Rediscovering Caroline: Later Life, Death, Legacy

cmce lldeath legacy

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The first years of Caroline’s life can be described as a time of turmoil and tribulation.  Happily, the last years of her life were lived out in contentment,  surrounded by the extended family that had, from her early teens,  provided her with  love, encouragement and stability.  Heartsease was her anchor.  It was there she learned to draw and paint.  By all accounts it was a house that was always alive with the comings and goings of various family members, some for a brief while, and others, like Caroline, for their entire life. She moved within the orbit of Vassar College and intellectual and artistic groups like the Vassar Brothers Institute. She balanced her New York life with the growing family citrus business in Florida, and came to depict scenes from both locations with equal fervor, as demonstrated in the prior chapter, Her Work.

Heartsease & Poughkeepsie

In Poughkeepsie, Caroline maintained relationships with many of Vassar College’s leading lights, like Maria Mitchell and Henry Van Ingen. Also, she was formally active in the newly created Vassar Brothers Institute.  In December of 1882, Caroline, along with her friend Henry Van Ingen, artist James Smillie and sculptor George Bissell served on the exhibition committee for the first art show at the recently completed Vassar Brothers Institute building (still standing on Vassar Street, Poughkeepsie, see photo).  One hundred and sixty-seven paintings were exhibited in seven galleries throughout the three floors of the building.  Caroline herself had five paintings in the exhibition along with those done by her friends and mentors Henry Van Ingen and Frederick Rondel.  Among other noted artists of the day shown in the exhibit were – Lily M. Spencer, Frederick Church, Jasper Cropsey, the Smillie brothers and Sanford Gifford.  As was true in 1876, her paintings were hung side by side with some of the most important artists of the 19th century.

Vassar Brothers Institute

Inaugural Exhibition Catalogue

The family adds Florida as a business focus after the Civil War

The years prior to the Civil War saw the entire Hart family focused on their LaGrange farm and nursery.  Their attentions were drawn elsewhere in 1867 when Benjamin, encouraged by his Civil War veteran sons Ambrose and Walter, purchased land in Florida on which they would soon build homes and establish orange groves.  Eventually siblings Edmund, Walter, Ambrose and Louisa would make the area around Federal Point, Florida their primary residence,  and father Benjamin would divide his time between his Dutchess County orchard operations and his Florida homestead.   Those members of the family who did not move to Florida often travelled there during the winter months to enjoy the warm weather.  Caroline was one of the various family members who purchased land in Federal Point and went on to establish her own working orange grove. By April of 1874 her place was fenced and trees were to be planted shortly.  Work continued on her grove and by March of 1875 discussion was taking place about where she might locate a homestead of her own.  It is not known if a house was ever built.  It’s possible that her plans were altered by the death eight months later of her surrogate father Benjamin Hall Hart.

Like his sister Elizabeth, Caroline’s mother, Benjamin had been suffering from ill health for some time.  In a February 6, 1875 letter from Elizabeth Hart to her daughter Emily she reports that “Your father’s cough is pretty bad.  He keeps taking new colds and they are very distressing.  He gets so oppressed he can scarcely breathe.  He calls it asthma.”  Upon his death his daughter Louisa, assisted by her brothers assumed control of the property known as “Three Oaks.”  It is likely that Caroline lived on this property from the time she arrived in Florida, and even more likely that she continued to live there after Benjamin’s death.  It wasn’t until seven years later, in 1882, that Louisa, then age 36 married Edwin Smith Hubbard, fifteen years her junior.  He moved into “Three Oaks”  and successfully managed that property.  After the death of Louisa’s brother Walter in 1884 he took over management of  his property and secured a modest income from the sale of its fruit and produce for over a decade.    When the freezes of  1895-1896 and 1899  killed all the fruit to the ground, there was little incentive or money to bud and grow orange trees into bearing size.  Edward continued operations at “Three Oaks” after Louisa’s death in 1918 until it was sold in 1926.

Three Oaks, c. 1890.
Loquats in the Walter N. Hart grove, Federal Point, Florida. Edwin S. Hubbard, left.

Wherever Caroline was living it is clear from family letters that she quickly established a studio for herself and took up painting the animals and the landscapes of her Florida backyard.   In a December 26, 1869 letter, Pan (identity unknown), wrote that “There is so much water in the paths that I shall be obliged to row Carrie around to Mrs. Folsom’s and go for her again.  It is rather inconvenient for her to have her studio so far away.”  January letters of 1870 tell of Carrie painting Florida cattle. Caroline wrote to her sister, Lydia, in the early days of her arrival in Florida, she could not wait to get painting and used a chair on her bed as an easel. For nearly the next three decades Caroline’s life and her painting revolved around both Heartsease and Three Oaks,  with studios in both locations and, from time to time, in Brooklyn and New York City.  While it is believed that most of her paintings were being sold in New York there are reports of exhibits of her work in Milwaukee and in Jacksonville, Florida.  Elizabeth Hart, writing to her sister Emily on February 24, 1892 summed up the rhythm of Caroline’s life – “Caroline is also very busy between her painting and her grove and sewing and reading.  She does not allow herself much leisure.”

Tragedy struck the family again in July of 1884 when Walter was stricken by a heart attack and died, leaving behind his wife and three children.  His wife and family accompanied Walter’s remains to Heartsease for burial in the family plot.  When his wife lamented that she could not return to Florida and manage their family’s operations there, Mary invited her and her children to live at  Heartsease and once again the house echoed with the sound of children.  1896 brought Edith and Ervin Stuart, the children of Louisa and Edwin Smith Hubbard to Heartsease to attend schools in Poughkeepsie, thus expanding the household once again.  In 1897, at age 85, Elizabeth Nichols Hart, the matriarch of the family died, to be followed within a year by her son Edmund.  Despite the losses the 1900 census reveals that four of the seven Hart children, Mary, Ambrose, Emily and William were all living at Heartsease,  Ambrose having given up his Florida operations due to ill health.  Walter had died in 1884 and Edmund in 1898 so it was only Louisa who had not migrated back to the family homestead. Also in the household was Caroline.

When much of the Hart family’s focus shifted to Florida in the 1870s and early 1880s Heartsease  became a female dominated household.  Elizabeth,  her unmarried daughters Mary and Emily, and Benjamin’s mother Elizabeth Nichols Hart were the primary residents.  The only male to remain in the home was William Hall Hart, the youngest son of Benjamin and  Elizabeth.  Born in 1853 he was too young to serve with his brothers in the Civil War, and instead followed a path that led him to Dartmouth, from which he graduated in 1875.  His hopes for the future, which included plans to marry the daughter of the Rector of the Episcopal Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, were dashed when his father passed away the following November and he returned to LaGrange to take up management of the nursery and orchard operations on the farm.  He would remain there until his death in 1934.

Florida

Caroline lived at Heartsease until her death on November 16, 1904.  At some point, the precise date unknown, her sister Lydia came to the house to care for her in her last days. Lydia remarked that they "learned to know each other better than ever before.”  See Edith Louisa Hubbard's note below.

Not much is  known about the role Caroline’s father, William J. Clowes, played in Caroline's life in the decades leading up to his death in 1881.  References to him occur in family correspondence, so it is clear he continued to be in touch, and he is reported to have died at Heartsease, although it does not seem likely he ever lived here for a significant period.  It is likely that among the hundreds and hundreds of family letters yet to be read this part of the story will eventually emerge.

Two of the women who were closest to Caroline were her sister, Lydia, who was two years older, and her cousin Mary, who was born the same year as Caroline, and would have felt very much like a sister at Heartsease. Lydia lived until 1931, when she died, age 96. Mary lived until 1932, when she died at Heartsease, age 94. See photo of Lydia and Mary, c. 1930.

Caroline is  buried in the family plot in LaGrange Rural Cemetery, a short walk from Heartsease, alongside her father and Lydia, and among the large family.

References to Caroline's passing

Below left: Diary of Edith Louisa Hubbard.
Wednesday, November 16, 1904. "At half past seven Carrie passed quietly away."

Below center, letter from Edith Louisa Hubbard to her mother:
"
Heartsease.
My dear mama, Stuart has probably told you how very uncertain every day has been for cousin Carrie, so we were not surprised when she quietly left us last evening. It has been so lovely for her to have cousin Lydia here. She said that they learned to know each other better than ever before. Stuart has been a great comfort to her. She felt his leaving very much. The funeral will be a private one on Friday. She wished everything very quiet. Cousin Lydia is so sweet, she has been so gentle and devoted in her care. We hope she can stay with us. I will close this now and write another letter later. Lovingly, Edith Louisa Hubbard."

Below right: unattributed newspaper column.

Caroline's sister Lydia, left, & cousin Mary, c. 1930

Lydia Clowes Mary Hart

LaGrange Rural Cemetery

Women of Heartsease

After Caroline died in 1904, successive generations maintained Heartsease in physical terms, but also in terms of its spirituality, creativity, entrepreneurship and optimism.  After the death of William Hall Hart in 1934 it fell to E. Stuart, son of Louisa and Edward Smith Hubbard, to assume responsibility for the nursery and orchard operations.  Hubbard’s progressive vision, business acumen and creative marketing skills elevated Heartsease to one of the most important and successful apple farms in the Hudson Valley.  Yet, as was always the case in the Hart-Hubbard family, it was the women of the family who quietly but persistently kept Heartsease as the emotional heart of the family.   This role, begun by Benjamin’s wife, Elizabeth Nichols Hart, passed from her to her eldest daughter Mary.  When Mary died in 1932 the mantle was taken up by her niece Edith Louisa, who in turn passed it to her nephew’s wife, Marguerite “Peg” Hubbard.  The final period of stewardship of this incredible family legacy was then taken up by Peg’s daughter-in-law, Linda.  For more than a decade she sorted, organized, boxed and found appropriate homes for thousands and thousands of family records, letters and possessions.  Herself an artist, she recognized the quality and significance of the paintings of Caroline Morgan Clowes, and literally and figuratively, brought them out of the cupboard to be seen and appreciated.  The Dutchess County Historical Society and present and future generations of art and history lovers will be forever grateful to the women of Heartsease for their generation to generation respect for and care of these priceless treasures.

Edith Louisa Hubbard

Edith Louisa Hubbard was born at Heartsease in 1884. She spent most of her childhood based in Florida with visits north, and most of her adult life based at Heartsease with visits south.

She and the family saw her as a steward of the family history, and the principles, stories and physical items at the family home in LaGrange, Heartsease. She was an accomplished artist focusing on flowers and portraits.

Edith Louisa Hubbard would have been 20 years old when Caroline died, so there is no doubt that Caroline tutored the young Edith in drawing, the way Louisa Adelia Nichols tutored Caroline as a child. Edith Louisa Hubbard 's embrace of history, nature, and painting is reflected in her longstanding involvement in the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Poughkeepsie Garden Club, and the Dutchess County Art Association.

She was instrumental in being a transitional generation in stewardship of Caroline's paintings, letters, and effects, such that Linda and E. Stuart Hubbard were able to donate them to DCHS for preservation and education.

CMCE ELH Portraits

Above: Photograph of Vassar College Art Museum as created under the leadership of Henry Van Ingen shows the location of Caroline's Contentment, which Van Ingen purchased on behalf of the College in 1878. The school paper, Vassar Miscellany gave it a very positive review,. asking, how Miss Clowes achieved "...those transparently solid flesh tints!” An apt description of the character of her best paintings. The painting was sold in 1946 and we have not been able to locate it.

There were two constant and ever present threads in Caroline’s life.  One was the love and support of a family that took her in and made her one of their own.  The other was her identity as an artist and she remained “married to her easel” until the very end.

Family records indicate that “Evensong” may be the last painting she completed before her death.  There’s something comforting about the sheep finding a safe haven in the upended roots of the great tree – much like Caroline had found her own safe haven at Heartsease.