Later Years - Part Two

Girard remained active in banking until his death; as he aged he devoted increasingly more time to his farm.  It was located in Passyunk Township, now south Philadelphia.  He bought this farm and farmhouse in 1797 from George Copper who obtained it through default from Henry Sickle.  Sickle had used this farm to introduce and grow Sickle pears.  The farm consisted of two lots totaling 75 acres.  The east wing of the farmhouse was built about 1750.  Girard added the middle section in 1800 and the west wing in 1825.  He hired a caretaker, increased the productivity of the orchard, added crops and cattle and marketed his products.  As the years passed, he purchased nearby acreage, and when he died he had accumulated 583 acres.
     With the war now behind him, Girard again turned his attention to more pleasant activities when on September 13, 1815 he learned of the death of Mary Lum Girard. She had lived happily with him during the first eight years of their marriage when she began a long sorrowful descent into insanity. For twenty-five years she lived in the Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th Street and Pine having little contact with the outside world. She was buried on the hospital grounds. Girard had been and continued to be a benefactor of the hospital which had sheltered his wife. William Wagner wrote about Girard’s reaction at his wife’s burial: “I shall never forget the last and closing scene. Mr. Girard stepped forward and kissed his wife and his tears moistened her cheek.” Mary Lum Girard was fifty-six years old at her death.
     In later years, Girard began to fail physically but his mind remained sharp and full of ideas. He began to realize that he might not have time to pursue all his interests but he would try. “Coal and the railroad became a new, exciting and profitable challenge for him as he approached the twilight of his life.” McMasters continued:  “Girard purchased land in upstate Pennsylvania; the value that Girard perceived in making his bold venture was to be accrued as coal mining would bring him new riches. He was then seventy-nine years old. When eighty-one, he invested in railroading, the vehicle that would carry the coal to the markets he envisioned would be there. Coal had been discovered in the Pottsville region, mines had been opened, and that coal had been transported on the Schuylkill Canal since 1825.”
    It would also seem possible that land speculators knowing of the coal discoveries had possibly influenced Girard’s bank trustees—or at least the trustee knowing of the existence of these deeds—to withhold any action on these tracts until the last possible moment. Undoubtedly, this information convinced Girard that these lands were valuable, and he decided that his business interests would be better served if he acquired them. The trustees had held the tracts for 19 years, and shortly after the deeds were turned over to the receiver, Girard, an advertisement appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper that these tracts of land deeded to them by the First Bank would be sold at public auction at the Merchant's Coffee House on April 17, 1830. The auction was held as scheduled and Stephen Girard, being the highest bidder, purchased the 67 tracts for $30,000.  Harry Emerson Wildes wrote in his book Lonely Midas: “The lands were exceedingly valuable. After litigation and compromise, they had been reduced to less than nineteen thousand acres of which only about five thousand were coal-bearing. Up to the beginning of 1942, these acres produced about 119,869,794 tons of anthracite.” 
Stephen Simpson remarked that Girard’s eyesight and hearing were beginning to suffer which may have led to his accident.  He was seriously injured while crossing the street near Second and Market, on December 22, 1830.  The December 22, 1830, issue of The United States Gazette reported that he was knocked down by a wagon the wheel of which hit his head and lacerated his ear.  He returned to his banking business after remaining secluded for two months. Another newspaper added however that Girard was quite able to help himself, that he retained his self-possession perfectly and seemed more pained by the fact that the accident had attracted attention than by the wound which he had received though it was said that the wound was far from trifling. Cheesman Herrick tells of the accident: “Girard later wrote that the wheel of the wagon went over his head.  When faced with needing a surgical procedure, Girard was quoted as saying:  ‘Go ahead doctor. I am an old sailor and can stand pain.’” Girard was hurt more seriously than he thought.  He was confined to bed for two months as inflammation set in, which he also blamed on the doctors. Stephen Girard was to live one more year.

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