Evans Store and the Post Office in Mottville, circa 1908
A picture recently found in the attic of the library prompts me to recall General Marshall I. Ludington, who visited Skaneateles during his time of service and retired here afterwards.
Marshall Independence Ludington was so named because he was born on the Fourth of July. A veteran of the Civil War, the young Major was serving in the Quartermaster Corps in Washington, D.C., when he met Hattie Marvin, the daughter of William Marvin of our village.
Marvin, of whom I have written before, had served as a federal judge in Key West, Florida, where Hattie was born. After the Civil War, he was appointed Governor of Florida, and then elected as a U.S. Senator by the Florida legislature. But the U.S. Senate refused to seat him, at which point he had enough of public life and retired to Skaneateles. Marvin’s second wife, Eliza Riddle Jewett, was a widow, the daughter-in-law of Freeborn Jewett. And so in 1867, Marvin found himself in possession of the Jewett mansion (today’s Masonic Temple building.)
In 1871, Hattie Marvin and Marshall Ludington were married, and began life as a military couple. In Nebraska, Major Ludington provisioned troops for the Indian Wars. After seven years on the frontier, he took leave and the couple traveled in Europe. Upon his return, he served in Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco and New York, before being appointed Quartermaster General of the U.S.A. by President William McKinley.
Just 12 days after his appointment, the U.S.S. Maine blew up in Havana harbor. The U.S. military was ill prepared for the Spanish-American War, but Ludington did all he could to supply the U.S. forces rushing into action in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. In 1900, the Boxer Rebellion ignited in China, and Ludington was tasked with supplying that conflict as well.
On April 12, 1903, Ludington was promoted to Major General and retired from the Army the next day. He and Hattie traveled before returning to live in Skaneateles; William Marvin had died in 1902, and his home was now theirs.
Harriette Marvin Ludington died in Savannah, Georgia, in 1910, and Marshall Ludington died in 1919, having been a resident of Skaneateles for 16 years. A Syracuse newspaper noted:
“Gen. Ludington naturally had a fund of patriotic reminiscence. He had had the acquaintance of public men from Lincoln’s day. But while his life had been given to military affairs, his thought had not been circumscribed. He was a great reader. He enjoyed the fellowship of serious-minded men. He was interested in the affairs of his town, state and nation. He was a great soldier for a span of a generation, but to his multitude of friends he will be known in the more generic, more homely phrase, ‘a fine man.'”
In 1910, after his wife’s death, Marshall Ludington gave a painting to St. James’ Episcopal Church in her memory. The painting, “Madonna and Child,” is a copy of “Madonna con Bambino” by Carlo Dolci; the original hangs in the chapel of the Pitti Palace in Florence. The Ludingtons bought the copy from Giovacchino Costa, while traveling in Italy.
They were also remembered by a plaque on a pew at St. James’, where the family sat for many years. The sanctuary at St. James’ is currently being remodeled, but it is hoped that these memorials will remain to honor their memory.
With thanks to the annual Antique Show in Skaneateles, a blotter from the Columbian Rope Co. of Auburn, N.Y., illustration by J. F. Kernan (1878-1958) whose credits included 26 Saturday Evening Post covers between 1924 and 1936. His first cover for the Post depicted a very similar sailor, with a parrot, working on a model ship.