by Susan Taylor Block
Continuing to follow the lines of descent from Elizabeth Sharpless and Richard Bradley, we must mention Pembroke Jones. The Bradley’s third child, Elizabeth, married John Quince Lord, whose daughter, Sarah, wed John London. Their daughter, Jane Vance London Jones, gave birth to Pembroke Jones, Jr., in 1858.
It might seem odd to try and find a parallel between Quakers, with their unofficial “Substance not Show” motto, and a man known as the more flamboyant half of the “Keeping Up with the Joneses” Joneses, but he did carry within him some Quaker traits. Despite the trappings of his opulent life, his brashness, his loud impromptu singing, etc., he was plainly and simply himself in every situation recorded – a fact noted in his day by the press.
Pembroke did many good deeds, too, including the maintenance, at his own expense, of Mount Lebanon Chapel and graveyard, roughly from 1884 until his death in 1919. The Joneses were responsible for the 1912 architectural changes to the chapel, and, with friend Henry Walters, helped support the sweet little building as a mission of St. James Church for sounders who lived close by. Later, Pembroke’s widow, Sarah Jones Walters, underwrote much of the cost of building St. Andrew’s on-the-Sound.
Pembroke Jones gave generously to many other churches, including St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hampton, VA; St. James Church, St. Matthew’s AME, and Pilgrim’s Rest churches in Wilmington. He also lent his support to Episcopal churches in Palm Beach, Newport, and New York. He gave the “Christ Blessing the Children” stained glass window to St. James Church, and inspired the gift of a stained glass window to St. Andrew’s on-the-Sound, given by his employees as a memorial to Jones.
A most touching sign of his faith was the song he sang as he was dying on a hospital bed in New York City. He learned the hymn from his aunt, Alice London Dickinson Jones, who raised him at 200 North Front Street. “All praise to Thee, my God, this night, For all the blessings of the Light; Keep me, oh, keep me King of Kings, Beneath Thine own almighty Wings.”
A French-Bradley Aside
Within Airlie Gardens, there lies a grave that was very special to Pembroke Jones. Ever aware of his Bradley roots, he chose the site of John Hill’s resting place as the spot for the first ceremonial planting of the Airlie garden. The name “John Hill” was an alias used by a mysterious Frenchman sponsored and engaged as a tutor for the children of Richard Bradley, Jr. When Hill died, the Bradley’s buried him and placed a marble memorial on his grave that reads simply, “Known in Eternity” – a brief and poignant statement of faith.
Oddly enough, the Bradleys also were involved in the life of Alexander Calizance Miller, another mysterious Frenchman of that era who changed his name after he left his native country. John Bradley, brother of Richard Bradley, Jr., seems to have met Alexander C. Miller in Philadelphia, where John had several business interests. John arranged for Alexander to move to Wilmington about 1797, where he was embraced by the Bradley family, and a number of John’s influential friends. Later, in 1811, Alexander married John Bradley’s niece, Mary Brown – a sister-in-law of Governor John Owen.
Both these mysterious Frenchmen were highly intelligent and beautifully educated. Both were famously engaging as conversationalists. And both were prized as tutors. It was rumored that the French Revolution spurred both their passages to America, too. It’s tempting to think Bradley family involvement with both men might have been connected with the Pennsylvania-Sharpless Society of Friends “network” – but there is no evidence to prove it.
Susan Bradley Wright
Born in 1771, Susan Bradley was a mere girl when her family was turned out of their fine home, and her mother and older sisters began sewing for a living. Her early memories would have been filled with Quaker home devotions, hard work, and the two-room house her family shared.
At some point, Susan caught the attention of attorney Joshua Grainger Wright, three years her senior. The two were married in 1791, and had thirteen children over the next 19 years. They lived in the Burgwin-Wright House that Joshua finally purchased in 1799, with pieces of eight.
Susan Bradley Wright was known as one of the hardest working ladies at St. James Church. She helped organize a sewing circle that gave proceeds to charity, and she operated as a sort of unofficial individual charitable foundation, giving gifts of clothing, food, or money to the needy.
The much-told story illustrates the steadiness of her gifts. A beggar came to the door of the Burgwin-Wright House one day asking for food. Susan went away and came back to the door with a ham. The man took one look at it and said, “Dammit woman, pork again!?”
The Wrights lived at the Burgwin-Wright House and on Masonboro or Greenville Sound during the early years of their marriage. Like most Wilmingtonians who could afford it, they spent summers on the sound because it was cooler and the breeze shooed away mosquitoes. They saw the insects as pesky little monsters that could make summer nights an earthly hell, but did not yet understand the connection between mosquitoes and Yellow Fever. They just knew summer was the “sickly season” for those who remained in Wilmington.
The Naming of Mount Lebanon
On New Year’s Day, 1800, Judge Joshua Grainger Wright purchased a new summer place. He bought 320 acres of land on the sound that would become known as Wrightsville. It went roughly from Lee’s Creek (later, Bradley’s Creek) to the sound, to the present-day drawbridge, and back to Wrightsville Avenue.
Joshua and Susan were riding horseback across the land one day when he asked her what she would like to name it. She answered, “Mount Lebanon.” The story was passed down for generations and the reason given for the naming was always solely the abundance of cedar trees there in those days. That is probably true, and doubly appropriate, but also, Quakers name properties and chapels Mount Lebanon rather often. To paraphrase a trite saying, “You could take the girl to St. James Church, but you couldn’t take the Quaker out of the girl.”
The name Mount Lebanon hearkens back to the Quakers’ deep Bible study. King Hiram of Tyre floated large cedar trees from Lebanon to Israel to be used in the construction of Solomon’s Temple. A work force of about 80,000 men cut and trimmed the timber. Some of the trunks measured 40 feet in circumference.
Cedars, like all evergreens, are symbolic of God’s changeless nature, and the word itself means strength in Lebanese. Unfortunately, today environmental changes are endangering cedars – even in Lebanon. The trees themselves try to help revive one another. A healthy cedar can spread its limbs onto the trunk of a dying tree to share its nutrients, but their numbers continue to shrink.
The Stars of David
Soon, Susan and Joshua built a house at Mount Lebanon that was almost as large as the Burgwin-Wright House was in those days. The sound house included two Stars of David. One was in the form of a window and the other was etched deeply into the chimney.
Quakers, because of Bible study, knew the Christian connections of the symbol of the Israelites, but so did Episcopalians of that day. Jesus was a direct descendant of King David, through is mother’s line, of course, and was born in the City of David. He was the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies penned by David in the Psalms.
Christians in that day sometimes called the church the New Israel. The old way of animal sacrifices had become the new way: the once-and-for-all Lamb of God sacrifice on the Cross to atone for the human condition. At St. James Church, Dr. Robert Brent Drane said of the death of Dr. Thomas Henry Wright, in 1861, “A father in our Israel has fallen.” The Rev. Alfred Watson, in a letter to Abraham Lincoln, referred to St. James Church as “The Temple of our Fathers.”
Oddly enough, at almost the same time that the two Stars of David disappeared from Mount Lebanon, four more took their place. Sadly, a developer razed the old Mount Lebanon residence in the mid-1970s to make way for a new development: Bradley Creek Point. Then in 1974, Elizabeth Labouisse Wright contributed two stained glass windows to Mount Lebanon Chapel. Each of them contains two Stars of David. The windows came from Salem Chapel, a private Episcopal house of worship at Fairntosh Plantation in Durham County.
Dr. Thomas Henry Wright
Like his mother, Susan Bradley Wright, Thomas Henry Wright (1800-1861) seemed to just have had a mind for spiritual things, and to find ways to help others. What he hadn’t learned from church and from his mother who lived with him until her death in 1842, he gleaned from his brother-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Adam Empie, husband of Thomas’s sister, Ann Eliza.
Adam Empie’s favorite verse was, “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.” Dr. Wright was a doer, particularly when it came to church buildings. His idea of a good vacation was to leave his wife and eleven children at home and go with Dr. William Giles to Europe to study Gothic cathedrals. However his first church project was delectably plain. In 1835, he built little Mount Lebanon Chapel on the 57-acre tract he inherited from his father. Until 1912, Mount Lebanon was simply Greek Revival style. He promised the chapel and the 6.5 acre waterfront tract would one day become the property of St. James Church.
Dr. Wright chose to wait and have the building consecrated in 1836, on the 300th anniversary of the first publishing of the entire Bible in English. Old and New Testaments had been published in English separately before, but the continuum was prized. It was a long story of progressive revelation, compounded by its completeness.
In 1837, he began raising money for a new building for St. James. He worked tirelessly for the building and for the specific architectural plan that emerged. Dr. Wright was the biggest single contributor to the cost of the building, and stated that he was seldom as happy as he was when he was inside the church.
In the 1850s, he contributed to the building of the St. John’s Episcopal Church building that once sat on the northeast corner of Third and Red Cross streets. He also engaged his children in doing bake sales and other activities to raise money for St. John’s.
Dr. Wright was a popular lay reader at Mount Lebanon Chapel. Even teenage boys got dewy-eyed when he read Scripture from the “little pulpit.” He spent time with his children, teaching them things he had learned and encouraging them in Bible study and prayer. They adored him, and admired his character and the strength with which he endured a long debilitating illness. One of his sons said, “His life was a life of pain.” At his funeral, Dr. Drane, his best friend, referred to his remains as a “tabernacle…in ruins.”
Dr. Wright would be very proud. Three Episcopal bishops emerged in the spreading family tree of the Quaker Bradleys and Episcopal Wrights. Bishop Robert Strange and Bishop Thomas Henry Wright descended directly from Dr. Wright, and Bishop Thomas Atkinson is a part of the William Wright (Thomas’s brother) family. There are too many vestry members to even begin count on that tree. In fact, this family tree is so big I think it’s a Cedar of Lebanon.
Quakers and Episcopalians in old Wilmington were a very good match.
 Dickinson-Cowan Papers, courtesy of John C. Symmes.
 Louis T. Moore, Stories Old and New of the Cape Fear Region (Wilmington, 1956) Susan Taylor Block, Airlie: The Garden of Wilmington. (Wilmington, 2001)
 William E. Craig, Ph.D., “The Mysterious Frenchman: Alexander Calizance Miller in America, 1797-1831.” (Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear Bulletin, October 1985.)
 St. James Collection. UNCW.