Warner P. Sutton
by His Daughter Ethel Felice Sutton Kimball (d. 1879),
written Apr. 18, 1969
obtained from the
All those years of Father's strange illness (thirteen years) left us with the memory of a helpless invalid. Physically helpless he was, but with mental faculties still clear. He attended to all his business, dictating letters for Mother to write.
His business was quite involved,
in one investment especially. He had bought a square mile of rich "muck
Mother went twice a day to be with him, to write his letters and to read to him. She read marry volumes of history and biography, and the daily newspaper. He was cared for by Earnest Robinson, and lived in the Robinson home with the family.
When we went to see him, he was glad to see us, but there was a sense of being separated by some intangible space. He depended entirely on Mother.
This is as it was the last four
years of his life (1909 - 1913). Before this, a doctor in
Saida and White were both married and living in
solution was to bring Father, Mother, and Enid to
1893, Grover Cleveland (Democrat) removed all Republicans from appointive
offices, and so that year we left
had an office in
April of 1898 ("Remember the Maine"), the war against Spain involved
operations in Cuba and Puerto Rico, The War Department asked Father to serve as
an aide to General Nelson G. Miles in Puerto Rico. This request was because of
his long service in
work required conferences with Puerto Rican generals, and plans for landing U.
S, troops on that island. The story of that plan is long and interesting, a well-kept
secret at that time. Troops were landed. Father said he heard a few bullets
"whiz by" . Dewey took
But the malaria mosquito had done its fatal work.
was not until later that the cause and cure of malaria were known, ) The result of this was a severe attack of malarial
fever. Father would make a partial recovery of short duration, followed by
recurring attacks -- an intermittent illness with no complete recuperation. He
kept his office in
In June of 1900, he was attending a State
Republican Convention in
His active years were limited. He was
fifty-one years old when the last stage of his illness came. He was only
forty-nine when he went to
All those last years of sickness and inability are the ones "we children" remember, because they were the last. Recently, in sorting out old letters and papers, the father I remember as a little child has become clearer more definite and real in my mind, And that is what I am trying to recall for White and Enid and our children. Saida is gone, and that leaves me (Ethel) the next in age to remember incidents -- and more and more keep coming to my mind, which I will try to relate.
Father had to start his career from meager beginnings. Ability and brains he must have inherited, but the actual achievement was his own doing. His father, Luther Sutton, had been severely injured in the Civil War; his skull had been fractured and he was left for dead for three days while other wounded soldiers were being cared for, When it was discovered that he was still living, the surgeons operated, using a silver plate to cover the wound (trepan?), He was not able to do much work, but was for a time editor of the "Hartford Day Spring, " He was an authority on the Indian tribes in that region and could speak some of their languages.
It is said that he was the first white child born in Van Buren County.
Father became a teacher and journalist, He first met Mother at a Teachers' Institute (the story of that meeting is in "Mother's story"). He taught in Watervliet, Ludington, and Saugatuck. In Saugatuck, he was the principal and added one year to the curriculum, making it a one-year high school.
It was from Saugatuck that he went to
As little children, we called our parents Papa and Mama It was the custom then, both Mexican and English. In later years, little by little. we changed to Father and Mother. But in writing about our early years, no other names would seem natural except Papa and Mama; so I shall use them.
We had much entertainment watching the
activity in the courtyard and the street, especially if there was a circus
parade with a "pallazo" (clown). The
corridor was our playroom -- ropes to perform on, room to skate, etc.
The English and German children were also taken by their nurses, as no child ventured anywhere alone. Papa's fears were disease and kidnapping. Of these children, I remember only an English family -- Jasper, Victoria, and Tinita Lynch. This afternoon trip in the nurse's care was Mama's only respite from her three children. I have written about Mama's teaching us in another memoir. She was a delightful teacher, and we enjoyed our morning sessions with her --' three children in three different grades.
Papa learned to speak Spanish fluently, and
made many friends among the Mexicans in
Papa took us to see sugar mills when the cane was being crushed, and the coarse, heavy,, brown sugar was made. The trip to the sugar mill required a hired carriage and driver, as it was far outside the walled city.
Another trip came in the springtime when Papa and Uncle Charlie had large kites made, and we drove out to open country to fly them. I am sure that Papa and Uncle Charlie and the driver enjoyed the kites as much or more than we did. It required a man to hold the cords.
There was the hunting season, too, when ducks, quail, and plover, and other game birds came in large numbers. I suppose Papa was a "good shot" because we feasted for a time on these delicious birds -- a pleasant change in our diet.
Quinine, in my mind, is related to the game bird season. It was probably the time when malarial fever was prevalent. Our Dr. MacManus prescribed small daily doses of quinine, and coffee with hot milk for our breakfast, as a preventive. The coffee we enjoyed, but the quinine was an ordeal. We three children stood in front of the buffet, and Papa served us raw powdered quinine on the tip of a silver spoon. Papa declined the doctor's offer to make the dosage more palatable (tablets or capsules?). We took it straight with water after it. We were not allowed to be "mollycoddles. " That sounds rather cruel. But we felt quite proud of ourselves; it was a test of fortitude.
Besides the English and German children at
We children spoke Spanish by ear and were more fluent in Spanish than in English. One story, told about me when I was very young: I had heard Papa teasing one of the young missionary ladies, Miss Dysart, because she refused to tell her age. In my effort to copy Papa, I said, "Mr. Dysart, what old is he?" This was much quoted, to Miss 'Dysart's embarrassment,
We had good friends across the river in
To go to
Somehow, Papa impressed us with certain rules of conduct. He never had to punish us that I remember, but there was no question about obedience -- and I mean immediate obedience -- even if he was not with us. One thing, especially, was about telling something that was not to be told and to keep a promise. In his office, many confidential facts were known -- of course, we did not know them, but we had the. training. We kept a secret if we had promised. To break a promise was a deadly sin.
One incident made Papa very angry: Some
officers' wives from
A frightening experience was a "chubazco" (hurricane), It would start late in the afternoon -- the sky black -- wind and rain -- and it grew more violent as night came down. We children were kept up; and when the building trembled and things fell from the mantel, we moved down to the warehouse below us. We were placed under the strong arches, considered the safest place; mattresses were brought, and we children slept on the floor -- but there was no sleep for the grown-ups. Our big building withstood the storm, but the destruction was terrible -- little huts and little buildings collapsed. I remember two such storms, but this was the most frightening. After a few days, Papa took us to see some of the sad sights. All the city was badly damaged.
Uncle Charlie (Charles A, Andrus, Mama's
brother, thirteen years younger) came to
In the spring of '89, Papa was called to
Washington, D. C. to be the Chief Clerk of the International American Congress.
This was the first gathering of the Latin American countries with the
This left us in
Papa had been promoted to be Consul General
But we were not to stay there until after
the fall, after the International Congress. We went North by train to
A suitable house had to be built for a Consul General of the U, S, A, , so for the first winter we lived in a small, rented house near the railway and the big bridge. When the new building was finished, we had a very large, well-planned house: many rooms, a large yard with a high picket fence around it, and a kitchen which was a sizeable separate building with a covered way connecting it to the house. And now we had two beautiful English setters, Jack and Hunter.
Antonio Garcia, our Matamoros cook, had followed "Mr. Sutton" and was there to cook for us again. The food I remember best was the breakfast: cornbread, made of yellow corn ground in a small hand-mill freshly each morning, delicious coffee served with hot milk, the coffee freshly roasted and ground every day, and large bowls of rice.
Antonio was a most frightening sight on first seeing him. He was short and stocky, his face pitted by small-pox; he had a harelip, very small, bright eyes, and stiff black hair that stood straight up from his forehead; he never wore shoes, was always barefoot except when he went out in full dress for a holiday.
He would get his pay each week. It was a touching ceremony on Sundays when he would get dressed up in his best and come to let us see how well he was outfitted. He wore a clean cotton shirt and pantaloons with a bright scarf tied around for a belt, and his expensive, beautiful silver-trimmed sombrero. I can see him now -- a picture of pride in his looks and his position.
But Monday morning would come, and there was no breakfast and no Antonio. He could get drunk on three cents' worth of mezcal, and would be locked up for "disturbing the peace. " Papa or Uncle Charlie would pay his fine and bring him home. Finally, Papa told him that he would pay him once in four weeks, and that he was not to go out on intervening Sundays. Antonio agreed -- that was a good plan. Whatever "Mr. Sutton" decided was good with that devoted Antonio.
Smallpox was always a common disease but in
some years became epidemic. In this winter of 1890, we were all vaccinated. All
but White had painful reactions, but it was White who was a victim. Papa got
special permission to keep him, in our house, well isolated in a room in the
southwest corner of the house. Papa cared for him himself. He stayed in the
hall next to him and had his desk and telephone moved there; also, his communication
with the other part of the house. Two doctors came across from
The sickness was severe: a high fever that lasted . about three weeks, and the painful, horrible eruptions which caused the "pox" marks. Papa abhorred scars and blemishes of every kind. He kept White covered with vaseline, and from his seat in the hail trained White not to touch the itching spots.
To add to the problem was the imminent arrival of a baby in the north end of the house. White's illness was over, but he had to be kept in isolation for another three weeks. A nice Mexican man was White's nurse and companion during those final weeks. Papa had himself thoroughly disinfected, his clothes destroyed, and the rooms fumigated.
Soon after this, the day came when Enid Bancroft Sutton arrived in the northwest room (the prevailing winds in that season were from the North). So we had a new little sister.. And, meanwhile, the nice Mexican nurse had entertained White by introducing him to the use of tobacco.
This whole incident is typical of Papa's care for his family, He was calm and composed, but no detail was forgotten. He took charge and did not spare himself. I know we all felt a sense of his command in any crisis, even the combination of smallpox and a new baby.
Whooping cough was prevalent one year. White and Enid both had it, and Papa and Mama were taking them to Tampico to recover, If I had it, I could also go with them. There would be a private car so that no one else would be exposed. I did my best to cough but couldn't succeed. Two days after they had left. I began to whoop tremendously -- A Great Disappointment.
Some familiar directions of Papa's come to my mind always: "Stand up straight, " "Don't stumble." "Don't be heedless, " If we hurt ourselves through our own carelessness, we were reproved, not pitied. If illness or injury befell, not due to our fault, we had devoted care. We knew that obedience was expected promptly. I do not remember that he scolded us often. It was not necessary He explained the need for prompt obedience, and I know that we never questioned his authority or his fairness.
Saida and I cried all the first week at the school. We were homesick. We didn't like the food. We decided that we would not stay. On Friday, Papa came to take us home for the week end, for we were five-day students. We came out to the carriage carrying our bags and everything we had. We announced that we were not coming back the next week -- we didn't like it. We were told very firmly to take our bags and hack them and that we would be returning on Sunday afternoon.
Of course, there were tears, but no "appeal. " We both cried for weeks, as I remember; but soon we were happy and delighted with all the interesting things to do. We made friends with the American girls and many lovely Mexican girls. When we finally left in '93, we shed almost as many tears.
The school was a splendid one, using the
curriculum of the Cincinnati Schools. Two
The Head of the Music Department was a gifted German, ferocious-looking and fiery-tempered. He was said to be a deserter from the German Army. He was well-educated and a good teacher. He formed an orchestra. Saida and White played violin. I played the viola. (No one else wanted to, as it meant learning to read another clef. ) We gave concerts, solos, an act of an opera, etc. It was really good musical experience.
With our house in
Many important or celebrated persons came through on the two large railroads. They stopped for the Customs Office, and often Papa met them and brought them to our house for breakfast or lunch.
At the World's Fair of 1893, some of Papa's reports were on exhibition in a Government Display. We were very proud of him.
The longed-for vacation was the trip to
Saugatuck. It was as near to our idea of heaven as we could imagine. To go to
The house was on a high bluff overlooking
In these boats, we would ride down the
The summer in Saugatuck was something to
dream about when we were in
One event occurred about twice in the summer during the Saugatuck vacations. It stands out above the many other delightful days. Papa would say: "Today I will cook a beefsteak for you!" That was just the beginning: First, we had to go down the hill to the village to Fritz Walz's Butcher Shop. Then Papa went into the cooler, where he selected just the piece that he wanted; then he supervised the cutting and trimming. And we all went back up the hill with our "prize steak."
It took all of us to wait on Papa: one to get the "spider" (frying pan), another to get one tool, another to bring the seasoning. It was a real production. At last the steak was perfectly cooked and on the platter.
The rest of the dinner might be overcooked or cold by that time, but the steak, that was the star we had all anticipated.
Mama enjoyed cooking, something she never did in
Saugatuck, the Sutton relatives came from
When we went to
Here, too, he always found time to take us
on expeditions. He told us the background and history of many interesting
places. Scarcely a Saturday came without a special trip; so for us,
Language, call it grammar if you like, was
taught by correction and by our hearing good English at home. The correction
was a simple explanation at the time of the error, for instance: why one says,
"to White and (to) me, "not "to White and
Papa was not a churchman; but when we were
In Saugatuck, the Bird family
were our near neighbors and good friends. White was most friendly with
Harry and Carl Bird, and in very recent years Carl has written some incidents
that he recalled about Papa. They are very natural, and I quote; "I doubt
you will remember the incident as well as I. I have remembered it because I
think it is as fine an example of diplomacy and the use of English as I have
heard. Two years, at least, he and Dad and you and I would go upriver (
"One camp we struck near a farm owned by an old character by the name of Jeff Boyle. Jeff seldom saw anybody, so he came over to visit us and was full of talk, punctuated by a lot of swear words.
"I forgot to mention that we always had an extra person; and this trip it was Wilfred Lindsay, the Congregational minister, a Canadian and as fine-looking a man and personality as I ever knew.
"Most men would have said, 'This man is a preacher, so you had better cut it out.' But your father said, 'Mr. Boyle, this gentleman we have with us is a Minister of God, so the rest of us have refrained from swearing while he is here.' This did not hurt anybody and filled the bill."
Another note from Carl Bird:
"Dad sent me over to ask your Dad if he wanted to go 'upriver' another season.
'No. I have found that the greatest pleasure comes in making out the list of things needed. So, I have decided to make out the list and stay at home. "'
Another note from Carl Bird:
"Here is one more story about your father which should be set down to show something of the man he was.
"He had a fine sense of humor, a fine command of English, and loved the few friends he allowed himself to make.
"He sent my Dad a wrack of antlers from a Mexican buck. Dad had a man at the 'yard' (shipyard) make a beautiful walnut shield on which the antlers were mounted, with a few coat-hooks, and hung it in the hall of the 'big house' as a hat-and-coat rack.
"When your Dad came up from
"I have since thought that the short personal contact I had with your father, at an early, impressionable age, had a great influence on my own personality.
"He was gentle and had a soft voice, but behind it all was the command and authority of the schoolmaster which he had been."
At an Alumni Banquet, there was an alumna of that first high school class which Papa taught in Saugatuck; she must have been very old; she paid tribute to Professor Sutton using almost the same words that are in Carl Bird's letter -- "His gentle manner, his voice, and his complete command."
Papa` was strict with us, demanding certain standards of behavior; these we knew by his example and teaching, but without preaching. This does not imply that we were "little angels, " but at least we knew.
He was a kind father, devoted to his family, proud of his wife; and, as I remember, he looked after the needs of many relatives, Suttons and Andruses. He had a good sense of humor and loved a good story..
He was not handsome, but he was distinguished in appearance. He carried himself well in every position, and made a good name for himself and for us, his children, to remember with bride.
This was accomplished before he was forty-nine years old, with poor health for two added years, and the final long illness which I have told about.
Let us try to remember him as I have-tried to portray him in those earlier years which are still clear and vivid in my mind,
Ethel Felice Sutton Kimball April the. eighteenth, 1969
Warner Perrin Sutton, born
October 16th, 1849, Van Buren County,
His mother was Priscilla Jane Bancroft, daughter of Samuel Bancroft and Priscilla Hall Barse Northrup, who died in 1857, aged 74, (Her husband was Caleb Northrup. ) (I have a little sampler, unfinished, "Priscilla Hall.")
Warner Perrin Sutton began his career as a schoolteacher and journalist.
He married Lois Andrus at "
Watervliet and Ludington were two places in which he taught, and then went to Saugatuck to be principal of the school. He added one year of high school to the school, making it a one-year high school (approximate dates in Saugatuck, 1876 -- 1878)
Senator Thomas White Ferry
recommended him for the post of Consul in Matamoros,
Warner Perrin Sutton was in
He was called to
He was appointed Consul General to
He served as Consul General in
President Grover Cleveland did not reappoint him.
From 1893 to 1900, he had an office in Washington, D. C. for the practice of International Law. (The summers were spent in Saugatuck. )
In 1898, the War Department assigned him as
Aide to General Miles in
From 1900 until his death in 1913, he was
an invalid (basular meningitis as a result of malaria