Granddaughter of Robert Bolton Remembered a Cave and Native American Remains on the Priory Estate
On Wednesday, May 21, 1930, Pelhamites gathered on the grounds of The Priory in Pelham Manor to attend a Garden Tea sponsored by the Women's Guild of Christ Church. The Garden Tea may have been sponsored by the Women's Guild, but it was hosted by the then-owners of The Priory, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick H. Allen. Significantly, one of the women who served as a hostess during the event was Miss Arabella Bolton, a granddaughter of the founder of Christ Church and original owner of The Priory. Arabella Bolton had lived on the Priory estate in the "Rose Cottage" (located today at 11 Priory Lane) for 25 years and then moved nearby to a bungalow also located on land once part of the estate.
During the Garden Tea, Arabella Bolton regaled many of the guests with stories of the early days of The Priory. A few of the more significant and most unusual of the stories were included in an account of the Garden Tea that appeared in a local newspaper several days later.
Jay Bolton Said to Be the Architect Today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
The architect of today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, built shortly before Robert Bolton, Jr. published "A Guide to New Rochelle" in 1842, is not known. Some have argued that famed architect Minard Lafever designed the structure. Although some of the decorative elements incorporated into the structure may be found in some of Lafever's five so-called "pattern books," there is no other known evidence to support the assertion that he was the architect. Others have argued that one of Rev. Robert Bolton's five sons, William Jay Bolton who was both an artist and an architect, was the architect of the Bartow-Pell Mansion.
It is interesting that the account of the Garden Tea at which Arabella Bolton served as a hostess notes that Jay Bolton, one of her uncles, was the architect of the Bartow-Pell Mansion. Admittedly, the article does not attribute the assertion to Arabella Bolton. It merely states that "Jay Bolton who married Catherine Schuyler, was an architect as well as an artist and designed the Bartow Mansion which is now the home of the International Garden Club of America."
Hermit's Cave on the Grounds of The Priory
Arabella Bolton told an interesting story about The Priory grounds involving what she called "Hermit's Cave." As I have written recently, there once was a small pond fed by a spring on the grounds of The Priory. The Bolton family built a small stone spring house on the edge of the pond. See Tue., Feb. 23, 2016: Native American Legends of Pelham's "Rising Sun Rock" and "The Living Water" Spring.
According to Arabella Bolton, a short distance from the stone spring house was a cave that the boys in Reverend Bolton's family named "Hermit's Cave." Believing that it would not be proper for a cave named "Hermit's Cave" to be without a hermit, the Bolton boys created a stuffed figure dressed as a hermit. They gave him spectacles and a book to hold and seated him in the cave's entrance. According to Miss Bolton, in later years the cave was "destroyed by blasting."
An "Indian Grave" on the Grounds of The Priory
Also according to Arabella Bolton, the Bolton boys were involved in another venture. They concocted a fanciful legend "of an Indian killed beneath one of the fine old trees in the Priory." Not content merely to recount the story, they decided to give the story "a convincing background." Thus, the boys "went to an Indian burial plot in the vicinity and removed the bones of an old warrior, interring them under the tree."
There is no record of where the boys buried the human remains on the grounds of The Priory. Somewhere near The Priory today may rest disturbed human remains removed by the Bolton boys from a nearby Native American burial.
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PARTY HELD AT BOLTON PRIORY
Garden Tea Sponsored By Woman's Guild at Famous Gardens
HOSTESS IS PRESENT
Granddaughter of Man Who Founded Garden Serves As Hostess
The Bolton Priory, one of the most picturesque and historic places in Westchester County, Wednesday afternoon was the scene of a garden tea given by the Woman's Guild of Christ's Church. Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Allen, who now own the estate, opened the gardens for the occasion. One of the hostesses of the day was Miss Arabella Bolton, whose grandfather built the first Christ's Church and was its rector.
The party had been postponed from Monday because of the weather and though the early part of the afternoon was ideal for it, the guests who lingered were obliged to seek shelter in the little college when rain began to fall about 5:30 o'clock.
The exact date is not recorded in which the church and the little cottage which still stands on the Priory grounds, were built. The Rev. Robert Bolton, grandfather of Miss Arabella who still resides on the estate, built them and organized the parish. He had five sons and eight daughters and the beauty of the Priory bespeaks the love the family gave to it. Down beyond the rock garden there is a pond and a little stone spring house and a short distance further on there used to be a cave, Miss Bolton says, and there the sons of the Rev. Mr. Bolton had placed an old hermit. Hermit's Cave without a hermit would be a disappointment they thought, and to make it complete they stuffed a figure, gave him spectacles and a book to hold and seated him in the cave's entrance.
The cave was destroyed by blasting some years ago.
Has Indian Grave
Another interesting thing on the Priory grounds is the Indian grave beneath a large spreading tree. Two of the Bolton boys wrote a book of poetry which included several subjects connected with the early history of Pelham Manor. One they conceived as history that might have been -- the story of an Indian killed beneath one of the fine old trees in the Priory -- and to give it a convincing background they went to an Indian burial plot in the vicinity and removed the bones of an old warrior, interring them under the tree.
The little cottage in which the Bolton family first lived was open to the guests at the tea Wednesday. It has been furnished by Mr. and Mrs. Allen in the true style of the period, with Franklin stoves, a rare old American bed carved with eagles, and interesting antique pieces, each one of which would bear description. Miss Arabella Bolton occupied the cottage for 25 years but now resides in a new bungalow near it.
The estate covers 36 acres and the beautiful home now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Allen was used for many years as a young ladies seminary when the famous school for girls was conducted by Miss Nannette Bolton after her parents had returned to England. The stained glass windows were painted with the Bolton coats of arms by Jay Bolton, one of the sons who was an artist, and there is much handsome carving in the house, which was brought over from Italy. The finest pieces are two mantels.
The Rev. Robert Bolton had one son who assisted him in Christ's Church and later built Grace Church on City Island and was also the rector of the Church of the Redeemer in North Pelham when it was built. He was the Rev. Cornelius Winter Bolton.
Jay Bolton who married Catherine Schuyler, was an architect as well as an artist and designed the Bartow Mansion which is now the home of the International Garden Club of America.
Mr. and Mrs. Allen who now own the Priory have the same affection for it which its first owners felt, because Mrs. Allen's mother attended Miss Bolton's school and spent much of her time there afterwards.
The affair drew many people of the Pelhams and adjacent places but there was no confusion of numbers because of the wide stretch of lawns and gardens over which they were at liberty to walk. The pond with its white swans, the rock garden with its sundial in the center, the graceful wisteria arbor and the beautiful expanse of grounds beyond were a delight to the guests of Christ's Church Guild who attended the tea. Tea was served in the upper garden back of the Bolton cottage, where chairs and tables were arranged in informal groups.
Mrs. D. C. Borden was chairman of the committee in charge of the pleasant affair and the proceeds will be devoted to the church work carried on by the Woman's Guild.
Those who were asked to assist in receiving were, Mrs. J. McVicar Haight, Mrs. J. Harvey Ruffin, Mrs. Lyman Gray, Mrs. Alfred Scott, and Mrs. Schuyler Mills. Some of them, however, were unable to be present until quite late owing to the County meeting of the Woman's Auxiliary of the Episcopal Church held yesterday at Mount Kisko.
The committee assisting Mrs. Borden in the other arrangements included Miss Arabella Bolton, Miss Gertrude Schuyler, Mrs. Raymond Smith, Mrs. F. D. Lackey, [remainder illegible]."
Source: PELHAM -- PARTY HELD AT BOLTON PRIORY -- Garden Tea Sponsored By Woman's Guild at Famous Gardens -- HOSTESS IS PRESENT -- Granddaughter of Man Who Founded Garden Serves As Hostess, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], May 23, 1930, p. 20, col. 3.