Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Philip D. Armour, Jr. marries Mary E. Lester

Philip Armour is a name well know in Chicago history.  The Armour's had arrived in the American colonies from Scotland before the American revolution. Philip Armour was born May 16, 1832 in Stockbridge, New York.  His mother, maiden name of Allison, was born in Scotland in 1826 and had come to America as a young girl.  It is unclear when they married. Mr. Armour, Sr. was a life member of the Illinois St. Andrew's Society and said to be its most generous donor.  We have no records from 1845-1871 because of the Great Fire.

Mr. & Mrs. Armour had 3 sons, J. Ogden was the oldest, Joseph had died in infancy and Philip Danforth, Jr. was born January 11, 1869 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The youngest son had been educated by private tutors until he was 16 and then was sent to Andover Academy to prepare for college.  He entered Yale at eighteen.  He was proficient in Latin and Greek with a love for classic literature and art.  For reason unknown he left Yale after one year and prepared to enter the house of Armour & Co.

His Father wanted him to tour Europe for one year before beginning his employment, so with a tutor, he visited all the major countries of Europe.  In Europe he collected books and art work.  The Armour's lived on Prairie Ave. which was "The Street" in 1890, the Lester family lived 2 block away on Calumet.  Their daughter was named Mary and she and P.D., Jr. were friends.  "The boy and girl met daily from the time they were 6 years of age."

After his tour of Europe, Philip began working for Armour & Company.  He started at the very bottom, working in the stock-yards every day.  At the age of 25, he was made a partner and traveled around the world visiting the offices of the company.  He knew employees from every branch and like his father was greatly loved and respected.

In the Fall of 1889, the engagement of Mary Lester and Philip D. Armour, Jr. was announced.  The Mothers began planning for the Christmas wedding.  It was to be the largest, most beautiful wedding every seen in Chicago.  No expense would be spared.  Decorations were chosen, the Bride's trousseau was progressing and the musicians engaged.  It was to be the social event of the year. I can only assume that the Central Church was the chosen location.

On November 7, 1889, Philip came to visit Mary Lester as the wedding plans were being discussed.  Finally, he said, "We are not on exhibition" and he and Mary took a walk to talk.  "If you love me well enough to marry me, he said, you love me well enough to marry me now.  Let's put an end to all this..."  A carriage was called for and the two returned to the Armour's house at 2115 Prairie Ave.  The Rev. F. W. Gunsaulus was sent for and the couple was married.  Mr. Armour, Sr., was still at work.  Immediately after the wedding, the couple boarded a train for the East.  The mothers were left sad, probably a little angry, and dejected!

Philip was quiet, intelligent and a family man.  His only outdoor sport was golf.  He was a member of the Chicago Athletic Club, the Calumet Club, Onwentsia and the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, IL.

In business he was quick to learn and was the pride of his father.  His closest friend was Patrick A. Valentine. In 1892, Philip and Mary purchased 400 acres near Oconomowoc, WI. and built a summer home known as Danforth Lodge. They also had a home in California.  Two children were born to the marriage:  Philip Danforth Armour III and Lester Armour.

The family left for their home at Montecito, California with their two boys, age 5 and 7. Three weeks later, Philip Armour was dead.  It came without warning and no cause of death was given.  His brother, J. Ogden met the funeral train in Kansas City.  It consisted of two special cars attached to a Santa Fe train.

The body lay in state at the family home where hundreds came to pay their respects. The casket was placed in the library and the home was opened to the public. "His life is an example of an exception to the common adage concerning the rich man's son.  He was known for his business ability, and had he lived he would have made a name for himself...he was beloved by all those who knew him well." Neither the father or mother of Philip were able to attend.  Philip Armour, Sr. was soon to die.

The Rev. Gunsaulus, pastor of the Central Church, conducted the service.  A special train took the body and mourners from 40th and Michigan to Graceland cemetery.  Patrick A. Valentine was an honorary pallbearer.

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