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Ury House

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Ury House -- 1805
In 1805, Miers Fisher formally retires from trade and moved to Ury, his country house.


Ury House -- 1812
Benjamin H. Latrobe, the architect and engineer, had some taste for landscape drawing. He exhibited, in 1812, a "View of the River Schuylkill" and a "View of the Seat of Miers Fisher."
John Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884 (1884), p. 1052.

Would Benjamin Henry Latrobe have exhibited the work of another architect?


Ury House -- 1813
Sunday 19 [September 1813]...At dinner I set by the side of Mrs. F. the widow of young Mr. F. late son of M F of Philada.* Her misfortunes are early and singular. She is by birth a Russian, and a native of Moscow. Her Parents died when she was very young leaving an orphan destitute of property. Mrs. Krehmer became her patroness and she was brought up in her family. She is well educated and sensible, and speaks the Russian, German, French and English languages fluently. She is apparently twenty three or four. She was addressed by Young F. to whom she gave her hand. They were married in the spring of the present year. He was two or three years older than his bride. On the day after they espousals she removed to his house. On the morning following poor F. on descending a stone stair case from the chamber of his wife, he fell, and before he was discovered had breathed his last. His fall had not been heard and he had remained a corpse an hour before he was found, casually by one of the servants. What a scene of agony and horror of r the widow Bride. How short the dream of fancied happiness. But one day had she worn the nuptial garment when she was doomed to cover herself with the sable weeds of the widow. She expressed a strong inclination to visit the friends of her late husband in America. I told her they were Quakers and that their manners and mode of life would not please her. She replied, that she was sure, that they were amiable and that was enough.
*Miers Fisher, son of Miers Fisher of Philadelphia, a member of the assembly, first councellor for the Society for the Abolition of Slavery, and a director of the Bank of North America and the Insurance Company of Pennsylvania, and Sarah Redwood of Newport. The father was a Quaker, as indeed were the family in general, and was among those deported to Winchester, Va. by Congress in 1777 (Gilpin, "Exiles in Virginia", passim). The son, Miers Fisher (1786-1813), in his twenty-first year [1807] sailed to Cadiz, and on the return voyage to Havana he was seized with yellow fever. In April, 1809, he sailed as supercargo to Russia. The vessel was captured by a Danish privateer, and reached Cronstadt just before the closing of the Neva River. He remained in St. Petersburg, where he established a mercantile house. He married, June, 4, 1813, Helen Gregoroffsky, niece of Gen. Alexander Focke, who had been educated in England. "Their marriage was allowed to take place by the gracious condescension of the Emperor Alexander without his being subject to the various regulations of the Greek Church. You cannot concieve the sensation in this town among all ranks. He was taken off 30 hours after his marriage by a fit of apoplexy" [from a letter of John Venning to Bainbridge and Brown of London]. His widow died in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 9, 1828. I am indebted to Mr. John W. Jordan for the information
Elizabeth Donnan, editor, Papers of James A. Bayard, 1796-1815 (Washington D.C.: American Historical Association, 1913). p. 461.

Ury House -- 1818
In 1818, Miers Fisher moved back to Philadelphia and died at his residence on Arch Street on March 14, 1819 at the age of 72.

FISHER, MIERS. Ury. Phila. Co. Counsellor-at-Law.
August 2, 1814. March 19, 1819. 6.640.
Estate to my wife, Sarah Redwood Fisher, and my children: Redwood Fisher, Lydia Fisher, Sarah Redwood Longstreth, Hannah Fisher, Jabez Maud Fisher, deceased.
Sons, Samuel R. Fisher, Jr. and Miers Fisher, share in Brandywine Mills Estate sold to nephew, Joshua and Thomas Gilpin.
Execs: Son, Redwood Fisher, son-in-law, Samuel Longstreth, friend, Benjamin Warner, my son, Jabez Maud Fisher, when of lawful age.
Wife to consult with my brother, Samuel R. Fisher, and friends, Samuel W. Fisher and John Hallowell.
William Rawle, Sr., John Hallowell, Esq., of Phila., Attorneys at Law, affirmed.


Ury House -- 1824
The nine drawings of "The Blackberry Rambles" are the pictorial diary of a three-day stroll through the countryside north of Philadelphia, its object being the restoration of health by outdoor exercise and a diet of blackberries fresh from the brambles crowding the country lanes. He [Charles Willson Peale at 83 years old] had taken the stage to Frankford, "and from the Bridge took the road toward the delaware," then moving inland in an easy and meandering course, meeting friendly people everywhere and lingering to sketch their houses and enjoy their company. The last sketch is of Friends' Asylum (still standing), and from there he trudged back to Philadelphia, arriving at the "time of lighting the lamps." The itinerary is described in letters to Rubens Peale, August 23, and to Samuel Swift, September 25, 1824. The sketches were made in the following order, though it is not followed precisely in the book:
Aug. 15. [1924]
Home of Hon. John Lardner, at the junction of Wissoniming Creek and the Delaware. "it being of handsome architecture."
"I made a sketch of the next seat belonging to Mr. Slater (uninhabited)."
Mr. Eddows place--here they gave me fruit & I made a slight sketch of their house which stood almost covered with trees."
In the afternoon he was invited to tea by the two Misses Swift, sketched their house which stood among broad lawns, gravel walks and a profusion of flowering shrubbery, and was presuaded by them to remain overnight.
Before breakfast he made another view of this hospitable mansion, and later walked over to the home of the ladies' brother. At Samuel Swift's preparations were being made for the wedding of one of his daughters, but their elderly guest was no less welcome, spending there the dayand night.
On the homeward road, he made first a sketch of "Ury," the home of Miers Fisher.

Farther on, at the corner of Asylum Pike and Hartshorn's Road (Forty-Acre Lane), he made two views of Hartshorn's." These were probably of different buildings at "Summer Hill," Patterson Hartshorn's estate.
A view of Friends' Auylum completes this record of the ramble.
Charles Coleman Sellers, "Charles Willson Peale with Patron and Populace. A Supplement to "Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale". With a Survey of His Work in Other Genres" in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Ser., Vol. 59, No. 3 (1969), pp. 50-51.

Ury House -- 1842
[I]n 1842 Mr. Stephen R. Crawford bought "Ury" [as a summer home] of Dr. D. R. Holmes.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp.409.

Joseph Ury Crawford was born at Ury Farm, Philadelphia, August 25th, 1842
Pennsylvania Railroad Biographies. No. 25

In 1841 [sic], Stephen Rowen Crawford--the grandfather of the present owners--bought Ury House and made further extensive changes and additions.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, "Colonial Philadelphia No. 13 Ury House" (Evening Public Ledger, 1939.10.03).

Stephen Crawford made extensive additions to the house and kept up the unusually elaborate formal garden planted by his predecessor. The boxwood hedges became famous, and in 1842 Crawford's Scottish gardener laid out a box labyrinth in the garden, adding to its charm.
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim Of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).

Stephen Rowan Crawford was president of the St. Andrew's Society.


Ury House -- 1843
In the following year "they" were visited by queer old woman, who arrived in a very old-fashoned chaise. She said she was ninety years old and a grand-daughter of the Mr. Taylor whose name first appeared on "Ury's" title-deeds. She had come to drink a cup of tea in the old Swede Hall, where she was born. This old woman told Mrs. Crawford that when she was a little girl ten years old [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.

Grandmother Jane Crawford, now dead, used to give the story [about Washington and the salted strawberries] a follow-up.
"One day," Miss Jean related, "she was amazed to see a dear little old lady in hoopskirts get out of her carriage and come up the steps. She wanted to see the hall where Washington dined--she was the girl who salted the berries."
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.


Ury House -- 1860
Even Edward VII may have stopped overnight on his visit to Philadelphia as Prince of Wales.
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.

Just before the Civil War, Stephen [Rowan Crawford] suffered financial reverses, and it looked as if he would lose his home. Then his Jane, after nearly 50 years of luxurious leisure, came to the rescue with one of the few money-earning projects permissible for a lady in that day. She opened a fashionable boys' boarding school after adding another wing to Ury House.
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).

1860.10.09--Prince of Wales arrives in Philadelphia via PW&B [railroad] for two days of receptions and entertainment. Leaves Philadelphia for New York 1860.10.11 (PubLdgr).
It is highly unlikely the Prince of Wales visited Ury House during October 1860.

Ury House -- 1863
After [Stephen R. Crawford's] financial reverses and death in 1863, Mrs. [Jane] Crawford devoted her life to the instruction of youth, and Ury House became an institution of education, at which many of our leading men received the careful training which fitted them for their future responsibilities.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), p. 410.

In 1860, Mrs Crawford started a boys' boarding school at Ury and continued it until 1881, when it was moved and became St. Luke's, Bustleton.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, "Colonial Philadelphia No. 13 Ury House" (Evening Public Ledger, 1939.10.03).

She did one of the few things a lady could do in those days--added a wing and opened a fashionable school for young gentlemen. To it came such material as John Drew, the actor. Later the school was moved and became eventually the nucleus of Valley Forge Military Academy.
Manning Smith, "Sisters in Historic Mansion Hold Off Invaders" (Philadelphia Record, 1940.01.29.

She [Jane Crawford] opened a fashionable boys' boarding school after adding another wing to Ury House. Some of her pupils later became famous, among them actor John Drew, uncle of the Barrymores.
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).

Much of Mr. Crawford's fortune had been invested in the South. This vanished during the early years of the civil War, and Mr. Crawford did not long survive the shock and disappointment. Mrs. Crawford withdrew with her family to Ury, and friends sent their sons to her to share the tutors who had provided for the education of her younger boys. From this nucleus developed Ury House Boarding School for Boys, which was famous for twenty-one years during the sixties, seventies, and early eighties.
Notable Women of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1942), p. 152.


Ury House -- 1880
Ury House
In the village of Fox Chase we turn to the eastward, on the Pine Road, and in half a mile come to a place that in the last century was called Scotland. Opposite to it, on the east side of the road, is Ury, formerly the country seat of Miers Fisher, one of the exiles to Virginia. He had read law in the office of Chief Justice Chew prior to 1774, and in that year was married to Sarah, daughter of Wm. Redwood, of Newport, R.I. On the 7th of September following he entertained John Adams, who writes: we "dined with Mr. 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 etc." After his exile he continued to live in Philadelphia, no doubt on the west side of Front Street the fifth house below Walnut. In the course of a few years he moved to Second Street below Dock. He enjoyed the fruits of a considerable practice, for he was, as DuPunceau writes, "a profound lawyer, and a man of solid sense, and of much acquired knowledge." He possessed the confidence of Washington, who, as tradition tells, presented his portrait to him. This was executed by Sharpless, and now belongs to a descendent, Mrs. Morton Lewis. In 1791-92 he was a member of the Asssembly. About the end of the century he withdrew from the active pursuit of his profession, appearing, however, annually in the courts with the view to maintain his connection with the law, but he devoted his leisure to revising the forms of conveyancing, by which he avoided a vast amount of the tautology of English precedents. In his retirement he resided the greater part of each year at Ury, which he bought of the Taylors in 1795. The old house on the place is supposed to have been erected prior to 1700, and this seems probable, not only from the great thickness of the walls, but also from the lowness of the ceilings which are but six and a half feet in height. The house remains, but Mr. Fisher added considerably to its dimensions and to its comfort. The upper window of his new part had no sash, but boards painted black in imitation of them, supplied their place. Thomas Gilpin, visiting there, was led to say, "Uncle Miers, thou hast a most inhospitable house, I see sham pane, but no glasses." It was, however, a most hospitable mansion, strangers and others often visiting there, William Penn, a son of Richard, being a guest there for several days in 1809. On one occasion the British Minister, with the members of his Legation, dined there, and to the mortification of the host, the fine strawberries from his garden appeared on the table well salted[--so it was not to Washington that the salted strawberries were served!].
Among the children of Mr. Fisher there was one who in a distant land met an untimely end on the morrow of a brilliant marriage; an incident to which the enchantment of romance is ever attached. In 1813 this son, also named Miers, although but twenty-six years of age, was the head of a mercantile house in St. Petersburg. On the 4th of June of that year he was married to Helen Gregoroffsky, of a noble Russian family, by a minister of the English Church, the Emperor Alexander, in a autograph letter, dispensing with the ceremonies of the Greek Church. Two days after the wedding he was found dead, a victim as was said by some of jealousy and poison, but it was never certainly known.
A deed of 1728 recites that the Taylors had held the land at Ury for a time beyond the memory of man. Mr. Fisher bought it in 1795, and sold it to Mrs. Miller in 1819. She and her trustees sold to Captain James West in 1829, and he, to Dr. Holmes in 1835. Stephen R., a son of John Crawford, of Broadlands, Renfrewshire, Scotland, purchased the place in 1842. In that year an old lady aged ninety-seven years, the youngest of the Taylors, all of whom where born at Ury, came there desiring to take tea in the room in which she was born. On this interesting and acceptable visit she measured a sycamore tree, fifteen feet in girth, which in her childhood she had carried from the Pennepack and planted. In Mr. Crawford's time the late William Peter, British Consul in Philadelphia, was a frequent guest, and here he prepared a large portion of his scholarly "Specimens of the Poets and Poetry of Greece and Rome."
In their refined and cultivated usefulness the Crawfords followed Mr. Fisher in making additions, and more than once, to the old house, to accomodate an increasing school, and thus they have prepared it with many a winding way to be the scene of another "Long Story," when another poet Gray shall arise. I, however, aim not either a long story or a long walk, and therefore leave a pleasing scene.
But as I leave I reflect upon the pigeons there, which are as tame as those of St. Marks in Venice, and also upon the name Ury. It was given in consequence of the great veneration on which Mr. Fisher held the memory of Robert Barclay, of Ury, Scotland. He was in some degree connected with this country, and has always been so highly esteemed among Friends that a few words may be given to his noted family. The books give the Barclays a descent of near eight hundred years. Colonel David Barclay was in the mighty wars of the great Gustavus Adolphus; it is easy, therefore, to believe that he had seen enough of fighting to be able to appreciate the opposite principles of George Fox, who about that time began to preach them in England. Pleased with the mildness of his new views he succeeded in persuading his Son also to adopt them, and so Robert Barclay with the advantage of a liberal education, turned it to a great account by writing his celebrated "Apology for the Quakers." As was the case with William Penn, he also was treated with marked respect by Charles II.
Townsend Ward "Second Street and the Second Street Road and their Associates" in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. IV (Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1880), pp. 427-429.

Ury House -- 1881
After a successful existence of twenty-one years [sic], Mrs. Crawford gave up her school, and Ury House passed into the hands of her son, Mr. Joseph U. Crawford, an officier in the Pennsylvania Railroad, who now occupies as a private residence the old mansion in which he was born.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp.409.

In 1860 [sic], Mrs Crawford started a boys' boarding school at Ury and continued it until 1881, when it was moved and became St. Luke's, Bustleton.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, "Colonial Philadelphia No. 13 Ury House" (Evening Public Ledger, 1939.10.03).

Mrs. Stephen Crawford maintained her school until 1881, when she was in her eighties. Then the school moved, becoming St. Luke's, Bustleton, and later on moved again to Wayne, where ultimately it became Valley Forge Military Academy.
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim Of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).


Ury House -- 1892

The mansion is surrounded by spacious lawns and a grove of noble trees of great girth and towering height; while an old-fashioned garden, with its numerous beds bordered by boxwood hedges, is most attractive.
Rev. S. F. Hotchkin, M.A., The York Road, Old and New (Philadelphia: Binder & Kelly, Publishers, 1892), pp.409.


Ury House -- 1899
The fort was so massively built of stone that in 1899, when it was necessary to make some interior changes in Ury House, the workmen had to use dynamite to make any impression on the masonry.
Harold Donaldson Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, "Colonial Philadelphia No. 13 Ury House" (Evening Public Ledger, 1939.10.03).

So solidly was the fort built of stone that when some changes were made at Ury in 1899 dynamite had to be used to make even a dent in the masonry.
Rex Rittenhouse, "Ury House Guest Was Victim of Jittery Maid" (Philadelphia: The Evening Bulletin, 1945.10.21).

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