Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Edgmont Love Story

An old Edgmont one room school house.


Story of Life and Death of Ann Drinker, Once Noted Society Belle

The Philadelphia Record recently printed the following story:

                A traveler passing through the peaceful village of Edgemont would scarcely imagine that it was the scene of one of the most dramatic romances ever known to Eastern Pennsylvania. Yet here is found the home of Annie Drinker, and those who knew the once famous society belle, who was a recluse at death – ending her life in solitude in the quiet village – still relate to the interested stranger her story of love and tragedy, intermingled with unselfish devotion.  They tell of how the society queen, upon whom life’s shadows suddenly fell, became estranged from her people and lived, and died a veritable recluse in Edgemont, among those who were neither kith nor kin.
       Here for nearly 14 years she lived a hermit-like existence, when, if she had so desired, she could have held a high position in the best society in the land.  The events of years, however, made her seek solitude, and in this secluded portion of Delaware County, where she could be near to Nature, her only daily companions her books and a pet parrot, and she passed the declining years of her life.
        Today she sleeps in the pretty Episcopal churchyard at Rockdale, five miles from here, and near her grave is that of her brother Joseph, between whom and Annie Drinker, there existed a bond of love and sympathy that stood the strain of a murder and years of the brother’s confinement in a madhouse.


      Annie Drinker died as she lived during the later years of her earthly career.  Possessed of sufficient income to enjoy all the necessities of life and many of its luxuries, she preferred a quiet, simple unobtrusive existence, and it was her expressed wish that when death closed her eyes there should be a plain funeral, and beyond the mere announcement of her death to follow the interment, that nothing be said.  These last instructions she committed to E. G. Pierce of this place, who, in addition to being her landlord, looked after her affairs.  She even told him that she did not want her people notified, but when the funeral was held there were two representatives of the family present.
       Miss Drinker was born in Philadelphia about 80 years ago and was the eldest of eight children.  Her lineage dates back to an old English family of the same name.  The first of the Drinkers to arrive in this country came here about 15 or 16 years subsequent to the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock.  This was Philip Drinker.  With his wife and several children he took up his residence in New England and immediately identified himself with the life of the Puritans in that section of the country.
       Prosperity followed his course, and he became rich and influential.  One of his sons became Governor of Cape Colony, and during the early days of the Colonial history preceding the breaking out of the Revolution, others of the name occupied conspicuous positions.
       The passing of years and the growth of the country brought about divisions in the family.  Some remained in New England, others tarried around New York, while the remainder passed over into Pennsylvania.  So far as is known the first of the Drinkers to settle in Philadelphia was John.  With his wife, Ruth Raich, he came here a few years before the founding of the city by William Penn in 1682, when the river front was occupied by a few Swedish settlers and by Indians.  It is said that he built for himself and family a rude cable near what is now the corner of Second and Walnut Streets.


        It was here that the first Philadelphia Drinker was born, on Christmas Eve, 1680, or two years before Penn founded the city.  He was named Edward, after a member of the family in New England.  When not yet in his teens Edward left Philadelphia and went to New England, where he was taught a trade.  For nearly 60 years he lived in that section, and then returned to Philadelphia, where he died in 1782.  The children of Edward Drinker married into some of the best families of the period.  Among those were the Benezets of distinguished French extraction.  It was a daughter of this family who was the mother of Annie Drinker.
The child’s early career was watched carefully.  She was reared amid the most refined surroundings, and as she grew in years she received the best education that the private schools of the old city could give.  Following her education in Philadelphia, she was sent abroad where special attention was given to her musical development, and also to the study of German, French and Spanish.
         When she returned to her native city she was prepared to make her formal entrance into society.  She was the rage.  Society showered its favors on her, and she was received with open arms in the most exclusive circles.  This admiration did not turn the girl’s head.  She was thoughtful, studious and found time to devote much attention to the poor and needy and among the sick of the city.
       During all these years Annie’s father had been steadily accumulating wealth and owned considerable land I the western part of Pennsylvania, and around Susquehanna county.  Among his most intimate friends in the latter county was William H. Cooper, a banker of Montrose.  During the height of Miss Drinker’s social career her father died, and William H. Cooper became trustee of the estate and the guardian of the children.


                It was somewhere about this time, according to report that Annie Drinker gave her heart to a prominent young society man, who had been one of her most earnest suitors.  It is said that this match was soon broken off because of the discovery by Annie that he was carrying on an intrigue with another woman.  This, it is also said, was succeeded by a resolve that she would forever remain unmarried.  Her social reign continued, however, but as the years passed there came a change in the harmony of her life.  William Cooper, her guardian had her committed to a sanitarium on the ground that she was insane.  What means he took to accomplish this or what evidence there was of insanity is not known.  Some hinted that it was disappointment in love, while others maintained that back of it was a plot by which Cooper hoped to gain possession of the girl’s share in the estate.
     Among those who inclined to the latter opinion was her brother Joseph.  One night he lay in wait for Cooper on one of the main streets in Montrose, and as the banker passed, Joseph fired a shot from a pistol.  The banker fell.  Almost instantly another shot was fired, and Joseph Drinker fell, a victim of his own bullet, and also swallowed poison.  The banker was hurried to a hospital, where he died two weeks later, but Drinker recovered.
        Then came Drinker’s trial on the charge of murder.  He boldly asserted his fearlessness of death, and said he had avenged his sister, and was satisfied.  The sister, meanwhile, had secured her release from the sanitarium, and came at once to her brother’s side.  She spent the greater part of her fortune to save his life.  In this she was successful, for the jury rendered a verdict of insanity.  Mr. Drinker was sent to an insane asylum and his sister retired from society.
       She first attracted attention at Edgemont when she came here to live with a family named Eberly.  Mr. Eberly, it is said, was employed in a sanitarium where Miss Drinker spent a portion of her time.  She afterward took up her residence in the house adjoining her Pierce’s home, where she lived alone with her parrot.  During the remainder of her life she kept almost absolutely to herself frequently taking long rambles about the country and on these occasions she would carry her pet parrot with which she would hold conversations.  When her brother Joseph died in the Danville Insane Asylum – about five years previous to her own death – she had the body brought here and buried in the churchyard at Rockdale, where her own body now lies.


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