On August 24, 1901, Mary Lily Kenan, daughter of Captain William Rand Kenan, married multimillionaire Henry M. Flagler at Liberty Hall in Duplin County. The home of her uncle Thomas Kenan, Liberty Hall was renovated and lavishly decorated with palms, smilax and American Beauty and Bridesmaid roses for the ceremony. The wedding was attended by a small group of family and friends.
Much younger than her new husband, Mary Kenan met Flagler through mutual friend, Pembroke Jones, in Wilmington. As a wedding present for his new wife, Flagler built a 55,000-square-foot mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., where the couple lived. The home, Whitehall, is now the Flagler Museum. Liberty Hall in Kenansville is now also a museum.
When Flagler died after a fall down stairs in 1913, Mary Kenan Flagler became one of the wealthiest women in the United States. She did not enjoy it long. In 1917, not long after taking a new husband she died from an apparent heart attack. The bulk of her fortune was left to her siblings, although a codicil to her will left her new husband $5 million.
For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.