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Chapter 2 Seward and Lila Webb The sail from Burlington here was lovely 2 hours and I wanted my Lila so to see it all & the scenery was beautiful. You know it is one of the loveliest lakes in the East. The bold sharp Adirondacks in the West which are grand and the Green mountains in the East. The Lake is full of islands on any one of which I would like to spend a month with my wife, where we could be all alone, far away from all trouble, no one to disturb us, oh how happy we would be. — W. Seward Webb, July 18, 18791 In 1879, Seward Webb traveled to Burlington, Vermont, on his way to a hunting expedition in the Adirondack Mountains. While crossing Lake Champlain aboard the steamer Vermont II, he captured his impressions of the scenery in a journal intended for his future wife, Lila Vanderbilt. Seward was obviously taken with the area during this brief encounter, his earliest recorded visit to the region where he and Lila would soon establish Shelburne Farms, and his statement sheds light on why the Webbs chose the location for their country estate. Not only was the area strikingly beautiful, but it was also situated quite a distance away from New York City, “far away from all trouble,” where they could be “all alone.” In Vermont, they were free to pursue their own interests as they pleased.2 Born on January 31, 1851, William Seward Webb entered a family that had long been nationally prominent in political affairs. His grandfather, Brig. Gen. Samuel Blachley Webb (1753–1807), was an aide to Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Seward’s father, Gen. James Watson Webb (1802–84), served in the army as a young man, wrote fiery editorials for the Whig party as the owner and editor of a leading New York newspaper, the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, and was the American ambassador to Brazil from 1861 to 1869. Gen. Alexander Stewart Webb (1835–1911), Seward’s older half-brother, was a West Point graduate and Civil War hero who earned a medal of honor for his performance as a Union leader at the Battle of Gettysburg. He later served as president of the College of the City of New York. Seward himself was named in honor of family friend and future secretary of state William Henry Seward, who negotiated the purchase of the Alaska Territories in 1867 for President Andrew Johnson.3 Seward was the ninth of Gen. James Watson Webb’s thirteen children and 17

The History of Shelburne Farms - Chapter 2

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