Monday, July 11, 2011

Discovering the identity of Mrs. Phelps of LeRay Mansion

LeRay Mansion
While looking through old family photos, I decided to look everywhere I could for clues as to who they were. I looked at the back of each photo to see if there might be a comment or the name of the photographer. On this particular photo I found the words, "Mrs. Phelps of LeRay Mansion." Well, that seemed less than helpful.

I didn't know who Mr. Phelps was in the first place. But I did know something about the LeRay Mansion, built for French land speculator Jacques Donatien LeRay de Chaumont who lived for a time at the  mansion he had built for his family in Jefferson County, New York. That was back in the heyday of the parties and business affairs of French nobility who had fled their  homeland (and the Revolution there) and  happened upon this beautiful corner of the world.

 I used a search engine to look up some information on the mansion, and as I clicked back and forth between the description there, the Jefferson County GenWeb cemetery listings, and the census, I found my answers.

The site I looked at explained the ownership over time of the mansion, and I was able to put the names together to make some sense.

William Phelps, born about 1789 in Connecticut,  married Eliza Brown, who I could determine was a relative in my family tree. She is listed in Bartlett Files  for the township of LeRay, in the Jefferson County, New York GenWeb (a cemetery transcription), as William's second wife.

Looking at every detail on a photo can be helpful, from the location of the photographer to the city to a scrawled note such as "Mrs. Phelps of LeRay Mansion."

Picture credit: Fort Drum website.


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