The Kent-Delord Family

    The Kent-Delord House, one of the oldest residences in the Plattsburgh area, was built in 1797. In 1810, Henry Delord, a prosperous merchant and political figure, and his wife Betsey purchased the house and then enlarged and remodeled it into the classic two-story Federal structure that remains essentially unchanged to this day.

     Henry (Henri) Delord was born to a middle to upper class family in the southern French city of Nismes on July 15, 1764. At the age of 20 he immigrated to the island of Martinique in the French West Indies. He worked on his uncle's sugar plantation, later moving to the island of St.Lucia. Henry's crops were cotton and sugar cane and his labor was provided by his numerous slaves. When the turmoil from the French Revolution, and war with England, caused an uprising among the slave population, Henry fled to the United States.
    He traveled to northern New York as a land agent for Bernardous Swartout, a large landholder. Henry soon settled in the Quaker establishment in the town of Peru, about 10 miles south of Plattsburgh, NY. In 1799, Henry married Betsey Ketchum. He was 35, she was 15.
    In 1810 he bought the cottage and three acres of land in Plattsburgh owned by Judge James Kent, who was later to become the first Chancellor of New York State. Henry was seeking a home closer to the hub of commerce in Plattsburgh and the shipping on Lake Champlain.
    In 1811 and 1812 he expanded the home to the full-size Federal-style house that exists today. Henry became a gentleman farmer, experimenting with many herbs and vegetables. He established the Red Store on his property, selling everything from lumber to liquor to lace.
    Prior to the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814, Henry was persuaded by General Macomb to extend credit to the officers and enlisted men stationed in Plattsburgh. This led to his undoing as he was left with a fortune in paper IOU's that he was never able to collect after the War of 1812. A broken man, he died at the age of 61 in 1825. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Plattsburgh.

    Elizabeth (Betsey) Ketchum was born in Red Hook, NY, in 1784 to Jospeh and Phoebe Ketchum. Joseph was a veteran of the American Revolution who came to Plattsburgh in the first wave of settlers in 1785. The proprietors put him in charge of the new forge on the Saranac River and he was on his way to becoming one of the new industrialists in the area. But he died suddenly in 1794 while on a business trip to New York City and was buried in Trinity Church yard. He left a widow and three daughters, one of whom was Betsey.
    Phoebe had three daughters to feed and take care of. When Henry Delord proposed marriage, it probably seemed like a good idea to marry Betsey, who was then 15, to a successful 35-year-old businessman. Marriages of that age difference were very common back then and quite acceptable. Betsey was well educated, could read and write, and brought to her marriage wide family relationships. She and Henry Delord were married in Peru, NY, in December, 1799.

    Their first and only child, Frances Henrietta Delord, was born in Plattsburgh in October, 1813. Betsey's daughter and husband both died before she did. After Henry's death in 1825, Betsey took over governance of her grand-daughter - Frances (Fanny) Delord Webb - with Fanny's father Henry Webb.
    Betsey remarried to William Swetland, a prominent attorney in Plattsburgh and New York state, on June 6, 1829. He had been a friend of the Delord family prior to Henry's death. Betsey died in Plattsburgh on May 23, 1870, at the age of 86. To this day, her exact burial site is not known.

    Frances (Fanny) Hall was born Frances Delord Webb in Albany, NY. She was the grand-daughter of Henry Delord. Her parents were Henry Webb and Frances Henrietta Delord. She was to marry Francis (Frank) Hall of Hartford, CT. Her family, the Webbs, also were from Hartford. Both the Halls and the Webbs were wealthy, and both Frank and Fanny, as they were to be known, inherited much of their wealth. They never had to work for a living as we know it today. Fanny and Frank devoted their lives to community service.
    Fanny became a self-taught nurse and doctor and administered to the medical needs of the poor and elderly who could not afford a regular doctor. She was a local leader in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and helped found an orphanage in Plattsburgh. Her skills as a doctor and chemist were good enough that she formulated her own brand of skin ointment, called Fanoline, and received a patent for it. She and Frank manufactured and packaged this ointment in a workshop in the house and sold it to dealers from Maine to Ohio.
    Fanny lived out her adult life in Plattsburgh, NY, and was the last family member to live in the Kent-Delord House. She died there in 1913. She and Frank had no children.

    Francis (Frank) Bloodgood Hall was born in New York on November 16, 1827, the son of Major Nathaniel Nye Hall and Margaret Bloodgood. Frank grew up in Hartford, CT, and Schenectady, NY. He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and was a Presbyterian minister all of his life. He married Frances (Fanny) Delord Webb on May 14, 1856.
    Frank was a chaplain for the 16th New York Regiment during the Civil War. He kept an extensive journal describing his camp life during the war. He refused any pay for service to his country. He was at the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancelorsville, and Salem Heights, VA. At Salem Heights he rode his horse out onto the battlefield to rescue wounded soldiers, and he was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for that bravery in combat.
    After the war, he and Fanny returned to Plattsburgh and he established the Peristrome Presbyterian Church. He was active in the Plattsburgh community and every year took a long hike in the Adirondack Mountains with friends. He was a minister to the prisoners at Dannemora state prison; a member of the State Charities Aid Association; an advocate for Fresh Air Children; and a frequent visitor to soldiers at the Plattsburgh Barracks. He joined his wife in the production of Fanoline skin salve. Frank died at the Kent-Delord House on October 4, 1903.

    Members of the Delord family lived in the house for more than a century. After the death of the last family member in 1913, Fanny Hall, the house continued to be occupied by the family’s housekeeper, Catherine Dowling, who charged a small fee for showing visitors through the rooms.

    There always has been local public awareness of the importance of the Kent-Delord House. The Delords were prominent in the community throughout the 19th century, helping to shape the political and social development of the region. Also, the house had been preserved intact with most of the furnishings, documents and personal possessions of three generations. Initially, the local Daughters of the American Revolution assisted in the maintenance and exhibition of the house, but they realized more help was needed to prevent serious deterioration of the building.
    They persuaded philanthropist William H. Miner to buy the house and establish it as a museum. In 1924, a non-profit corporation administered by a board of trustees was established to operate the Kent-Delord House. The museum received a provisional charter from the New York State Board of Regents in 1928 and was awarded it’s absolute charter in 1938. In the early years, the museum was staffed by couples who served as caretakers and guides.
    In the late 1960’s, the trustees realized the museum should operate on a more professional basis, with curatorial attention paid to the collection, with opportunities provided for research and education. The current mission statement supports this expanded role.
    The Kent-Delord House remains as an historic museum, with a collection of furniture, portrait paintings, books, domestic objects, and personal possessions of family members. The collection illustrates the lifestyle of an upper-class family of this region throughout the 19th century. Objects in the collection also connect the Delord family to important events in the region: a decisive battle of the War of 1812 that took place around the house, early retail trade in Plattsburgh, domestic life, temperance and religious movements, and the role that area residents played in the American Civil War.

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