Dwight David Eisenhower was a descendant of German heritage from the name "Eisenhauer" which means "iron miner." In the 17th century Eisenhower's ancestors migrated from Germany to Switzerland to avoid religious persecution; a century later in 1730, they arrived in the United States, settling in Pennsylvania until the 1880s when they relocated to Kansas. The original Eisenhower settlers were farmers, one of whom was Hans Nikolaus Eisenhauer, Dwight's great-great-great grandfather.
Ike Eisenhower's father, David Jacob Eisenhower (1863-1942) was a college-educated engineer who never worked in his field. Instead, he worked as an engine cleaner with several railroads before going to work in a creamery owned by his brother-in-law in Abilene, Kansas. Eisenhower's mother, Ida Elizabeth Stover from Virginia, was of German heritage, too, whose family also moved to Kansas. The couple met while at Lane University where they both obtained degrees, although neither of them ever used the degrees for employment. The couple married in 1885 on the campus of Lane University. David owned a general store in Hope, Kansas, which failed during hard economic times, leaving the family impoverished. The Eisenhower's moved to Texas for three years, during which David Dwight was born (Ida changed his name to Dwight David later due to the confusion of having two "Davids" in the household). In 1892, the family moved back to Kansas, settling in Abilene where they would remain. The family recovered financially by 1898 and built a home of their own, but the boys worked in order to own their own money. Eventually, all of the children would receive some manner of formal college educations.
There were seven boys born to David and Ida Eisenhower, but only six of them survived. The fifth son, Paul, died in infancy from a bout with scarlet fever. The remaining brothers were:
- Arthur (1886-1958)
- Edgar Newton (1889-1971)
- Roy (1892-1942)
- Earl (1898-1968)
- Milton Stover (1899-1985)
Eisenhower's wife and children
Lieutenant Dwight David Eisenhower and Mamie Doud were married on July 1, 1916 at her parent's home in Denver, Colorado. Mamie came from a well-to-do family who owned a meatpacking company and several lucrative investments. She was considered a "proper young lady" who loved nice clothes and fine jewelry. After the married, however, military life did not provide Mamie the luxury she was accustomed to, but she took the wife of a military officer in stride. During the first thirty-five years of their marriage, the Eisenhower's moved over thirty times, finally settling into their first-owned home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1961 upon the completion of Dwight's presidency.
Dwight and Mamie had two sons. Born in 1917, Doud Dwight, "Icky," was only three years old when he became ill. The family was celebrating Christmas in Camp Meade, Maryland at the end of 1920 when Icky was stricken; the doctors were unable to treat him because no cure had been found for the contagious disease. He died in early January 1921. Dwight Eisenhower later wrote of the experience: "This was the greatest disappointment and disaster of my life." Their second son, John, was born in 1922. Following in his father's famous footsteps, John graduated from West point and enlisted in the Army for twenty years, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. Upon leaving the service, he served his father as a military aide during Ike's presidency and later became a very accomplished historian. He is the author of General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence, a biographical tribute to his much-admired father. John is currently the oldest living presidential child at the age of 82.
Long years of separation were hard on the couple; often, they were separated for a year while Ike commanded troops in Europe during World War II. The separations became even more difficult when rumors surfaced that Dwight had begun an affair with his female driver, Kay Summersby, assigned by the British in 1942. Attractive with a good personality, Summersby was often seen in photographs with the general, many of which Mamie saw in American newspapers. Eisenhower enjoyed the young lady, but his letters to Mamie ensured her that he only loved and wanted to be with his wife. After the war, Summersby wrote two books; in the first, she denied any romantic relationship with the general, but in the second book, written by a ghostwriter, she reversed her account of her previously denoted interactions with him.
Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, is president of the Eisenhower Group, Inc., a consulting company what provides counsel on business, public affairs projects and political matters. Susan has worked with major corporations in the energy field and in those wishing to establish business relationships in Russia, and she is involved in many other Eisenhower-related endeavors.