Saturday, July 14, 2012

Memoirs are Memories with an E

Our next to last day in Glenville, NY, was July 11. We drove to Mt. McGregor which is in Wilton, NY, near where I was born and raised. It’s amazing how something can be in your backyard and you have never seen it. Such was the case of Grant Cottage. The outlook from the mountain was amazing. You can see the New York Adirondacks, Vermont Green Mountains, Massachusetts Berkshires and the NY Catskills.  It’s where Grant spent his last days before he died. These photos don't do the view justice.

The history of the cottage was fascinating.  Duncan McGregor (who is another story) built a small scale hotel on the summit and called it Mountain House. After a few years, he was approached by two business men, Arkell and Drexel.  They wanted to build a grand hotel on the mountain…the Balmoral. McGregor agreed to sell as long as he was on their Board and had a say in what happened to his hotel. His little hotel was carefully moved so that the new hotel could be constructed, along with a railroad. (The Balmoral was destroyed by fire from a lightening bolt and replaced with a prison.  The railroad was removed.) 
The workers stayed at the Mountain House and once construction was finished, Mr. Drexel moved in. He renamed it the Drexel cottage. When he learned his good friend, Ulysses, was terminally ill, he offered it to Grant and it became Grant Cottage.
General Grant took Drexel up on the offer as he had discovered his financial advisor had cheated him and there was  little money left to his name. He also had been diagnosed with throat cancer. He was devoted to his wife, Julia, and his family. He wanted to be sure they were in a good place financially. His goal was to write his memoirs and what better place to do it than atop a mountain. 
He left New York City and moved to the location just outside of Saratoga Springs, which had become the playground of the wealthy after the Civil War.  Mark Twain, another of Grant’s friends,  was willing to publish Grant’s memoirs.  Ulysses finished writing them three days before he died.
The cottage remains as it did when he lived there. Above is a tincture of cocaine and water that was used to soothe his throat. The guide says there has been no evaporation in over 100 years!

 His personal effects are there as he left them.

He had written a note to his family the night before he died and his family found it in his nightshirt pocket. It was very touching and I wish I had taken a photo of it.
The funeral procession went from Saratoga Springs, down State Street in Albany, thru the Hudson River Valley, past West Point to New York City. It has been said that it was the largest funeral procession in all of history. His wife did not attend and she never returned to the cottage. I must read her memoirs! 

Even floral arrangements from the funeral are in the dining room. They have been preserved by waxing each petal.
The dining room table is said to be where he was embalmed for a second time as the family wasn't pleased with the first time! 

Grant was a wonderful man, in my opinion, and four of the words he used still remain true today, “Let us have peace.” I may have to read his memoirs as well. Maybe I should write my own…no, I’ll stick to blogging! I only have memories, not memoirs.