Allene Tew – The American Princess who conquered the continent (Part one)

allene tew
(public domain)

Allene Tew was born on 7 July 1872 in Janesville, Wisconsin as the daughter of Charles Henry Tew – a banker – and Janet Smith. She would be their only child, and shortly after her birth, the family returned to Jamestown. She had a great love of her horses. Her parents soon realised that Allene was a free spirit and she longed to see the world outside of Jamestown.

Allene became pregnant by Theodore R. Hostetter – also known as Tod – in 1891. She was considered to be of a lower class than him as he was fabulously wealthy, and his mother was not amused. Nevertheless, Allene and Tod eloped to New York, where they were married on 14 May 1891. Just a few days later, the newlyweds were on their way to Pittsburgh. Their new home would have eight servants, and Allene received an icy reception. Their daughter – named Greta – was born on 27 September 1891. The society continued to shun Allene and now her daughter too, and she was kept in total social isolation. Allene attempted to get some respectability by joining the Pittsburgh branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1892. Her application was accepted though she would later be struck off when they found out that one of her listed ancestors did not exist. But for now, Allene had made her move, and she was also soon pregnant with her second child.

Their second daughter Verna was born in 1893. Tragically, young Verna would die in 1895 on her elder sister fourth birthday. Although Allene remained levelheaded and accepted her daughter’s death – more than half of children died before their fifth birthday at this time – for her husband, it seemed to be a breaking point. He had been addicted to gambling, had buried two elder brothers and now had to bury his daughter. A son was born to them on 2 October 1897, and he was named Theodore after his father. Todd continued to gamble as Allene worried about him. In 1901, Tod bought a new yacht, and that summer Allene and their children joined him on it. However, he spent most of his time below deck playing roulette. Allene took her children off the yacht and went to her parents-in-law, leaving Tod behind. The following year, Todd fell ill with pneumonia, and he played poker almost to the last. He died on 3 August 1902 – still only 32 years old. After Tod’s funeral, Allene took her two children to New York, leaving Pittsburgh behind her.

Her children had inherited whatever Tod had not gambled away, but Allene inherited nothing. So, she soon settled on a new husband by the name of Morton Nichols, a stockbroker. They were married on 27 December 1904 in London. Once shunned for being from the wrong social class, her brand new husband immediately launched her into the right circles. Shortly after the death of Morton’s father, he began planning a lengthy world tour with his family and his inherited millions. Allene embraced the trip, and they did not return home until February 1906. By then, their marriage was on the rocks, and they were rarely seen together. By 1909, they were divorced, and when Morton intended to remarry in 1911, Allene returned to using the Hostetter name.

This time, she came out of it a much richer woman. She had seven servants and owned three houses of which two were being rented out. Her children were even richer, though their funds were managed by their uncle. Allene promptly left for Europe with her daughter, hoping to marry her into the aristocracy. Little did she know that it would lead to her own third marriage. His name was Anson Wood Burchard, and he was everything her first two husbands weren’t. They were married in December 1912. Greta returned home to spend Christmas with her brother who was at a boarding school in Boston while Anson and Allene celebrated their honeymoon in London.

Allene was happy in her third marriage, and her niece would later say that Anson “was the one.” In the end, Greta brought home a man from Pittsburgh named Glenn Stewart – the only son of a self-made millionaire. He had been left disfigured when a handmade bomb had exploded in his face. They were married on 21 October 1914, the same year the First World War broke out. Allene’s son signed up as a pilot in 1917, and he died during a mission in September 1918. More tragedy was to come. Greta had miscarried her first child in 1917 but had become pregnant with twins the following year. In October 1918, Greta fell ill with influenza, and she died on 16 October 1918. Her twins did not survive. On the evening of her daughter’s funeral, Allene received the news of her son’s ill-fated mission and his fate. In one fell swoop, she had lost both her children and two grandchildren. Allene would rarely speak of the children she had lost.1

Read part two here.

  1. Read more: An American Princess by Annejet van der Zijl

About Moniek Bloks 2551 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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