25 June 2014

James Madison Alden: a Possible Connection and Missed Opportunities

James Bowie was my 2nd cousin (7x removed). You know, the guy who designed the Bowie knife and fell at the Alamo. Well...I think so, anyway. I cannot yet personally prove the relationship, and there is conjecture among family historians of the Lincecum - Bowie connection. To put it plainly, it seems some of the Bowies don't want to claim the Lincecums. I don't know why, really. I guess a famous naturalist is not as cool as a "knife maker". (She said with tongue firmly in cheek.)

The real subject of this post, anyway, is James Madison Alden. He was first married to Charlotte Elizabeth Bowie. That (might!) make him the husband of my 3rd cousin, 6x removed. James led a neat life, at least in his early years. He joined the Navy and began work on the west coast of the United States in 1854, when just 20 years old, as an artist / cartographer for the U.S. Boundary Commission. He spent his days drawing the views before him. Here is one of my favorites, dated 1858:

Fraser's [sic] River Camp

James Madison Alden

Though I know what's "pretty" to me, I'm no art critic. So I'll let Katherine Church Holland of the California Historical Society* eloquently describe the work of James Madison Alden.
James Madison Alden's quick sketches convey the working methods of an artist recording cogent facts about a newly discovered landscape. His finished works attest to the powers of his sense of color, innate appreciation of form and skilled handling of the watercolor medium. Through his eyes, through his strokes, the landscape of the western edge of North America -- vistas of sea and land -- becomes a reality.
Slight enhancement of original by Loretta Castaldi at FindAGrave.
When recently revisiting the life of Mr. Alden, I wondered where was his final resting place. I expected it to be in Florida, since I knew that's where he died in 1922. But, I was wrong. Here's a notice I found in the 22 May 1922 Evening Star newspaper of Washington, DC (via GenealogyBank):
ALDEN, At Orlando, Fla., May 10, 1922, JAMES MADISON ALDEN, late lieutenant, U.S.N., in the 88th year of his age. Interment at Arlington.
Though I'm thrilled with the information, it also elicited a sigh. I've been to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia more than once. Had I known then, I sure would have liked to visit with Lieut. James Madison Alden.

[*The page on the California Historical Society website on which I found Ms. Holland's article, no longer exists. It was titled "Past Exhibitions: James Madison Alden, Watercolors & Drawings", and the address was http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/exhibits/past_exhibits/james_alden/index.html. You can view it using the Wayback Machine.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

During the Civil War Alden was secretary to David Dixon Porter and later assisted in the writing of his several books. Alden gave the Admiral watercolor paintings of his exploits on the Red River. The MFA has a copy of one. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/admiral-porters-gunboats-passing-the-red-river-dam-louisiana-174025

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