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The Grundy Family

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William Hulme Grundy

William Hulme Grundy was born in Philadelphia on December 12, 1836, and was the second child of Edmund and Rebecca Hulme Grundy. He spent his childhood in Philadelphia where he lived with his parents and attended the Friends Select School. Later, he moved to Walnut Grove Farm located in Bristol Township, Pennsylvania after his father purchased the property and renovated the house as a residence for his family. In 1860, William married Mary Lamb Ridgway and the couple lived in Camden, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and finally in Bristol Borough. 

 

In the 1860s, William embarked on a career in the wool trade, which brought him in contact with wool manufacturers.  This experience led him to establish a worsted yarn manufacturing company in Philadelphia along with his brother and a third partner. "Grundy Brothers and Campion" moved their operations to Bristol in about 1876. At that time, William moved his family to the Borough of Bristol. The family resided in various homes located in Bristol Borough until 1884 when William purchased and renovated the house at 610 Radcliffe Street.  

 

After moving to Bristol, William wasted no time getting involved in local political affairs. He served the Borough of Bristol as Burgess for two terms, from 1885 to 1889, and was active in efforts to improve the town. He served as President of the Bristol Improvement Company, a corporation that owned the majority of buildings in Bristol dedicated to manufacturing. He was an ardent supporter of the principle of Protectionism, which William felt was the shield of American industry. Politically, a loyal Republican, William lobbied for the interests of American business. 

 

William's sudden death by stroke in 1893 came as a shock to his family. He was only 56 at the time and was, by all indications, healthy until the night that he died. William was buried in the family plot at Beechwood Cemetery in Hulmeville. His legacy of political and social activism lived on in his children, Joseph and Margaret. 

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Mary Lamb Ridgway Grundy

Born Mary Lamb Ridgway on September 27, 1838, Mary was the daughter of Benjamin and Margaret B. Fenimore Ridgway, wealthy farmers of Burlington County, New Jersey. Mary grew up on her parents' estate on the Rancocas Creek.  While attending boarding school, Mary met Susan Knight Grundy, her future sister-in-law. She married William Grundy in 1860 after a five-year courtship. In 1863 and 1866 Mary gave birth to her two children, Joseph and Margaret, respectively. Joseph was named after her brother, Captain Joseph Ridgway, who was killed in action in the Civil War.The Grundy family moved to Bristol Borough sometime in 1876, settling at 610 Radcliffe Street eight years later.

 

Throughout her life, Mary traveled extensively with family, friends, and sometimes alone. She learned French in school and utilized this skill on various trips abroad. She seemed to particularly favor spas and similar resorts that were reported to improve health, even traveling alone to a hot springs in New Mexico in 1883. Ten years later, her husband William died suddenly, and a few months later, she and her daughter departed for Europe. Margaret took ill on the journey, and her mother spent the better part of the next decade in search of effective treatments to help her daughter regain sufficient health. Both mother and daughter shopped extensively and frequently while abroad. Many of their purchases ended up decorating their homes at Bristol and Walnut Grove Farm.

 

Mary lived at Walnut Grove until her death at age 87 in 1926. She was buried in the Grundy family plot in Beechwood Cemetery in Hulmeville and was survived by both her children.

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Joseph Ridgway Grundy

Joseph Ridgway Grundy was born on January 13, 1863. The only son of William Hulme and Mary Ridgway Grundy, Joseph was named to honor his maternal uncle, Captain Joseph Ridgway, who died one month prior, a casualty of the Civil War.

 

Joseph was in his teens when his father moved the family and his woolen business to Bristol Borough. Upon his father’s death in 1893, Joseph took control of his family’s interest in the mill and broadened his investments and involvement in the region.

 

Joseph Grundy began his political career in his hometown of Bristol Borough where he served on town council for more than three decades. During his lifetime, he supported many local improvements in his hometown with gifts of both money and property.  These gifts included financing for a public waterworks, a sewer system, schools, a post office, the municipal building and firehouse, playgrounds, and athletic fields.
 

His political arena soon expanded to state and national levels where he lobbied tirelessly for high tariffs and low taxes. In 1909, he founded the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association to support the interest of business and industry in the Commonwealth. Known as a “President-maker” for his success in raising huge sums for the Hoover and Coolidge campaigns, Grundy worked behind-the-scenes to convince the Pennsylvania delegation to support Warren G. Harding as the presidential nominee at the convention held in Chicago in 1920. He was appointed to the United States Senate in 1929, but his heart remained with his beloved hometown of Bristol.

 

When asked about his lifelong dedication to causes that he believed in, Joseph, at the age of ninety-six, conveyed the following sentiment to his biographer Anne Hawkes Hutton: “Thee knows my Uncle Joseph, the only male in the [Ridgway] family, gave his life for the Union Cause, just before I was born. How could I do less than serve my country when he had given his very life in its service?”

 

Two years later, Joseph Grundy died at the age of 98 on March 3, 1961 in Nassau, The Bahamas. Upon his death, he established the Grundy Foundation, which supports the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Museum and the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library–both named in honor of Joseph Grundy's maiden sister. Through its grant making, The Grundy Foundation carries on the Senator’s legacy by continuing to improve the quality of life for the residents of Bristol Borough as well as people throughout Bucks County.

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Margaret Ridgway Grundy

Margaret Grundy was devoted to the Bristol Free Library where she served on the book selection committee. Her generosity was a primary funding source for the local library. Her brother Joseph, also a library advocate, provided rent-free space in a frame structure at Dorrance and Cedar Streets to house the library's operations. Margaret's lifelong dedication to the small town library inspired Joseph to begin planning a new, modern facility for the borough.  Having died before the library construction was finished, The Grundy Foundation Trustees completed the building project and on June 24, 1966, The Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library was dedicated and opened to the public.

 

Margaret, nicknamed "Meta," was born on July 14, 1866 at "Pine Grove Farm," Burlington County, New Jersey. She was Joe Grundy's only sibling. Her early childhood years were marked by a delicate constitution, illness, and frailty. Although little is known about her early education, family records indicate that she attended the Springside School, a private girls school in Philadelphia, and spent at least one year studying abroad where she learned to speak French fluently.

 

Upon the death of her beloved father in October 1893, Margaret's health was further compromised. Shortly after her father's passing, Margaret traveled with her mother to Europe. The trip began with a Mediterranean cruise and while at sea, Margaret took ill and was placed under the care of doctors in Geneva, Switzerland. Mother and daughter spent more than a decade thereafter touring Europe and consulting with various health specialists. In 1906, Meta regained sufficient health and returned to the states. On December 7th of that year, a reception was held at 610 Radcliffe Street to welcome her home. Local papers described the reception as "the social event of the season in Bristol" and that "Miss Grundy looked charming and picturesque in a frock of white satin veiled in white chiffon and real lace, with diamond ornaments. She held a huge bunch of violets."

 

Shortly after her return, Margaret and her mother took up residence at Walnut Grove Farm, the family's beautiful ancestral estate located about five miles from Bristol. She involved herself in a variety of fields and engaged in many interests. One major pursuit was a love of gardening. At Walnut Grove, she supervised everything from the selection of seeds and laying out the planting to the arrangement of the cut flowers and processing of the vegetable crop. Her formal flower gardens at Walnut Grove were noted as a spot of exceptional beauty. A representation of her garden can be found adjacent to the entrance of the Grundy Museum.  

 

Meta was proud of her distinguished lineage and spent untold hours researching and documenting her family history. These efforts resulted in a publication entitled "The Record of My Ancestry: The Margaret R. Grundy Family." This leather-bound book provides insight into the ancestral heritage of the Grundy and Ridgway families and supported Meta's pedigree for enrollment as a member of the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America, and the National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons.

 

After the death of her mother in 1926, Meta busied herself with local civic group activities and served as home manager and mistress of the Radcliffe Street mansion. She was a member of various historical organizations, including the Welcome Society, the Pennsylvania Historical Society, the Bucks County Historical Society, and the Genealogical Society. Margaret, along with her brother, played active roles in the reconstruction of Pennsbury Manor, with Margaret serving on the furnishing committee. She was heavily involved in Red Cross work and played a leading role in Red Cross enterprises during World War I.

 

Margaret Grundy died on February 1, 1952 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital where she was taken after suffering a heart attack at home at Walnut Grove Farm in Bristol Township. She was 85 years of age. Her memory lives on in the two Bristol Borough institutions that are named in her honor: The Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Museum and The Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library.

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