William Penrose, the 3rd child and 2nd son of Samuel and Sarah Penrose, was 19 when he moved with his parents from Richland Township to Graeme Park in 1801. His older brother, Abel, remained in Richland. His older sister, Gainor, would marry Richard Jarrett (son of Jonathan and Hannah (Mather) Jarrett) of Horsham. He married in 1810 at age 28 to Hannah Jarrett (daughter of William and Ann (Lukens) Jarrett), also of Horsham. William and Hannah moved into a new home - a large 3 story addition that had been added to an existing c1721 cabin - that had been built just south of the Keith Mansion on the grounds of Graeme Park. This building, which has a date plate showing "W & H P 1810" on the chimney on the western facade, is what we now refer to as the 1810 section of the Penrose Strawbridge House.
William's father Samuel remained at Graeme Park and father and son continued to run the farm until 1819 when Samuel purchased another farm in nearby Warrington, PA. On Jan 2, 1820 he sold the 204 acre Graeme Park to his son for $14,000 (see Graeme Park Timeline). William managed Graeme Park with "Steady habits, honored and respected by all who knew him." (16 p907). Together with his wife, Hannah, they made Graeme Park "a rich and productive land, one of the most valuable farms in Eastern Pennsylvania." (15)
Hannah Jarrett Penrose was fairly well educated and had completed her schooling at the Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school in West Chester, PA that had been founded in 1799 and is today, per its website :"the oldest continuously operating coeducational boarding school in the nation". Westtown had been "planned (in consultation with such local luminaries as Benjamin Franklin and John Dickinson) by a committee appointed by the Yearly Meeting in 1794 .. and based on Owen Biddle’s 1790 pamphlet A Plan For A School." (20) Westtown records show that Hannah Jarrett was student #385 when she enrolled in January 1805 at age 21 and stayed there through October of the same year. Her age and the length of her enrollment there was not unusual for the time. Often the older girls were furthering their education in preparation to teach. (29)
"The curriculum at that time was intended to be useful, and it included reading, spelling, penmanship, grammar, and arithmetic along with sewing for girls and surveying for boys, the latter two being the only difference in offerings to the respective genders. In keeping with the Quakers' desire to have an understanding of the natural world, both boys and girls studied geography and astronomy. Map making was part of geography class because drawing was a useful skill to hone. Creative art and reading fiction were not allowed at the time." (29)
Westtown's archivist, Mary Brooks, reports that Westtown has two needlework samplers in its collection which Alice Jarrett - Hannah's sister - did while enrolled at Westtown from 1809-10.
Hannah Penrose was described by granddaughter Jennie Davis as:
"... the prettiest woman to come to the Horsham Meeting. She had great self-control and in her quiet, gentle way usually attained her wishes and always enjoyed the full confidence of her sons as well as her daughters."
Temperance and other moral reforms were big issues in the mid 1800s, generally (20), and among Quakers (21). Although Quakers do not forbid the use of alcohol (22), Hannah was deeply interested in this movement so William promised to have no alcohol in the house.
The Penrose's success, of course, did not come easy in the early days of the 19th century. Jennie Davis describes the struggle.:
"At first he had much to discourage him. Although he worked very hard, he found he was not making much headway. He became so discouraged that he about decided to give the place up"
By 1824, it seems William was unable to make the farm work and turned to his father-in-law, William Jarrett, for a loan. On July 4, 1824, William and Hannah transferred the deed for Graeme Park to her father for the sum of $15,338.75. William Penrose continued to pay the taxes on the property but had not repaid the loan by 1827 when William Jarrett fell from his horse and died on his way to Meeting (the horse continued to the Meeting shed without him).
"In 1827 William Jarrett met with a fatal accident. One morning, in his seventy-ninth year, he was out riding. His horse, scared by the sight of a snake sunning itself on the bank of the pond, reared, throwing him upon the stone dam. He died instantly. (38 - see also 1300 Easton Road - Horsham Homestead)"
The deed for Graeme Park, following Jarrett's death, was now bequeathed to Hannah Jarrett Penrose and 4 of her 5 sisters. (
Between 1832 and 1865 when Graeme Park was sold to son Abel, the Penroses acquired 10 more acres to bring the size of the farm in 1865 to 229 acres. There is no record of when this additional acreage was acquired, but things seem to have improved for the Penroses because in 1850 their Horsham real estate holdings were accessed at $27,500. (15)
William and Hannah raised six children at Graeme Park; one son, William, died in infancy in 1822.
|Ann 9/25/1811-1/20/1887)||Samuel 4/18/1813-2/24/1848||Jarrett 4/1/1815-22/27/1889|
|Abel 5/3/1817-7/10/1893||Hannah L. 2/20/1820-8/23/1894|
|William 3/26/1922-7/12/1822||Tacy S 10/14/1823-4/30/1906|
Anne J Penrose, William and Hannah's first child, married Abraham Iredell, son of John and Ann Iredell on April 4, 1833 in a ceremony at the Horsham Meeting (10). They had 4 children: Tacy and William - who both died in infancy - John, and Hannah. Abraham Iredell died sometime prior to December 1841. (2 p26)
After her husband's death, Ann and her 2 surviving children returned to live with her father, William, at Graeme Park. The 1850 census shows the following living here at that time: William Penrose, farmer, age 68; his son Abel, farmer, 33; daughter Hannah, 30; daughter Ann Iredell, 38, Ann's children John Iredell, 13, and Hannah Ann Iredell, 10
Anne's brother Samuel was William and Hannah's second child. He died in a fall from a log wagon on February 24, 1848 when he was 34 years old. He had not married.
Jarrett Penrose was the third child of this generation,and married Tacy Ann Kirk on January 20, 1842 at her mother's home in Abington, PA. Tacy's great-grandfather, John Kirk, had been the stone mason who built the Keith House 120 years earlier. Her maternal grandfather was the clock maker Seneca Lukens and her uncle was Isaiah Lukens who made the clocks for Independence Hall and Loller Academy. Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson had lived in Seneca Lukens' home after leaving Graeme Park in 1793.
Tacy Kirk Penrose's wedding dress was passed down then donated by her grand-daughter Mrs Doris Penrose Spencer the PHMC collection at Graeme Park.
Jarrett and Tacy purchased the Horsham farm of his sister Ann Penrose Iredell's husband Abraham, who had passed away in 1841, and became "one of the substantial farmers of Horsham township" (16 p906). Jarrett and Tacy had 5 children, their fourth child - William - was the father of Joseph Hallowell Penrose and the grandfather of Joseph Hallowell (Buck) Penrose Jr who has been a generous supporter of HPHA and was the source for many of the Penrose items in our collection.
William and Hannah's fifth child, William, died in July 1822 aged 5 months..
William and Hannah's youngest child, Tacy, married Morris Davis of Horsham in 1847. Their daughter Jennie Davis wrote the 1914 paper (9) which is the source for much of what we know about this 19th century family.
We are aware of buildings that had been built on the farm that no longer exist but don't really know much about them. The painting shown below dates to the early 1800's and shows smaller buildings to the north of the Keith House which no longer exist, and various stories mention a 'slave jail' that was a mere pile of rocks in 1905. (26 84 Read story on Morris Penrose page.) Some of these probably date back to the Keith or Graeme era and others to the Penroses. Rev Hotchkin visited in 1885 and mentioned the "the remains of one side of the jail" and ",,,outbuildings which formerly surrounded (Keith House)" (27), and Elizabeth Fergusson mentions a 'tenant' house' that her father was walking past when he fell and died - maybe the building to the right in the painting mentioned above. None of these remain. Many of the buildings that do exist today, though, were built by William and Hannah Penrose.
Two large barns were constructed by William and Hannah Penrose. One is the large barn now used as the Visitor's Center at Graeme Park and located right next to the Keith House. We think this was built between 1820-1840, but we're not really sure. It was used as a working barn through the 20th century by the Strawbridges. The painting above shows the Keith House from the north with another building to its right which we believe is from the early 1800s. This barn does not seem to be in this painting.
This second barn burned down in June 1949 but was not completely rebuilt. The original barn had been a much larger structure, after the fire it was rebuilt but to a smaller scale - removing the overhangs and access to the upper level via the bank. The bank and some columns on both sides still exist.
William and Hannah also built a springhouse in 1849 , this was converted to a residence in 1853 (date plate for the springhouse is shown below.
A smaller barn was built in 18?? with small living spaces on the second level, and a carriage shed attached to the back of this barn. The carriage shed needs a great deal of restoration and may be older than the barn. The center bays of this barn probably were used at one time to house animals, there is a manure shoot in the back wall. We recently poured concrete floors in the sections of this barn that were previously just dirt. The photo below of the carriage shed also shows, in the lower right, part of two wooden outhouses located beside this shed
There are also ruins of a small coop or other type of animal shelter on the other side of the spring behind the carriage house. This was destroyed by Tropical Storm Allison in June, 2001 by flooding that also destroyed the plank bridge on the driveway out to County Line Road. There are also possible ruins of a small structure back in the woods across Governor's Road. Little is known about these or when they may have been built.
By 1830, William and Hannah had 6 children between the ages of 7 and 19 running around the house which was probably a good incentive to build a bigger home. They added a second story addition plus a large attic on top of the cabin in 1830. The 2nd floor has two fireplaces and the space was divided into two rooms with a small hallway where the door to the 1810 section and doors to the stairs were added. Winder staircases were added to go from the c1721 cabin to the 2nd floor and then from the 2nd floor to the attic. A door was added - probably replacing a window in the 3rd floor bedroom of the 1810 addition which opened at the top of this winder and allowed access from this bedroom to the new addition. The new attic had a dormer window on the east facade which was removed in the 1990s when the roof was replaced and also had the remnants of a franklin stove so we can assume this space was able to be heated and cooled and was probably used as a living space. The roof was also likely slate prior to being replaced with asphalt shingles in the 1990s.
The final addition to the house by the Penroses was made in 1859 with the construction of a 2 1/2 story addition to the back of the house on the north facade. Part of this, at least, was probably built on an existing foundation. The 1st floor of this addition would be used as the kitchen, the 2nd floor as a bedroom/bath, and the 3rd floor probably as a small bedroom. Winder stairs were added to go from floor to floor.
On September 13, 1855 a small group from the Philadelphia Historical Society visited the Keith House (the Keith House was 130 years old at this point and even then was considered historically significant). Joseph Watson kept a diary of the visit:
"We left Philadelphia at 9:00 am ... going by the new North Pennsylvania Rail Road, 26 miles as far as Gwynedd Meetinghouse and hence some 6-8 miles by stage to the Park place .. we arrived at the Park about noon. We found it now the property of William Penrose, and having about 180 acres, which with all the improvements thereon he is willing to sell for $80 per acre - He had made himself a new stone house and barn - These are somewhat in front of what was the Graeme Mansion - There it still stands as an empty disused structure save that one room is used upstairs by a lone half-witted woman, who gets her gratis meals at Penrose's kitchen."(17)
Watson marvels at the modern conveniences of railroad and telegraph that the Graemes and Keiths could not have imagined. He describes the relatively new Penrose house and a new barn which is probably the 1839 barn west of the 1810 house. He mentions the fish pond but not the barn now used as the visitor's center so that may not have been built yet (although we believe this was built as early as 1820). He also describes walking across a log over Park Creek "..leading into the meadow, then next to clover field, and next, beyond to the woods, which is understood to be the former place of the Deer Park...". (
The story of a "half-witted woman" living in the Keith House was retold by Mary Park in 1984 who said she was named Polly Corner, "an eccentric old woman with a hare-lip who swore a great deal". (2 p37) Quakers at that time supported social reforms in the treatment of Indians, blacks, prisoners, and the insane. (18) The Penroses may have been doing their part in caring for Polly Corner, who was certainly much bettter off at Graeme Park than in a 19th century asylum.
An interesting historical parallel is that at about this time, Welsh Strawbridge's great-grandfather Dr Edward Lowber had purchased Springbank Sanitorium, the second such psychiatric facility in the city of Philadelphia, after that of Friends Hospital (76 read more under John Welsh
Graeme Park then, and now, is a great place for a wedding. Hannah Penrose was married at Graeme Park on June 4, 1857 to Isaac Hicks and a description of the occasion was printed in the Mount Holly Herald. The wedding was held inside the Keith House which "still showed evidence of its former grandeur and departed greatness". Isaac Hicks was the son of Edward Hicks from Newtown in Bucks County, a well known Quaker preacher and painter who had died the year before. Edward Hicks is probably best known today for his painting of The Peaceable Kingdom which had been painted 10 years before. (19)
Hannah Penrose died on March 24, 1850. Graeme Park had been deeded in her name after she paid off the mortgage to her sisters and she died intestate (
"according to the laws of the state of Pennsylvania relating to Intestates Esates decended into and became vested in her children the said Jarrett Penrose, Ann Iredelle, Abel Penrose, Hannah P. Hicks, and Tacy S. Davis in equal parts parts as tenants in common." (see the Indenture)
William died without a will also and it took 2 years to figure it all out. His personal property including household and person items, farm equipment, and crops in the ground was determined to be worth $25,000. He also owned stock in the Pennsylvania Railroad and 5 Turnpikes. (24)
William and Hannah overcame their early struggles and made their Graeme Park a success, indeed one of the most valuable farms in Eastern Pennsylvania. William was held in high esteem by his workers and had men who would walk all the way from Quakertown to help with the harvest year after year and many of them named children after him (2 p24) His philosophy according to his granddaughter Jennie:
"To be well born was not a cause for pride but for thankfulness. It entailed a great responsibility for one should live up to his heritage. He believed in being industrious, telling his children that it was better to throw straws against the wind than to be idle."
Jennie Davis recalled the Graeme Park experiences of her mother Tacy Penrose Davis and aunt Hannah Penrose Hicks in the early to mid 19th century in her memoirs:
"Plenty of work to do, no doubt, but sweetened by the merry times enjoyed under its hospitable roof. When one thinks of a sleighing party of sixty coming uninvited and unexpected to tea and welcome, we know the larder must have been well stocked" (9)
It would take 2 years to settle William's estate with it eventually being divided among the 5 children. Abel and his wife Sarah purchased the farm from his brothers and sisters to become the new stewards of Graeme Park in 1865.