Presidential Mothers: Arthur, Cleveland each came from large families

Published 11:32 am Sunday, March 5, 2023

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By Betty Etchison West

For the Enterprise

The mothers of the two presidents included in this article were alike in some ways. They were both wives of preachers, and they both were the mothers of nine children.

Malvina Stone Arthur, The mother of Chester Arthur the 21st President of the United States, was the daughter of George Washington Stone, a man of Welsh decent, and Judith Stevens Stone. She was born April 29, 1802, in Berkshire, Vt.  In 1821, she married William Arthur in Quebec, Canada.

William Arthur was a preacher, which meant that his family moved from place to place.  When Chester Arthur, their fifth child, was born, the Arthur family lived in a very small ramshambled parsonage in Fairfield, Vt.  Mrs. Arthur must have had a difficult time caring for the four older children and a baby in that small house, but she was a religious lady who probably felt it was her duty to carry on without complaining.  She even taught Chester to read and write before he went to school.

The Arthur family moved from Vermont to New York State, but that tiny house near Fairfield is recognized as the birthplace of Chester Arthur.  The actual house in which Chester was born is not there, but there is a replica of the house on a little dirt road near Fairfield which is open to the public.

Malvina Stone Arthur, Chester Arthur’s mother, was a religious lady, and she was sad that her son did not chose to be baptized.  That was his choice so she had to accept it.

The fact that Chester married into a slave-owning family was hard for the Arthur family because the Arthurs were strong abolitionists.  Chester Arthur joined the Union Army but he did what he could to help his wife’s family after the war.

Mrs. Arthur, the mother not only of a president but also of eight other children, died in 1869 when she was 66. She died about 12 years before her son became president. She is buried in the cemetery where her son was buried less than 20 years later.  That cemetery is the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, N.Y.

Ann Neal Cleveland, the mother of Grover Cleveland the 22nd President, was born in Baltimore, Md., on Feb. 4, 1806. Her parents were Abner and Barbara Neal. Ann Neal, whose father was a publisher, married Harvard graduate and Presbyterian minister, Richard Falley Cleveland, on Sept. 10, 1829. The Clevelands, like the Arthurs, had nine children.  When their fifth child, Grover, was born, the Clevelands were living in the Presbyterian manse in Caldwell, N.J. The manse where Grover was born was a nice two-story house.  That house in Caldwell  is open to the public, but, if you want to visit, call to get information about the hours when it is open.

The Cleveland family moved from Caldwell to New York State. When Grover Cleveland was 16, his father died.  Rev. Cleveland’s death was devastating for his family. Mrs. Cleveland was left with four children under age 16. The older children helped, but it was still hard. Ann Neal Cleveland managed as well as she could, and one of her children became President.

Ann Cleveland lived 29 years after the death of her husband. She died on July 13, 1882, when she was 76.  She died only three years before her son, Grover Cleveland, was inaugurated as President.

Mrs. Cleveland was buried at the Holland Patent Cemetery in Holland Patent, Oneida County, N.Y., where her husband, the Rev. Richard Falley Cleveland, had been buried so many years earlier.  The son of Rev. Richard and Ann Cleveland, President Grover Cleveland, was not buried near his parents.  He was buried in Princeton, N.J., where he spent his last years.