Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Colonial Valentine

Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson led a life of wealth and privilege, romance and intrigue, followed by heartbreak, poverty, and sorrow. One of the most highly regarded women of her time, she was well educated, the daughter of a prominent Philadelphia physician and the granddaughter of the former Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania. She spent her summers at idyllic Graeme Park and her winters enjoying the social scene in Philadelphia. A published poet and socialite, she hosted famed literary gatherings and counted luminaries of Philadelphia’s political, social and intellectual elite amongst her closest friends and confidents.

Early in life, she seemed to have it all: engaged to William Franklin, money, prestige, family connections, and success. So how did it all go so wrong for her? Left broken-hearted when Franklin married another, the untimely deaths of her parents, an ill-fated marriage to Loyalist Henry Hugh Fergusson, and the subsequent Revolutionary War were to drastically alter the course of Elizabeth’s life. Her husband’s loyalties left Elizabeth fighting to keep her ancestral home and scant few of her possessions. Her husband returned to England, branded a traitor, rumors of his infidelity swirling through Philadelphia. She alienated all but her closest friends in her attempts to find out the truth about Henry’s “indiscretions.” Financial woes forced Elizabeth out of her beautiful estate at Graeme Park to take up rooms as a boarder and then guest in someone else’s home. Her last years were spent in virtual seclusion, only one friend by her side.

Learn about Elizabeth’s loves and losses on Graeme Park’s annual Valentine’s Day Tour, featuring costumed actors portraying scenes from Elizabeth’s life in vignettes throughout the historic Keith House. Tours are on Sunday, February 10 and will run approximately every half hour between 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m. The cost is $12/person which includes light refreshments in the Visitor’s Center. No reservations. Call 215-343-0965 for more information. Directions are available at

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