Libbie received volumes of letters concerning her books, her life with General Custer, etc. She answered each one by hand. This was really draining and she began to dread apartment living in New York City. During the summer she stayed in a rustic cabin in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania on the Pocono River. She always returned to New York revived in the fall.
She found lecturing paid more than writing and she was able to buy a house in Lawrence Park in Bronxville, New York. Lawrence Park was developed by William Lawrence, a former Monroe resident. He also founded Sarah Lawrence College, named for his Monroe bride, Sarah Bates.
Libbie appears to have had a stubborn streak. After her husband’s death she refused any kind of assistance from the federal government other than her pension, which was initially $30 a month and then raised to $50. The widows of a number of other general officers had pension increases over the years and some received $100 a month. Libbie refused to ask for more money. Friends appealed to a congressman from Michigan and her pension was increased to $100 a month.
Lecturing took Libbie all before women’s clubs, girls’
over the country.
societies. She also traveled a lot. Soon after she widow, others paid her way, offering her passage to
became a Europe as
their guests. Later she was able to afford to pay her own She visited not only Europe but China and India as well.
One thing she really wanted to see in her lifetime was a memorial to General Custer. The Michigan Cavalry Brigade Association asked the Michigan Legislature to erect a suitable monument to Custer. At the same time, Monroe businessman Charles E. Greening suggested the erection of a monument to
Custer in Monroe. Brigade Association letters and petitions
Within days, the Michigan Cavalry and a committee in Monroe sent out urging the state legislature to erect a
to Custer. The difference was the cavalry felt the should be erected in Lansing and the Monroe group
wanted it in Monroe. chose Monroe. The two
Libbie’s opinion was groups joined forces.
In 1910 she attended Monroe's unveiling of the Custer monument. Called, "Siting the Enemy, " the bronze
equestrian statue depicts Custer honored that President Taft helped
Gettysburg. She unveil the statue.
Libbie continued to write in defense of Custer. She also encouraged others to establish memorials to him. She saw a national highway, a number of towns and counties and a battlefield named for her husband. Of course, if you visit Monroe you'll find an airport, at least three roads, a school and businesses bearing the name Custer.
Theirs was one of the truly great love stories in history. Their devotion to each other was the reason why she was the only officer’s wife to live in a tent on the edge of Civil War battlefields, ride in the ranks with the soldiers, and accompany the 7th Cavalry on its expeditions in conquering the West. She kept her marriage vows, fulfilling what she
believed was her responsibility as the widow of a national hero by lecturing around the world and writing books about her experiences with her husband. Her books cemented Custer’s reputation as America’s blue-eyed, blonde-haired boy wonder, conqueror, martyr, and forever young.
Libbie died in 1933, 4 days short of her 91st birthday, having outlived her husband by 57 years. They never had children, which is something they both seemed to regret. At one time Custer wanted to adopt a nephew of his however, for unknown reasons that never happened. Libbie is buried at West Pont next to her husband.
EYE on EDUCATION by Lynn W. Reaume
The “United We Stand” seamstresses are hard at work all summer, cutting, sewing, pinking, pressing, fringing and periodically trying on their garments, sometimes in very unusual ways. (The little shoulder capes can be used to make little skirts, or bibs I learned). Lest the reader get the wrong idea, moments of high levity are seldom, for most of the sewing session is spent in quiet concentration oblivious to even onlookers a couple of feet away!
Sewers come in on Wednesdays and Thursdays, for a morning class from 10 to noon, and afternoon class from 1 to 3:00 p.m. Occasionally we meet on other days, and the girls are feeling real accomplishment in making their coats. Finished coats have a label on the back telling which girl constructed it, and a couple of photos are taken of each girl and coat. Moms, Dads, siblings and Grandmothers so far have come in and are quite proud of their sewers. With the end of September, our sewing project will be done. Perhaps next year we could try for a grant to make women’s clothing.
The coats have already been worn several times: by members of Loomis Battery artillery group; by Dave Stahl, Grant Committee member, in a fashion show of 1812 era clothing for Michigan Week Awards; worn by Ralph Naveaux, Museum Director, for the Liberte festival for the 4th of July; worn with a hat by a Chinese student visiting the Museum this summer; and by staunch history supporters including Committee member Bill Saul braving the torrid heat during the Fair Parade- so they have been used! Some seamstresses helped host the Eby Log Cabin during Fair Week, and I brought two of the coats to the cabin. The girls enjoy meeting with the public.
The Toledo Blade newspaper did an article that contained three large photographs on the project- one in color! And the Monroe Evening News published a large photograph of adult assistant Judy Yokom cutting out fabric pieces while we were waiting for sewers to arrive. A sign in the kiosk in front of the main Museum announces the “Frenchtown Tailors” in the back gallery. If you haven’t seen this unique program and its able sewers, stop in on Wednesdays or Thursdays before school starts.