Inspirations and just A Bit of Bucks County…online
Meet Elizabeth Chapman Lawrence
The remarkable story of Elizabeth Chapman Lawrence (1829-1905), recently came to life in the oak-paneled library of the restored and second Aldie Mansion, in Doylestown, Bucks County, by Heritage Conservancy Membership Coordinator and Historian Tammy Schane, renacting the era, dress, history and life of “E.L.” -as Elizabeth Lawrence signed her letters.
Tammy chronicled in living history, the highlights of the life and the times of Elizabeth (Lela) Chapman, born the eldest daughter of Rebecca Stewart and Judge Henry Chapman, and raised in Doylestown central Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who would lead a remarkable life of the time and circumstance, marrying the Boston, Massachusetts textile heir and U.S. diplomat Colonel Timothy Bigelow Lawrence, and later as a favorite and benevolent Aunt “Lela” to her sister Mary’s children Henry, Elizabeth and William Mercer.
Elizabeth’s path would follow her diplomat husband, spending years in London and Florence with Timothy, who served as an appointed British embassy attaché and later as consul-general to Italy in Florence, also living in Washington D.C., and would cross in this historical era and gilded age with political and literary figures of the day, with traveling fellow-citizens, with presidents, generals, poets, authors, and royalty – including a friendship with Pennsylvanian James Buchanan and his niece and White House hostess Harriet Lane, Charles Dickens, General McClellan, President Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – as a bit disapproving “victorian yankee” at the Queen’s court, noted in her letters. Her husband Timothy collected weapons and armor from different cultures and dates, most of which burned, including the catalog of the collection, during the Great Boston Fire of November 9, 1872, where it had been stored following donation to the Boston Athenaeum library and galleries, by Elizabeth.
Wealthy Aunt Lela, underwrote her sister Mary’s children Henry, Elizabeth and William Mercer’s education, trips all over Europe as traveling companions, and the original “Aldie” home in Doylestown Bucks County, named for the Scottish ancestral Mercer home. Aunt Lela’s benevolence, funds and inheritance would finance and support what would become the national and international work of historian, scholar, collector, architect and decorative tile-maker of nephew, Henry Mercer’s (1856-1930), pursuits. She would help Henry secure one of his first important tile works commissions for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Henry Mercer’s Fonthill, blog post