David Lenox of Kirkcudbright and Philadelphia

David Lenox was born 3rd October 1753 in Kirkcudbright. His parents were James Lenox, a shoemaker in the town, and Elizabeth Sproat. They were married in Kirkcudbright on 29th November 1750 and had a large family. Prior to the War of Independence, David along with his brother Robert, went to Philadelphia to their uncle David Sproat.

It wasn't long though until David set off on his own account. I have gathered together here some notices of his eventful and prosperous life. On the outbreak of the war, David sided with the "Rebels" against the British side: 

The Reminiscences of David Hayfield Conyngham (link)

Major David Lenox, born — ; died April 10, 1828 ; commissioned Captain 3d Battalion Pennsylvania Militia, Colonels Shea and Cadwallader, January 5, 1776. Was in Fort Washington when it was captured, November 16, 1776. Detached with a part of his Battalion to oppose the landing of the Hessians, 42d Regiment, his command fought with great valor, killing and wounding upwards of 90 of the enemy, with small loss to his own troops. Was taken prisoner and held 18 months, exchanged April 20, 1778. He tells the rest of his military service in his letter, April, 1786, to the Executive Council. (Pa. Arch., X. 754.)

"I was taken Prisoner the 16th Nov. 1776 and Exchanged the 2d April 1778, but was not released till the 15th May. I then joined the Army at Valley Forge, but found that I could not get the Rank to which I was entitled ; however having every wish to continue in the Service, I joined General Wayne's Family, & continued the whole Campaign. The Committee of Congress, consisting of General Read from this State, and Colonel Bannister from Virginia, together with the Commanding Officer of each Line, met at the White Plains in August 1778, to ascertain the Rank of the Army. They wishing to do me all the Justice in their power, fixed my Rank, Vizt, a Majority from the 7th June 1777 : but the situation of the Army did not admit of my getting the Command to which I was entitled this is Certified by General Wayne, who was then the Commanding Officer of the Pennsya Line. The Comptroller General has settled with me to the 20th April 1778: but as I could not get my Command, I left the Army after the Campaign of 1778 & think it a hardship to be deprived of my Pay &c, after that time. I refer to General Wayne's Certificate for the facts set forth. D. L."

Indorsed, "1786 April 3." (Pa. Arch., X. 754. See letter of like import, September 5, 1786, Pa. Arch., XI. 55.)

Major Lenox entered Philadelphia City Troop March, 1777 ; served as private in the campaign of August, 1777-9, and 1780 and 1781 in New Jersey ; was First Lieutenant 1794-1796 ; Honorary Member October 24, 1796 ; appointed Marshal U. S Admiralty Court September 26, 1793, serving until May 18, 1795. His participation in the defence of Fort Wilson will be found in the various accounts of the riot. He was also one of the Marshals of the Grand Federal Procession July 4, 1788 ; Member Committee of Correspondence appointed after the Chesapeake outrage 1807 ; was selected by Girard, one of the Trustees of the Girard Bank, May 23, 1812, and continued until his death. He was also, 1813, one of the Committee of Superintendence for the Protection of the River Delaware and Philadelphia; President Philadelphia Bank 1813-1818; and a member of the State Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania.

Whilst a prisoner he was held on Long-Island at a town called Flatbush. The following extract describes his character. 

The History of the Town of Flatbush in Kings County, Long-Island, by Thomas Morris Strong, 1842. (link)

We should he glad to furnish a list of all the American prisoners who were billetted in Flatbush during the war, particularly the names of the officers, but this is impossible. Among the latter were Gen. Silliman, Col. Rawlings, Col. Magaw, Col. Miles, Col. Atlee, Col. (afterwards Gen.) Williams, Col. Barby, Capts. Fitzhugh, Randolph, Bailey, Biles, Patton, the subsequent Postmaster of Philadelphia, and a number of others.

But we cannot forbear a special notice of Major David Lenox. He was billetted upon Mr. Bateman Lloyd. During his residence as a prisoner, he was visited by his brothers Robert and William, with a view to bring him to abandon the American cause. They tried every motive, and pressed him by considerations the most tender. The interview was had under the large linden-tree near the house. On their leaving him, he was met by the present Mrs. Lloyd, who observing him to be bathed in tears, asked what was the cause of his distress. He told her that his brothers had been endeavoring to prevail with him to forsake the Americans and join the British. But said he with Roman firmness, "I will never do it."

The circumstances which led to the removal of Major Lenox from Flatbush, show his noble daring and firmness, and at the same time the spirit of oppression which distinguished the officers of the British army. The news of the capture of Burgoyne in 1777, (17th October)  having reached the American prisoners paroled on Long-Island, Major James Hamilton and Dr. Stewart repaired to Flatbush to celebrate together with Major Lenox an event so propitious to the cause of their country, and so congenial to their best hopes and most sanguine wishes. The night was passed at the festive board, but their conduct was in no way calculated to offend; no extravagant symptom of exultation was shown, for boistering mirth would have degraded a feeling of delight, silent but sincere.

In the morning, a fish-car filled with shad, passing through the village, Major Lenox asked the proprietor if he would sell a part of his load: "not to a rebel scoundrel," he replied, "though he be starving." The offensive answer was no sooner given than resented. Major Lenox struck the speaker to the earth. A fray was the immediate consequence, in which the American officers, as might have been expected, were overpowered and severely beaten.

But this was not the last of their sufferings. Charged with an assault and conducted upon the testimony of their adversary, before General Pigot, Major Lenox, in a plain unvarnished representation of facts, stated the provocation, and asked "if it were possible to have withheld punishment from a rascal, who so wantonly sought and so richly deserved it." "It is our business," replied the General, "to protect and cherish such of your countrymen as seek our protection. You must submit therefore to ask pardon for the outrage committed, or take the consequences that must inevitably follow."

"Ask pardon of that scoundrel," said Lenox, "never"! "Will you, sir," said the General to Hamilton: "May I perish if I do," was the reply. The question was then put to Dr. Stewart, and answered with equal indignation. "You must be introduced then," said the irritated General, "to the Provost Marshall, Mr. Cunningham, they are your prisoners, you know your duty." Six months of close and rigorous confinement in the Provost, (a place of misery, second only to the celebrated prison ship, Jersey,) was the consequence of an act, that a generous enemy would not only have thought just, but commendable.

The result of this action would seem to be that the three officers were removed from what were comfortable and open containment, and taken the cramped and crowded Provost Prison in New York. Ironically,  David Sproat, the uncle he had gone to on his initial arrival in Philadelphia, was the British Naval Commissary, under Provost Marshall Cunningham, who had charge of the the prison ships anchored in New York Harbour, the largest of  was the Jersey. Many American prisoners perished on these prison ships, undoubtedly one of the biggest tragedies of the war. Sproat was held largely responsible and, at the end of the war he retired back to the Stewartry (Port Mary, Dundrennan) and went on to be twice Provost of Kirkcudbright before he died in 1799.

In the first years of the United State's existence the country was governed under the Articles of Confederation which kept the central authority weak. It quickly became apparent that this did not work well and delegates from the states gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to consider a new constitution for a federal government. By September an agreement had been reached. On 4 July 1788, the first parade honoring the establishment of the Constitution of the United States was held in Philadelphia. "The following gentlemen, distinguished by a white feather in the hat, are Superintendants of the procession. General Mifflin, General Stewart, Colonel Proctor, Colonel Gurney, Major Moore, Major Lenox, Mr. Peter Brown, Colonel Will, Colonel Marsh" (Order of the Committee of Arrangement, Francis Hopkinson, Chairman.)

On 26th August 1779, David Lenox married Tacy Lukens at Christ Church, Philadelphia. Tacy's grandfather was John Lukens, 1720?-1789. John served as Surveyor-General of Pennsylvania and Delaware, 1761-1776, and of Pennsylvania, 1781-1789. Lukens was involved with many influential men in Philadelphia. He co-founded the Hatsborough Public Library in 1755, and was acquainted with figures such as David Rittenhouse, Benjamin Franklin, and Francis Alison. Lukens's public position gained him a role in the team which surveyed the tangent line, middle point, and the twelve mile radius from the center of the New Castle Courthouse which formed the northern boundary of Delaware. These measurements, taken in 1762, were used by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in laying out the final Mason-Dixon line. Lukens belonged to learned Philadelphia associations such as the American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge and the American Philosophical Society. Those types of associations lead to his appointment by Thomas and Richard Penn in 1761 to the position of Surveyor General.

The Conyngham article above mentions David Lenox's defence of Fort Wilson. The following incident took place on 4th October 1779, just a few weeks after his wedding.  After the British had abandoned Philadelphia, James Wilson, a native of St Andrews in Scotland, and one of the "Founding Fathers of the United States" successfully defended at trial 23 people from property seizure and exile by the radical government of Pennsylvania. A mob whipped up by liquor and the writings and speeches of Joseph Reed, President of Pennsylvania's Supreme Executive Council, marched on Congressman Wilson's home at Third and Walnut Streets. Wilson and 35 of his colleagues barricaded themselves in his home, later nicknamed Fort Wilson. In the fighting that ensued, six died, and 17 to 19 were wounded. The city's soldiers, the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, under the command of Major Lenox, and Baylor's 3rd Continental Light Dragoons, eventually intervened and rescued Wilson and his colleagues. The rioters were pardoned and released by Joseph Reed. (Wikipedia)


The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 1877 (link)

In 1779 Major Lenox, for a time, occupied the house. While there he was married to Miss Lukens, the ceremony being performed under the ring in the centre of the west parlor, just where Agnew was laid when his eyes had closed upon the world. Under this ring also William Wister, of Belfield, and his wife were married. On the 4th of October, 1779, Major Lenox was advised of the attack on Fort Wilson, at Third and Walnut streets, Mr. Stone's full and excellent account of which appeared in vol. ii. p. 392. The promptitude and courage of the Major relieved the fort, but his success enraged the turbulent soldiery. Thus it was that a few nights afterwards, they, to the number of about two hundred, roused him from his slumbers, by their proceedings to assault the house. The fearless man secured it as well as he could, and then stepping out upon the front balcony, harangued his assailants in a manner that stimulated rather than appeased their wrath. While Lenox was thus employed, his cousin, a young lady, appreciating the peril of his situation, set out alone, on foot, on her midnight journey to the city, to tell the tale of trouble to the authorities. She told it so well that for once they acted promptly, and by quickly dispatching the First City Troop to Wister's house, they rescued Major Lenox from his peril. 

In time David Lenox became well known in the banking and finance sectors. When Stephen Girard, then the wealthiest man in America, bought controlling shares in the Bank of America, he appointed David a trustee. A year later he was appointed President of the Philadelphia Bank


The Philadelphia National Bank : a century's record, 1803-1903 by Joel Cook (link)

Stephen Girard's purchase of the Barings' stock made him the largest stockholder in the United States Bank and its principal creditor when it wound up. He decided to organize a private bank of his own, bought its building on Third Street, and in May, 1812, opened "Stephen Girard's Banking House," with $1,200,000 capital, afterward increased to $1,300,000. This bank he continued until his death in 1831. To give it stability and permanence, he executed a deed of trust to five prominent Philadelphians, the first named being David Lenox, who, the next year, became president of the Philadelphia Bank. The others were Robert Smith, Robert Wain, Joseph Ball, and George Simpson, the latter being his cashier and manager. He conveyed to these trustees all the property of the bank, so that in the event of his death, all depositors "may respectively demand, withdraw, and receive from the said Bank the cash amount or the specific property of their several and respective deposits made as aforesaid, in like manner, with the same promptitude and punctuality, and with like benefit and effect as they could severally and respectively do during the lifetime of the said Stephen Girard." 

The death of the first President (of the Philadelphia National Bank), George Clymer, occurred at Morrisville, January 23, 1813. His last appearance at the Bank was on the closing day of 1812. On January 25th a letter from Mr. Clymer's son announced his death, and a committee of directors was appointed to wait on David Lenox, and request him to succeed the late president. On the 28th he was elected a director, and subsequently the president of the Bank, and some time afterward his salary was fixed at $3,000. Major David Lenox was a leading merchant of Philadelphia, and one of the trustees of Stephen Girard's Bank. The effect of his two connections was seen a little later, when the board determined to open an account with, and to receive on deposit, the notes of "Stephen Girard, Banker." Major Lenox had served with distinction in the early Revolutionary War in the Third Pennsylvania Battalion. He was wounded and captured at Fort Washington in November, 1776, and was held as a prisoner by the British until his exchange in May, 1778. He entered mercantile life in Philadelphia after the war, and became very prominent in business. He was president of the Philadelphia Bank nearly six years, until, deciding to retire from active life, to the general regret he resigned his position December 31, 1818. He subsequently lived in retirement in Philadelphia, dying about 1826. 

David died on 10th April 1828, aged 74, and is buried at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia. The inscription is contained in a letter from Tacy to her brother-in-law Robert:


The Pennsylvania magazine of history and biography, 1877 (link)

LETTER OF MRS. TRACY (sic) LENOX, wife of Major David Lenox, of Philadelphia, to Robert Lenox, Esq., New York, in relation to the erection of the memorial to the memory of Major Lenox in the cemetery attached to the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia. The inscription prepared by General Cadwalader reads as follows: 
"Sacred to the Memory of Major David Lenox, of the Revolutionary army, who died April 10, 1828, aged 74 years. The Presidencies of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati and of the Bank of the United States were testimonials to the higher sense entertained of his gallant bearing as a soldier and of his distinguished virtues as a citizen. Generous, sincere and affectionate in the relations of domestic life; brave and intrepid in the field, he closed a long and honourable career in the care of his family and friends and in the distinguished regard of his country." 

BRISTOL, July 23d, 1828. 
I received your kind letter in Philada. where you advise us to go to Bristol it seemed at first, like too great an effort to make, but at last I took resolution and determined if I could accomplish the monument I had begun over the remains of your Brother in time I would leave the City, I had the advice and assistance of Genl. Cadwalader and Major Jackson, the Genl wrote the epitaph and it is all his most enthusiastic friend could wish and very beautiful I will send it to you as I am sure it will gratify you and your children. We have visited it often, this last sad duty performed I feel more tranquil and your advice to remove has been most beneficial to me, I sleep well and am comfortable through the day. Your church (after paying for the Grounds) has charged 70 Dol. for permission to erect the monument, as this last is the last sad tribute, I feel gratified no expense has been spared. I hope you will visit it and drop a tributary tear to the Brother that loved you. I hope all your family have recovered from the Whooping Cough ; some are absent no doubt forming the Gay Circle at the Springs. I have some things for you when I see you, pray write to me, the well known hand brings a thousand affectionate recollections I fear you cannot read this. My love to Mrs. Lenox; believe me ever yours

 It seems that David and Tacy had no surviving children. On Tacy's death in 1834 her niece, Sarah Lukens Keene, became the administrator of the estate. It would appear from the following instruction contained in Sarah's will that she was brought up by her aunt Tacy.

The Will of the late Sarah Lukens Keene – A Charitable Institution to be Founded
From the Philadelphia Ledger, June 14th 1866

Sarah Lukins Keene, recently deceased, and who resided for many years at the northwest corner of Tenth and Chestnut streets, executed a will in 1843, bequeathing much of her property to her relatives and others. The following provision of the will is of public interest:

“I give to the trustees,  my large house at Bristol, Bucks, County PA, called the “Pavilion,” with all its furniture &c., and the whole of the lot on which it stands, to be applied and used under the direction of the trustees, as an establishment for the reception and the maintenance forever  of five or six, or more, aged gentlewomen (ladies) who are widows or single women unmarried, of respectability, but decayed fortunes, and who have become destitute at an advanced age of the means of support, and are bereaved of friends that can or who will assist them – to such, and to such only, do I direct my trustees to apply it: and, as an endowment of the institution, I give and devise to my trustees beforehand, and their appointed successors, the sum of $30,000. I request that an inscription, as follows, be placed upon a marble tablet, and inserted in the wall of the hall of the house:

‘Sarah Lukens Keene bequeathed and dedicated this house to which it is by her will directed, from devoted affection to the memory of her dearly beloved aunt Tacy Lenox, who died in it on the 24th of August 1834: and it is consecrated to her memory, to be a monument and perpetual memorial to the testator’s love and reverence for her who was her parent in every deed, the tender, affectionate guardian and guide of her infancy, and a true and faithful friend of her mature years.’”