Welcome to Heart of the Matter Radio/Podcast. This week we have a special history episode. Mittie Bulloch lived in Roswell, Georgia, which is just north of Atlanta. She married Roosevelt during the Christmas season. Later she became the mother of President Theodore Roosevelt.

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Visit Mittie’s home, Bulloch Hall, here

Cynthia:

Holidays are upon us. And one of the things I love to do is to go back in history and talk about things that happened in history over the holidays. And if you recall, last year, I talked about Martha Washington and George Washington. They were married on the 12th day of Christmas, which was January the 6th, and she wore purple shoes. And that year, for Christmas, I baked a cake that Martha Washington liked to serve over the holidays. So, I think it’s so fun to find out what happened over the holidays at Christmas time. So, this year, I found out something special happened in my area, because I live in the Atlanta area, and I discovered that there was a famous person born here. There was a wedding here, too.

 

 

And today I’m going to have Gwendolyn Kohler tell us all about Mitti and Thee (or Theodore). So welcome, Gwen

 

Tell me about this story. It started in 1850 in Roswell and Marietta, Georgia.

 

Gwen:

 

Well, I need to take you back to the 1850s.

 

Cynthia:

Okay.

 

Gwen:

In the 1850s, Marietta was a booming town. It was quite the place to be. And if you wanted to shop and you lived in what’s now known as Roswell, you traveled several hours to Marietta to do your shopping. Then, petticoats, carriages, and horses were the mode of the day. And the telegram has now, fortunately, been able to connect the barrier between Cartersville and Atlanta. And that’s a big deal. David Copperfield was the hot book to have on your shelf to read. California is agitating for statehood, and Amelia Bloomer has scandalized New York City by appearing in bloomers on her bicycle.

 

Gwen:

 

Now let’s look back at Roswell. Roswell’s claim to fame, or one of its major claims to fame, is its national landmark, which is Bullock Hall. Bullock Hall is known as the home of President Theodore Roosevelt’s mother. Her parents, James and Martha, moved to Roswell in 1839, and they built this gorgeous temple-style Greek revival home that still stands as it was built at that time. It has been restored to as near as possible as its original condition. All right, now, in your imagination, think about our December weather. Think about that snow-rain mix that falls and makes all of our lovely Georgia clay into beautiful clay soup. Bullock Hall is at the top of a heart-shaped driveway.

 

Gwen:

 

This wedding that was planned had been planned for months. You cannot imagine Mitty Bullock torturing the neighborhood and her fiancé for months with plans for this wedding. Imagine carriages going up that heart-shaped driveway, letting off their passengers as the ladies are trying to keep their skirts from touching the mess. The house is a glow with all kinds of candles, decorated with ribbons and holly and greens. How did that happen? Well, you’ve got to step back in time just a little bit. About 1850, Mitti had a half-sister, Susan West, who married a man from Philadelphia, Hilborn West, and his friend was Theodore Roosevelt. They were married at Bullock Hall, and Theodore traveled with his friend Hilborn to attend the wedding, and Mitti caught his eye. Nothing happened at that point.

 

Gwen:

 

But about three years later, Susan invited Mitti and her sister Anna to go to Philadelphia for a visit. Theodore Roosevelt heard they were in town and hopped on the train and came down and was quite entranced with Mitti’s charms. She and her sister then spent some time in New York City.

We went to Harvard and transcribed the letters for this period, and then we published them in our book.

So back to the story. In the letters, there is a reference to the sacred couch upstairs at Cousin Mary’s. They don’t give us any more information about the sacred couch. But enchantment happened, and Theodore proposed to Mitti.

 

Gwen:

 

She returned to Roswell wearing a diamond ring. He traveled down from New York to Roswell to meet the family, and to be properly engaged as her fiancé. Martha approved the marriage, and planning seriously took place. Now, this all had to take place with courtship by letter. Imagine she is in Roswell. A southern bell. He is a serious young businessman working in his father’s plate glass business in New York City. It takes approximately three weeks, or 21 days for the letters to travel between Roswell and New York.

 

Gwen:

 

Sometimes they even wrote to each other, and their letters passed in the mail. Neither one knew what the other one had said. So, therefore, things got a little interesting with this wedding planning. Mitti was not a shy, retiring girl. She was full of vim, vigor, and vitality. She loved to ride horses. She loved dancing. She loved parties.

 

Gwen:

 

She loved to read. She loved tableau, and she loved mime. She was a busy girl. Theodore is serious, working in his father’s business, and Mittie decides it’s time to give him a list of instructions. Now, how many young women now give their fiancé a list of instructions before they’re married? Well, they did. Mitti’s list is interesting. She said that in the future you will not stay. And I’m reading this from her letter right now.

 

Gwen:

 

She said, number one, these are numbered. That you in the future, you will not stay in town to read my letters. And take tea, dry toast. But will enjoy your social meal as in the olden times. Apparently, he had a habit of going to his room. Reading the letters with his tea and toast. Instead of joining the family for dinner. She feels his social life is badly lacking.

 

Gwen:

 

Number two, she says, I want you to follow my theory and enjoy yourself as much as you used to before me. But number three is the winner. That you take care of your dress. And never think about wearing a green coat to church. Tis perfect treason. It’s of more importance to the family than you imagine. But seriously, dear Thee, please, for my sake, don’t think of me in that kind of way and never go out.

 

Gwen:

 

I wish you would think about it. Follow my advice. Be assured. Tis much the better plan. I love all that I’m capable of loving, except mother. Yet I enjoy myself as much as I ever did. Only more. Because I can think of you with so much pleasure.

 

Gwen:

 

And he is longing for her letters. She does not write often enough. And every letter that I have. He is pleading for more word from here about what to do. When will she plan the wedding? Well, the wedding gets planned first. It’s going to be twelve bridesmaids. Because she has so many friends. But he doesn’t know that many men.

 

Gwen:

 

So, then she can’t have twelve bridesmaids. She finally settles on four. The primary one being, of course, her sister Anna. Theodore’s brother Cornelius is asked. And then he names George Morris and a couple of other friends. And he mentioned this name. Now, I do not know. I don’t want to offend anyone when I tell you this story.

 

Gwen:

 

But this gentleman’s name was Robert Campbell. We tried to look him up, but we’ve never been able to get his identity. But Mitti says to Thee, do not invite Robert Campbell. If you invite him, I will be going to Texas with Tom King, who lives across the street. Anyway, Robert Campbell did not come to the wedding, let’s put it that way. And Theodore came. And his parents traveled by train and steamship to come to the wedding. His brother Cornelius came too.

 

Gwen:

 

Those were the Roosevelts that were present. And the wedding was arranged. Mitti had invited her four friends to be bridesmaids. They were to wear white gowns with ruffles. Her gown was white silk. We have a reproduction of that at Bullock Hall. That we have on display right now in Mitti’s room for Christmas. And they were extremely excited about all of this.

 

Gwen:

 

So, what’s the arrangement? Her cousin, Reverend John Dunwoody is going to perform the ceremony. The Dunwoodys live next door, which was very convenient, and the girls are upstairs. The house is adorned. There are pocket doors between the parlor and the dining room, and that’s where the ceremony takes place. They close the doors. The wedding party arranges itself on the other side, and the doors are opened, and the ceremony takes place. After the wedding, they have all kinds of celebrations, and they have what was described as a very elaborate cake. Then the week following the wedding, this young newly married couple, what do they do? They live with Mother Martha for a week, attending parties that their friends in Roswell are holding in celebration of the wedding.

 

Gwen:

 

At the end of that time, they travel to New York City for the first year of marriage. They live with his parents, Cornelius and Margaret von Shaw Roosevelt. While his father’s wedding gift is. A house is being built on 20th Avenue in New York City, or 20th Street, I guess it is. And while living there and moving into the new house, Mitti has four children. Her second child is Theodore, who becomes the president of the United States. To jump ahead to the President Theodore Roosevelt. He said he was raised on wonderful stories of his southern ancestors.

 

Gwen:

 

And he came in 1905 to visit Roswell. He came to Bullock Hall. We have on display a picture of him standing with his party on the steps. He came with his second wife, Edith, who was wearing a black veil over her hot face. And she never took it off for the picture, so you never see her face. There was so much cinder and soot blowing on the train, the dinky that brought them from Atlanta up here, up to Roswell, that she protected her face with that heavy veil, and she still has it on in the picture. He wanted especially to come to Bullock Hall to see the library because he’d heard so many stories about it. He also visited the Presbyterian church that Mitti’s parents helped found, Barrington Hall.

 

 

Cynthia:

Very interesting. How many people actually fit into the house when they were married?

 

Gwen:

 

We have searched high and low. There is absolutely no record of who attended the wedding. Simply know that the gentleman who was the minister at the Presbyterian church did not approve of the bridesmaid’s dresses. So he would not have been there because his daughter was to be a bridesmaid, and he wouldn’t let her be a bridesmaid because he considered the dresses a little bit too frivolous. So he was not there. I assumed the Kings, the Smiths the other prominent families, the other founding families in town were all there. But there is no record. There is no guest book, no list that’s kept.

 

Gwen:

 

And in her notes, the letters about the wedding, there is absolutely nothing they mentioned about anyone other than the girls, who were her bridesmaids, and Cornelius. And the other gentleman who was a groomsman for thee, Tom King, from across the street at Barrington hall, was invited to be a groomsman as well, which was very nice of him, based on the fact that he had been a suitor of Mitti’s earlier, I do believe that’s not talked about a lot. Mitti was very much the social butterfly in town, so I suspect there had been an earlier flirtation going on in the letters. Remember I’d mentioned to you that Mitti was a very feisty soul. There are a couple of stories about her, if you’d like to hear those. I would love it. One was, that there is a mountain somewhere between Roswell and Marietta. I think I know which one it is, but I’m not sure.

 

Gwen:

 

She referred to it as Lookout Mountain. They decided to go on a picnic. There were several young people in their late teens, and early 20s that were quite a group about town. Mittie decided that she wanted to return to Roswell before the rest of them. So, as she writes to Thee, she picked up a red tablecloth, tied it around her waist, another around her head, turban style, and took a friend’s horse and rode back to Roswell before the rest of them came in the carriages. One other thing she did, the other one. She told him about this one, too.

 

Gwen:

 

I know he was not happy about it. She went on an overnight picnic to Stone Mountain. Now, can you imagine the packing for overnight in 1853? Carriages, tents, hampers of food, heaven knows what.

 

Cynthia:

Do they sleep in a tent?

 

Gwen:

 

They pitched a tent. That night it rained.

 

Cynthia:

Oh, my.

 

Gwen:

 

They pitched the tent too close to the stream. She writes that at midnight they had to go to the inn at the top of the hill where they danced and partied. In the morning, they went back to their tent, and they had wet biscuits and floating bacon for breakfast before returning to Roswell.

 

Cynthia:

You were telling me that there were several things she’d like to do, and one of them I didn’t recognize.

 

Gwen:

 

Tableau.

 

Cynthia:

Okay, see, I don’t know what tableau is.

 

Gwen:

 

All right. The tradition of tableau is mime, in a way. What they would do would take a Greek tale, a Greek legend. They would spend the week, they would all have these conversations where they would plan what legend they’re going to do. They would make costumes, and then they would all go and pose in the picture that they envisioned that the legend represented. And someone would sit and read the legend.

 

Cynthia:

They had to stand still for a long time.

 

Gwen:

 

I can’t imagine it. They also talked about reading aloud. They talked about playing card games. They talked, oh, she loved to do the quadrille. She loved to dance. That was, of course, a very elaborate dance at that time. Horseback riding.

 

Gwen:

 

Oh, one of the other things she mentioned which I didn’t understand was G-R-A-P-I-N-G. That’s what you call it when you go out to pick the grapes.

 

Cynthia:

That makes sense.

 

Gwen:

 

And the other thing mentioned, that’s funny. When she was unwell, her mother would make her something called an egg pop.

 

Cynthia:

An egg pop?

 

Gwen:

Now, again, we did some considerable research about that, and somehow it sounds to me a little like eggnog with some liquor added.

 

Cynthia:

Oh, I bet it was. Didn’t she have a heart problem?

 

Gwen:

Never properly identified. They talked about it as palpitations. Yeah, probably something that was brought on by excitement and anxiety. I don’t know. She was also viewed later by her family as rather delicate. Let me tell you this delicate woman. Later, after the Civil War, traveled the Nile River. She traveled all over Europe.

Gwen:

I know she liked to have her tipple, shall we call it. She had certainly tasted beer and wine and other delights. She was raised as a very feminine southern woman in the old tradition and therefore seen by, northerners who write many of the books about her. Unfortunately, though I may be from the North, I’m very, a little critical of the Northern attitude towards Southern women, especially in that period, because they’re viewed as helpless. And Southern women were raised, if they were in a family of the status of the Bullocks, raised to be cared for. She was raised to be waited on. And so, therefore, that was her expectation for life. So, I’m not too happy always with the comments that are made about her.

Cynthia:

Isn’t the family related to the person who was the first governor of Georgia?

 

Gwen:

Oh, yes. Archibald Bullock was the first royal governor of Georgia. And James Bullock, I believe. I haven’t got the genealogy here in front of me. I think he was his grandson. But, yes, he was a significant person during the American Revolution. And her father, James Bullock, joined the Chatham artillery, which was down, of course, around Savannah.

Gwen:

He did not fight in the war. He was not in the war. Father was an entrepreneur. He was investing in gold and mineral rights in north Georgia. Early on, he was an investor in the steamship The Savannah, which was the first venture to have fast travel across to England from America, which was a colossal failure. They neglected to leave enough room for all of the fuel. Oh, well, I think that was the way the story went. So, he had quite a life also, and he was. Well, that would be enough.

Gwen:

Talking about James Bullock is another whole story because he was Martha Bullock’s second husband. And if I start on that story, we won’t finish.

 

Cynthia:

What was Mitti’s problem with green?

 

Gwen:

I don’t have any idea. We have laughed about that so many times. She simply did not want him to wear a green coat to church. There’s no other mention of the color green. We don’t know what her favorite color was. We know she liked violets, but I have no clue about that green coat. But I think. Imagine telling him, you can do anything you want, but don’t wear that green coat.

 

Gwen:

Who knows? Or it didn’t do much for him. He was a tall, dark, very good-looking man, but apparently, it just didn’t do much for her or for him, in her view.

Cynthia:

Do you know what kind of refreshments they served after the wedding was over?

 

Gwen:

 

Well, there are varying lists of things that you can read depending on which expert you want to listen to. What I know is that they serve cake. That’s the one thing that was specifically mentioned in the letters. I am sure that there was a major feast. I’m sure that there had been cooking down in the kitchen all day long. I am sure that there were all kinds of wonderful foods. But food was not on her mind. I bet Theodore was on her mind.

 

Gwen:

And having the bridesmaids in order and making sure that he had the right grooves. But oh, one of the other things that she did. She told him that when he came to visit, not to rent Tom King’s horse because he was hard to control. So. Poor Tom King.

Cynthia:

Yeah, that’s interesting. As I have researched, I’ve discovered that cakes that were kind of in England that came over here, that Specialty cakes were oftentimes they were called fruitcakes, but they weren’t the kind we have today. They were just kind of a spice cake with a few pieces of fruit.

Martha Washington had cooked one for her Christmases. Hers was a dark kind of fruitcake, but it had apples in it. It wasn’t anything like we think of a fruitcake.

 

Gwen:

Sounds rather delicious anyway. But no, she didn’t talk about food, really, in her letters. Thee talked more about food and talked about his tea and toast. And he actually, later on in the letters, he went to New Orleans for a friend’s wedding and he was doing seafood salad of some kind. And the cook who was helping him didn’t realize what he was doing. And she mixed the chicken salad with the seafood salad and it was served. And he was a little concerned about that. Strange little tidbits crop up in these books all the time.

Cynthia:

And so how many children did they have altogether?

 

Gwen:

They had four children. The president, Theodore Roosevelt, first was Anna, then Theodore, then Corinne, and the last was Elliot, two boys and two girls.

Cynthia:

I’ve read that Theodore had asthma as a child.

 

Gwen:

He was very sick as a child with asthma. And his father worked with him and helped him build his body. His father used to take him out for carriage rides at night to help ease his breathing. But, yes, he suffered greatly. It was not until he was older that he began to work on bodybuilding. And Develle had a life for himself.

Cynthia:

And he was the one the teddy bear was named after.

 

Gwen:

Well, that’s very true. There was a story about the president going bear hunting in the south, and the story is that there were no bears that day. So, someone captured a bear and brought it to the clearing. He told the president he could shoot him, shoot it, and then have the skin for his trophy. President Theodore Roosevelt refused to kill the bear. A cartoonist in New York City heard the story and drew the cartoon. And then a toy manufacturer wrote to the president and asked permission to make bears and named them after him. And at the same time, in Germany was beginning to make toy bears.

Gwen:

He was known for being the wildlife king, and he founded all the national parks. He did a lot of good things.

 

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