Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Joel Ninde's Career Influences

Madam Octavia Walton LeVert

Harvard University where Lee Ninde attended and graduated.

                                   Lee Ninde

XVII. Joel Ninde’s Career Influences

Joel’s grandparents and great-grandparents were wealthy and influential early citizens and had well established connections to the socialite families of the day. Madame Octavia Walton LeVert, one of the South’s most notable women, was included in Dr. Willis Roberts’ circle of friends.[i] [ii] Like her ancestors, Joel Roberts’ marriage to Lee Ninde afforded her a life of affluence. Lee, son of Judge Ninde, who graduated from Harvard College in 1895, was a practicing lawyer from a prominent and wealthy family who had returned to Fort Wayne to join his brothers Harry and Daniel in the family law practice. Not content to be a socialite, Joel had an Lintrinsic need to design and build houses. The rewards of homebuilding extended beyond the financial gains.

[i] Mirabeau Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas, always stayed at the Willis Roberts or Joel Roberts house when he was in Mobile, according to his biographies and his own papers. All the bios say that he “fell in with a coterie of literary personalities who met at the salon of Madame LeVert”. So in other words, he stayed at the Roberts homes but spent many evenings at Madame’s, then returned to sleep at the Roberts house. So of course the Robertses knew the LeVerts, too, if she was such a good friend of Lamar. There is at least one letter from Dr. Henry LeVert, Madame’s husband, in the Mirabeau Lamar papers in Texas. Dr. LeVert also witnessed the will of Joel Ninde’s maternal grandfather, William Peacock. Madame LeVert was closer in age to Olivea Roberts (b. 1804), daughter of Dr. Willis and Asenath (b. 1804) and Joel Roberts (b. 1811) than to Laura (b. 1819). Also Lamar and Olivia Roberts were close. Descendents of Olivia Roberts are said to have over 200 family letters. Laura Roberts Pillans’ daughter Edith married Dr. Howard Rutherford Walker, a second cousin of Octavia Walton LeVert. Madame LeVert’s mother (married to the mayor of Mobile and governor of West Florida) was a first cousin of Edith Pillans’ father-in-law, John Valentine Freeman Walker. Isbell records, 910 Government Street, Mobile, Alabama.[ii] Madame LeVert, or the Countess of Mobile, as she came to be called, was a magnet for the political, social and intellectual elite who visited the city. Her summers were spent in the cooler climate of Saratoga and Newport. Over the years she numbered among her friends such individuals as William Wadsworth Longfellow, actor Edwin Booth (brother of John Wilkes Booth), Edward Everett, Millard Fillmore, Alexander Stephens and Lady Emmeline Stuart Wortley, daughter of the Duke of Rutland. Her friendship with Lady Emmeline prompted Octavia Walton LeVert to expand her travels to Europe. On her first trip in 1853, Dr. LeVert stayed in Mobile, however, he did accompany her in 1855. While she traveled in Europe Mrs. LeVert was introduced to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Benjamin Disraeli, Pope Pius IX, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, and Alphonse de Lamartine, the French statesman and historian who encouraged her to publish her travel journal. Following his recommendation, the two-volume “Souvenirs of Travel was printed in 1857.

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