Gelston Castle, New York
1739, King George II granted 16,000 acres of land to Dr. James
Henderson, a Scotsman, for services rendered at the Greenwich
Hospital in England. With dreams of building a country house, he
traveled to America only to find the land was a wild and desolate
area inhabited by Mohawk Indians. He decided instead to build
Greenwich House, a home on Greenwich Street in an area now known as
Greenwich Village in New York City. The acres granted to him make up
much of what we currently know as Herkimer County.
Douglas brothers were industrious Scot descents who arrived in New
York during the 1760’s destined to become wealthy. The Douglas
fortune was mainly acquired through various businesses in New York
and London, and by farming in Scotland. Of the four, two brothers
returned to Scotland and acquired large tracts of land in Galloway.
William Douglas built
Gelston Castle and his brother James founded
the town of Castle Douglas. George Douglas was the only brother to
permanently settle in America and eventually married Margaret Corne.
Margaret Corne was the daughter of Captain Peter Corne and a
granddaughter of Dr. James Henderson. The royal grant was passed
down to Margaret who was the first of Dr. Henderson’s heirs to take
an interest in the lands up in the Mohawk Valley. With her husband
George Douglas, she had some land cleared and surveyed, then had a
twenty-four room summer Cottage built in 1787.
George Douglas had five children: Margaret (1787), Harriett (1790),
George (1793), William (1795), and Elizabeth Mary (1799). George
died of yellow fever at his wife’s home at King’s Ferry on the
Known for her red-gold hair, Harriet Douglas
was the social lioness of the 1800’s. She was perhaps the most
strong-willed of her family, to the point that once she resolved
something in her head, there was no stopping her. She spent most of
her life traveling around Europe and America with her siblings
circulating amongst the most elite of social societies collecting
famous male acquaintances. She kept the company of famous names like
Mrs. Anne Grant, with whom Harriet boarded while studying in
Scotland and introduced her to the Literary Social Circle. Others
include Maria Edgeworth who introduced her to Sir Walter Scott.
William Wordsworth and James Fenimore Cooper were other names that
frequented her company.
On her 43rd birthday, Harriet married
her on-again, off-again suitor Henry Cruger who was of the most
distinguished of New York families. Their stormy marriage only
lasted eight years on account of her independent spirit and strong
nature that tried controlling their relationship from the start.
Perhaps examples of her character can be noted in her insistence
that Henry take the Douglas name and they were known as Mr. and Mrs.
When she visited her uncle Sir William
Douglas’ residence, Gelston Castle, in Scotland as a young girl she
vowed to one day build a replica of her own. As members of her
family died, Harriett gained possession of the Henderson land and
resolved to make her lifelong dream a reality and had a stone
mansion built 50 ft. from her mother’s cottage in 1833. To
accomplish her unusual and unique design she insisted it be built
with stone blocks to resemble the houses of Scotland, and had them
carried all the way from Little Falls, “fourteen miles in the snow”.
It was published that Gelston Castle contained over 20 rooms,
including ten bedrooms and three sitting rooms. They used the large
hall as a dining room and the basement had five rooms, a kitchen and
sitting room. The castle was adorned with fireplaces throughout.
Harriett wished to be buried on the Henderson family estate, but
was instead buried at the family plot in a New York City churchyard
Since Harriet had no children, the estate was passed
down to Harriett’s niece, Fannie Robinson, born on April 14, 1824 to
Elizabeth Mary Douglas and James Monroe, nephew of President James
Monroe. Douglas Robinson, Fannie’s second cousin, was born on March
24 1824 in Lancashire, Scotland to William Rose and Mary (Douglas)
Robinson. Fannie’s mother Elizabeth (Betsy) and Douglas’ mother Mary
were first cousins.
Douglas Robinson, educated in Edinburgh
University, moved to New York City in 1841 to seek fortunes. Douglas
and Fannie fell in love, but due to his lack of riches was
considered an unsuitable match for her, so she was sent away to
Scotland to visit relatives. Possessing the true female spirit,
Fannie returned in 1850 and married Douglas.
"Miss Douglas", the biography of Harriet Douglas, the couple wed at
Fanwood, the house the Monroes built at Fort Washington, then a
secluded suburb to the north of New York City. After being wed the
couple temporarily lived at 55 Broadway that was lent to them by
Aunt Harriett, and then later moved to New Jersey. Also noted in the
book were visits to Aunt Harriett at her big house on Fourteenth
Street in New York City with their two children, Douglas (born
January 3, 1855) and little Harriett. The children would enjoy play
dates with Theodore Roosevelt, who was their same age, and his
sister Corinne, who would eventually marry the young Douglas
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