The Millionaire Hermit of South Wellfleet

The Cape Codder in May of 1959 had a small note on the death of Albert Stone, Jr. who had a “summer camp” in the woods of South Wellfleet, near the ocean. The reporter noted that only three people from Wellfleet knew he was there: Earle Atwood, the tax collector; Lawrence Cardinal, who had the closest house (Cook’s Camps); and E.J. Davis, the proprietor of the General Store in South Wellfleet. Later, Major Yarbrough of Camp Wellfleet also became acquainted. Mr. Stone, it appears, traveled by bus to South Wellfleet and walked to his rustic camp. He was supplied by the General Store. “He never entered Wellfleet proper.”

In the late 19th Century, like many others, George Chapin had assembled South Wellfleet land and developed a plan for a cottage colony. Mr. Stone’s purchase in 1932 of Lot 24 of this plan appears to be his first purchase in South Wellfleet. In 1938 he bought the “… premises formerly owned by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph company” from Mr. Foster. Perhaps Mr. Stone occupied one of the buildings left by the company which had vacated the site at the outbreak of World War I, when the U.S. Navy took over the communications. The 1959 article noted that Mr. Stone owned 13 acres.

The Boston papers wrote about Mr. Stone extensively when he died in 1959, as a he left his 17 million dollar legacy to charity. (Today, that $17 million would be over $300 million by one wealth measure.) Mr. Stone lived quietly at 152 Bay State Road where his neighbors knew he had a housekeeper and (home) caretaker on site. The caretaker polished the brass on the front door every day. He took a walk most afternoons. He did not like headlines or ostentation, and was described as friendly, gracious, and warm. His charitable giving before his death had been anonymous.

I traced Albert Stone’s life through the federal censuses posted online; his parents married in 1871; his father was described as a “shoe manufacturer” from Alton, Illinois; and his mother was from Ipswich, Massachusetts. The family lived in Boston and had a summer home in Hull, as the census picked them up in both places. Albert Stone, Jr., born in 1878, had one sibling, a sister Mary, who was 6 years older.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Stone father and son were both occupied with “real estate.” In 1910, the family was living at the Bay State Road house, with both children — in their thirties — living there also. In the 1920 census, both parents were still alive, and both children still living at home. By the time of the 1930 census, the children were living there alone but with three servants also.

When Mr. Stone’s charitable bequest to the Permanent Charity Fund of Boston was announced in October 1959, the newspapers hunted for details about him, but only got a few comments from his banker who noted that his father had left him several million, and that the family had “textile interests.” The banker noted that he had been in failing health in recent years. Mr. Stone was 81 years old when he died. Presumably, his sister Mary died before him.

Services for Mr. Stone were at the Eastman Funeral Home, and he was buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Grafton, Mass. The family may have had a relationship with the Congregational Church there, as his mother’s family had memorial windows there. A cousin who lived in Wayland, Massachusetts, was the only reported living relative.

By the time Mr. Stone died, his property was within the bounds of Camp Wellfleet. Major Yarbrough reported that he often greeted Mr. Stone when he reached his camp. The Major kept an inventory of Mr. Stone’s camp furnishings: one bed with a bedroll, one skillet, one plate, and one drinking glass.

Sources

The Cape Codder on line at the Snow Library

U.S. Federal Census collection at www.ancestry.com

Newspaper account online at www.genealogybank.com.

 

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About pamticeblog@gmail.com

Family history researcher living in New York City.
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One Response to The Millionaire Hermit of South Wellfleet

  1. mert says:

    Very interesting. Great history !!

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