|Name||Van Wickle, Augustus Stout|
|Father||Simon Van Wickle|
|Mother||Anna Randolph Stout|
Augustus and his wife, Bessie Pardee, purchased the Blithewold estate in 1894 as a 'Country Home', and moved there with eldest daughter Marjorie, in 1896. Augustus Van Wickle died tragically in 1898 at the age of 42, just months before his second daughter, Augustine, was born.
Augustus Van Wickle was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1856, the younger son of Simon and Anna Randolph Stout Van Wickle. He attended New Jersey Classical and Scientific Institute (now Peddie School) in Hightstown, NJ, and Brown University, RI, where he received a "liberal education." After graduation he went to work in his father's coal-mining company in Ebervale, Pennsylvania, just a few miles from Hazleton. His father wrote to him "You now have a chance to show what you can do in respect to the shipping."
It was at this time that he met and married Bessie Pardee (Van Wickle McKee), daughter of Hazleton's wealthiest mine-owner, Ariovistus Pardee. Augustus proposed to Bessie on her 20th birthday (January 30, 1880) and they married September 20, 1882. The first child of Augustus and Bessie, Marjorie Randolph, was born September 12, 1883.
Over the years, the family mining company grew enormously under Augustus' management, and he diversified its holdings to include iron, lumber, and banking. With the development of the railroads, these industries fed into each other and expanded quickly: iron and lumber were used to build the railroads, coal was used to fire the railway engines, and the railroads were used to take the coal to larger markets further afield to feed the burgeoning industrial revolution.
In 1894, Augustus traveled with ten-year old daughter Marjorie to Narragansett, Rhode Island. On a day trip to Bristol to visit old friends, Augustus impulsively purchase a 72-foot steam yacht from the Herreshoff boat-building company in Bristol. Soon after, he took Bessie to see the estate on Ferry Road which became Blithewold. They purchased the 70-acre property and hired Newport architect, Francis Hoppin, to design a fine Queen Anne style mansion. They secured the services of Bristol landscape architect, John DeWolf to work closely with Bessie on planning the extensive gardens she desired.
The Van Wickles enjoyed their first summer at Blithewold in 1896. Bessie's brothers and sisters rented other large homes on Ferry Road for the summer, and they all enjoyed the privileged lifestyle of the wealthy - endless house parties, dinners and luncheons, and sailing on Narragansett Bay. Augustus referred to Blithewold as his "Country Home," and he planned to spend six months of the year in Bristol, traveling by boat and train to New York where his company's headquarters were located, and to Hazleton to check on his mines.
In 1898, when Marjorie was already fourteen years old, Bessie found she was expecting the second child they had longed for. But in June, while Bessie was packing their trunks to leave for Bristol for the summer, Augustus went out skeet-shooting near his home in Hazleton with his brother-in-law, Sandidge Allison. As he leaned over to mark his score in the dust, his gun accidentally fired, discharging the full load into his chest. He threw up his hands and fell backwards, mortally wounded. Sandy Allison lifted him into the carriage and raced him towards his home, but within the hour he was dead. His long awaited second child was born five months later, a daughter whom Bessie named Augustine.
At the time of his death, Augustus was Commodore of the Bristol Yacht Club and President of the Bristol Golf Club. He was a Trustee of Peddie Institute, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He was a member of the Jekyll Island Club in Georgia, a club used principally for hunting by the elite of New York.
When Augustus Van Wickle died tragically in 1898 at the age of 42, his will revealed a generous bequest to Brown University, his alma mater. The funds were used to build a new administration building, and to purchase and install the gates named in his memory.
Letters in the Blithewold Archives include a lifelong exchange of correspondence between Augustus and his parents, beginning with his letters from school. There are also many letters sent to Bessie and Marjorie. His letters reveal a warm, loving, and caring husband, father, and son. He was known in business as a very generous employer: when the miners' strikes began in Pennsylvania in 1898, Augustus immediately met his workers' demands, giving them better wages and better conditions. He remembered all his employees at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and knew their children by name. They commented that he never spoke down to them, and always showed them respect. His obituary reads "What endeared him most of all to them [his employees] was his accessibility. His advice and opinion were constantly sought after … he had only to know of trouble and care to try to relieve them."
--M. Whitehead, Blithewold Curator, 2016
|Spouse||Bessie Pardee (Van Wickle), married 09-20-1882,|
Marjorie Randolph Van Wickle Lyon
Augustine Van Wickle Shaw Toland