Alida (Kelsey) Babcock

Alida May Kelsey was born September 29, 1874 in DeKoven, Union County, Kentucky, the third child and eldest of three daughters of the six children of Percival Gates Kelsey and his wife, Alida Livingston Sturges. Dr. Kelsey was the owner and operator of the Shotwell Coal Mines in Caseyville, Kentucky, at the time. He would later found and head the Ohio Valley Railroad, and become President of the Central Trust and Savings Bank in Evansville, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky.

Alida attended Wilson College in Pennsylvania, but probably didn't graduate, since she married Guilford Carlile Babcock in 1894 at the age of twenty. She made three friends at Wilson, who would visit her throughout her long life: Belle Bagley, Mary Remington, and Bess Baker, whose husband, Newton Baker, was Secretary of War during the first World War.

Guilford had grown up in Evansville, and was educated in the local schools there. After two years at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, he was forced to leave because of troubles with his eyesight. When they were married he was working for the Babcock Produce Company in Evansville.

Their first two children, Alida and Mary, were born in Evansville, on September 1, 1895, and July 25, 1897. Guilford left his work with Babcock Produce and joined the Arbuckle Coffee Company in Boston, first as a taster, and later as a salesman. Their third child, Guilford Carlile Babcock, junior, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 6, 1899. He would be called Carlile all of his life.

When Guilford joined New York Life, they moved to New York in 1901, and then to Capetown, South Africa in 1903. This must have been hard on the young family. They stayed in South Africa for three years and then returned to Evansville, Indiana. It is not known where they lived in the intervening years: their son Kelsey was born in Connersville, Indiana on July 18, 1906; Alida and Mary are said to have attended Kent Place School in Summit, New Jersey. Carlile would meet his future wife, Dorothy Beck, while the family lived there. Mary Babcock graduated from Evanston High School in 1915, so the family moved there next.

The Babcocks moved to Morristown in 1921, first to a house at 44 Madison Avenue, and then to the house on Normandy Heights Road in 1925. The grandchildren called their grandmother Dee, so this became Deez House. It was a large, imposing structure that had been built by a member of the Armour family. It was furnished with Victorian furniture and Turkish carpets, and surrounded by lawns and gardens: it was a wonderful place for all the family members who would gather there.

Ann Babcock Peters Thacher has written a wonderful account of her grandmother called DEEZ HOUSE, where she describes the house she lived in for so many years of her childhood. As she explains: "shortly after my brother was born, while I was nearly four, my mother went to live at Deez House while she waited for a divorce. In those times and in that family there was only one "dignified" cause for divorce: desertion, which took six years, years that could be spent most properly, they said, under her father's roof."

Carlile brought the Russian orphan, Alexandra home to his parents. She would go to Kent Place School in Summit, and then away to Mary Lyon, a boarding school in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania..

Grace Louise and Emily May, two nieces sent to get an Eastern education would visit Dee and the family from Kent Place and Wellesley. Kelsey, her youngest son, would be killed in a car crash while he was a student at Princeton.

Ann Thacher writes of her great-grandmother who moved to the turret room at the far end of the hall, with the bed that she had brought with her: a dark walnut with spool posts and a headboard carved in oak leaves.

"At Christmas time, the hall contained a "little town of Bethlehem. My Presbyterian grandfather would not have a Popish creche, so Dee set up a town which, like everything about her, became the largest of its kind. Each year she added more houses, animals, trees, carts until it took two days to set it up, the same to take it down. Sunday School classes were brought in to see it. They must have had a strange impression of a Palestinian town where Mediterranean villas, Tudor cottages, and quaint little gingerbread huts crowded each other, where Victorian pony carts shared streets with camels and a few odd jungle animals."

It is said of Dee that she first became stout when a doctor advised her to drink and eat copiously to produce milk for her infant son, Kelsey Having gotten into the habit of eating, she couldn't stop. From the collection of pictures taken on the ship that took the Babcocks to South Africa in 1903, it appears that Alida was already overweight. By the time she moved into her Morristown home, there were few pieces of furniture that would bear her weight.

Ann recalls making excursions to the Oranges or Newark, buying clothes with Dee, and then having her alter them in the sewing room during long hot summer afternoons. "Dee used to boast that she could turn her hand to anything. Perhaps she could if you were not too particular about results, and I was not." Dee would mend and repair her own clothes, and during less prosperous times, had sewn all of her own and her children's clothes. Her daughter, Mary, recalled that the seams were not always straight, nor the patterns always matched.

Guilford died on August 23, 1945 in Morristown. Alida would see her son Carlile die on April 12, 1955, before she died on April 13, 1957. Her ashes were scattered in the rose garden with those of her husband.