Aug. 31, 1829 Washington District of Columbia District Of Columbia, USA
Aug. 28, 1905 Washington District of Columbia District Of Columbia, USA
The Washington Post Thursday, August 31, 1905 Mrs. Wilcox At Rest Came from a Distinguished and Brilliant Past Her Notable Christening Born a Presbyterian, She Lived an Episcopalian, but Late in Life Was Attracted to Catholic Church and Died in that Faith Christening and Marriage Two Notable Events in Washington With the death of Mrs. Mary Emily Donelson Wilcox the last personal link connecting the present with the Jackson administration of over half a century ago was severed. The history of Mrs. Wilcox which has thus far been told only in fragments is full of interest. She was a woman of active mind and clear memory whose last days were almost as interesting as her early years.
The Donelsons, being of Scotch Irish descent were, of course, Presbyterians, but early in life Mrs. Wilcox joined the Episcopal Church of which she was a member for many years. Her son, Andrew Donelson Wilcox who died in 1903 married Miss Ida Seymour of Georgetown, a member of a strong Catholic family, the result being that he also became a member of his wife's faith. His death proved a great shock to his mother and owing to the kindly sympathy and attention rendered on that occasion to herself and daughter by Rev. Father Buckey of St. Matthew's Catholic Church, who officiated at the funeral of her son, she from that time forward had a very decided leaning toward the Catholic religion.
Tribute to Long and Useful Life The funeral which took place at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon at the house at 1760 Corcoran Street was conducted by Father Buckey who paid an eloquent tribute to the lady's long and useful life. The floral offerings were numerous and fitting and a large number of old friends of the Donelsons and Wilcoxes attended the funeral. The following gentlemen acted as pallbearers: Ex-Senator Donelson Caffery, Colonel Samuel Donelson, Colonel G.C. Goodloe of Lexington, Kentucky; General Marcus J. Wright, Mr. John Selden, Mr. A.P. Morse, Mr. R.W. Kirkham and Mr. J.S. Garland. The interment was in Oak Hill Cemetery.
Mrs. Wilcox was the first child born in the White House, having first seen the light of day in the year 1829. She was the daughter of Andrew Jackson and Emily Tennessee Donelson, who were nephew and niece of Mrs. Jackson, the wife of President Andrew Jackson. Her father was one of two brothers, the other being Daniel Smith Donelson, who were sons of Samuel Donelson, brother of Mrs. Andrew Jackson and for many years a law partner of General Andrew Jackson. Mrs. Samuel Donelson, the mother of Mrs. Wilcox's father was a daughter of Daniel Smith, one of the first Senators from Tennessee as well as one of the few members of the Upper House to resign his position, he having late in life tired of an active career and given up his seat to a younger man. Mrs. Wilcox's uncle, Daniel Smith Donelson, an attorney of this city, residing at 1751 Madison Street Northwest.
Jackson's Private Secretary Andrew Jackson Donelson was at the time of Mrs. Wilcox's birth, Private Secretary to President Andrew Jackson and as Mrs. Jackson had died shortly before that event it devolved on Mrs. Emily Donelson to preside as mistress of the White House and First Lady of the land, a function which she performed with marked success and credit. Both Andrew Jackson Donelson, the father of Mrs. Wilcox and his brother, Daniel, were graduates of West Point, the former being an accomplished and cultured man of the old school.
The arrival of a baby in the White house was a unique event at that time and as a result the christening which took place a few weeks after the birth of Mrs. Wilcox was made an occasion of the first importance. Members of both Houses of Congress, the diplomatic corps and many other distinguished persons were invited and attended, the ceremony held in the East Room of the Presidential Mansion. The daughter of the Secretary of State, Miss Cora Livingstone acted as godmother while Martin Van Buren and President Jackson stood as godfathers. A full description of this ceremony of christening the first baby in the White House appeared some years ago in the Ladies' Home Journal written by Alice Graham McCollin. Miss McCollin states further in her article that among the guests present on that occasion was Robert E. Lee, then a young Lieutenant of Engineers and his wife, nee Mary Custis.
The Donelsons remained at the White House throughout the Jackson administration. During this time the cornerstone of the new Treasury was laid and in the box which President Jackson placed in the corner stone was a curl of the Baby Donelson's hair together with one of his messages to Congress.
At the close of the Jackson administration the Donelsons returned to Tennessee, living for a time at General Jackson's country seat, the Hermitage. While there Mrs. Wilcox, nee Donelson, attended what is known as the Old Academy, a school of girls in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1846 her father was appointed by President James K. Polk, Minister to Prussia, his family accompanying him to his new charge. The Donelsons remained aboard five years and during that time Mrs. Wilcox studied German, French, Italian and Spanish languages which she mastered thoroughly and which proved of great use to her in after life. She also studied music under Kullak, the famous composer.
The Donelsons returned to the United States in 1851, settling in this city where for some years Major Donelson was associated with Montgomery Blair in the publication of the Union Signal at that time the organ of the Democratic Party. They lived in the building on E Street near The Post, now occupied by Shoomaker's Saloon. E Street Northwest was at this time quite a fashionable residence street. It was her that Miss Donelson met John A. Wilcox, member of Congress from Mississippi. He had served in the Mexican War in Jefferson Davis' command in a company known as the Mississippi Rifles. His father was a Connecticut man who had settled in North Carolina, where he had married a Miss Garland, a famous belle of the Old North State. Mr. Wilcox was a man of great ability. He had entered the Mexican War as a private, but retuned a Colonel, as a result of gallantry and meritorious services. He was very ambitious and at the age of twenty-one was Secretary of State of Mississippi. They were married May 27, 1852, the ceremony being performed by Rev. Mr. Gallagher who years before had officiated at the christening of Miss Donelson. The affair was a brilliant social event and many distinguished guests were present.
Went to Live in Texas Colonel Wilcox failed, however, of re-election and from Washington he and his wife went to liver in Aberdeen, Mississippi and later to Texas, to which State Mrs. Wilcox's father had been sent some years before by President Polk as Special Commissioner to bring the Commonwealth, until then a Republic into the Union. Mr. Wilcox represented Texas in the Confederate Congress dying at his home in San Antonio in 1864.
After the Civil War Mrs. Wilcox returned to her father's home near Nashville, only to find that he, like herself had been impoverished by the War. She accordingly began teaching school in Nashville, This, however, did not continue long. It so happened that President Grant had been a warm personal friend of her husband's brother, General Cadmus Wilcox, the two having been fellow students at West Point. Later General Cadmus Wilcox was groomsman at General Grant's wedding. Hearing of her destitution, General Grant offered her a place as a translator in the Post Office Department, which she accepted in 1874, coming to this city to live. Subsequently she was promoted to a translatorship in the Treasury Department from which she resigned in 1895 owing to failing health. From that time forward to her death she lived a quiet and retired life at her home on Corcoran Street Northwest.
Mrs. Wilcox was one of a family of two daughters and two sons by her father's first wife. One of the sons was Andrew Jackson Donelson, a graduate of West Point who served in the Engineer Corps on the Oregon Survey. He died some years before the Civil War. The other was John Donelson, a graduate of Yale and member of the same class in which Senator Chauncey Depew graduated. He entered the Confederate service and was killed at Chickamauga during the Civil War. Rachel Donelson married to General W.B. Knox of San Antonio, Texas died in 1888.
Candidate for Vice President Mrs. Wilcox's father, Andrew Jackson Donelson Sr., was in 1856 Vice Presidential candidate on the Know-nothing Ticket, the nominees of the American of Know-nothing Party of that year having been Fillmore and Donelson. During the Civil War he was a Union man and sympathizer of the Federal cause despite the fact that his son was in the Confederate Army. His brother, Daniel Smith Donelson, the father of Samuel Donelson of this city, a cousin of Mrs. Wilcox who married Miss Margaret Branch, daughter of John Branch, Secretary of Navy under Jackson was a strong Confederate.
During the Civil War he served as a Major General in the Confederate Army and it was after him that Fort Donelson was named. Mrs. Wilcox's father, after the death of his first wife, married the latter's niece, Miss Anderson by whom he had eight children, three of whom, half-brothers of Mrs. Wilcox are living. They are Louis R. and Andrew J. Donelson, prominent merchants of Memphis, Tennessee and Vinet Donelson of Nashville.
Mrs. Wilcox was the mother of two children. The oldest, Andrew Donelson Wilcox, born in 1856 in San Antonio, Texas married Miss Ida Seymour of Georgetown and was for some years connected with the Navy Department and Pension Office. He died of heart failure in 1903 leaving a daughter, Miss Pauline Wilcox, residing in Georgetown. Her youngest child, Miss Mary Rachel Wilcox resides at 1760 Corcoran Street Northwest.