Ury House

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Ury House -- 1728
[The Swedish blockhouse] was enlarged by the Taylors... The great antiquity of this mansion is shown by its construction and architecture. Two old chimney back plates of iron, one ornamented with the English coat-of-arms and the legend "Dieu et mon Droit," and the other with a plain scroll bearing the date of 1728 are objects of interest to the antiquarian, The latter plate was not taken from the oldest part of the mansion. A plate similar to this is in Governor Keith's house.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp.406-9.

For many years in one of the fireplaces there was an old Swedish fireback bearing the arms of Gustavus Adolphus, but this has disappeared.
The first addition to the original building was made in 1728.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, "Colonial Philadelphia No. 13 Ury House" (Evening Public Ledger, 1939.10.03).

It was in 1728 that the first addition to the structure was made--three large rooms, one above the other, on the west side. The date was set on the fireback above the fireplace in the hall, so that isn't a guess on our part.
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim Of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).

More specific data regarding the 'Taylors' are not provided within any of the Ury House accounts referenced thus far. Some Taylors are known to have lived in the area during the eighteenth century, however.
Jacob Taylor was Surveyor General of Pennsylvania 30 August 1725 to 8 August 1737.
Before becoming Surveyor General, Jacob Taylor was a school teacher near Abington.
"When Astrological science was much countenanced, Jacob Taylor, a good mathematician, who from keeping a small school near Abington, came to be the Surveyor General of the province, calculated the aspect of the planets when the city of Philadelphia was founded, and expressed the result in the following lines-written in the year 1723, to wit:
Full forty years have now their changes made,
Since the foundation of this town was laid;
When Jove and Saturn were in Leo join'd,
They saw the survey of the place designed:
Swift were these planets, and the world will own
Swift was the progress of the rising town.
The Lion is an active regal sign;
And Sol beheld the two superiors join.
A city built with such propitious rays
Will stand to see old walls and happy days.
But kingdoms, cities, men in every state
Are subject to vicissitudes of fate.
An envious cloud may shade the smiling morn
Though fates ordain the beaming Sun's return!"
From 1700 to 1746, Jacob Taylor fairly consistantly published his Almanac. He had "provided monthy astrological calculations, anecdotes, weather predictions, and even, in 1741, selections from Milton's Paradise Lost. Many editions contain examples of Taylor's own poetry, which won praise from many of his contemporaries."
The 1790 Federal Census for Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, District: Lower Dublin Township lists three Taylor households:
Jacob Taylor: 1 male over 16; 1 female.
Jacob Taylor, Jr.: 1 male over 16; 2 males under 16; 1 female.
James Taylor: 2 males over 16; 4 females.
These three Taylor households have the 'address' T460 and are within the group "Lower Dublin to the left."
It is not yet certain whether any of the above mentioned Taylor households ever lived at or owned what would eventually be called Ury.

The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom
The royal motto of Gustavus Adolphus was "Cum Deo et victribus armis" "With God and victorious arms"
An account of Graeme Park and the old Keith mansion is also within The York Road: Old and New.

Ury House -- 1763
Ury was the center of an immense peach-orchard, with cows feeding up to the very doors of the house.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp.409.

Ury House -- 1771
Two great-grandsons [sic] of William Penn both shocked and amused their hosts by their slight resemblance to the sober, teetotaling founder.
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.

More specific data regarding the 'grandsons of William Penn" are not provided within any of the Ury House accounts referenced thus far. Two grandsons of William Penn were active within Philadelphia intermittently during the latter half of the eighteenth century.
John Penn
time spent in America:
1751-1755; 1763-1771;
1773 - Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania;
lived his remainig years at Lansdowne, his country estate on the Schuylkill River;
died 1795.
Richard Penn
time spent in America:
1771-1772 - Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania;
1773-1775; 1808 - brief visit to Philadelphia.
"[Keith House] has been honored by the presence of Thomas and John Penn [two of William Penn's sons], Bishop White, Andrew Hamilton, Francis Hopkinson, Rev. Nathaniel Evans and Richard Stockton. It is certainly one of the most interesting historic spots in Pennsylvania."
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), p. 261.

Ury House -- 1774
The couple [Miers and Sarah Fisher] entertained lavishly and invited to dinner John Adams, Massachusetts delegate to the first Continental Congress...
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.

Went to congress again. Heard Mr. Duche read Prayers. The Collect for the day, the 7th of the Month, was most admirably adapted, tho this was accidental, or rather Providential. A Prayer, which he gave us of his own Composition, was as pertinent, as affectionate, as sublime, as devout, as I ever heard offered up to Heaven. He filled every Bosom present.
Dined with Mr. Miers Fisher, a young Quaker and a Lawyer. We saw his Library, which is clever.
But this plain Friend, and his plain, tho pretty Wife, with her Thee's and Thou's, had provided us the most Costly Entertainment. Ducks, Hams, Chickens, Beef, Pigg, Tarts, Creams, Custards, Gellies, fools, Trifles, floating Islands, Beer, Porter, Punch, Wine and a long &c.
We had a large Collection of Lawyers, at Table. Mr. Andrew Allen, the Attorney General, a Mr. Morris, the Prothonotary, Mr. Fisher, Mr. McKean, Mr. Rodney -- besides these We had Mr. Reed, Govr. Hopkins and Governor Ward.
We had much Conversation upon the Practice of Law, in our different Provinces, but at last We got swallowed up, in Politicks, and the great Question of Parliamentary Jurisdiction. Mr. Allen asks me, from whence do you derive your Laws? How do you intitle yourselves to English Priviledges? Is not Lord Mansfield on the Side of Power?
It is the above passage from John Adams' diary that has led subsequent 'historians' to surmise that John Adams once visited Ury House. Miers Fisher did not own Ury House until 1790.

Ury House -- 1778
George Washington is said to have dined in the old hall.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp.409.

Tradition says that Washington, shortly after the evacuation of Valley Forge [1778.06.19], some say on the evening of the same day, supped at Ury. One of the maids was so flustered by the presence of the illustrious guest that she mistook salt for sugar and presented his Excellency with a bowl of salt with which he "sugared" his strawberries. Great was the mortification of the household when the mistake was discovered.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Horace Mather Lippincott, The Colonial Homes of Philadelphia and Its Neighborhoods (1912), pp. 317.

General Washington, too, visited at Ury and had an untoward experience at supper. It was early in June, when the strawberries from the garden were at their best. Unfortunately, over the excitement over the distinguished guest, somebody mistook salt for powdered sugar, and the great man got his berries "sugared" with salt.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, "Colonial Philadelphia No. 13 Ury House" (Evening Public Ledger, 1939.10.03).

Washington, of course, came to the old mansion. And this time there is a little humor attached to the visit. The neighborhood was very la-de-da in Colonial times, although Miss Jean will tell you sadly, "It is not any more." Anyway, everyone was aflutter at his coming, and the young girls flocked in to help prepare dinner to be served in Swedes' Hall.

One bud in her excitement "sugared" the strawberries with salt--and the great man ate them like a gentleman.
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.

The grandmother of the Crawford Sisters had some anecdotes about Ury House, one connected with a visit of George Washington when young girls in the neighborhood helped prepare the supper for the general. One of the excited maidens put salt instead of sugar on the strawberries and the general nobly ate them. Grandmother Jane knew that must have happened, when one day, during her first summer at Ury, she was astonished to see a lovely old lady in hoopskirts step out of her carriage and mount the steps. She had come once more to see the raftered hall where Washington dined--because she was the girl who had salted the strawberries!
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).

James McHenry: Journal, June 18-July 23, 1778
Valley Forge -- 18 June
Early this morning by intelligence from McLane, Sir Henry Clinton and the British army evacuated Philadelphia and took post on the Jersey side.
Everything being arranged for our march--a division under General Lee proceeded towards the Delaware in the evening.
19th. The whole army in motion. --March to Norristown Township. Encamp on Stony run. Head Quarters at a Doctor Shannons.
A good farm house--good cheer--and a pretty situation.
A letter from General Dickinson to his Excellency--The enemy, the General writes, at Eyers Town, three miles below Montholly. --The militia collecting to give them opposition. Some little skirmishing--The enemy repairing a bridge which our people had broken down.
20th. March at 4 o'clock in the morning. --Hault at Mordecai Moors, about 7 miles from Shannons, and 22 miles from Philadelphia. . --A beautiful country & Every where the marks of industrious & happy inhabitants.
In going to Moors, we cross the Skippach and North Wales road.--
The army encamps for the night 8 miles from Moors and 25 miles from Philadelphia.
Head Quarters at a Jonathan Fells.
John H. Rhodehamel, The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence (New York: The Library of America, 2001), p. 459.
Miers Fisher, who was himself one of those exiled to Virginia, later became a friend of the President, was visited by him at his country-seat, "Ury," which was near the Fox Chase, and is said to have presented his portrait to the Quaker lawyer.*
*This portrait, by James Sharples, is still in the possession of the descendants of Mr. Fisher.
Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, Salons Colonial and Republican (Philadelphia: J.P. Lippencott Company, 1900), pp.82-3.

Ury House -- 1790
Miers Fisher bought the place in 1790 [actually 1795].
Miers Fisher gave Ury its name, from the country-seat of Barclay, the famous Scotch Friend and the author of The Apology--"Urie" or "Uri," in Scotland.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp.406-9.

Miers Fisher set about improvements when he established himself at Ury soon after the revolution. He built the parlors on the west side of the house, with the bedrooms above them, and made sundry other additions. To give some degree of uniformity to the north front, with its two older three story buildings at the east and center, he tried the expedient of a row of sham windows at the west of what is now the entrance hall.
These windows were the occasion of much merriment and many witticisms, based on the absence of window glass and the wags expressed constant surprise that a man so noted for his hospitality as Miers Fisher should greet his guests with champagne and no glasses.
The Fishers presumably used the ground floor of the old Swedish fort as the kitchen; what is now the hall (in the 1728) addition was their dining room.
Since the alteration and the raising of the ceiling, the Swede's Hall has been the dinng room.
One of the best things Miers Fisher did at Ury was to plan and establish the "six-square" garden to the southeast of the house and sheltered by it from the sweep of the northwest winds. Many of the old gardens were laid out in four compartments; six is a rather unusual number. The garden, symmetrically arranged, is enclosed by a high, thick boxwood hedge. A box-edged walk, shaded by a grape-covered trellis, runs the entire length of the garden from east to west and divides it into equal parts.
Besides founding the garden, Miers Fisher planted a splendid double avenue of white pines from the gate to the house, and did much else to make Ury House a well appointed country seat of the day. Some of the white pine trees in the avenue still remain. Miers Fisher entertained at Ury the leading men and scientists of Philadelphia, and the eminent strangers that frequented the city during the years when it was the capital of the United States. Among these came Thomas Jefferson and planted on the south lawn a pecan tree, which bore prolifically until it was blown down by a Winter's storm in 1928.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, "Colonial Philadelphia No. 13 Ury House" (Evening Public Ledger, 1939.10.03). was rebuilt by Miers Fisher, young lawyer, who named it Ury House in honor of a Scotch Friend, author of "The Apology."
Miers, rather more worldly than most Friends, brought to the respendid blockhouse his bride, known to Philadelphia as the "Rhode Island Beauty."
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.

No further change was made until after the Revolutionary War, when Miers Fisher bought the place for his country seat. He was a lawyer, who also had an interest in his father's shipping firm and a wife famous for her beauty, the former Sarah Redwood, of Newport, R.I.
Then Fisher bought Ury and made additions, building the parlors on the west with bedrooms above them. The ground floor of the old Swedish blockhouse was used as the kitchen and the present hall was the dining room.
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).

Colonel David Barclay [1st Laird of Urie], who served with distinction under Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, and, on his return home, attained the rank of Colonel during the great civil war. In 1647 he purchased the lands and barony of Urie from William, 7th Earl Marischal. He was b 1610, m Katherine, dtr of Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun, 1st Bt, and was succeeded by his eldest son.

Robert Barclay, 2nd of Urie, the celebrated Apologist of the Quakers, b 28 Dec 1648, m 1670, Christian, dtr of Gilbert Mollison, and had issue, a second son.

Ury House -- 1794
Thomas Jefferson planted a pecan tree on the lawn.
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29).

During this period and until the end of his life he was constantly receiving trees and shrubs from various parts of the world. Thus in 1794 he sent to Alexandria by Thomas Jefferson a bundle of "poccon [pecan] or Illinois nut," which is some way had come to him aat Philadelphia. He instructed the gardener to set these out at Mount Vernon, also to sow seeds of the East Indian hemp that had been left in his care.
Paul Leland Haworth, George Washington: Farmer: Being an Account of His Home Life and Agricultural Activities (The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1915), p. 75.

Ury House -- 1802
About ninety years ago [1802] Mr. Fisher was visited by the daughter of an eminent minister. She thus described her drive from Philadelphia: "We drove through forests from Spring Garden Street to Fox Chase, which consisted of a log tavern with an English sign, on which was painted a picture of mounted huntsmen in red coats, and Nathan Hicks, the proprietor, holding up the foxes that the hounds had killed."
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp.409.

Ury House -- 1803/1804
On landing at New York [August 1803] I caught the yellow fever by walking to the bank at Greenwich to get the money to which my father's letter of credit entitled me. The kind man who commanded the ship that brought me from France, whose name was a common one, John Smith, took particular care of me, removed me to Morristown, N.J., and placed me under the care of two Quaker ladies who kept a boarding-house. To their skillful and untiring ministrations I may safely say I owe the prolongation of my life. Letters were forwarded by them to my father's agent, Miers Fisher of Philadelphia, of whom I have more to say hereafter. He came for me in his carriage and removed me to his villa, at a short distance from Philadelphia and on the road toward Trenton. There I would have found myself quite comfortable had not incidents taken place which are so connected with the change in my life as to call immediate attention to them.
Miers Fisher had been my father's trusted agent for about eighteen years, and the old gentlemen entertained great mutual friendship; indeed it would seem that Mr. Fisher was actually desirious that I should become a member of his family, and this was evinced within a few days by the manner in which the good Quaker presented me to a daughter of no mean appearance, but toward whom I happened to take an unconquerable dislike. Then he was opposed to music of all descriptions, as well as to dancing, could not bear me to carry a gun, or fishing-rod, and, indeed, condemned most of my amusements. All these things were difficulties toward accomplishing a plan which, for aught I know to the contrary, had been premeditated between him and my father, and rankled the heart of the kindly, if somewhat strict Quaker. They troubled me much also; at times I wished myself anywhere but under the roof of Miers Fisher, and at least I reminded him that it was his duty to install me on the estate to which my father had sent me.
One morning, therefore, I was told that the carriage was ready to carry me there, and toward my future home he and I went.
John James Audubon, "Myself" in Audubon and His Journals (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1897), pp. 15-16.

Lydia Fisher was 16 years old 9 February 1804. She eventually married Benjamin Warner.



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