Cornwall Borough resident Bruce Chadbourne moved to Cornwall Manor a few years ago after his retirement, drawn by the history of the mine and the Cornwall Iron Furnace. He has taken to writing a few historical articles, which he’s kindly shared with LebTown for our readers to enjoy in a semi-regular series titled, “Who knew?” We hope you enjoy.
Last week we began the series “Anne of Cornwall,” the story of a great woman who has remained in her brother’s (Robert H. Coleman) shadow far too long. Part 1 of this story established her incredible ancestry and now through many anecdotes we learn of Anne’s childhood and consider what it was like for a young girl to enjoy summers growing up in Cornwall which, like her seems a humble place yet with its own remarkable history. Read Part 1 here.
Anne’s father William Coleman had died in 1861 at age 35.
His older brother continued to manage the Cornwall furnaces until his death three years later.
Anne Caroline (Coleman) Alden, aunt of our Anne, had lost her husband many years earlier, and resided in New York at 3 E. 40th Street at the corner of Fifth Avenue (now the site of a Marriott Courtyard hotel) enjoying her prosperity in the grand city. Preferring not to winter-over at the Cornwall Cottage widow S. Ellen Coleman followed suit, living with “Auntie Anne” as she was called in Sue Ellen’s letters to son Robert, until taking up her own residence in 1873 three blocks away at 340 Madison Avenue, adjacent to the newly-erected St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church, and with a view of Grand Central Station from her window [Note: the entire block has been replaced by a modern office building; St. Bartholomew’s had relocated earlier to Park Avenue in 1918].
Having been accustomed to traveling to the south in the winters, depending on the season she spent much time raising Anne and Robert in New York City and returning to Cornwall in the pleasant summer months. From New York they would also travel regularly to Europe. Trips to Savannah included stopovers in Washington D.C. to stay with her sister Margaret Cassat Coleman Freeman, in their mansion on H. Street, across Lafayette Park from the White House.
Our young Anne enjoyed therefore a variety of experiences. Winters in New York, summers in Cornwall, travel by train and steamers to Savannah, Washington, and Europe. Mother doted upon her, ensuring she had the finest education and social life.
When young Robert had been sent off to school in Hamden, Connecticut, both Mother and Anne would write faithfully to encourage him and to keep him apprised of all developments. Correspondence was a discipline exercised nearly every day and poor Robert would be chastised for falling behind in his letters to home (he couldn’t win, for when he did write he was corrected by Mother for his poor spelling and hand-writing, or for getting in trouble with the headmaster). With those letters from New York, Cornwall, Washington, and Savannah a picture of Anne’s life is brought into focus, spanning the years from young childhood to her marriage at age 21.
By age 10 (the earliest mention in letters) young Annie has been enjoying dance lessons. At age 11 she is found in Savannah, attending Christ Church with her mother, celebrating Easter and participating in the children’s choir. Back in New York shortly after, she had become fascinated with “decalcomania,” an arts and crafts craze from Europe, used to transfer images and designs (shortened in the 20th century to “decals”). By Autumn, in Cornwall, she is besting her mother “at pistol.”
That fall, Annie turned 12 and they are staying with Auntie Anne in New York, where Annie again begins school; Auntie Anne and daughter Sarah (Alden) meanwhile head off to Nassau. Mother and Annie have “taken a pew” at church and hope that Robert will like it. She continues school throughout winter but has time to go for sleigh rides in Central Park (a “splendid sleigh” with six horses and a team of four men), and ice skating on the frozen pond.
Just before Easter again, they are in Savannah where a cousin has given Annie a “dear little dog, which perhaps [Mother] will allow her to keep down at Davy’s house in the country [at Cornwall].” Back in New York, sad news is received from Jonathan Leibig, caretaker at Cornwall, that Annie’s kitten has died. Both Annie and Robert receive a weekly allowance from Mother; Annie keeps Robert’s allowance safe while he is away at school.
That fall, Annie writes to her brother and it becomes clear that she dotes on him just as much as does Mother. She writes “we miss you like a scarecrow.” Though Annie has caught a cold from Mother, she is enjoying a pet goldfish as well as a game of Parchesi with her aunt. A few months later she is learning to play Euchre. At age 13 she continues dance classes and attends a ball “with lots of finery.”
After wintering in New York, Savannah and Washington the return to Cornwall is quite precious. “We found our sweet lovely home looking lovelier than ever. The men looked very happy to welcome us and even the horses and birds seemed to know we had come. Our little Fritz [bird] was very glad to smell the pure country air and sang its sweet little song over and over again. Fido came up at once and knew Annie, and you were alone wanted to make it all complete. Sammy [horse] is well, and Annie has just returned from a delightful ride. Molly [Robert’s horse] is ready for you. As to the roses they are handsome though they have been for a long time, two or three years at least.”
The following winter, back in New York 14-year old Annie earns a medal at dance school. Mother worries over the chillblains that Annie suffers in the cold weather. She writes to Robert about mysterious Valentines cards she received from an admirer in Savannah. Given the 1873 cholera epidemic in Savannah they have concerns of making their winter trip to the south. But they head south, stopping in Washington and witnessing Grant’s inauguration to his second term.
If not cholera they had frequent concerns the threat of yellow fever in the South. While in Savannah Mother worries about Annie’s health (though thankfully not yellow fever), but “Annie is getting well, she is as usual the dear little unselfish soul, although I cannot now call her little as she is quite as tall if not taller than me.” Mother suffers from her own headaches and nervous disorders.
Back in New York they are living in their new quarters on Madison Avenue. Mother mentions Annie’s beauty and sweetness as a young lady. “We have had our little carriage opened and it is lined with white and the little coachman is dressed in light colored cloth and a shining bearer hat and we look very fine. I am of course in deeper black [mourning a recently deceased relative] but Annie dresses up now in blue and gives the carriage a gay appearance. Our situation here is very lively now, and in the evening after dinner we amuse ourselves sitting by the window upstairs and watching the people running to catch the train and seeing the little boys running a race to light the lamps. The square looks lovely after the gas is lighted and reminds us of Europe.”
The same pattern repeated during her teenage years. At 16 she became quite the socialite and made a point of writing to Robert faithfully every day to keep him informed of every detail of her life, and reminding him how many letters he owed her in return. Summers in Cornwall were a delight. Though her brother cherished his bicycle, she preferred riding horseback to and fro, whether to the train station to see her friends off, or to visit nearby Colebrook perhaps for a game at the family bowling alley. She kept doves and guinea pigs as pets, and enjoyed fresh strawberries and raspberries. Croquet and Cribbage tournaments were a common occurrence and taken very seriously among the cousins (so serious were their competitions they had forms preprinted with the initials of the players – see figure below).
She writes to brother Robert with faux formality “Mr. Habersham [her visiting uncle John Rae Habersham] wishes to inform Mr. Coleman that he whitewashed Mr. Alden this afternoon.” In Autumn she reflects in her letter from Cornwall to Robert: “This is the last letter I will write at my little desk this Summer, and I feel dismal, doleful and dreary at having to leave. The country never looked so pretty as it does this evening with the setting sun making the bright red and yellow leaves glow beautifully and the mountains look like huge bouquets [move over Anne Shirley!]. We have been having an early Indian Summer and a most delightful one and it just seems to be clearing off now. I believe Blossie comes home every Friday for she and Sadie were in town yesterday, the former looked very pretty but I can’t say that much for S. We are going over to church this evening. Mother is waiting for me to go down to the arbor, so I must close.”
At age 18 she was continuing her daily lessons, which included French, music, drawing, literature, German (which she described as ‘really learning Dutch’), and of course dance. Attending “balls” was a frequent social occasion, sometimes fraught with disappointment, such as not being invited to someone’s ball even though the person had been a guest previously and should have returned the favor.
In her letters to brother Robert were frequent mentions of having attended, or hosting at times, a “german.” This, referring to the custom in the 1870’s of a social dance. According to the Library of Congress, “German” was another name for Cotillion, a dance derived from 18th century contradances that operated in a small square, hence the name quadrille. The name Cotillion comes from a word meaning “petticoat,” and from the poem, “My gossipy companion, how does my petticoat look when I dance? It goes like that, like the tail of the cat.” The cotillion evolved into a final series of improvisational dance parties, which often included party favors. It became the German Cotillion, in which the master of ceremonies directed a series of musical dance games akin to parlor games, with exchanges of partners through chance and playful encounters. One of the games was “Blind Man’s Bluff” – in which the male dancer, while blindfolded chose from one of two female partners. One of the two might be replaced by another male, and the blindfolded man must dance with whomever is chosen. Grand fun, and even prizes were part of the evening’s entertainment.
The above photo was taken in Lancaster in the summer of July 1879, the Coleman cousins having driven in from Cornwall in a “four-in-hand” carriage (or two) according to the inscription. Top row (left to right): Uncle John Habersham of Savannah, Miss Edward (visitor), Robert H. Coleman, Wm. C. Freeman. Middle row: Anne C. Freeman, Sophie Montgomery (visitor), Lillie Clarke (engaged to Robert), Edith Johnstone (Robert’s second wife), Anne C. Coleman. Bottom row: Edward C. Freeman, Margaret Coleman Freeman (Buckingham), Arthur Elliott (southern cousin).
With the dances and social life, Anne had a number of young gentlemen friends. Mother worried when Robert Barnwell, a southern cousin, expressed his affections for Anne but would be refused. “I am indeed sorry Anne cannot love him in the way he wants her to do, for she will never again find such a fine Christian character as Rob’s, and what is there in this world compared to that? I hope sincerely he is not really in such dead earnest that he cannot find someone to take her place, for I think he wants to marry at once. I have thrown them together as much as I could and have never stood in the way, for I know his worth. I sometimes fear Anne will never marry, for she differs from other girls in many respects, but most particularly in never having cared whether she ever married or not, although for two years she has known she could become engaged at any time she chose.”
While enjoying the social life of New York City, Anne had many suitors, including Archibald Rogers who is mentioned in her mother’s letters as early as 1877. They became engaged and married in St. Bartholomew’s Church May 11, 1880, a year after her brother’s marriage to Lillie Clark. The wedding had been planned for June 1st, but news of Lillie’s declining health (in Paris) caused them to move the date up to May 13th. When Lillie passed away on Monday the 10th, Archie and Anne were quietly married Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 o’clock, allowing mother Susan Ellen to board a steamer to Europe to be with her son. As reported in the Lebanon Daily News, the marriage was a very quiet one, no one being present except the immediate families and a few friends of the bride. “The usual trip was omitted, and Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Rogers took the evening train on the Hudson River Railroad for Hyde Park, the home of Mr. Rogers.”
Earlier that year Anne had written to brother Robert, from Savannah “I hear from Archie every day … I think he is a model young man, don’t you, with all he has to do too. He is still flying round the country inspecting machinery, building mills, cutting wood, etc. but with it all he is papering and furnishing the sweetest little cottage on the Lake, all ready for his Bride when he gets her.”
Graduated from Yale, Rogers had a career with Rogers Locomotive Works and John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company. He also was a civil engineer for the construction of several railroads. Later, in 1895 he would be appointed Colonel on the staff of New York Governor (and former Vice President under Benjamin Harrison) Levi Morton, and serve as the head of the First Provisional Regiment in the state during World War I.
Rogers enjoyed hunting and traveled throughout the western US. He acquired trophies from his hunts that were mounted and displayed in Crumwold Hall. His possessions included the artwork of Wm. Jacob Hays including at least one of a buffalo herd (representative image shown here) that was later donated from his estate to the American Natural History Museum of New York in 1934. Their youngest daughter Anne Pendleton Rogers would later own a ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming.
Archie and Anne lived at the family estate at Drayton Point which was later to become part of the Vanderbilt estate. In addition to their New York City residence at 35 W. 53rd Street (the block now occupied by the Museum of Modern Art since 1929), Archibald held an ambition of building Crumwold (meaning “Little Plain”). It was finally completed in 1888 [the same year Robert H. Coleman built his “second mansion” Cornwall Hall], having spent three years alone in design with architect Richard M. Hunt. It has been described in one newspaper account as the “Largest house on the Hudson,” after acquiring 5 estates, almost 1000 acres with 1 mile frontage on the Hudson River. The “big house” was decorated in part to reflect his years of ranching in Wyoming, with many big game trophies and native American artifacts.
Archibald’s story would fill another article, of his 30-acre polo grounds, the “Jack Frost” iceboat racing on the Hudson, and large “drag-hunts” on the estate with hordes of hounds and horse riders in red coats and silk hats. He fathered “six strapping sons” who would fill the big house. His philanthropy was well-known. As comfortable as he was at their own estate, he and Anne also frequented the estates of friends at Newport, Rhode Island.
But this story is about Anne.
Stay tuned for Part 3 next week!
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