Mollie, a formidable woman of great energy and a kind heart, used her houses as a backdrop for her charitable endeavors, which were many. Her grand parties in Oakland often drew 5,000 guests and usually raised about $10,000. Also, part of the Oakland property was dedicated to houses for Mollie’s Mary R. Smith Trusts which were houses for orphan girls, a truly magnanimous charitable calling in the late 19th Century.
The same energy, organizing skills, and enthusiasm that she gave to the Oakland community, she brought with her to Shelter Island. And she had a small army of helpers in the “Solid Six.” The year 1900 is a case in point. The Suffolk Times recorded the progress of a fund raising for a new organ for the Presbyterian Church. The June 30 edition reported: “A meeting of the committee in aid of the organ fund was held in the Chapel last Monday afternoon when a full attendance was present. It was decided to give a Colonial Tea Party at Sylvester Manor during the first week in August, permission to use the grounds having been very kindly given by Mrs. Phoebe Gardiner Horsford, the owner. An opportunity to visit these historic grounds, the possession of which has remained in the Sylvester family for more than 250 years past, will not only be attractive to our Island people, but to our ‘city guests’ as well, all of whom no doubt will be willing to respond to the effort of our community, and the generous offer of Mrs. Horsford, by paying the admission fee of fifty cents to the grounds. Mrs. F. M. Smith of Oakland, Cal., will have charge of this part of the program, and will be very well assisted by the young ladies of her own household. The committee will meet again next Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Chapel for the further consideration of the matter.”
On July 7, the Suffolk Times reported, “After the tea parties which are to be given about the first of August by the Presbyterians at Sylvester Manor and the Episcopalians in the parlors of the Manhanset House, and the usual Harvest Festival at the Heights, a Japanese Tea Party will be given at Presdeleau, a beautiful summer home, by Mrs. F. M. Smith for the benefit of the [Men’s] Club’s building fund.”
Progress on the plans for the Sylvester Manor Tea Party to benefit the organ fund was reported in the July 14 edition: “Over one thousand invitations will be sent out by the committee on invitations, Mrs. F. M. Smith, of Oakland, California.
“The grounds at Sylvester Manor will be finely decorated with bunting and Chinese lanterns. A number of booths will be built in different shapes representing log cabins. One of the most prominent of these will be a Gipsy tent where a number of real Gipsies will hold forth, and where those wishing to have their fortunes told will be able to do so in a most enchanting manner. All sorts of fancy work will be exhibited for sale by those Gipsies, who, by the way, will be imported for the express purpose of securing all the money which can possibly be drawn from the pockets of those who have courage enough to [partake] that part of the entertainment. It is expected that tea will be poured by Mrs. F. M. Smith and Miss Cornelia Horsford and served by ten of our Island’s most beautiful daughters who will be dressed in either Colonial or Quaker costumes. The flower booth, which will be on a grand scale, will undoubtedly attract a great deal of attention, the income of which is expected to add very largely to the amount it is anticipated will be realized by this entertainment...”
The August 3 event was reviewed on August 11 in the Suffolk Times:
“The Colonial Tea given for the benefit of a fund to purchase a pipe organ for the Presbyterian Church was not only a very unique affair, but a pleasant social gathering participated in by 600 people, many of whom came from Sag Harbor and other nearby villages. The day was all that could be desired and the beautiful grounds at Sylvester Manor, the use of which had been so kindly tendered the committee by the owner, Mrs. Phoebe Gardiner Horsford, were decorated with bunting, greens and Chinese lanterns, and presented a charming appearance. No prettier spot could have been anywhere for the occasion, and we do not wonder that the first white settlers on our beautiful Island should have chosen this place upon which to build their home, and which has come down to its present owner through a long line of illustrious ancestry. More than 1100 addresses had been sent out by Mrs. F. M. Smith, chairman of the committee on invitations, and this work was supplemented by about 20 unique posters, many of them works of art, and which had been very generously contributed by the well known artists at the solicitation of Mrs. Smith whose whole heart and soul seemed to be in the work of making the affair a great success. As a result, among the artists who responded were: Walter Cole Brigham, George Williams, Miss Winifred Burdge, Miss Mary Burdge, Miss Speer, Miss Tunison, R. J. Clyde, Jr., Messrs. S. B. French, Stodart, the Dramatizer for ‘Life,’ and Haskel, the characterist.
“During the afternoon these posters were sold at auction by H. H. Preston, a member of the committee, and brought $60, the highest price being $12.50 for Mr. William’s contribution. On the lawn directly in front of the Manor House was the tea table which was presided over by Mrs. Smith, who was aided by several young ladies of her own household and who was richly attired in the costume of Colonial times. The decorations at the table, with its service of silver and gold, and the dainty blue China, attracted the attention of all present, and those in attendance were kept busy serving the multitude who seems eager to quaff the delicious Oolong.
“The flower department which was located near the ‘garden gate,’ near that magnificent boxwood which has more than 200 years to its credit, was presided over by Mrs. Rachel Havens Johnson, a descendent of one of the oldest families, who at one time owned 1000 acres of the Island. Mrs. Johnson was ably assisted by the Misses Johnson, Tift, and Havens. The flowers and pond lilies were beautiful, many of them coming from Presdeleau.
“The cake table was loaded down with choice cake and was in charge of Mrs. J. E. Mallman, Mrs. Fred N. Dickerson, and Miss Fannie Dawson.
“The candy booth across the drive was decorated by Miss Agnes Preston, who with Miss Belle, supplied customers with chocolates and bon bons until $60 was realized.
“The curio booth represented a log cabin, and at a distance had the appearance of the old log cabins which were the homes of the slaves in Colonial times upon these very grounds. Many relics of ancient days were to be seen here -- Mr. F. M. Smith and Mrs. Charles E. Thorne, being the largest exhibitors.”
There was a lemonade stand, the “gypsies” plied their wares. They were really May Burdge, Fanny Ward, Lucy Duvall, and Carrie Mallman. C. H. Bateman appeared as a Manhansett warrior much to the pleasure of the children. The Manhanset Orchestra donated their services, and many local musical artists entertained throughout the evening. “Miss Stewart, of Sag Harbor, who assisted at the tea, was dressed in the wedding dress of her great-great-grandmother who was the last Sylvester to occupy the Manor House.”
The paper continued, “A great share of credit belongs to Mrs. F. M. Smith of Oakland, Cal., who planned many of the festivities and through whose personal efforts they were brought to a successful termination.” The affair raised over $700, bringing the organ fund up to $1,500.
Mollie’s leadership in the project to raise funds for the Presbyterian Church’s organ fund may have been intimidating. Nothing quite like the fete at Sylvester Manor had ever been seen before on Shelter Island.
But, Mollie was not finished. The year 1900 also saw the sixth annual harvest festival which benefitted the library. Mollie chaired the committee which consisted of the “Solid Six” and Mrs. H. P. Havens and daughter, Mrs. Thorne, Mrs. Keep, Mrs. Edson, Master Edson, Mrs. Otis, Mrs. R. C. Johnson, and Miss Ray Johnson. The Suffolk Times reported on September 8, “The show of fruits and vegetables was equal to those of former years, the largest exhibitors being F. M. Smith, J. E. Parker, F. N. Dickerson, H. P. Havens, J. S. Preston, S. S. Raynor, J. R. Bowditch, Frankie Wilcox, and A. S. Cartwright...” The location was the “Chapel” which may have been the Presbyterian Church, or as in later years the Union Chapel.
The newspaper account continued, “The candy table was in charge of Mrs. H. H. Preston, who disposed of the usual amount of sweets, including some fine home made candy.
“Mr. Lawson, of the Manhanset House, and Mr. Frisbee, of the Prospect House, each furnished a fine large salad -- the two bringing about $25.
“The exhibits were sold at auction by H. H. Preston and brought in good prices.
“Mrs. F. M. Smith of Presdeleau, took charge of the Post Office and the flower stand, the latter being a most beautiful and prominent features of the festival.
“The loving cup was in charge of Miss Marion Smith and brought about $25 at 10 cents a vote, and was awarded to Mrs. F. M. Smith, who received the highest number of votes.
“The total receipts were $400. A check from Miss Cornelia Horsford of $50; one from Miss Kate Horsford of $35, and one from Mrs. Phebe Gardiner Horsford of $25, helped to make up the amount.
“The decorations by Walter Cole Brigham were tasty and added very much to the appearance of the Hall.”
Frank's Shelter Island Pursuits