The Penroses at Graeme Park
Samuel Penrose (1748-1835), a Quaker farmer from the Quakertown area of Pennsylvania, purchased Graeme Park in 1801 The Penroses probably lived in the Keith mansion until a new home was built on the grounds. They also constructed the bank barn, which now serves as the Graeme Park Visitors Center. Although the Penroses did not reside in the mansion after 1821, they protected and maintained the building and even gave tours of the house. Abel and Sarah Penrose considered the mansion “a sacred relic of antiquity worthy of being preserved and handed down to posterity” 7
The surname of PENROSE was a locational name 'of Penrose' a parish in County Monmouth, and from 'Penrose' in County Cornwall. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. The earliest of the name on record appears to be Philip de PENROS, who was recorded in 1195, County Cornwall.6
Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, the previous owner of Graeme Park, had financial difficulties starting in 1772 after the death of her father, when she inherited not only Graeme Park, but also his debts. She was able to sell off some parcels of land to raise money but the war, the new state of Pennsylvania's attempt to confiscate the property due to her loyalist husband, and the poor economy of the post-war period all made it impossible to sell the entire estate. She began to advertise it again in 1787 and finally by 1791 had received several offers, the best from Dr William Smith, husband of her late niece Annie Young Smith. Dr Smith purchased the property in 1791, possibly just to help out Aunt Betsy, as Elizabeth was known, and told her she could live there as long as she liked.
She remained at Graeme Park with her long time companion, Betsy Stedman, until 1793 when yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia. In August 1793, residents of the city were told to evacuate so Dr Smith and his family moved out of the city to Graeme Park for a short time. Elizabeth, though, was not comfortable no longer being the mistress of the house and planned to move out. The Smiths went back to Philadelphia in late October and in December Elizabeth moved to Crooked Billet.
Elizabeth died in 1801. There is little information about whether Dr.Smith ever lived or spent any more time at Graeme Park, but it seems he had little interest in it other than for Elizabeth's sake. Dr Smith sold off all 555 acres of Graeme Park in several parcels beginning in 1798 and sold the last and largest parcel of 204 acres - which included the Keith House - to Samuel Penrose in 1801. (see Graeme Park Timeline) for $8,170. 2 p11
Much of the information on this page, except where noted, is taken from The Penrose Family at Graeme Park 1801-1920 by Nancy Jacquelyn Gentile.2. Ms, Gentile's research was based in part on letters exchanged between Abel Penrose's daughter Hannah and her neice Jennie Davis (daughter of Hannah's sister Tacy S. Penrose Davis), and a paper written by Jennie Davis in 1914 for the occasion of the Penrose family reunion.9
Samuel and Sarah Penrose
Samuel Penrose (1748-1835), a Quaker farmer from the Quakertown area of Pennsylvania, purchased Graeme Park in 1801 The Penroses resided in the Keith House at least until 1810 when a new home (the Penrose-Strawbridge House) was built on the grounds. This new home may have been only for William and Hannah Penrose in which case the remainder of the family would have stayed at the Keith House until 1821.
Samuel was born in Richland Township, PA on June 21, 1748. He married 19 year old Sarah Roberts (born June 1758) on October 9, 1777 when he was 29. This was at the height of the Revolutionary Way - Anthony Wayne had camped at Graeme Park some months earlier - but we have no knowledge on whether Samuel was involved with the war on either side. The Quakers, as a group, are pacifists and many refused to take sides although some Meetings decided to leave participation up to the individual conscience of the young men. Some Quakers served without taking up arms and many were beaten for refusing to take up arms.
Quaker pacifism became an issue in the new world with the French and Indian Wars which started in 1754 with England trying to seize back land that had been taken by the French in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Quakers were still in the majority in the Pennsylvania Assembly and did not want to be involved in the war or even create a militia. Quaker values became less popular during this time and tensions only increased by the 1770s and the start of the Revolutionary War. Some Quakers, including some from the Horsham Meeting, joined the militia and fought on the side of the new United States. In the past these members would have been read out of meeting but in these cases it seemed the Meeting believed this war more necessary and allowed these soldiers to remain members. (8) But whether Samuel served, remained a pacifist, or was too far away out in Richland Township to be concerned, we have no information on his opinion of the war. (25 p33-34)
Samuel and Sarah had 10 children, only the youngest was born at Graeme Park:
| Abel (8/7/1778-12/7/1824)|| Gainor (3/14/1780-2/22/1865)||William (3/14/1782-11/20/1863)|
|Everard (Dr) (10/7/1784 - 8/10/1823)|| Mary (5/11/1787 - 9/19/1795)||Benjamin (9/16/1791-1879)|
|Susanna (8/21/1793 - 8/8/1799)|| Samuel (8/10/1796 - 6/16/1797)||Margaret (9/20/1798 -?)|
|Morris (6/15/1801 - ?)|
Colonial families tended to have many children but sadly not all survived. Samuel and Sarah lost 3 shildren: Mary at age 8 in 1795, Susanna at age 5 in 1799, and Samuel at 10 months old in 1797.
Abel Penrose was 23 when his parents purchased Graeme Park. He purchased the 125 acre Richland farm from Samuel and remained there the rest of his life. He married twice but had no children and died on December 7, 1824 at age 46.
Gainor moved to Graeme Park at age 21 with her parents. She married Richard Jarrett of Horsham and had 8 children. William Penrose was 19 when the Penroses moved to Horsham. He later purchased the farm from his parents - see the William and Hannah Penrose page.
Everard, the fourth child, was 16 in 1801, and later became a doctor who practiced in Hilltown Township. He and his wife, Bridget, had 3 children but Everard died at the age of 38 when the children were still young. His oldest son Steadman moved to Iowa which was the edge of the frontier in the 1820s. Steadman's son, William, was the first white child born west of Cedar Rapids and later fought for the Union with Company D 8th Iowa Volunteer infantry and was killed in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862. Steadman joined the Gold Rush in 1849 and died in California during an epidemic.
Mary Penrose died at age 8 on September 19, 1795.
Benjamin was 10 years old when he moved to Graeme Park and stayed there until 1816 when tax records indicate he had "gone to Bucks County" (actually only inches away from the farm across County Line Road). Tax records also record his return from 1824-27. He died at age 88 in 1879 and is buried at the Horsham Meeting Cemetery
Susanna was born in 1793 and died at age 5 in 1799. Samuel was born in 1797 and died 10 months later. Daughter Margaret is listed on the Horsham Meeting certificate when the family was admitted in 1801 but nothing further is known about her.
Sarah Penrose was 7 months pregnant when the family purchased Graeme Park in 1801. Son Morris was born shortly after on June 15, 1801. He married Rebecca Mitchell, daughter of Dr and Mrs Gove Mitchell of Hatboro at the Horsham Meeting on April 7, 1831. They settled in Byberry and had three children: Harriett, Pierson, and William.
Great-granddaughter Jennie Davis wrote:
"Samuel Penrose seems to have had difficulties getting along, but his wife is said to have been very ambitious and no doubt helped him as much as possible. They had 10 children and no doubt could these old walls speak, they could tell us many interesting things of their life in the historic mansion." (9
Samuel's oldest son, Abel, had purchased the Richland farm from his father when the rest of the family moved to Graeme Park in 1801. The 2nd oldest son, William, was 28 in 1810 when he married Hannah Jarrett. The family built a large addition to an existing cabin that sat south of the Keith Mansion for the new couple, This addition is the front - or 1810 section - of whant we now call the Penrose-Strawbridge House. It is not known whether the whole Penrose family moved into this new building or if some stayed at the Keith House.
Samuel, Sarah, William, Everard, Benjamin, and Margaret were granted a certificate by the Richland Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends in 1801 to attend the Horsham Meeeting. Samuel was active in the Meeting and was appointed one of the Friends School Trustees on December 10, 1801.
Samuel, at the age of 72 in 1820, purchased another farm in Warminster, PA several miles from Graeme Park and in April, 1821 sold Graeme Park to his son William. His wife Sarah died at age 72 on March 15, 1832 and Samuel followed her on February 2, 1835 at the age of 87.