Oliver Bronson

Oliver Bronson (October 3, 1799 – June 21, 1875) was an American physician and educator who was "heir to a wealthy Connecticut financier, banker, and real estate speculator."[1]

Oliver Bronson
Born(1799-10-03)October 3, 1799
DiedJune 21, 1875(1875-06-21) (aged 75)
EducationYale University
College of Physicians and Surgeons
Joanna Donaldson
(m. 1833; his death 1875)
Parent(s)Isaac Bronson
Anna Olcott Bronson
RelativesFrederic Bronson (nephew)

Early lifeEdit

Bronson was born on October 3, 1799, at Breakneck in Middlebury, Connecticut, and was named after his parent's first son who died in infancy.[2] He was eldest surviving son of ten children born to Anna (née Olcott) Bronson (1765–1850) and Isaac Bronson (1760–1838), a surgeon during the American Revolutionary War who was a successful banker and land speculator credited with co-founding the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company and Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company. Among his siblings was sister Maria Bronson (who married Col. James Boyles Murray)[3][4] and Frederic Bronson Sr. (who married Charlotte Brinckerhoff, a granddaughter and heir of Robert Troup).[5]

His maternal grandfather was Thomas Olcott and his paternal grandparents were Captain Isaac Bronson and Mary Bronson.[6] Through his brother Frederic, he was an uncle of prominent lawyer Frederic Bronson, who married Sarah Gracie King (a granddaughter of James Gore King and William Alexander Duer).[7]

Bronson attended Yale University and graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, later a part of Columbia University, in 1818.[2]


His father used his insurance companies to finance the purchase of nearly a third of a million acres in multiple states. Oliver and his younger brothers Arthur and Frederic aided their father in the land speculation business. From 1851 to 1854, Oliver was the first superintendent of schools in Hudson, New York,[2] and was also a shareholder in the Hudson Gas Company.[8]

Bronson was described by Isabel Donaldson Bronson as "a cultivated, intelligent man, well-educated in his profession both in America & in Paris. His very delicate health obliged him to early give up active practice, but to the end of his kind and charitable life he ministered to the poor and lonely. He was a most excellent physician and a most excellent man... He was a serious man, taking a stern view of life in accorance with his strict Presbyterian belief."[citation needed]

In November 1868, during Reconstruction following the end of the U.S. Civil War, Bronson was appointed the first superintendent of the new St. Johns County School System in St. Johns County, Florida and by March 1869, the school board was appointed. Before the Civil War, Bronson had contact with Buckingham Smith and Sarah Mather, who may have been the instigators of bringing Bronson to St. Johns. In Florida, they bought a house (later Saint George's Hotel) and lived in St. Augustine, Florida[2]


In 1838, Bronson purchased the former home and estate of Samuel Plumb in Hudson, New York, from Robert Frary.[1] He hired architect Alexander Jackson Davis to updated and expand the Federal-style villa that was built on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River's South bay, and Andrew Jackson Downing to do the landscaping and gardens. The house, completed in 1849, is an early example of the Hudson River Bracketed style and features a three-story bracket tower, semi-octagonal rooms, bays and an ornamental veranda. In 1849, Bronson acquired an additional 29 acres (12 ha) south of his original purchase, reuniting the original estate land that was excluded in his first purchase, bringing the estate up to 50 acres (20 ha).[8] Bronson later sold the house in 1853 to Frederick Fitch Folger,[8] and returned to Connecticut.[1]

The house and surrounding landscape had been painted by William Guy Wall in 1819, and today the watercolor is in the possession of the New-York Historical Society. Portions of the property became the site of the New York Training School for Girls, established in the 1860s at a site southwest of the estate,[9] with the Bronson House serving as the residence of the school's director until c. 1970. The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2003.[8][10]

Personal lifeEdit

On May 15, 1833, Bronson was married to Joanna Donaldson (1806–1876) at the Murray Street Presbyterian Church in New York.[11] Joanna, who was born in North Carolina, was the daughter of Sarah (née Henderson) Donaldson and Robert Donaldson Sr., a Scottish born merchant,[12] and the younger sister of Robert Donaldson Jr., a prominent banker and patron of the arts.[1] Together, they were the parents of:[13]

The painting was later acquired by Richard Jenrette and displayed at his residence in the Hudson Valley, Edgewater in Barrytown, New York.[25]

Bronson died on June 21, 1875, in Richfield Springs in Otsego County, New York.[26] After a funeral at the Church of the Strangers, a church for Southerners in New York, he was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Less than a year after his death, his widow died on February 13, 1876, in Baltimore, Maryland.[27]


Through his son Oliver, he was a grandfather,[20] and namesake, of Oliver Bronson (1871–1874), who died young, and Francis Philip Bronson (1876–1918).[28]


  1. ^ a b c d Rinaldi, Thomas E.; Yasinsac, Rob (2006). Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape. UPNE. p. 92. ISBN 9781584655985. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Sullivan, Raymond E. (2010). Breakneck: The Early Settlement of Middlebury, Connecticut- from 1657 to Its Incorporation As a Town. iUniverse. p. 40. ISBN 9781450256322. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  3. ^ Harris, Luther S. (2003). Around Washington Square: An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village. JHU Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 9780801873416. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  4. ^ Greider, Katharine (2011). The Archaeology of Home: An Epic Set on a Thousand Square Feet of the Lower East Side. PublicAffairs. p. 263. ISBN 9781586489908. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  5. ^ Haeger, John D. (1981). The Investment Frontier: New York Businessmen and the Economic Development of the Old Northwest. SUNY Press. ISBN 9780873955317. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  6. ^ Sibley, Harriet (Bronson) (1917). Bronson Lineage 1636–1917 | Ancestors and Descendants of Captain William Bronson of the Revolutionary War, and Other Ancestral Lines. Dallas, Oregon. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  7. ^ "DEATH LIST OF A DAY. Frederic Bronson". The New York Times. 30 March 1900. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d "Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-17.
  9. ^ 2003 Press Release
  10. ^ William E. Krattinger (August, 2001) National Historic Landmark Nomination: Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate.(Includes architectural drawings and period paintings and other figures)., National Park Service and Accompanying 25 photos, exterior and interior, from 2001.
  11. ^ Richards, Penny L. (2 February 2014). "The Mordecai Female Academy: 130., 131., 132. The Donaldsons (Eliza, Isabella, and Joanna)". The Mordecai Female Academy. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  12. ^ Kenny, Peter M.; Phyfe, Duncan; Brown, Michael Kevin (2011). Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York. Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 129–130. ISBN 9781588394422. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  13. ^ "STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA COUNTY OF HENDERSON In the Superior Court. David A. Thompson, et. al". The Western North Carolina Times. 9 May 1913.
  14. ^ "Died" (PDF). The New York Times. April 3, 1872. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  15. ^ Genealogies of the State of New York: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. 1915. p. 55. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  16. ^ Phoenix, Stephen Whitney (1878). The Whitney Family of Connecticut, and Its Affiliations: Being an Attempt to Trace the Descendants, as Well in the Female as the Male Lines, of Henry Whitney, from 1649 to 1878. Priv. Print. [Bradford Press]. p. 821. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Obituary Notes. | Mrs. Isaac Bronson" (PDF). The New York Times. May 8, 1901. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  18. ^ A Biographical Record of the Kappa Alpha Society in Williams College, Williamstown, Mass: From Its Foundation to the Present Time. 1833–1881. Society. 1881. pp. 188-189. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  19. ^ Thompson-Stahr, Jane (2001). The Burling Books: Ancestors and Descendants of Edward and Grace Burling, Quakers (1600–2000). Jane K. Thompson. p. 634. ISBN 9780961310400. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  20. ^ a b "Oliver Bronson Dies at 82" (PDF). The New York Times. June 30, 1918. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  21. ^ The Living Church. Morehouse-Gorham. April 16, 1921. p. 732. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  22. ^ "Sunk in Real Estate; the Failure of Willett Bronson Caused by Speculation" (PDF). The New York Times. 21 December 1883. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  23. ^ "Robert Donaldson Bronson". New-York Tribune. June 13, 1912. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  24. ^ Adams, William R. (2015). St. Augustine and St. Johns County: A Historical Guide. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 73–74. ISBN 9781561649006. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  25. ^ Richard H. Jenrette, Adventures with Old Houses (Charleston, SC: Wyrick & Co., 2000). ISBN 0-941711-46-3.
  26. ^ "Died". New York Daily Herald. July 24, 1875. p. 6. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  27. ^ "DIED". New York Daily Herald. February 15, 1876. p. 6. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  28. ^ "Died" (PDF). The New York Times. July 12, 1918. Retrieved 15 September 2019.

External linksEdit