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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 354

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This is the grave of James Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt.

The parents of FDR, James and Sara Roosevelt were landed elite in Hyde Park, New York, part of the Dutch class of old money that still played a major role in the region. James was born in 1828 in Hyde Park, graduated from Union College in 1847, and then from Harvard Law. He became a capitalist involved in coal and transportation industries. He was president of the Southern Railway Security Company and VP of the Delaware and Hudson Railway. In 1853, he was selected to be the secretary of Buchanan’s ambassador to Britain, creating a lifelong connection between that side of the Roosevelt family and the Democratic Party. Close to Grover Cleveland, when James returned to Hyde Park as the head of the estate, the future president would visit frequently. James married in 1853 to his second cousin Rebecca Howland and they had a son who married into the Astor family. When his first wife died in 1876 (also buried here, as you can see), he soon married a sixth cousin named Sara Delano. They met at a party celebrating their mutual relative Theodore Roosevelt’s graduation from Harvard. Glad this social set wasn’t inbred or anything. Anyway, they soon married and in 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born. He was an invalid for much of his young son’s life before he died in 1900.

Sara Delano Roosevelt was very much not an invalid. Born in 1854 in Newburgh, New York, she spent several years of her childhood in Hong Kong, as her father was an opium trader. She did not marry easily, rejecting several suitors before her older distant cousin married her in 1880. FDR was a hard childbirth and she was advised to not have any more children. Therefore, she doted upon Franklin and was extremely protective of him, much to Eleanor’s later chagrin. She basically hated every woman that FDR courted and was especially determined to break up he and Eleanor. When that failed, Sara moved in with Franklin and Eleanor and it seems frequently undermined all discipline in the household by spoiling their kids. She paid for Franklin and Eleanor to have a pair of connecting houses in a fashionable New York neighborhood, but only on the stipulation that she be able to move freely into all rooms. In fact, Roosevelt never lived without his mother until he went to the White House in 1933. Even when he was at Harvard, she moved to Boston. She died in Hyde Park in 1941, with the president at her side.

James and Sara Roosevelt are buried at Saint James Episcopal Churchyard, Hyde Park, New York.

If you would like this post to visit other presidential parents, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Bill Clinton’s biological father, who died in a car accident before he was born, is in Hope, Arkansas. Fred Trump is in Queens. The potential for this sort of grave visit is significant. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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