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.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Biographical Sketch of the Reverend Robert Bolton, Jr. of Pelham Published in 1878

Robert Bolton, Jr. was the eldest son of the Reverend Robert Bolton who founded Christ Church and built Bolton Priory, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Robert Bolton, Jr. was the author of a popular two volume history of Westchester County first published in 1848.

In 1878, the Reverend Beverly R. Betts published a brief biographical sketch of Robert Bolton, Jr. in the The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. The text of that sketch appears immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.



The Rev. Robert Bolton, A.M., Rector of St. John's Church, Lewisboro, Westchester County, New York, died at Pelham Priory, on the IIth day of October, 1877, in the 64th year of his age. Mr. Bolton was the eldest son of the late Rev. Robert Bolton, the founder of the Priory and of Christ Church, Pelham, by his intermarriage with Anne, daughter of the Rev. William Jay, of Bath, England. He was born at No. 13 Paragon Buildings, Bath, in the parish of St. Michael, in the county of Somerset, England, on Sunday, the 17th of April, 1814, and was baptized by his grandfather, the Rev. William Jay, in Argyle Chapel, Bath. In early life he studied medicine under Dr. Young, at Henley-on-Thames; but, although he took his degree, he never entered on the practice of his profession. In 1836, he came with his father to New York, and settled on a farm at Portchester, in Westchester County. On the 8th of January, 1838, he married Elizabeth Rebecca, daughter of James Brenton, of Newport, Rhode Island. Mrs. Bolton died, without issue on the 12th of [Page 1 / Page 2] March, 1852. On the 5th of January, 1854, Mr. Bolton married Josephine, eldest daughter of Brewster Woodhull, of Patchogue, Suffolk Co., N. Y., by whom he had twelve children, eleven of whom are now living.

In 1852, in partnership with Mr. Benjamin E. Brenton, a relation of his first wife, he purchased and carried on, for a short time, a well-established druggist's and chemist's business, at Jamaica, Long Island. His tastes, however, were literary and scholastic; and after two years he sold out and began to devote himself to more congenial occupations. He opened a female academy at New Rochelle, which he soon removed to Tarrytown. About 1859 he took charge of a large school at Bedford, where he remained until 1871. On the 13th of November, 1868, he was made deacon, and on the 9th of June following he was ordained priest by Bishop Potter. St. John's Church, Lewisboro, was his only parish. He remained there from his ordination to his death; and by the purity of his Christian character, the kindness of his disposition, and the earnestness and energy which he devoted himself to his work, he won the affections of his people, who now mourn his loss as that of a father in the Lord.

Mr. Bolton's tastes were, as has been said, literary and scholastic. It seemed to give him pleasure to be surrounded with young people, whose education he directed, and over whose moral and aesthetic training he sedulously watched. His house was like a family, and his pupils were like his children. His method combined strictness of discipline with absence of formality. His favorite studes lay in the direction of history, antiquities, and genealogy, for which the artistic abilities, which, like the other members of his family, he possessed, gave him a peculiar aptitude. The decorative work of the Priory and of the church, the carving, painting, and glass-staining which adorn them, were designed and executed by himself and his brothers.

His earliest publication was, 'A Guide to New Rochell,' in 1848. In the same year he also published his great work, 'The History of Westchester County,' in two vols. 8vo. The latter years of his life were devoted to the preparation of a new edition of this work. This he leaves almost completed. In 1855 he published a 'History of the Church in Westchester County,' and in 1862, 'A Genealogical and Biographical Account of the Family of Bolton, in England and America.'

This work is executed in the most careful and conscientious manner; its principle is that which should guide intelligent genealogists, viz., to take nothing for granted, but to insist upon evidence and records. From this work it appears that the Boltons are one of those historical familis of commoners which trace their descent for many centuries. The pedigree begins in 1135, and is continued down to 1862. The family is established in England, New York, and Georgia. The lines of descent are carefully traced. The earlier part of the volume is occupied by transcripts of early records; the latter contains accounts of several of the members of the family. Due attention is given to dates, and the details are carefully worked out. Mr. Bolton was no hasty genealogist.

This brief sketch may be fitly ended in the words of the Rev. C. W. Bolton, contained in a letter to the present writer. There can be no impropriety in summing up the character of a good man in the words of an affectionate brother. 'He was possessed of a peculiar veneration for what was historical. A thoroughly religious man, honest in his convictions, straight-forward and thorough in all he undertook, remarkable for energy and in- [Page 2 / Page 3] dustry, of a singularly kind nature, suffering and misfortune of any kind enlisted his sympathy and aid, so much so that the distinctions between his own interests and those of others seemed overlooked. Having studied medicine, he was helpful to the poor, to whom he delighted to minister, so fulfilling the Scripture: 'Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.'"

Source: Betts, Beverly R., Biographical Sketch of the Rev. Robert Bolton, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. IX, Issue I, pp. 1-3 (NY, NY: The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Jan. 1878) (Image of family crest from p. 1).

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