More on Alice Pendleton

After making my last post, I did a little research on Mary Alicia “Alice” Nevins Lloyd Key Pendleton and found that she was quite a lady. Born in 1823, 1824, or 1825, she seemed to get younger as she got older,  in or near Frederick, Maryland, possibly on her father’s 560-acre farm along Big Pipe Creek. Her parents were Francis Scott Key, a name known by all schoolchildren, and to his wife Mary Tayloe Lloyd Key. Her father owned six slaves when she was born. His sister, Anne Phoebe Charlton Key, married Roger B. Taney, making him Alice’s uncle. Taney became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1835 and would later issue the infamous Dred Scott decision.

Alice had ten siblings but not for long. Her brother Daniel, a midshipman at Annapolis, was killed in a duel by a fellow cadet over a disagreement about steamboat speed.. The next year, John, a young lawyer working in their father’s firm, died of an unspecified illness. Philip Barton Key avoided a duel over a woman in 1843 but was murdered in 1859 by congressman Daniel E. Sickles over the affair Key had with Sickles’ wife. Sickles, who would later gain infamy as a Union general at Gettysburg,  was the first person to be found not guilty for reason of temporary insanity. Francis Scott Key did not live to see his son killed because he died of natural causes in 1843.

In 1846, Alice married George Hunt Pendleton, a lawyer from Cincinnati, Ohio, who came from a political family. They had five children. Since her husband served in both the Congress and the Senate, she spent much of her married life in Washington, DC.

In 1858 she joined the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, the organization that purchased and preserved George Washington’s home, as a Vice Regent. In 1876, she purchased a “small estate,” a one-acre lot in Ochre Point overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Newport, Rhode Island for $9,750. The next year, she bought a 10-feet-wide strip of land adjacent to her property. She named the cottage she had built “Cave Cliff.” Her nephew composed “The Cave Cliff Waltz” and dedicated it to her—“Aunt Alice.”

She spent the winter of 1876-77 in St. Augustine, Florida where she met Richard Henry Pratt and began supporting his efforts to educate the Indians. One of them took the name of David Pendleton Oakerhater to honor her for her financial support which allowed him to study for the Episcopal ministry. Oakerhater is a corruption of his Cheyenne name O-kuh-ha-tah, which meant Sun Dancer. She and her husband remained interested in Indian education.

She lived in Berlin while her husband was ambassador to Germany. She returned to the U.S. in March 1886 to be with her son Frank after his wife died. In May, she was killed when she suffered a compound skull fracture jumping from a runaway carriage.

Here is a link to her bust in the National Portrait Gallery:

Here is a link to a recent photo of her little Newport cottage:


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