“There is a curse on this House”

Today in History, February 14: 1884 – 25 year old Theodore Roosevelt was at work in the New York Assembly in Albany fighting for a reform bill when he received an urgent telegram to return to his home in New York. When he reached his front door his brother Elliott greeted him, “There is a curse on this house”. Their mother Mittie was suffering from Typhoid fever, and Teddy’s wife Alice, who had given birth to her namesake just two days earlier, was suffering from Bright’s Disease. TR went up and down the stairs to be with them. Mittie died first, followed within hours by Alice. Roosevelt was devastated. His diary entry for that date was simply a large X and the note, “The light has gone out of my life”. He could never speak of his first wife again, not even mentioning her in his autobiography. When he returned to the legislature, even his detractors treated him with deference for a time because of the tragedy. He soon left the Assembly, left the infant Alice with his sister Bamie and struck out west to the Dakotas to escape. He would become a rancher and a sheriff, and make many friends who would later be “Rough Riders” with him. In ’86 he returned east, re-entered politics and re-married. His daughter Alice became famous for outlandish behavior, dealing with her own demons due to the temporary abandonment and a new family. Adversity affects us all differently. One has to wonder if TR would have accomplished all that he did if this tragedy hadn’t driven him west and altered his life.