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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Historical Profile of Robert John Randolph, Jr.

©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

Robert John Randolph, Jr. is a historical figure that is usually quickly dismissed as the husband of Jessie Harlan Lincoln and nothing more. Being President Abraham Lincoln’s granddaughter, Jessie Lincoln is a figure that has been thoroughly researched and was the focus of attention during her lifetime. To marry into the Lincoln family and be the stepfather to the last two undisputed Lincoln descendants is certainly worthy of note, but unfortunately that is where most documents end their description of Randolph Jr.: with a byline of his childless Lincoln marriage. This historical profile delves deeper into Randolph Jr.’s life.


Robert John Randolph, Jr. was a member of the “distinguished Virginia family of Randolphs, whose family tree goes back to John Rolfe and Pocahontas of early colonial history.”[1]

Robert John Randolph, Sr. was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 3, 1847. Randolph Sr. moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1865 at the age of 18, then moved to Illinois about a decade later.[2] On January 20, 1874, Randolph Sr. married Francis Dyer in Winnebago County, Illinois.[3] On April 2, 1875, Robert John Randolph, Jr. was born to the couple.[4] Randolph Sr. was involved in local-level politics in Illinois, his first position being a post on the Rockford Board of Aldermen.[5] The Aldermen are a city council in Rockford, acting in conjunction with the Mayor.[6]

Randolph Jr.’s father’s politics were not considered to be a driving force between his marriage to Jessie; it was not remarked upon in any books mentioning their marriage. Research into the family background provided details on his father’s politics, but in no reports on the Randolph-Lincoln marriage are they mentioned.

First Marriage

Randolph (hereafter mentioned without ‘Jr.’ for brevity’s sake) married Vera Schuyler Schermerhorn in June 30, 1906.[7] Vera was an heiress from New York, her parents being millionaire attorney George J. Schermerhorn and his wife Isabel Schermerhorn (née Schuyler) of New York City. George and Isabel also had Maus Schuyler Schermerhorn, their only son, who died April 27, 1901 at the age of 13.[8] [9] Maus was followed in death by Vera’s father George, who died November 5, 1904, but Vera’s mother Isabel was still alive when Randolph and Vera married.[10] The couple eloped, then spent their honeymoon in the Berkshires. Only Vera’s maid knew of the marriage plans before they happened, and she joined the couple on their honeymoon. After two weeks, Isabel joined the honeymoon in the Berkshires. Their wedding and elopement made The Washington Post, and it was the first marriage for both parties.[11]

Before their marriage, Randolph and Vera had both been subjects in the ‘Society at Home and Abroad’ section in The New York Times. While listed separately in attendance, they both were listed at the same theatre party on May 6, 1906, thrown by Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Tyson for their son Rowe Tyson and his fiancée, Miss Rosealie C. Tone.[12] Before her father’s death, Vera and her parents were considered “prominent arrivals” when in attendance at events.[13]

Randolph and Vera had one child together, being Robert Schermerhorn Randolph. He was born August 30, 1911.[14] This was to be Randolph’s only biological child with either of his marriages. This child was also the third generation to be named Robert Randolph, though instead of John as a middle name he took his mother’s maiden name. Had Randolph’s child been given the same middle name of John, Randolph’s suffix would have updated from Jr. to II, as his child would have been Robert John Randolph III.

While Randolph and Vera were married, they maintained a summer home in Portland, Maine while their main residence was in New York.[15]

Vera ended up seeking a divorce from her husband. On May 29, 1919, she was granted the divorce from Randolph. The motion was granted by the Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Maine. During that proceeding, Vera was granted full custody of their son, Robert S. Randolph, who was eight years old at the time. Vera eventually brought a lawsuit against Randolph, claiming that he had “altogether abandoned said son and altogether failed and neglected to make any such provisions or contribution.” The lawsuit, heard by the New York Supreme Court, asked for $7500 in child support. The court ruled that since child support was not a provision of the original divorce settlement, Randolph would not have to retrospectively pay Vera, and the lawsuit was dismissed.[16]

Vera went on to marry Arthur Robertson Manice, son of Edward Augustus and Phoebe Robertson Manice. Vera was his third wife, his first being Katharine Ellsworth and his second being Louise Mott Bell Whitney. Arthur died June 9, 1950 in New York City. Together Vera and Maince had daughter Katherine Manice, who lived in California. Robert S. Randolph was listed as a stepson in his obituary.[17] [18]

Ice Palace In New York City

In 1916, Randolph supported the building of a crystal ice palace in New York to be used by high society. It was modeled after the Admiralspalast and Eispalast of Berlin, the Palais de Glace of Paris and the Prince’s Rink of London with a site near Fifth Avenue. The use was to be for cold weather sport and dancing. Randolph was one of the “persons of wealth” that was a founder and life member of the palace, paying a total of $6000 to support the project.[19]


Randolph served in the United States armed forces during World War I (or, as described in the language of the day, the “the World War”). Some books have listed Randolph as a Major.[20] His headstone, however, lists Randolph as a 1st Lieutenant in the Air Service. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia:

Marriage with Jessie Harlan Lincoln

Randolph married Jessie Harlan Lincoln on December 28, 1926.[21] Jessie was the second daughter of Robert Todd Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln’s son. Jessie was notable for being President Lincoln’s granddaughter and for being the mother of the last two undisputed Lincoln descendants: Mary Lincoln Beckwith and Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, whom she had with her first husband. Jessie had eloped with her first husband Warren Wallace Beckwith, the father of her only two children. After their divorce, Jessie married her second husband Frank Edward Johnson. After their divorce in 1925, she married Randolph, who was to be her final husband.[22]

Born Jessie Harlan Lincoln, with her marriage to Randolph, her name had expanded to Jessie Harlan Lincoln Beckwith Johnson Randolph.[23] When signing checks, Jessie signed “J. L. Randolph”.[24]

The two spent time between the many Lincoln family residences, including homes in Washington D.C., their Virginia plantation and Vermont, to visit Jessie’s daughter.[25] With the marriage to Jessie, Randolph became stepfather to both Mary and Robert Beckwith, giving him the interesting position of being stepfather of the last two Lincoln descendants.

Jessie’s mother, Mary Eunice Harlan Lincoln, had an “apparent inability” to get along with any of her sons-in-law, including Randolph. In the family album that Mary kept, there are no photos of him whatsoever. Mary Lincoln was also notoriously reclusive, leaving many to speculate on her mental health. The inability to get along with Randolph may have been nothing against Randolph personally, but an extension of her reclusiveness.[26]

Randolph and Jessie remained married until her death on January 4, 1948.[27] A 1928 Franklin Roadster that the two drove for over 60,000 miles is on display at the Hildene Estate, one of the Lincoln family homes that has since been turned into a museum. The roadster was found abandoned in 1948 at the Randolph’s plantation.[28]


Randolph died April 6, 1952, in Washington D.C. He was survived by his stepchildren Mary and Robert Beckwith.

[1] "Generation No. 3." In The Lincoln Grandchildren. Indiana: Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, 1889. 5.

[2] "Pioneer Hustlers." Electricity: A Popular Electrical Journal 8-9 (1895): 75.

[3] Certificate of Marriage, Robert J Randolph to Francis Dyer, 20 July 1874, Winnebago County, Illinois, Illinois State Archives: Illinois Statewide Marriage Index.

[4] Zorn, Walter Lewis. "Lincoln." In The descendants of the Presidents of the United States of America. 2d rev. ed. Madison: The University of Wisconsin - Madison, 1955. 102.

[5] Electricity: A Popular Electrical… 75.

[6] "Wards and Aldermen." Wards and Aldermen. (accessed September 7, 2014).

[7] "Vera S. Manice, plaintiff, against Robert J. Randolph, defendant." In New York Supreme Court Record on Appeal. New York City: New York Supreme Court. 12.

[8] The New York Times (New York City), "DIED.," April 29, 1901.

[9] Mallory, George S. . "Notices - Died." The Churchman 83 (1901): 564.

[10] Cutter, William Richard. "Schermerhorn ." In Genealogical and Family History of Western New York: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation, Volume 3. New York City: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1912. 1342.

[11] The Washington Post, "HEIRESS ELOPES," July 16, 1906.

[12] The New York Times (New York City), "Society at Home and Abroad," May 6, 1906.

[13] The New York Times (New York City), ""As You Like It" On the Lawn," July 21, 1896.

[14] New York Supreme Court… 12.

[15] "R." In Social Register: Contains the Summer Address where it Differs from the Winter Address of the Residents of New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland ... [etc.]. summer. New York: Social Register Association., 1918. 222.

[16] New York Supreme Court… 13-16.

[17] "Deceased." In Alumni Horae. Concord, New Hampshire: The Alumni Association of St. Paul's School, 1950. 86.

[18] Bulletin of Yale University. Connecticut: Yale University, 1951.

[19] The New York Times (New York City), "TO BUILD ICE PALACE FOR USE OF SOCIETY," April 10, 1916.

[20] Dunkirk Evening Observer, "Living Descendants," February 9, 1931.

[21] "Abraham Lincoln's Descendants:." Central Florida Genealogical Society 33, no. 1 (2001): 16.

[22] The descendants of the Presidents… 102.

[23] Robert Todd Lincoln Family Papers. Washington D.C.: Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, 2010.

[24] "Autographs & Manuscripts, Part I." Autographs & Manuscripts, Part I. (accessed September 7, 2014).

[25] "The Estate | Hildene | The Lincoln Family Home." The Estate | Hildene | The Lincoln Family Home. (accessed September 8, 2014).

[26] Neely, Mark E., and Harold Holzer. "Introduction." In The Lincoln family album. New York: Doubleday, 1990. 20.

[27] THE LINCOLN GROUP OF WASHINGTON, D.C. . "Direct Descendants of President Lincoln." THE LINCOLNIAN . (accessed September 7, 2014).

[28] "The Estate | Hildene”…. (accessed September 8, 2014).

About the author: Konrad Juengling, BS, MBoS, QMHA, is a graduate of Portland State University with a Bachelors in Psychology. His interest in Robert John Randolph, Jr. stemmed from his own family tree and researching Lincoln collateral descendants: Juengling is the lineal great8 grandson of John Lincoln (1716-1788), President Abraham Lincoln’s great grandfather.

Konrad Juengling at the Portland Art Museum, 2013