Edward M. Padelford

Of all the owners of Roosevelt Hall, Edward M. Padelford left the lightest of footprints in Skaneateles. We know he bought the mansion from William R. Willetts in 1892, and sold it to Samuel Montgomery Roosevelt in 1899. But he was hardly ever here. Who the heck was this guy?

In 1857, Edward Macomber Padelford was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of Edward Padelford Jr. and Catherine Stenbergen. His brother Arthur was born in 1859. The boys’ grandfather, Edward Nathaniel Padelford, had come to Georgia from Massachusetts, made a fortune in cotton and founded a bank. When the Civil War erupted, he remained in Savannah, but did his best to distance his bank and other interests from the Confederate government. But his sons, including Edward and Arthur’s father, enlisted in the Confederate army. In June of 1863, the boys’ father, Edward Padelford Jr., died of typhoid while serving as a Lieutenant in a Confederate cavalry regiment. He was just 32 years old.

In June of 1870, when Edward and Arthur’s grandfather died, the boys, barely into their twenties, each inherited about $230,000 outright, and shared the income of a trust fund of about $500,000, the equivalent of millions today. The young men took their wealth and went north, living at various times in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, summering in the Berkshires or at Newport, and eventually voyaging to Europe whenever the whim seized them.

Edward was the first to marry, tying the knot in October of 1880, with Miss Florence McPheeters, said to be one of the most beautiful women in Baltimore. Around the same time, Edward acquired a yacht, the Nokomis. Yachting would be one of his lifelong passions. In 1882, Edward purchased a home in the Berkshire town of Lenox, Massachusetts, known as the “Inland Newport” thanks to its grand homes and the presence of ‘smart’ society.

In October of 1885, Arthur Padelford married Elizabeth “Bettina” Ordway and they went to Europe for their honeymoon trip. The daughter of a General, Miss Ordway was raised in a convent in Georgetown and privately tutored in several languages, manners, elocution and dance, before being presented to society. She was the season’s most celebrated debutante, and then mischief took over. Summering at the White Sulphur Springs resort, she became infamous for encouraging an admirer to drink champagne from her satin slipper. (It was easier to become infamous in those days.)

Arthur Padelford was a millionaire on his way to Vienna, and a hasty marriage was arranged. (The New York Times later suggested that Arthur Padelford consented to marry Miss Ordway when faced with the muzzle of General Ordway’s revolver.) The couple enjoyed the society in Vienna, but when Mrs. Padelford accepted a starring role in the four-poster of Carl Streitman, the leading tenor in the city’s light opera scene, an outraged Arthur hustled her off to Paris. In September of 1887, a daughter, Valerie Batthyány Padelford, was born. (Her godfather was a Duke, most probably from the Batthyány family, nobility in the Austro-Hungarian empire.)

After the christening, Arthur sent his wife and daughter back to the U.S., then returned to Vienna and began divorce proceedings. In the papers, Arthur stated that he wanted no share of his estate to go to his former wife or to her daughter, who was not his. (It would be 10 more years before the courts would establish her paternity.)

Valerie was raised by her grandparents in Washington and her mother went on the stage as Bettina Padelford, until Arthur gave her $20,000 to drop the use of his name, and she became Bettina Girard until a series of marriages (one of which lasted two weeks) lengthened her name to Bettina Girard Rafael Wolfe Beach Schuyler, and a series of bad choices destroyed her beauty and talent. (She died destitute in 1905.) Arthur escaped from the disaster with his fortune, if not his pride. For the rest of his life, and even after he died, any mention of him in the newspaper was accompanied by a biography of Bettina.

In 1886, brother Edward had a new yacht, the Ulidia brought over from England on the deck of a steamer. The boat’s crew arrived on the same boat. In August of that year, the summer at Newport took a bit of a downturn when Rebecca H. McPheeters, Florence’s mother, died of typhoid at Edward and Florence’s cottage.

Coaching was another of Edward’s passions; he was said to be “an enthusiastic whip” and drove a set of four matched bays. In May of 1888, he conveyed a party of gentlemen in the New York Coaching Club’s annual parade in Central Park. On the water in 1889, Edward sold the Ulidia and raced in his brother’s yacht, the Ileen. In October of 1890, at Newport, Edward drove his coach to Bristol Ferry with a party of friends and provided breakfast upon arrival.

However, yachting and coaching were not Edward’s only interests. In November of 1890, Florence Padelford sued for divorce and named Mrs. Edward Woolsey as the co-respondent in the suit. Florence was awarded alimony at the rate of $6,000 a year plus $2,000 in child support for their daughter, Florence Burne Padelford. Shortly after the divorce, Florence, Florence and the elder Florence’s unmarried sister, Ella McPheeters, moved to England.

Somehow, in the midst of this busy life, Edward Padelford found time in 1892 to buy a mansion in Skaneateles from William R. Willetts. I have no idea how or why. And there’s no indication that he was ever here for long.

In November of 1892, Mrs. Edward Woolsey secured a divorce from her husband, and three months later Edward and Frances “Fannie” Smythe Woolsey were wed aboard the Teutonic, en route to Paris. The new Mrs. Padelford was said to be “an unusually handsome woman.”

The following year, the mansion in Skaneateles did get some use. In November of 1893, Captain and Mrs. Edward Jaffrey were married in New York City and the mother of the bride was Fannie’s sister, for whom Fannie opened her “beautiful place at Skaneateles” for the couple’s honeymoon.

In March of 1895, Arthur Padelford married for a second time, to Miss Edythe Scott Grant, daughter of New York financier Beach Grant. The wedding was in Rome; the couple honeymooned on the Riviera. Sadly, in June of 1896, Arthur Padelford died in Paris, and the newspapers used the occasion of his death notice to detail the life of Bettina Ordway. (Edythe later remarried, becoming the Viscountess de Breteuil; her sister, Adele, was already the Countess of Essex.)

A month after Arthur’s death, Edward and Fannie Padelford sailed to Europe, saying that they planned to stay until May of 1897. And it was that month that the following ad for two properties ran in the Syracuse Daily Journal:

Padelford Place

This is the first and only time I have seen the estate referred to as “Lakota.” The ad attracted no buyers. But on April 4, 1899, two notes ran in the Skaneateles Free Press:

“It has been reported that the Padelford place has been sold through H.J. Hubbard’s real estate agency to Samuel M. Roosevelt of New York. We hear the consideration is $20,000.”

“Samuel M. Roosevelt of New York who is said to have bought the Padelford or Lapham place is no stranger to Skaneateles. His father was brother of the late H. Latrobe Roosevelt of this village and his mother was a member of the former well-known Horton family of this place. Mr. Roosevelt spent many of his boyhood days in Skaneateles. Mrs. Roosevelt is a Maryland lady whose father is one of the wealthiest men of that State.”

Roosevelt’s Skaneateles connections were relevant, but more importantly he was a friend of Edward Padelford; the two shared a passion for coaching and yachting, and were members of the same yacht club and of the Knickerbocker Club in New York City. In May, the two men came to Skaneateles together to look over the house; Fannie Padelford accompanied them, and it was announced that Mr. Roosevelt would take possession about July 1st.

But this was not the end of the Padelford connection to Roosevelt Hall. In the tussle over Arthur Padelford’s estate, the bank representing Valerie Padelford, who Arthur had finally accepted as his daughter, wanted an accounting of “certain items of bric-a-brac left in Skaneateles by the late Arthur Padelford of Philadelphia, the first husband of Bettina Girard.” (The poor sap; he’d been dead four years, and the newspapers were still talking about his first wife.) In 1900, the bank was granted “ancillary letters of administration” over such bric-a-brac; I don’t know if it did them any good since the Padelfords had left Skaneateles the year before. (Arthur’s daughter Valerie and widow Edythe eventually split the estate, scoring about $230,000 each.)

After the sale of his mansion in Skaneateles, Edward’s life continued in the manner to which he had become accustomed, with boats, travel and legal complications.

In July of 1901, he raced the yacht Zinita at Newport. In February of 1903, his first wife, Florence Padelford, married Ernest Cunard in London. In England, she had billed herself as a widow, rather than a divorcée. Two months later, in spite of the fact that she was calling herself a widow and had married into the wealth of the Cunard shipping family, Florence sued her supposedly dead former husband for “perpetual alimony.” In November of 1903, she lodged a formal complaint that her alimony had stopped. And in February of 1905, she sued for $23,000 in back alimony. What a gal. But in spite of her frustration with her first husband, she did see her daughter marry well.

Baroness Ebury; photo by Bassano Studios, London

In February of 1908, Florence Burne Padelford, Edward’s daughter, married Robert “Bertie” Grosvenor, the 3rd Baron Ebury, and ascended into the peerage. But since Edward had been portrayed as dead in the U.K. and as a deadbeat in the U.S., the bride was given away by her stepfather.

Life continued to hold both joy and sorrow. In January of 1911, while sailing on the Frances, Edward caught a 15-pound tarpon off the shores of Miami. In December, Edward’s wife, Frances “Fannie” Padelford, died at home in Paris.

In July of 1913, there was one more trip to Roosevelt Hall. Edward Padelford and Leslie Cotton, another wealthy yachtsman from New York, visited Skaneateles as guests of S. Montgomery Roosevelt.

August of 1914 found Edward Padelford in Bar Harbor, Maine, having arrived on his yacht Osana from New York. One more boat, and then one more wedding. In January of 1915, newspapers announced the marriage of Sophia Dallas Borda Bigelow, recently divorced from Nelson Bigelow, to Edward Padelford. The newlyweds went south to Palm Beach and Miami for the winter. In July of 1920, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Padelford arrived in Newport for the season, and settled in at “Clover Patch.” They had as their guest Mrs. Herbert Pell Jr. (Matilda Bigelow Pell), Mrs. Padelford’s daughter.

In 1921, Edward Macomber Padelford died in New York City at the age of 61, following an operation for appendicitis. He was survived by his beloved wife, Sophia, and was noted as the owner of the yacht Osana.

* * *

In the event the narrative above left you wanting more on the wedding of the Baroness Ebury, here’s a piece that ran the day before:

London, Jan. 31. – For some weeks the coming marriage of Miss Florence Padelford, daughter of Mrs. Ernest Cunard by her first marriage, and the Hon. Bertie Grosvenor, eldest son of the Lord and Lady Ebury, of Moor Park, has been the subject of considerable interest. Miss Florence Padelford, although a great favorite in society, and among the girls of her own age, has always avoided publicity of every description, and in this her fiance’s views thoroughly coincide with hers. The wedding, I understand is to take place at St. Margaret’s Westminster, Saturday, February 1. Miss Padelford spent most of the autumn at her mother’s and step-father’s country place. Red Rice, Andover, helping to entertain house parties, and only coming up to London occasionally to attend matters connected with her trousseau.

“She has received many handsome presents from members of the family, including a magnificent diamond tiara. From Lord Ebury she received a diamond and emerald ring which is one of the family heirlooms, being the gift of the duke of Wellington to the late Lady Ebury. Mr. Ernest Cunard has given his stepdaughter a handsome diamond corsage ornament. Her mother’s gift is a pearl and diamond dog collar. Among Mr. Grosvenor’s presents to his fiance are a traveling bag, a diamond and emerald ring and a rope of lovely pearls, and he has received from Miss Padelford a gold watch and an enamel cigarette case.

“The bride’s dress is of soft white satin with a long train, entirely covered with old Brussels lace, the gift of Lady Ebury, who also presented her future daughter-in-law with an old Honiton lace veil which has been worn by several members of the family for many years. Master Ivor Guest and Master Martin Glynn, nephews of the bridegroom, will act as pages. They will wear little Van Dyke costumes of white satin edged with pink velvet tape to match the color of the bridesmaids’ gown.

“The six bridesmaids… dresses are of Rose du Barry chiffon trimmed with soft silk of the same shade, and although it is not yet decided upon, it is probable that they will wear only large bows in their hair. Mr. Ernest Cunard will give the bride away, and after the ceremony he and Mrs. Cunard will hold a reception at their place in Portman Square, after which the bride and bridegroom will leave for the manor house. Ashby St. Ledgers, Rugby, kindly lent them by Mrs. and Mrs. Ivor Guest, to spend their honeymoon.”

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  1. Pingback: Roosevelt Hall « Skaneateles

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