The First Pardee Family Reunion

Bessie Pardee Van Wickle McKee was the twelfth of Ario Pardee’s 15 children. She was raised in a large mansion in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, as a strict Presbyterian with strong family values. The Pardee children remained close and most of them married and raised their own children in the Hazleton area. In September 1910 Bessie’s daughter Marjorie and her friends Irma and Louise traveled to Lake Placid to meet Mary and Calvin Pardee (Bessie’s older brother). They spent a week rowing on the lake and walking, and George Lyon visited. This trip was the precursor for much larger annual reunions beginning in 1913 and continuing until 1928.

The nine brothers and sisters: Bessie center front

In June 1913, 52 Pardees with in-laws and children met at the Buckwood Inn in Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania, for a week of outdoor activities, golfing, tennis, and hiking, followed by evenings of card-playing, gossip, and reminiscing. “Great is the excitement and confusion when all the Pardees talk at once,” wrote Bessie’s brother Frank Pardee. Bessie’s 29-year-old daughter Marjorie Van Wickle wrote a poem to celebrate the occasion.

The Clans are together in valiant array;

They’ve come from the Mountains, the Cape and the Bay.

They’ve come with their motors, their maids and their kids,

In best bib and tucker, new shoes and new lids.


They’re ready for tennis, for dancing, for bridge,

For viewing the sunset from most any ridge.

They’re keen on their dinner, their breakfast and tea,

And they’ll sing you an anthem in any old key.


So here’s to their good times, their laughs and their scraps,

And here’s to the gossip that fills up the gaps.

I’m glad I am with them to join in the fun,

And of this big clan, here’s three cheers that I’m one!

On Sunday of that week a family meeting was held. It began with Bessie’s brother Israel Pardee reading a letter written by his father Ariovistus in 1876 describing his career and his philosophy of life. Israel’s brother Calvin Pardee then praised his father’s contribution to the Union in the Civil War: “At his own cost and expense he fully armed and equipped a company of men at Hazleton, Pa., which organized and drilled under the name of The Pardee Rifles.” Next came a memorial service for Ariovistus’s oldest son, Ario Jr., who died in 1901. Ario Jr. and his men fought and won the battle of Gettysburg, where part of the battlefield is named “Pardee Field.” Ario Jr. became a Brevet Brigadier General after his success at the Battle of Peach Tree Creek.  The brothers Calvin and Frank Pardee then told more stories about their father Ariovistus. “Who of us is not proud of his memory, and does not rejoice that his blood flows in our veins?”  William McKee, Bessie’s husband, was asked to speak from an ‘In-law’s Point of View.’ McKee stressed that the strongest of the family characteristics was family loyalty. “I have never known a family whose members were so absolutely loyal to each other. They may complain and criticize one another to each other, but just let an outsider, even an ‘in-law,’ join in the attack, and he will soon find that he is decidedly in the wrong pew.”  Charles Erdman, another in-law, spoke of the responsibility of all who bear the name of Pardee to be worthy of that name.


The Cals and Alices

The following year a small, handsome leather-bound book was published in an edition of fifty copies that records all the speeches and gives a family tree. There is a group photograph of the whole Pardee clan on the steps of the inn, identified with a numbered key. Other photographs show informal groups enjoying different activities: one is of the nine surviving brothers and sisters, and another of the three Calvins and yet another of the seven Alices!

The reunions continued every year, with the venue changing to Hale Brook Park, Calvin Pardee’s 14,000-acre estate on Lake Champlain that had two ponds for swimming, miles of woodland for hiking, and a fishing preserve with an 11-mile trout stream. Reunions were held every summer until 1928. After Calvin died in 1922 the reunions at the estate were hosted by his widow, Mary.