GRANNY VANDERBILT'S HARRIMAN ANCESTORS - A MEMOIR

(written by Granny Vanderbilt's aunt Rosamond, your 2G Aunt)

 

In the year of our Lord 1795 my grandfather William Harriman

( your 5thG Grandfather)

of London England set sail for America in the ship Port, ( Hussey, Master)

from the port of Bristol April 4th and arrived at New York June third 1795 .

Note that their trip across the Atlantic took two months!

His party included besides his wife and children, his wife's sister

Rosamond Holmes from Hertfordshire, England, his wife being Frances

Holmes - both daughters of William Holmes of Hertfordshire England.

After arriving at New York their First destination was at New Haven,

Connecticut where they resided for several years, my grandfather

engaging in shipping expeditions to the West Indies - he was well

remembered by the oldest residents there as the rich Englishman, for

unlike many others he came to this country with a fortune accumulated,

the greater part of which he lost afterwards in many ventures - strange to

relate he left a lucrative business in London, that of a stationers, to

his clerk, who afterwards became one of the Lord Mayors of London, as

many of the Mayors have been chosen from the guild of stationers to

which he belonged and the parchment on which his name is enrolled is

among my father's papers.

 

I have heard it mentioned as one of the reasons which influenced my

grandfather, (William Harriman, your 5thG Grandfather) was that

he was fairly in sympathy with the colonies who had so recently gained

their independence. As I before stated he fitted

our several vessels carrying cargoes to and from the West Indies. It was

on one of these expeditions he sent his son Edward Harriman as Master of

Cargo. It was at the time when so many pirates infested our coast, and

sad to relate the ill-fated vessels and her crew were never heard from.

There is a printed advertisement from one of the Southern papers of that

date among my father's effects, offering a large reward for any

information of his son Edward Harriman; he was advertised for

in all the prominent Southern papers, New Orleans, Mobile, Charleston,

Savannah, etc. He was described as being over

6 feet in height, remarkable for his manly beauty and erect

carriage; he had chestnut brown hair and side whiskers, age 25.

My grandfather was most unfortunate in the tragic death of his sons.

Another one, William, was killed in a naval engagement in mid ocean

between an English and French vessel. The English vessel was at last

victorious, but he was among the many killed. Another son, Alphonso, was

drowned some years after when the family had removed to this city - off

the Battery, and so my poor grandmother's heart wrung by so much

anguish, could not bear the thought of giving up the only one now left

her and the youngest, to begin an equally hazardous career in the Army

or Navy as his inclinations led him, accordingly my father, Orlando,

(Orlando is Granny Vanderbilt's grandfather, or your 4G Grandfather)

listened to her pleadings and became a merchant in this city - going into

business with his father as a shipping and commission merchant with

England.

 

I have mentioned before that my father's aunt, Rosamond Holmes, also

came with his mother and her family to this country. To her he was

indebted for his romantic name as she was his Godmother and named him

after Shakespeare's hero in "As You Like It". . As he was the reverse of

everything romantic or effeminate, his name was hateful to him and

though prevailed upon to name a son after himself he did not wish that

name perpetuated further, and so called future grandchildren of whom he

had the naming William, which accounts for so many Williams of the

present generation.

 

I have not given an account of the four sons, there were besides four

daughters-Eliza, the eldest never married, she was an invalid for many

years, but a woman of much intellect and culture and there is a volume

of her poems in possession among some of the family. Frances, named

after her mother became the wife of Mr. Stuart, one of the oldest

English residents of the city. Anne, or Nancy as she was called, married

John Blake connected with one of the oldest banks of the city, I think

the Bank of New York, and Caroline, the youngest, married General

William L. Morris, a friend of Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York.

Frances Stuart died young and left two children Agnes and Mary, the

former married Alexander Bogart of New York and Mary married Joseph Lyon

also of New York. I forgot to mention that my father was 4 years old on

his arrival in America, but as my grandfather took out naturalization

papers, of course he was entitled to all the privileges of American

citizenship-I do not know the date of my grandfather's settlement in

this city-but it could only have been a few years after their arrival,

as my father's school boy recollections were all here. He remembered the

collect stream which was made into a canal and filled in afterwards-the

present Canal Street, and played ball on the Lispenard Meadows,

somewhere near the present Bond Street I think. Also it must have been

in the vicinity of the Bowling Green, that he attended the same dancing

school as my mother who, when he reached the very mature age of nineteen

years, and she that of 18 he married. (Ed.note: married approx 1810)

My mother, Anne Ingland, the daughter of William Ingland, resided

on the corner of Whitehall Street and Bowling Green, at that

time the old Government House faced the

Bowling Green on the western side of which was the Battery Park which

led to the Old Fort-connected by a draw bridge over the mote. This old

fort was afterwards the scene of many peaceful pageants and its name was

changed to that of Castle Garden. It was in this park, the beaux and

belles of those days walked beside the wave splashing embankment, and

those same old trees kept up an ever murmuring accompaniment to

whispered words of love. My mother was of English and Scotch

descent-William Ingland having come from Nova Scotia to New York. He was

a cousin of Bishop Ingland, but having been educated in Scotland, his

Scotch school master taught him to sign his name with an "I" instead of

"E"-according to the Scotch dialect. My mother excelled in many

accomplishments-she played well on both piano and organ and we have many

volumes of both instrumental music and her songs, also she was taught

the most intricate stitches in needle work and we have several pieces of

her chenille and floss embroideries framed. Naturally as father and she

attended the same dancing school together they were both proficient also

in dancing and remembered many social evenings at the Assembly balls

given in the Old City hotel. My Darling mother, what a future was before

her, a petted, only daughter, who knew only the luxurious side of

life, whose wishes were all anticipated common who had never even been

called upon to decide any arrangements of her wardrobe, became the

mother of a large family of boys and girls and was a model housewife. To

her practical good sense and devotion to her children, her husband

always attributed whatever virtues they possessed. They were certainly a

beautiful example of tangible affection-Although my father married at

such an early age he was much more matured then the present generation

generally are. He was going a flourishing business and all went well for

many years, but the wheel of fortune must ever turn; there was not a

cloud on their horizon until the dreadful fire of 1837 which burned up

the greater part of the then business community.

 

From that calamity he however, rallied, and managed to support his large

family with every comfort, and gave them every advantage of education

which the city afforded, both in the old Columbia College and the

University of New York,.

 

When the scourge of yellow fever prevailed, my family resided in Walker

Street, which became one of the infested districts and was placed in

quarantine after the removal of my mother, who was taken ill there, but

was driven far out in the country, somewhere in the vicinity of

Bloomingdale, now occupied by the residents of West end Avenue and

Riverside Drive. After her recovery her family moved to Broome Street

near the old Dutch reformed Church, not far from Broadway, of which Dr.

Brodhead was the pastor. Most of the children were baptised by him .

mother became an active member of that church and associated with the

Herveys, Van Alens, Livingstons and the old Nicholas Low families. That

was all before my arrival on the tapis and I have given these notes as

ancient history from my parents lips. I was not born (ed: approx. 1840)

until the family had again moved to the village of Greenwich -

the road to which began near the very last part of the city-

where Greenwich Street now is and continued north to

8th Avenue,-the village being situated between

Carmine street near Bleecker and Hudson streets, and fourteenth

Street-beyond the latter Street was the outskirts of Chelsea, which

extended to the 30's.

 

Among the earliest recollections of my childhood is the quaint old

fashioned house and grounds where we resided. A paradise for children,

where we all had plenty of room to romp. It was the rendezvous of all my

brothers school friends. There on its friendly green they played ball,

leap frog, all the athletic sports of that day and ran races etc.. The

place was at one time occupied by the President of the old Bank of New

York, who resided here with his family during the epidemics which

visited the city and the City banks conducted their business here at the

time when yellow fever and cholera prevailed. Of course their business

was very much limited during these periods. I have had my father say

that he had seen grass growing between thecobblestones of Wall Street,

which was then as now the center of all the banking institutions. This

quaint old house stood in the center of the grounds far removed from the

streets. It fronted Greenwich Avenue-but the entrance was by a winding

pathway from Hammond Street-bordered on either side by shrubbery whilst

it was secluded entirely from the streets by rows of grand old maple,

walnut, elm and willow trees-in front of the house was a sloping lawn

descending gradually towards Greenwich Avenue. The grounds extended

through to the rear street which was named Bank Street, from the bank

buildings.

 

At that time our family numbered 11 children of whom I was the

youngest-the to eldest had entered matrimony -the eldest of all Rebecca

and having married Oliver Hull, who was one of the eldest drug merchants

in the city, his family's name being in the oldest directory. The eldest

son Orlando, having graduated from Columbia College with highest honors,

winning both silver and gold medals and other honors, decided to enter

the ministry, and went to the theological college at New Brunswick, to

fit himself for his chosen vocation. It was here he met Cornellis,

daughter of Dr. John Nielsen of New York, who had many relatives there,

a mutual attachment began which ended in their marriage. Dr. Nielsen

was one of the pillars or elders as the saying is, and of the old Dutch

collegiate Church. The next son, William was in business with his

father and was always delicate-after had the scarlet fever in his

sixteenth year. He died at the promising age of 30. The next to leave

the home was Charles who married many years after, Helen Anderson, who

was a neighbor in 4th Street, to which location we have again

moved-Helen Margaret Anderson, the daughter of Smith w. Anderson, who

was of Dutch and Scotch descent-her mother being Harriet Schuyler,

daughter of one of the oldest Dutch settlers of this country. Edward,

James, Francis, Frederick, Oliver, and Eliza and Rosamond remained

together as a family many years.

 

Those days past when we were all children in the rural home , make such

a bright picture in the retrospect. They were indeed halcyon days-happy

healthy growing children, no worries or cares-enjoying exuberant health.

That dear old place brings so many tender memories-of the proud father

exulting in his sons and the mother seeking to make all around her

happy. The next turn of fortunes wheel landed us far away on the east

side of the city. The boys had then finished their studies and were

beginning the pursuits of manhood. Only then my sister and and myself

were still very young schoolgirls. three hundred and ninety-five 4th

Street between third and second avenues, then called Albion Place-was at

that time a fashionable neighborhood contemporary with Lafayette place,

bond and Bleecker and great Jones Street-in that old House many years

after Anne Eliza married captain Edward G. Tinker, captain of the

Palestine and of the firm of Glendale, Morgan and Tinker-soon after her

marriage my dear mother was called a way from these earthly scenes and

after her death the remaining ones at home and father moved to

twenty-second Street between 44th Avenue and Broadway-it was here that

Oliver,

(your 3rdG Grandfather)

the youngest scion of the House met Laura, the daughter of one of

our neighbors, James Low and soon became fascinated with the charming

maiden and as his mercantile position was guaranteed, the engagement was

of short duration and they were married not very long after. The next to

follow these matrimonal examples was Francis who married John Bradley

James and presided over his household in 20th street. Then the three

bachelor Brothers were still content until after my own marriage with

Edmund C. Owen, one of the four of of Thomas J. Owen and company.

Perhaps it may have been my example which led them to follow, suffice it

to say the 3 married soon after. James married daughter Georgiana Smith,

the daughter of Cornelius Smith, who was a widow, her first husband

having been James Lee, Jr. of New York. She was the mother of James

Arden Harriman and died when he was only six weeks old-some years after

he again married Sarah Anne Fotterall of Philadelphia, who is the mother

of Alice Harriman. Their only son Lloyd died at 12 years old of scarlet

fever-a most promising beautiful boy. Edward and Frederick the only two

un married ones left-married the same day two sisters, the misses Clara

and Julia Mellon-daughters of Thomas Mellon, Esquire of Philadelphia.

 

Signed Rosamond H. Owen, 1908

 

(Genealogical Collection, New York Public Library)