Peter Kemble purchased 1,250 acres, including the present Glen Alpin property, in 1751 from Amos Strettell. Strettell was a Philadelphia merchant and landowner who was on the Board of Trustees of the College and Academy of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) from 1762 until his death in 1780. His father, Robert Strettell, was a member of the Common Council of the city of Philadelphia, a member of the Governor’s Council, and mayor of Philadelphia. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has approximately 500 items of Strettell family papers dating between 1686 and 1820.
Peter Kemble’s marriage to his first wife, Gertrude Bayard, closely connected him with a number of the most influential colonial families of New York and New Jersey. Gertrude was the daughter of Samuel Bayard and Margaret van Cortlandt and granddaughter of Stephanus van Cortlandt of the Manor of Cortlandt. Gertrude and Peter Kemble had five sons and two daughters. Peter’s second wife was Elizabeth Tuite of Trenton, and they had a son and two daughters before Gertrude died in 1748.
The Kemble family members were ardent Tories. Samuel, the oldest son, served in the British army and was later Collector of the Port of New York. Stephen, the fourth son, was the British Deputy Adjutant General of the Forces in North America. William, the fifth son, was a captain in the British Army.
Original Kemble Property
The Kemble property encompassed much of what is now part of Morristown National Historical Park. It was bound by the Passaic River to the south and ran up along Mt. Kemble Avenue towards Morristown to the north. Tempe Wick Road ran through the property. By the mid 1750’s, Kemble built a manor house on the property on the spot which is now part of the front lawn of Glen Alpin.
In December 1758 in “Morristown” (at Mount Kemble) Peter Kemble’s daughter Margaret married Lt. Col. Thomas Gage. He had recently raised the first light infantry regiment in the British army (at his own expense). The 80th Regiment of Light-Armed Foot was to use tactics adapted to North American conditions against the French in Quebec. Within five years Gage would become a general and commander in chief of all British forces in North America. He and Margaret would eventually have eight children.
About 1768 when General Gage was in Boston to deal with the colonists’ “seditious spirit” after the imposition of the Townshend Acts, he had his portrait painted by young John Singleton Copley. Gage took the portrait back to New York City and then shipped it to the Gages’ home in London. In both cities it was much admired. By 1771 Gage’s adjutant was urging Copley to come to New York where his work would be in great demand. Gage and brother-in-law Stephen Kemble circulated a list of subscribers to have a portrait by Copley. Mrs. Thomas Gage was first on the list. She was painted in Turkish costume and Copley thought it the “best lady’s portrait I ever drew.” The painting remained with her English descendants until 1984, when it was acquired by the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, California.
In 1777, Richard Kemble, the second son, took the oath of allegiance before the Council of Safety in Morristown. At one of the Council’s earliest sessions, Richard Kemble presented himself as a good native-born American. The Council subsequently received a report that Richard’s father, the Honorable Peter Kemble, Esq., had been engaged in circulating Tory proclamations and Peter was called to appear before the Council. Peter Kemble sent an excuse saying he could not attend on account of his age and poor health. Both father and son were, in fact, carrying out the old and well tried tradition of English landed proprietors in troubled times, by which the owner and the heir took different sides, so as to secure the property against any possible outcome.
The Continental Army encamped on the Kemble property for two winters. Peter Kemble remained in the house while it was used as the headquarters of the American generals William Smallwood in 1779 – 1780 and Anthony Wayne in 1780 – 1781. Although regiments were encamped on Kemble’s land, General Washington extended every courtesy and respect to him and his family.
Despite Peter Kemble’s Tory sympathy, he never lost his land. Whether through his friendship with General Washington before the war, the efforts of Governor Morris, a very intimate friend, or the fact that his son Richard pledged his loyalty to the Revolution, he was able to retain his property.
The Mt. Kemble house was moved to the north end of the property in 1846 and renamed Glyntwood in 1885. Today, it remains a private residence. These floor plans from the Historic American Buildings Survey ca. 1934-1941 and other photos show the house in its new location.
Peter Kemble died in 1789 at the age of 84. Peter Kemble, his wife Elizabeth, four of his children and his cousin Ann Edwards are buried on the property.
Upon his death, Peter Kemble left the property to his son, Richard. Richard occupied the house until his death in 1813. Having no children of his own, Richard left the property to his nephew Richard (brother Peter’s son), with lifetime rights to his half sisters Ann and Elizabeth. Four years after Elizabeth’s death, Richard Kemble sold 242 acres and the Mt. Kemble house to Henry S. Hoyt.