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.

kemble01Peter 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. Margaret was the eldest daughter 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.

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 Adjutant General of the Forces in North America and William, the fifth son, was a Captain in the British Army.

Original Kemble Property

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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.

kemble03General Thomas Gage, Britain’s first Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America during the Revolution married Kemble’s daughter Margaret in 1758. In his book Paul Revere’s Ride, historian David Hackett Fischer controversially suggested that she may have been sympathetic to the colonial cause and may have supplied the colonial forces with military information. In particular, she supposedly warned Joseph Warren on April 18, 1775 that her husband’s troops planned to raid armories at Lexington and Concord. Warren in turn passed word to the riders leading to Paul Revere‘s famous Midnight Ride.

Quoting Paul Revere’s Ride:

"We shall never know with certainty the name of Doctor Warren’s informer, but circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that it was none other than Margaret Kemble Gage, the American wife of General Gage. This lady had long felt cruelly divided by the growing rift between Britain and America."

Suspecting Margaret to be the spy, and with their marriage failing, Gage had her sent back to the family estate in England in the summer of 1775 for the remainder of the war to avoid further embarrassment.

Although there is no direct proof, Margaret Gage may have been the informer based upon statements indicating her divided loyalties and her husband’s decision to send her away.

kemble04In 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 his land, General Washington extended every courtesy and respect to Kemble 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.

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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 pictures show the floor plans and house in its new location.

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Inside the Mt. Kemble House

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Mt. Kemble House 1986

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Mt. Kemble House 2002

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kemble13 Peter Kemble died in 1789 at the age of 84. Peter Kemble, his wife, three of their children, and his cousin, Ann Edwards, are buried on the property.
kemble14 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.