Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Brief Account of Visits to Bolton Priory in the Early 1880s

In 1996, the University of Nebraska Press published a book entitled "Daughter of the Regiment: Memoirs of a Childhood in the Frontier Army, 1878-1898 - Mary Leefe Laurence". The book recounts the childhood of the daughter of a U.S. infantry officer who served in a variety of locations during the late 19th century. Among those locations was David's Island off the shore of Pelham. One chapter of the book contains Laurence's recollections of her life on David's Island in 1881 and 1882. Contained within that chapter is a brief account of her recollections of visiting Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor. That residence still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Below is a transcription of her brief account.

"Pelham Priory on the mainland was among the spots we visited in our outdoor existence at David's Island. I believe it is now some kind of a public show place maintained as a historic landmark, but I recall it as a spot in a beautiful setting of family life. I remember going with others of our family to call on the family then living there. These elegant ladies always served tea, and after stuffing ourselves with cookies, we children were released from the apron strings and allowed to wander about the place. I can remember the thrill and shudder I experienced when walking down a corridor and coming suddenly upon a suit of armor standing like a man before one of the panels and looking as if to say, 'Get by me if you can.' I knew he couldn't move but felt goose pimples all over my body and would not go too close to him.

We went to Pelham Priory a number of times by way of New Rochelle. There we would be met by the priory surrey or coach, the latter a very dark affair with glass windows and two big horses. We enjoyed these visits hugely."

Source: Smith, Thomas T., ed., Daughter of the Regiment: Memoirs of a Childhood in the Frontier Army, 1878-1898 -- Mary Leefe Laurence, p. 63 (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press 1996).

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