Anson Phelps Stokes (detail of a painting by Cecilia Beaux, Metropolitan Museum) Helen Louisa Phelps and Anson Phelps Stokes at the time of their engagement. Stokes Records, vol I, after p. 182 The Phelps Stokes Family, 1887. Stokes Records, vol I, after p. 236 Clockwise from center: Helen Phelps Stokes, J. Graham, Isaac Newton, Helen O., Sarah M., 1872. Stokes Records, vol I, after p. 182 Mildred E., Ethel V. and Caroline M. Phelps Stokes, undated. Stokes Records, vol I, after p. 238 Anson Phelps Stoke's Shadow, one of twelve identical 32-foot Idems built for racing on the St. Regis Lakes, c. 1900. Several of the original boats are still in use; one, the Water Witch, is on permanent display at the Adirondack Museum. Stokes Records, vol III, after p. 68 An Idem, mid-race, 2011. St. Regis Mountain, in the background, being to windward of the lake, makes for tricky winds. Born: February 22, 1838

Died: June 28, 1913

Married: Helen Louisa Phelps

Children: Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (1867); Sarah Maria Phelps Stokes (1869); Helen Olivia Phelps Stokes (1870); J. Graham Phelps Stokes (1872); Anson Phelps Stokes, the younger (1874); Ethel V. Phelps Stokes (1876); Caroline M. Phelps Stokes (1878); Mildred Phelps Stokes Hooker (1881); Harold M. Phelps Stokes (1887).

Anson Phelps Stokes was a merchant, banker, publicist, philanthropist, and became a multimillionaire. Born in New York City, he was the son of John Boulter and Caroline (Phelps) Stokes; brother of William Earl Dodge Stokes and Olivia Eggleston Phelps Stokes.

The Stokes family was the first to build a summer camp on Upper St. Regis Lake, on Birch Island, bought from Paul Smith in 1876. Their lives there were the subject of Mildred Phelps Stokes Hooker's book, Camp Chronicles.


Anson Phelps Stokes and his wife self-published a family history, Stokes Records in four volumes that was privately printed starting in 1910. Excerpts follow:

In the summer, Newton having asthma, we went to the Adirondacks, first to Elizabethtown and afterward to Paul Smith's. I built what was said to be the first sailboat that had ever been seen in this neighborhood. It was a catamaran, made by fastening together two rowboats by a platform, and placing a centerboard in the platform. From Paul Smith's we went into rough camp for ten days on Birch Island, which I afterward bought. (Vol. I, p. 215)

March 31, [1877] bought for two hundred dollars' Birch Island, in Upper St. Regis Lake, from Mr. Norton, who owned a vast amount of land in that neighborhood. [Birch Island, and land which I later purchased in the Adirondacks, once belonged to the de Chaumonts.] (Vol. I, p. 216)

July 9 [1883] I wrote to Commodore Smith, New York Yacht Club, that, on account of serious illness in my family, I could not go on the annual cruise of the club. [One child had had pneumonia, one scarlet fever, and eight had measles.] We went early in July to Birch Island, where I had built a camp.

July 13, got my deed of Birch Island from the Mutual Life Insurance Company. Had previously bought it, March 31, 1877, from Mr. Norton, for $200, but found that he had included it in a mortgage to the insurance company, and which the company foreclosed. So I paid the Mutual Life Insurance Company $500 for a good title. My family had spent most of the summer and part of the autumn there, and I was there from July 17 to September 3. I bought, at $1.50 per acre, fifty acres on mainland, where our farm now is. [I afterward sold about five acres of this land for about $1000 per acre.] I also bought Pearl Island, High Island, and two islands near Birch Island. In later years I bought more at higher prices. After September 3 I had to be a good deal of the time in New York, owing to matters of litigation connected with my father's estate, of which I was Temporary Administrator.

While in the Adirondacks, in 1883, Dr. Trudeau and I had much conference regarding arrangements for a sanitarium for the study and cure of tuberculosis. This was established later as the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium at Saranac Lake, and has become very successful. It was the first sanitarium for tuberculosis here, being ten years earlier than any other, and led to the establishment of others in many parts of the country. An annual fair, largely promoted by my wife, was for many years a very important source of pecuniary aid. Dr. Trudeau most generously gave his valuable professional services at the sanitarium. [(Vol. I, 229-30]

Later this month took my family to Upper St. Regis Lake, Adirondacks, where I had built our first cabin on Birch Island and where we had formerly lived in tents. I had to return almost immediately to New York, on account of matters connected with my father's estate.

This cabin cost to build $600, one half of which was for the brick fireplace and chimney, the bricks having to be carted thirty-eight miles from Ausable (no nearer railway station) to Paul Smith's, and carried thence by rowboat to Birch Island. [(Vol. I, 231]

When he died, many organizations to which he had contributed passed resolutions of condolence, including locally the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium and the St. Regis Yacht Club which held a special meeting in commemoration, passing a resolution stating

"Mr. Stokes was the originator of the St. Regis Yacht Club and its commodore ever since it was organized. His keen interest and sportsmanlike participation in all matters relating to the club were fully appreciated by all. "His practical knowledge of yachting did much to advance the interest in racing on these lakes, while his personal magnetism endeared him to all the members of the club." —Stokes Records, Vol. III, p. 168

See also:

Note: Volumes II and IV are appendices to Volumes I and III, and do not appear to be available online.

The Adirondack News, July 4, 1891

The Vice-President's Outing.

RHINEBECK, N. Y., Juno 28.—Vice President Morton has just completed all arrangements for a very pleasant midsummer outing in the Adirondacks. Mr. Morton has secured the camp owned by Anson Phelps Stokes on a picturesque island in Upper St. Regis Lake. This is near Paul Smith's well known hotel in the most celebrated part of the North Woods. The camping party will comprise the vice president, his private secretary, R. S. Chilton, his two eldest daughters and their governess, and they will be joined soon after their arrival by Miss Rachel Sherman, daughter of General Sherman. The party will probably remain in the Adirondacks for a month or more.

New York Sun, August 13, 1899

A. P. Stokes Badly Hurt His Left Leg Amputated After a Riding Accident

PITTSFIELD, Mass., Aug. 12 – Anson Phelps Stokes of New York, who has a summer home near Stockbridge, called “Shadowbrook,” met with a serious accident this morning. About 10 o’clock Mr. Stokes and one of his daughters were riding about the estate, and Mr. Stokes’ horse, a young animal, took fright and ran down one of the avenues and out of sight of Miss Stokes.

When Miss Stokes rounded the bend in the road she found her father lying unconscious on the side of the road. He had been thrown with great force against a tree. Miss Stokes at once got help and Mr. Stokes was taken to his home. Dr. F. J. Paddock of Pittsfield, Dr. Charles McBurney of New York and Dr. William Armstrong of Brooklyn and Lenox were summoned.

A bone in Mr. Stokes’ left leg was crushed and the leg was amputated this afternoon. Mr. Stokes suffered greatly from the shock, and at one time it was thought he was dying. He rallied, however, and is resting under the influence of opiates tonight.

Mr. Stokes is 60 years old. He is the father of eleven children. He has, besides the great estate in Lenox, a shooting box in the Adirondacks and a place in Scotland.

Mrs. Stokes arrived in Lenox from Europe on Thursday, and the family were to go to the Adirondacks on Monday.

Mr. Stokes is the eldest son of James Stokes and Caroline Phelps. He was born in this city [New York, that is, not Pittsfield]. He was at one time a partner in Phelps, Dodge & Co., and later joined the banking firm of Phelps, Stokes & Co.

He married Helen L. Phelps. He is a member of the Tuxedo, Metropolitan, Knickerbocker, Union League, City, Lawyers, Reform, New York Yacht, Seawanaka, Corinthien Yacht, Riding, City and Church clubs, the Century Association, the National Academy of Design and the Society of Colonial Wars.

The Adirondack News, October 20, 1900

A hearing was given by the Forest Preserve board and State Board of Health in the senate chamber at Albany Thursday on the proposition to place the state hospital for consumptives at Lake Clear. Letters were read opposing the Lake Clear site from Whitelaw Reid and Anson Phelps Stokes, and Dr. Ransom of Clinton prison earnestly advocated the selection of the Dannemora site, claiming less humidity in the air there and urging that at Dannemora there was an abundance of labor in the prison population and the state owns plenty of land there for the site. Dr. Vanderver, of Albany, also favored the Dannemora site, but Mr. Townsend and Dr. Pryot, of the hospital commission, advocated the Lake Clear site as the best. A number of Clinton county people appeared to urge Dannemora's claims and it was agreed that another hearing will be given on the matter to the Dannemora advocates at a later day but probably not till after election. That is wise as some of the Clinton county men are evidently making a political thing out of it.—Farmer.

New York Times, June 29, 1913


An Apoplectic Attack Ends the Life of Banker and Merchant.


Fortune Estimated as High as $25,000,000—His Funeral to be Held Tomorrow Afternoon.

Anson Phelps Stokes, one of the best known of the old-time bankers and business men of New York, died at his home, 230 Madison Avenue, at 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon. He was stricken with apoplexy yesterday morning, and died without regaining consciousness. At the bedside when the end came were most of the members of his large family, the only one absent being Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr., who was at Stockbridge, Mass., but who arrived soon after his father died.

Mr. Stokes was in his seventy-sixth year and had not been in robust health for several years. In the Fall of 1898, while riding a spirited horse in the park of his estates near Lenox, Mass., Mr. Stokes was thrown against a tree and one of his legs was so badly crushed that it had to he amputated. Several years ago Mr. Stokes retired from active business. When in New York, however, he generally paid a visit each day to his downtown office.

Mr. Stokes is survived by his widow and four sons and five daughters. The children are I. N. Phelps Stokes of the Municipal Art Commission, Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr., the Secretary of the Yale Corporation; J. G. Phelps Stokes, the settlement worker, who married several years ago Miss Rose Pastor; Harold M. P. Stokes, the Baroness Halkett, Miss Helen O. P. Stokes, Mrs. John Sherman Hoyt, Mrs. Robert Hunter, and Mrs. Ransom S. Hooker.

The family to which Anson Phelps Stokes belonged was of Norman origin, being a branch of the ancient house of Montespedon. Several of its members went to England from Normandy soon after the conquest and obtained large landed possessions. Thomas Stokes, the founder of the American branch of the family, was the son of William Stokes, a merchant of London, and was born in that city in 1765. He married Elizabeth Ann Boulter, daughter of James Boulter of Lowestoft, Wales, and came to New York in 1708. He possessed considerable property before emigrating from England, and was one of the founders of the London Missionary Society. He engaged in mercantile business after his arrival in this city, and added largely to his wealth, which enabled him to contribute liberally to religious and benevolent objects. He assisted in founding the American Bible Society, the New York Peace Society, and the American Tract Society.

His son, James, the father of Anson Phelps Stokes, was born in this city in 1804 and died in 1881. Early in life he was associated in business with his father, and later he became a member of the metal importing firm of Phelps, Dodge & Co. He also assisted in founding the banking house of Phelps, Stokes & Co.

James Stokes in 1837 married Caroline Phelps, daughter of Anson G. Phelps, who was descended in the sixth generation from George Phelps, one of the first settlers of Windsor, Conn.

Anson Phelps Stokes, the eldest son of James Stokes by this marriage, was born in New York on Feb. 22, 1838. In his young manhood he was a partner with his father in the firm of Phelps, Dodge & Co., and afterward in the banking house of Phelps, Stokes & Co. In his later years his time was devoted principally to the care of his real estate and other investments. His fortune has been estimated as high as $25,000,000. He was at one time Trustee of the United States Trust Company and a Director of the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company and the Woodbridge Company.

Mr. Stokes married Helen L. Phelps, a member of the same family as his mother and the daughter of Isaac Newton Phelps, formerly a prominent banker in this city. A daughter, Sarah Phelps Stokes, was married in 1889 to Baron Hugh Halkett of Beverstedt, Hanover, Germany. In 1895 Ethel V. Phelps Stokes was married at Lenox to John Sherman Hoyt of this city. In the same year Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes married Miss Edith Minturn, daughter of Robert B. Minturn.

Mr. Stokes was prominent in the club life of the city. He was a member of the Metropolitan, City, Seawanhaka-Corinthian Yacht, Nineteenth Century, Union League, Knickerbocker, Century, Reform, Lawyers', Church, Riding, Tuxedo, and New York Yacht Clubs, and of the Downtown Association, the Society of Colonial Wars, the Mendelssohn Glee Club the National Academy of Design, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural History. He was the first President of the Reform Club, and served two terms as Vice Commodore of the New York Yacht Club.

In the campaign of 1890 Mr. Stokes wrote many letters on the financial question under the general title of "Joint Metallism,” in which he opposed the free coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to 1. The letters afterward were collected and issued in book form and went through many editions.

The funeral of Mr. Stokes will be held in the Chapel of the Incarnation at 240 East Thirty-first Street, at 4 o'clock to-morrow afternoon. Dean Grosvenor of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, will conduct the services. The interment will be private.

New York Evening Telegram, August 2, 1913

Stokes Estate of $750,000 Goes to His Family

Dividing an estate of between $500,000 and $750,000, the late Anson Pheps Stokes, financier and philanthropist, in his will made public today, bequeaths $8,000 to each of his thirteen grandchildren, and makes the suggestion in each instance that $3,000 of this be set aside to uphold Christianity. He divides the residuary estate among his nine children and his wife equally.

As it is generally believed Mr. Stokes was recently possessed of several million dollars, it is thought he had given to philanthropy and to his descendants largely in his latter years.

Mr. Stokes made a specific bequest of his real estate in Newport, R.I., and in Franklin County, N.Y., to his widow, Mrs. Helen L. Phelps Stokes, of No. 230 Madison Avenue.

To his eldest son, Isaac N. Phelps Stokes, the decedent gave the large portrait of his father James Stokes, given by his sisters and now in Brick House, Noroton, Conn. He also gave to his eldedt son books and other personal effects, to be handed down in the male line of the family according to seniority of birth. Mr. Stokes directed that these keepsakes not be sold, but the picture may, in the descretion of the owner, be given nto the New York Historical Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or any institution with similar purposes.

The children of Mr. Stokes are as follows:

Isaac N. Phelps Stokes of No. 118 East Twenty-second Street.

J. G. Phelps of New Haven, Conn.

Anson Phelps Stokes Jr. of New Haven.

Harold M. Phelps Stokes of 230 Madison Avenue.

Mrs. Sarah Hackett of No. 230 Madison Avenue.

Miss Helen Phelps Stokes of No. 230 Madison Avenue.

Mrs. Ethel Phelps Stokes Hoyt of Rowayton, Conn.

Mrs. Caroline Hunter of Noroton Heights, Conn.

Mrs. Mildred P. Stokes Hooker of No. 175 East Seventy-first Street.

Each of these nine children receives a one-tenth interest in the residuary estate. The other one-tenth interest goes to the widow.

Mr. Stokes’ grandchildren are the following:

Helen Ironside Phelps Stokes, the adopted daughter of Isaac N. Phelps Stokes of No. 118 East Twenty-second Street.

Anson P. Stokes 3d, Isaac N. Phelps Stokes 2d, and Olivia Eggleston Phelps Stokes, all of New Haven, Conn.

Anson Phelps Stokes Hoyt, Helen P. Hoyt, Ethel S. Hoyt and Graham Hoyt, all of Rowayton, Conn.

Robert Hunter Jr., Phelps Stokes Hunter and Helen Louisa Hunter, all of Noroton Heights, Conn.

Randolph Spaford Hooker and Mildred Phelps Hooker of No. 175 East Seventy-first Street.


2012-12-10 19:57:23   Where did $24,225,000 disappear to? JR —

  • It's an interesting question. The $25 million was someone's estimate, so he may never have had that much. There could have been bad investments. Or it seems possible that the family was dodging estate taxes. — MWanner