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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Adele Bolton, a Founder of Grace Episcopal Church and Administator of the Priory School for Girls

Adele Bolton was one of the children of Reverend Robert Bolton (1788-1857), founder of Christ Church and builder of the Priory in the Village of Pelham Manor, and his wife, Anne Jay Bolton (1793-1859).  For many years Adele assisted her older sister, Nanette Bolton, with administration of the Priory School for Girls that operated in the Priory for nearly forty years during the mid-19th century.  

Adele was born in Hennley-on-the-Thames, England in about 1830.  Before the age of six, she and her family came to this country and settled briefly on a farm in today's Village of Bronxville.  In about 1838, her father and members of the Bolton family began building the family home in today's Pelham Manor, naming it the Priory.  

Reverend Robert Bolton's efforts to educate his children in the family home evolved into an institution to educate young women that became known as the Priory School for Girls.  At first Adele Bolton was educated in the institution that her father founded.  Later, she joined her sister Nanette (who became the headmistress of the school) in the administration of the institution.  

By all accounts Adele Bolton was a gentle, patient, and pious woman.  She became very involved in the religious work of Christ Church, founded by her father on a plot of land adjacent to the Priory estate donated to the church by her father.   

As a young woman during the mid-19th century, Adele Bolton became involved in missionary work and established a mission of the church on City Island in the Town of Pelham which, at the time, had no church.  According to tradition, perhaps as early as 1849, Adele Bolton began rowing a little boat across the waters off Rodman's Neck to City Island to bring the Gospel to inhabitants of City Island.  Cornelius Winter Bolton, one of Adele's brothers, preached when he could to the City Islanders.  Soon, Adele began traversing back and forth between her mission work on City Island and the Priory on the mainland, often traveling by the rope-drawn ferry boat operating in the years before the first City Island Bridge opened.  

Adele nurtured the mission and guided its evolution into Grace Episcopal Church to serve the residents of City Island.  Indeed, in 1862 the Reverend M. M. Dillon, then pastor of Christ Church, reported that "a church is in the process of erection" on City Island (its total cost being $3,000, including contributions from the "young ladies of Pelham Priory" and City Island residents and $944 collected by Adele Bolton herself).  The church, of course, was Grace Episcopal Church.  I have written about Adele Bolton's efforts in this regard on a number of occasions.  See:

Thu., Oct. 02, 2014:  Brief History of Grace Church on City Island in the Town of Pelham Published in 1886.

Fri., Apr. 04, 2014:  Death During Evening Service: The Shocking Death of Rev. Joshua Morsell of Grace Episcopal Church in the Town of Pelham.

Fri., Jan. 5, 2007:  The Early Years of Grace Church, City Island -- Once a Church in Pelham

Once the Bolton family sold the Priory and family members dispersed and died, Adele moved from Pelham to New Rochelle.  She continued with charitable work for as long as her health permitted.  On Tuesday, January 24, 1911, Adele Bolton died in her home located t 220 Pelham Road, New Rochelle.  Her funeral service was held in Christ Church on Saturday, January 27, 1911.  She was buried in Beechwoods Cemetery in New Rochelle the same day.  

After her death, the congregation of Grace Episcopal Church on City Island dedicated a marble memorial tablet inscribed in gold in her honor on April 25, 1912.  It was installed on a wall of the church where it remains today.  It reads:  

JANUARY 24, 1911.

Adele Bolton in an Undated Nineteenth Century Photograph.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Memorial Tablet Dedicated to Memory of Adele Bolton
Installed on Wall Within Grace Episcopal Church, City Island.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Before her death, Adele Bolton became the owner of a number of valuable paintings from the Bolton family collection once displayed in the Priory.  For example, she became the owner of a famous painting of John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim's Progress, by an artist named Limner painted in about 1692 and that once hung in the Priory.  She also was the owner of a valuable painting referenced as "Oval Portrait of a Woman" that once hung in the Priory and purportedly was painted by Thomas Gainsborough.  After her death, the painting became the subject of a dispute that gained widespread attention.  The story regarding the Gainsborough painting is a story for another day -- specifically, tomorrow. . . . . . 

*          *          *          *          *

A 200-Year-Old Painting of the Author of Pilgrim's Progress on Show.

NEW YORK, March 6. -- Thomas Whittaker, the book publisher, has on exhibition in his establishment an original portrait of John Bunyan, which was painted probably two hundred and four years ago.  The picture was first the property of the Rev. George Whitefield, the great preacher, and is now the property of Miss Adele Bolton, of Pelham Priory, West Chester.

This portrait has an interesting history, and is the one from which the various engravings of the author of 'Pilgrim's Progress' have been made.  As to the painting of the picture, Dr. John Brown of Bedford says in his life of Bunyan:  'Charles Doe, 1692, says 'his effigie was cut in copper from an original paint, done to the life by his very good friend, a limner,' ' but who this limner was the writer does not tell.

The portrait is 14 inches long by 14 inches wide, nd is set in the original frame, which was once of gilt, but little of the bright appearance remains today in the time-stained moulding.  The painting, which had become dim from age, was restored in 1890 and is in excellent condition."

Source:  PORTRAIT OF BUNYAN -- A 200-Year-Old Painting of the Author of Pilgrim's Progress on Show, The Topeka State Journal, Mar. 6, 1896, p. 8, col. 5.  


Pelham Manor.  Jan. 25. -- Miss Adele Bolton, daughter of the late Rev. Robert Bolton, of the Bolton Priory, and sister of the late Rev. Cornelius Bolton, who for many years, was rector of the Church of the Redeemer in North Pelham, died last night, in her 81st year, at her home in New Rochelle.  She was the last surviving member of the older generation of the Bolton family living in this country, and is survived by a sister, Miss Frances Georgianna Bolton, who lives in England.  The funeral services will be held from Christ Episcopal church in Pelham Manor, Friday afternoon at 3:30 o'clock, and the interment will be in Beechwood cemetery.  

Miss Bolton formed the Grace Episcopal church on City Island, which grew out of a mission established by her in the early fifties.  For a number of years she went back and forth from Pelham Manor to City Island in a ferryboat, which was pulled between the two points by means of a rope attached to a small craft.  She worked in this mission for some fifteen years.  In 1863 the church was organized and built.  Miss Bolton was an earnest worker in the Episcopal church for a great many years, and was well known in the town of Pelham and in various parts of Westchester county.  

She was born in 1830 in Henley-on-the-Thames and came to this country with her parents, the Rev. Robert and Mrs. Bolton, when she was six years old.  She was educated at the old Bolton Priory, which was established by her father.  She has been living in this locality for 74 years.  Rev. Robert Bolton, the historian, was her brother."

Source:  MISS BOLTON DEAD AT NEW ROCHELLE, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], Jan. 25, 1911, p. 2, col. 2.  


Miss Adele Bolton, daughter of the late Rev. Robert Bolton, who founded the old Bolton Priory at Pelham Manor, and sister of the late Rev. Cornelius Bolton, for many years rector of the Church of the Redeemer, at North Pelham, died last night at Pelham Manor.

She was born in Henley-on-the-Thames, England, in 1830, and when six years old came to this country with her parents.  She was educated in the institution her father founded and at an early age became engaged in religious work.  She formed the present Grace Episcopal Church, in City Island, in the 50's from a mission which then existed there.

The only near relative who survives her is Miss Frances Bolton, a sister, who lives in England.  The funeral will be held in Christ Church, Pelham Manor, to-morrow, at 3:15 p.m.  The burial will be in Beechwood Cemetery."

Source:  MISS ADELE BOLTON, New-York Tribune, Jan. 26, 1911, p. 7, col. 6.  


After a residence of seventy-five years spent mostly in New Rochelle and Pelham, Miss Adele Bolton, daughter of the late Rev. Robert Bolton, who founded the old Bolton Priory, at Pelham Manor, and sister of the late Rev. Cornelius Bolton, for many years rector of the Church of the Redeemer of North Pelham, died Tuesday at her late home, 220 Pelham Road, after a long illness.

Deceased was born in Hennley-on-the-Thames, England, eighty-one years ago, and when only about six years of age came to this country with her parents.  She was educated in the institution that her father founded and at an early age became engaged in religious work.  She was at one time one of the most prominent workers of Christ Church, Pelham, as well as showing much activity in Trinity Church, this city.  Through her efforts the Grace Episcopal Church at City Island was changed from a mission into a church in the fifties.  Miss Bolton was also very active in charitable work while her health permitted.  Her father, Rev. Robert Bolton, was the originator of 'Bolton's History of Westchester County,' [sic] and the work of revising the same was taken up after his death by his brother Rev. C. W. Bolton and completed.  It is considered one of the best histories of the county.  A nephew of the deceased, Lieutenant Edward C. Bolton, who held the position of Military Governor of Bavao, Phillipine [sic] Islands, was killed at that place several years ago by a native.  His body was brought to New Rochelle and buried with military honors in the family plot in Beechwoods Cemetery.

The death of this lady removes one of our most estimable and highly honored residents.

Funeral services were held yesterday afternoon in Christ Church, Pelham, and were largely attended.  The services were conducted by the Rev. A. F. Tenney, rector of that Church.  Burial was made in the family plot in Beechwood Cemetery."

Source:  DEATH OF MISS ADELE BOLTON -- AT AGE OF EIGHTY-ONE SHE PASSES AWAY PEACEFULLY -- WAS SISTER OF THE LATE REV. CORNELIUS BOLTON, The Pelham Sun, Jan. 28, 1911, Vol. 1, No. 43, p. 1, col. 6.  See also OBITUARY -- Miss Adele Bolton, New Rochelle Pioneer, Jan. 28, 1911, Vol. 52, No. 44, p. 8, col. 3. (Essentially the same text).  

"Obituary Notes. . . . 

Miss Adele Bolton died last night at her home, No. 220 Pelham road, New Rochelle, in her eighty-first year.  Her father, the Rev. Mr. Robert Bolton, was the founder of the Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor, which he and his brothers [sic] built in 1838.  Miss Bolton was born in Henley on the Thames, England."

Source:  Obituary Notes, New York Herald, Jan. 26, 1911, p. 9, col. 1.  

BOLTON. -- At New Rochelle, N.Y., Jan. 24, 1911, ADELE BOLTON, daughter of Rev. Robert Bolton, of Bolton Priory, Pelham Manor, N.Y., in her 81st year."

Source:  Died -- BOLTON, The Yonkers Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Jan. 26, 1911, p. 8, col. 4.  


Pelham Manor, Jan. 28.  -- Many persons gathered in Christ Episcopal church yesterday afternoon to pay their last tribute of respect to the memory of Miss Adele Bolton, daughter of the late Rev. Robert Bolton of the Bolton Priory, who died at her home in New Rochelle Tuesday night.  The interment was in Beechwood cemetery.  The Episcopal service was observed by the rector of the church, the Rev. Alfred F. Tenney."

Source:  FUNERAL OF MISS BOLTON, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], Jan. 28, 1911, p. p.4, col. 7. 


On April 25th a memorial tablet was consecrated in Grace Church, City Island, to the loving memory of Adele Bolton, originator and founder of the little church and its Sunday School, about 1865.  Rev. Dr. Forbes, present rector, Rev. A. F. Tenney and Rev. C. F. Canedy presided.

Mr. Pell, of Bronxville, delighted all with his music.  Mrs. Abbott, a Sunday School teacher, with Adele Bolton, unveiled the tablet.  Dr. Canedy gave a beautiful address and interesting data of the history of Grace Church and the workers on the Island, who with Adele Bolton, mde the labor possible and under God's blessing a success.

Later refreshments were served at Mr. and Mrs. Abbott's attractive home."

Source:  MEMORIAL CONSECRATED, New Rochelle Pioneer, Apr. 27, 1912, p. 8, col. 1.  

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