In a romantic setting overlooking the Schuylkill River, the country estate house Laurel Hill was begun by Joseph Shute in about 1748. Purchased by Francis Rawle in 1782 the estate was later leased by the French minister, the Chevalier de la Luzerne. The Chevalier's truffle-dog made history when it discovered truffles in the grounds around the house, said to be the first such found in this country in the natural state.

ack of Laurel Hill House
Terrace overlooking Schuykill River

Having earlier rented Laurel Hill as a summer retreat in 1828 Dr. Philip Syng Physick bought it as a wedding present for his daughter Sarah and her husband Dr. Jacob Randolph. The Randolph's would build additions, and occupy the house until 1869 when it was sold to the city and incorporated into Fairmount Park.

Evidence of the Jacob and Sarah Randolph's social position, charm and decorum can be found in Sidney George Fisher's diary. On January 2, 1840 he recorded

"At 9 went to a supper party at Dr. Randolph's. Very handsome and pleasant. Some of the most agreeable people in town there. Mrs. Willing, the two Mrs. Butlers, Mrs. J. F. F., Mrs. Harrison, Fenimore Cooper, Sally Waln, etc. Home at 12, after a pleasant evng."

Following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Dr. Physick, Dr. Jacob Randolph was an eminent surgeon connected with Pennsylvania Hospital and Chair of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania.

Six years after Fishers noting a "supper party" at the Randolph's, Fisher in his diary noted Mrs. Camac's fancy costume ball of January 18, 1846 and presumably Susan's niece:

"Miss Randolph was a Greek girl, very handsomely dressed & with Good effect." Just two days later Fisher's diary notes: "Dinned at 5 at Dr. Mutter's. Dinner given to Dr. Carter. All the bridal party, I mean the gentlemen of it there, ...sat between Robt. Hare & Dr. Randolph. Got along very well ...everything very handsome. The wine was so old, according to Mutter who as he sent it round mentioned the age, some 80 years, another 50, & that it was not fit to drink."

Illustrating the closeness of the Physick sisters, and their descendant's families, and the social landscape of the time, sons of Sarah and Susan, married sisters. Susan's son, Philip Syng Physick Conner married Mary Darch Lewis, while Sarah's son, Samuel Emlen Randolph married Mary's sister, Anna Lewis.

Edmund Darch Lewis
Edmund Darch Lewis

Further connecting these families, Mary and Anna's brother, noted artist and collector, Edmund Darch Lewis, was a regular guest at their summer houses in Maryland and Rhode Island. He would frequently use his sister's homes as a base for his painting excursions.

In the next generation the family connections of the Conner and Randolphs' were again linked when a son from each family again married sisters. Samuel Emlen and Ann Randolph's son, Philip Syng Physick Randolph, married Hannah Marie Fetherston. Philip Syng Physick and Mary Lewis Conner's son, Edward Conner, married Frances Marie Fetherston, Hannah's sister.

Gouche of Physick / Conner Estate, "Octorara" by Edmund Darch Lewis 1891
Painting courtesy of Clifford Lewis