In the Beginning . . .
Seabury Tredwell’s great-great-great grandfather, Edward Tredwell, came to Massachusetts from the county of Kent, England, around 1637. By 1649, he had settled in the village of Hempstead, Long Island, 30 miles east of New York City. On his mother’s side, Seabury was directly descended from Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, whose romance was immortalized in 1858 in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s narrative poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish.”
Seabury’s Early Years
In 1784, when Seabury was four, his father, Dr. Benjamin Tredwell, moved his family from North Hempstead a few miles north to what is now East Williston, Long Island. The family was Anglican by faith. (Seabury’s mother, Elizabeth, was the half-sister of Samuel Seabury, the first Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America).
Tredwells, like many New Yorkers, were committed Loyalists during the Revolution, though it should be noted that there were also some ardent patriots in the extended family.
At Dr. Benjamin’s death, in 1830, his eldest surviving son inherited the farm and the house in East Williston. His descendants continued to live there until 1951 when the house was sold and torn down to make way for commercial development.
Seabury Tredwell’s Years in New York City
In 1798, Seabury came to New York City to seek his fortune. He was 18 years old. He is first listed in the hardware business for himself in 1814, at 34. In 1820, at the age of 40, he married Eliza Parker, the daughter of his landlady. She was 23. In the next 15 years, six children were born to the couple: Elizabeth (1821), Horace (1823), Mary Adelaide (1825), Samuel Lenox (1827), Phebe (1829). Julia (1833), and Sarah (1835).
In 1835, after 32 years in the hardware business, Seabury Tredwell retired and bought a house at 29 East Fourth Street. He was 55 years old. An eighth child, Gertrude, was born in the Fourth Street house in 1840.
Only three of the Tredwell children married. Elizabeth, the oldest daughter, and Effingham Nichols were wed in 1845. He was an attorney and a prominent figure in the development of the Union Pacific Railroad. Mary Adelaide married Charles Richards, a hardware merchant, in 1848.
Samuel’s first wife died, and in 1884 he married for a second time. Today, there are only six living direct descendants of Seabury and Eliza Tredwell, all descended from Samuel and his second wife.
A House in the Country
In 1832, Seabury purchased 700 acres of land in Rumson, New Jersey, and the following year another 150 acres. It was common for residents of New York to vacate the city during the summer months to escape outbreaks of Yellow Fever and cholera. The Tredwells’ land included forests, shoreline, a large working farm, a colonial farm house and tenant farmer’s house, and an oyster pond.
The Family after the Civil War
Seabury Tredwell died in 1865 just as the Civil War was drawing to a close. After the war, things changed dramatically, not only for the Tredwell family, but for their neighborhood and the nation as a whole.
Eliza died in 1882. Sarah moved out of the house for a time, residing in a residential hotel. In 1906, she returned home where she died in October of that year.
Phebe, Julia, and Gertrude lived out their lives in the East Fourth Street home, surrounded by the familiar possessions of their parents. When Gertrude Tredwell died in the upstairs front bedroom at the age of 93, the house had been occupied by the Tredwell family for almost 100 years. By then, Gertrude was impoverished, yet she left one of the most valuable legacies imaginable: the only family home in New York City to survive intact from the 19th century with original furniture, decorative arts, and personal possessions.