In the early summer of 1885 Mr. Joseph W. Drexel, of New York, purchased this cottage, thinking to occupy it during a portion of the summer months himself; but learning that Dr. Douglass, [i.e., Douglas], General Grant's physician, was looking for some place "in the hills about Saratoga Springs," in which his distinguished patient might spend the heated days of the coming summer, and so escape the humid atmosphere of the coast, he placed the cottage at the General's disposal. This generous offer was accepted; and immediately preparations were begun for General Grant's reception. To fit the cottage for its expected guest it was necessary to repaint, paper, and furnish it throughout; not only the rooms now open to the public, but six sleeping rooms on the second floor. The fireplace in the reception room was also then constructed. But all of this was speedily accomplished and when General Grant and his family arrived here on the afternoon of June 16th, they found everything in readiness. The rooms open to the public remain today substantially as they were then, and at the date of the General's death, five weeks later.
In July, 1887, Mr. Drexel offered the cottage and its contents to the Grand Army of the Republic. This offer, after some delay, caused partially by Mr. Drexel's death, was accepted. An association, known as the Mount MacGregor Memorial Association was incorporated by the Legislature of this state, and to this body the title was transferrd by Mr. Drexel's executors on the 19th day of February, 1889. The Trustees of this association are James M. Snyder, Commander of the Department of New York, Grand Army of the Republic, General Nelson M. Henry, Adjutant-General of the state and their successors in office, William J. Arkell, Hon. Watson T. Dunmore and Robert F. Knapp. Mr. Arkell is at present president of the board.
The expense of the care and maintenance of this cottage is now borne by the State of New York, the legislature making an annual appropriation for that purpose.
Subsequently to this General Grant had begun work on his Memoirs; but the pain, which at times was excruciating, and the anxiety and disappointment seemed for a time to unfit him for the task. This was especially true as the cold, damp November weather came on. The book was put aside. He had no present relish for the work. Why should he write? What had the future for him? Only pain today, tomorrow, death.
But this passed after a time, and work was resumed. General Badeau who was with him at the time, relates how the General enjoyed having his pages read aloud to his family and listening to their comments. So the remaining days of autumn passed and winter set in.
Some time in January there was a consultation of physicians, Drs. Sands, Markoe and other participating. A piece of the diseased tissue was also submitted to Dr. G. R. Elliott for microscopic examination. "Malignant cancer" was the verdict. It does not appear that this was immediately communicated to General Grant or his family; but the knowledge came later, and it came with well nigh crushing force. A few days, a few weeks, a few months longer, pain running through them all; and then, the end. It must be a strong heart, indeed, that could face all this and not quail.
Speaking of this period of General Grant's illness,
General Badeau, in an
admirable article under the title of "The last Days of General Grant,"
published in the October, 1885, Century, says:
"Yet it seemed to me after the first shock that General Grant still had not given up. His unconquerable nature rebounded. He looked at the physicians with an anxiety that could not have been so acute, unless the possibility of hope had been mingled. He submitted to every operation, he carefully attended to every injunction, and sustained the long siege of disease with the same determination and tenacity he had displayed in other sieges and campaigns with other enemies. But now he was on the defensive, it was the first time."
As the winter days passed it was evident the disease was making progress; this was shown by the General's appearance and his increasing weakness. He had ceased longer to take his meals with his family. His days were spent in his room. At one time it was thought he was dying and the family were summoned and farewells said; but the end was not yet. A hemorrhage occurred subsequently to thisand again the family were called about him. This hemorrhage, however, instead of terminating fatally, as it was supposed it certainly would, resulted beneficially. The pain became less severe and the progress of the disease for the time seemed to be arrested. The General's strength returned. By the 27th of April, his sixty-second [i.e., 63rd] birthday, he was able to rejoin his family at dinner. Many now living recall the thrill of joy that possessed the nation's heart when it was announced that the General was again able to be out. This was in May. In June the transfer was made to Mount MacGregor. Touching the purpose of this transfer and how it came about I shall let Dr. Douglas speak:
"I had intended," he said, "to have General Grant
to a place where
the air was clear and pure and dry. The family spoke of moving him to his
cottage at Long Branch, but I said that I did not think that the humid
atmosphere about the sea coast would be well for him. One day I made the
remark that, if I could find a place somewhere around Saratoga, where he
would be comfortable that above all others would be my choices for a
summer home for General Grant. I go to Saratoga every season, drink its
waters, and enjoy the pure, dry air. They say that Saratoga is a hot
place, but it is not so. Of course, when we have a very warm spell it may
be warm in Saratoga, but the air there is always dry, and it is cooled by
the balsamic breezes from the Adirondacks.
One day, when I called on the General, Colonel Grant said that he had an invitation to a place near Saratoga on some railroad. I could not imagine where the place was. I thought it must be either on the Rensselaer and Saratoga road, or on the Adirondack Road, and I said I didn't believe that that was the place for him. On the same evening, when I called at the house, they told me that it was Mt. MacGregor and described it to me. Of course, I knew where Mt. MacGregor was, and said at once: 'That is just the place I have been looking for. There is little heat there; it is on the heights, it is free from vapors, and above all, it is among the pines, and the pure air is especially grateful to patients suffering as General Grant is suffering.' So it happened that just what we wanted we had.'"
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