Castle: Restoration, Legends, Research

Who is Olive Plant?

In honor of Women’s History Month – we’d like to shed some light on Olive Plant, Tom’s second wife and the lady of Lucknow Estate.

Olive Plant, from Private Collection

Olive Cornelia Dewey was the first of six children born to Flora and Charles P. Dewey on January 3, 1883. She and her siblings were born and raised in Toulon, Illinois.

Olive graduated from Toulon Academy in 1901, and then continued her education at Wellesley College from which she graduated in 1905. She was the recording secretary of her classes Alumnae Association and maintained regular correspondence with the association as an adult. 

After college, Olive returned to Toulon, Illinois. Familial accounts indicate that Olive maintained a teaching career. She likely taught at her alma mater, Toulon Academy. The Academy formally closed its doors in 1912 (which aligns with her meeting Thomas Plant and moving to New Hampshire). Another source, The Stark County News, says that she was a bank cashier at her family’s bank.

We understand that Olive traveled extensively in the United States and Europe. A familial account notes that Olive “as was common in those days, traveled in the summer”. Olive met Thomas Plant while vacationing in Europe in the summer of 1912 – per the same familial account they actually met aboard the ship on their way to Europe. Traveling remained central to Tom and Olive’s lives together – according to oral history they honeymooned in Paris, France after getting married in 1913. In a letter to the Alumnae Association in 1935, Olive divulged that the “ogre we call Depression” curtailed their international travel plans, and that the couple traveled instead to Florida, California and Arizona to weather the winters. 

Raised at the tail end of the Cult of Domesticity, Olive likely would have abided by this social code, which included the ideals: women should manage the home, a “sense of modesty, humility, and public-spiritedness” as well as “restraint, chivalry, and social responsibility”. To this, we know that she left her career to come to Lucknow and manage the estate. Olive likely would have encouraged Tom’s philanthropic projects such as constructing a retirement home in Bath, Maine. She, also, likely would have subscribed to Ladies Magazine which discussed the realm of womanly responsibilities, encouraged consumerism, and informed on fashions of the home and person. 

From her letters to the Alumnae Association and to her family, we understand Olive took part in various recreational pursuits that were available to her including: golfing, boating, horseback riding, and gardening. She seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed hosting friends and family, though we would never know otherwise. It is likely she would have hosted close female friends and acquaintances in her boudoir for tea and conversation. This is also where she would have maintained her correspondence. Updating her family on a visit from her nephews, she wrote of enjoying driving through the countryside, and attending the local movie theater in Wolfeboro. To maintain her mind, she alludes to enjoying the crosswords, would have likely read frequently given the size and implied extent of Lucknow’s library, wrote poetry, and played the Aeolian organ housed in the home’s main hall.  She, also, continued traveling frequently throughout her life. 

After Tom’s death in 1941, Olive returned to Toulon to care for her aging parents. She signed legal documentation in the foreclosure and sale of Lucknow Estate which declared that she was no longer working, would not return to work and did not have a substantial source of income. Olive’s mother left property to Olive in her will, which Olive eventually transferred to the care of her brother, Mills (The Stark County News, Toulon, Illinois, 1963) who is believed to have financially cared for Olive, though there is no written record of this arrangement. In the 1960s, Olive made her way to California where she maintained residence until she passed in 1976, at age 93. She is buried in Toulon with her family.

What are you doing to celebrate the women in your life?

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