First Ladies: Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur

posted in: First Ladies, First Lady | 0
Ellen Arthur

Ellen Lewis Arthur was the wife of President Chester Arthur. However, she died before he became President and his sister served in the role of First Lady.

Ellen Lewis Herndon was born on August 30, 1837 in Culpepper Court House, Virginia. She was the daughter of William Lewis and Frances Elizabeth Hansborough Herndon. She always went by the name Nell.

In 1856, she was introduced by her cousin to Chester Arthur. Arthur proposed to her on the porch of the U.S. Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York after a brief courtship.

In 1857, her father, a nationally renowned naval officer, went down with his ship the mail steamer SS Central America.

On October 25, 1859, Ellen married Chester Arthur. They were married on her father’s birthday.

A talented soprano, Nell Arthur sang with the Mendelssohn Glee Club and performed at benefits around New York. Her voice provided her with her own renown.

Nell’s mother came from high society in New York which would bring many significant social connections, friendships with families such as the Vanderbilt’s and Astor’s, and numerous luxuries.

Ellen Arthur

The Arthur’s appeared to have a strong marriage, but it was strained by both Chester’s political activities, which took much of his time, and the divided loyalties of the Civil War.

In 1860, their first child, William, was born in 1860. He died in 1863. Their second son, Chester Arthur II was born in 1864.

The couple became a power couple while her husband rose on the political scene.

A daughter, Ellen, was born in 1871.

In January 1880, she became ill and developed pneumonia. She died on January 12, 1880 at the age of 42. She was buried in the Arthur family plot in Albany, New York.

Chester Arthur deeply mourned the loss of his wife. He “commissioned a stained glass window dedicated to his wife at the church. He had it installed where he could view it at night, as the lights were kept on within the church. In addition, he ordered fresh flowers placed daily before her portrait in the White House.”


Tomorrow: Chester Author’s sister, Mary Arthur McElroy


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.