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.
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.




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