The history of the stately house at 105 West Main Street now known as The Pawling House Bed & Breakfast is a rich tapestry interwoven with the stories of three prominent families that feature in the earliest chapters of Pawling’s history: The Campbells, Vanderburgs and Merwins.
The history of Pawling House begins with Archibald Campbell an exile in England who returned to Pawling and in the post war 1790’s became a wealthy community leader and landowner eventually erecting houses for each of his 10 children. This included one for his daughter, Catherine Rosalinda, which became the Pawling House of today.
Catherine Rosalinda Campbell
But before he arrived at this pinnacle of success there was a time when a much younger Archibald Campbell was sent hurling through the uncertain space of the wars of the American revolution. In 1776 his father, a British loyalist, had just been killed near White Plains in a skirmish between British and American troops. Now homeless and orphaned (the patriots confiscated his family home) and only 9 years old he was taken into military service and conscripted as a water carrier for the Revolutionary army. Treated roughly as the son of a father who fought against the liberation of the colonies, young Archibald was befriended by no less than General George Washington, who took him under his personal protection and placed his trundle bed in his rooms at his headquarters in Pawling headquarters. Washington’s troops were not all gentlemen and some had been vigilantes and bandits. Washington knew that there were many nuances between them and the landed gentry which included Pawling notables whose loyalties spanned both English and American politics and the local militias who were administering rough justice without trial to the crown’s allies. Washington chose a moderate course in dealing with loyalist families, even opposing one of his own generals who advocated that failure “to crush these serpents before their rattles are grown, would be ruinous.”
George Washington Plans Advance on NYC from Pawling, 1778
His mother decided sensibly that he had to leave America and she sent him to the safety of England where his father had property. There he would be in the care of relatives who could raise him as a proper English gentlemen in the Imperial service to be stationed in colonies other than those in the American hemisphere.
What they did not count on was that young Archibald was still bonded to his idyllic boyhood experience of the Hudson valley (called a paradise by early settlers). As soon as he became 21 in 1791, he returned to America with a cargo of merchandise financed by his Uncle and set up a dry goods store in Pawling at Hurd’s corner where the family burial plot still exists. It helped that his mother was the daughter of Moses Bowdy, in his time one of the most respected settlers of the region and a friend of the Quakers whose spiritual center was outside of Pawling at Quaker Hill. Archibald was a contemporary of Quaker leader Albro Aiken (born in 1803) and his son Albert J. Aiken who was the founder of the Bank of Pawling, and the catalyst for the extention of rail service from New York City to Pawling. It would be expected that the son of prominent loyalists would, on his return, find friends among the Quaker elite such as the Aikin family, who as pacifists, remained neutral during the revolution and like his father loyal to George III> Furthermore having no slaves would have put him in agreement with Quaker abolitionist doctrine that the Divine lives in every human being so that enslaving your fellow man was like enslaving God. Like the Quakers he subscribed to their beliefs in straight living. As a Justice of the Peace he enacted bans on gaming, wrestling, horse racing and cock fighting. At one point he was so respected that as postmaster he was asked to settle a major church state dispute as whether delivering mail on Sunday by the new Federal Postal Service violated the Sabbath. He also took on the job of highway construction and together with partners took on what was then the huge task of raising the capital and building a turnpike from Pawling to Beekman. This opened up eastern New York and western Connecticut to the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie. A marvel of its time the turnpike was 20 feet wide with numerous log bridges and warnings posted for riders to guard against horses’ hooves getting caught in the log gaps.
Mehitable Wing Heroine of Quaker Hill
In the course of all this ongoing activity in 1792, and only 24, he married Elizabeth Mitchell, just 16 years old and they proceeded to start a family of 10 children, Archibald, Catherine Rosalinda, Jane, Eliza, Mary, Stacia, Duncan, Sarah, Harriet, and Thomas. Ultimately he was sufficiently wealthy to provide each of his ten children with a house in Pawling. In 1799 the Pawling House was built and given to their daughter, Catherine Rosalinda. After the death of Archibald, from a stroke in 1847 and the death of his wife in 1858 their daughter Elizabeth appears to have taken over Pawling House from Catherine Rosalinda. She then married prominent businessman William J. Merwin, who had recently returned from Savannah Georgia disaffected by the slavery driven plantation system there. It is thought, from the accounts of descendents, that he and Elizabeth had secret passages constructed in Pawling House to hide former slaves as they made their way through the underground railroad network to its terminus at Quaker Hill. Two of the grandchildren of William J. and Elizabeth Merwin, Jay Gordon Merwin of Stamford, Connecticut and M. Gray Merwin Weingarten of Syracuse, New York, now in their 80s, also believe the passage was used to hide former slaves. The Merwin grandchildren who lived into the 1930’s recall that Elizabeth was known for her excellent cooking and her lavish and gracious hospitality, a kind of a 19th century Martha Stewart. Her tastes probably were an influence on her husband William because during this period Merwin took over the dry goods business originally started by Elizabeth’s grandfather Archibald. Merwin took on a partner and the new entity was renamed Merwin and Holmes. The store was expanded to include not only modern home appliances but more fashionable and exotic items such as those appearing in this advertisement from the Pawling Pioneer News in 1879. “Merwin and Holmes Spring Stock Offerings: Mixed paints, horse blankets, and Eureka salt. All wool cashmeres at 50 cents and up, Henrietta cloths and colored alpacas, Lounsbury fresh kid shoes for ladies and misses, and ladies shoes with new style French heels and box toes. And the new Davis Vertical Feed sewing machine, the lightest running sewing machine in the world.”
Stained glass window from which the logo was derived
From Pawling House on West Main Street William and Elizabeth would have also witnessed the influx of visitors from the city as the extention of the Harlem Line to Pawling was completed in 1848. New hotels were built in which William Merwin had an interest the most notable of which was the Mizzentop and the Dutcher which had a combined capacity of 350 rooms. The Mizzentop was billed as the” Closest World Class Country and Mountain Resort to New York City”.
Merwin’s son, William J. Merwin, Jr. sold the family home in Pawling around 1930 after which it went through a succession of owners, eventually becoming a two- family rental property.
Elizabeth Campbell Vanderburgh
It was purchased by Barbara Lanman and Deborah DeWinter on September 13, 2006 for the purpose of being restored for development as an owner-occupied Bed & Breakfast. Sadly, because the original back half of the house had earlier been gutted and allowed to deteriorate from the stone foundation in the basement to the hand-hewn beams of the roof, a necessary decision was taken to rebuild the back half of the house on the foundation and footprints of the original structure. This decision had the fortunate result of allowing for the addition of modern bathrooms in each of the four guestrooms, as well as providing totally updated electrical, heating and plumbing systems throughout the house. The original front half of The Pawling House, featuring many unique architectural details, was lovingly restored over a 12-month period between the purchase date of 13 September 2006 and the arrival of the first guests on 16 September 2007. The restoration was undertaken by the current owners. Curt Johnson of Zarecki and Associates of Pawling was the architect for the project, and the contracting of the new construction was provided by Al Thomsen of Dutcher Avenue Builders, also of Pawling.
Portrait of Archibald Campbell by Ammi Philips circa 1837
As of September 2016 Pawling House has been reinvigorated under the stewardship of Rosalinda Weiner, formerly Rosalinda Archibold (“o”), who was born in Panama and hopes to pay tribute to the original Catherine Rosalinda in her dedication to the guest of the Pawling House Bed & Breakfast, honoring the legacy of all the previous owners of this magnificent property. Please note that the full coverage of history is included in each of the rooms for your lecture.
Each room was named after a prominent figure of this story as follows:
– The Mehitable Wing, (1738-1812) known as “the heroine of Quaker Hill,” rode 80 miles on horseback from her home on Quaker Hill to New York in order to obtain a pardon fron King George III for her husband, William Prendergast, leader of the Anti-rent Rebellion of 1766 who had been condemned to death for treason.
– The Sybil Kane Room, when Sybil Kent married John Kane in 1756 she moved to the home in Pawling which still bears his name today. During the struggle for independence, Kane, though first sympathizing with the colonist, subsequently changed sides and moved to the British lines with his two eldest sons. During his absence, General George Washington set up his headquarters at the Kane home where Sybil, in addition to single-handedly raising her remaining 10 children, also hosted General Washington as her “house guest”.
– The William and Elizabeth Merwin Room William J. Merwin, a prominent Pawling merchant and co-owner of the Merwin & Holmes general store was Pawling’s postmaster and served as treasurer of the Pawling Savings bank until his death in 1892. His wife, Elizabeth Mitchell Campbell Vanderburgh inherited their home, now known as “The Pawling House, “from her mother, Catherine Rosalinda Campbell Vanderburgh.
– The Archibald Campbell Suite Room, The Campbell Suite is named for Archibald Campbell Jr., a successful merchant in Pawling who was proprietor of a general store at Hurd’s Corner and in 1791 opened an inn with other local investors. Campbell and his wife Elizabeth Mitchell gave each of their ten children a house in Pawling. The home given to their daughter Catherine Rosalinda is known today as “The Pawling House Bed & Breakfast.”
– The Colonel Vanderburgh Suite Room, Named for Pawling, NY’s Colonel John James Vanderburgh, an officer of some prominence in the Revolutionary War who, as noted in our first President’s personal diary, hosting George Washington for dinner on May 18, 1781.Elizabeth Mitchell Campbell Vanderburgh Merwin, who inherited the house now known as “The Pawling House Bed & Breakfast” was the great-granddaughter of Colonel Vanderburgh who went on to serve as a representative to the New York Provincial Congress and Convention of 1775-1781.