Here is one of the frustrating things about my chosen professional. Without a time machine, some pieces of the historical puzzle are lost to time. Hazelwood, the estate of James Lees and his wife, Susanna Preston Lees, seems to be one of those puzzle pieces.
Let me fill in the blanks…
When Federal troops crossed the Mississippi River into Louisiana in 1863, the Carson family of Airlie Plantation headed west to Tyler, Texas. Once in the Piney Woods of eastern Texas, Catherine Waller Carson feared for the safety of her only daughter and sent Katherine Breckinridge Carson to live with her aunt, Susanna Preston Waller Lees. Most of the letters between mother and daughter are addressed very simply – Katherine Carson, Hazelwood, New York or Katherine Carson, Hazelwood, High Bridge, New York.
So I’m have been on a mission off and on for 10 years to find the location of Hazelwood (and I would really hit the jackpot if I find a drawing or photograph of the house).
I know that High Bridge refers to the area around the High Bridge Aqueduct in the borough of modern-day Bronx. I have located the Lees in the 1860 and 1870 Census and they are listed as living in the township of West Farms in the county of Westchester, New York. In 1860 the Post Office is listed as Mount Vernon and in 1870 the Post Office is listed at Tremont. In the 1900 Census, Susanna Preston Lees is listed as a widow and the township is listed as the Borough of the Bronx. She died two years later and I can’t find the death record of James Lees.
Where is Hazelwood? This was not a small wood frame house. Accounts in letters, diaries, and journals describe a grand estate with outbuildings and land. Katherine describes her memories of Hazelwood as an ideal place to grow up. Census data records gardeners and servants with their own households tied to the Lees Family. The New York City Public Library has maps including Sanborn maps of the area for the 1900 period but without a better understanding of the geography, I could spend weeks searching. The New York City Public Library also has some photographs of other house in the neighborhood and they are grand in the Gilded Age style.
The search continues…