Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Sweetheart of Graeme Park

Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson led a life of wealth and privilege, romance and intrigue, heartbreak, poverty and sorrow. She was the youngest child of the prominent and wealthy Dr. Thomas Graeme and his wife, Ann Diggs Graeme, and the step-granddaughter of Sir William Keith, Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania. She spent her summers at idyllic Graeme Park and her winters enjoying the social scene in Philadelphia. She was well educated and spent time travelling abroad, writing, and in the company of Philadelphia’s political, social, and literary elite.

After early heartbreak at the hands of William Franklin, Elizabeth finally met and married a man she would describe in one of her poems as tall, handsome, brown-haired, blue-eyed, charming, and a little untrustworthy and careless with the feelings of others. Henry Hugh Fergusson would side with the British during the Revolution and as a result of his loyalties, Elizabeth would find herself after the war fighting to keep her ancestral home and a scant few of her possessions.

Henry returned to England and the couple would never again be together. Rumors swirled through Philadelphia of his infidelity and an illegitimate child and Elizabeth began an unrelenting quest to learn the truth on this matter, which alienated all but her closest of friends. She spent the years after the Revolution at Graeme Park with her friend Betsy Stedman as her companion, struggling to pay debts left by her father and to regain title to her home. Her last years were spent as a boarder and then a guest in the home of a friend. She died on February 23 with Betsy Stedman and her grandniece, Anna Smith, at her side.

Guests at the Colonial Valentine’s Day tour will see Elizabeth’s story reenacted in vignettes throughout the house. Tours are $12/person and will run approximately every 30 minutes from 12 noon to 3 pm on Sunday, February 12. Light refreshments are included in the tour price. No reservations.

We’re running these tours during daylight hours this year, since the weather in February can be a little dicey. We hope those of you who have been hesitant to join us on a cold, dark night will make it out for a truly terrific program and great way to learn the history of Graeme Park.

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