Founding the Roosevelt Pipe Organs Builders company in 1870 with his brother Frank, he established factories in New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
His wife, socialite Katherine Shippen Roosevelt (1883-1886) is buried next to him:


*In all fairness, Henry George is realy not all that boring at all. But nonetheless I’d still rather see Alice Lee Roosevelt on the map!

Joseph Quadri

This one took a little digging, but I managed to get quite a bit of information. I’m glad I did.

I’ve been looking at the headstone for Joseph Quadri (1896-1918) ever since I moved to this neighborhood. It is right up the hill from my building. I see it every time I walk out the front door.

It is a profoundly sad monument. A weeping willow tree is draped over the top of the stone, and a mourning female figure is bent over the portrait of a young man in a World War I “Doughboy” uniform.

Joseph Quadri, Brooklyn native and first generation Italian-American, died October 9, 1918, during the Second Battle of the Somme. He was 22.

I am no World War I expert, but I have been doing some reading about it lately. The main thing I’ve learned was that World War I was pretty much hell on earth for everyone involved. And The Battle of the Somme was one of the most horrible, never-ending battles of the past several centuries.

By the time Joseph Quadri was sent to Germany to fight in the second Battle of the Somme, French and British troops had managed to halt the aggressive German offensive, pushing them back into German territory. Quadri’s division—the 27th—was absorbed into the 106th Infantry Regiment, which was sent to help reinforce dwindling British troops. Everyone involved in this battle–on both sides– suffered enormous casualties.

Here’s a picture of the 106th Infantry’s Farewell Parade on August 30th, 1917–according to the caption, this is the 27th Division:

106th Infantry Farewell parade 1917
106th Infantry Farewell parade 1917

From The New York State Military Museum web site:

At the commencement of active fighting, the 106th had a total effective strength of 3,003 officers and men… During its service in World War I, the 106th sustained 1,955 casualties including 1,496 wounded, 376 killed, and 83 who later died of their wounds.

Joseph was born in 1896 to Victor and Antonia Quadri, both Italian immigrants. Victor was a stonecutter, which may account for why Joseph has such a beautiful memorial. Antonia is listed on census records as doing “housework”. Victor and Antonia had 4 children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Andrew, and Victor, Jr., all of whom were just a few years apart in age. The 1915 census lists 18 year-old Joseph’s occupation as “machinist’s apprentice”. They lived here in Brooklyn, at 716 42nd street right by Sunset Park.

Joseph enlisted on April 3rd 1917. He died October 9th, 1918. On October 21st 1918, his entire division was relieved. If only he could have hung in there another couple of weeks.

Here’s his military card that shows his service, and record of death:


And here is the only picture of him that I could find. This is from “A Short History and Illustrated Roster of the 106th Infantry United States”:

Joseph Quadri

Precious Georgie

georgieI have this dumb rule when I walk around Green-Wood: If you see a hill, walk up it. There is almost always something interesting at the top of a hill. Here’s one result.

“Precious Georgie” and his twin brother Theodore were born in 1863, to renowned Presbyterian minister Theodore Ledyard Cuyler. Georgie died suddenly from scarlet fever when he was five years old. Clearly the family was heartbroken, so much so that his father went on to write a book about the experience, entitled “The Empty Crib, A Memorial of Little Georgie”. It concludes with this passage:

I close this love-tribute to my boy, in the very room whence his spirit took wing for heaven. The pillow in the crib is all smooth and undisturbed to-day. A picture of Jesus blessing little children hangs before me on the wall. Every shelf in yonder closet is filled with his keepsakes; and on the nail hangs his little velvet cap. As I look at all the playthings, and at the precious little slate on which he tried to mark, with feeble hand, on his dying day, I cannot believe that he is dead. He must be somewhere in my dwelling yet.

I actually got sucked in to reading this book online, and practically read the entire thing. It’s genuinely sad and heart-felt, particularly the part about his brother Theo coping with his twin’s death. You really feel for the Cuylers.

Georgie and his brother Theo
Georgie and his brother Theo

The sides of the monument are inscribed with the story of his last exchange with his mother before dying:

He look up at his mother and whispered, “Does Jesus love me? What will He say when he first sees me?” All through that April Sabbath with head on the mother’s breast the sweet child murmured of Jesus ’till the sun was low in the west. Then the door of Heaven opened that had been ajar all day. And our darling alone could answer what will Jesus say.

Ack! Heartbreaking.

It is worth noting that this beautiful portrait was created by sculptor Charles Calverley (1833-1914), who is responsible for a number of beautiful monuments throughout Green-Wood. (I’ll have to keep an eye out for more of his work.)

Theodore Cuyler
Theodore Cuyler

Georgie’s father Theodore Ledyard Cuyler (1822-1909) was a prominent religious figure in the 1800’s. On top of writing several books, he founded the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church here in Brooklyn, which boasted the largest Presbyterian congregation in the country. He also lead The New York Anti-Suffrage Association (no fun), and was a staunch proponent of the temperance movement (really no fun).

On a side note, there are two other small markers nearby for an infant son born to the Cuylers on December 25th, 1873, who only lived for about 10 days; one of the stones simply reads, “Our Christmas Gift”.

Peter and Jensine Lawson

map-lawsonThis is one of my favorites. I don’t think it needs too much explanation, just look at the photos. Peter Lawson–“Grandpa”–died at age 84 in 1887. His granddaughter Jensine (love that name) died a year later at age 24. In the statue, she is holding a rose to his lapel.

The earth, the earth has lost a gem,
Heaven has gained a star
The Angels saw it shining here
And called it from afar.

James Smith & Family

Sigh. More dead children. Another somber household. It must have been really hard to be a kid in the 1800s.

And here I thought the Aldrich family plot was one of the saddest things I’ve seen. This poor family had six children, most of whom died before the age of three. Only one of their children, Pamela, made it past that–and she died at the age of nine. The parents themselves didn’t even really live to be that old. It’s just sad.

Herman & Elizabeth Aldrich

What caught my eye about this monument was this unusual and graceful design. However, upon closer inspection, this is really one of the most genuinely sad things I have seen in Green-Wood.

Lined up behind Herman and Elizabeth Aldrich’s grave are stones for six children:

Gertrude, 1844-1848: 4 years old
Wyman, 1841-1849: 8 years old
Anna, 1859-1860: 1 year old
Mabel, 1875-1881: 6 years old
Emily, 1880-1881: 1 year old
Ella, 1886-1886: infant

I tried looking up anything about this family, but came up empty-handed. All I could think was, those poor people. How sad it must have been in their home.


Charlotte Canda

canda-dewittI’ve visited this site several times, and have always been amazed. It’s so huge and ornate, and there’s so much to look at.  No amount of picture-taking ever seems to do it justice. Who in the world would deserve such a 3-ring circus of a monument?

According to Wikipedia:

Charlotte Canda (February 3, 1828 – February 3, 1845), sometimes referred to simply as “Miss Canda”, was a young debutante who died in a horse carriage accident on the way home from her seventeenth birthday party in New York City. She is memorialized by a Victorian mausoleum in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York by Robert Launitz and John Frazee. The ornately and expensively decorated monument attracted thousands of visitors to Green-Wood Cemetery in the late 19th century.

This story is even better on the Green-Wood Cemetery Web site. Apparently she was sketching out some elaborate plans for the gravesite for her aunt when she died, so her father went ahead and used them for her grave, adding her initials and a bunch of other personal touches, like figures of her pet parrots. There’s a life-sized statue of her, and she is adorned with 17 roses around her head, one for each year of her life.

She was engaged to a Frenchman named Charles Jarret at the time of her death. He was so grief-stricken that he committed suicide a year later. Sheesh! OK, you win, Charlotte Canda. You do deserve such a dramatic monument.

UPDATE: After reading all this, I visited again. I couldn’t find any parrots in the monument(as described on the Green-Wood web site), but I did find the fiancé’s grave. It is right next to hers.