MRS. CUSTER'S LAST VISIT HERE OCCURRED DURING 1910 AND 1915
(The Monroe Evening News, Wednesday, April 5, 1933.)
Mrs. Custer's last visit to Monroe, as far as relatives could recall today, was made in February, 1915, when she came from her New York home to attend the funeral services for Nevin Johnson Custer, younger brother of General Custer. She spent three or four days in Monroe at the time and spoke frequently at small gatherings, telling of her recent trip to India and her exciting return trip through the war-torn countries of Europe.
Nevin Custer died on February 25 of a sudden attack of acute gastritis while visiting at the William Steiner hardware store. He was taken to the home his daughter, Mrs. Andrew Vivian on Washington Street, and died at 4 p.m. about seven hours after the attack. Nevin was the second of four sons born to Mr. And Mrs. Emanuel Custer at New Rumley, Ohio, General Custer being the oldest, Nevin was Born July 29, 1842. The funeral services were held on Sunday with the Rev. O. P. ...hleicher officiating. Mrs. Custer arrived on Saturday to attend the services.
An account of Mrs. Custer's last previous visit to Monroe, on the occasion of the unveiling of the Custer Monument on June 4, 1910, when she pulled the cord that revealed the city's memorial to its chief military hero, is reprinted below from the issue of the Monroe Democrat June 10,1910.
Charming Mrs. Custer, gracious, and smiling, stood for three hours in the Park hotel parlor on Saturday afternoon receiving a continuous stream of visitors who came to touch the hand and figuratively speaking content to "kiss the hem of the garment" of the hero's widow. Previous to the reception she had taken dinner with eight, intimate friends in the dining hall. The party included Mr. And Mrs. E.C. Potter and daughter, carrying the white nosegays, which were beside the place cards. Mrs. Custer herself carried a large bouquet of white flowers presented to her by the Civic Improvement Society and wore a dainty gown of black messaline satin and net, which she had on during the unveiling ceremonies.
The hotel parlors were finely decorated. Appropriately, large silk flags, both Michigan and United States flags were draped about, while big bunches of roses typified this sunny June day which in spite of the murky clouds having hung about so long, was determined to greet the lady.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people greeted her that afternoon and each one carried away a sweet memory of her recognition, for her greeting was of the warm hearted, sympathetic kind, and the informal and lovely way in which she spoke to her guests has left a lasting impression upon them. It has been a hard two days for Mrs. Custer, for from early morning on Friday the General's comrades and her own former mates and acquaintances had been calling to see her. However there was no trace of fatigue in the enthusiastic manner in which she met the last visitor who mounted the stairway upon this occasion. They were not all people past the meridian of life, though who strove to stand before Mrs. Custer on this memorable day. Young girls and boys who had heard of Custer days as of thrilling stories swelled the stream of callers and even little children were led by the hand so that in after years they might lay claim to the honor of having touched her finger tips. Informality was made the key, note of the junction. There was little parade of carriages, flowers and white gloves and people went pretty much in ordinary street costume, and publicity of the occasion and the early hour debarring full dress and conventions. This was Mrs. Custer herself chose, to have once more an informal meeting with friends in the home of her girlhood: to meet face to face acquaintances of her husband and her self, their children and anyone who taking interest in be in Monroe on that day. "That always her greatest charm" remarked a contemporary and former schoolmate of Mrs. Custer. But Mrs. Custer's attractions are manifold. Years have dealt lightly with her, her voice, is as musical as a girl's and in spite of the strenuousness of her life she has kept that "dew of youth" in her heart that has perpetuated her sweet expression. There is no trace of bitterness in her face, though her anxieties and disappointments have been keen.
Occasionally during the reception hours on Saturday, she took tine in spite of the hurry and crowd, to reply to a question concerning herself and her life and to give as much satisfaction to the interested and perhaps curious visitors as she could, considering the difficulty of her position as guest of honor.
Now that the unveiling of the monument is over, Mrs. Custer's interest centers chiefly in the school for army girls she is putting up. "Isn't it a beautiful idea," she, said. "I am so happy about it. Just as I, am over this glorious monument. You see, the General always felt that girls, no matter how brave they were, needed so much help and protection, and since I have lived in New York I have seen much of the suffering of poor girls, so many of them who, living in hall bedrooms, subsisting on tea and crackers and going out to work proud, noble hearted girls, who never wince or cry aloud. It is such girls I want to help and if I should die tomorrow the money will be ready and the place picked out in Bronxville, where a house stands that will serve the purpose as a beginning, I have earned the money myself, thought lecturing and writing, for this and I do not want it called a "home" but just "Custer Club" and I know that no memorial I could build to him would please him half as much".
A point, on which Mrs. Custer enlightened people whilst she was in the city, was on the subject of her fortune. She is far from wealthy. Her father's income was only a good one for Monroe in those days and she says that, had she not worked herself, she must have been a care to the country. She has worked indefatigably and has had more experience in the ordinary paths of life than those who saw her appear, a beautifully dressed, exquisite lady, above the crowd on Saturday, can know of.
She also spoke of writing another book. "This is to be an intimate book," she said "a human document of the general's life and mine. I feel that, perhaps more than anything else, if only I can present it in the right way, will throw the true light on this lovable, noble character. You see I shall not let it be published until after my death and as we have no children, I need feel no hesitation on that score. But I have so little confidence in myself that makes it hard for me to write it as I feel it ought to be written". Again she said, in connection with the army school subject: "Think of the difficulty, even today, of educating the girls of the army to be independent, to enable them to earn their own living. It is in the Philippines every three years, now with this and now with that post, without moorings anywhere. This is why I would like to make Custer Club a home for army girls who need it".
The final affair in which Mrs. Custer took part while in the city was at Miss Emily Lewis's home on Washington Street on Monday afternoon, when the guest of honor read a paper on "The People of the Passion Play" and met afterward about sixty ladies and majority of whom were her intimate friends and their daughters. Chairs were arranged as for a lecture through the parlors and at three o'clock Mrs. Custer entered, looking so fresh and sweet and untouched by care in her dainty black messaline, that one could scarcely think that she had been through three strenuous days of meeting and partings and encountering constant reminders of her late hero husband. She wore as her only ornament an amethyst pendant on a string of pearls, which lay closely around the high black lace collar.
Mrs. Van Miller spoke a few words by way of introducing the reader, and Mrs. Custer herself addressed the gathering informally before beginning the paper. She said that she had had many things to do that kept her away from Monroe but that if her friends here kept faith in her, as she was now sure they had, that she would try to do better about visiting them oftener in the future. She went on to tell some of the interesting things she had been engaged in, thus filling in the time or bridging over the gap between then and now by informing her friend with regard to her experiences in these years that have followed the Civil War.
It will be remembered that Mrs. Custer spent the summer of the fatal battle or the August and September of '76 in the city and that after that she went to New York to begin life over again and to put it to some use instead of making it a weary time of mourning. She first took a position of secretary in one of the art institutes of the metropolis and later took up lecturing on the subject of her experiences in the Civil War and subsequent life on the plains. The topics were timely. Everybody was filled with sympathy and curiosity with regard to the Sioux campaign and in fact with everything relative to the Boy Hero. Moreover, Mrs. Custer's charming way of delivering the addresses won large audiences and the attempt was from the first a success. Of course Mrs. Custer did not remind her listeners of all theses things on Saturday but simply mentioned that when she first went to New York she set about earning her home and now that was accomplished was giving her lectures only for philanthropic and charitable purposes.
Her paper upon this occasion on "The People Who Took Part in the Passion Play at Oberammergau," was delightful and the little speeches between paragraphs made one feel that one had met the speaker on intimate terms and had a confidential talk on the matter. She told of her journey by carriage to the town where the masterpiece is given and of her visits to the homes of the townsfolk who participated in the drama as well as attending the decennial performances of the Passion play. Mrs. Custer allowed one a deep look into the matter, which is an unreconcilable one to most of us, and convinced skeptics that the primitive people of a crude village exhibited no flaws in the setting, managing or interpretation of the great play.
After the reading those present had the pleasure of being presented to the guest of honor.
(The Monroe Evening News, Wednesday, April 5, 1933.)
Back to Custer in the News