Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Susan and Anna Warner - Jesus Love Me

Henry Whiting Warner was a prominent successful lawyer and real estate speculator who lived in a lovely townhouse in New York City. His family was well provided for during the 1820's and early thirties.

Henry and his older brother Thomas graduated from Union College, Schenectady, New York. Thomas graduated from Union College in 1808 and Henry graduated in 1809.

Henry Warner was originally from New England. His ancestors emigrated from England in the 1630's. Several of those ancestors served in colonial Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York as respected leaders of the community. Mr. Warner's father Jason Warner was a soldier in the American Revolution. Jason Warner married Abigail Whiting; the daughter of his Colonel. Henry Warner was the second son of six children whom Jason and Abigail conceived.

He married Anna Marsh Bartlett who gave him two charming daughters named Anna and Susan. Susan was born in New York City on July 11, 1819. Anna, the second daughter, was born on Long Island, New York on August 21, 1827. (Some sources indicate that Anna was born in 1824,)

Mrs. Anna Warner was from a wealthy fashionable family from New York's Hudson Square. The Warner family could trace their historic lineage back to the Puritans and Pilgrims. Both Henry and his wife Anna were descended from Puritans and Pilgrims.

Mrs. Warner died in 1826 while Anna was a baby. Mr. Warner's younger sister, Frances (Aunt Fanny) came to care for Anna and Susan who was ten years old.

Henry Warner wrote to his brother Thomas concerning his sister Frances:

 “...she is my all in all. What should I have done without her?”

Aunt Fanny, a practical woman, would sustain and encourage her two nieces throughout her life. Frances loved and cherished her nieces and remained with the family for the rest of her life. She died at the age of eighty-three in 1885.

The Warner family would visit family and friends frequently. The two girls enjoyed piano and dancing lessons. Mr. Warner employed tutors who taught the girls literature, mathematics, art, and the sciences. Susan and Anna enjoyed frequenting the museums and libraries of New York City.

At the age of 15, Susan Warner recorded the following entry in her personal journal dated August 21, 1843.

“I darned stockings and talked stories, my favorite amusement. I do love it very much.”

Such sentiments were recorded daily in her journal during the early stages of her life in New York City.

During the summer months, the Warner family would visit Mr. Warner's older brother Thomas. The family visited Uncle Thomas Warner between 1828 and 1838. Thomas Warner had entered the ministry and served as chaplain and professor of Geography, History, and Ethics at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served as Chaplain of West Point from 1828 until 1838.

Susan faithfully recorded the family trips to the academy in her journal. She wrote of her family attending parades, ceremonies, and chapel services conducted by her uncle.

These visits to the academy occurred during a self-conscious adolescent period of Susan's life. Susan was a tall statuesque six foot tall young woman. Apparently, she inherited her stature from her father who was tall as were his brothers. Susan was a shy timid girl who was uneasy with strangers and self-absorbed within her family.

Anna wrote in her biography of Susan's later years:

“But she grew to be intensely fond of the public, of society…and of entertaining”.

Mr. Warner became interested in Constitution Island which was directly across the Hudson River from the Academy at West Point. Young Susan made the following entry dated July 28, 1834 in her journal upon their first visit to the island.

“This morning we all look the boat and rowed over to Constitution Island. We wandered about looking at the prospect, and considering the ground, for Father actually had thought of buying it for a country place. It did not look very prepossessing, however; for nothing can be more rough and rude than the face of that island.”

Consequently, Susan's opinion did not sway her father who chose to purchase the island in 1836.

Susan made the following entry in her journal dated June fifth.

“Uncle Thomas was down from West Point last week and staid several days. He is delighted with the prospect of doings at Constitution Island which Father has bought. Father contemplates keeping the southern part of the island, and building a fine house, making a sort of little Paradise of the grounds, and residing there eight months of the year.”

Anna would eventually record in her biography of Susan an entry in Susan's journal. Anna declared in the biography the sentiments of her sister:

“So comes in the first dim prospect of our future life-long home; as different from the later reality, as it well could be. Of that beautiful handful of plans, just one came true: we did go to the Island to live, and it was Paradise; though not of our making. But no visions born of town life and ease, and plenty, ever figured out anything so rich and rare as what – through straits and need and difficulty – the Lord vouchsafed to us, among our rocks.”

In 1836, Uncle Thomas persuaded his brother Henry to purchase Constitution Island. Henry was reluctant to purchase the island but agreed to the transaction. The two brothers spoke of developing the island on which they proposed constructing an elegant resort with a castellated hotel. They planned to acquire the services of Alexander Jackson Davis who was a prominent architect of the era. The “Panic of 1837” crushed their optimistic plans. Consequently, the family's income was reduced sharply.

Mr. Warner suffered a devastating financial loss in the year following the purchase of Constitution Island. The “Panic of 1837” destroyed the family's finances. Their beautiful mansion at St. Mark's Place in New York was sold and they moved to their summer home “Good Craig” which was an old Revolutionary War era farmhouse on Constitution Island in the Hudson River of New York. Constitution Island was across from the West Point Military Academy. Mr. Warner resolved to lead the life of a farmer on the island.

His lack of experience and unrealistic ill-conceived plans were to create further indebtedness resulting in unpaid loans. An auction of the family's possessions took place on May 6, 1846.

Aunt Fanny used her savings to rescue the family financially after their possessions were auctioned off in 1846. They were scarcely able to endure throughout the late 1840s. It was Aunt Fanny who made a perceptive practical suggestion to her nieces in 1848.

“Sue, I believe if you would try, you could write a story.”

Anna made the remark in her sister's biography inferring that the story would “sell” which would bring a measure of monetary relief to the struggling family.

Susan enthusiastically followed Aunty Fanny's perceptive advice and immediately began writing a lengthy manuscript which her father presented to several New York publishers. He was without success until he presented the manuscript to publisher G. P. Putnam.

Putnam's mother read Susan's manuscript while visiting her son and urged him to publish the book. She proclaimed to her son:

“If you never publish another book, publish this.”

G. P. Putnam published Susan's book which helped to opened the door to establish the sisters as writers.
The two sisters became aware of their indebted existence realizing their future financial security was beyond their father's power to control.

The type of writing which the Warner sisters offered the public during the era between 1820 and 1879 was seasoned for the times.

The financial situation of their actual lives was the inspiration for the plot lines of their books. They described the financial losses, helplessness, and poverty of women in their era. There were few respectable opportunities available to women of the middle-class. One might become a governess or mistress of a boarding house. Employment as teachers and careers in the field of writing were opening to enterprising women. Writing for a living was seldom viewed as “art for art's sake” but as a tool for surviving financially.

The success of Susan's first book The Wide, Wide World was an encouragement to Anna to begin writing to “sell” as well.

During the Civil War, the two sisters produced a short-lived newspaper for children which was titled “The Little American.”

Anna began to write and publish her work which earned some money to aid the finances of the family. Robinson Crusoe's Farmyard was a game for children concerning natural history. After the publication of her book, Susan began writing The Wide, Wide World which was published in 1851. The financial distress of the family was temporarily alleviated by the tremendous success of Susan's book. Although Susan and Anna were successful in publishing several books; their financial difficulties were not eliminated. There were no copyright laws to protect the two talented authors. Anna and Susan received no financial compensation for several editions of books that were pirated. Often they would sell their work outright or in serial form when they needed cash immediately.

Anna wrote that they would:

“live out our lives, fighting the fight, wrestling with sorrow, gathering up the joy—”.

She eventually came appreciate the treasure of the old farmhouse:

“How little discernment a buyer has at first as to the capabilities of his new purchase! For what “palace” could ever have been as dear to us as our old Revolutionary nondescript house?”

Thirteen year old Anna and eighteen year old Susan came to live on Constitution Island in the Hudson River. Young Anna delighted in roaming across the island to pick wildflowers and berries. The girls enjoyed exploring the site of the old Revolutionary War fortress and rowing on the Hudson River.

They were barely aware of the financial difficulties which encompassed their father. He became involved in lengthy litigation shortly after moving to Constitution Island. The lawsuits and poor investments depreciated the remainder of the family fortune. Consequently neighbors on the east bank challenged the family's property rights. Tragically, he lost the litigation and his family was reduced to desperation when faced with eviction. Their island property was placed in the hands of a receiver.

By 1849, little had changed in the family's financial situation. Susan Bogert Warner (July 11, 1819 – March 17, 1885), and her younger sister Anna Bartlett Warner (August 21, 1827 – January 22, 1915) wished to supplement the to family finances so they began writing poems and stories which were published.

When their father died, the two girls supported themselves in various literary endeavors.

Both sisters became Christians after their mutual conversions in the late 1830s. Their reliance on Christ resulted in their confirmation as members in the Mercer Street Presbyterian church in 1841. Susan and Anna Warner were devout Christians; later in life Susan Warner became drawn into the Methodist circles. Becoming Christians was a life changing experience for the two young women. Anna would eventually write in the biography of her sister:

“I think then the bond was knit between us two, which should outlast all time and change.” From this time onward, their shared convictions led to a cooperative, harmonious relationship both personally and professionally.”

Susan chose to write under the pen-name of “Elizabeth Wetherell.” Susan wrote thirty novels and several of those works were published in multiple editions. The Wide, Wide World (1850) was her first novel which was her most popular work. It was translated into several languages including French, German, and Dutch. It is highly possible that The Wide, Wide World was the most widely circulated literary work by an American author other than Uncle Tom's Cabin. Susan became an evangelical writer of religious fiction, theological works and children's fiction.

Susan's literary works include:

The Wide Wide World (1850), Queechy (1852), The Law and the Testimony, (1853), The Hills of the Shatemuc, (1856), Say and Seal (1860), The Old Helmet (1863), and Melbourne House (1864), My Desire (1879), The End of a Coil (1880), and Nobody (1882)

Americans of the nineteenth century reviewing her work admired her characterizations of rural life in America. Furthermore, they praised Susan for her Christian world view and moral teachings.

Susan wrote the Christian children's song “Jesus Bids Us Shine”

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine. 

Jesus bids us shine, first of all for Him;
Well He sees and knows it if our light is dim;
He looks down from heaven, sees us shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine. 

Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around,
Many kinds of darkness in this world abound:
Sin, and want, and sorrow—we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Books in which the two sister collaborated jointly included: Wych Hazel (1853), Mr. Rutherford's Children (1855) and The Hills of the Shatemuc (1856)

The devoted readers of Susan's works as well as her family and friends wrote enthusiastically of her ability to affect their lives in a decisive manner. She wrote skillfully having the ability to deepen, captivate, and challenge her readers.

Olivia Stokes was a friend of Anna and Susan and also author of Letters and Memories of Susan and Anna Warner, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1925.

Ms. Stokes wrote:

I had no idea of the vividness and captivating interest that she (Susan) gave to these stories.” 

Younger sister Anna sometimes wrote under the pseudonym of “Amy Lothrop.” She became the author of several books and poems which were set to music as hymns and Christian songs for children.

Anna wrote thirty-one novels of her own of which the most popular book was Dollars and Cents (1852). Dollars and Cents was a story of their family's financial trials.

Among her works are the following books: Gold of Chickaree, In West Point Colors (1904), Stories of Blackberry Hollow and Stories of Vinegar Hill (1872), Gardening by Myself, Hymns of the Church Militant (1858), Wayfaring Hymns, Original and Translated (1869), and The Law and the Testimony.

Anna also wrote a biography of her sister Susan Warner (1909)

Anna wrote the following lyrics: “Jesus Loves Me,” “O Little Child, Lie Still and Sleep,“One More Day's Work for Jesus,” “We Would See Jesus,” and “The World Looks Very Beautiful.”

Ira David Sankey wrote Sankey's Story of the Gospel Hymns and of Sacred Songs and Solos. In his book he speaks of Anna's song, “One More Day's Work for Jesus:”

“One day, while the children in a Mission Chapel were singing “One more day's work for Jesus,” a woman passing by stopped outside to listen. She went home with these words fixed in her mind. The next day, as she was bending over the washtub, the words of the hymn came to her again and aroused the question, Have I ever done one day's work for Jesus in all my life?”

The lyrics to “One More Day's Work for Jesus” was included in Anna's book Wayfaring Hymns, Original and Translated (1869). The music was composed by Robert Lowry.

One more day’s work for Jesus,
One less of life for me!
But Heav’n is nearer, and Christ is clearer
Than yesterday, to me.
His love and light fill all my soul tonight. 
One more day’s work for Jesus,
One more day’s work for Jesus,
One more day’s work for Jesus,
One less of life for me!
One more day’s work for Jesus! 

How sweet the work has been,
To tell the story, to show the glory,
Where Christ’s flock enters in!
How it did shine in this poor heart of mine!  

One more day’s work for Jesus!
O yes, a weary day;
But Heav’n shines clearer, and rest comes nearer,
At each step of the way;
And Christ in all, before His face I fall.


O bless├Ęd work for Jesus!
O rest at Jesus’ feet!
There toil seems pleasure, my wants are treasure,
And pain for Him is sweet.
Lord, if I may, I’ll serve another day!


Anna B. Warner included her hymn “We Would See Jesus” in her novel Dollars and Cents which was published in 1852 and republished in London in 1853. The work was retitled Speculation; or the Glen Luna Family.

The musical score "Visio Domini" was written by John B. Dykes in 1871.

We would see Jesus; for the shadows lengthen 
Across this little landscape of our life;
We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen
For the last weariness, the final strife.
We would see Jesus, the great rock foundation
Whereon our feet were set with sovereign grace;
Nor life nor death, with all their agitation,
Can thence remove us, if we see His face.

We would see Jesus; other lights are paling,
Which for long years we have rejoiced to see;
The blessings of our pilgrimage are failing;
We would not mourn them, for we go to Thee.
We would see Jesus; yet the spirit lingers
Round the dear objects it has loved so long,
And earth from earth can scarce unclasp its fingers;
Our love to Thee makes not this love less strong.

We would see Jesus: sense is all too binding,
And heaven appears too dim, too far away;
We would see Thee, Thyself our hearts reminding
What Thou hast suffered, our great debt to pay.
We would see Jesus: this is all we’re needing;
Strength, joy, and willingness come with the sight;
We would see Jesus, dying, risen, pleading;
Then welcome day, and farewell mortal night.

Anna wrote Robinson Crusoe's Farmyard and Susan wrote The Wide, Wide World. Consequently, the two girls who launched their literary careers simultaneously eventually wrote 106 publications. Eighteen of the works were co-authored by the two girls who collaborated together. Susan became a well-known novelist and Anna wrote two collections of poetry and novels.

Susan's book The Wide Wide World (1850) became a best seller which was second in popularity to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Among the most successful joint projects which they published was the novel titled Say and Seal. Anna wrote a song at Susan's request which became the most widely known children's hymn.

In the book is the story of a little boy named Johnny Fox who is dying. John Linden was the boys Sunday School teacher and friend who took the boy in his arms while rocking him. He began to sing a little song to the dying boy which he composed while rocking the boy in his arms. Anna's profound personal faith in God is the inspiration for the child-like faith expressed in the words.

Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak but He is strong/

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven's gates to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little Child come in.

Jesus take this heart of mine,
Make it pure and wholly thine
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
He's prepared a home for me
And someday, His face I'll see

Some Stanzas that appear in modern hymnals were rewritten by David Rutherford McGuire.

Hymn writer William Batchelder Bradbury read to the words of the song which John Linden sang to little Johnny Fox. He composed a child-like score to accompany Anna Warner's lyrics. “Jesus Loves Me” became the best known children's hymn on earth. Bradbury wrote the music to “Jesus Loves Me” in 1861 which was the year following the publishing of Say and Seal. Bradbury, a music teacher and manufacturer of pianos was born in York, Maine in 1816. He was a natural born musician who throughout his life compiled music and set many hymns of poetry to the beautiful melodies he composed. The music to “He Leadeth Me,” “Just as I Am,” and “Jesus Loves Me” are among his best known compositions. He studied with Lowell Mason in his youth. Bradbury organized free singing classes which were held in various churches in New York City. As a music teacher, his students received the heritage of music methodology which Bradbury learned from Lowell Mason. Consequently, Lowell Mason was attributed as having introduced music into the public school system of Boston. Furthermore, Bradbury is credited for introducing music into the public schools of New York. William Batchelder Bradbury died in Montclair, New Jersey on January 7, 1868.

Unfortunately, the two girls were never able to recover from the staggering financial distress resulting from the “Panic of 1837” which devastated their father economically.

They were never completely free from debt but managed to retain possession of their home on historic Constitution Island. The fortifications on Constitution Island date back to the earliest days of the American Revolution. Most of their writing was done in a room having a wall which was part of the original barracks of the fortress erected in the fall months of 1775. This thick stone wall is the oldest part of the Warner home. A Victorian wing of the home consisting of eight rooms was constructed by Henry Warner in 1836 upon moving his family to the island. The enchanting old house on Constitution Island became the home of the Warner family from 1836 till 1915.

An original portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart hangs over a fireplace on the same wall of the barracks. No matter how destitute the sisters were; they chose not to part with this cherished possession.

The writing careers of the two sisters were under intense pressure and worrisome for poverty was a looming threat. Throughout their lives, lawsuits with neighbors, copyright losses of foreign publishers, the Civil War, the business losses of their father and Susan's poor intermittent ill health were threats to their lives. Foreign copyright protection did not exist during the lifetimes of Anna and Susan Warner. Whenever foreign publishers printed their books; the two women didn't receive profits from the fruit of their labors.

It was not uncommon for the sisters to immediately sell the copyright of a work to publishers to meet pressing expenses. In order to provide for her living expenses, Anna resorted to selling the vegetable produce of her garden. Randolph of New York published her practical book Gardening by Myself in 1872. She encouraged ladies of leisure to kneel down upon the soil of their own garden and enjoy the fruits of the labor of their own hands. Her book is filled with encouraging suggestions and joyful personal reflections addressed to contemporary gardeners of our age.

Eventually a friend of Anna revealed how they managed from day to day: 

“One day when sitting with Miss Anna in the old living room she took from one of the cases a shell so delicate that it looked like lacework and holding it in her hand, with eyes dimmed with tears, she said, 'There was a time when I was very perplexed, bills were unpaid, necessities must be had, and someone sent me this exquisite thing. As I held it I realized that if God could make this beautiful home for a little creature. He would take care of me.”

Susan and Anna grew up near West Point and became well known for conducting Bible classes and Sunday School services for the young cadets of the West Point Academy. The two sisters taught Bible classes to West Point cadets for forty years.

It wasn't uncommon for Military cadets to sing “Jesus loves me” while on duty.

Millions of children and adults throughout the world have sung the profound but simple verses of “Jesus Loves Me.” The Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked to summarize the essential doctrines of his Christian faith. Barth responded to the inquirer with the simple answer:

“Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so."

“The New Yorker” published an article by John Hershey in 1944 titled “Survival.” John F. Kennedy told a story to him concerning the rescue of the men of PT 109 when it was destroyed in the Solomon Islands. Kennedy and his men were discovered by two natives after they had been stranded for several days. A rescue boat was led to the island through the efforts of the two natives.

John Hershey concludes the account which Kennedy told him with an anecdote:

“Johnston (one of the rescued men) retired topside and sat with his arms around a couple of roly poly, mission-trained natives. And in the fresh breeze on the way home they sang together a hymn all three happened to know:

“Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so:
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak,
but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me;
yes, Jesus loves me . . . . ”

The well-known lyrics of “Jesus Loves Me” are a simple expression of faith which has had special meaning to countless people throughout the world. Nineteenth century missionaries carried the familiar hymn to children across the globe. It has become a standard treasure in the Christian education of countless children. The rhythmical tune and simple words are easily learned making it a favorite song taught to Sunday school classes of young children. Once learned it can never be forgotten. Hence, it isn't a surprise that American sailors and members of the native population in the Solomon Islands would find a common bond in the treasured song.

The story of how the United States Military Academy came to treasure and preserve their property on Constitution Island is a charming vignette.

The opportunity to share their Christian faith with the cadets of West Point came in 1875. Susan began teaching a Bible class on Sunday afternoons in the Cadet Chapel at the request of several cadets.

Anna tells us of the eventful first day:

“The first day, there was a very large gathering, curiosity helping on the numbers. After that, it varied from week to week, as must be always, I suppose; especially among Cadets, where guard duty sometimes interferes; and where Sunday is the free day for seeing friends.”

At home, in the summer, they met in our tent near the house, the forage caps tossed out upon the grass; the gray figures in all sorts of positions in and out of the tent”.

Olivia Phelps Stokes published a biography of the sisters in 1925. She includes a vivid account written by a former cadet of Susan Warner's Bible classes.

“The visits to Constitution Island were regarded as a great privilege, for not only did they make a break in the severe routine of the daily life but they enabled the boys to roam further a field than was possible at the Academy, where the restrictions of the cadet limits were pretty irksome to boys accustomed to the free run of the town or country. So the privilege of going to Constitution Island as one of “Miss Warner’s boys” was eagerly sought and highly prized. Every Sunday afternoon during the summer encampment the sisters would send their elderly man of all work after the favored ones. He pulled the old flat-bottomed boat across the river to the West Point dock, where the boys with the coveted permits were wailing for him. Usually the trip back was accompanied with more or less excitement, for the boat was always loaded to the last inch of its carrying capacity.

Miss Susan Warner awaited her guests in the orchard. She always sat in the same big chair supported by many cushions. She was a frail little woman with a long face deeply lined with thought and care, lighted with large, dark very brilliant eyes. As she sat in her chair with the boys in a semi-circle around her on the grass she looked like a print from Godey’s Lady’s Book of half a century before. She always wore silk dresses of a small flowered pattern, made with voluminous skirts of wonderful stiffness, and rustle, and small close fitting bodices. A rich Paisley shawl was always around her shoulders and a broad black velvet ribbon was bound around her hair, which was only slightly gray.

After each of the boys had read a Bible verse. Miss Warner, choosing her subject from some New Testament text, talked to them for perhaps half an hour until her enthusiasm and interest had obviously almost exhausted her small strength. Her English was the best and purest I have ever heard, and as she went on and her interest grew her eyes shone, like stars and her voice became rich and warm. There was never any cant or sectarianism, and she always gave to the boys the brightest and most optimistic side of the faith she loved so well. When she had finished and lay back pale and weary against her cushions her sister. Miss Anna, came down from the house with the rare treat of the whole week, tea and homemade ginger-bread. After that the two sisters and the boys talked over the things of the world that seemed so far from that peaceful quiet orchard. The boys confided their aims and ambitions, and the sisters in the simplest, most unostentatious way sought to implant right ideals and principles. Miss Warner never forgot any of her boys, and up to the time of her death kept up a correspondence with many of them. This correspondence must have been voluminous, for it embraced men in every branch of the service, and included alike distinguished officers and cadets who had failed. . . “

The sunset years of Susan Warner's life was devoted to teaching the Bible to the cadets of West Point. The cadets heartily requested Susan to perform this undertaking.

Anna Warner continued to teach the Bible classes for the West Point cadets after the death of her 65 year old sister Susan who died in 1885. Anna Warner continued to teach Bible classes for another thirty years after her sister's death.

Whomever attended their Bible Classes respected their knowledge and wisdom. Susan and Anna established lasting friendships with select cadets after graduating from the Military Academy of West Point. The Constitution Island Association has preserved the correspondence between the sisters and cadets in their archives.

Mr. Buckner was Anna's “elderly man of all work.” He would row a boat from Constitution Island to bring Anna to West Point each Sunday to teach her Cadet Bible Class. Anna would bring individual bouquets of fresh flowers which were picked from her garden to brighten up the rooms of the Academy. Anna chose to remain on Constitution Island through early December and never failed to meet the cadets to conduct her class.

Buchner and the intrepid lady started to row to the Academy on a Sunday in late November. They were midway across the river when a severe storm and winds forced them to return to the island. Anna Warner continued to conduct her Cadet Bible Class until the time of her death in 1915.

The family home is now a museum which is on the grounds of the United States Military Academy of West Point. The family home was opposite of West Point where the uncle of Anna and Susan had been a chaplain from 1828 to 1838. In memory of Anna and Susan; the Academy's Constitution Island Association manages Warner's island property as an historic site. The Association is an historical society which was organized in 1916 a year after Anna Warner's death. It was established to preserve the home and furnishings of Anna and Susan Warner located in the Hudson River Valley. In 1927, the furnishings of the Warner home were donated to the Association by Mrs. Charles Addison Miller who was the legatee of Anna Warner's will. Each year from April to September, tours of the home and island and programs designed to educate children, special interest groups and the public are conducted.

The beloved old house on Constitution Island was the home of the Warner family from 1836 to 1915. The furnishings in the house are the original family possessions. If Miss Anna Warner were to visit the home as it is today; she would recognize the charming house which is kept as it was when she lived in the home until her death in 1915.

Anna and Susan Warner both died in Highland Falls, New York. Both were buried with full military honors and are the only civilians who are buried in the illustrious military cemetery of West Point. They are buried side by side and their graves face their beloved home on Constitution Island.

Their home on Constitution Island is maintained by West Point as a museum dedicated to their memory.

Anna and Susan's faith in Christ wasn't the only gift they bequeathed to the Military Academy.

Constitution Island was purchased from Anna Warner in 1908 by Mrs. Russell Sage.

Anna continued to live on the island until the winter of 1914 – 1915. She moved to Highland Falls where Anna died on January 22, 1915 at the age of ninety. Mrs. Sage and Anna presented the island as a gift to the United States Government to be used by West Point.

Mrs. Russell Sage gave West Point Military Academy a gift of her property - Constitution Island in 1908. Mrs. Sage explained the precise details of the transaction in correspondence between President Theodore Roosevelt and herself.

Lawrence, L. I.
September 4, 1908

The President:

I take pleasure in tendering as a gift to the United States from myself and Miss Anna Bartlett Warner, Constitution Island, opposite West Point, embracing about 230 acres of upland and 50 acres of meadow, the same to be an addition to the Military Reservation of West Point and to be for the use of the United States Military Academy. “My attention has been called by Captain Peter E. Traub, one of the professors at West Point, to the importance of adding this island to the West Point Reservation, and to the unsuccessful efforts of successive administrations of the Military Academy and Secretaries of War to secure the necessary appropriation to purchase it. In historic interest it is intimately connected with West Point. It formed during the Revolution a part of the defenses of the Hudson River. Upon it are now the remains of some ten breast-works commenced in 1775 by order of the Continental Congress, and completed later by Kosciusko. The guns mounted upon the Island then commanded the river channel as I rounded Gees Point, and to the island was attached one end of the iron chain intended to prevent the British warships from sailing up the Hudson. Washington’s Life Guard was mustered out on this island in 1783. It is distant only about three hundred yards from West Point, and in its present natural condition forms an essential part of the landscape as viewed from the West Point shore. The occupation of the Island as a Summer resort for profit, or its use for manufacturing purposes, would, in the opinion of the West Point authorities, be extremely detrimental to West Point, both from an aesthetic and from a practical standpoint. Moreover, its acquisition is desirable for the future development of the academy. Purchase of the Island by the Federal Government has been recommended both by the Hon. Elihu Root and Hon. William H. Taft, as Secretaries of War, as well as by the Board of Visitors of the present year. Bills appropriating $175,000 for the purchase of the island have been repeatedly before both houses of Congress, and I find that such a bill passed the Senate in 1902, but was never brought to a vote in the House.

“Miss Warner has received repeated offers from private parties, of a much larger sum than that for which she was willing to sell to the United States Government, but had steadily refused, from patriotic motives, to accept them in order that it might ultimately become a part of the West Point Reservation.

“Under these circumstances, after conference with friends officially connected with the Military Academy, and with Miss Warner, I have become the owner of the Island in consideration of the same amount for which Miss Warner has been willing to sell it to the United States, upon the understanding that I offer the Island to the Government for the use of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and so that it shall form a part of the Reservation there, and upon the further understanding that Miss Warner, who is well advanced in years, may continue to occupy the small part of the island now used by her for the remainder of her life, using her house, grounds, springs, pasture and firewood as heretofore. In view of the great pecuniary sacrifice to Miss Warner in parting with the Island at this price, she becomes with me a donor of the property to the United States Government.

I am prepared to execute a proper deed whenever I am assured that my gift will be accepted for this purpose, and that any necessary authority has been obtained from Congress or from the State of New York so as to vest in the United States the same jurisdiction over the Island which now exists over the military reservation at West Point. My deed will be accompanied by full abstract of title and will contain no conditions except:

“First’. That the Island be for the use forever of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N. Y., and form a part of the military reservation of West Point, and (pursuant to the covenant in Miss Warner’s deed to me, which runs with the land) ‘that no part of it shall ever be used as a public picnic, or excursion, or amusement ground, operated by private enterprise, individual or corporate, for profit; and

“Second: That Miss Anna Bartlett Warner have the right to reside as at present on Constitution island, in full possession of her house and the gardens appurtenant thereto during her natural life, and to the use of such spring or springs from which she now gets her water supply, together with the right to pasture her cows and horses, and to take such firewood as will be necessary while she resides on said Island, it being clearly understood that these reservations in her favor are restricted to her own life only.

“It is a great satisfaction to me to be thus able to carry out the great desire of Miss Warner’s life, and I am sure that her unselfish and high minded refusal to sell Constitution Island for other than Government purposes will be a tradition dear to the heart of every West Point graduate.

Respectfully yours,
(Signed) Margaret Olivia Sage”

“Oyster Bay, N. Y.
September 5, 1908

My dear Mrs. Sage:

Through Mr. de Forest I have received your letter of September 4th. I wish to thank you for your very generous gift to the Nation, and I have written Miss Warner thanking her. I have sent your letter at once to the Secretary of War, directing him to see that whatever action may be necessary, if any such there be, whether by Congress or by the State authorities, in order to consummate the gift, may be taken. Permit me now, on behalf of the Nation, to thank you most heartily again for a really patriotic act.

With regard,
Sincerely yours,

(Signed) Theodore Roosevelt”

The President of the United States wrote to Miss Warner:

“Oyster Bay, N. Y.
September 5, 1908

My dear Miss Warner:

I have written to Mrs. Sage thanking her, and I write to thank you for the singular generosity which has prompted you and her to make this gift to the Nation. You have rendered a real and patriotic service, and on behalf of all our people I desire to express our obligation and our appreciation. With regard, believe me,

Yours sincerely,
(Signed) Theodore Roosevelt”

Anna Warner stepped into Paradise to be greeted by her Lord Jesus Christ and sister Susan on January 22, 1915. Her earthly remains were buried beside those of her sister awaiting the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Anna and Susan Warner were buried in the cemetery of West Point “by special permission of the Secretary of War.”

The second clause of her will contains her final words to the Corps of Cadets. She bequeathed to them the treasured portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart which hung over the fireplace on the Revolutionary War barracks wall of her home. The cherished portrait of George Washington is indicative of their strong patriotism. The painting was willed to the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy for the cadets. It can be enjoyed in the West Point Museum where it hangs presently.

“Inasmuch as my sister and I agreed long ago that when our portrait of George Washington, painted by Stuart, left our hands it should go where we thought it would do the most work for our native land, therefore I give and bequeath the same to the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York (whoever he may be at the time of my death) for the special use of the Corps of Cadets at the Academy (there being some question as to the legal capacity of the Corps as such to take the gift): on condition that said picture is kept at the Military Reservation at West Point, and placed where the Cadets can have free access to see and to study it; so learning to love and revere the man who – under God – not only founded the Institution to which they belong, but gave them the Country they have sworn to defend . . . “.

The two Warner sisters were writers who enjoyed great popularity during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Today their books are unread and out of print, but the two women, themselves, are not forgotten.

Thanks to Charlotte Snyder who is Susan Warner's biographer from whom I gleaned much information beneficial to this essay. Ms. Snyder provided invaluable information which is incorporated in this work.

Furthermore, Thanks to Faith Herbert, Curator of the Constitution Island Association.

No comments: