People who Lived and Labored at the Historic Property

During Thomas Cole’s Residency (1836–1848)

The house is not half large enough for us all.

Maria Cole to Thomas Cole, 1842

Click the arrow to the right of each person to discover their story. The histories of these individuals shed light on the history of slavery, mental health, women’s rights, immigration, and more. 

Period(s) of residency, as currently known, either through a census record, letters, or oral history. 

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1821–1884

Maria Bartow (1813-1884) was a niece of Uncle Sandy, and a daughter of Maria Thomson and Steven Bartow. Her sisters were Emily, Harriet, and Frances Bartow. She married Thomas Cole in 1836.

Thomas Cole, Portrait of the Artist’s Wife (detail), 1836-48, Graphite with white watercolor on light brown paper, 12 1/2 x 9 5/16 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Maxim Karolik for the M. and M. Karolik Collection of American Watercolors and Drawings, 1800-1875, 55.716.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1815–1846

John Alexander “Uncle Sandy” Thomson (1776-1846) was the head of household at Cedar Grove c. 1821-1846. With his brother Thomas Thomson (d. circa 1821), and sister Catherine Thomson (d. circa 1826), he instigated building of the Main House in 1815.

Frederic Church, Alexander Thomson, 1846. Pencil and ink on paper, 7 x 9 5/16 in, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1821–1881

Emily Bartow (1804-1881) was a niece of John A. Thomson, and a daughter of Maria Thomson and Steven Bartow. Her sisters were Harriet, Maria, and Frances Bartow. When her uncle, John, passed away in 1846, ownership of the property passed to Emily. As a woman, she was only able to own property because she was not married.

Emily Bartow’s signature. 

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1821–1894

Frances Bartow (1815-1894) was a niece of Uncle Sandy, and was a daughter of Maria Thomson and Steven Bartow; her sisters were Emily, Harriet, and Maria Bartow. Frances’ story intersects with pivotal moments in the history of mental health. She was documented as “insane” on the 1870 census, during the time when federal censuses accounted for people with mental, intellectual, and physical disabilities from 1840 to 1890. Between 1846-1848, Frances received treatment at the Hartford Retreat for the Insane, an early example of “moral treatment” in the United States during the first generation of asylums in the country. No personal records of hers have yet been found.

Further Reading

Regarding Frances Bartow by 2021 Cole Fellow Adaeze Dikko

Understanding Frances Bartow’s Stay at the Hartford Retreat for the Insane, 1846-1848 by 2022 Cole Fellow Beth Wynne

Frances Bartow’s signature. 

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1821–1904

Harriet Bartow (1808-1904) was a niece of Uncle Sandy, and a daughter of Maria Thomson and Steven Bartow. Her sisters were Emily, Maria, and Frances Bartow. Harriet was a teacher, and the flower garden outside the Main House was generally referred to as hers in letters.

Further Reading 

Harriet was the recipient this unsigned Valentine in c. 1835/36.

Frederic Church, Harriet Bartow (?), c. 1844-5. Graphite on Paper, Olana State Historic Site.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1817–late 1840s

Daughter of James Thomson and niece of John A. and Thomas Thomson.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1840

An unnamed, free, Black woman was listed on the 1840 census as living here at the property as a laborer. Based on her age range and New York State laws, she was very likely born as an enslaved person between 1741 and 1785 (slavery was legal in New York State until 1827). She was likely a live-in laborer at the property, as the census accounts for people where they lay their head. She may have labored in cooking, cleaning, laundering, or caring for the children, dairying, and/or other essential work.

1840 federal census (edited to show the Thomson-Bartow-Cole household)

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1847–1857

Sarah Cole (1805-1857) was a professional artist who made paintings, drawings, and engravings. Her brother was Thomas Cole. After emigrating to the United States with her family in 1818, she lived primarily with their parents in New York City and made regular journeys to Catskill to visit her brother. After Thomas’ death, Sarah began to live in the Cole family home. She exhibited and sold her work to help provide for herself and her family.

Further Reading

Read an 1836 account of what it was like to travel to and from the historic property in Sarah’s own words.

Thomas Cole, Sketch of Sarah Cole (detail), c. 1840. Albany Institute of History and Art.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1836–1848

Thomas Cole (1801-1848) began coming to the Catskills in 1825. He and Maria Bartow were married in 1836, after which he moved in with Maria and her family. Read his full bio.

Asher B. Durand, Portrait of Thomas Cole, 1837, oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 25 in. Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA, Gift of Zenas Crane, 1917.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1841-42

Mentioned in two letters from Maria Bartow Cole to her husband Thomas Cole. She was possibly a tutor or companion to their children, Theodore and Mary.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1842

Mentioned in a letter written by Maria Bartow Cole.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1841-42

Mentioned in letters as driving a cart, meeting the sisters in the drive with a lantern, and transporting the many letters that came and went to/from the house.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1844

Mentioned in a letter as farming the land.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1842

From Denmark; mentioned in as “one of our household.”

[…] by the by I must introduce you to Peter, as he is one of our household. He is a very civil Dane, was very destitute & could get no work, so Unc S. [John A. Thomson] took him in.

Maria Bartow Cole to Thomas Cole, February 10, 1842, New York State Library, Thomas Cole Papers, Box 4, Folder 2.

Occasional long-term visitor to Cedar Grove: 1835-36, probably as early as 1820

Son of James Thomson and brother of Charlotte Thomson. He witnessed Thomas Cole and Maria Bartow’s wedding on November 22, 1836

Lived at Cedar Grove: late 1840s

Described by Louis Legrand Noble as “his [Cole’s] man Martin.”

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1844

Mentioned in a letter written by Maria Bartow Cole.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1838–1928

Theodore A. Cole (1838-1928) was the son of Thomas Cole and Maria Bartow.

William Sidney Mount, Sketch of Theodore A. Cole (detail), 1843. Pencil on paper, 9 3/4 x 6 1/2 in. Toledo Museum of Art.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1839–1894

Mary Cole (1839-1894) was the daughter of Thomas Cole and Maria Bartow.

Mary has been running about to day with a slip of Paper in her hand, begging for a Pencil to write to Papa. She woke one morning when it was yet quite dark, talking about Papa, wanting to go to him. She asked me if Papa had come home, I asked her why she thought so, she said “I did see Papa” I then said where, she answered “in the room sitting in the rocking chair.” She had evidently had a very vivid dream about you. She persisted in saying that she has seen you.

Maria Bartow Cole to Thomas Cole, December 23, 1841. New York State Library, Thomas Cole Papers, Box 4, Folder 2.
Brandow & Jenne, Mary Cole (detail), unknown date. Carte de visite photograph, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1843–1913

Emily Cole (1843-1913) was a professional artist and the daughter of Thomas Cole and Maria Bartow. She used Thomas Cole’s New Studio as a studio and exhibition space, and was known for her botanicals and hand-painted china.

Further Reading

Emily was the focus of the 2019 exhibition The Art of Emily Cole, curated by Amanda Malmstrom.

Unknown photographer, Emily Cole (detail), unknown date. Carte de visite photograph in album, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1847 (2 days)

Elizabeth Cole (1847) was the daughter of Thomas Cole and Maria Bartow; she lived only 2 days.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1848–before 1875

Thomas Cole II (1848-1919) was the son of Thomas Cole and Maria Bartow.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1844–1846 (presumably)

Frederic Church (1826-1900) was Thomas Cole’s student from 1844-1846, during which time Church presumably lived at the property. Church later was responsible for the building of Olana, his home directly across the Hudson River from Cedar Grove.

Lived at Cedar Grove: 1845–1847

Benjamin McConkey was Thomas Cole’s student from 1845-1847.

“Old Studio with Thomas Cole’s son Theodore and three unidentified farm workers,” c. 1910, Thomas Cole Site Archives

Support provided in part by a Humanities New York Action Grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Jennifer GreimPeople who Lived and Labored at the Historic Property