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 Ellen <I>Herndon</I> Arthur

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Ellen Herndon Arthur

  • Birth 30 Aug 1837 Culpeper, Culpeper County, Virginia, USA
  • Death 12 Jan 1880 New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
  • Burial Menands, Albany County, New York, USA
  • Plot Located behind the grave of President Arthur
  • Memorial ID 5402

Wife of 21st US President Chester Alan Arthur. She was a posthumous First Lady as she died before her husband assumed the presidency. Her death came even before his becoming US Vice President. Nicknamed "Nell," she was born Ellen Lewis Herndon in Culpepper Court House, Virginia. Her father was an officer in the US Navy who gained national renown in 1857 when he went down with his ship, the mail steamer SS Central America, along with more than 400 passengers and crew. It was the largest loss of life in a commercial shipping disaster, up until that time. He had safely evacuated 152 women and children to another vessel during the severe hurricane off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina but ultimately his ship could not be saved. She married Chester Alan Arthur on October 25, 1859 at Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City, New York, three years after they were introduced by her cousin, who was a friend of Arthur. A talented soprano, she sang with the Mendelssohn Glee Club and performed at benefits around New York City. They appeared to have a strong marriage, but it was strained by his political activities, which occupied much of his time. While her husband was serving in the New York militia during the American Civil War, she privately sympathized with the Confederacy, for which many of her Virginia relatives were fighting. They had three children, the oldest of which died when he was only three years old. In January 1880, before her husband was nominated as James A. Garfield's presidential running mate, she came down with a cold which quickly developed pneumonia and she died in New York City at the age of 42. When Arthur succeeded the presidency following Garfield's death in September 1881, his sister, Mary Arthur McElroy, served as hostess and unofficial First Lady for his social activities as US President.

Bio by: William Bjornstad


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 9 May 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5402
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Ellen Herndon Arthur (30 Aug 1837–12 Jan 1880), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5402, citing Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, Albany County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .