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, June 30, 2016

1892 Obituary of 85-Year-Old Jane Eliza Roosevelt of Pelham Manor

There is a handful of ancient families who have had important influences on the history of the Town of Pelham.  Among them is the Roosevelt family, a line related (as one might expect) to the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, and to the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  

One member of the Roosevelt family of Pelham Manor was Jane Eliza Roosevelt.  She was a daughter of Elbert Cornelius Roosevelt, an early 19th century owner of lands near Long Island Sound in today's Pelham Manor.  She was born October 13, 1807 in New York City in the family mansion on South Street.  

Elbert Cornelius Roosevelt was born October 9, 1767 in New York City.  He was a son of Cornelius and Margaret [Haering] Roosevelt.  On December 29, 1794 he married Jane Curtenius, a daughter of Peter Theobaldus Curtenius and Catharine [Goelet] Curtenius.  Peter Theobaldus Curtenius served as Commissary General and rose to the rank of Colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. 

According to one source, the couple had at least eight children including Jane Eliza Roosevelt, the subject of today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog: 

"The children of Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt were: 

400 PETER CURTENIUS, b. Sept. 30, 1795; d. unmarried, Dec. 29, 1891. 
401 ELBERT JONES, b. Sept. 12, 1797; d. unmarried, June 7, 1885. 
402 HENRY, b. Aug. 18, 1800; m. July 29, 1828, Eliza Louisa Champlin. No. 622. No issue; daughter of W. O. and Elizabeth S. (De Peyster) Champlin. No. 311; d. Nov. 6, 1848. 
403+WASHINGTON, b. Nov. 14, 1802; m. 1st, Mary A. Swift; 2d, Jane M. Young. 
404 CLINTON, b. Nov. 3, 1804; d. unmarried, Aug. 1, 1898. 
405 JANE ELIZA, b. Oct. 13, 1807; d. unmarried, Dec. 4, 1892. 
406 MARY, b. July 10, 1810; d. June 13, 1822. 
407 ISAAC, b. Nov. 27, 1812; d. Sept. 30, 1856." 

Source: Whittelsey, Charles Barney, The Roosevelt Genealogy, 1649-1902, pp. 41-42 (Hartford, CT: C. B. Whittelsey 1902) (126 pp. with "Addenda," six leaves inserted at end).

I have written about Elbert Cornelius Roosevelt and other members of the Roosevelt family in Pelham Manor before.  For examples, see:

Fri., Oct. 16, 2015:  An Obituary of Charles Henry Roosevelt of Pelham Manor.

Thu., Aug. 21, 2014:  Biographical Sketches of Two Members of the 1887-88 Westchester County Board of Supervisors With Pelham Connections.

Tue., May 13, 2014:  Elbert Roosevelt, An Early Settler of the Manor of Pelham, and Other Members of His Family.

Mon., Apr. 05, 2010:  Obituary of Noted Pelham Manor Resident C. H. Roosevelt Published in 1901

Thu., Jan. 01, 2009:  A Brief History of Pelham Bridge

Wed., Jan. 29, 2008:  Brief Obituary of Rev. Washington Roosevelt of Pelham Published February 13, 1884

Mon., Nov. 19, 2007:  1901 Obituary of Charles Henry Roosevelt, Grandson of Elbert Roosevelt, One of the Early Settlers of Pelham Manor

Mon., Dec. 18, 2006:  What May Be The Earliest Patent Awarded to a Resident of Pelham: Patent Issued to Elbert J. Roosevelt on May 29, 1866

Wed., Dec. 13, 2006:  More About Isaac Roosevelt of Pelham Who Carved His Name on a Glacial Boulder in 1833

Mon., Nov. 13, 2006: The Isaac Roosevelt Stone Carved in 1833

Wed., Sep. 20, 2006:  Brief Biographical Data About Elbert Roosevelt of the Manor of Pelham.

Fri., Jan. 06, 2006: Pelham Loses its Right To Use the Town Dock in the Early 1900s.

Jane Eliza Roosevelt was a daughter of Elbert Cornelius Roosevelt and Margaret Haering Roosevelt.  Born in New York City in 1807, as noted above, she never married.  

She moved with her family to Pelham Manor as a young girl.  She was active in the community throughout her life.  She was, for many years, an active member of the American Tract Society, an evangelical organization founded on May 11, 1825 in New York City to publish and disseminate Christian literature.  At one point Roosevelt served as Treasurer of the New Rochelle branch of the American Tract Society.

Jane Eliza Roosevelt died in her home in Pelham on December 14, 1892 at the age of 85.  Her obituary appeared the next day in The Sun, published in New York City.  That obituary is transcribed below, followed by a citation and link to its source.


Jane Eliza Roosevelt, daughter of the late Elbert Roosevelt, died yesterday at her house in Pelham, after an illness of more than a year.  She was 85 years old and a spinster.  Miss Roosevelt was born Oct. 13, 1807, in the old Roosevelt mansion on South street, which stood at that time in an orchard of peach trees that stretched almost to the East River.  Her youth was passed between this city and Pelham, where her father owned the land on which the present town [sic] of Pelham Manor is built.  For some years she had lived entirely in Pelham.  Her mother was a member of the old Curtenius family, and her grandfather, Peter Theobaldus Curtenius, was a Commisary in the Revolutionary army under Washington.  During the hardships of the winter of 1783, spent by Washington and the troops at Newburgh, Curtenius sold his residence at the corner of Broadway and Liberty street to aid the army.  He was afterward repaid in Continental money, which is still in the possession of the family.  Miss Roosevelt came of a family which enjoys unusual longevity.  Her father lived to the age of ninety-one years.  One of her brothers, Peter Curtenius Roosevelt, died in December, 1891, aged ninety-eight, and another, Elbert J., died in his eighty-ninth year.  Both were bachelors.  One brother, eighty-eight years old, survives her, and is unmarried.  Miss Roosevelt was endeared throughout the region where she lived by her charities and gentleness of character.  The funeral will take place on Saturday morning, in the Presbyterian Church at New Rochelle.  The body will be interred in Beachwood [sic] Cemetery."

Source:  OBITUARY -- Jane Eliza Roosevelt, The Sun [NY, NY], Dec. 15, 1892, p. 7, col. 4.

Detail from 1881 Bromley Map Showing Location of Various Parcels
of Land Held by Roosevelt Family. Source: "Town of Pelham (With) Pelham-
Bromley, 1881" in Atlas of Westchester County, New York, From
Actual Surveys and Official Records by G. W. Bromley & Co., Civil
Engineers, pp. 56-57 (NY, NY: Geo. W. & Walter S. Bromley, 1881).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Caroline May, 19th Century Poet, Author, Editor, and Instructor at the Pelham Priory School for Girls

"And when the Pelham people say 
No woods so fair are known, 
Come hither some delicious day,
And make their creed your own."

From the Poem "Pelham Woods"
by Caroline May.

Recently I received an email inquiry regarding Caroline May, a 19th century poet, author, editor, and instructor at the Priory School for Girls in Pelham Manor.  Specifically, the inquiry noted that Caroline May was the author of a book of poems published shortly before the close of the Civil War with a preface written in November, 1864 from "Chestnut Cottage" in Pelham.  The email asked where Chestnut Cottage was located.  Another Pelham history mystery was born.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog provides biographical information about Caroline May and proposes a likely location of "Chestnut Cottage," laying out the evidence in support of the hypothesis.  If the hypothesis is correct, the home still stands.

Although it is well known that Caroline May was a poet, author, and faculty member at the Priory School for Girls, I did not recall that Ms. May was associated with a residence known as "Chestnut Cottage" in Pelham.  A review of period maps listing home owners fails to shed any light on the matter.

Margaret Highland, Historian of the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum recently wrote an important article that included significant information about Caroline May.  See Highland, Margaret, "In the Pelham Woods:  The Poets of Pelham Priory" in Mansion Musings:  Musings on the Preservation, Restoration, and Interpretation of this Historic House and its Gardens (visited Jun. 27, 2016).  

Caroline May was born in Croydon, England about 1820.  She was a daughter of the Reverend Edward Harrison May who brought her and the remainder of his family to New York in 1834.  Reverend May accepted a position as pastor of a Dutch Reformed church in New York City.  He later became Secretary of the American Seamen's Friend Society.

As a young woman in her twenties, Caroline May began to publish Victorian poems using the pseudonym "Caromaia."  For a few examples, see Caromaia, "Take, Therefore, No Thought for the Morrow -- Matt. 6:34" in Martin, S. T., ed., The Ladies' Wreath:  an Illustrated Annual for MMDCCCxLVIII-IX, Vol. 2, p. 250 (NY, NY:  Martyn & Ely, 1848-49); Caromaia, "To Nature" in Martin, S. T., ed., The Ladies' Wreath:  an Illustrated Annual for MMDCCCxLVIII-IX, Vol. 2, p. 206 (NY, NY:  Martyn & Ely, 1848-49); Caromaia, "True Friendship" in Martin, S. T., ed., The Ladies' Wreath:  an Illustrated Annual for MMDCCCxLVIII-IX, Vol. 2, p. 132 (NY, NY:  Martyn & Ely, 1848-49).

In 1848, May edited the volume "American Female Poets With Biographical and Critical Notices."  The book was republished on several occasions in a number of editions.  See, e.g., May, Caroline, ed., American Female Poets With Biographical and Critical Notices (Philadelphia, PA:  Lindsay & Blakiston, 1854).  The book was republished as late as 1869 as May, Caroline, ed., Pearls From the American Female Poets (NY, NY:  Allen Bros., 1869).  Historian Margaret Highland has written of the significance of this Anthology edited by Caroline May in her earlier years, saying:

"In 1848, in her late twenties, Caroline May published The American Female Poets, one of three similar anthologies that appeared in 1848–49, when there was a plethora of women poets, a rapidly developing American poetic tradition, and an enthusiastic market for verse.  The other anthologies — both edited by men and entitled The Female Poets of America —were by Rufus W. Griswold and Thomas Buchanan Read.  Editors often excluded women from general poetry collections because their work was considered too sentimental and less serious than men’s writing.  Subsequently, Miss May published several volumes of her own poems, exploring themes like nature, religion, personal relationships, and women’s experiences."

Source:  Highland, Margaret, "In the Pelham Woods:  The Poets of Pelham Priory" in Mansion Musings:  Musings on the Preservation, Restoration, and Interpretation of this Historic House and its Gardens (visited Jun. 27, 2016).

According to one brief biography of Caroline May, after her father's death in 1853 in Philadelphia, she moved to Pelham, New York, "where she taught school."  See "Caroline May" in Wikipedia - Thre Free Encyclopedia (visited Jun. 27, 2016).

The school at which Caroline May taught was the Priory School for Girls in Pelham Manor.  Indeed, in a collection of poems May published in 1888, she included a poem she once wrote for a group of girls who were graduating from the Priory School for Girls.  The poem was entitled "LINES (WRITTEN BY REQUEST FOR SOME PUPILS LEAVING SCHOOL AT THE PRIORY.)"  The poem is quoted in its entirety at the end of today's article, in addition to a number of other Pelham-related poems by Caroline May.

Though the records of the Priory School for Girls no longer exist, it seems that Caroline May taught there for quite some time -- perhaps from the 1850s until the school closed in 1881.  That cannot now be known with certainty.  There are, however, intriguing clues suggesting that May became close with both Nanette Bolton and Adele Bolton of the Priory School for Girls.  Indeed, it is possible that all three of the women worked on David's Island to minister to the needs of sick and wounded soldiers in the hospital facilities there during the Civil War.  See Highland, Margaret, "In the Pelham Woods:  The Poets of Pelham Priory" in Mansion Musings:  Musings on the Preservation, Restoration, and Interpretation of this Historic House and its Gardens (visited Jun. 27, 2016).  Indeed, Caroline May wrote a poignant poem about David's Island published in 1865.  The poem is quoted in its entirety with a citation and link below.

The poem "David's Island" appeared in a book of May's poetry published in 1865 entitled, simply, "Poems."  See May, Caroline, Poems (NY, NY:  Carleton, Publisher, 1865).  She signed a dedication of the book to her younger brother, Edward Harrison May, Jr., as written from "CHESTNUT COTTAGE, PELHAM, November, 1864.  See id. at p. v.  Similarly, in 1872 May published a book of Hymn lyrics based on Collects found in the Book of Common Prayer.  See May, Caroline, Hymns on the Collects For Every Sunday in the Year (NY, NY:  Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1872).  Once again, she signed an "Introductory Note" as written from "CHESTNUT COTTAGE, PELHAM, November 13th, 1872," suggesting (but not establishing) that May lived in a residence known as Chestnut Cottage in Pelham at least during the period from November, 1864 until November 13, 1872.  See id. at p. iv.

The references to Chestnut Cottage are, of course, intriguing.  Where was that cottage?  Does it still exist?

Placing Chestnut Cottage has been difficult.  A couple of very brief published references provide vague clues, however.  It appears that for a portion of the time Caroline May taught at the Priory School for Girls, she lived in Pelham Manor on the grounds of the Priory Estate.  For example, there are references to Caroline May as "of Pelham Manor, N.Y." published in 1891 and her obituary notes she died in 1895 in Pelham Manor.  See, e.g., "Art Notes" in The Critic, Mar. 21, 1891, No. 377, p. 160 (NY, NY:  The Critic Co., 1891) ("Two paintings by the late Edward May, an English artist long resident in Paris, have been presented to the Century Club by Miss Caroline May, of Pelham Manor, N.Y., a sister of the painter.").  See the obituary quoted in its entirety below as well.

Two other references shed even more light on the possible location of Chestnut Cottage.  A brief biography of Caroline May published in 1875 and 1881 editions of a popular encyclopedia stated that she resided "at Pelham, Westchester co., N.Y., on the grounds of Miss Bolton's 'Priory.'"  The biography published in 1875 read in full as follows:

"MAY, Caroline, an American authoress, born in England.  She is the daughter of the Rev. Edward Harrison May, for many years pastor of one of the Dutch Reformed churches of New York.  She has edited 'American Female Poets' (1848), with numerous biographical and critical notes; 'Treasured Thoughts from Favorite Authors" (12mo, 1851); 'The Woodbine'' (1852), an annual; and has published 'Poems' (1864), and 'Hymns on the Collects' (1872).  Miss May is also a painter and musician.  She resides at Pelham, Westchester co., N.Y., on the grounds of Miss Bolton's 'Priory.' -- Her brother, EDWARD H. MAY, is a painter of some celebrity in Paris."

Source:  "MAY, Caroline" in Ripley, George & Dana, Charles A., eds., The American Cyclopedia:  A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, Vol. XI, p. 298 (NY, NY:  Appleton & Co., 1875).  See also "MAY, Caroline" in Ripley, George & Dana, Charles A., eds., The American Cyclopedia:  A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, Vol. XI, p. 298 (NY,NY:  D. Appleton & Co., 1881) (similar text).  

This would seem to limit the potential structures that might have been Chestnut Cottage quite substantially.  Indeed, perhaps the only residential structure that stood on the Priory estate -- besides the Priory, of course -- in those years was the lovely cottage known today as the "Rose Cottage."  That structure still stands at 11 Priory Lane in the Village of Pelham Manor.  I have written about its mysterious history before.  See Wed., Jul. 13, 2005:  11 Priory Lane: The Rose Cottage.  

The Rose Cottage at 11 Priory Lane in April, 2012.
Source:  Google Maps.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Undated View of The Rose Cottage at 11 Priory Lane.
Source:  Town of Pelham Tax Assessor's Online Database.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

The precise date that the little cottage was built is unknown.  Nor is it known who built it.  It reportedly was standing in 1838 when Rev. Robert Bolton bought the grounds that became the Priory Estate.  He and his family reportedly lived in the cottage as they built the Priory beginning in 1838.  Portions of the cottage suggest that it may have been built as early as 1810.  

Local historians long have theorized that the cottage may have begun as an outbuilding of one of the Pell family members who lived in the area during the 18th and early 19th centuries.  If that is the case, then it is at least possible that the structure was associated with the Pell-Bayley-Kemble House located at 145 Shore Road.  Portions of that home that still stands were built by a member of the Pell family in about 1760.

There is a fascinating story told about the Rose Cottage at 11 Priory Lane.  Experts generally believe that the stained glass window in Christ Church depicting the "Adoration of the Magi" was the first "figured stained glass window" created anywhere in America.  One of Rev. Bolton's sons, William Jay Bolton, executed that window.  According to several authorities, "William Jay Bolton created a figured stained glass window of 'Abraham Sacrificing Isaac on the Altar' which he placed in the front door of the cottage. This window may pre-date the 'Adoration of the Magi' window in Christ Church.'"  If true, of course, this little cottage would be the site of the first figured stained glass window executed in the United States. 

To read more about the little Rose Cottage at 11 Priory Lane, see Village of Pelham Manor, Pelham Manor: A Tour Through Time -- A Self-Guided Tour in Honor of Pelham Manor's Centennial, p. 2 (1991).  See also The Junior League of Pelham, Inc., A Glance at the Past: Pelham's Growth From 1775-1975, pp. 8, 9, 11 (The Junior League of Pelham, Inc., Sep. 1976) (Pamphlet associated with accompanying map; 32 pp. including Map Bibliography, Manuscript Bibliography and illustrations by Hedy Klein).

It cannot be stated with certainty that the home known today as the Rose Cottage once was known as the "Chestnut Cottage" in which Caroline May lived and wrote.  Absent other more compelling evidence, however, there would seem to be a possibility that Caroline May lived and worked there.  Indeed, except for the carriage house associated with the Priory, the little cottage was the only other major outbuilding and certainly the only other residential building known to exist on the Priory Estate between about 1864 and 1872.  The evidence seems to support 11 Priory Lane as "Chestnut Cottage."

Caroline May had a younger brother named Edward Harrison May, Jr. who became a notable expatriate artist who lived and worked in Paris.  He was born in England in 1824 and died in Paris on May 17, 1887.  Although he studied civil engineering in the United States, he abandoned those studies for art and, according to one biography, he became:

"a pupil of Daniel Huntington, and later, in 1851, of Couture, in Paris, whose style is suggested in his later works.  During the Franco-Prussian war he was a captain of the American ambulance, aided the surgeons in attending the wounded, and received a medal for his services.  He was elected an associate of the National academy in 1876, and received a medal of the third class at Paris in 1855."  (See below for quote of entire biography.)  See also "Edward Harrison May" in Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia (visited Jun. 27, 2016).  

"Lady Howe Checkmating Benjamin Franklin," 
an Oil Painting by Edward Harrison May, Jr.
Painted in 1867.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

In addition to her work as a writer and a teacher, Caroline May was also an artist and musician.  She had some of her brother's paintings and donated several to various institutions.  She donated "Mary Magdalene at the Sepulchre" to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  She also donated at least two of her brother's paintings to the Century Club in New York City.  

Many of Caroline May's poems were about Pelham.  Some are easy to spot.  For example, she published "Pelham Woods" in 1888.  That year she also published "From Alpine Heights To Heavenly" that deals with the death of Nanette Bolton, former headmistress of the Priory School for Girls, who closed the school in 1881 and moved to Switzerland.  Nanette Bolton died on August 6, 1884 at Sepey, Switzerland.  Caroline May also wrote Hymn lyrics for the dedication of the Christ Church Rectory in Pelham Manor which were included in a book she published in 1872.  Additionally, she wrote a poem about the pain, suffering, and fear of those sick and wounded soldiers treated in the hospital facilitiies of David's Island off the shores of Pelham where she, Nanette Bolton, and Adele Bolton worked during the Civil War.  Clearly Pelham inspired Caroline May.

Caroline May died in Pelham Manor on Tuesday, March 5, 1895.  Her funeral services were held on Thursday, March 7 at 3:30 p.m. at Christ Church, next to the Priory where she once had worked.

*          *          *          *          *

Below is the text of a few published items regarding Caroline May.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"MAY, Caroline, author, b. in England about 1820.  Her father, Rev. Edward Harrison May, came to this country from England in 1834, and was for many years pastor of one of the Dutch Reformed churches of New York city.  She first wrote poems under the pen-name of 'Caromaia,' and has published 'American Female Poets, with Biographical and Critical Noties' (Philadelphia, 1848); 'Treasured Thoughts from Favorite Authors' (1850); 'The Woodbine, a Holiday Gift' (1852); 'Poems' (New York, 1864); and 'Hymns on the Collects' (1872).  She is also a painter and a musician, and now (1888) has a collection of poems ready for publication. -- Her brother, Edward Harrison, artist, b. in England in 1824; d. in Paris, France, 17 May, 1887, was brought to this country in childhood and studied civil engineering, which he abandoned for art, becoming a pupil of Daniel Huntington, and later, in 1851, of Couture, in Paris, whose style is suggested in his later works.  During the Franco-Prussian war he was a captain of the American ambulance, aided the surgeons in attending the wounded, and received a medal for his services.  He was elected an associate of the National academy in 1876, and received a medal of the third class at Paris in 1855.  His works include 'The Dying Brigand' (in the Philadelphia academy of fine arts); 'Christopher Columbus signing his Will in Prison'; 'Lady Jane Grey presenting her Tablets to the Goverrnor of the Tower'; 'Franklin playing at Chess with Lady Howe'; 'Moliere Reading'; 'Francis I lamenting the Death of his Son'; 'Ophelia'; 'L'Alsacienne'; 'Milton dictating to his Daughters'; 'Lady Eliza Pelham-Clinton as Marguerite'; 'Le Chanson'; 'By the \/4*Rivers of Babylon, or the Captive Jews' (in the Century club, New York); portraits of Laboulaye and Count Gasparin (in Union club, New York); 'Mary Magdalene at the Sepulchre' (presented by Caroline May to the Metropolitan museum, New York); 'Pursued'; 'Pandora'; 'Le lever de Mademoiselle'; and many other tableaux de genre and portraits."

Source:  "MAY, Caroline" in Wilson, James Grant & Fiske, John, eds., Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. IV:  Lodge-Pickens Revised Edition, p. 272 (NY, NY:  D. Appleton and Co., 1898).


Miss Caroline May, the poetess, met with a serious accident Thursday, in walking near the Priory, she slipped, and falling upon the ice, broke one of her arms.  The Rev. Mr. Higbee, residing near by, took Miss May in his carriage and drove to the office of Dr. Wells on Prospect street, where the broken limb was properly cared for."

Source:  A BROKEN ARM, New Rochelle Pioneer, Dec. 23, 1882, Vol. XXIII, No. 37, p. 2, col. 2.   


--In the next issue of the PIONEER will appear a poem entitled, 'My Chestnut Trees,' written by the well and favorably known poetess, Miss Caroline May, who for many years has made the Pelham Priory her home.  The subject of the poem, doubtless, was prompted by the romantic wild wood that surrounds the old Priory."

Source:  LOCAL INTELLIGENCE, New Rochelle Pioneer, Aug. 18, 1883, Vol. XXIV, No. 21, p. 3, col. 1 (NOTE:  The poem did not appear in any of the next several issues of the newspaper; it did, however, appear in "Lays of Memory and Affection" published in 1888, p. 139).   

"DIED. . . . MAY. -- On Tuesday, March 5, at Pelham Manor, N.Y., Caroline May.

Funeral services at Christ Church, Pelham, on Thursday, March 7, at 3:30 o'clock.  Carriages will meet train leaving 129th St. and 3d Ave. at 2:45 P.M."

Source:  DIED. MAY, N.Y. Times, Mar. 6, 1895, p. 5, col. 7 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).

*          *          *          *          *

Much of Caroline May's poetry -- particularly those poems touching on nature -- was inspired by the beauty of Pelham Manor where she lived.  Below is a collection of poems by Caroline May that relate directly to Pelham.


ONLY four short years ago
And this Island in the Sound,
Was not linked with thoughts of woe,
Thoughts and feelings more profound 
Than could e'er be said or sung
By  prophet's burning tongue.

Merry parties sought its shores
In the idle summer-time,
Plied the waves with winged oars,
Whose light dip and measured chime,
Made the music more complete
Of gay songs, and voices sweet.

Then, when safely landed there,
Children danced upon the sward;
Happy lovers wandered, where
All their vows might be outpoured;
Artists sketched, with rapid hand,
Studies found on sea or land.

Dwellers on this isle were none
Save the natives of the wood;
Squirrels chattering in fun,
Stock-doves crooning o'er their brood,
Whistling quails, in thickets green,
Dreaming not of sportsmen keen;

Eagles from the loftiest tree,
Eagles, too, were seen to soar,
Glad to scream of liberty;
While upon the rocky shore,
Herons blue, with aspect grave,
Fished their prey from out the wave.

Only four short years ago
Nature there held sovereign sway;
What has changed the Island so --
Scared the gamesome tribes away,
Banished all the birds and bees,
Levelled all the forest trees?

Civil war has wrought the change;
Hark, the tattoo of the drums, 
Or the bugle's shrilly range,
When the morn or evening comes!
See the lines of gleaming walls,
Soldier's tents and hospitals!

Visit David's Island now, 
And in those pavilions white
You will feel your spirit bow
With strange sorrow, at the sight
Of the many sorts of pain
Horrid war brings in its train.

Feverish agony from wounds
That resist the surgeon's skill;
Wild delirium, dread swoons,
Intermitting heat and chill,
Hollow-eyed consumption, sure --
O deceiving hope -- of cure.

There, within each mournful tent,
You will see the matrons pale
With heroic courage, bent
On upholding hearts that fail,
Homesick hearts of soldiers brave
Trembling to approach the grave.

Gladly would they lay their lives
On their country's battle-field,
Where each warrior patriot strives
For the cause that blood has sealed;
Death is joy mid clash of swords,
Death is woe in fever wards.

See that lingering, yearning eye,
Full of matchless eloquence,
Asking -- Am I doomed to die, 
Must I soon be carried hence?
Tell me about God and heaven,
Tell me about sins forgiven!

Oh, sad mothers, doomed to lose
Sons as dear as your own souls;
Oh, sad wives, whose hearts must choose
Widows' tears and widows' doles,
Or give up the claim to be
Worthy of the just and free;

Mothers, wives and sisters sweet,
Prostrate with your bleeding hearts,
Prostrate at the Almighty's feet,
Till the storm of war departs,
And the rainbow Peace on high
Spans with joy your country's sky."

Source:  May, Caroline, "DAVID'S ISLAND" in Poems, pp. 211-14 (NY, NY:  Carleton, Publisher, 1865).  

Written for the dedication of the rectory at Pelham.

LORD, Thou hast been our dwelling-place
And wilt be evermore;
The shelter of They love and grace,
We cease not to adore.

But not for that alone, we lift
Our hearts and hymns above;
Our earthly dwellings are the gift,
Of They all-bounteous love.

And for this new delightful home,
With feelings love-imbued,
We send up to Thy heavenly dome,
Our songs of gratitude.

We dedicate it all to Thee! 
Come down, O Lord, we pray,
And with Thy peace and purity,
Hallow this house, to-day.

Bless Thou its walls, that they may keep
All dangers from within;
And be a rampart, sure and deep,
From sorrow and from sin.

Bless thou its windows; may our eyes
Look through them, Lord, to Thee, 
Hailing the light of Thy dear skies,
On every rock and tree.

Inscribe upon their diamond panes,
With beams of sun and moon, 
Remembrance of that world where reigns
One glorious, endless noon.

Bless Thou, O Lord, its entrance door;
In olden times gone by,*
It opened that the young and poor,
Their simple tasks might ply.

We would its threshold might be still
Free to young children's tread; 
Free to let in, with large good-will,
The poor who cry for bread.

And thus we dedicate with prayers
Thy servants' house to Thee,
Invoking for its joys and cares,
An unseen ministry,

Angels of Faith and Joy and Love:
Come down, O Lord, we pray
And with these angels from above
Possess this house to-day.

*A part of this rectory had formerly been a Charity-school."

Source:  May, Caroline, "HYMN Written for the dedication of the rectory at Pelham" in Hymns on the Collects For Every Sunday in the Year, pp. 149-51 (NY, NY: Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1872).


THERE are no woods like Pelham woods,
The Pelham people say;
So sunlit are their solitudes,
So shadowy, yet so gay.

For in that pleasant forest realm
Lives many a gallant tree;
The maple, beech, and graceful elm,
And hard-grained hickory.

Broad-breasted chestnut-trees stand there,
And hospitably treat
The squirrels, chipmunks, children fair,
With dainty nuts to eat.

Large families of fern unite
To make these woods their home,
And roaming maidens take delight
To pluck them as they roam.

And in the early Spring, or ere
St. Patrick turns the stone,
Pale wind-flowers, firstlings of the year,
Peep forth, so bravely lone.

Then in sweet groups come, by and by,
The violets, blue and white;
And tiny stars of Bethlehem vie
With dandelions bright.

And lords and ladies,* cloaked in green,
Stand proudly in the shade; 
Indifferent if they are seen,
Nor of neglect afraid.

And in the Pelham woods you meet
With boulders black and gray:
And moss-grown stones form many a seat
For those who thither stray.

And overspreading table-rocks
The moss and myrtle wreathe;
While mountains pink, and wild white phlox,
Grow in the rifts beneath.

All they who are by music stirred,
Should walk these woods in May,
Where many an unrhymed song is heard,
and many a roundelay.

The oriole's clear mellow flute,
The thrushes' fairy bell,
Will make your very breathing mute,
Lest you should break the spell.

* Wild woodland plants.

And they who love sweet scents to smell,
And fragrant floors to tread,
Whose rich-hued carpetings excel
Those by the Persians spread,

Should come when mild October weaves
Her web of red and gold,
And gives the south wind her gay leaves,
O'er forest paths to fold.

I've wandered there in Spring's glad prime,
And in the Autumn's glow,
But could not tell you at what time
It would be best to go.

And when the Pelham people say 
No woods so fair are known, 
Come hither some delicious day,
And make their creed your own."

Source:  May, Caroline, "Pelham Woods" in Lays of Memory and Affection The Seasons and the Sea The Beatitudes Etc., pp. 159-61 (NY, NY: Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1888).


STILL am I dull and uninspired,
My gentle girls; and now I come
Simply to ask your honest pity,
Because the sprite that erst was fired
To sing within me, now is dumb,
And cannot pipe the poorest ditty.

Alas!  not dumb, I fear, but dead,
The breathless hush is so entire; 
My silent bosom aches with bearing
A spirit from whom life is fled;
I cannot steal ethereal fire
Prometheus-like, with winged daring.

If I could gain electric heat,
I might discover if, perchance,
(And oh, what gladness to discover!)
This state of stupor so complete,
Were but a death-like, dreary trance,
That may at any time pass over.

But I am no philosopher, 
I leave experiments to those
Who, like Barat. are skilled in science;
Nor do dare for shame aver
That I'm a poet; but plain prose
May plight to thee my warm affiance.

Soon will ye leave the Priory walls,
Where ye have spent such busy days
Of discipline, and studious pleasure; 
Heard the old bell ring through the walls
For morning work, or evening praise,
Or night's repose, a well-earned treasure.

How sweet will seem, in after-years,
The pictures Memory will keep,
Of graceful forms and kindly faces,
Of friendships made 'mid smiles and tears;
Some soon to pass -- others too deep
To fade with things that Time erases.

How vividly will sometimes rise
This terrace, and the garden fair,
These grand old trees and dreamy waters,
Smiling beneath the summer skies;
And all that Nature's hand so rare,
Lavishes on her loving daughters.

And ye will think the fate was kind
That placed ye in this lovely spot,
To study hard, not lessons only, 
But the strange human heart and mind;
The wisdom that can make life's lot
Stormy or calm, love-brimmed or lonely.

My hope for every one of you,
Dear gentle girls, on whom I look
With tender and unfeigned emotion,
Are that ye will be ever true
To the great God, who cannot brook
Divided hears, or mixed devotion.

Be true to Him with humble love;
And with each other, foes or friends,
Be ever patient, kind, forbearing;
So we shall meet in homes above,
Where bliss begins and never ends,
Heaven's rest, and heaven's full glory sharing."

Source:  May, Caroline, "LINES (WRITTEN BY REQUEST FOR SOM PUPILS LEAVING SCHOOL AT THE PRIORY.)," in Lays of Memory and Affection The Seasons and the Sea The Beatitudes Etc., pp. 64-66 (NY, NY:  Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1888).


BEYOND the giant hills that held aloft
The ancient city of Lausanne,
There shone, what seemed to be, in outline soft,
Angelic homes not built by man.

Flashes of dazzling light showed, now and then,
The snowy robes and harps of gold; 
Distinct awhile, then indistinct again,
As veiling clouds beneath them rolled.

They were the glaciers on the dizzy heights
Of mountain ranges far away,
Piercing the sky, and gleaming with rare lights,
Such as o'er angel forms might play.

Five thousand feet above the level sea,
Stood Sepey, 'mid these heights sublime;
With flower-sown cots and chalets, made to be
Refreshing haunts for summer-time.

'Come, let us seek the hamlet, green and fair,
That clings to yonder mountain's breast;
* Miss Bolton, of Pelham Priory, died August 6, 1884, at Sepey, Switzerland.
For oh, I long for higher, purer air!'
Cried one with sultry heat oppressed.

Eager to grant the wish of one so dear,
Their dearest one, their joy and pride; 
They made the ascent with mingled faith and fear,
Passing dark gorges, deep and wide;

And reached the little longed-for mountain inn,
Beneath those shining peaks of snow;
And there she seemed awhile new life to win,
And with new rapturous thought to glow.

It seemed as if the visions of St. John
Were opened to her earnest eyes;
As if the city of God came down upon
Those heights that mingled with the skies.

There was the wondrous light, as crystal clear,
To dwellers on the plains unknown,
Such light as bathed the holy, exiled Seer,
When writing of the Eternal throne;

There were heaven's gates of every rainbow hue,
Varying with the night and day; 
At sunrise ruby; at noon, pearly gray.

Such glories seemed to their beloved one
A gracious foretaste, sweet and sure,
Of promised joys that soon should be begun,
Beyond those gates so high and pure.

And oft she said, 'Oh, would it not be grand
To go to heaven from here!'  And this, 
That scarcely seemed a prayer, as God's command
Brought down a summons into bliss.

She fell asleep one morning at sunrise,
They watched in vain for one last word,
For still asleep, she passed beyond the skies,
And woke in presence of her Lord."

Source:  May, Caroline, "FROM ALPINE HEIGHTS TO HEAVENLY," in Lays of Memory and Affection The Seasons and the Sea The Beatitudes Etc., pp. 75-77 (NY, NY: Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1888).

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,