A Grand Wedding

Born in New York City, Cornelia Tyler Longstreet was the daughter of Cornelius and Caroline Longstreet. Her great-grandfather was Comfort Tyler, who built the first home in Onondaga County.

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Her father, a merchant, donated the land on which Syracuse University was built, including his mansion, Yates Castle, where Cornelia had spent her girlhood.

In 1871, she married Charles Henry Poor II (1844-1910), and her father made them a present of a “country house” in Skaneateles. The house, then as today, was Willowbank, a beautiful home on Genesee Street with a yard stretching down to the lake.

The setting prompted one writer to rhapsodize, “The velvety greensward reflects the shadows from maples and elm trees that have guarded the place for a century or more, and blossoming shrubs and flowers here and there add just the right touch of color to the cool dark green. The grounds slope down in billowy waves of green to the very lake shore and off across the sparkling waters and beyond the wooded edges of the lake rise the hills of Onondaga, arched by a blue June sky.”

Charles Poor II was the son of Admiral Charles Henry Poor (1808-1882), who served in the U.S. Navy from 1825 to 1870, including 23 years at sea and service in the Civil War in the attack on Charleston and in the blockade of the Confederacy.

Like his father, Charles Poor II served in the Navy, but resigned his commission in 1873. The family’s main residence was in Washington D.C., where they were very much a part of military high society. They had four children: a son, Charles Longstreet Poor, and three daughters, Mattie Lindsay, Anita Tyler and Callie Marvin Poor.

The family summered in Skaneateles, where Charles could continue to be a sailor. He sailed his Pollywog in an 1874 regatta in Skaneateles; circa 1880, he acquired a cat boat, Pumpkinseed, and then around 1885, a yawl, Perhaps So, built by the Bowdish Boat Company here in the Village. From 1894 to 1896, he was in charge of the neighborhood sailboat races, which began with the boats lining up between his dock at Willowbank and the seawall at St. James. Charles was also an amateur photographer; albums of his photographs are in the collection of the Skaneateles Historical Society.

Charles Poor’s Perhaps So, with Harry S. Abbott at the tiller

In 1882, Charles and Cornelia’s youngest daughter, Callie Marvin Poor, died at the age of two and a half. But Charles, Lindsay and Anita thrived.

When not in Washington or Skaneateles, Lindsay Poor was educated in private schools including one in France, Millien, Thavonet & Taylor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, where she was sent for “finishing.” In 1899, Lindsay was engaged to Marion Perry Maus (pronounced “Moss”), a Lieutenant Colonel on the staff of Gen. Nelson A. Miles. Maus was a West Point graduate, famed as a fighter in the Indian Wars. He had, in fact, been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery.

“Captain Maus” by Frederic Remington (who traveled with Maus in the West)

Maus fought in three Indian campaigns, against the Nez Perce, the Apaches and the Sioux. In 1877, he served as Chief of Army Scouts under Colonel Nelson Miles in the campaign against the Nez Perce, whose nation once spread from Idaho to northern Washington.

In 1885-1886, Maus took part in an expedition into Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains in pursuit of Geronimo, whose renegade Apaches had been waging a guerilla war against the military and civilians. The force was made up mostly of Apaches from a tribe other than Geronimo’s, scouts in the employ of the U.S. Army, and it was Maus’s job to command them. They were not Boy Scouts; in fact, one of the scouts was wanted for murder, and was more than happy to get away for a while.

In the mountains, this expeditionary force was attacked by Mexican “irregulars,” also hunting Apaches. The Mexican government was paying 200 pesos per Apache scalp, and these freelancers felt that scalps from Maus’s Apaches would serve just as well as scalps from Geronimo’s Apaches.

The leader of the U.S. expedition, Captain Emmett Crawford, stepped out in the open with Lt. Maus and a scout named Tom Horn; they sought to show that theirs was a U.S. expedition; Crawford was shot in the head for his trouble; Horn was wounded; Maus took cover, assumed command, and after two hours of gunfire, finally persuaded the Mexicans to hold their fire long enough for everyone to treat their wounded. Twice more, Maus went out into the open to parlay with the Mexicans; on the final occasion, he was held prisoner until the war cries of his scouts prompted the Mexicans to reconsider.

Escaping that peril, the expedition made contact the next morning with Geronimo, and Maus again went forward to parlay. When Geronimo asked him why he had come, Maus told him, “I came to capture or destroy you and your band.” Geronimo commended his honesty, shook his hand, and agreed to surrender. He eventually relented, slipping into the night on the return journey, but Maus brought back most of Geronimo’s party, as well as his own Apache scouts, and was commended for his bravery.

In his third campaign, Maus fought the Sioux, and was twice wounded. In 1894, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. While historians can argue the causes and conduct of the Indian Wars, one cannot question Maus’s courage.

From 1897 to 1899, Maus was stationed in Washington, D.C., serving as an aide to Gen. Miles, and it was in Washington that he met Lindsay Poor, a society belle. In 1899, when this Army hero was to wed their daughter, Charles and Cornelia Poor did not keep this news to themselves. They mailed out 3,400 invitations to the wedding, and another 1,800 invitations to the wedding reception at Willowbank in Skaneateles.

The groom and seven of his ushers came from Washington in the private railroad car of Gen. Miles. The Best Man was Col. Francis Michler, also on Gen. Miles’ staff, and a polo player with Maus when they were stationed in Chicago (1893-1894). (Michler was a founder of the Chicago Polo Club, and Outing magazine observed “Captain Maus and Michler, by the nature of their professions well used to the saddle, dashed into the sport with spirit.”)

Six bridesmaids came from Washington; they were joined by Miss Amy Willetts, daughter of Joseph Willetts of New York, whose summer home adjoined that of the Poors in Skaneateles, and Miss Charlotte Wright of Cincinnati.

The wedding ceremony took place at St. James’ Episcopal Church. A reporter for the Skaneateles Free Press wrote:

“One of the most brilliant social events in the history of Skaneateles occurred Wednesday, June 28, 1899, the occasion being the wedding of Miss Mattie Lindsay, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Poor, to Lieutenant-Colonel Marion Perry Maus, U.S.A. The marriage ceremony was held at St. James’ church, Rev. Frank N. Westcott being the officiating clergyman.

“The bridal party entered the church at high noon, Miss Poor upon the arm of her father, the ushers leading. The bridesmaids came out of the vestry room at the left to meet the bride, followed by the groom, who met the bride at the chancel steps, the bridesmaids marching down the aisle to meet the party coming up.

“The wedding march was rendered by Mrs. A.F. Presley, the organist of the church… The chancel was decorated with the best that local green-houses could put forth. Over the head of the bridal pair hung a huge bell of evergreens with a tongue of daisies. Four festoons of evergreens hung from the bell support. At the reading desk and pulpit were towers of palms and ferns and among them hundreds of lilies and elderberries innumerable. And added to these thousands and thousands of daisies completed the floral picture. Annunciation lilies were on the altar.”

The bridal party at Willowbank: Marion Maus and Lindsay Poor Maus; Anita Poor, the bride’s sister and maid of honor, and the best man, Col. Francis Michler. The ushers on the steps: Maj. John J. Pershing (the smiling man on the left with all the braid), Col. James Allen, Maj. I.H. Strothers, Lt. William B. Lassiter, Dr. L. Mervin Maus (brother of the groom), Robert Bohlen, Richard Merrick and Fred S. Young.

After the ceremony, a wedding breakfast was served at Willowbank, catered by Teall of Rochester; an orchestra, Kapps of Syracuse, played; boxes of wedding cake, provided by Demonet of Washington, were given to the guests. White of Skaneateles provided the floral decorations for the church and reception; the bride’s bouquet of white sweet peas came from Loosee of Washington. All of the gowns, along with the bride’s trousseau, were by Barton of Washington.

There was dancing on the tennis courts, and 19 years after the wedding, when General John J. Pershing was the commander of the American forces in France in WWI, guests would recall that he had walked down the aisle of St. James’ and cut a dashing figure on the great lawn of Willowbank. “He danced with the bride,” one account noted. “He danced with Miss Celia Miles, daughter of the general… He danced with Miss Helen Ffoulke, another bridesmaid… Miss Elizabeth Glover, a cousin of the bride… Miss Nita Poor… Miss Mary Sheridan, daughter of Gen. Philip Sheridan.” In all, young Pershing had quite a day.

Lindsay’s brother, Ensign Charles Longstreet Poor, could not attend the wedding; he was on the Yosemite bound for Guam. Those present included many you will recognize from other stories of Skaneateles: Mr. & Mrs. Henry T. Webb and their daughters; Mr. & Mrs. William A. Loney; Frederick Loney; George McKesson Brown; Mrs. Nicholas Roosevelt; Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Roosevelt; Mrs. T.Y. Avery; Harry Roosevelt; and many members of the Kellogg, Thorne, Leitch, Fitch, Brainard, Petheram and Cobane families.

After the reception, the newlyweds left in a shower of rice to catch a train for the west coast and their new home at The Richelieu Hotel in San Francisco, from which Maus would serve as Inspector General of the Department of California and Columbia. From 1904 to 1906, he served in the Philippines. Upon his return to California, he was called to San Francisco, where, in the first days after the earthquake of 1906, he was instrumental in maintaining order in the quake- and fire-ravaged city. He retired from the military, as a General, in 1913.

Brigadier General Marion Perry Maus

Charles Henry Poor died in Washington in 1910, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse. Cornelia Tyler Longstreet Poor died in Washington, D.C., in 1921. She is buried in Oakwood, and is remembered with a plaque on an endowed pew at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Skaneateles.

Charles Longstreet Poor died in New Orleans in 1926, and is buried in the Longstreet vault in Oakwood. Lindsay Poor Maus died in Baltimore in 1936, and is buried at the side of her husband, Gen. Marion P. Maus (who died in 1930) in Arlington National Cemetery.

* * *

My thanks to the Skaneateles Historical Society for the loan of Sailing on Skaneateles Lake: 1812-1934 (1934) by Sedgwick Smith; the photo of the Perhaps So is taken from this volume. Also, for the use of the Poor family file.

Other sources include the Skaneateles Free Press, Friday, June 30, 1899; Personal Recollections & Observations of General Nelson A. Miles (1896); “The New Indian Messiah,” by Lt. Marion P. Maus, U.S.A., in Harper’s Weekly, December 6, 1890 (an article about the Ghost Dance religion); “Polo in the West” by J.B. Macmahan in Outing magazine, August 1895; clippings from the Skaneateles and Syracuse newspapers, and the New York Times on the Web.

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